Collecting food scraps

The problem with this isn\’t that it\’s just a massive expenditure of time, it\’s that it\’s entirely unnecessary.

Every household in the country could soon be required to keep a separate bin for food scraps as a new scheme to reduce landfill is rolled out across the country.

The purported reason for doing this is as follows:

Phillip Ward, of WRAP, added: "Collecting food waste separately is a very effective way of reducing the amount that gets sent to landfill and the environmental damage this causes."

The "environmental damage" done is the release of methane as the food rots. But we collect the methane (most of it) from such rotting and use it to generate power. Thus we have CO2 as the end product.

Now, if it is separately collected and recycled then it is still used to generate methane (most of) which is collected and used to generate energy. The end product is CO2. Plus, of course, all the extra CO2 generated by having a separate collection system for it. Plus the costs and embedded CO2 of the new digesters.

So we have a system which is more expensive and generates more CO2….and this is supposed to help the environment?

Penalising the punters

I think I can answer this question.

The home secretary has caused a storm with plans to change prostitution laws. She tells Julie Bindel why she is following the global trend to target men who buy sex.

She\’s telling Julie Bindel because Julie Bindel is one of the near hysteric lesbian activists* who have been pushing the line that all prostitution is rape, that all women are forced into it and that it should be abolished (as if we could!).

She explains that demand is one of the main reasons so many women are involved in the sex industry,

I suppose there\’s hope for us all then. At least one Cabinet Minister seems to have realised that "demand" is the reason that most things happen in the economy.

"We need to send out a message to men and to society in general, that most women do not choose to be in prostitution, whereas the buyers have free choice."

Again perfectly correct. Most women do not choose to be in prostitution. There\’s an estimated 80,000 "sex workers" in the country and some 35 million or so women of various ages.  I\’m willing to believe that 34,920,000 out of 35,000,000 is "most".

But that\’s not the question we want to know the answer to. We actually want to know what portion of the 80,000 have chosen prostitution as the least bad of their available options and there the water is murkier. I very seriously doubt whether there\’s more than a few hundred that have been forced into it in the sense of sexual slavery (such slavery obviously being a bad thing and something which is already illegal). I\’m perfectly happy to agree that many more will have been "forced" into it by economic pressures (seeing it as the above "least bad option") but then I\’ve been "forced" into writing for a living rather than riding the paddock ponies at F1 races by economic pressures too: my complete lack of skill at anything at all to do with cars being an unfortunate fact of my life. Similarly, at times I\’ve made my living by washing pots, sorting used ink jet cartridges, risking my life with the Russian metals Mafia, delivering newspapers and waiting table. All of which (at least most of them) earning me less than turning tricks would have done.

It should soon be a criminal offence to pay for sex with someone who is controlled for another person\’s gain – and it will be no defence for buyers to claim that they were unaware that a person was trafficked, pimped, or debt-bonded to their drug dealer or landlord.

We\’re actually at serious danger of debasing the language here. What does "trafficked" mean for example? There\’s what I think everyone would agree was such, kidnapped, smuggled in, held prisoner….a slave in fact. Here\’s what it seems to mean to campaigners like Bindel though….an illegal immigrant who works in the sex trade. And that\’s a much more expansive meaning. For example, somone might have paid to be smuggled, voluntarily, in order to enter the trade. Someone might have simply moved in order to do so: Gary Becker looked at this decades ago and pointed out that becoming a prostitute lowers your social capital. Thus people tend to do it away from home which is where your social capital is essentially located. While women used to move from hometown to next town (and anyone who has travelled on late night InterCity in the 80s and 90s would know that women would travel from S Wales to Swindon for example, the smoking carriages were full of loud conversations about the night\’s takings) with travel ever cheaper, why not country to country?

And "pimped"? Are these twits unaware that many working girls actually prefer to use a pimp? Not read Steven Levitt\’s research, showing that even after the slice taken by the pimp the nett earnings were higher for those who did? This is exploitation in the same way that an actor hiring an agent is.

According to government statistics, 4,000 women and children have been trafficked into prostitution in the UK at any one time, but the police suggest the real figure is far higher – studies have found that at least 70% of women working in UK brothels are trafficked from places such as Africa, Asia and eastern Europe.

This is where our definition of "trafficking" is so important. The use here is "imported" which is not the same at all (see Becker above) as the meaning of "sex slave".

Lithuania and Finland both have laws similar to Britain\’s new approach, making it illegal to pay for sex with a trafficked woman.

