Yesterday's Approach to Yesterday's Conception of Tomorrow's Problem
The title is the last few words on this excellent editorial in the torygraph today. The editorial notes that the House of Lords produced a report on July 6th which threw a lot of polite British understatement at the Kyoto accord and the IPCC report that was its basis.
"We have some concerns about the objectivity of the IPCC process," they write, "with some of its emissions scenarios and summary documentation apparently influenced by political considerations. There are significant doubts about some aspects of the IPCC's emissions scenario exercise. . . the Government should press the IPCC to change their approach. There are some positive aspects to global warming and these appear to have been played down in the IPCC reports . . ."
The editorial goes on to look at the recent US-led initiative to find technical solutions to climate change and also has this excellent swing at the EU and its member nations - the group which seems to love Kyoto more than anyone else:
Having set themselves unrealistic limits on carbon dioxide emissions, with draconian penalties if they are missed, the outcome promises to be a re-run of the Stability and Growth Pact farce. Breaches of that pact, which was designed to control government deficits for countries in the European single currency, are now so widespread that it's essentially a dead letter.
Since signing up to Kyoto, the EU members have actually drifted further away from their targets. Twelve of the 15 original signatories are so far away that they are virtually certain to miss them, and to incur the eye-watering financial penalties as a result. Only Britain and Germany are closer, thanks to the switch from coal to gas here and the closure of East Germany's heavy industry there. The politicians may claim that we are "on track" to meet our targets, but as a whole the EU is already miles off.
The title is the literal translation of Maurice Lévy's Le Monde article about the dismal state of France, reported on in the Torygraph as "We French are pathetic losers, says ad chief". I'm not going to quote from either article - since they should probably be read in full. I will however add a little to the anecdotal evidence that some people in France realize the hole that France is in.
In addition to my neighbours - whom I quoted recently - I could add my companions at dinner last night. Said dinner was forced to be moved from its original restaurant because the proprietor kindly decided to go on holiday from July 31 instead of August 1. Anyway we ate at the only moderately priced restaurant in the vicinity that was open yesterday evening, which was a Chinese one. The ethnicity of the staff was noted and there was considerable discussion about how the French seem to consider holidays to be a sacred entitlement, along with generous unemployment benefits, 35 hour weeks etc. and how ridiculous it was. We were eating in a suburb of Grasse, and it was pointed out that the perfume business - Grasse is still the perfume capital of the world - sees most of its natural scents produced in countries such as Georgia or Tunisia where the cost of labour is rather lower than it is nearby - those fields of lavender or roses that show up in tourist postcards of Provence are exactly that, tourist attractions not "working fields". Likewise the reason why so many organic chemists find employment in Grasse is because synthetic molecules are so much cheaper.
This, of course, lead on to discussion of other problems facing Grasse, of which there are plenty. Grasse is, IMO, practically the poster-child for what is wrong with France, and the table - which included a number of French - was able to identify a whole raft all of them. Starting at the top: Grasse has a communist mayor. Opinion is divided as to whether he is stupid, incompentent or actively malicious, but the no matter the cause the results are clear. Compared to surrounding towns Grasse has higher local taxation with far worse services provided. It doesn't help that the mayor seems determined to spend masses of money tarting up roundabouts and hanging flower baskets on lamp posts rather than actually fix roads that are being eroded by their adjacent ditches/drains. The latest roundabout folly has everyone who passes it shaking their heads - an entire fake traditional stone Mas is being built in the middle of the roundabout. Not only is the quality of the work high (and thus undoubtedly highly expensive) the roundabout in question is surrounded by standard box-like ugly factories, supermarkets and the like which will detract from the beautified roundabout in ways that are reminiscent of the way that the Japanese stick ugly yellow eletricity wires around ancient temples. Then there is the problem of the immigrants: Grasse has a number of immigrant communities, including one right in the middle of the old town. These communities are, without exception run-down neighbourhoods, unemployment is high, crime is high, and assimilation is practically 0. Worse there is considerable evidence that the next generation in these places is growing up to be basically unemployable in anything more than basic manual labour because they aren't learning and not thinking of themselves as French - something I mentioned a while back. Needless to say the locals are worried about "delocalisations" of the fragrance industry from Grasse as well. There are a couple of reasons for this: firstly because of the cost of labour and the lack of locally produced scientists it is getting hard to find good employees at reasonable cost and secondly because there are numerous rumblings that the EU might want to start applying some of its environmental laws to Grasse and it is clear who is going to have to pay. As someone who lives (sort of) downstream I can say that I have considerable sympathy with that idea, but in practise what it is going to mean is that individual enterprises are going to have to build their own waste-handling plants because the city's sewerage system is broken and shows little sign of ever being fixed. I could go on but there dosn't seem much point, Grasse is the (hairy) armpit of the Côte d'Azur and it isn't going to get a shave and application of deoderant anytime soon. The problem for France is that too many of its municipalities are like Grasse.
PS further evidence of the decline of France is visible in Sophia Antipolis where a certain amount of delocalisation is also occuring - to wit some pharmaceutical companies have transfered themselves to England....
The Grauniad (sorry to keep picking on them but there is so much wrong) has a leader today about multiculturism and "communities" which is just wrong in so many ways. Firstly there is this:
What some have been asking is why the British could not be more like the French and require ethnic minorities to assimilate. They are failing to recognise history as well as reality.
On the planet I inhabit, French thinic minorites have NOT assimilated in any way shape or form. The French state may desire that its minorities assimilate but that isn't what has happened.
Integration is not assimilation. An integrated society aims to respect cultural diversity, widen understanding between communities, reduce hate and give people a sense of belonging. We are a long way still from achieving these aims but they are the right goals. Assimilation goes much further attempting to absorb differences. The problem with "melting pots" is that the dominant culture dominates. A self-confident democracy should be able to celebrate diversity.
There is diversity and diversity. In fact there is a word missing here. It is TOLERATE. The key is that communities should be able to tolerate those that are different. The problem that this editorial fails to note is that the majority of (all of?) the other religions and immigrant communities tolerate those with different behaviour, whereas many Muslim communities don't. Hence this paragraph is missing something
There has been an enormous amount of work on improving community cohesion at both local and central government level since then, which hopefully will pay dividends in the current crisis. There are more cross-cultural schemes, more school twinnings and interfaith networks. Love and sex are playing their part: half of Caribbean men, a third of Caribbean women, and a fifth of African and Indian men now have white partners. But bolder leadership is needed to tackle the pattern of segregated schools and housing that the inquiries into the northern towns found.
The point that is glossed over here is that the northern towns where the Muslim ghettos are do not see inter-racial sex because they don't tolerate their women communicating with others. On the whole the British seem to have done a better job of integrating their immigrants - as witness the interracial sex statistics above - than France has so complaining that we integrate and they assimilate is a total red herring. The problem, whether assimilating or integrating, is that it takes two to tango. Both the host country and the immigrant community needs to have the will to go halfway. Britain has demonstrated that it has the will so the question is why hasn't the Muslim community (or to be more accurate why hasn't part of the Muslim community)?
It seems to me that the Grauniad is totally missing the big picture about toleration as a part of integration, something which (for example) the Wapping Liar's Anthony Browne makes very clear in an article that shows just how tolerant of intolerance Britain has been over the last decade or so. In that respect we should be copying our continental neighbours.
When there is a government involved you just know that the Law of Unintended Consequences is bound to be present as well. A Hot Chick called Lakshmi links to a piece of news in the Grauniad about the future of live music in the UK.
Government rules designed to make it easier for venues to tap into a burgeoning demand for live music threaten to more than halve the number of concerts taking place in the UK owing to inertia among owners in applying for the new licences.
Some of Britain's most prominent jazz musicians, including Jamie Cullum, Humphrey Lyttelton and Jacqui and Alec Dankworth, also protested yesterday, saying the process of applying for licences was so time consuming and expensive - despite the government's promise of a "tick box" application - that pub, bar and restaurant owners were likely simply to give up.
New research shows that almost seven in 10 owners or managers of small music venues are unaware of the implications of the 2003 Licensing Act, which requires them to reapply for their live music licence by August 6.
I mean really you couldn't make it up could you? The introduction of rules designed to make it easier to have live music ends up reducing the number of places that do so.
The Grauniad can't seem to quite bring itself to criticise HMG for this result and, charitably, perhaps they have a point since it will only occur when you throw in two local government failings: good old "more than my job's worth" bureaucrats and the habit of failing to inform the public about things that they need to know that was so lampooned by Douglas Adams. Permalink
I believe it was Napoleon who introduced the phrase "la perfide Albion" or "perfidious Albion" to the world, which is rather ironic given that most of the time it seems like it is the French who are perfidious. A month or two ago TimW had a "two things" contest where we were invited to suggest two sentences that perfectly summed up something. I submitted an entry on the French:
Laws, especially EU and traffic related ones, are for other people
It is impossible to eat lunch in less than an hour
I believe this to hold true, however I should also note that someone else added this one on Francophobia which also rings true:
It's a crying shame how much of the CAP/how long a lunch hour/how much sex with beautiful women in kinky underwear those smelly wankers get.
I wish I were living in France.
Since I do in fact live in France I'm not exactly a Francophobe, however, just as with all those islamofascist appeasers in the Grauniad, I'm going to put a big "BUT" after sentences like "Lots of my friends are French". The reason why I put that BUT there is because of rule 1 that laws are for other people. There are times when I appreciate this habit - such as looking for a parking space in Cannes last Saturday - but many more times when it annoys me. From personal experience I have seen French companies attempt to weasel their way out of contract terms when it is in their interest to do so yet, at the same time, do their level best to get other contract terms strictly adhered to. I wish I could say this was a one off but it isn't and I wish I could say that it was just due to my poor negotiation technique but since it happens to others I can't blame it on that either.
