Posts tagged ‘UK’

Interesting Timing

This last Sunday, September 11, on the same day Hillary Clinton's staff were struggling to erase concerns that Hilary was in poor health after her collapse in New York, PBS Masterpiece aired a nice little movie called "Churchill's Secret".  I recorded it but did not watch it last night, so only yesterday saw the connection:  the movie was about a major stroke Churchill suffered circa 1953, in the midst of his second stint as Prime Minister of the UK.   One subplot, and the reason for the title, was of Churchill's political staff working like crazy to (successfully) hide Churchill's stroke and incapacity from everyone -- media, the public, his own party.  I wonder if PBS, likely Clinton supporters to a person, regrets the timing?

Because Everybody Knows Rich White Males Will Be Hurt the Most By Higher Fuel and Electricity Prices

Apparently, BLM is now protesting for climate action of some sort, temporarily closing an airport in the UK.

BLM has created a very hot brand, and at least for certain segments of the population, it has a lot of accumulated virtue credits.  Now, everyone on the progressive Left wants to use that brand and those virtue credits, and are trying to shove their particular issues under the BLM tent.  BLM is thus in the process of being hijacked.  I give the movement about 60 days to get its messaging in order before its power to actually affect its original issue (police and proprietorial abuse) is at an end.  That doesn't mean that BLM will go away -- if successfully jacked it may be around for decades, but it will be just another progressive shell organization.  This will make its leaders more prominent and even perhaps a lot richer (think gigs at MSNBC), but it will make the goal of getting more accountability applied to police forces a dead letter.

UK: The Kids Are All Right Post-Brexit

There has been a lot written about "chaos" in UK government and financial markets since the Brexit vote, so much so there are supposedly folks who voted for Brexit who want a do-over.

A few thoughts:

  • Short term changes in financial asset prices, like bank stock prices or currency futures, are largely irrelevant in the long-term.  The recent supposed "big drop" in US equities markets, for example, took the market all the way back to where it was in... March, barely 3 months ago.  You will see buying in these assets in the coming days and the drop of the last few days will be largely forgotten soon.   Financial markets don't react well to being surprised, but they will get over it.
  • I don't see how the UK and the pound are necessarily weaker post-Brexit.  The US is fine.  The Swiss are fine.  Heck, the Swiss have to constantly fight to keep their currency lower.
  • Unlike other EU nations, the majority of UK trade is with non-UK nations.  While trade with the EU will likely be on worse terms in the future (though the Swiss and Norwegians have pretty good deals), UK will be unshackled from the EU bureaucracy in negotiating new deals with the rest of the world.  If the US President had any vision whatsoever, he would already have offered the UK a free trade deal, rather than being petty and saying the UK goes to the back of the line for exiting a transnational body the US would never join itself.
  • Much of the "chaos" in British government can be traced 100% to the anti-Brexit folks.  The Anti-Brexit folks very explicitly refused to craft any Brexit contingency plans, using threats of post-Brexit chaos to try to up the pressure against the Brexit vote.  President Obama did the exact same thing with Obamacare, refusing to create contingency plans if the SCOTUS overturned key parts of the ACA, hoping to ratchet up pressure against that outcome.  Had their been at least the outlines of a plan, they would be checking down it right now.  Things I would do as PM on the trade front:  1.  Demand the Swiss deal from the EU for Britain.  2.  Approach major trading partners with offers of free trade deals.  A British commonwealth free trade zone is a great idea.

Was Brexit About Racism or Tea Kettles?

Everyone on the Left is absolutely convinced that the Brexit vote was all about racism.  In part, this is because this is the only way the Progressives know how to argue, the only approach to logic they are taught in college for political argumentation.

Yes, as an immigration supporter, I am not thrilled with the immigration skepticism that dominates a lot of western politics.  I struggle to cry "racism" though, as I confess that even I would be given pause at immigration of millions of folks from Muslim countries who hold a lot of extremely anti-liberal beliefs.

Anyway, I would likely have voted for Brexit had I been in Britain.  I think the EU is a bad idea for Britain on numerous fronts completely unrelated to immigration.  The EU creates a near-dictatorship of unelected bureaucrats who seem to want to push the envelope on petty regulation.  And even if this regulation were just "harmonizing" between countries, Britain would still lose out because it tends to be freer and more open to markets and commerce than many other European countries.

By supporting Brexit, I suppose I would have been called a racist, but it would really have been about this:

The EU is poised to ban high-powered appliances such as kettles, toasters, hair-dryers within months of Britain’s referendum vote, despite senior officials admitting the plan has brought them “ridicule”.