If "trafficked" means "sex slave" then this is already illegal in Britan as well. Sex without consent is known as rape, no? If it means imported then you\’d better not think of shagging that Spanish bird you met on holiday and invited over then.

but well over half agreed that paying for sex with a trafficked woman should be criminalised.

Indeed, our varied meanings of "trafficked" again.

In 1984, for instance, Victoria was the first Australian state to legalise prostitution, and the main arguments put forward for the move (including by pimps and brothel owners) were that this would sever prostitution from organised crime and make the trade much safer for the women involved.

The reality does not match that early promise, as underlined by the occupational health and safety advice that is handed out to women by states that have legalised the trade. Women are advised to pretend they have a stomach upset if a buyer "insists on anal sex without a condom"; they are told to be careful when injecting local anaesthetic into their vagina, as it can mask more "serious injuries". (The idea that anyone would inject anaesthetic into their vagina is a stark reminder of the trade\’s brutality.) Then there is the advice that women should "learn basic self-defence", "be aware some clients can be rough" and that, when visiting a buyer\’s home, they should check for signs of a planned gang-rape, including loud music and too many cars in the drive.

Are we to assume that none of these things happen in places where prostitution is illegal? In fact, if you go and scour the net (as I once did for a sadly unpublished book project) you\’ll find the blog of a black escort in London where she says she\’s very glad that it is legal for her to sell here: it means that if she is threatened with violence by a customer she has the same rights to call the police for help as anyone else facing assault does.

This reflects the situation in Nevada, the only US state to legalise brothels, where the illegal prostitution industry is currently nine times larger than the legal one.

That\’s simply shameless. Prostitution is legal in a small number of counties in Nevada. They happen to be the counties with very few people in them. Of course the prostitution trade in Las Vegas (illegal but many people) is larger than that in somewhere with 3 residents and a few horses.

"I am willing to accept that there are women out there who say they have chosen to sell sex, but they are in the minority, and laws are there to protect the majority."

No love, that\’s the part of your case that you haven\’t made yet.

*The phrase here is "lesbian activist", not "lesbian" activist. Bindel\’s not just arguing (correctly of course) that lesbians have as of right the same civil liberties we all do. She\’s arguing other things which come directly from a certain view of human sexuality.

Erm….

Alternatively, the government could consolidate Northern Rock and its holding in Bradford & Bingley into one institution. When all debts are paid back, the institution could be converted into a building society. This should be straightforward, as the government already owns the share capital. The new body would operate in the same manner as any other building society.

OK, launch it as a mutual.

A starting point will be the future of Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley. While the government was absolutely right to nationalise these as a short-term measure, any long-term solution for these companies should be based on some key principles.

• Taxpayers must not be out of pocket as a result of the change.

Erm, how does that work then? Either the government (ie, the taxpayers) gets to get the money back by selling the institutions at some point (or retaining a shareholding at least) or they can be mutuals owned by the customers. But we can\’t manage to do both.

If it\’s mutualised and handed over, there can be no repayment….unless we\’re going to suggest that the customers buy if from the government. And I really don\’t see people being willing to stump up a couple of thousand pounds as a fee for being able to get a bank account.

Fiona Mactaggart: idiot

A significant number of women are controlled by violent gangs, some have been trafficked across borders, some between different towns where they offer "fresh meat" to clients who see the women they pay for as a mere commodity for pleasure.

Jeepers. That a Government Minister doesn\’t know the most basic point about prostitution (as pointed out by Gary Becker decades ago). That entering the sex trade tends to reduce one\’s social capital…thus people tend to do it away from the community they come from. That\’s why they move around, not to provide "fresh meat".

 

Sex workers themselves are the experts on their own lives.

Well, quite.

But that\’s not going to be an argument that the current government is going to accept. For that is the basic liberal view of the world. That each and every one of us competent adults do indeed know best how to run our own lives.

And given that we are ruled by those who do not believe that, who insist that they and they alone have the knowledge to run our lives for us, we must conclude that we are ruled by the illiberal.

Not that this will come as much of a surprise to anyone.

Fighting the last war

It\’s always said to be generals that do that, but it appears that politicians do too.

At teh moment we\’re all arguing over presumed consent for the use of organs for transplant. Just as the first transgenic organs from pigs are about to hit the market and, just as doctors finally manage to do something useul with adult stem cells.

Surgeons replaced the damaged windpipe of Claudia Castillo, a 30-year-old mother of two, with one created from stem cells grown in a laboratory at Bristol University.

