Thursday, 31 May 2012
"PROCESSED MEAT LINKED TO PANCREATIC CANCER", BBC News proclaims:
A NICE COOKED BREAKFAST WILL KILL YOU, oh yes:
The introductory text backs up the headline and picture:
You have to read to the third paragraph to get any sort of perspective:
But the prominent side-bar hammers home the healthist propaganda:
You'd have to be mad to eat meat, wouldn't you? Especially red meat or processed meat.
Except that if you follow a link near the bottom of the article, you find this:
So "the chance of developing the rare cancer" is very low indeed: "it accounts for only three percent of cancers in the UK".
But there's an additional important point that's not mentioned in the main article at all: "the majority of cases occur in the over-70s".
Personally, I'd be quite happy to die in my 70s with my mind intact, after a lifetime of nice food, rather than in my 90s, with dementia, after a lifetime of tofu.
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
The motto for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was “Sixty Years a Queen.” The motto now might as well be “Sixty Years a Rubber Stamp.” If, during the six decades of her reign, England has been transformed from a great and powerful nation and the classic home of civil liberty into a sinister laughing stock, the ultimate responsibility for all that has gone wrong lies with Elizabeth II....
Once the politicians make themselves, as a class, irremovable, and once they begin to abolish the rights of the people, it is the duty of the Monarch to step in and rebalance the Constitution. It is then that she must resume her legal powers and exercise them of her own motion.
The need for this duty to be performed has been apparent since at least 1972, when we were lied into the European Union. The Conservatives did not fight the 1970 general election on any promise that they would take us in. When they did take us in, and when Labour kept us in, we were told that it was nothing more than a trade agreement. It turned out very soon to be a device for the politicians to exercise unaccountable power. The Queen should have acted then. Indeed, she should have acted – if not in the extreme sense, of standing forth as a royal dictator– before 1972. She should have resisted the Offensive Weapons Bill and the Firearms Bill, that effectively abolished our right to keep and bear arms for defence. She should have resisted the Bills that abolished most civil juries and that allowed majority verdicts in criminal trials. She should have resisted the numerous private agreements that made our country into an American satrapy. She should have insisted, every time she met her Prime Minister, on keeping the spirit of our old Constitution. There have been many times since 1972 when she should have acted.
At all times, she could have acted – all the way to sacking the Government and dissolving Parliament – without provoking riots in the street
The Queen has not sustained our national identity. It is actually worse than this. By expressing that identity, she has allowed many people to overlook the structures of absolute and unaccountable power that have grown up during her reign. She has fronted a revolution to dispossess us of our country and of our rights within it. How many of the people who turn out on Jubilee Day, with their union flags and street parties, will fully realise that the forms they are celebrating now contain an alien and utterly malign substance?...
Sooner or later, the luck of the draw may give us a Patriot King.
As for Her Present Majesty, she may be remembered in the history books as Elizabeth the Useless.
Apart from a gratuitous reference to a "bunch of black Marxists", the article seems spot on.
Many of the events that Gabb refers to were before my time, but I remember the Lisbon Treaty. The public were promised a referendum. The Queen would have lost nothing by insisting on it. Indeed, a substantial portion of the population would have thanked her for standing up to our corrupt politicians. And yet, for reasons unclear, she rubber-stamped that act of treason.
Our Queen has succeeded at many things, and is deservedly well regarded around the world, but she has failed abysmally at her most important task: safeguarding our freedom and sovereignty.
I'm not sure whether to be amused or dismayed by this Radio 5 excerpt, in which the presenter is determined not to engage in any serious discussion of the question "Why should we celebrate the Jubilee?". Classic BBC.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said plans to lower the limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg will be brought forward later this year. He said it was intended the change would take effect as soon as possible.In a fit of sanity last year, Philip Hammond rejected that same reduction for England and Wales, pointing out that the number of drink-driving deaths had fallen by more than 75% since 1979, and that while there remains a "small minority of drivers who flagrantly ignore the limit", their "behaviour is entrenched" ...
