Tim Worstall

Another one of those tech things

So, new monitor. Which seems to be displaying the text a little too high.

The margin at the bottom of the screen is a bit too big. The one at the top is a little too small. The tops of the tabs are disappearing off the top of the screen that is.

So, what’s this called? Because unless I can work that out of course I can’t look up how to solve it….

Young folk discover the concept of “friends”

People who identify as straight are attracted to the opposite gender, while people who identify as gay or lesbian are attracted to the same gender. Those who identify as bisexual are attracted to more than one gender, and people who identify as pansexual are attracted to people regardless of gender. Usually, who you’re attracted to is the same in both the sexual and emotional sense, but not always.

For some people, like May, sexual and emotional attraction are split across sexes and/or genders. Many have taken to TikTok to share what it’s like to have this kind of attraction, detailing the confusion, worries, hopes, and joys that come with it.

Sigh

Blimey, surprise here!

There is a rare unanimity in the country this morning. A significant majority think that our prime minister is a liar and that as a result of his own law breaking of laws that his government passed he should resign. Opinion polls suggest that around two thirds of the country are in support of his going. As usual we must both despair and worry about the others.

Turnout was 67% at the last GE. Tories got 43% of the vote. So, more people today think Boris should be PM than thought at the last GE.

That’s a damning blow, isn’t it?

Oooooh, this is easy

Germany’s new economy and climate protection minister has called for the nation to pull together to realise the “gigantic task” of creating a climate neutral country, saying it posed a considerable social and financial challenge as well as a big opportunity.

Introducing a broad outline of his ambitious plans to the public for the first time since entering government as part of a three-way coalition last month, the Green party’s Robert Habeck called for a threefold increase in the speed with which carbon dioxide emissions are reduced, arguing Germany faced a race against time and required a “massive national debate” to achieve the goals set out by his ministry. He said the government faced an uphill task to win many people over to the idea of a transition.

Turn the nuclear plants back on and close the lignite ones.

If enough people think this way then they’ll stop

One of Britain’s best known investors has attacked Unilever for its “ludicrous” focus on sustainability, in a sign of growing City frustration at blue chip companies championing fashionable causes.

Terry Smith, manager of the £29bn Fundsmith Equity fund, said that the consumer goods behemoth has become “obsessed” with its public image and mocked its efforts to imbue brands such as Hellman’s mayonnaise with a higher purpose.

He said this overzealous focus on environmental and social issues has proved a distraction at a time when the £101bn maker of products from Vaseline to Marmite is struggling with a falling share price.

The argument in favour of going woke is that consumers will like it, this will make up for the costs and so boost shareholder profits. If that last doesn’t happen then consumers don’t like it enough to make up for the costs. At which point going woke should stop, right?

Snigger

Productivity in the public sector plunged as extra funds were given to healthcare and other vital services to battle Covid.

In the three months to September, the public sector’s resources were 18.6pc higher than in 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics.

However, its output was only 8.9pc higher, indicating that productivity was down by more than 8pc and that the additional money was not accompanied by a successful drive to make the most efficient use of the cash.

So much for the idea that the Tories are starving those vital public services then….

You what?

We also have “to father” and “to mother” as verbs, which gets a bit more complicated. “To father” is synonymous with “beget” and “sire”—though Merriam-Webster notes, in a circular way, that these words are considered archaic, except in relation to domestic animals. “To mother” seems simpler on the face of it, maybe less overtly sexist? “To mother” is defined as “to give birth to” or “to care for or protect like a mother.” The first definition is the biologically essentialist one, but at least unlike with “beget” and “sire,” there are no caveats or domestic animals to be found.

It’s subtle, but already we can see clear signs of a patriarchal system of society embedded in language.

Freddy McConnell is mad again.

I can’t see anything there at all which would not also fit a description of a matriarchal society. Can you?

But then this is Freddy:

Why We Need Gender-Inclusive Terms for ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’

Umm, why?

We don;t need gender inclusive terms for left or right handed, for short or tall, so why would we for father or mother?

The people who didn’t hire me for a well paid and successful career should die stabbie, stabbie, deaths!

The real question this raises is what does this mean for a firm that was, for the sake of the record, forty years ago my employer? My suggestion is that the claim, so often made, that there were just ‘bad apples’ in this firm and occasional lapses of quality is ceasing to make any sense now. KPMG has a long list of failings, and is at present not taking government contracts because of doubts about its ethics.

That last point is key. An audit firm is only as good as its ethics. The quality of its opinion making is all that matters, and ethical objectivity is key to that. If KPMG cannot be believed, and I cannot be alone in no longer believing it can be, then there is nothing left for it to do.