In addition to the recent cross borderacquisition hypocrisy, the EU Referendum blog has an example of a French company brazenly ignoring the EU single market rules and expecting to get away with just a small slap on the wrist. Of course there is a good case to be made that this is just standard business practise, or even that the French are just copying the ruthless ways of "les Anglo-saxons", but I think that if this is the case then the French have misunderstood something that most Anglo-saxon business managers undersand only too well that "what goes around comes around". Or in other words you tend to get better deals when you have a reputation for being fair and worse deals if you have a poorer reputation.
To go back to the personal level, I know a lot of fellow epxats, and even some French people, down here on the Riviera who refuse to contract with French builders because they have been ripped off time and again with shoddy workmanship. Indeed one of the more common topics at parties and dinners around here is what builder/plumber/electrician/... can be trusted or recommended. The French may fear the "polish plumber" but down here we like him because he does what he says he will do when he says he will do it.
On Monday I linked approvingly, in a brief coda, to an article by Anthony Browne. Shortly afterwards the Harry's Place post that had drawn my attention to that article was updated with a good deal information about Mr Browne's possible racist links. This brou-ha-ha has now been noted in the Grauniad, which has in turn been abluted by Scott Burgess. Although I am generally speaking in the "open" borders group, I frequently link to peoplewhoaren't because, to put it bluntly, they have make some good points which can't be easily brushed aside and I do not believe that one should necessarily ignore everything someone says just because one disagrees with some of it. This precisely explains why I am quite happy to have linked to Mr Browne's article, I do not think that the article is anything other than good sense and hence I see no reason not link to it, even if he may at some other point have written stuff I furiously disagree with or which is outright racism - though I should note that I don't believe he has in fact done so.
Firstly it is worth pointing out that the same smear by association would work fine on the Grauniad and its diary correspondent who, according to google, appears to have once been the city correspondent of the Torygraph. This means that he must have been in contact with a certain Barbara Amiel who is a well-known Zionist if not worse and hence one might suggest that the same "Nice friends you have there" comment applies too. I have no doubt that other smears could be created with a little more googling.
Secondly, and more importantly, some things are true no matter who says them. The fact that there appear to be clear race and sex based differences amongst humans is no less true because it appears in "White Male Chauvinst Pig weekly" or "Biogenetics quarterly". It is true that the former would have more readership than the latter ad the latter would probably have more equations and statistics in an article about such differences, but the underlying truth would be the same.
It is useful to know what else someone (or some organaisation) has written so that one can put a particular article in context and it is certainly worthwhile noting where an article is reprinted or where it is commented on so that one can see what other people think of it, but there is no need to immediately dismiss an entire author's output based on the fact that he has been adopted by some people that you disagree with. The key difference between Aslam and Browne is that Aslam identifies himself primarily as a member of Hisb ut Tahrir and only secondarily as a Grauniad journalist whereas Browne is primarily a journalist at the Wapping Liar and only secondarily anything to do with the anti-immigration crowd, a crowd who may or may no be racist in any case.
The reason why we should treat Aslam's Grauniad output with suspicion is that he has a long history of association with HuT and its desires to kill Jews and implement an Islamic caliphate, this is far more serious than indirect links at some remove with some kind of white supremacist. Permalink
Today's photo is of a very small olive tree. I think this tree was from the 2003 crop but my understandin is that olive trees take about a year to actually start to sprout. Anyway I found it in the garden earlier this year and decided to pot it because I didn't want it where it was.
As always click on the photo to see it enlarged and be sure to visit the previous week's entry if you missed it.
Japundit notes that the Japan Times has a most curious headline to a piece about the power-mad mass murderer called Mao. The Japan Times has as its masthead tagline "All the news without fear or favor" which, when I was a Tokyo resident, I recall being mocked in a spoof with the tagline that is the title of this piece. I have to say that my infrequent readings of the Japan Times over the years has led me to believe that the latter is a more accurate tagline and the Mao article's headline seems to be a case in point. Not so much because of the lack of beer and flavour but because it does seem to lack some fearlessness and impartiality. The headline is "Mao was closer to seventy percent bad" and the writer is clearly having a play on the PRC's official position that Mao was 30% bad and 70% good, but the article is far far more scathing:
"...Besides which, there isn't anything to put on the plus side of the Mao ledger. There is not a single decision from him that tries to help the welfare [of the people]. There just isn't. ..."
However I do give the Japan Times a certain amount of credit for printing the article since the paragraphs surrounding the quote above nail not just Mao but his western sycophants and others in the "moral relativism" crowd.
Chang and Halliday have received mostly glowing reviews for their book, although some critics say they surely could have found something good to say about Mao. Halliday protests that they looked very carefully at all the evidence: "We showed that Mao is consistent -- from the age of 24 as a thinker and certainly from 1930 when he launches his first great purge, a horrible business before Stalin's great purges [1937-1938], to take over some other Communist base and kill, torture and discredit the local Communist leaders -- in using Marxist labels, jargon wherever he needs to.
"Also, and this is a very important point, you can't start balancing A against B. You can't start balancing Hitler's economic successes in the 1930s against the Holocaust and starting the Second World War. It is not a morally acceptable approach. Besides which, there isn't anything to put on the plus side of the Mao ledger. There is not a single decision from him that tries to help the welfare [of the people]. There just isn't. He condemns so many parts of humanistic morality. He condemns the slogans of the French Revolution. He condemns equality."
I would be very surprised if the Grauniad (to pick a newspaper totally not at random) would print such a thing; indeed the Observer review (the Observer is the Grauniad on Sunday), while echoing the first part fails to draw the obvious conclusions:
These days, it is fashionable to point out that Adolf Hitler had redeeming features. He was good with dogs and other people's children. Mao was hateful with everybody - his women, his wives and his son and daughter. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday deny him credit for the one episode in his blood-soaked career which, his apologists claim, at least adds an element of heroism to the savage saga: the Long March was a fraud.
Although neither the JT nor Grauniad draw parallels with today it is interesting to note that numerous tyrants such as Comrade Bob in Zimbabwe seem to show a similar lack of redeeming features. The question is whether the rest of the world is willing to let these people get on with culling their own populations or not.
Sometimes when I'm not blogging it is because I'm hacking code. This web controlled realplayer is one result. Probably of limited interest to most people but who knows. Anyway it does illustrate a few things about the Open Source/Closed Source debate.
On the plus side: Open source is empowering, in that it enables the user to make whatever changes he wishes and propagate them on, thus the development of the project is not limited to the resources or interests of the original creators. My open source app is an example of this. I am reasonably satisfied with the web interface I have but someone with 100s or 1000s of tracks will probably want to see some improvements and with an open source program it is easy to do so. However on the minus side: my app will almost certainly not run on another person's computer without some changes and I have no incentive to make it any easier to use. This illustrates the downside which is that much open source expects the user to tinker and thus be knowledgeable and thus it is less user friendly than closed source. Another good example might be Skype which is (relatively) closed source compared to say the Asterisk project, but which is widely used.
However the closedness of the source code is somewhat immaterial. What is important, in general, is the closedness of the API. Skype is, in this regard significantly better than the Helix/Realplayer development which is Open Source, because Skype have clearly published their API and have made an effort to provide a place where skype users can find third party products using that API. Skype therefore combines some of the benefits of open source with some of the benefits of closed source. In fact the "Gorilla Game" book makes the point that one of the necessary pre-requisites of massive technological domination is an open proprietary platform precisely what Skype offers and precisely what Real doesn't quite manage to do. Permalink
The main means of tracking terrorist suspects down has been the monitoring of mobile phone conversations. Not only can operators pinpoint users to within yards of their location by "triangulating" the signals from three base stations, but - according to a report in the Financial Times - the operators (under instructions from the authorities) can remotely install software onto a handset to activate the microphone even when the user is not making a call.
I'm sorry to pour water and scorn over this but the bolded bit is almost certainly untrue, easy to detect if true, and the sort of thing that could be spread purely to try and get suspects to avoid using cell phones. Given the first statement's sweepingness I'm tempted to go for deliberate misinformation because that statement is not completely true.
As for the triangulation claim, in a non-CDMA environment, i.e. any one using a digital handset outside of Japan, Korea or the US, that statement is true only under certain circumstances so long as you define "yards" as less than about 100 because the triangulation only really works for CDMA. GSM cell phones (as used by about 80% of all mobile subscribers in the world) can be tracked between cells and in urban areas cells can be spread as close as 100-200 yard apart, but while you can identify which base station the subscriber/suspect is using that is about it. Handover protocols will hint as to which other base station it is also near in other words roughly which direction from the current base station and some vague estimate of signal strength but not much more, hence the ~100 yards measure. It won't do any more because much of the choice to roam from one base station to the next is performed at the handset not at the base station and until a handset requests to join a new base station the process is in fact mostly passive to the new base station. Even if the precise power levels were available detailed tiangulation is tricky under typical urban conditions because buildings tend to reflect and refract radio waves and thus modify coverage in unexpected ways. If it were easy we wouldn't see software like this or the requirement for drive testing solutions.
However the second bolded statement really fails the smell test.
Firstly if it were possible to easily download such software on to arbitrary cell phones then I have absolutely no doubt that some virus writer/hacker somewhere would have tried it. It probably wouldn't have worked reliably the first few times so the result would have been a lot of cell phones that crashed with "corrupted" code. We haven't seen this so I doubt strongly that the capability is possible. I'm not even going to get into the problem of what code image you would download. Recall that there are about a dozen different GSM vendors and each vendor releases numerous new phone models each year. I'm going to guess that in any cell phone network today at least 100 different phone types are present and quite possibly it is going to be many times that. In order to identify a cell phone's type you need to do quite a bit of cross referencing of ID numbers and since phone software for one model won't work for another you have to have created in advance the hacked software for the target phone. Creating 100+ different images and making them available for download is a code management nightmare and would be highly prone to error resulting in your suspect suddenly finding that his phone keeps on crashing.