The European Commission plans to unveil long-delayed ‘ecodesign’ restrictions on small household appliances in the autumn. They are expected to ban the most energy-inefficient devices from sale in order to cut carbon emissions.

The plans have been ready for many months, but were shelved for fear of undermining the referendum campaign if they were perceived as an assault on the British staples of tea and toast.

A sales ban on high-powered vacuum cleaners and inefficient electric ovens in 2014 sparked a public outcry in Britain.

EU officials have been instructed to immediately warn their senior managers of any issues in their portfolios that relate to the UK and could boost the Leave campaign were they to become public....

Internet routers, hand-dryers, mobile phones and patio jet-washers are also being examined by commission experts as candidates for new ecodesign rules.

As a free trade supporter, the downside would be the loss of a free trade zone with the rest of Europe, but I am not sure it can be called a "free trade zone" if they are banning toasters.  Britain will negotiate new tariff rates with the EU, just as Switzerland and Norway (much smaller and less important trading partners) have done.

The real crime from a US perspective is the actions of our President.  Mr. Obama has told the British that by voting for Brexit, they go to "the back of the line" for trade negotiations with the US.  This is, amongst a lot of stupid things politicians say, one of the stupidest I have ever heard.  My response as president would have been to move Britain to the front of the line, offering them a free trade treaty with the US the day after the Brexit vote.  Like most politicians, unfortunately, President Obama does not view trade as a vehicle for the enrichment of individuals but as a cudgel to enforce his whims in the foreign policy arena.  Why on Earth has President Obama threatened to undermine America's strong interest in trading with the UK merely to punish the UK for not staying in the EU, a transnational body this country would certainly never join?

Citizens United Haters, Is This Really What You Want? John Oliver Brexit Segment Forced to Air After Vote

A lot of folks, particularly on the Left, despise the Citizens United decision that said it was unconstitutional to limit third party political speech, particularly prior to an election (even if that speech was made by nasty old corporations).  The case was specifically about whether the government could prevent the airing of a third-party produced and funded documentary about one of the candidates just before an election.  The Supreme Court said that the government could not put in place such limits (ie "Congress shall make no law...") but Britain has no such restrictions so we can see exactly what we would get in such a regime.  Is this what you want?

As Britain gears up to vote in the EU referendum later this week, broadcasters are constantly working to ensure their coverage remains impartial. One such company is Sky, which has this week been forced to delay the latest instalment of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight HBO show. Why? Because it contains a 15-minute diatribe on why the UK should remain part of Europe.

Instead of airing the programme after Game of Thrones on Sky Atlantic on Monday night, like it does usually, Sky has pushed it back until 10:10pm on Thursday, just after the polls close. Social media users are up in arms about the decision, but in reality, Sky appears to be playing everything by the book.

Sky's decision allows it to adhere to Ofcom rules that come into effect during elections and referendums. "Sky have complied with the Ofcom broadcasting restrictions at times of elections and referendums that prohibit us showing this section of the programme at this moment in time. We will be able to show it once the polls close have closed on Thursday," a Sky spokesperson told Engadget.

In March, the regulator warned broadcasters that they'd need to take care when covering May's local elections and the subsequent Brexit vote. Section Five (which focuses on Due Impartiality) and Section Six (covering Elections and Referendums) of Ofcom's Code contain guidelines that are designed stop companies like Sky from influencing the public vote. Satirical content is allowed on UK TV networks during these times, but Oliver's delivery is very much political opinion based on facts, rather than straight humour.

By the way, the fact vs. satire distinction strikes me as particularly bizarre and arbitrary.

When will folks realize that such speech limitations are crafted by politicians to cravenly protect themselves from criticism.  Take that Citizens United decision.  Hillary Clinton has perhaps been most vociferous in her opposition to it, saying that if President she will appoint Supreme Court judges that will overturn it.  But note the specific Citizens United case was about whether a documentary critical of .... Hillary Clinton could be aired.  So Clinton is campaigning that when she takes power, she will change the Constitution so that she personally cannot be criticized.  And the sheeple on the Left nod and cheer as if shielding politicians from accountability is somehow "progressive."


If I Were President, On The Day After Vote for Brexit...

I would propose a free-trade agreement with the UK.    No loss of sovereignty, no stupid EU regulations and bureaucrats, no restrictions on what can be called "sausage" -- just trade.  I would offer a similar deal to anyone else who wanted to leave.