... and after careful consideration we have concluded that improving enforcement is likely to have more impact on these dangerous people than lowering the limit.
In how many alcohol-related accidents is alcohol actually the key factor? And in how many of those cases is the driver over the current limit? People who aren't concerned about being over 80mg won't worry about being over 50mg. A quick google turned up 80mg.org.uk, which considers the issues in more detail.
Of course, there was no danger of Scottish politicians approaching the problem rationally. The sooner we're rid of these puritans, the better.
Monday, 28 May 2012
I've long thought that tax simplification should receive cross-party support. Aside from the accountants and bureaucrats, nobody gains from a complex tax code. With a simpler system, the government could get higher revenue at lower rates (though of course I'd prefer for it to get lower revenue at much lower rates).
I haven't yet found time to read all 421 pages (!) of The Single Income Tax (PDF), but the summary is promising:
To create the conditions for stronger economic growth and more jobs, while treating taxpayers fairly, the Government must reform taxes to make them lower, simpler and more transparent.
To achieve this, the 2020 Tax Commission recommends the Single Income Tax, which can be introduced in six steps:
- Taxes should be cut to 33 per cent of national income
- Marginal tax rates should not exceed 30 per cent, and the personal allowance should rise to £10,000
- Taxes on capital and labour income disguised as business taxes should be abolished, and replaced with a tax on distributed income
- Transaction, wealth and inheritance taxes should be abolished
- Other consumption taxes need to stay for now, but transport taxes should be cut
- Local authorities should raise half of their spending power from local taxes
Browsing through the table of contents, I found a conciliatory point that seemed questionable:
- 2.7. Tax evasion is immoral as well as illegal, and in some cases legal tax avoidance is also immoral
But without such sops to the 'statist quo', the report would probably have been rejected out of hand by those in power. As Anthony Evans, a commissioner on the report, puts it:
Personally, I find it hard to truly advocate 30% tax rates. But this isn’t about what we’d like in theory. It’s about mapping out a direction of travel, shifting debate, and engaging with policymakers and the public. If you believe such aims are futile, then you may be disappointed. But if you want a well researched and implementable proposal for radical tax changes – this is it.
And as Alistair Heath says, tax reform is long overdue but has potential to dramatically increase prosperity:
IT is time for Britain to make a vital choice. Our economy is stagnant, with unemployment at horrendous levels, crippled by excessive public spending and a punitive tax system. There are two options. We can either tweak the status quo – try to keep a lid on spending, reform bits of the public sector and hope for the best. Such a soft option may stave off an immediate budgetary crisis but it will condemn Britain to permanent relative decline. Or we can change course: reduce public spending as a share of GDP more significantly, adopt an entirely new tax system fit for the 21st Century and establish the UK as a global trading hub, generating renewed prosperity for all those who live and work here.
Sunday, 27 May 2012
As usual, the article is well worth reading in full.
The political urge to superimpose some unifying ‘national interest’ on all citizens runs counter to everything the decentralized spontaneous market order stands for. The whole point of a market economy is that it is based on private property and voluntary, contractual exchange. And voluntary, contractual exchange works so well because two parties frequently have different interests or tastes or preferences. If I sell you one of my old vinyl LPs for $2, it doesn’t mean we agree that this record is worth $2. We disagree. You value the LP more than $2, I value $2 more than the LP; otherwise we wouldn’t trade. By trading we have both improved our position....
The market economy is precisely so powerful because it is a highly efficient way of human cooperation that does not require ‘common interests’ or ‘single goals’. To the contrary, it thrives on differences and still achieves peaceful cooperation. That is precisely its strength, and that is also what sets it apart from politics. The diversity of human talents, interests and preferences that is simply a fact of life does not have to be suppressed and curtailed to fit into the dumb tribalism of politics, which is always about ‘the Greeks’ need this but ‘the Germans’ want that.
