Friday, October 28, 2005

Everybody's pal, Scooter Libby

"Scooter Libby is one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever
known. He has given many years of his life to public service and has served our
nation tirelessly and with great distinction."

So clucked Dick "Dick" Cheney after his right hand man had been indicted. It's a masterful piece of propaganda. I. Lewis Libby is a man that stands a serious chance of indictment. But Scoots? We used to play b-ball down on 47 and 5th as kids! If you could see the way he'd slug a homer back then you'd think twice before flinging around wild accusations of obstructing the course of justice and the like.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


While the high street persuades me that All Souls Day is the deadline to do all my Christmas shopping and seeing that wildlife has been a feature in recent posts here's some fluffy economics from the Wall Street Journal courtesy of the otherwise parsimonious Environmental Economics blog.

The comments alone are worthy of attention:

How much, in your estimation, would Mr. Nikkanoff have been
compensated if Rudolph had been flying at the time?

Posted by: pam October 02, 2005 at 04:30 PM


Posted by: Tim Haab October 03, 2005 at 02:27 PM
I have seen a bolt of truth arc across the heavens to land in a foreign field. Perhaps now my journeying has crossed the plains of confusion and mountains of perplexity and chanced upon a smouldering meadow that was the target of said projectile, albeit long since burnt out.

It seems The Guardian was wrong about one thing; a moose in Europe is not a moose but an elk. However, both share the binomial Alces alces. My spirit renewed by this finding it turns out the elk became extinct from Scotland in c.1300 and was last captured in the Fenian legend Bas Dhairmid:
Glen Shee, that glen by my side, Where oft is heard the voice of deer and elk.
The galling thing is the americanisation of the term, which is not only incorrect but has given me unnecessary vexation for almost half a day. I shall be writing to The Guardian to tell them so.

The tale of Jim Swan

Incidentally, while researching moose (instead of a dissertation *gulp*) I uncovered this little diamond courtesy of James Swan of the National Review. The delicious subtitle of "Think we have hunting problems? Try the U.K." is followed by observations on the "draconian British gun-control laws":

Pistols are forbidden. To possess a shotgun or rifle it is necessary to hold a
certificate granted by the police. Certificates are not easily obtained.
Applicants are subject to police checks, and gun owners must store their guns
securely. Only small-caliber air guns, like BB guns, are exempt. Pistol-shooting
members of the British Olympic team have been forced to practice abroad.
This despite the fact that $500 million pounds of the economy rely on hunting - haha these limeys! But the British public's blindness to obvious entrepreneurial opportunity is not the worst of it:
...economics is not all that's at stake here. As Joseph Campbell once said,
“Flesh eats flesh is the master pattern of life.” By taking life for nourishment, we learn to revere it from the heart.

In 1999, there were 8,259 firearm murders in the US (62 in UK). Many of Old Jim's compatriots have obviously taken his advice to heart.*Boom* Shameless anti-Americanism from bastard me.

Beavers - awesome!

Good news for hat makers as six beavers are to be released in Gloucestershire. The little critters haven't seen these sceptered shores for 500 years so I'm sure they'll be a warm welcome for them.

Well perhaps. Is Gloucestershire actually ready for them? Beavers can dramatically alter landscapes with their damming ways, creating reservoirs in weeks after a few nibbles of a venerable oak (just ask any Canadian). Good news for ducks, the water vole and water boatmen - a healthy natural constituency to be sure. Farmers, with considerably more political and economic clout, will nevertheless be fuming. Already frustrated by their inability to hunt foxes and badgers, Jo Grundy and co will be nonplussed at the prospect of new creeks and streams diverted through their property.

(Ah, 6music news has just informed me that these beavers are a lot less destructive than their N. American cousins. Relieving words to be sure, but foolhardy I feel. Might Britain, to misquote Trevor Phillips, be "sleepwalking into deforestation"?)