Because the new windpipe was made from cells taken from Ms Castillo\’s own body, using a process called "tissue engineering", she has not needed powerful drugs to prevent her body rejecting the organ.

Avoiding the use of these drugs means she will not be an increased risk of cancer and other diseases unlike other transplant patients – another significant advance.

Five months after the operation was carried out she is now living normally and is able to look after her children again.

Early days yet, they still need a donated organ to create the structure, but guive them a decade or two and there\’s a good possibility that this whole argument over transplnts will simply go away.

BNP membership list

I see from around the place that the entire BNP membership list has been posted up online.

Not sure if it\’s still up or not but….does anyone have a copy of it? A link even?

Update. I have it now, thank you!

 

Erm, no

Debbie Ross, membership manager of the Twins and Multiple Birth Association, described the Pearson family\’s two sets of twins as \’practically unheard of.\’

\’The chance of having non-identical twins is one in 67 while the chance of having identical twins is about one in 1,000\’, she said.

\’But the chances of having two sets of twins, identical and non-identical, must be one in a million. You will find very few families who have a pair of identical twins and a pair of non-identical twins.\’

That is nonsense. Gibberish in fact.

Firstly, there\’s the assumption there that having twins out of two pregnancies are independent events. But if you are predisposed to having twins (while this couple do not have a history of twins in the extended family we do know that having twins is indeed connected to genes) then the fact that you have had one set will mean that you are more likley than normal to have another set.

Now, this is complicated by the fact that they are non-identical and identical. The first is a result of two eggs being fertilised, the second of the splitting of the embryo (or blastocyst or whatever the accurate term is). So, perhaps they are indeed independent events?

In which case the chance this happening is a simply multiplication of the chances of the two independent events. One in 67 times one in one thousand. Or one in 67,000, not one in a million. (That is, assuming already that there are going to be two pregnancies carried to term.)

Apostrophe Catastrophe!

So says the Mail.

This all started with a drink. But it very nearly didn\’t because when I looked at the cocktail list in the otherwise swanky Charlotte Street Hotel in London and discovered that martini\’s (sic) were £10.50 and classic\’s (sic) £10.50 I momentarily lost my thirst.

The price was bad enough. But did you have to pay extra if you wanted to have your drink correctly punctuated? And would a martini  –  mine\’s made with Plymouth gin, please, very dry, shaken with a twist  –  taste as good if it also contained a stray apostrophe?

Caught up in a spasm of punctuation-rage I, perhaps slightly aggressively, asked the poor waitress what those two utterly extraneous apostrophes were doing there. She backed away hurriedly and sent over the assistant bar manager.

Mariusz Szymecki may have been Polish but his English was fluent. Or almost fluent.

\’Both spellings  –  martini\’s and martinis  –  are correct,\’ he said firmly. \’I know this is right because, when I heard what you wanted to know, I checked it on Google.\’

On Google? Who in the name of a thousand question marks would rely on Google to be an authority on anything, least of all a grammatical matter?

The internet is awash with misspellings and punctuation solecisms. Nor is it much better out there in the real world. And the poor apostrophe is the subject of more abuse than any other dot, dash or squiggle.

It\’s a nice piece of outrage of course….but our Pole is has rather more behind him than our outraged writer, Victoria Moore, does.

Because, you see, a martini isn\’t named after the drink, the vermouth. Rather, it is named after a New York barman* who first started making them (it\’s a simple variation on a once popular drink, gin and vermouth, variations of which used to be "gin and French" or "gin and Italian" and which has since morphed into all sorts of things like Rob Roy, Manhattan and so on).

So, while unusual, martini\’s (or perhaps to be precisely correct, Martini\’s) would be allowable, as it is the drink first created by Mr. Martini.

Another example of Muphry\’s Law perhaps? Or a corollary?

* Of course, it is possible that this story is entirely bollocks.

Ricardian Equivalence

There\’s an interesting little economic theory out there. Sure, you can cut taxes in order to try and boost demand. But if people know that taxes will rise in the future to pay back the borrowing then they\’ll not spend the money, they\’ll save it. Save it to pay the future higher taxes.

Thus your tax cut doesn\’t in fact boost demand.

Now, there\’s a certain controversy over whether this actually holds. David Ricardo, who first considered it, thought it didn\’t and people have been arguing ever since.

But whether it does or it doesn\’t hold depends rather on what people believe. Is this a permanent tax cut? Or just a short term one which will have to be paid for?