That is, I think, the point that has been reached now by KPMG. This firm has failed. No objective regulator could, in my opinion, any longer think it a fit and proper organisation to undertake audits. In that case its licence should be revoked.

Of course, when the government, in the form of the Post Office (note, post office, not Royal Mail) end up jailing people through their hiding of the evidence about a computing system the same doesn’t apply, does it?

Interesting assertion

The future for both Morrisons and Asda is particularly bleak after both succumbed to debt-fuelled takeovers during the pandemic. Stretching a company’s balance sheet with high-cost debt rarely makes it more competitive despite the claims of private equity cheerleaders but this is a wretched time to be doing it to a supermarket.

Probably wrong too. Or at least wrong in one way.

Specifically high cost debt probably doesn’t do much, no. We might talk about concentrating minds and all that but really, no, that’s a side issue in increasing margins, reducing costs and so on.

The whole process though? Turfing out the incumbent management, taking a knife to the pleasant and settled ways of middle managers? That can work wonders. That move of British Gas into the private sector wiped out what was it, five levels of management?

If that high cost debt is the method by which the other process is achieved then yes, it can indeed work.

Spot the cliche

In fact, they will see a very modern blended family, as Lord Ivar Mountbatten runs the family estate with his husband – with the full support of his ex-wife.

Penny Mountbatten has given the same-sex marriage her blessing, even giving Lord Ivar away when he wed James Coyle, an airline cabin services director, in 2018.

The gay cabin steward – with the upgraded title to be truly modern – is just such a cliche, isn’t it? TBF, marrying an aristocrat isn’t but still.

That proof again, the reason stereotypes exist is that they’re useful approximations…..

An amusement

We’re told around the place – by many places and all approvingly – that the first woman to win $1 million on Jeopardy is in fact not, according to stricter definitions of “women”, a woman.

At which point, perhaps the trans lady is not in fact entirely and wholly female as she’s just done something that only men have done before? Or is it that wimmins women now need to look to the trans for guidance about how to break the game show barriers?

Or, umm, how about this is all just getting too confusing and fuck’em.

Wonder how stupid the recommendations will actually be

An updated government app will use barcodes to encourage families to switch to healthier food as part of efforts to tackle Britain’s child obesity crisis.

The new feature, announced on Monday as part of the Better Health campaign, will scan selected shopping items and suggest alternatives with less saturated fat, sugar or salt. Families using the NHS Food Scanner app will also be shown a “Good Choice” badge for items which could help improve their diet, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

Depends upon how infested the design team has been with woke ideas about “ultraprocessed food” I guess. Just for funsies, if anyone sees the list do let us know so we can all have a look.

Oh Aye?

A judge in Melbourne has ordered the immediate release of Novak Djokovic from immigration detention after overturning the Australian government’s decision to cancel his visa.

Judge Anthony Kelly said that the decision to cancel the temporary visa should be quashed and the minister for Home Affairs must pay his costs and take “all necessary to steps to release the applicant immediately”.

So it appears that one story of this tale is actually correct. He applied for and was given a visa lawfully.

Hmm, that’s interesting, isn’t it?

Werl, Atchully

Major international research efforts are being made to fight this trend – including an initiative at London’s Francis Crick Institute, where two world experts, James Lee and Carola Vinuesa, have set up separate research groups to help pinpoint the precise causes of autoimmune disease, as these conditions are known.

“Numbers of autoimmune cases began to increase about 40 years ago in the west,” Lee told the Observer. “However, we are now seeing some emerge in countries that never had such diseases before.

OK.

In the UK alone, at least 4 million people have developed such conditions, with some individuals suffering more than one. Internationally, it is now estimated that cases of autoimmune diseases are rising by between 3% and 9% a year. Most scientists believe environmental factors play a key role in this rise.

“Human genetics hasn’t altered over the past few decades,” said Lee, who was previously based at Cambridge University. “So something must be changing in the outside world in a way that is increasing our predisposition to autoimmune disease.”

Well, maybe.

This idea was backed by Vinuesa, who was previously based at the Australian National University. She pointed to changes in diet that were occurring as more and more countries adopted western-style diets and people bought more fast food.

“Fast-food diets lack certain important ingredients, such as fibre, and evidence suggests this alteration affects a person’s microbiome – the collection of micro-organisms that we have in our gut and which play a key role in controlling various bodily functions,” Vinuesa said.

“These changes in our microbiomes are then triggering autoimmune diseases, of which more than 100 types have now been discovered.”