Secondly there is the ease of detection by the subscriber/suspect. Assuming that you get past the wrong code issue there will be a lot of hints that this is happening. For example if your phone suddenly starts needing to be recharged every eight hours instead of every week then that would be a hint that it is powered on. Another hint would be if you were always able to make a call but many of your associates found that when they were near you they couldn't. This would be because in oirder to monitor your cell phone a voice timeslot needs to be reserved for it and there are only a limited number of those available in a cell. Again this is a GSM only "feature" but it is a known problem - for example at one point the original UK networks (O2 and Vodafone) were notorious for "network busy" errors when subscribers were in the centre of London because there were too many people subscribed to thise networks and trying to make calls.
I rest my case. Save your paranoia for other areas such as Cisco routers which definitely can be hacked to eavesdrop on passing traffic.
We had some (very much needed) rain last night so today's photo is hot off the presses, as it were, showing some drops of rain on the leaves of one of our olive trees As always click on the image to see it enlarged and be sure to view previous photos if you missed them Permalink
The first is this Johann Hari article in the Independent, which talks about how think tanks can provide the veneer of respectability that hides aked corporate (or rich individual) self interest. Hari does the usual leftist trick of accurately diagnosing the problem and then completely cocking up the solution:
Of course, all these think tanks claim they reach their conclusions independently, and are not swayed by financial donations in any way. But Steven C Clemons - a think-tank head turned whistleblower - recently revealed the contents of one staff discussion at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). They were discussing telecom deregulation, and the telecoms companies were lined up on different sides of the debate, according to their own interests. Several staffers suggested the EPI should simply take the side that would generate most income for the think tank. "This story is not unique. It is commonplace. It's how Washington think tanks work," says Clemons.
But why do corporations and dodgy governments hand over their cash? Aren't think tanks small and powerless? Clemons explains: "One reason why think tanks are so attractive to moneyed political players is that the intellectuals who work for them seem more legitimate than corporate spokespeople or lobbyists. Part of what's being bought is credibility."
Blackhurst says it works in exactly the same way in Britain now: "'Cable and Wireless call for the break-up of BT' isn't a story, it's just naked self-interest. But 'Blairite think tank Demos calls for the break-up of BT'? Now that's a story. That has credibility, at least on the surface."
If British think tanks are going to avoid the ethical and intellectual collapse of their American cousins, they need to introduce - at the very least - full transparency. All political parties declare their income publicly. Why should think tanks be any different? If the FPC are going to take money from Russian oligarchs, they should at least tell us in large letters on their website.
But transparency is only a first step. If government ministers want a fresh and intelligent think-tank scene uncontaminated by the private interests of a few billionaires, then they should be prepared to pay for it. Funding four or five state think tanks as an autonomous part of the civil service would cost a tiny amount of money, but would harvest policy ideas that benefit us all. Then think tanks could fulfil the remit I daydreamed about earlier.
But if we want think tanks like this - rather than pimps for corporations or corrupt foreign governments - then we will have to pay for them.
The solution is partly right, transparency is a great idea. But that will do. We absolutely should not "let government pay for it". This is simply bound to lead to all sorts of applications of the "law of unexpected consequences" one of which is that the government think tank is highly likely to produce statist answers to every problem. Transaprency, clarity and some sort of monitoring to ensure compliance (a think tank equivalent of the Charity Commission perhaps) should be fine. After all just because big business wants somethign doesn't necessarily mean it is wrong, but it does of course help that the (potential) conflict of interest is clearly recognised.
The second article is a quiz by the Institute of Race Relations which is, IMO, an excellent example of the sorts of misdirection that goes on when a pressure group tries to influence people. I'm not saying it is wrong, and the questions are indeed interesting, BUT the questions seem designed to lead one towards thinking that England should both accept more immigrants and provide them with more assistence. Both of which are rather debatable.
Of course it is possible to come up with an alternative racist twist which I'm sure the IRR would be rather upset with: Q 10's answer says that immigrants save "taxpayers" £2.5 billion /year [aside: surely that is because some immigrants are also taxpayers and thus there is a slight logical disconnect obviously who they mean are native born tay payers] Q 9's answer says that "27% of Black Caribbean men aged 16-24 are unemployed. For Bangladeshi men in the same age range, over 40 per cent are unemployed. Young Black African men, Pakistanis and those belonging to the 'Mixed' group also have very high unemployment rates - they range between 25 per cent and 31 per cent. The comparable unemployment rate for young White men is 12 per cent." Q8's answer gives the breakdown of where immigrants come from "About 8% of the UK population were born abroad. Of these, 31% came from other European countries, 19% from Africa, 20% from the Indian sub-continent and 11% from the Americas including Canada, the USA and the Caribbean." Q6's answer shows that some immigrants are far poorer than others: "British families with a Pakistani or Bangladeshi background are much more likely than other groups to be living on low incomes. Almost 60% of the 1 million people in this group are living in low-income households."
A racist would take these facts to draw the conclusion that dark-skinned immigrants are lazy good for nothings who are a drain on the public purse while white-skinned ones are a positive benefit. You will note that this conclusion is easier to draw when the questions are asked in the reverse order. Amusant n'est-ce pas? Permalink
This story, arguably, belongs as a nomination for the igNobel awards and perhaps I will so nominate it. Anyway before we get there, it reminded me of a book I have recently read: John Ringo's Into The Looking Glass. In chapter 8 of said book the hero is drinking a lot of beer after having just been in a highly radioactive environment. His excuse is that this will help flush the radiation from the body. It turns out that John Ringo and/or his character didn't know the best of it.
According to this link discussing (I think) this paper:
[A] bunch of researchers from the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, and the Tokyo University of Science, have found that beer is actually really good for you.
As well as enabling drinkers to unleash manly belches and develop attractive, proud beer-bellies, apparently the magical nectar helps reduce chromosomal damage from radiation exposure.
Researchers are hoping that the discovery will lead to a new radiation drug being developed, or at least a more party friendly atmosphere in the hospital wards.
Blood samples were taken from lucky test subjects before and after they had drunk about 630ml of beer. Apparently, when the samples were exposed to X-rays and other types of radiation, after the subjects had glugged the beer their samples showed at least 30% fewer aberrations in the blood cells.
I really hope Guinness is paricularly strong in the useful ingredient (beta-pseudouridine) because that would be one in the eye for all those people who denied that advertising slogan that "Guinness is good for you"
Although the headlines says "denies", another key strategic industry in France could be on sale to those devilish Anglo-saxons according to this Reuters news item:
PARIS (Reuters) - Carrefour denied on Monday it was holding any talks with U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart, following a newspaper report that executives from the two firms met in what could be precursor to a bid for the French retailer.
"Carrefour denies that there have been any talks between Carrefour and Wal-Mart," said a company spokeswoman.
The Mail on Sunday newspaper said Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott and Carrefour Chairman Luc Vandevelde held talks in Versailles within the last month that may have been a precursor to a Wal-Mart bid for the French firm.
Despite Carrefour's denial, shares in the French retailer rose 2.1 percent to 39.41 euros by 0715 GMT.
Speculation of a bid for Carrefour, the world's second-largest retailer, has surfaced before. Global market leader Wal-Mart and Britain's biggest supermarket chain Tesco have repeatedly been named as potential suitors.
The "denies" is fascinating. Why, I ask my self rhetorically, would it be news that company C and companies W & T deny that they have talked to each other when there would seem to be no particular reason that they would talk anyway?
Another question that springs to my mind, and no doubt that of George at EU-rota, is what will l'Escroc or Vile Pin do? will they cut short their holidays to announce to the press that the creation of vast hangerlike sheds filled with people and miscellaneous products for them to buy is a uniquely French invention that must be protected from the corrupting influence of Anglo-saxon capitalism? will they insist that Carrefour merge with a rival to produce a "national Champion", a veritable Géant amongst relatilers as it were? or ....
Surely they cannot just let the market and the company's shareholders decide? Permalink
As the observent vistor will note, this blog now has prominent links to the Witangemot club and to Blogcritics. I will, at some point make some new posts that apply to one or the other (but probably not both simultaneously), however at the moment all I can suggest is a brief perusal of the archives.
For the Witangemots might I suggest this post on St George's day and perhaps this one about Kipling. For blogcritics the Kipling post might also apply as would my various book reviews of the last few months:
A French gentleman named Druon Gave the Telegraph something to chew on You're not like the French so get off of our bench The EU is ours to lead to oblivion
Tim at an Englishman's Castle (and Tim Worstall too) links approvingly to this Torygraph article about Maurice Druon who thinks that the British are incompatible with the EU and should therefore move into some sort of associate membership. As Tim says this is one of the very few times when I am forced to agree with a French grandee and the shock is rather brutal, however I am forced to agree that M Druon has a point. His original article was in Le Figaro (google translation here) makes perhaps better reading since not only is he talking about the EU but more importantly the conflict between "Freedom" and "Human Rights" and the Islamofascists.
[Aside: In this of course France seems to be rather more robust that dear old blighty, because in France the judges take their orders from the politicians and the relevant top pol - one Sarko - has limited tolerance for sedition-preaching scum, no matter what their rights are supposed to be under some European Convention or other. In the UK on the other hand, the judges, aided and abetted by Mrs Blair, seem determined to bend over backwards to provide every possible human right to these seditionists without worrying about the impact it has on the freedom of the rest of the inhabitants of the British Isles to go about their business without being disturbed by bombs and the like. Of course the independent judiciary in the UK does mean that should A Blair turn out to be as crooked as l'Escroc he will be doing porridge (unless that somehow infringes his human rights) not running the country, but independence does not necessarily mean wilful obstruction]
There is a good point to be made here, and it is one that M Druon makes, which is that the British way of doing things does not adapt well to the French way and vice versa. Since the EU seems to institutionally modelled after the French bureaucracy it is clear that the UK should have as little to do with it as possible lest we lose more of our freedoms in exchange for "rights" that turn out to be rather less permissive.