Actually, when Obama visited, I would have been tempted to offer it to Britain at that time.  Why was the US President so hell-bent on encouraging closer ties between Britain and Germany when he should have been working to improve the relationship between the UK and the US.

I will admit that I am not thrilled with the anti-immigration tone of the Brexit vote, but the EU is a package deal, and there is a lot of bad with the good in the package.  Here is a good list of reasons to vote for Brexit (hat tip maggies farm)

Chicago's Guantanimo

Chicago police's use of a warehouse at Honan Square to detain suspects for secret interrogations just gets worse and worse.

Police “disappeared” more than 7,000 people at an off-the-books interrogation warehouse in Chicago, nearly twice as many detentions as previously disclosed, the Guardian can now reveal....

According to an analysis of data disclosed to the Guardian in late September, police allowed lawyers access to Homan Square for only 0.94% of the 7,185 arrests logged over nearly 11 years. That percentage aligns with Chicago police’s broader practice of providing minimal access to attorneys during the crucial early interrogation stage, when an arrestee’s constitutional rights against self-incrimination are most vulnerable.

But Homan Square is unlike Chicago police precinct houses, according to lawyers who described a “find-your-client game” and experts who reviewed data from the latest tranche of arrestee records obtained by the Guardian.

“Not much shakes me in this business – baby murder, sex assault, I’ve done it all,” said David Gaeger, an attorney whose client was taken to Homan Square in 2011 after being arrested for marijuana. “That place was and is scary. It’s a scary place. There’s nothing about it that resembles a police station. It comes from a Bond movie or something.”

For whatever reason, the story does not seem to be able to generate much national heat, as partially evidenced by the fact that it takes a UK newspapers to show any initiative on the story.  The Right fetishizes law enforcement,  the Left refuses to take on a powerful public union, and the city is run by a mayor with powerful connections to both the President and Hillary Clinton, so essentially no one is interested.

By the way, most of these folks are being held for hours or days due to drug possession arrests (5386 of the 7000+), yet another indicator of why the war on drugs has become so stupid and counter-productive.

The Utter Economic Ignorance of Tech Web Sites

Despite my advancing years, I still like to stay on the bleeding edge of tech, at least tech gadgets (in fact I would argue that I am of an age I have a hard time taking anyone seriously who calls themselves a hard-core programmer that hasn't had to write in assembly language, as I did back in college).

So I enjoy having 20-something's regale me on new tech goodies at sites like Gizmodo and Engadget.  But a running theme through all these sites is their shocking economic ignorance.  A good example was yesterday at Engadget with Sean Buckley writing on a decision in California to declare Uber drivers as employees of Uber rather than independent contractors.  Months ago I described a similar decision as signalling the death of Uber.  Buckley writes: (my emphasis added)

If you ask Uber, none of their drivers are employees -- just independent contractors who happen to use their network to get fares. If you've been watching the news though, you know some drivers disagree: filing lawsuits both in California and the UK for the right to be recognized as employees. Those drivers just got some vindication, by way of the California unemployment office. According to the Employment Development Department, at least one former Uber driver qualifies for unemployment benefits.

According to Reuters, the EDD decided that a former Uber driver in southern California was an employee; the decision was held up twice by a administrative law judge when Uber appealed. Apparently, Uber's control over the driver was a deciding factor -- the company gets to define fares, bar drivers from picking non-Uber passengers and can even charge drivers a cancellation fee for choosing not to pick up a fare. That's "in fact an employer / employee relationship," according to the decision.

Uber says this ruling doesn't have any impact on pending litigation, but it's certainly a feather in the hat of drivers who want a more traditional relationship with the company. We'll have to wait and see how that turns out as the class-action lawsuit moves forward.

I won't repeat what I wrote here, but suffice it to say that I think Uber is a dead duck in the long run if forced to treat drivers as employees.

The amazing line to me is the highlighted one.  What gives the author confidence that most Uber drivers "want a more traditional relationship with the company."  Is that what you want, more timeclock-punching and 100-page employee manuals?  My experience is that most Uber drivers value the fact that it is not a traditional job environment, and gives them a ton of flexibility on work hours, productivity rates, etc.    And why, by the way, is it assumed that every job must offer the same kind of employment relationship?  If someone doesn't like Uber, there are plenty of companies that will happily treat them like a mindless drone if that is what they like rather than being treated as an independent actor.

