My first interview was Jeffrey Archer in 1986 for the Wimbledon News where I started as a reporter. That is also where I met Piers Morgan. Both are criminally insane egomaniacs who really should be on anti-ego-inflammatory medication. But they are great characters and I like them both a lot.

Lindsay Lohan

I came across the same phenomenon when researching an article on Sienna Miller: the 18th-century idea that young actresses are little different to common prostitutes is alive and thriving through 21st-century technology.

Umm, no, not quite. There is indeed a certain level of young actresses who are so thought of but they are referred to more often as a MAW (Model, Actress, Whatever). The W part being the clue. Ashley Dupree being an example, although the lower levels of B movies and so on are full of this sort of personnel.

It\’s Said That…

Hard cases make bad law. In this case I think it might be the other way around.

Abu Qatada, described as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”, won his fight against deportation yesterday as the Court of Appeal delivered two blows to attempts to remove suspected terrorists from the country. Three judges blocked the deportation of Abu Qatada despite a “no torture” guarantee given to the British Government by Jordan.

The man (and the others affected by the ruling) seem like scum buckets to me, to be sure. But they are indeed human beings and as such have natural rights.  Fair trials, no torture and the like. And as we are (for the moment at least) a country under the rule of law, a law which acknowledges those natural rights, then they cannot be sent to a place where those rights are abridged.

The hard part is that such seeming scumbuckets get our protections: the good part that such protections are indeed enforced by the law.

As Larry Flynt memorably pointed out, if the law protects shits* like me then you can be sure it will protect you too. That\’s the whole point of it.


* (I paraphrase from memory, you understand.)

Glorious Bureaucracy!

What a waste!

Thousands of shops, restaurants and cafés will be forced to register their staff with a new child protection agency and have their criminal records checked if they employ children for weekend or summer holiday work.

Any staff responsible for supervising children under 16 will have to be vetted. The measure is in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act, which was passed in 2006. It was originally intended to screen teachers, nursery staff and youth workers more effectively by requiring them to register with a new quango, the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), but ministers have decided to extend its scope to businesses.

The ISA will conduct enhanced checks through the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and give individuals – at a cost of £64 each – a “seal of approval” for working with children. The measure also covers work experience.

So anyone who tries to do what I did successfully at the age of 14, get a job washing up in the back of a curry house for two nights a week during the summer holidays, will now find that businesses don\’t want to employ them as all of their staff will have to be checked: even if it\’s just the supervisory staff that would be three or four people, £250 quid say. Something they don\’t haveto pay if they hire a 17 year old.

But the most up-to-date estimate from the Home Office, which now includes businesses employing under 16s, is that 11.3 million people will have to register.


The group has also discovered that the Government’s estimated cost for setting up and running the ISA for the first five years has grown from £91.6 million to £246 million as its scope has increased.

Umm, no, a most misleading figure.

The Government says that the ISA will be “self-funding” but employers will have to bear the £64 cost of registering each staff member,

£64 times 11 million people is, ermm, £720 million or so a year. Oh my! How Excellent!

We\’re headed into a recession and we\’re going to price young workers out of the market and cost businesses the thick end of a billion pounds for, umm, paperwork?

Can we hang them all yet?


This lorries thing:

Thousands more foreign lorries will be attracted to Britain\’s roads by a European plan to give them freedom to compete with domestic hauliers.

Supermarket chains that use British lorries to transport goods between depots and stores are among the businesses that will be able to cut costs by using foreign companies.

Being able to ply for trade in this manner is called cabotage. I have to admit I thought this had all been dealth with years ago. Just another part of the free movement of services.

I Knew It!

The Green movement is trying to kill us all:

German scientists are warning householders of the health dangers posed by storing organic waste, saying exposure to it, particularly to the moulds that develop as the material decays, can cause skin problems and even breathing difficulties.

Harald Morr, a leading pneumologist, who is also chairman of the German Lung Foundation, said studies showed that airborne mould spores from organic waste could lead to allergic reactions, asthma attacks, hayfever-like symptoms and itchy skin lesions.

"Even just opening the lid of a bin containing organic waste can cause mould spores to be stirred up which, if breathed in, can damage the lungs," said Morr. "The more spores breathed in, the worse the repercussions on one\’s health can be."

See, there\’s a reason why we developed systems for carting this crap off and sticking it in a hole in the ground.

Having rotting food around is dangerous to life. So let\’s go back to the old system, eh? We collect it once a week, stick it in a hole in the ground and then collect the methane that results and have some luvverly renewable power.

It\’s also vastly cheaper, as well as better for our health, to do this.

Oh Joy!

The pound slumped to a fresh record low this morning, bringing more bad news for British holidaymakers as it pushes up the cost of continental breaks.

Ahead of the Bank of England\’s decision on interest rates at lunchtime, sterling fell to 80.27p against the euro in early trading, after hitting 80p for the first time yesterday.

For someone whose income is denominated in either dollars or sterling (dependent upon source) but who lives in euros (like me!) this is of course not good news.

On the other hand, that sterling mortgage to buy a house in Portugal is looking pretty good.

Ho hum, swings and roundabouts, eh?

Grayling on Wealth and Happiness

This sounds remarkably like something I said yesterday. Said rather better, of course:

For most people it is likely that wealth has to improve in order for their happiness level to remain constant; if their wealth were to decline, so would their happiness.

Not so much the level of wealth, but the direction it\’s travelling in.

This has a ring of familiarity to it as well:

The other confusion concerns wealth. If a person has a million pounds in the bank and never touches a penny of it, or a huge mansion and never occupies it, it is the same as if he had neither the money nor the house. What this shows is that wealth is not so much what one has, but what one does with it.

