Seumas Milne\’s Solution

This is really rather good actually:

Perhaps the best that can be hoped for in current circumstances is that Northern Rock is restored as the successful mutually-owned building society it was before the carpetbaggers arrrived.

And I\’ll have a pony while I\’m about it.

Of course, mutually owned means that the depositors own the business. So that if as and when there\’s a run on it, said depositors lose both their capital and their deposits. An excellent solution Seumas, quite excellent.

Quote of the Day

But it is hard not to sympathise with the new bosses\’ surprise at discovering entries in EMI\’s accounts such as £200,000 for fresh fruit and flowers – a well-known industry euphemism for artists\’ partying requirements –

Decca Aitkenhead.

Democracy in the EU

This story has been around and about for a couple of days amongst the UKIP bloggers (Elaib and Trixie for example). Now Dan Hannan lays it out in The Telegraph. Quite simply, the EU Parliament doesn\’t even bother to follow its own rules when there is any opposition to the programme.

Dan suggests that we all start to use, as he does, the following phrase:

Yesterday, I spoke on agriculture, consumer protection, adult learning and the rights of the child and, each time, I finished with the words Pactio Olisipio censenda est: the Lisbon Treaty must be put to the vote…

Yes, of course it\’s an echo of Cato. But I have a better one.

Ceterum Censeo Unionem Europaeam Esse Delendam.

And therefore the European Union must be destroyed.

Cato\’s fellow senators would mock him. Sometimes, they would mimic his voice, sometimes shout him down. But you know what? In the end, they sacked Carthage.

Katherine Whitehorn

I used to love reading Katherine Whitehorn\’s pieces in The Observer: they rather made the paper for me. She\’s back standing in for Boris and is typically on the target.

No quotations, it\’s a great piece: two major points, one that I\’ve been known to bang on about. Everyone knows about economies of scale, far too few think about diseconomies of scale. The other is something that Chris Dillow has been known to bang on about: institutional memory.


Dear European Union

Please fuck right off.

Proposals, to be agreed by Baroness Scotland QC, the Attorney-General, at a meeting of EU justice ministers next week, enshrine "procedural" guidelines setting out the circumstances for quick extradition of people convicted in their absence.

A draft text, seen by The Daily Telegraph, notes that existing rules do not "deal consistently with the issue of judgments rendered in absentia". "This diversity complicates the work of the practitioner and hampers judicial co-operation," it states.

Human rights and civil liberties campaigners fear the new EU rules breach a fundamental principle of British justice: that defendants must have their day in court to defend themselves.

Britain does not convict people or hold trials in their absence but many EU countries, including Belgium, France, Spain Greece and Italy, do so on a regular basis.

No, not having this. It may be true that our Continental cousins are quite happy to bang someone up without hearing their side of the story, without even informing them that a trial is taking place. We do not do this and there is no way we should start to do so…nor allow and facilitate the banging up of Britons by said Continental cousins.

One of the first duties of the State is to protect the rights of the citizenry, this is an obvious breach of said rights.

Bugger off.

Rising Population

The only major industrial country with a fertility rate that replaces its own population is the US. It\’s just hit 2.1 per woman again, why?

Also, American men are more likely to share childcare duties.

So, note to all of those who concern themselves with rising population numbers, those who think it\’s a bad idea. People do respond rationally to incentives, so you should be campaigning for less paternal leave, less involvement of fathers in their childrens\’ care and quite possibly, less State provided child care.

That\’ll be amusing to watch, as those who do obsess about population tend to be those who obsess about gender equality as well.

So, No Collusion Then

Energy watchdog Ofgem has dismissed suggestions that the UK\’s six largest energy companies colluded to increase gas and electricity bills. The regulator has also demanded that those alleging price-fixing should produce the evidence.