Friday, 25 May 2012
Time will tell what sort of democracy results from the "Arab Spring". We'll know the result of the Egyptian presidential election soon.
It cannot be said of democracy, as Lord Acton truly said of liberty, that it "is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. It is not for the sake of a good public administration that it is required, but for the security in the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society, and of private life".
Democracy is essentially a means, a utilitarian device for safeguarding internal peace and individual freedom. As such it is by no means infallible or certain. Nor must we forget that there has often been much more cultural and spiritual freedom under an autocratic rule than under some democracies -- and it is at least conceivable that under the government of a very homogenous and doctrinaire majority democratic government might be as oppressive as the worst dictatorship.
The Shadow Public Health Minister, says new alcohol figures lift the lid on some of the problems around the ‘cocktail and business card culture’ She said:Sounds scary. What are these "new alcohol figures"?
It is good that more women are out in the workforce and are enjoying social life in pubs and bars. But these disturbingly high figures reveal women’s drinking patterns have changed in a generation, reflecting a silent, middle class epidemic. The problem is not just young “ladettes”.
These figures reflect the rise of the British ‘Margarita culture’, and some of the surrounding problems.
And the easy availability and low price of supermarket booze have led to more housewives to drink to excess at home.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that in 2010 women in professional and managerial positions consumed an average of 9.2 units a week compared with 6.2 units a week for women in routine and manual jobs.They say '11.2' earlier in the article, but 9.2 units a week is the correct figure from the ONS report.
plucked out of the air' by a committee that met in 1987"). It's about 100ml of 13% wine a day - less than a small glass.
And the source for the "new" alcohol figures is of course the "General Lifestyle Survey, 2010", published on the 8th of March (and previously blogged here). Not so new, then, and not news either - here's what the ONS's General Household Survey 2002 Edition had to say:
So for at least a decade, British women have been drinking hardly anything, and the "managerial and professional group" has been drinking slightly more than the "routine and manual" workers.
Weekly alcohol consumption and household socio-economic classification
The relationship between weekly alcohol consumption and socio-economic classification was similar to that shown earlier in relation to daily amounts. Average weekly consumption was highest among men and women in large employer/higher managerial households, at 19.9 and 9.4 units respectively.
Apart from the high consumption in that particular group, there was no clear socio-economic gradient in relation to alcohol consumption among men. Using the three-category classification, average consumption was 17.3 units a week among men in managerial and professional households, 17.9 units among men in intermediate households and 16.8 units among those in routine or manual households.
The pattern among women was slightly clearer. Average weekly consumption was highest, at 8.3 units, in the managerial and professional group, and lowest (at 6.5 units) among those in routine and manual worker households.
What sort of politician could claim that "women’s drinking patterns have changed" to "disturbingly high" levels associated with a "Margarita culture" and a "middle class epidemic"? Our favourite blubbery bigot, Diane Abbott.
This government needs to bring in a radical new, long-term alcohol strategy including – but not limited to – a minimum price for alcohol.I'll hand over to Christopher Snowdon at this point:
How depressing it is to be reminded that no matter how draconian the Conservative-led coalition is on this issue, there is always the spectre of a Labour-run Department of Health, led by this grossly overweight, self-confessed hypocrite, to make things still worse...
We seem to have reached the point at which any statistic related to alcohol can be used to call for "radical new" legislation even when, as routinely occurs, the statistic shows that Britons are drinking much less than the media narrative requires....
For the anti-drink lobby, as for useless politicians like Diane Abbott, there can be no good news. For them, the problem is not with how much we are drinking—alcohol consumption has been falling sharply for a decade—but that we drink at all. These figures show us nothing except that women, on average, are drinking a frankly medicinal amount of alcohol, and yet the decision has been made that the government must clamp down on drinking, just as it clamped down on smoking. The fact that the statistics do not support the mythology of Booze Britain is not seen as an inconvenience. The data are either ignored (as the drop in consumption has been ignored), or incorporated into the narrative of panic in a tenuous way (as here).