However there is a further point, and it is one that M Druon and his ilk should consider, and that is that the UK might not be the only country to look for such a looser relationship. The nordic countries, despite their generally more continental outlook, are also rather more sceptical of EU centralization, the Netherlands seems to be much the same as do their linguistic siblings across the border in Belgian Flanders. Quite possibly the newly joined nations of Eastern Europe would feel the same way as indeed could Eire if(when?) the Euro starts floundering.
M Druon is correct that the UK should accept associate membership of the EU but I fear he has not thought through what this means for the remainder of the EU in a political sense, let alone in a budgetary sense - recall the UK is one of the bigger net contributors. Permalink
I was going to title this Blogs vs Prohibition but that would be inaccurate since, although some of the people are bloggers this is a project that had its origins elsewhere in the Interwebthingy. Some background: although America repealed prohibition decades ago a number of states maintain laws relating to the sale of alcohol which are clearly attempts to limit the sale of the demon drink via other means than outright bans. The laws are mostly in the South-eastern US and they were being gradually repealed but the Interwebthingy has helped significantly increase the velocity of this process by helping interested consumers find each other and organize lobbying groups to counter those of the existing trade, which mostly sees the laws as a way to protect their market or extort their customer base.
One excellent example is Alabama and its Free the Hops campaign which got much of its start at The Motley Fool's Beer discussion board. Alabama has laws that limit the strength of beer that may be sold and the size of the bottle in which is may be sold. These laws apply solely to beer and their effect is not so much to deny alcoholics their fix or stop underage drinkers but to ensure that Alabamians who have a taste for higher end beers are forced to travel to other states to buy their beers. The result, not surprisingly, is a number of beer shops on the borders and a good deal of frsutration for those Alabamians who have graduated beyond the horse-urine products of Anheuser Busch and co.
The tale of Free the Hops is an instructive tale of how the new world is helping the little guy to organise. Firstly the Interwebthingy allowed the founder to hook up with and gain help from the camapigns in other neighbouring states such as North Carolina's Pop the Cap (which has just succeeded in its goal). Secondly TMF beer afficionados from other places were able to provide advice and critique the web-pages, press releases etc. for effectiveness not to mention provide free proof readers to catch spleling and grammatical: error's. Thirdly a yahoogroup's mailing list made it easy all the supporters to stay in touch, And finally the website and its blog made it easy for other interested people to hook up or tell their friends. As the founder writes at TMF, the website helped find critical industry backing:
Well, like a great deal of the success of the campaign so far, much of the credit for this lies with a man named Harry Kampakis, the owner of Birmingham Beverage. Birmingham Beverage is the perfect distributor for us to partner with, because they handle most of the high end stuff in North Central AL.
Here's my recipe for success:
Late last year i was in Vulcan Beverage buying some good beer. I decided i'd broach the topic of reforming the beer laws with the proprietor, Mark Green. Vulcan was the first place that came to mind when i thought about who would be interested in such a campaign, because the whole focus of his business is craft beer. Really amazing. The guy has a whole wall of coolers, and he has maybe two shelves of BMC. Everything else is craft. He also sells some wine and liquor to help pay the bills, but that's only because the craft beer selection in AL sucks so bad right now. Once the laws are changed, he's going to drop the wine and fill that square footage with beer.
Anyway, once i had a flyer laid out, i dropped a few by Vulcan. Mark was stoked. When he ran out, he went and made more copies himself. By now, he's probably made a thousand copies combined of our original and newest flyer. Paid for himself.
So one day in January, a salesman for Birmingham Beverage goes to check on Mark and talk about whatever beer sales people talk about with beer retailers when there are no new products offerings coming out. Sales guy sees the flyer and thinks "Harry's gotta see this." So he folds the flyer up, makes it back to the office after his rounds and tosses the flyer on Harry's desk, "take a look at this." Harry was thrilled.
You see, Harry's been fighting this battle for 15 years within the wholesaler's association. Always trying to get the limits lifted. Bud always killing it in comittee. So he knew his time had finally come. At last, there was a consumer group interested in fighting the battle with him. The final piece of the puzzle.
So that very day, he read through my website, emailed me. The gist of the email was "we should talk." So he invited me and FTH VP out to lunch. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now they are getting meetings with the governor of Alabama, and hints from him on how to what arguments are likely to be best appreciated by the groups that would normally oppose such a deal. Permalink
This is not a thing I expected to do, nor is it something that I do without a good deal of respect and trepidation, but I think that Professor Sowell's August 16 column about immigration deserves criticism. Before I begin let me make it utterly clear here that I think the current US (and for that matter EU) generally laissez-faire attitude towards illegal immigration is completely wrong and the political leaders must either ensure that existing laws are enforced or change them (or both I guess), however I believe that more benefits would accrue from expanded legal immigration than from cracking down on current illegal immigrants. With my colours (and trousers) therefore nailed firmly to the mast of "open borders" let me begin.
Immigration has joined the long list of subjects on which it is taboo to talk sense in plain English. At the heart of much confusion about immigration is the notion that we "need" immigrants -- legal or illegal -- to do work that Americans won't do.
I agree, Immigration has become taboo, and that is a bad thing. The question I have is on the second part - "need".
What we "need" depends on what it costs and what we are willing to pay. If I were a billionaire, I might "need" my own private jet. But I can remember a time when my family didn't even "need" electricity.
Leaving prices out of the picture is probably the source of more fallacies in economics than any other single misconception. At current wages for low-level jobs and current levels of welfare, there are indeed many jobs that Americans will not take.
The fact that immigrants -- and especially illegal immigrants -- will take those jobs is the very reason the wage levels will not rise enough to attract Americans.
This is not rocket science. It is elementary supply and demand. Yet we continue to hear about the "need" for immigrants to do jobs that Americans will not do -- even though these are all jobs that Americans have done for generations before mass illegal immigration became a way of life.
I agree the definition of need does depend on the question of price/cost. However I suggest that the question is not quite as straight forward as it is proposed. US unemployment is close to an all time low, US (legal) employment is at an all time high and the US economy is growing healthily - as Larry Kudlow notes at NRO:
[T]he total U.S. employment of 142 million workers stands at an all-time high. Since May 2003, non-farm payrolls have grown by 4 million, while the Labor Department’s household survey (which includes the self-employed) has surged by 4.5 million. The unemployment rate is 5 percent with real worker compensation growing by nearly 4 percent. Interest rates and core inflation are running at four-decade lows.
If in such circumstances there are jobs which Americans are unwilling to do it is almost certainly because they can get more money to do something else. What it is not is a sign of an oversupply of labour or US citizens and legal immigrants pricing themselves out of the market (contrariwise it is precisely what we are seeing in much of Europe but unemployment there is something like twice the US rate and economic growth effectively non-existant). It is indeed an example of elementary supply and demand but in the opposite way to how Prof Sowell means it in that there is a demand that cannot at present be met by the supply of legal workers. If a supply of (presumably slightly higher priced) legal immigranst were available to perform these jobs and the (presumably cheaper) supply of illegals removed I predict that most of these - the janitorial, gardening and nannying ones - would remain because they provide services that really are needed, that is to say people are willing to spend money on them and see a benefit from so doing.
There is more to this issue than economics. The same mindless substitution of rhetoric for thinking that prevails on economic issues also prevails on other aspects of immigration.
Bombings in London, Madrid and the 9/11 terrorist attacks here are all part of the high price being paid today for decades of importing human time bombs from the Arab world. That in turn has been the fruit of an unwillingness to filter out people according to the countries they come from.
That squeamishness is still with us today, as shown by all the hand-wringing about "profiling" Middle Eastern airline passengers.
Here we move back into semi-agreement. I think it is fair to say that most US residents see little threat of terrorism and the like from people named Juan so they probably ought to be encouraged to immigrate rather than people named Abdul. There may be a criminal impact - but I'm guessing that much (not all of course) of the crime is related to closed borders - that is to say either the illegal importation of labour or the illegal importation of drugs. It is worth looking at the choices facing those who decide to become illegal immigrants. Even with the winking at illegal immigration that goes on today, illegal residents find their life in the US to be considerably less straightforward than legal ones with problems renting housing, obtaining transportstion and redress in the event of any dispute, primarily because they cannot use the state provided courts etc. that are available to legal residents. It seems to me to be plausible that many of them would actually welcome paying official government taxes in order to take advantage of government services rather than effectively end up paying unofficial criminal gangs higher rates for lower levels of service.
No doubt most Middle Eastern airline passengers are not carrying any weapons or any bombs -- and wouldn't be, even if there were no airport security to go through. But it is also true that most of the time you will not be harmed by playing Russian roulette.
Europeans and Americans have for decades been playing Russian roulette with their loose immigration policies. The intelligentsia have told us that it would be wrong, and even racist, to set limits based on where the immigrants come from.
There are thousands of Americans who might still be alive if we had banned immigration from Saudi Arabia -- and perhaps that might be more important than the rhetoric of the intelligentsia.
Well we have have semi-agreement here. The problem is not different races but different cultures, although it is controversial, it is surely necessary that we look at the cultural background of immigrants. However it is also true that in the US as it stands today, banning legal immigration from Saudi Arabia probably would not have saved all the lives since the potential terrorists would simply have travelled to Mexico and walked north (or to Canada and walked south). In an America where illegal immigrants were rare keeping tabs on them would be easier. As it is today there is an entire industry dedicated to providing the false documentation etc. needed by illegal immigrants. Removing the market for that industry would, I venture, make it a lot easier to track down the bad people, the potential terrorists and criminals because now they would stand out against the background instead of simply blending in with all the other illegals that are harmless and who provide labour to meet the demand for it.
The media and the intelligentsia love to say that most immigrants, from whatever group, are good people. But what "most" people from a given country are like is irrelevant.
If 85 percent of group A are fine people and 95 percent of group B are fine people, that means you are going to be importing three times as many undesirables when you let in people from Group A.
Citizen-of-the-world types are resistant to the idea of tightening our borders, and especially resistant to the idea of making a distinction between people from different countries. But the real problem is not their self-righteous fetishes but the fact that they have intimidated so many other people into silence.