By the way, beyond the economic and liberty issues involved, I also think the California decision is just plain wrong in terms of the control Uber exercises.  Sure Uber sets standards for its drivers, but everyone does that for their contractors.  They key thing it does not do is set work hours and productivity rates.  They don't care when you work and they don't care how many passengers you carry in an hour, because you just get paid when you drive a customer.  Can you imagine a company that doesn't care when its employees show up for work or how hard they work when they do show up?  Neither can I, which tells me that this is NOT an employer-employee relationship.

Remember the conversation a few weeks ago over the NY Times article that tried to make Amazon out to be some kind of employer ogre because it sets tough productivity standards for employees?  That is what companies do when they have to pay by the hour (which is essentially how all employees, especially after Obama's most recent changes, must be paid).  So if you don't like companies that set tough productivity standards for workers, then why are you trying to kill labor models that don't require those kinds of standards?

Good God, is There No Indignity Too Trivial For Government Officials to Regulate?

The Business Secretary of the UK is desperately worried that when travelling to other countries, Brits will encounter a different selection of Netflix programming from what they are used to at home.  This trivial issue seems to demand a whole new regulatory and copyright regime:

Vince Cable will risk a clash with the film and music industries on Tuesday by calling for the creation of a single EU market for digital services such as Netflix.

The Business Secretary will say in a speech in Brussels that such services should offer the same content in all EU member states, for services paid for in one country to be available in the same form in all countries and for pricing offers to be replicated across the continent.

At present Netflix and Spotify, which operates a subscription streaming service for music, offers different catalogues at different prices depending on where the customer is located.

Harmonising such services across the EU would require copyright holders to change the way they license their material, which is currently carefully segmented for different geographic markets to maximise sales

Whenever Euro-regulators suggest harmonization across countries, they always assume that harmonization will lead to everyone adopting whatever the lowest current rate and broadest service offering that  exists in any one country.  But why?  That pretty much never happens.  It is at least as likely that anyone getting harmonized will get worse service at a higher price.

The Key Disconnect in the Climate Debate

Much of the climate debate turns on a single logical fallacy.  This fallacy is clearly on display in some comments by UK Prime Minister David Cameron:

It’s worth looking at what this report this week says – that [there is a] 95 per cent certainty that human activity is altering the climate. I think I said this almost 10 years ago: if someone came to you and said there is a 95 per cent chance that your house might burn down, even if you are in the 5 per cent that doesn’t agree with it, you still take out the insurance, just in case.”

"Human activity altering climate" is not the same thing as an environmental catastrophe (or one's house burning down).  The statement that he is 95% certain that human activity is altering climate is one that most skeptics (including myself) are 100% sure is true.  There is evidence that human activity has been altering the climate since the dawn of agriculture.  Man's changing land uses have been demonstrated to alter climate, and certainly man's incremental CO2 is raising temperatures somewhat.

The key question is -- by how much?  This is a totally different question, and, as I have written before, is largely dependent on climate theories unrelated to greenhouse gas theory, specifically that the Earth's climate system is dominated by large positive feedbacks.  (Roy Spenser has a good summary of the issue here.)

The catastrophe is so uncertain that for the first time, the IPCC left estimates of climate sensitivity to CO2 out of its recently released summary for policy makers, mainly because it was not ready to (or did not want to) deal with a number of recent studies yielding sensitivity numbers well below catastrophic levels.  Further, the IPCC nearly entirely punted on the key question of how it can reconcile its past high sensitivity/ high feedback based temperature forecasts with past relative modest measured warming rates, including a 15+ year pause in warming which none of its models predicted.

The overall tone of the new IPCC report is one of declining certainty -- they are less confident of their sensitivity numbers and less confident of their models which have all been a total failure over the last 15 years. They have also backed off of other statements, for example saying they are far less confident that warming is leading to severe weather.

Most skeptics are sure mankind is affecting climate somewhat, but believe that this effect will not be catastrophic.  On both fronts, the IPCC is slowly catching up to us.

Words That Have Been Stripped of Any Meaning: "Spending Cuts" and "Austerity"

I have already written that the supposed European austerity (e.g. in the UK) is no such thing, and "austerity" in these cases is being used to describe what is merely a slowing in spending growth.

Apparently the same Newspeak is being applied to spending cuts in the US.  How else  can one match this data:

With these words from President Obama (my emphasis added)

"If we're going to raise revenues that are sufficient to balance with the very tough cuts that we've already made and the further reforms in entitlements that I’m prepared to make, then we’re going to have to see the rates on the top two percent go up"

Seriously?  The only small reductions in the budget were because some supposedly one-time expenses (like TARP bailouts, war costs, and stimulus spending) were not repeated.  Allowing one-time costs to be, uh, one-time does not constitute "tough cuts."