Regardless of the evidence, the public health lobby made its mind up several years ago that drinking was next in the firing line. There is nothing we can do to stop it.
UpdateMedical Editor Rebecca Smith doesn't say how many units she'd consumed when she wrote this title:
Ineptocracy - A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.
Saturday, 19 May 2012
What’s all this nonsense about ‘austerity’? I listen to the news and I feel like I’ve stepped into George Orwell’s 1984. Apparently ‘austerity’ means sacking some public sector workers, who are paid for out of taxation. ‘Growth’ means hanging onto them and maintaining high taxes.There aren't many opposition voices, but Daniel Hannan is one:
Whose austerity are we talking about here? Let’s be clear. All ‘government money’, no matter whether it’s raised from direct taxation, borrowing, or printing money, ultimately comes from us (by ‘us’ I mean tax producers in the productive economy). All public spending means higher taxes. There is no magic pot of gold. No public spending can be paid for, other than by moving funds out of the productive economy. The government cannot conjure up resources from nowhere. The choice is simply, are those resources better left in the productive economy, or are we be better off with more social workers and climate change liaison officers? Which, do we imagine, will lead to more real economic growth?
The absurd, topsy-turvy framing of the ‘austerity or growth’ debate clearly shows that the tax consumers (publically-funded intelligentsia, the BBC & Co) dominate public discourse in this country. Where are the opposition voices?
The new French President is an unapologetic Socialist of the kind we haven’t known in this country since Michael Foot. François Hollande wants wealth taxes, stimulus spending and a massive expansion of the state payroll.
Hollande summarises his programme as ‘growth, not austerity’. Gosh. Who knew it was so easy? Why has no one thought of that before?
The truth, of course, is that France has already pushed tax-and-spend to its limits. The government accounts for an extraordinary 56 per cent of the economy, and the French budget was last in balance in 1974. If state expenditure really had a stimulus effect, France would be the wealthiest country in Europe.
Friday, 18 May 2012
Daniel Hannan explains what the Eurocrats are doing about it:
Greeks are withdrawing 700 million euros a day from their banks. Sixteen Spanish banks have been downgraded by Moody's, raising the prospect of a bank run across the Mediterranean. Barack Obama has joined David Cameron in pleading with eurozone leaders to take action commensurate with the gravity of their predicament.I suppose we should be grateful that they're not trying to tackle the serious problems. Their cure would surely be worse than the disease.
How is the EU responding? What are the issues at the top of its agenda this week? A financial transactions tax, a common definition of homophobia, new rules on the fishing of bluefin tuna and gender quotas on company boards.
When the world lurches beneath our feet, when old certainties crumble, we often withdraw into the familiar. In their panic, Eurocrats and MEPs have reverted to what comes naturally: proposing more regulation.
Just one in five Britons eats the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, a poll for World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) suggests. The Department of Health first launched its five-a-day campaign in 2003.Sad to think of all the millions wasted on this campaign, but encouraging that Britons aren't yet so submissive as to rush out and do whatever the government tells them.
The article goes on to quote Kate Mendoza, head of education for the WCRF, explaining what healthy eating entails:
A diet based on plant foods, such as wholegrains and pulses as well as fruit and vegetables, can reduce cancer risk as research shows they protect against a range of cancers. Recent research has confirmed that foods containing fibre reduce the risk of bowel cancer.Never mind meat. Eat your whole grains and pulses.
A sidebar elaborates:
WHAT IS 'FIVE A DAY'?Now, I don't actually know what the ideal diet is, but I do know that opinions differ wildly. If we're unfortunate enough to have a nanny state in 50 years time, it will be interesting to see what guidance they give.