In the current climate of political correctness it is taboo even to mention facts that go against the rosy picture of immigrants -- for example, the fact that Russia and Nigeria are always listed among the most corrupt countries on earth, and that Russian and Nigerian immigrants in the United States have already established patterns of crime well known to law enforcement but kept from the public by the mainstream media.
The problem here is that the 95% good (or 85% or what ever) are going to provide a positive contribution to the USA. Sure some Russians that seek to enter the US do so intending to lead a life of crime but the vast majority do not, many of the researchers, programmers and other knowledge workers that help keep the US technically advanced come from Russia as do the entrepreneurs that provide the US and the world with new products and services. It is strongly in the interests of the USA to encourage such people to come to the US and work legally here rather than see their talents wasted by the lack of opportunity in their own land, a lack of opportunity which may indeed drive them to a life of crime. If the US opens its borders to more legal immigrants it will allow law enforcement resources to be diverted from the generally wasted scrutiny of the 99% of "good" illegals towards identifying the bad 1% and dealing with them. Moreover as I touched on above the law of supply and demand strikes again here; if the US makes legal employment easier it will remove the demand for illegal employment and the demand for services to support illegals and thus reduce the general level of crime.
Self-preservation used to be called the first law of nature. But today self-preservation has been superseded by a need to preserve the prevailing rhetoric and visions. Immigration is just one of the things we can no longer discuss rationally as a result.
Fortunately I'm happy to agree 100% with the last. The US needs a rational debate about the costs and benefits of enforcing exisiting laws and immigration quotas properly compared to permitting more legal residents of all sorts. The current environment makes such rational debate impossible and skews entire communities and demographic groups towards tacit acceptance of criminal behaviour - witness this Lashawn Barber story.
Every now and then I try and see if I can see a slightly silver shadow to the whole "de Menezes" case. Generally speaking without much success. Today's news (via Samizdata) that the CCTV cameras that would be able to prove (or disprove) the various claims about the behaviour of de Menezes and the police mysteriously suffered a fault at the same critcal moment and ended up recording blank tapes really does leave me completely gobsmacked.
Senior Tube sources have told the Evening Standard that three CCTV cameras trained on the platform at Stockwell station were in full working order. The source spoke out after it emerged that police had returned the tapes taken from the cameras saying" "These are no good to us. They are blank."
A station log book has no reported faults concerning the CCTV cameras which would have been expected to record the crucial moments as Mr. de Menezes approach the train on 22 July.
I thought the Observer's revelations about the lack of communication between different bits of the Met was pretty damning as if the original IPCC leaks were not enough, but this blank tape thing is akin to "the dog ate my homework" in terms of feebleness. I think many people who felt, as I do, that "shoot to kill" was justifiable as a policy, are absolutely furious that the police seem to have tried to cover up a fairly basic miscommunication between different groups instead of coming clean. We feel betrayed by our instinctive feeling that the English police would not stoop to such a level of institutional cowardice and I, for one, begin to have significantly more sympathy for the various protest groups that claim that the Met is institutionally racist, sexist etc. because I see that the Met seems to lie as fluidly as any politician.
All in all Tim Hames' editorial today is looking more and more prescient. Sir Ian Blair is a disgrace to his uniform and needs to go. If on the one hand he was "misled" by his underlings and uninformed about the true state of affairs for almost 24 hours then he is shown to be a total incompetant. If, on the other hand, he did know then he is as guilty of attemoting a cover up as any one else. The gripping hand is that the UK does not need such a spineless cretin in charge of its capital's police force.
The Easyjetsetter reports that she found a survey which purports to rank universities in the world and which puts Cambridge University at #2 in the world behind its American offspring Harvard. This reminded me of an urban myth - repeated gleefully by many Cambridge boosters and/or Francophobes - that Trinity college Cambridge had more Nobel prize winners than France. Unfortunately the myth is not true, however even the fact that it is believable says something about the relative merits of Cambridge and it does appear to be true that the university as a whole can claim to have more Nobel prize winners than France. This may look like boasting by someone who has no chance of ever receiving a Nobel or indeed any other (academic) prize, but there is a reason why I write this, namely that it relates to a more relevant topic, the creation of wealth through the turning of academic ideas into new products for us all to buy.
The title of this piece derives from yet another false urban legend, to wit that President Bush is claimed to have stated that phrase to Phoney Tony. However while the legesd is false, just as with the previous UL it has a certain kernel of truth hidden within it. Surrounding Cambridge in the UK - to pick a town not completely at random - are half a dozen Science Parks and maybe the same again of general business parks dedicated to technology companies of one sort or another. Doing a search on google for phrases like "Cambridge Entrepreneur" or "Cambridge Startup" produce masses of links to companies or articles in newspapers etc. talking about them. France has a number of Science parks (such as Sophia Antipolis) but searches (even in French) for equivalent phrases tend to produce links to government funded bodies like get-telecom or partially EU sponsored conferences such as innovact and a large number of links that recycle the same text about one or two startups. If you think this is somehow just an accident of google consider the lists of exhibitors at trade-shows such as 3GSM world or CeBIT. From my personal recollection of attendance at the former there were perhaps half a doozen French companies present (I only strongly recall a VOIP softswitch vendor - Cirpack - and an antenna company whose name escapes me), whereas the British were represented by masses of companies led by successful startups such as ARM and CSR (both with HQs in Cambridge).
France certainly produces people of an entrepreneurial bent, and it certainly produces smart people. But somehow despite all the conferences France seems to produce fewer startups and certainly fewer successful ones than its neightbour to the north. Indeed I would hazard a guess that it produces less than its eastern neighbour Switzerland too.
There is surely a lesson or two here about the role of government in stiffling innovation. But lest you rush to draw sweeping conclusions I should point out that Germany seems to produce a fair number of entrepreneurs despite a government almost as intrusive as the French. Permalink
In my referal log is a link from The Technogypsy to one of my posts (BTW Technogypsy you could link to the main page :) ) who has some thoughts on tofu. In it he says:
The boys were pleasantly surprised a while back to find that the Chinese are the only cusine that can make tofu, that white plastic-tasting product of a rotten soybean, taste good. Not passable but good. Let face it, tofu sucks.
I don't want to insult a blogger who links to me and anyway his mabudoufu recipe is pretty good, but I suspect that he's never tasted Japanese tofu cuisine. Japan has entire restaurants dedicated to tofu and they can serve you tofu cook 51 different ways, all delicious and all tasting different.
I was, until fairly recently, the pround and happy owner of a Braun KF 130 coffee maker. I cracked the carafe and needed a replacement and meanwhile fell back to a more primitive method of making coffee. Despite having bought said coffee machine at Darty here in France, spare carafes are apparently unavailable, even for ready money, although Darty did promise to go and order it specially (at a special price to boot: €19.90 + €5? for "service"). Searching on the internet wasn't much more successful. I found some German suppliers and some English and American ones, but when you added up the cost of shipping you weren't far off €25 either. Given that the original coffee machine only costs €40 or so this seems excessive so I was balking at paying the price while trying to think of other ways to buy it.
Then today when we went shopping at Auchan there were coffee machines on sale at €9.95 that were fabriqué en Chine. Guess what? Mr Braun is now awaiting transportation to the déchèterie because tomorrow morning the new no name Chinese coffee maker is going to be making our coffee. I really doubt that this chinese model will be notably less reliable and if it breaks down or I break the carafe again I'm probably just going to buy an entire new coffee maker. At €10 my concerns about long term reliability don't really matter because a) so as long as the machine lasts more than a month or two (say until Christmas) its just as cheap to replace the entire machine as buying a more expensive but presumably more reliable one would be and b) that €10 is something €0.1 a day or less which is probably less than the cost of filters and coffee used per day.
The same applies to masses of other household appliances and tools. The cost of fitting out an entire tool room, not to mention buying all those little things that help in the kitchen and the bathroom is dropping to such an extent that we can just about manage to buy those expensive European clothes that we have to buy thanks to the protectionist morons in Paris and Brussels Permalink
Spent shells litter the ground at what is left of the firing range, and camouflage outfits still hang in a storeroom. Just a few months ago, this ranch was known as Camp Thunderbird, the headquarters of a paramilitary group that promised to use force to keep illegal immigrants from sneaking across the border with Mexico.
Now, in a turnabout, the 70-acre property about two miles from the border is being given to two immigrants whom the group caught trying to enter the United States illegally.
"Certainly it's poetic justice that these undocumented workers own this land," said Morris S. Dees Jr., co-founder and chief trial counsel of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which represented the immigrants in their lawsuit.
Mr. Dees said the loss of the ranch would "send a pretty important message to those who come to the border to use violence."
Last week I criticised Thomas Sowell for what I consider to be some poor economics that he shares with a lot of the "closed border" people, but in this case I stand with them. It seems to me that the former owner and his "vigilante" buddies would have done better to have simply shot these people and buried the bodies. The fact that they showed leniency allowed a bunch of liberal ambulance chasing lawyers to abuse the US justice system and provide an additional incentive for illegals to come as one of the Minutemen says in the article:
"The illegals are coming over here," Mr. Dore said. "They are getting the American property. Hell, I'd come over, too. Get some American property, make some money from the gringos."
It is completely beyond me why anyone, even a legal resident, should expect to receive millions of dollars from people who detained them when they were trespassing. Especially when said people, having detained them for an hour gave them cookies and a blanket and sent them on. If ever there was a sign of a justice system that has been hijacked by the loonies this is it. Permalink
Bush Derangement Syndrome is a sad thing to observe, especially when it bumps up against the reality. BDS sufferers believe, amongst other things, that President Bush is practically illiterate with a reading level of a first grade student and no interest in anything beyond those typically red-state redneck hobbies of shooting or NASCAR. Take for example Mark Kurlansky, the author of a book about the history of salt who cannot believe that Shrub McChimpy might actually read his book and writes an entire column of bile in the Grauniad on the subject. The column is so stupid I think it is worth fisking from start to finish:
Hope you like my book, Mr Bush
What does it mean that George W Bush, a man who has demonstrated little ability for reflection, who is known to read no newspapers and whose headlong charge into disaster after cataclysm has shown a complete ignorance of history, who wants to throw out centuries of scientific learning and replace it with mythical mumbo-jumbo that he mistakenly calls religion, who preaches Christianity but seems to have never read the teachings of the great anti-war activist, Jesus Christ, is now spending his vacation reading my book, Salt: A World History?