Tough cuts are when we knock government spending back down to 19-20 percent of GDP.  Clinton level spending in exchange for Clinton tax rates.   That's my proposed deal.

OMG -- More Smoke!

Kudos to a reader who pointed this one out to me from the Mail online.  It is a favorite topic of mine, the use by the more-scientific-than-thou media of steam to illustrate articles on smoke and pollution.

Check out the captions - smoke is billowing out.  Of course, what they are likely referring to -- the white plumes from the 8 funnel-shaped towers -- is almost certainly pure water.  These are cooling towers, which cool water through evaporative cooling.  These towers are often associated with nuclear plants (you can see that in the comments) but are used for fossil fuel plants as well.  There does appear to be a bit of smoke in the picture, but you have to look all the way in the upper left from the two tall thin towers, and one can see a hint of emissions.  Even in this case, the plume from the nearer and smaller of the two stacks appears to contain a lot of water vapor as well.  My guess is the nasty stuff, to the extent it exists, is coming from the tallest stack, and it is barely in the picture and surely not the focus of the caption.

The article itself is worth a read, arguing that figures from the UK Met office show there has not been any global warming for 16 years.  This is not an insight for most folks who follow the field, so I did not make a big deal about it, but it is interesting that a government body would admit it.

Things You Didn't Know About the European Debt Crisis

Apparently the most important issue is not the unsustainability of deficit spending, lack of fiscal responsibility, or the tough problems of balancing expensive bailouts with expensive defaults.  It is making sure the timing of a Greek default does not negatively affect Obama's re-election.  From the Independent (UK) entitled, "Obama asks eurozone to keep Greece in until after election day"

American officials are understood to be worried that if they decide Greece has not done enough to meet its deficit targets and withhold the money, it would automatically trigger Greece's exit from the eurozone weeks before the Presidential election on 6 November.

They are urging eurozone Governments to hold off from taking any drastic action before then – fearing that the resulting market destabilisation could damage President Obama's re-election prospects. European leaders are thought to be sympathetic to the lobbying fearing that, under pressure from his party lin Congress, Mitt Romney would be a more isolationist president than Mr Obama.


I Find This Impossible to Understand

Most of you are familiar with the razor and blades strategy:  Give away or sell the razor below cost to ensure years of profitable razor blade sales.  We had a great example of this at AlliedSignal (later Honeywell) Aerospace where we pretty much gave Boeing the brake assemblies for the aircraft plus a free spare plus I think we put some cash in the box as well, all to get decades of guaranteed high price brake replacement business (courtesy in part to government regulation which made is extraordinarily difficult to the point of being impossible for anyone else to produce aftermarket parts).

So what I don't understand is, why is this company proposing to sell only the razors while inevitably leaving the blade sales to someone else:

The UK's biggest bookstore chain has announced that it will start selling Kindles alongside other digital services from Amazon. Waterstones stores will let Kindle owners digitally browse books in-store and link up with special offers, tying into the chain's plans for substantial renovations that would also include dedicated digital book areas and free WiFi.

One buys the books right from the Kindle interface.  I understand the issue that browsing books online is less satisfying than in a book store (but much more convenient), but I am not sure how they are going to make money.  Are Waterstone Kindle's coded to give Waterstones a share of each purchase?  I can't find anything like that in the media reports, but I would certainly demand that at Waterstones.  If not, this is like selling gift certificates for your competitor.

I will confess to being a book store free rider.  I shop airport book stores but if I see something I like, pull out my iPad at the gate and buy it.  Yes, I understand the appeal of physical books and it frankly pulled at me for years.  But having just gone on a trip with 100 pages to read in the third Game of Thrones book, the relief I felt in having both the third and fourth books on my iPad rather than carrying both physically  (think 800 pages or so each) was great.

OMG, Austerity!

via here

The UK line is particularly interesting, since that is the country that Krugman has declared is austerity-izing itself into a depression. As I have pointed out before, real government spending in UK has been and is still rising.  The percent of GDP of this spending has fallen a bit, but there is nothing about Keynesian stimulus theory that says changes in the percentage of government spending is stimulative, only its absolute value.

Here is one thing I would love to here Krugman et. al. opine on -- at what percentage of government debt to GDP does additional deficit spending become counter-stimulative.   I imagine there is an inverse relationship for deficit-funded stimulus, such that it has a larger effect at lower debt levels with a zero to negative effect at higher interest levels.