- It equals around 400g of fruit and/or veg
- One portion is 80g
- A portion equals two or more small fruits ie (sic) satsumas, one medium-sized fruit ie (sic) an apple or banana, or half a grapefruit or one large slice of melon
- A portion of veg would be two broccoli spears or three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables such as carrots, peas or sweetcorn
- Potatoes do not count
- But fresh, frozen, tinned and dried fruit and vegetables do
- Smoothies can count for up to two of your five a day
- Pulses and beans count as one portion - no matter how much you eat
Monday, 14 May 2012
Welcome to the world of SmokeFree Movies, [Stanton] Glantz's quixotic campaign to banish tobacco from our screens (for the children, natch). Despite years of being ridiculed and ignored on this issue, Stan is continuing his crusade and has written yet another paper on the subject (he has written a lot).Laughable indeed. But this evening I happened so see an alarming notice in the end credits of the Sherlock Holmes sequel:
Today, he claims that 100,000 Californian 12-17 year olds are smokers as a direct result of seeing smoking in the movies. This is a figure that he alone invented and which even hardcore anti-smoking head-bangers like Simon Chapman find laughable.
No person or entity associated with this film received payment or anything of value, or entered into any agreement, in connection with the depiction of tobacco products.For all I know, these notices have been obligatory for years (perhaps as part of a tobacco advertising ban), but whether they're required by current statutes or simply included to avoid future legal trouble, it's an outrageous imposition.
Whatever you may think of the practice of 'product placements', it's surely not the sort of thing that should be illegal. When the government sees fit to outlaw paid depiction of tobacco products, what's to stop them from applying the same logic to alcohol and soft drinks? And how long before they decide that any depiction, paid or unpaid, should be forbidden?
We are a long way down the slippery slope.
Sure enough, Googling for the notice above turns up a hit at http://www.smokefreemovies.ucsf.edu. It's the second point of their four-point plan:
2. Certify no pay-offs. The producers should post a certificate in the closing credits declaring that nobody on the production received anything of value (cash money, free cigarettes or other gifts, free publicity, interest-free loans or anything else) from anyone in exchange for using or displaying tobacco.So it seems that what we have at the moment is voluntary compliance with the demands of some unpleasant monomaniacs. A disturbing development, nonetheless.
Where we are now: In 2008, Time Warner began including the following language in the end credits of selected films: “No person or entity associated with this film received payment or anything of value, or entered into any agreement, in connection with the depiction of tobacco products.”
The government has changed its mind over the type of fighter planes it is ordering for the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier. ... The cost of the U-turn is likely to be about £100m ... Labour said it was an "omnishambles" which risked "international ridicule".They can talk!
The coverage from Lewis Page at The Register is rather more insightful:
It's well known that the F-35B will cost a lot more to buy and more to run than the F-35C catapult version: and it's also well known that the main cost of aircraft carriers is not the ships but the planes. So, right out of the gate, we can see that this is a foolish decision. In fact it's a lot worse than it seems, as the contest in real life was not between the F-35B and the F-35C: it was between the F-35B and - for the immediate future - one or another cheap, powerful, modern carrier jet already in service. This would most most likely have been the F-18 Hornet as used by the US Navy and many other air forces around the globe, but possibly the French Rafale instead of or alongside Hornets.I'm not a military expert, but this analysis makes sense to me. It seems like yet another inexplicable decision from the MoD.
once we had some F-18s we would seldom bother using our Eurofighters and Tornados, and we would surely rethink our current plans to massively upgrade them. We might in fact, if we were smart, reconsider having them at all. And this would be terrible news for the company which has those fat service contracts under which those planes are run, the company which built the British parts of them: namely BAE Systems plc. ... A catapult carrier in the Royal Navy, then, is something that BAE Systems passionately does not want to see happen.Important, then, that such vested interests are kept well clear of the decision making process.
The "fact" that has changed, we are told, is that the cost of putting catapults into HMS Prince of Wales is now thought to be enormously more than had been estimated - it has increased by as much as ten times over, to perhaps £2bn, pushing up the cost of the carrier project by a third or a half. ...