It is hard to imagine how many more innuendoes can be stuffed into a single rhetorical question so suffice it to say that none of these innuendoes is backed up by any evidence. One wonders what is required to demonstrate "ability for reflection" - checking into a Buddhist meditation centre perhaps? A non-biased observer might consider that President Bush's christianity could be taken as evidence of reflective ability - what exactly is prayer and bible study if not reflection? But no, that is just mythical mumbo-jumbo and doesn't count, and anyway Mark Kurlansky, who from his description of Christianity would seem to be an atheist, is able as a result of his religious expertise to identify that President Bush is in fact a misguided believer, perhaps even a heretic, in that he is perverting the teachings of Jesus Christ. And "disaster after cataclysm" seems a little strong given the robust US economy, the reduction in government deficit etc. etc. Perhaps by ignorance of history Mark means ignoring of what passes for "Historical facts" in the politically correct ivory towers of academia these days as opposed to, say, history as written by Winston Churchill.
But back to the rhetorical question, could the answer be that actually Bush is a keen student of history and world politics and has an open mind that is willing to read books by people of different politcal beliefs?
Reading the White House propaganda about what a serious reader he is, choosing books of depth rather than beach reads, it occurred to me that this may be an entirely staff-manufactured hoax, designed to give the president the appearance of having an intellectual depth he clearly lacks. But Warren Vieth, a White House correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, who, bored to the brink of madness in Crawford, Texas where the president was vacationing while the world exploded, interviewed me last week. He assured me that Bush reads books and discusses them in a way that makes clear he has truly read them.
Did I miss something? what earth shattering cataclysm happened in the last couple of weeks that failed to get covered in the news I read? Here is my score of "major bad events" during August
Hurricanes, Volcanic Eruptions Earthquakes or Tsunamis causing kilodeaths: 0
Terrorist attacks murdering hundreds: 0
Major wars (re)starting: 0
Epidemics started: 0
Anyway despite all the attempts at claiming that all this intellectual ability is just another evil Rove plot our intrepid author is forced to admit that apparently President Bush has read his book and is therefore proven not to be the illiterate savage that is an article of faith amongst BDS sufferers.
So why was Bush reading Salt, and what could he get out of it? Perhaps, if he did pick it himself, it was because he was once in the Texas oil business that began in 1901 when Patillo Higgins and Anthony Lucas ignored the advice of geologists and drilled around a Texas salt dome called Spindletop.
In many ways, oil replaced salt. Before the age of petroleum, geology was largely dedicated to understanding and locating salt. The technology of drilling rigs and wells was primarily about salt. Because only salted food could be traded, it was the basis of economies. Because armies and navies needed it for provisions and to maintain horses and it was the only known way to cauterise a wound, it was considered strategic. Alliances were formed and wars were fought over it. Several revolutions erupted in part over excessive salt taxes. Queen Elizabeth I had warned England of its dangerous dependence on foreign sea salt.
I just love that dig about "if he did pick it himself" as if to say that any book chosen by someone else is inherently less valuable. Er so what? How many times has a friend or colleague suggested that you read a particular book? Does taking their advice automatically mean you are stupid? And if Bush did indeed chose the book because of the salt dome drilling surely that indicates that Bush is actually knowledgable about history and therefore not quite as dumb as you seem to think?
All of this furore over common salt seems a little silly today. I hope Bush, with his interest in history, will realise that, in time, the fights over oil will look equally foolish. Could this lead to his abandoning his Texas cronies, realising oil is not worth hundreds of thousands of lives in Iraq, and that government has the ability to foster research and develop existing technology to move the world away from oil?
Oh yes how silly of me. The whole War on Terror is actually about oil. This is obviously why Saudi Arabia, which has a large chunk of the world's crude oil, is currently not occupied by thousands of US troops but that Afghanistan, which has no oil to speak of, is host to masses of troops. And Mark, I understand that in the cloistered world of academia we don't always have time to read / listen to presidential speeches and look at boring budgets and spending bills but a quick google on "Bush Hydrogen Investment" turns up 158,000 documents one of which is a White House page on the Bush energy bill which says in part:
The energy bill will promote the use of renewable energy sources with tax credits for wind, solar, and biomass energy, including the first-ever tax credit for residential solar energy systems. The bill also expands research into developing hydrogen technologies and establishes a flexible, national Renewable Fuels Standard to encourage greater use of renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel.
Looks to me like a government that is "foster[ing] research and develop existing technology to move the world away from oil".
Doubtless, after this happens the political leaders of the world will be ready to kill for the next big thing. So maybe he should put my book down, walk outside and talk to the grieving mothers of the American youth he wasted, who are camped in front of the ranch.
If additional evidence were needed that Kurlansky also apparently doesn't pay attention to the media there is this recent Newsweek story that demonstrates that the Presdent has in fact met many, many relatives of servicemen and women killed in Iraq. Indeed as we all know the President has actually met the "grieving mother" in question and at the time of her own meeting with the President she seemed content. Apparently this is intended to be a rousing conclusion but given that it is based on completely false information all it does is demonstrate that, in fact, Mark Kurlansky probably doesn't know anything about current events and should not be trusted with regard to anything other than salt.
Further evidence of Mr Kurlansky's idiocy is presented by in this newsday article. Apparently Kurlansky thinks that the Bush regime should be picking only books written by ideological friends and is surprised that in fact they don't. One suspects this reflects more on Kurlansky's own reading list, which I'm prepared to bet, excludes historians such as Victor Davis Hanson. By the way this newsday columnist also deserves to lose his salary too. Permalink
The BBC has a reasonably positive article about the restoration of the marshes in Iraq. But somehow there seems to be soemthing missing. We have mention that they were drained by Saddam Hussein to punish the inhabitants for rebelling and we have quotes by all sorts of UN people about how they have restored 40% and intend to do much more as well as introduce sanitation etc. etc. But there are some oddities. For example we are told that
...the situation changed rapidly with the end of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003.
"Immediately after the fall of the last regime, local people started to breach dykes which had taken water away from the marshes and bring water back into drained areas," [Chizuru Aoki, Iraq project co-ordinator for the UNEP] told the BBCNews website.
Is it just me or is there a somewhat passive turn of phrase here? The Saddam regime fell because it was invaded by the US led coalition, yet there is no acknowledgement of this. Then there is mention of a generous $11million donation by Japan to UNEP to fund some of this restoration but no mention of the $4million program by USAID to do the same thing.
It seems the anti-American bias of the BBC is alive and well.
As with just about every right-thinking person (and that includes many left thinking people too), I am spitting mad at the bunny-huggers of SHAC and Stop the Newchurch Guinea Pigs who have seem determined to halt medical progress. The Telegraph rightly calls them terrorists and it is a disgrace that they have won. I am glad to say that even decent people on the same side agree because the tactics that have caused the Halls to stop breeding guinea pigs are utterly despicable.
Yet, as terrorists go, it has to be said that they have managed to run a very smart and targeted terror campaign, unlike (for example) Osama and his Sheetheads, with clearly defined and achievable objectives. This probably explains why there has been limited outrage and, I regret to say, limited attempts by the police etc to stop them. Targetted terror and harassment is not something that impinges on the general public so they tend to complain about the expense of providing adequate protection rather than thinking about the message that is sent to the scum by their passivity. I am not sure what can be done about the passiveness, nor precisely what can be done to defeat the terror scum, but I have some ideas. They would all have the additional side-effect that they would get the Human Rights lobby worked up in a tizzy.
A big part of the problem is that, especially in the UK, law abiding people are not expected to lynch such scum so the risk/reward ratio for those considering terrorist acts is pretty much skewed in their favour. One way to move the ratio back would be to bar any animal rights activist caught performing criminal harassment to be barred from any UK hospital or doctor. This seems only logical, since they protest the way that medical research is carried out they should not benefit from it. I propose that such people be branded, tattooed or otherwise indelibly marked (e.g. fitted with a subcutaneous RFID chip - said fitting to be undertaken without anaesthetic of course) that identifies their status and that a law be passed stating that people so identified are not eligable for NHS benefits and that no pharmacy or private medical clinic is required to serve them either.
Once before I mentioned the idea of resurrecting the stocks (and for that matter public corporal punishment) for certain crimes and I would think that it would make an excellent punishment for people found guilty of harassment of others.
Another thing - and this might apply to other terrorist scum - could be the fitting of a GPS tag that then communicates its location to a publicly available place on the internet so that people can track them (and when they see them insult them). There are some practical problems such as what happens when the battery runs out or if the criminal covers the tag in some sort of Faraday cage (this would be trivially simple, you would just need some tin foil). Certainly I could imagine a requirement to register their status every night could be implemented, so long as a significant punishment for failure were also required, that could cause trouble.
Finally one other possibility would be to declare such folk to be "outlaws" and therefore not eligable for all sorts of legal protection or (this being a welfare state) any government benefits.
