June 2016

Timmy in the Washington Post

We can’t get rid of payday loans just because we don’t like them

We, therefore, have something that is expensive to produce but also desired by many. And our absence of excess profits tells us that loans of small amounts for short periods of time are simply something expensive to do. In this sense such credit is like Aston Martin luxury vehicles. So they cost a lot. And? People want them, and they’re expensive to provide. We might well think that someone’s an idiot for purchasing one, but we don’t actually go and ban it.

Henry Ford brought cars to the masses not by banning the Aston Martins of his day but by making transport vastly cheaper through technological innovation. If we want short-term credit to the poor to follow the same route, we’re going to have to do the same: invent a new way of providing it and out-competing the current providers.

Perhaps no such technology exists, in which case we’ll be stuck with something expensive and somewhat dangerous that 10 million people want each year. It’s a bit like drinkable wine, and we should recall what happened when we tried to ban that: prohibition of the best credit we have to offer will inevitably lead to Fat Tony and his friends running amok again.

Please, find something else to worry about

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an average cruise ship generates more than seven million gallons of sewage a year. For the global cruise ship fleet, that adds up to well over a billion gallons a year.

Yet by law ships can still dump raw sewage if they’re more than three nautical miles from shore. And almost 40 percent of cruise ships we surveyed still rely on 35-year-old waste treatment technology, leaving sewage with high levels of fecal matter, bacteria, heavy metals and other contaminants harmful to aquatic life and people.

Since some cruise lines won’t install the most advanced sewage treatment technology available, it is time for the E.P.A. to crack down and stop allowing the cruise industry to use our oceans as a toilet.


Oceans & Vessels Program Director

Friends of the Earth

Berkeley, Calif.

Billion gallons!


352,670,000,000,000,000,000 gallons in the oceans

Or, roughly and around and about you understand, 352,670,000,000 times more than the volume of that sewage if they just dump it all straight overboard. Some of which will be flushing water and so on. 0.00000000028% or something.

Sure, we don’t want it inshore or anything but out at sea? And are we certain that this is less than the amount of whale shit out there anyway?

Uranium in seawater is some 3 parts per billion. This is an order of magnitude smaller than that….

Gove I think?

Not that I’ve a vote of course….

One way to put it, do you want the one The Times kept or the one they fired for inventing quotes? Or any of those they wouldn’t hire in the first place…..

This might be the only serious plea for a government job I might ever make

There is a unit, somewhere in that Whitehall jungle, which is supposed to comb the law books for laws that are just no longer relevant. Things we can strike off the books. Things like being allowed to kill a Welshman in Chester after dark if he’s carrying a bow, that sort of thing (although to be honest that might be one we should keep).

I want to be in charge of that post-Brexit.

And I’d do the job seriously. All 70,000 of those EU regulations. Which can be simply and easily replaced with the basic Common Law rules? Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t harm people. Rather than, you know, 6 months in pokey for selling a banana of excessive curvature? Or for making tomato marmalade, selling an incandescent light bulb for domestic use (or is it advertising?), a kettle that uses “too much” electricity per second.

Yes, I would, I’d take a pay cut to go and do that.

Any offers?

Britons urged to wear safety pins in solidarity with babies

After the referendum theft of their European future, people have been encouraged to wear a safety pin to show solidarity with babies living in the UK.

Quite right of The Guardian to promote this. After all, who doesn’t want to show that they are in touch with the child within? And what better way to show that infantilism than sporting a nappy pin?

Alternatively we could just ascribe this to what Matt Wardman thinks we should call the “hysteriat”. The incidence of teddies being thrown from prams is impressive, isn’t it?

Umm, well, yes and no

All too often, health disparities reinforce stigma and moral judgment rather than prompting us to ask why these differences exist. We ascribe race-related disparities to poverty, drug abuse and genetics. And we blame higher rates of disease among LGBTQ people to promiscuity.

But it’s actually a person’s membership in a stigmatized minority that exposes them over time to disproportionately higher levels of stress related to prejudice, harassment, discrimination, rejection, hostility, sexual assault and hate crimes. That stress leads to worse mental health and, in turn, worse physical health – and more healthcare spending.

Sure, stress and socio economic positioning affect health. So does being buggered 20 times in an afternoon down at the bath house.