The Grauniad, a little behind the pace, is also upbeat about Britains ecological future: one where farmers clear out and let nature take its course. This is certainly good news.

About 800,000 hectares of Britain have been identified as places where
traditional farming could be replaced over time by wilderness nature reserves,
possibly inhabited by vanished species such as elk, moose, beaver and wild
The radical vision of developing large-scale conservation areas and
linking them via ecological corridors to allow herds of animals to roam across
hundreds of miles is proposed as a relatively inexpensive way to revitalise the
large areas expected to become uneconomic to farm during the next 15 years as
European subsidies are progressively cut.

Did I read that right? Moose! This can't be true! Now looking very carefully at this moose map below there doesn't seem to be much of a moose population in blighty and, after 45 minutes of trwaling the internet does there ever seem to have been one.

Moose map

However, The Guardian is elsewhere adamant that this is the case:

[Conservationist Paul Lister's] plan is to abandon deerstalking as a method of
managing deer numbers and instead reintroduce once-native,
self-sustaining populations of predators, such as the grey wolf, European brown
bear and Eurasian lynx, as well as wild boar and moose.

Well shove a hose pipe my arse and turn pressure to full, that is quite a confounder. I mean, Mr. Lister wouldn't be lying would he? Nothing during my 45 minute research has uncovered a thing about moose in Great Britain. Anyone who has any knowledge on this please tell me, I'm extremely vexed.

Debates on the indigeneity of the moose and the destructive potential of the beaver are not, however, the cause of such procrastination on FE's part however. This "wildernisation" is most noteworthy for being a handy solution to the problems of the Common Agricultural Policy. When this millstone is removed, the beaver scheme will cushion the blow for farmers who will be able to go into forestry. The present plan doesn't seem to want farmers to keep their land but perhaps a sort of co-operative scheme could be set up with multiple landowners contributing to the scheme and therefore sharing the benefits of eco-tourism and sustainable forestry.

The solution is more furry than fluffy - but it is undeniably economic.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Greatest Philosopher

Forgive the lateness, I was out the country as this was going on. I was perusing the results of the BBC's 'Greatest Philosopher' poll. A case was made for each of a shortlist of 20 with no striking omissions. The winner by a good few lengths was Karl Marx. Now his impact on the 20th century is undoubted and perhaps his effect outside of the ivory tower makes him stand out from his peers.

If we're talking strict philosophy, however, I think there are some with more clout. For example Kant constructed one of the most cohesive and consistent moral systems in philosophy (As an aside, an Austrian woman, Maria von Herbert, wrote to Kant asking for guidance after being dumped. Kant's prescription of "a pure moral sedative" didn't quite do the trick and she ended up committing suicide. This however should not be taken as an indictment of his overall system - this is the cold stone table of philosophy, not a psychiatrist's chair).

Aristotle would be my prime candidate. After all, the man practically invented the style of modern philosophy as well as, of particular interest to this writer, being the first to write about economics (I believe he invented the term).

I think the BBC's helpful summaries make my case quite simply.

Most modern socialist theories are drawn from his work but Karl Marx has had a wider influence touching on many areas of human thought and life such as politics, economics, philosophy, and literature.


More than Plato and Socrates Aristotle's brand of reason influenced the progress of Judaism, Islam and Christianity through thinkers such as Maimonides, Thomas Aquinas and Averroes.

I think saliency has got the better of a balanced decision. (Mariella Frostop chose Søren Kierkegaard if you were wondering. Anne Robinson chose Nietzsche)


The observant will notice a shiny 'This blog is listed on Wikablog' button on the right. This new venture is attempting to catalogue the blogosphere and is almost entirely run by its members. See this Devil's Kitchen post for a full explanation.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

All together: "Educate good times, Come on!"

So with a mighty fanfare come those new education proposals replete with promises of more independence for schools, greater parental participation and greater involvement from the private sector. Check, check...wha?