I was at a wedding last weekend where the priest who married the couple spent a few minutes in the homily talking about the different sorts of love - eros, agape and philia to use the greek words. The homily was talking about how a good marriage will involve all three sorts of love and, although the point was not stressed, also pointed out that a marriage can (and should) survive the temporary loss of eros. This is not the only time when it is appropriate to consider the different sorts of love. It is to be a sad reflection on the world today that many people seem to only understand love in the first of the three senses and to actually treat the other two with great suspicion. The prime example of this lack of understanding in recent days is Steven Vincent's relationship with his translator as described by his wife - with whom by the way it is clear he had a relationship that comes close to the ideal of the homily:
This is not to say that Steven did not love Nour - he did. And he was quite upfront about it to me. But it was not sexual love - he loved her for her courage, her bravery, her indomitable spirit in the face of the Muslim thugs who have oppressed their women for years. To him she represented a free and democratic Iraq, and all of the hopes he had for that still-elusive creature. And he loved her for the help she gave him - endangering herself by affiliating with him because she wanted the truth to come out about what was happening in her native city of Basra and the surrounding area. Perhaps you are unaware of the fact that it is possible to love someone in a strictly platonic way, but I assure you, it can happen - even between men and women.
The fact that even despite his wife's explanation linked to above (of what had been hitherto rather confusing news reports) was greeted with a cynical "...yeah RIGHT" by some people is more of a statement on their smallness of character than of Mr Vincent's. It seems to me that the people who don't understand that humans can feel love for each other in the Agape and Philia senses without this crossing over into Eros are themselves emotionally stunted and unable to compre. If there is one thing that I still respect about Christianity it is that Christianity is all about love - in the Philia and Agape senses. Indeed it occurs to me that this is the primary difference between the sorts of Christian that I like and the sorts that give Christianity a bad name (this means YOU Fred Phelps and Pat Robinson) and I think the same applies to other religions as well. The fundamentalist flavours of Islam show precisely the same small minded lack of trust in others that the skeptics of Mr Vincent's relationship do.
In fact I wonder whether that explains why the atheistic antiwar politically correct left seems so happy to embrace the Islamists as both require clear public adherence to every last detail and seem constitutionally incapable of trust. This also explains why both seem unclear on the concept of Honour, which goes hand in hand with the Trust required to permit oneself or one's spouse love others, and Responsibility to oneself or others. Permalink
As I look at the complete tit Mandelson's squirming about Chinese clothing imports I'm wondering if there is a possible resolution via those wonderful European courts. After all EU-Rota has a link to an Alaskan greenpeace nutter who is suing to keep the darkies poor and downtrodden so that she can enjoy her nature walks without fear of fire, and I wonder if we couldn't try for some similar logic chain for this too. Obviously getting the businesses to sue is too obvious and thus will never work so what we need is for someone to convince St Cherie or one of her pals that our human rights as consumers are being infringed. For example: did any one check to see if Section 3 subsection 51 xiv) paragraph 3A) of our wonderful EU constitution mentioned that "underclothes are important to human dignity and therefore each EU citizen has the right to purchase them when the old ones are too grubby, grimy or full of holes".
The Englishman's Castle links to a nice oped in the Wapping Liar by Alastair Campbell about France - or rather about the rosy specs view of France held by Wapping's answer to the loony Grauniad writers - Sir Simon Jenkins. As someone who resides in France I have to say that Sir Simon demonstrates that his knowledge of France is equal to his grasp on, say Iraq, i.e. practically non-existent, yet I would also like to take a few minor potshots at Campbell's piece too. To begin with the more egregious bits of Sir Simon's article:
... All food is “fusion”. All cars are manual. The roads are empty and the sun shines on red tiles and ochre walls in a landscape that is always rural.
All food is French. In most places the only alternatives to French food are McDonalds, Pizza, Couscous and if you are lucky a "Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai" restaurant. Likewise the roads are "empty" because everyone has gone on holiday and the landscape rural because France has the same population as the UK shoehorned into three times the area.
I always marvel that the price of a French loaf is still fixed by law, to ensure that bakeries stay open in small villages. Controls restrict all supermarkets that might threaten local stores. Planners guard cafes and tabacs. There are few rural buses, encouraging the use of local services and guarding the state rail monopoly. Small schools, clinics, post offices and mairies are maintained at any cost. What Britons can only remember, the French preserve.
The key bit here is "at any cost", since Sir Simon isn't here he doesn't have to pay the cost. And the idea that the French prefer their local stores is ludicrous: you just have to look at the crowds besieging every hypermarche every Saturday to realise that, while the French may possibly be OK with buying bread at the boulangerie, they prefer to do the rest of their shopping once at week at Carrefour just the way the English do at Tesco.
Are the French wrong? They respect locality. Mayoral autonomy was reinforced by the loi Deferre of 1982, dismantling the architecture of the préfets and ending much French centralism. Every commune has its elected mayor — known by name to 90% of Frenchmen — from Nice, Toulouse and Bordeaux to tens of thousands of villages. Eighty per cent of French communes have less than 1,000 people, yet their mayors have powers over planning and services and are responsible for the appearance, dignity, order and sense of identity of their towns.
And 90% of those local mayors are about as bent as a corkscrew. The mayor of the village where I live is locally famous for providing his services for about a third of the cost that surrounding communes do. I don't think he's a paragon of efficiency, just rather less on the take. The mayoral abuse of the planning laws is so well known that even MacDonalds managed to get something built where they shouldn't in Cagnes-sur-Mer. If you believe there wasn't some brown envelope or Swiss bank account lubricating that transaction then you are far more credulous than I or anyone I know here on the Riviera.
... Approach any village in Britain and you are greeted with a battery of warnings, speed bumps and dumpsters ordained by some distant philistine authority. The French equivalent is a welcome notice, shady trees and speed controlled by chicanes of shrubs and flower gardens.
I begin to wonder whether Sir Simon has ever actually visited France in person. The idea that traffic on roads in French villages are slowed down by chicanes of shrubs is simply laughable. The French have some of the worst road safety in Europe and they are now beginning to place speedbumps and cameras all over the place to try and reduce the carnage (with it must be noted some success).
.... Now millions of Britons are escaping mercantilism for just the lifestyle that Chirac extolled. Perhaps in August they see the real France, one that regards the objective of a modern economy as not just to achieve prosperity but also to enjoy its fruits in the round. It struggles to keep its cities proud, its country rural and its communities vital. It has made its people rich in leisure. It has made a choice.
The fact that France has about three times the land area of the UK and the same population and the fact that France has been sponging off other EU countries might just help to explain the French paradox. I live in France and I vastly prefer it to the UK in terms of climate, and I have to say that the current ZaNuLabour government of Phony Tony seems determined to make the UK as bad as France, but the belief that French have achieved some sort of Nirvana in terms of a work/life balance is the sort of claim the shows just how out of touch with reality Sir Simon is. In his trips around France Sir Simon has presumably avoided those wonderful banlieux where the immigrants live, with unemployment at 20% or more, with drugs and grafiti on every street corner and enough domestic violence to keep an entire army of social workers happy, if the victims dared to complain that is. He obviously hasn't had his car stolen, his walled nicked on the Metro, his house burgled while he dined at a local restaurant etc. and he obviously has never ever attempted to work his way through the legions of jobsworths who are paid to obstruct citizens from obtaining government services. France may seem like a paradise if you only visit for a fortnight in August, but it definitely isn't one if you live here all year round.
Like I say, Alastair Campbell's article is much better. Spot on about the grumbling on the 35 hour week and the lack of spending power of the French as well as the over-regulation but he also praises the localism that allows mayors to trouser loadsa dosh and not deliver any services. In fact if I want to criticise this article it is mostly about the bits left out. For example he omits one thing that just about every resident I know talks about, namely the difficulty of getting reliable workmen to fix things in ones house. Still in what may be a first, I have to say that I actually agree with about 90% of what he has written. Next thing you know I'll be signing up to join the Labour party. Permalink
A field of olive trees near Grasse. I imagine that this field has looked much the same for the past couple of centuries As always click on the image to see it enlarged and look at last week's if you missed it Permalink
- Rudyard Kipling The who was the inspiration behind The Witangemot Club left this quote as the comment on a post of mine partially about said club. Since I returned briefly to England to attend a wedding last weekend - Ok strictly speaking the wedding took place in Monmouth which is legally in Wales but it's a border town and so far as I can tell has been effectively English for most of the last millenium despite the claims of the sheepshaggers - I thought I might write a bit about this.
The wedding I went to was, I would say, in the best traditions of England; an event where the gentlemen mostly wore morning coats and the ladies sported large hats. The accents were terribly refined and the guest list included bright young things from London, aged country relatives and all combinations in between. The service was held in a church that dates back to 1101, but, as with England itself, all the last 900 years of history mean that it has changed completely since then and the reception was in a marquee in a field where we could admire the very best of British farmland and countryside. It occured to me that it would, all in all, have made an excellent backdrop for "Four Weddings and a Funeral - Part 2", and thus to appear to be a characature of England, but it wasn't.
To the foreigners the sort of upper middle class behaviour on display at this wedding is the sort of thing most of them admire most about England. All those people from Japan, America and Europe who dress up in Barbour jackets and the like are doing so because they think that being an English gentleman (or lady) is a rather attractive thing. Of course they frequently miss the point - in the case of Japan the result is often hilarious - but so what? it is the thought that counts. Despite all the depressing BS emanating from ZaNUlabour about "Cool Britannia" and the like and how Britian is "really hip and trendy honest guv" the great export success is the old fogey. Colonel Blimp, Lord Wotwotleigh, Lady Bracknell and all those jolly good chaps and chapesses from public schools present a lifestyle to which millions around the world aspire.
England presents a contrast to the foreigner - on the one hand there are the gentry and on the other hand there are the football hooligans. It never seems to occur to them that England has always had both sorts and indeed Englishmen frequently start off as hooligans and end up as gentry. But if you never leave England you have no idea how the world sees your country and therefore no idea how envious people are - even if they do persist in joking about the food.
[The insatiably curious may see my photos of the wedding at the flickr page I especially created]
God forbid that I gloat about the cricket - after all I'm pretty much of a fair weather cricket fan - and so for me to start jumping up and down about how "we've kicked those aussie b*****s" would be utterly hypocritical (although I do believe that certain Australian friends of mine may get a small note mentioning the fact just in case they forget to read in in the news tomorrow morning). However the cricket is, IMO, just a further sign of something that we English haven't seen for decades - namely English sportsmen and women playing and beating the teams considered to be the world's best.
