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What a Business Idea!

Yes, this sounds very good indeed….unless someone is already doing it.

//For anybody out there looking for a business idea how about a software filter which uses information provided by other internet users to create its block list. i.e. like social bookmarking. Other parents/users who stumbled across a site could rate it or block it and other visitors could rate or block it similarly. Those sites with a high block rating would stay blocked, but those with lower ratings would stay open. Parents could also set the filter strength of the software. This relies on no central censor but rather the distilled morality of thousands of individuals. Talk to me; I am too busy to pursue independently but would be happy to work with somebody on it//

Can we get some technical input from readers?

A collaborative project perhaps?

What Makes a Green Lifestyle?

In a word – poverty. The most poverty stricken people of the world are usually the most ecologically friendly.


That\’s Neil Harding.

He really seems to have missed the point that poverty is the inefficient use of resources. The creation of wealth is the moving of said resources from low value uses to higher value ones. The richer we ae, by definition, the more efficiently we are using resources.

You What?

Israeli fighter pilots may soon be receiving Viagra-style pills to help them to perform better at greater heights, according to a study by military officials released yesterday.

Is this really what the world needs? Hornier fighter pilots?

Is it in fact possible for fighter pilots to become so?

Polly on Drugs

While there\’s still details to be worked out here, Polly Toynbee is on precisely the right lines here:

But one great blundering mistake may in the end destroy all the good done elsewhere. The opium economy will always be stronger than the real economy. Only 8% of GDP comes from commerce: the rest is aid. Off the books the real economy is all opium, more and more by the year. The US wants to spray and impoverish the poorest farmers, causing hatred. The US drives the disastrous prohibition policy imposed by the UN. Unless and until the drug is given as a medicine to registered addicts, cutting demand and cutting drug-driven crime in the west, illegal opium growing will always distort and corrupt everything else here in Afghanistan. Buy it to use for morphine, buy it to destroy, but buy it at a price above the relatively low price the narco barons pay to poor farmers. Agriculture in the EU and the US has always been a strange subsidised distorted market. But there never was a better reason for buying a crop than to bring Afghan farmers in from the world of crime that risks keeping the country lawless indefinitely.

This is, roughly speaking, the Adam Smith Institute view as well. Some form of legalisation, decriminalisation, medicalisation, is the only possible way to deal with the War on Drugs and the foul criminality that ensues.

I\’m not really sure that the world can quite cope with both Polly Toynbee and Madsen Pirie being on the same side of the same question. Perhaps it\’s just a signal that the proposal is so gobsmackingly obvious: I\’m sure both believe that kittens are cute as well.

No, Not a Surprise

Transforming ecosystems into farms for biofuel crops will increase global warming and result in net increases in carbon emissions, according to a study.

Scientists have found that converting rainforests, peatlands and grasslands can outweigh the carbon savings made from biofuels and produce "carbon debts" which could take centuries to pay off.

The study will add to concerns about the ability of biofuels to replace fossil fuels. The EU is reviewing its pledge that biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel should make up 10% of transport fuel by 2020. Britain has a separate target of 5% biofuels in petrol and diesel by 2010.

In the study, US researchers calculated that converting natural ecosystems to grow corn or sugarcane to produce ethanol, or palms or soybeans for biodiesel, could release between 17 and 420 times more carbon than the annual savings from replacing fossil fuels.

So can we please stop having governments trying to pick winners and making matters worse as they do so?


Students have begun to realise, too, that women\’s studies is useless for getting you a job. It\’s no coincidence that the subject\’s collapse coincided with the introduction of tuition fees. The moment you start paying for something is the moment you consider whether it\’s really worthwhile.

Applies to so many things though, doesn\’t it?

We Own Your Child

And we\’ll jail you if you try to escape:

A father has been jailed for helping his pregnant wife flee abroad because she was terrified that social services would take her baby.

The 56-year-old businessman drove his wife and her eight-year-old son from a previous marriage to Dover, and then on to Paris.

He was arrested on his return to Britain and lost a High Court appeal earlier this week to have a 16-month sentence reduced.

That Northern Rock £100 Billion

Here\’s an interesting little opportunity for some economic research.

I\’ll probably get some of the wording wrong here as, as you know, I\’m not an economist, simply an enthusiastic amateur.

There\’s a fairly strong claim out there that markets process all of the available information and thus price things correctly. I\’m not sure I quite believe it (damn near all information and price things as well as can be done I would definitely support) but that is one of the claims.