Update:  From another source, here is the UK in real $

And We Climate Skeptics Get Called Evil

From the Gaurdian via Bishop Hill

The Guardian is reporting that UK climate change aid money has been used to fund forced sterilisation programmes in India.

Tens of millions of pounds of UK aid money have been spent on a programme that has forcibly sterilised Indian women and men, the Observer has learned...

Court documents filed in India earlier this month claim that many victims have been left in pain, with little or no aftercare. Across the country, there have been numerous reports of deaths and of pregnant women suffering miscarriages after being selected for sterilisation without being warned that they would lose their unborn babies.

Yet a working paper published by the UK's Department for International Development in 2010 cited the need to fight climate change as one of the key reasons for pressing ahead with such programmes. The document argued that reducing population numbers would cut greenhouse gases, although it warned that there were "complex human rights and ethical issues" involved in forced population control.

MF Global: Unethical, But Perhaps Not Illegal

Investors everywhere were shocked to see that MF Global seems to have lost over a billion dollars of their customers capital.  In most cases, this capital was cash customers thought was sequestered as collateral for their trading accounts.  MF Global took its customers money and used that money as collateral in making risky, leveraged bets on European sovereign debt, bets that fell apart as debt prices fell and MF Global faced margin calls on its bets that it did not have the liquidity to cover.

Certainly it strikes most folks as unethical to lose the assets in your customers' brokerage accounts making bets for the house.  But it turns out, it may have been entirely legal.  This article is quite good, and helps explain what was going on, what this "hypothecation" thing is (basically a fancy term for leveraging up assets by using them as collateral on loans), and why it may have been legal.

In short, the article discusses two regulatory changes that seemed to be important.  The first was a 2000 (ie Clinton era, for those who still think these regulatory screwups are attributable to a single Party) relaxation in how brokerages could invest customers' collateral in their trading accounts.  The second was a loophole where brokerages created subsidiaries in countries with no controls on how client money was re-used (in this case mostly the UK) and used those subsidiaries to reinvest money even in US brokerage accounts.

The increase in leverage was staggering.  Already, cash in most commodities trading accounts is leveraged - customers might have only 30% of the value of their trading positions as collateral on their margin account.  Then the brokerage houses took this collateral and used it as collateral on new loans.  Those receiving the collateral on the other end often did the same.

MF Global would be bad if it were fraud.  But it is even worse if MF Global is doing legally what every other brokerage house is still doing.

Here is the minimum one should do:  Diversify brokerage accounts.  We diversify between bonds and stocks and other investments, but many people have everything in one account with one company.  I am not sure anyone can be trusted any more.  My mutual funds are now spread across three firms and, if I grow my brokerage account for individual stocks and investments (right now it is tiny) I will split that as well.

Speaking of Government Science...

Thank God for the Left and their scientific approach to government decision making

EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration...

EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.

Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.

For three years a group of government employees actually got paid to come to the conclusion that drinking water does not prevent dehydration.  Congrats.

If you want an explanation, my guess is that this is part of the Left's war on bottled water.  For some bizarre reason, bottled water has been singled out as one of the evils of modern technology that will drive us into a carbon dioxide-induced climate disaster.  So I don't think the EU would have approved any label claim for water.  Since this is such an absurdly obvious claim that most consumers would just chuckle at (yes, consumers can be trusted to parse product claims), I almost wonder if some water company didn't just float this to make the point that no claim could be approved in the EU system.