They see large changes in market share, record switching between suppliers: signs of a highly competitive market. Yes, it\’s true, that prices are also moving in lockstep….but that\’s also a sign of a highly competitive market (when it isn\’t a sign of collusion). But some people are never pleased:

The Scottish National Party\’s Mike Weir called for the Competition Commission to investigate the companies, saying: "This statement displays an incredible complacency by Ofgem. It doesn\’t take Inspector Rebus to see that this same process happens every time there is an increase."

No, but it might take someone economically literate to see that a rise in taxation, a rise in compliance with green costs and a rise in feedstock costs will lead to a rise in bills to consumers. But here we\’re taking about a politician of course.

Tell It Like It Is Willem!

Let Northern Rock go bust:

If by now the Treasury, the Bank of England and the FSA have not figured out a way of swiftly repaying Northern Rock’s depositors when the bank gets put into administration, all those involved should be taken out and shot after a fair trial.

Clearly True

Decorating children’s hospital wards with images of clowns is likely to frighten rather than cheer young patients, research suggests.

But just think how much worse it would be if they were using mimes?


Yes, I know, we have limited resources, we don\’t want to have health tourism, we can\’t have open immigration and the welfare state, yes, I know the arguments:

The deportation of a Ghanaian woman with terminal cancer was defended by the head of the immigration service yesterday, who disclosed that there were hundreds of similarly difficult cases each year.

Lin Homer said that the removal of Ama Sumani, who was in hospital in Cardiff, back to Accra was heart-rending but not exceptional.

She spoke as The Lancet described the removal of Ms Sumani as atrocious barbarism. “To stop treating patients in the knowledge that they are being sent home to die is an unacceptable breach of the duties of any health professional,” it said. “The UK has committed an atrocious barbarism. It is time for doctors’ leaders to say so, forcefully and uncompromisingly.”

Ms Sumani, 39, suffers from malignant myeloma and was receiving dialysis at a hospital in Cardiff when she was taken by immigration officers and flown back home last week because her visa had expired. She left the hospital in a wheelchair accompanied by five immigration officials before being driven to Heathrow to board a flight to Accra last Wednesday.

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said that he had spoken by telephone to Ms Sumani in her Accra hospital shortly before a hearing of the committee — at which he told Ms Homer, the chief executive of the Border and Immigration Agency: “Her health has deteriorated since she arrived in Ghana.”

A little bit more of the milk of human kindness (not that a bureaucracy can offer that of course) would have been appropriate. Sorry, for all my supposed economic rationality I would have said bugger it: treat her. While I\’m not a believer in the rationale for the New Testament certain of the lessons contained strike me as being true: our Samaritan didn\’t ask whether the near corpse at the roadside was a Jew or a Palestinian, did he?

Erm, Zoe?

This bit is really quite good:

Immediately, this riles. Yes, we all have to take responsibility for our consumer choices. But those choices are a lot more meaningful for some than for others. The difference between a three quid broiler and a £10 organic bird to someone with dependants, living on – let\’s not even be melodramatic and say benefits, let\’s say the median national income of £24k – is very great.

To Jamie Oliver, it is no difference at all, on account of how he is loaded. And why is he loaded? Because a) he makes quite a lot of money entertaining us by gassing boy chicks, and b) he hoovers up that much and more again by advertising for Sainsbury\’s, which has been one of the driving forces behind this cheap food since mass production began.

Or, at least, this is the kind of petty-minded line of argument a person might be driven to, standing accused of cruel consumer choices. It is, frankly, obnoxious to see a rich person demanding impoverishing consumer choices from a poorer person. These chef-polemicists consider themselves outside politics, because they\’re being straightforward – let\’s eat what came out of the ground naturally, what was raised in a happy way. Let\’s just do as nature intended, and by gum it will be tasty, and what could possibly be political about that?

They\’re right, it isn\’t political, in that it has no consistency of ideas, indeed, doesn\’t even comprehend its own implications, but it encapsulates rather well what happens when rhetoric becomes unmoored from structured ideology: you get all the worst bits of the left – the proselytising, the sanctimony – and all the worst bits of the right – the I\’m-all-right-Jack, the "if you worked a bit harder, you too could afford to be me".