And it is pretty well impossible to avoid noticing that the lead contractor on the carriers - the company which gets to set the price of fitting them with catapults - is ... (drum roll) ... none other than BAE Systems plc, the company which stands to lose many, many billions if the Royal Navy gets catapult ships any time soon.This is the worst kind of corporatism. The government has only two essential functions: maintaining law and order at home, and defending against foreign aggression. A combination of incompetence and corruption has allowed our defensive capabilities to be fatally undermined. To protect our territory, we must now rely on assistance from the likes of France. Which I'm sure suits some people just fine.
Tuesday, 8 May 2012
The debate over taxing the rich has reached new depth in the United States with a true man of letters entering the fray. Depth, that is, as in low point. What the essay by acclaimed and popular novelist Stephen King lacked in profundity it made up for in profanity: Tax me, for f@%&’s sake, was Mr. King’s eloquent plea to the government he so admires.The whole article is well worth reading.
One of the freedoms that Americans of any income bracket still enjoy is the freedom to give more to the government than the government already takes from them by force. If you think that the government can spend your money better than you can, you are free to write them an extra check each year and hand it over with your tax return. King grudgingly acknowledges that he, like everybody else, has that right but that is not enough for him. He wants to see the state take more from ‘rich’ people, himself included, by force, and thus put it to better uses than the rich people themselves ever could.
Monday, 7 May 2012
How very inconsiderate.Giant dinosaurs could have warmed the planet with their flatulence, say researchers.British scientists have calculated the methane output of sauropods, including the species known as Brontosaurus.
By scaling up the digestive wind of cows, they estimate that the population of dinosaurs - as a whole - produced 520 million tonnes of gas annually.
And how grateful we must be to our state broadcaster for highlighting such important facts.
French President-elect Francois Hollande is to start work on forming a new government, after telling supporters his victory gave hope of an end to austerity.
Mr Hollande has vowed to rework a deal on government debt in eurozone member-countries to focus on promoting growth.
The Socialist leader won just under 52% of votes in Sunday's run-off election.
Centre-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy is the first French president since 1981 not to win a second term.'At the scene', Christian Fraser gives the view from Socialist HQ:
The excitement has been building for two weeks, it was mixed with relief and perhaps some disbelief when the first estimate was broadcast. They have waited 17 years for a Socialist president.It will be interesting to see what happens next.
A teacher and a lifelong Socialist was standing next to me as the result came in - he wept. "It's an incredible moment," he said. "Not just for the Socialist Party but for France, for Europe. "
Maybe Hollande will succeed in making our own socialist government appear "Centre-right".
Wednesday, 2 May 2012
The news from Scotland is, as usual, not good...As usual, I recommend the whole article.
WHAT?!?Alcohol licences rejected after warning from NHS over health concernsA supermarket and two independent retailers have had their alcohol licence application rejected after objections from the local health board.
Sainsbury’s wanted to open a new store in the Cowgate, Edinburgh as part of the development of a site which was destroyed by a fire in 2002. NHS Lothian warned the Edinburgh Licensing Board that granting the licence went against the protection of public health.Are you kidding me? What kind of moron would give bureaucrats from the NHS the power to reject planning applications?
The Scottish Government have recently given health boards the chance to object to new licences.Oh, sweet devolution. This is local option for the twenty-first century—the preferred halfway house for would-be prohibitionists since time immemorial.
I was reminded of another news item, this one from the zealots at the BBC:
Are beer firms to blame for Native American drink woe?For generations, the dream of a sober society has eluded one of the largest Native American tribes in the US.
Members of the Oglala Sioux tribe, living in South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, have long tried to shut down the beer stores just across the state line in White Clay, Nebraska.It's always the fault of those evil profit-makers on the supply side. Restrict supply, and everything will be fine.
Possessing and drinking alcohol has been totally banned in Pine Ridge reservation for more than 100 years, except for a short period in the 1970s. Nevertheless, bootlegging on the reservation is said to be rampant.Never mind that some people have pretty miserable lives, from which alcohol and drugs are the only escape. We can't trust the plebs to make decisions for themselves.
Nanny knows best.