This is quite a change. Let's face it, from Maradona's "hands of god" to Tim "maybe next year" Henman. the general history of English sport from the 1970s until 2000 or so has generally been one of "could do better". Bad luck has of course played its part but a really honest English sports fan must admit that in most cases the bad luck has really only helped to make the generally abysmal level of English teams more obvious and painful than it might otherwise have been rather than actually rob the national teams of trophies they actually stood a realistic chance of winning. But for the last two or three years this seems to no longer be the case. England are (still) the Rugby Union world champions and despite the crap 6 nations this year they are clearly the sort of team that scares the heck out of opponents. English football seems to have improved - although there is still a way to go - and English cricket now seems to be the best in the world. Other sports vary, but we have a number of world record holding athletes, some champion cyclists and rowers and so on, which implies that this is a general improvement is not a chance improvement in a couple of sports due to a couple of gifted players. The question is why?
I'm going to guess that the reason is the stupidity tax, aka the national lottery, which has resulted in numerous sports bodies getting chunks more cash to provide coaching of promising youngsters etc. etc. Of course money isn't everything but I think this is evidence that money helps a lot when spent in the right places. As a libertarian I am somewhat against the idea of nationally funded sports bodies, but in this case I'm willing to be give the benefit of the doubt since, although the governing bodies are Quango sorts of things the funding is mostly coming from lottery tickets and it is very clear that the many of people who buy lottery tickets are in fact keen on sport and thus happy to support sports funding. Permalink
The terribly smart chap at the top of Britain's Sucking up to Arabs Ministry Foreign Oriface Office wrote a memo to the Prime Minister warning that all sorts of bad things would happen if Britain continued to be involved in Iraq etc. This memo has now been "leaked" to the Observer and gleefully reported by the ever impartial BBC both of whom can't be happier to claim that this really did cause the London bombings, ignoring completely the possibility that this might just be a pretext and that the recruiters could probably have found another one. Needless to say neither outlet is willing to come clean and explain why this could be either a surprise or something that should affect government policy. One suspects that the reason for this is that justifying that would merely point out how hypocritical the antiwar people are.
Firstly, one suspects that some civil servant in the late 1960s or early 1970s pointed out that involvement in Northern Ireland might lead to British resident Irish people becoming willing to support the IRA in terrorist campaigns in Britian. Indeed I seem to recall that this was proven to be the case in some of the IRA bomb attacks. Funnily enough this did not immediately cause British troops to be removed from Northern Ireland and if it had the outcry would probably have caused the fall of the government in question. However while it was apparently just fine to ignore the risk of more radical catholic Paddies, according to our Dhimmi civil servants and media we must avoid at all costs the possibility of more radical Islamic recruits. Why?
Secondly a strong argument cold probably be made that the Dhimmi media has helped in the radicalization process by repeatedly printing negative stories about Iraq under the coalition and not daring to give equal space to more positive stories or viewpoints such as Christopher Hitchens. Skewing your reporting and then reporting the negative consequences of such a skew as if they are a surprise is rank hypocrisy and the sort of thing that would be called propaganda if it emanated from somewhere like China - come to think of it that was precisely what it was called when the Chinese media whipped up protests against Japan - but not if it occurs in the "liberal" western media.
Quite what one should do about our FCO, an organisation which boasts about brown-nosing the Muslims in a way that doesn't happen to any other foreign group - read the memo linked above - is unclear, but I would think that one possible option would be to end such brown-nosing policies, fire (or demote) the individuals who suggested them and those who implement them.
Ruth Lea, director of the Institute for Policy Studies, has an article in the Torygraph today about the value of a university degree which points out that, surprise surprise, some degrees are worth getting while others aren't (hat tip Tim Worstall).
There are many surveys that show a significant minority of graduates now fail to get "graduate" jobs. A survey by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) suggested that it was as high as a third.
Many graduates can find themselves in the unhappy position of being trapped between the need for a job - any job - and dealing with potential employers who are reluctant to recruit them because they regard them as over-qualified.
Subject choice is crucial. Other things being equal, the rates of return to maths and computing, engineering and technological subjects and medicine (the "hard" subjects) are, unsurprisingly, robustly positive. Other choices are less remunerative and, in the case of arts degrees for men and after allowing for the new £3,000 level of tuition fees, the calculated average rate of return is actually negative.
The Swansea study also confirmed that the university's reputation and the level of achievement were also relevant factors with the highest ability graduates still performing as well as the previous generation of high achievers.
It is clear from this research that high-flyers who opt for "hard" subjects are continuing to benefit financially from studying for a degree. For the less able graduates, especially those who opt for "soft" subjects, it is highly questionable. Indeed they could be well out of pocket.
None of these findings comes as a surprise. They are only to be expected. Many young graduates will face disillusionment as they find the Government's promises of £400,000 extra earnings vanish into the sand.
It is time for honesty. It is time, too, to drop the obsession with the ludicrous 50pc HE target, which insidiously implies that non-HE professional and vocational training routes are a poor option, with low esteem. The economy does not need more media studies graduates, it needs more plumbers.
As someone who graduated from a top university in a "hard" subject I have undoubtedly benefited from my 3 years at university and I have even used some of the things I learned in my degree subject in the real world (not a lot I admit but now and again). But in that respect I am no doubt both fortunate and being rewarded for the effort I put in to get into a top university (as well as the effort put in to work while there). I have noticed that, in general, those of us with challenging degrees tend to show more respect for car mechanics, builders, plumbers etc. than we do for the liberal arts graduates.
The joke about how the science graduate asks "Why that works?" while the liberal arts graduate asks "Would you like fries with that?" is funny because it is based on truth even though liberal arts graduates seem to have trouble finding the humour in it (just google on "liberal arts graduate fries"). Coincidentally Cathy Seipp comes to the same conclusion with regard to the need for plumbers etc. The idea that everyone has to go to university is plain silly and we need to find some way to make that clear. Permalink
Nestle forced to reopen loss-making coffee factory
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (Filed: 27/08/2005)
A French judge has ordered Nestle to re-open a loss-making factory, delighting France's anti-globalisation radicals but setting a precedent that could scare away foreign investment.
The Swiss food giant has been told to re-launch production at the chocolate and Nescafe plant outside Marseilles, employing 427 workers.
It was closed in June after nine years of mounting problems. Capacity usage had fallen to 30pc, chiefly due to falling demand for a strain of decaf coffee produced at the site.
I love the incentive to invest in France on offer here. The only way to shut down a fatory in France it would seem is for the entire company to go bankrupt. Add that to the list of reasons why companies are failing to line up to spend money on factories and offices in France. You have to love the confusion expressed by the Nestle spokesman
"We have fully complied at every step of the way, even though it is an extremely long and complex process. We've asked the court to specify what the ruling means because we don't understand what we are supposed to have done wrong."
Nestle clearly failed to understand that the French law is deliberately written/interpreted to make it impossible to comply with the process if you are a profitable multinational. Permalink
If Katrina takes refinery capacity off-line, the effect at the pump will be immediate. Ther is no more capacity available to up output within the counry. Shortfalls will have to be made up from imported gasoline suppliers. They are unlikely to be moved by complaints of gauging from American congressmen.
At this point Americans may ask why no new refinery has been built in the United States since 1976. (There is one on the drawing board for Yuma, Arizona.)
This, it strikes me, is remarkably similar to the problems exposed in the US transmission system a couple of years ago. Running something at 97% of capacity is a recipe for catastrophic failure because there is no margin to cover failure. When one designs highly available systems (and if oil refining is not something that needs high availability it is hard to think what does) a safety margin is always required and usually that safety margin is around 10-20% of average use. For the US today that implies a sensible safety margin would be roughly equivalent to the entire Louisiana refining capacity whereas the actual margin would seem to be approximately that of just a couple is Louisiana refineries.
Hugh identifies legislators as the prime reason for the lack of investment. I believe he is omitting a couple of groups that helped remove the spine from the legislators and the oil companies. The first group are the ambulance chasers lawyers. They probably didn't actually say anthing but in America's sue happy society a company would be nuts to try and build something as potentially polluting as an oil refinery anywhere new because of the chances of being blamed (and thus sued) for a zillion different health, environmental etc. concerns by the residents. The second group are the NIMBY residents themselves who want the oil refinery to be somewhere else and their aiders and abettors the envirowackoes who act like modern-day prohibitionists by trying to remove the supply of something that has enormous demand.
The good news about Hurricane Katrina is that, if it really does take out a couple of refineries, we will see serious shortages of petrol in parts of the USA. Given Hawaii's attempt to rewrite the law of supply and demand I'm going to predict that Hawaii will be the first state to run out of petrol but it will not surprise me in the least if we see problems elsewhere too. I put this as good news because it looks like the only way to start getting US consumers behind a couple of required steps. The first is to actually build some more refineries and to distribute them so that a single event will not wipe out many of them. The second is that it may help provide impetus for alternative fuels instead of petrol. If the US reduced its oil consumption to (say) 15M barrels/day then a whole boatload of good effects would probably occur including a reduction in the oil price and a very healthy diversification of energy sources so that US is far less dependant on one sort of energy or one supplier.
BTW Roger L Simon writes about how he was effectively unaware of Typhoon 11's recent progress over Japan. This partially ties in to EU Rota's graph question. Japan has very good typhoon tracking technology and expects to be hit by half a dozen typhoons each year and Japan's TV broadcasters seem to spend significant parts of news broadcasts listing the current state of typhoons in the Pacific. The result is that (as with the tsunami warning system) everyone is prepared for a typhoon to arrive as well as used to being pounded and this building appropriately - it also helps that Japan's typhoons seem to be more rain than wind and that Japan has some honking storm drains (it could also be that the typhoons are more predictable because there is a lot less land in the path I don't know). Permalink I despise l'Escroc and Vile