Thus there’s a certain distinction to be made over which illnesses and diseases we might be talking about. sickle cell anaemia is pretty much restricted to those with (some) West African heritage (however white they might look as a number of Americans have found out about their family tree). Tay Sachs hugely more common in those of Ashkenazi descent. Lung cancer and heart disease in the poor partly (note, partly!) as a result of greater prevalence of smoking.

And yes, promiscuity does lead to higher STD rates. But it is the promiscuity (HIV is different), not the LGBTQ bit.

That is, it’s necessary to be specific over what we are talking about.

Dollar clearing systems question

Can someone help me out here? I’m getting a tad confused.

Hollande tells us that euro clearing will have to move inside the eurozone. Well, OK, shrug.

What I’m not quite getting is the dollar clearing system. I can see that there’s London dollar clearing, Hong Kong dollar clearing and so on. But then I get the impression that that’s not really, really, dollar clearing outside the US. Everything still goes through the US system at some point (normally New York) which is how those banks were busted for breaching sanctions.

The impression I get is that this local dollar clearing is more like being agents for New York than it is a full and total clearing system. Is that right? Or perhaps local agglomeration and netting of transactions which then the balance clears through New York?

The question becomes, of course, what actually happens if the euro must be cleared in the eurozone. Do we end up as with the dollar? Local, London, clearing which is then backstopped by shunting a few electrons off to Calais?

Weird Brexit prediction

Simon Evenett, Author of the Global Trade Alert and Professor of International Trade at the University of St Gallen said: “If the UK leaves the EU and doesn’t manage to negotiate a free trade deal some consumer goods such as footwear, t-shirts and cars could have tariffs placed on them as high as 10%. This will really hit exports.

How many t-shirts does the UK make? How much price sensitive foot wear? And I rather doubt the Germans would wear car tariffs…..

Question for libel lawyers

What’s the definition of “substantial” in “substantial undisclosed donation to charity” in settlement of a libel claim?

Is it one of those things like “he remained unmarried” which means “gay as a nine bob note” or does it have a more variable meaning?

Can Ritchie read?

No one wanted Brexit – Gove included


It’s not very often that I direct people to the Daily Mail; least of all to a Sarah Vine column. She is, however, also wife of Michael Gove and in her column today she makes very clear that the Brexit campaign had no intention of or desire to win the referendum. As I had predicted, this is all a giant and unplanned mistake by the Tories.

But we have to live with it.

And they want to stay in government.

Err, that column:

It’s not that I didn’t think Leave could win. It was just that they were up against a rival campaign with all the money, all the power and all the scare stories.


Fun glitch

A number of British MPs – and their counterparts in Iceland and Australia – have been on the receiving end of “tedious” emails from Donald Trump’s team in recent days asking for campaign donations for the Republican presidential hopeful.

It is, of course, illegal for foreigners to donate to US political campaigns.

Well, unless you do it through the Clinton Foundation.

Can we track UK real living standards?

An interesting question in the comments:

Tim, do you know of anywhere I can find information about the evolution of absolute living standards for the working class in the UK?

Whatever I search for I always end up with information about relative ‘poverty’.

My answer:

I don’t know of a one stop shop, no.

I can think of a way of constructing it though. Have a look at what the inflation basket is. CPI or RPI, won’t make much difference.

The thought here is that the basket of what we measure to calculate inflation changes. And it’s always being adjusted so as to at least try and reflect what the “average” household is actually buying. So, black and white TVs are no longer in the index, maybe even CRTs aren’t, while flat screens and internet access are.

I’ve not looked to see whether there’s an historical record of what the CPI basket is but if you contact ONS they would certainly be able to point you in the right direction. They might even have (the Americans do, a bit) different baskets for different income quintiles or deciles.

Sorry that’s a rather technical answer and there may well be a better one.

There almost certainly is a better answer. But does anyone know what it is?

Actually, Chris Dillow will know…..

Sensible lad

Attrell Cordes was born in 1970, in Jersey City, across the Hudson river from Manhattan. His early life was marred by misfortune — his father died from pneumonia and a third brother drowned at the age of two. Attrell and Jarrett were raised by their mother Janice, a follower of the American spiritualist and mystic Edgar Cayce, and stepfather George Brown, who had played drums in Kool & the Gang.

The brothers sang together in a church choir but by their teens they were hanging out on the street, on the periphery of a netherworld of crime and drugs. “I lived between the yuppies and the killers,” Attrell noted with impressive understatement. “When you’re 14, it’s hard to know how to deal with that sort of thing, but I saw myself slowly becoming an idiot, so I left.”