Hmm. Given that I’m not the P³ I’ll not declare that I’ve got the answer. Instead I’ll just postulate. Human genetics have changed over this time. Or, rather, since the generation or two before that.

In the 1920s a diagnosis of diabetes was a 6 month death sentence. Crohn’s and all the gut ones wouldn’t have increased life of reproductive success chances.

“If you don’t have a certain genetic susceptibility, you won’t necessarily get an autoimmune disease, no matter how many Big Macs you eat,” said Vinuesa.

The susceptibilities are indeed genetically linked and therefore inheritance plays a role. But then so also does the arising, de novo, of the gene combinations that predispose to them.

So, to use another example, 100 years ago – and all time previous to that – babies with lactose intolerance died. So, lactose intolerance was something that only arose de novo in each generation, it wasn’t inherited – or those with it didn’t survive to pass it on, while the gene combinations that cause it might pop up in a sexual mixing of DNA perhaps. Now babies with lactose intolerance do survive and so we have a rise in such intolerance in the population as a whole. We’ve both the directly inherited and also the arising de novo types.

Thus my theory about these autoimmune diseases. They’re increasing because in the past those with them were dead and not reproducing. So, we only got the incidence of those few new cases, not directly inherited, who did survive. Now we’ve got those new cases, as always, plus those directly inherited.

I’d not hold to this very strongly as a complete solution. As with much of economics I’d say that there are likely many things going on. But I would strongly argue that this is some of what’s going on. Some portion – with a heavy emphasis upon “some” – of the rise in autoimmune diseases, as with many others, is a result of the previous generation of those having them not being dead.

“Not in this band, we all just follow Keef”

Not sure how true this story is but nice all the same.

Muso sits in with the Rolling Stones. Starts muttering how odd it seems. “Usually, you know, the drums and bass lay down the beat, the swing. The rhythm guitar follows then you layer up from there” sorta muttering.

“Not in this band, we all just follow Keef”.

Which might be the secret not that I’m musician enough to know. The one standout musical talent in there being Richards. Sure, it would be nice if Jagger could actually sing – yes, he’s got the charisma etc but even Rod Stewart has been unkind about his singing voice and his attempt at an American accent in Midnight Rambler is simply cringeworthy – and he knows his way around chords and keys. Jones was a multi-instrumentalist, Charlies Watts a fine drummer – although even there You Can’t Always Get What You Want was done by Jimmy Miller as Watts just couldn’t pick up the groove – and Wyman a perfectly servicable bassist but again, that really stand out bass line on Sympathy was done by Keef. Mick Taylor a very fine blues guitarist. Ronnie Wood excellent again.

But the one who is different. Who has something more and better. Original if you prefer. Something that other entirely fine, even excellent, musicians don’t have, that’s Richards. In the way that Clapton had with lead, Billy Cobham on drums. Perhaps the comment about BB King solos – he doesn’t play many notes, does he? Nope, but they’re always the right ones.

Not quite sue why this thought strikes on a Monday morning but there we are. The one thing that makes the Rolling Stones different is Keith Richards.

Glorious cakeism!

This isn’t a new conversation, but Return to Hogwarts and responses from fans past and present on social media invite us to revisit the question: Is it possible to separate the art from the artist?

The answer, of course, is complicated and nuanced. Except for the moments when it’s pretty straightforward. The idea that we can separate the art from the artist hinges on a form of privilege and a misunderstanding of how creators can put themselves and their beliefs into their work. French philosopher Roland Barthes’ essay “Death of the Author” is used as a way to explain that it’s “just art” and can be consumed without any input from the creator, making the creator someone whose shouting doesn’t impact the narrative or your understanding of it. Unfortunately, when it comes to bigotry, that’s not necessarily an approach that works.

So this modernism, deconstruction, teaches that what the author meant, even what they said, doesn’t matter and isn’t the point. We each construct the story ourselves as we read/watch.

This is true until we find an author we want to criticise, when it’s not true.

Ho Hum.

It’ll be interesting to see which way this goes

Cadwalladr is now defending the claim against her on the basis that her reporting was in the public interest.

IANAL. However, I’m not entirely sure that we have a public interest defence to libel in England, do we? Thought that was more an American thing?

When Banks first brought his case against Cadwalladr, seven press freedom groups, among them Reporters Without Borders and Index On Censorship, called for the case to be thrown out and for the British government to defend public-interest journalism. Their open letter described the case as bearing many of the hallmarks of a so-called Slapp suit – strategic lawsuits against public participation – in which legal action will inevitably be expensive and time consuming for journalists to resist.

Equally, Slapp is an American, not English, thing isn’t it?