Thoughts on the Greek Bailout / Debt Writedown

I am not at all a financial or Wall Street guy, but I had a few thoughts

  • I am amazed at the equity rally over this.   Writing down one country's debt, without fixing its underlying financial problem or dealing with all the other countries who have problems, seems a small win.  Particularly when this one country stretched European resources to the breaking point, and there are a lot of other lined up just behind Greece.
  • Its interesting to see how much everyone bent over backwards not to trigger payouts from credit default swaps (CDS).  If this is the wave of the future, I would be shorting sovereign debt at the same time I was writing CDS contracts on sovereign debt.    Maybe this is exactly why I am not a trader, but it strikes me that if you had an arsonist around burning down houses, while at the same time the government worked hard to let fire insurance companies avoid paying off on the fire damage, wouldn't you be shorting houses and long on fire insurance companies?
  • How smart does the UK feel right now for staying out of the common currency?  The anti-EU folks in the UK should be calling for that referendum on EU participation right now.   It would likely fail by a landslide.
  • The question that keeps nagging at me -- is it really worth as much as a trillion euros to keep Greece in the Euro?  Why?
Update:  Oh, and I left out the obvious take:  moral hazard
When sharing our kneejerk reaction to yesterday's latest European resolution, we pointed out the obvious: "Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy will promptly commence sabotaging their economies (just like Greece) simply to get the same debt Blue Light special as Greece." Sure enough, 6 hours later Bloomberg is out with the appropriately titled: "Irish Spy Reward Opportunity in Greece’s Debt Hole." Bloomberg notes that Ireland has not even waited for the ink to be dry before sending out feelers on just what the possible "rewards" may be: "Greece’s failure to cut spending and boost revenue by enough to meet targets set by the European Union and International Monetary Fund prompted bondholders to accept a 50 percent loss on its debt. While Ireland won’t seek debt discounts, the government might pursue other relief given to Greece, including cheaper interest payments on aid and longer to repay it, according to a person familiar with the matter who declined to be identified as no final decision has been taken."

Al Gore Meets Movie Gore: Climate Alarmism Jumps the Bandersnatch

I suppose one cold say that climate alarmism jumped the shark years ago.  But they have certainly moved to a new level, one for which there is not even a term, in this video.  This video has everything - the government school teacher politically indoctrinating the kids, followed by bloody gory death dealt out to the kids who refuse to toe the government line.  I am not kidding.

When I first saw it, I was sure it was a skeptic satire, ala Jonathon Swift's 'A Modest Proposal,'  and I am still afraid that this may be some elaborate put-on because the video and its message -- that skeptics need to be killed -- is so obscene.   But apparently, according to this article at the Guardian, it is totally for real and includes contributions from some fairly prominent artists, as well as funding from the UK government and the 10:10 program  (a plea to reduce carbon emissions by 10% per year, eerily with a name probably purposely similar to 9-11).

Our friends at the 10:10 climate change campaign have given us the scoop on this highly explosive short film, written by Britain's top comedy screenwriter Richard Curtis, ahead of its general release....

Had a look? Well, I'm certain you'll agree that detonating school kids, footballers and movie stars into gory pulp for ignoring their carbon footprints is attention-grabbing. It's also got a decent sprinkling of stardust "“ Peter Crouch, Gillian Anderson, Radiohead and others.  But it's pretty edgy, given 10:10's aim of asking people, businesses and organisations to take positive action against global warming by cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in a year, and thereby pressuring governments to act.

"Doing nothing about climate change is still a fairly common affliction, even in this day and age. What to do with those people, who are together threatening everybody's existence on this planet? Clearly we don't really think they should be blown up, that's just a joke for the mini-movie, but maybe a little amputating would be a good place to start?" jokes 10:10 founder and Age of Stupid film maker Franny Armstrong.

But why take such a risk of upsetting or alienating people, I ask her: "Because we have got about four years to stabilise global emissions and we are not anywhere near doing that. All our lives are at threat and if that's not worth jumping up and down about, I don't know what is."

The latter claim is hilarious.  Over the next four years, CO2 levels will likely increase, if they stay on trend, from .0392% of the atmosphere to .0400% of the atmosphere.  I would love to see these so-called science-based folks demonstrate how the next .0008% shift in atmospheric concentration triggers the point-of-no return tipping point.  In actual fact, the have just latched onto the round number of 400ppm and declared, absolutely without evidence, that this number (which the Earth has crossed many times in the past) will somehow lead to a runaway chain reaction.

Anyway, I have teased it long enough,  here is the video.  Beware -- there is gore (no pun intended) here worthy of a zombie movie.

Wow, its sure good that the world has decided that skeptics are the mindless, thuggish, anti-science side of this debate, because if that had not already been made clear, we might think that key climate alarmism groups had lost their freaking minds.  It will be interesting to see if this gets any play in the US media -- my guess is it will not.  Magazines are happy to spend twenty pages dissecting the motives of the Koch family in funding skeptic and libertarian causes, but environmentalists get a free pass, even with stuff like this.

Lubos Motl is all over this, and has mirror sites for the video if (or more likely when) the video gets taken down. This is one of those propaganda offers that are the product of an echo chamber, with a group of like-minded people all patting themselves on the back only to be surprised at the inevitable public backlash.

I have mirrored the video here in case it gets a youtube takedown.