Well, quite. Insisting that those poorer than yourself follow your expensive moral choices really is rather galling.

But then this is howlingly bad:

The fact is, ethics that come out of your wallet are not ethics. All these catchwords that supposedly convey sensitivity to the environment, to animals, to the developing world – fair trade, organic, free range, food miles etc – are just new ways to buy your way into heaven, the modern equivalent of the medieval pardon. Anyone with a serious interest in this would be lobbying the legislature; arguing to tighten laws on animal cruelty.

Instead of persuading people to our moral view, we should pass a law making it illegal for people to differ from our moral view! Result!



Bjorn Again

Bjorn Lomborg makes his usual sensible arguments here.

The first few comments say that they are awaiting the CiF shitstorm. Might be worth having a look at that thread to see if they arrive, none there yet.


Cloned Animals and Food

An interesting little example of the stupidity of the food testing system in the European Union. First, the Americans have considered this matter:

US farmers have been given the green light to produce cloned meat for the human food chain. In a 968-page report billed as a "final risk assessment" of the technology, the US Food and Drug Administration has concluded that healthy cloned animals and products from them such as milk are safe for consumers.

An entirely logical stance. There\’s nothing different about meat or milk from cloned animals. Indeed, that\’s rather the point, that there isn\’t anything different about them. So while one can argue on moral grounds (not sure what ones, but I\’m sure it\’s possible) or animal welfare ones, as is done here:

"It\’s a technology that has arisen out of a huge burden of animal suffering and that is still going on," said Joyce D\’Silva, of Compassion in World Farming. But she said even if the embryo loss rates were brought down to acceptable levels, the technology would be detrimental to animal welfare. "It looks like it is going to be used to produce the most highly productive animals – the cows that produce the most milk, the pigs with the meatiest bodies. These are the high-producing animals that have the most endemic welfare problems anyway."

Well, yes, that\’s the point of all animal breeding programs. All this one does is allow us to do it better.

But arguing about the food itself as being safe or unsafe is nuts: thus the American decision. But what has to happen here?

Even if cloned meat were given approval by the European agency it would have to undergo rigorous testing. "Under the novel foods regulation, the applicant has to provide evidence of safety – this could be in the form of a detailed comparison with the existing product, or it could be the results of tests in animals," said a spokesperson for the UK\’s Food Standards Agency. It would also be subject to approval by the European commission, which would require a majority vote of EU member states. Approval in the EU is likely to be years away, if at all.

That\’s the way to spark innovation, isn\’t it? To make Europe the most knowledge based, forward looking (or whatever the gibberish offered by the Lisbon Declaration is) economy in the world? When you offer something which isn\’t in fact a new product at all, it\’s a direct replication of an existing one (again, which is, after all, the point of cloning) you have to go through a testing process lasting some years, one which also requires the assent of the assembled continent\’s politicians, before you can sell it?

That\’s really going to get the boffins excited about inventing new things, isn\’t it?

Peter Hain

All Mr Hain would be without his office, and the preening vanity it bestows on him, is a noisy, smarmy, unprincipled ex-student agitator whose contribution to our good governance remains not even debatable: for most of us could not, for the life of us, start to imagine what real or illusory achievements he has that might be debated.

Umm, perhaps the Heff doesn\’t actually like Peter Hain?

Donald Rumsfeld

I agree, I\’m not as knowledgeable about the minutiae of American politics as some others, but thi really did surprise me:

The invitees included two young anti-draft Congressmen, Robert Kastenmeier (D-Wisconsin) and Donald Rumsfeld (R-Illinois), and one pro-draft Senator, Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts).

Don Rumsfeld? That Don Rumsfeld? Unknown Unknowns Rumsfeld? Was anti-draft in the 1960s?

That Kennedy would have been pro-, hateful statist creep that he is, doesn\’t surprise me.