A man who has a thousand pounds and spends it on a wonderful trip to the Galapagos Islands is a rich man indeed: the experiences, the things learnt, the differences wrought in him by both, are true wealth.

If you would like to know how rich a person is, you need to ask not how much money he has, but how much he has spent.

Adam Smith makes very much the same point in Wealth of Nations: and goes on to point out that it is true of countries as much as men. Having the pile of gold isn\’t what makes you rich, it\’s the having of the things that pile of gold bought which does.

Or, as I put it, it\’s the imports that make us rich, the exports being just the shite we do to pay for them.*


*(What, you didn\’t think that thought was original, did you?)

Banning E- Numbers

So, errr, banning them wouldn\’t in fact have any effect then?

However, it admits any ban would need to be agreed at a Europe-wide level and until then any ban within the UK would have to be on a voluntary basis.

Because it wouldn\’t be possible to ban the import from other EU countries of products which do contain them?

So, in fact, purchasers will still need to read the labels of what they buy……just as they do at present if they don\’t want their darling little snot noses to eat them.

Excellent, a ban with no effect!


Jerusalem, one of the country\’s best-loved hymns and the favourite of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, has been banned from services at one of Britain\’s foremost churches.

The verses, which were written by William Blake more than two centuries ago, cannot be sung by choirs or congregations at Southwark Cathedral because the words do not praise God and are too nationalistic, according to senior clergy.

No, really, quite wonderful!

It\’s nationalistic, check, it\’s not religious, so any Englishman, of whatever religion, can sing it with gusto.

So we can make it he English national anthem, no problems!

To Sr. Berlusconi

Famously outspoken Italian opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi has claimed that right-wing politicians are more attractive than their left-wing rivals.

The centre-right\’s candidate in this weekend\’s national elections said the Left had "no taste" in women.

He said that when he looked around parliament, he found female politicians from the right were "more beautiful", the BBC reports.

"The left has no taste, even when it comes to women," he said.



(Yes, yes, I know, grossly unfair and sexist…just couldn\’t resist.)

City Takoever Code

Umm, can one of you finance specialists tell me, is this correct?

For example, the United Kingdom’s City Code mandates a strict application of the MBR, where all bids for blocks of 30% or more of the stock must be followed by a bid for the remaining shares at the same price.

I didn\’t think that was strictly true. You can buy a block of shares greater than 29.9% without making a full offer: as long as you buy that block from one seller. Only if you\’ve bought from 2 or more do you have to make that full offer (at the highest price that you\’ve paid for some previous time limit).

Or am I "misremembering"?


They coincided with an IMF warning that the costs of the financial crisis are set to rocket to almost $1 trillion (£508bn) – higher than the Japanese banking collapse which caused a decade of stagnation.

Yes, and the Japanese losses were almost all inside the Japanese banking system. The current losses have been globalised.

As, umm, we were told the process of securitisation would in fact do it has done: shared and spread the risk.

Glory be, financial system works as advertised on the tin.

Not What I Expected

Seeing this story:

The founder of a website which sold sperm to lesbians who wanted children has been jailed for 16 months for fraud and forgery.

I thought, Aha! He\’s been doing what that American doctor used to do. When asked for a sample to impregnate a woman he would run through the catalogue, agree, yes, yes, this blonde 6\’4\’\’ Aryan type would be just right for you, right, I\’ll just go and get it for you. He would then return a few minutes later from the store room slightly flushed and red faced with a more personal sample which was then used.

Lot\’s of to be 5\’5\’\’ frogfaced (for the Good Doctor was not blessed in the looks department) children were thus produced.

But, sadly, no, the story turns on simple accountancy.

American scandals can be so much more fun…

Wealth and Happiness

So, how come this is true?

British families are healthier and twice as well off as they were two decades ago but are no happier, according to an official survey.

Life expectancy has increased significantly over the past 35 years for both men and women, while the number of people dying from heart disease and strokes has markedly declined, figures have disclosed.

Household wealth and expenditure also doubled in Britain between 1987 and 2006, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in its Social Trends survey. Yet despite this boost in health and wealth, levels of contentment remain virtually unchanged.

Between 1973 and 2006, people\’s satisfaction levels have hovered around an average of 86 per cent.

The ONS said the plateau effect was an example of the "Easterlin Paradox", in which the relationship between income and happiness declines after a certain level of wealth is reached.

"In the UK, as in the United States and many other countries, life satisfaction overall has levelled off, despite increasing real economic wealth," said Paul Allin, an ONS spokesman.

Now we know that this result is going to be used (as it already has been at great length by such as Richard Layard and at shorter by Polly) to justify all sorts of confiscations of wealth and income to be spent upon pet schemes. If increasing wealth doesn\’t make us happier, then such confiscations won\’t make us unhappier. There will also be the Greens stating that as economic growth doesn\’t make us happier then there\’s no problem in stopping it in praise of Gaia.

And there I think is the point. I\’m perfectly willing to agree that the absolute level of wealth doesn\’t make us happier. But (and I\’m sorry, I\’ve forgotten where I first saw this idea floated) that doesn\’t mean that changes in wealth have no effect upon happiness.

The thought is that living in an economy where things are, in general and year by year, decade by decade, getting better, is what creates that high level of contentment. "Things Can Only Get Better" being something that we humans rather like to feel. A static economy, or worse, a shrinking one, do not offer that same feeling of general well being.

It\’s not the level of wealth, it\’s the direction that level is heading in. We may all already be fat upon the cornucopian choice that this liberal capitalism shtick offers us, but the happy part comes from the knowledge that tomorrow we\’ll be even fatter.

If anyone can remember who stated this in a more  formal manner I\’d be most grateful if they could tell me.