This leads to interesting toughts: like, it doesn\’t matter whether, say, the PFI debts are on the Treasury\’s books or not, the long term pensions numbers: for the participants in the markets for public debt most certainly know that they are there and are thus already encapsulated in current prices. Whether the Treasury actually owns up to them or not is irrelevant.

We\’ve actually got a method of testing that idea:

Gordon Brown\’s reputation for economic competence has been dealt a severe blow as £100 billion of taxpayers\’ money used to shore up Northern Rock was added to the national debt.

Before the Northern Rock debts were added, the national debt stood at £537 billion, or 37.7 per cent of gross domestic product.

Taking the figure to around 45 per cent catapults Britain up the league table of indebted nations, above the United States and just below Germany, traditionally regarded as one of the highest spending countries in Europe.

Nothing of any significance has happened: everyone knew that this was indeed part of the national debt. Or did they? Is this new information that has just hit the market?

Has adding to the national debt to the sum of 7% of the economy changed the prices of such debt? Or not?

If it were a transaction of importance, or new information, we would expect the price of long term Gilts to slump, interest rates on them to rise. If prices are entirely unchanged then we would probably have to say that he market had already digested this information….that it was not new.



Whatever this browser is doing(this is a post from the laptop) it insists on zooming in and out and it will not show me the url line.

Sigh, money wasted once again. The hardware seems fine.

Bleedin awful software.

Update. On reflection that\’s all a bit harsh. There may or may not be anything wrong with the software: the problem is that it\’s different. I don\’t find it easy or simple to work out what software does….and the use of symbols rather than words confuses me even further. So whatever I\’ve invested in trying to understand the current software I use (eg Firefox, Windoze) is now worthless, and I\’ve got to start all over again.

Which is, I think, an investment I\’m not prepared to make. Maybe.

All of which rather goes to show why Bill Gates is as rich as he is, doesn\’t it?

One Laptop Per Child

I have to admit, I\’m not all that sure about the basics of the OLPC idea.

However, my OLPC laptop has now arrived.

Chiclet keyboard is my first thought. Might need an external one. Hmm, I will let you know as things develop. Could this be a useful travelling laptop?

Sngh! Splurt, Snort

Indeed, who can now doubt that anyone can be a journalist.

The Democratic Party actually intends to put a Muslim fundamentalist in the White House. Yes, you read it right. They want to put a man of Muslim origins in the White House.

Barack Hussein Obama hit the campaign trail from nowhere and continues to gain momentum as his political handlers crank out generic catchphrases to lure the unsuspecting voter with words like hope and change.

I belive crystal meth is doing terrible damage out there in Kansas.

Ooops, Another One!

The USA is clearly unable to deliver on the promise of universal health care, which puts it way down the league table in terms of social progress among the rich nations.

The US does have universal health care. What it doesn\’t have is universal health insurance.


Using Natural Predators in Farming

It\’s one of those things we\’re urged to do, isn\’t it? Instead of slathering the crops with pesticides and herbicides, we should look to integrated management, think holistically, use natural predators to control pests.

Great idea:

An insect that once held promise as a natural pest controller was branded the most invasive species in Britain yesterday by researchers.

Because it eats so many aphids, its staple diet, as well as other ladybirds, it has threatened the number of native ladybirds and species, such as lacewings, which also eat aphids. It also threatens aphid numbers. The two-spot and seven-spot ladybirds are particularly threatened.

The harlequin ladybird’s voracious appetite for aphids attracted interest in its use as a biological pest control but after it was released in several European countries in the 1980s and 1990s it rapidly became established and spread widely.

The Public Debt

Gordon might need to change some of his numbers, don\’t you think?

Taxpayers will have to pay £2 billion to rescue the failed privatisation of London Underground, the Government admitted yesterday.

Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, had to raid the Government’s contingencies fund to settle the debts of Metronet, which ran nine of the twelve underground lines but went bust in July.

The scale of the public liability for Metronet’s failure will be a severe embarrassment to Gordon Brown, who forced through the controversial Public Private Partnership of the Tube when he was Chancellor.

The payment also exposed the fallacy of the Government’s claim that it was transferring risk to the private sector. The five companies that owned Metronet – Balfour Beatty, Thames Water, EDF Energy, Bombardier and Atkins – had to pay only £70 million each towards the debt because they had won guarantees from the Government that limited their liability.

There\’s an awful lot of PFI and infrastructure spending that has such guarantees but which is not counted as part of the public debt. For, we\’re told, the claims are purely theoretical, will never be called upon.

Oh yes?