Perhaps my education was severely impaired with it's lack of Latin lessons sponsored by Dolmio and Geography brought to you by Crayola. Aren't our hallowed halls of learning meant to be a haven from such corporate pressures?

I like the idea of greater school independence. National curricula stifle creativity and breed morons. But why ruin it Tone?


Europhobia keeps us spectacularly well informed (via TJ) about Berlusconi latest obfuscation. The burly italian is getting ever closer to emulating Caesar with his proposal to change the constitution allowing him to dismiss ministers and dissolve parliament at will.
These are the
most significant reforms since the post-Mussolini constitution came into
in 1948, and place more power in one man's hands than has been seen in
Italy since the time of the baldy blackshirt.

Gee I sure am glad to be British with such a megalomaniac in charge of our Italian cousins. Imagine what friends Berli must keep...actually let's not.


Another gem from the Perry Bible Fellowship which appeared in The Grauniad the other day. This one is my personal favourite, however.


Grr! Barely a blogger for 24 hours and already spammed by a filthy spamming spammer! Word verification now in place to correct my naivety.

Tiny Judas on time thievery

Check out this 'thinkpiece' from Tiny Judas. A piece of prose as lyrical and lucid as we've come to expect from the wee man.

PFI fraud *sigh*

Devil's Kitchen makes some good points regarding the below but it would be interesting to compare public/private pay differentials for similar jobs. My impression is that many lower paid jobs (cleaners, maintenance) are outsourced so these would skew the average private sector figures downwards.

His footnote, however, actually supports my argument:

There is now no A & E department in the centre of Edinburgh. The old site has been sold to developers who are building the usual load of flats, "affordable housing", shops and offices. Now, if I were them, I would also include a small A & E department, and charge people, let's say £20, to come in and be treated. In a taxi, it is going to cost rather more than that to get to the new ERI in Little France and little less to get to the Western General. There is a market for an A&E department in the town centre—especially on a Friday and Saturday night!—and I believe that it could also be a useful stop-in centre at other times too.

To fill in, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was sold to the private sector for £12m then leased to the NHS, so the latter could make a quick buck. The hospital then became a 'prime piece of real estate' and was sold for SIXTY MILLION POUNDS! I'm told the new hospital, Little France, is tremendously clean and friendly place to be, but what good is that, as DK so rightly points out, when any benefit is literally and economically bled away getting there?

More interestingly, however, DK's comments bear testimony to his fine entrepreneurial spirit. Bravo!

[The above figures taken from this helpful article, however suspicious some of its conjectures. There's just no arguing with these Reds!]

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Angry Economist & me

The Angry Economist enjoys applying the iron fist of economic sense to a plethora of issues, with the chief aim of undermining the "leftist strategies [that] are the cause of our current problems".

However, his expositions of contemporary conservatism are extremely well argued and typify the seemingly dispassionate rationalism of the right that leaves lefties red-faced and fuming. Our thanks therefore goes to Mr Nelson for inspiring this blog, whether or not he will regret it remains to be seen.

To kick things off, a recent post gives a compact argument about how private sector is better than public at the efficient management of resources. This adage has been around since the beginning of economics itself; most famously expounded by Nobel laureate Milton Friedman in his calls to 'starve the government'.

However, he has touched only tangentally on the truth. Let us assume that a private sector employee, with hopes of career advancement and rising salary, is good at making profit for his company. Public sector employees are not so good at making profit. Their career advancement, we hope, is through competency in his chosen office. Any differential in competency we can put down to lower wages and fewer opportunities for promotion in the civil service (although the latter is changing).

However, let us underline that the private sector is there to make profit. All other aims are subsumed to this one ambition. As a result markets created through privatisation (wholly/fully) will have a structure to further this end. This will maintain no matter how many government regulations/targets/inspections are carried out. For services such as education and helathcare this is an extremely worrying prospect. The only antidote to such a situation is so much government monitoring so as to make efficiency gains questionable.
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