Lord Mandelson, the new Business Secretary, said that there would need to be "a medium term adjustment some years ahead" to pay for a "fiscal stimulus" now to revive Britain\’s ailing economy.

His remarks were seized on by David Cameron, who warned that a tax "bombshell" was being stored up.

In a Commons exchange with Gordon Brown following the G20 summit in Washington, he told the Prime Minister that "discretionary borrowing now" would mean "higher taxes later."

The Tory leader said: "Isn\’t it the case that Labour\’s borrowing bombshell will soon become a tax bombshell? And let\’s be clear about what that means. Borrowing £30 billion now will mean an income tax bill for the average earner of nearly £1,500 later.

Oh, well done everybody. If you\’re going to remind everybody that these cuts will need to be paid for then you won\’t in fact get any boost to the economy from the tax cuts in the first place.

Don\’t these people that we hire to administer parts of the economy know any economics at all?

Interpal

An aid organisation which is being investigated by the Charity Commission said Lloyds TSB has threatened to stop processing its transactions from next month.

Interpal\’s accounts are with the Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB) but the charity said IBB relies on Lloyds TSB as its clearing bank.

Ibrahim Hewitt, chairman of the board of trustees at Interpal, said Lloyds had served a notice on IBB to cease dealing with the charity which will come into effect on December 8.

Interesting, eh? (From the PA feed, thus no link)

Interpal is that Palestinian charity that George Galloway\’s share of the phone in money from Celebrity Big Brother went to, isn\’t it?

Black women earn more than white women!

That\’s one thing that\’s come out of the latest ONS figures.

The average earnings of black women in Britain are now higher than their white counterparts, according to government statistics.

But before we all become delirious with joy over this proof of how race discrimination has fallen, ponder this:

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said the figures may be explained by the fact that half of all black women live in London, where average pay is higher than elsewhere in the country.

Indeed it is. Using male figures for last year, median London wages are north of £20 an hour, in the NE, £12.50 or so.

This is in fact very little to do with racial discrimination, rather, to do with geographic concentration of immigrants in the highest paying area of the country. Where you\’d sort of assume immigrants would end up anyway.

Wee Wullie

I\’m not sure what Hutton is smoking these days. Something extremely powerful I\’m sure though.

The last, best and most palatable option is to join the euro, and fight a referendum campaign on it being our get-out-of-jail-free card – a means of avoiding de facto national bankruptcy and emasculation of the property-owning middle class while offering a route to reindustrialisation and underwriting the City of London. Inside the euro, both the government and the City would be able to sustain the spending and lending necessary to avert recession. The competitive level at which we would join would boost industrial exports for a generation. And the middle class would not have its savings wrecked by inflation. We would avoid the clutches of the IMF.

As we\’re all surveying the rubble we\’re agreeing that the root cause was that interest rates were set at inappropriate levels. So, in order to counter act this we\’re going to give away our power to set interest rates?

Good one, good one.

Especially since the people we\’re to give this power to would have, in the recent past, have set them at even more inappropriate levels. Lower than we did in the boom (which would have increased the boom of course) and now higher than we do in the bust (making the bust deeper of course).

Plus we still have a massive structural problem which makes the UK economy not part of an optimal currency area with the euro. Our method of financing housing is 1) massively more based upon owner occupation and 2) financied at floating interest rates. Compared, to, say, Germany that is.

So as and when interest rates change (assuming we join the euro) those changes will have a much greater impact upon the UK economy than it will on, say, the German.

Euro membership would thus makes the booms and busts greater…as it observably has done in Spain and Ireland in recent years…..which isn\’t really what we\’re trying to achieve here, is it?

Finally, membership of the euro would mean that we cannot change our exchange rate: worth remembering that the UK began to recover from the Great Depression the day it came off the gold standard. That is, the day that we adopted a floating exchange rate rather than a fixed one.

Perhaps someone ought to have a word with Will about his ingestions. Clearly something is causing him to fall off his rocker.

Mary Warnock

What?

But for those who regard consensual sex as one of the nicest of nice things, prostitution is a corruption, a devaluing. Though it is consensual, it is so only through the medium of money. No one would put up with it without being paid. This is far from the bliss of Adam and Eve.

The existence of prostitution devalues sex for those who have unpaid consensual sex?

That\’s the same argument as the one that the existence of same sex marriage devalues heterosexual marriage, isn\’t it? An argument that I certainly laugh at and one that Mary Warnock would certainly never try to put forward.

And people listen to this woman on the subject of ethics?

Sheesh.