Update: As a reminder, this is not satire.  It is made by a group of true believers.  It was funded and approved and released by a climate alarmism group, which paid top dollar (including UK taxpayer funds) for a large professional team of actors, writers, and directors.  All interviewed participants, including the first little actor blown up, have stated how proud they were of the film and its contribution to educating people on the need for immediate action on global warming.

For the last hour, I have sat and tried to think if, as a skeptic, I had wanted to make a satire critiquing the excesses of global warming alarmism, could I have made a better video.  The only thing that might have made it better would have been if the final button-pusher was someone famous like James Cameron or Bono, who after then pushed the button climbed on their Gulfstream jet to fly home.  But that's just a quibble.   I have changed my opinion.  This may be the greatest skeptic video ever, and the Koch family didn't even have to pay a dime for it.  Thanks 10:10.

Update #2: This movie reminds me of nothing so much as Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards.  It is clearly not reality, but the author's fantasy.  Tarantino fantasizes about a group of jews kicking ass on the Nazi high command and ending the war early.  10:10 fantasizes about blowing up skeptics, in a video that, amazingly, is more blood-spattered than Tarantino's.

Update #3: The group pulls the video with a classic "I'm sorry you guys are so easily offended" apology.

Update #4: Unsurprisingly, Joe Romm (in the italics in this post) goes to the kindergarten argument of "he started it," arguing that the video is just the flip side of the stuff skeptics are doing all the time.  In making  his pitch, he shows the mindset that allowed this stupid film to get made.

I am not sure exactly what comparable films skeptics have produced that are similar, and the only example he can cite is Anthony Watt's blog post comments on the shooting of an eco-terrorist.  I did not even go back and look at Watt's comments, but I generally think that lots of people are too gleeful when suspected criminals, who are innocent before the law, are gunned down by police.

Never-the-less, its seems a stretch to equate  the offhand comments in real time of an independent blogger with a film involving probably a hundred people (including those who commissioned it in the 10:10 organization), commissioned in an official and thoughtful act (after all this had to be months in the works), and funded in part by the British government.  He takes the opportunity of his team's screw-up to launch this broadside on people like me (in bold no less).

None of this excuses that disgusting video.  But the difference is that those who are trying to preserve a livable climate and hence the health and well-being of our children and billions of people this century quickly denounce the few offensive over-reaches of those who claim to share our goals "” but those trying to destroy a livable climate, well, for them lies and hate speech are the modus operandi, so such behavior is not only tolerated, but encouraged.

Is anyone else getting tired of this working definition that "hate speech" is any speech by people who disagree with me, because I have the best interest of humanity in mind so clearly those who oppose me hate the human race?

Note you can see this right in his statement -- "for those trying to destroy a livable climate."  That's absurd.  Does he really think anyone is trying to destroy a livable climate?  I could say that through CO2 controls he is trying to impoverish billions of poor people in lesser developed countries by halting development, but I don't think that is really his motive.  I think that is an outcome of what he advocates, just as he thinks an unlivable climate is an outcome of what I advocate, but I can distinguish between motives and assumptions, but he apparently cannot.   This attitude is EXACTLY what causes this kind of unfortunate video to be made -- it is only a small step from believing, as he says he does, that skeptics are "trying to destroy a liveable climate" to making a movie that jokes about killing them all (or, to be frank, to feeling justified in acts of eco-terrorism).

I encourage you to watch my climate video and decide if folks like me are trying to thoughtfully decipher nature or are engaging in hate speech.

Update #5: Funny -- Gillian Anderson, actress from the 10:10 video, warning of Y2K dangers.

Update #6: I guess this was inevitable, but all the rats in the 10:10 ship are claiming that they had no idea what the video would be like and were appalled when they saw it.  Right.  An organization funds a major film production, including any number of high profile participants, and no one asked to see a script, screened the video before release, or even asked for some kind of written treatment of the concept?  Yeah, right.   No one in the 10:10 organization or who funded the video even peeked at it before it was released to the entire planet?  This is so utterly lame but will probably be enough of a fig leaf for most of the media to hide behind and allow them not to follow up on a video whose basic premises they likely agree with.

Awesome Takedown of Homeopathy

I have written about it before, but here is Matt Parker:

I have just purchased a packet of Boots-brand 84 arnica homeopathic 30C Pills for £5.09, which Boots proudly claim is only 6.1p per pill. Their in-store advice tells me that arnica is good for treating "bruising and injuries", which gives the impression that this is a very cost-effective health-care option.

Unlike most medication, it didn't list the actual dose of the active ingredient that each pill contains, so I checked the British Homeopathic Association website. On their website it nonchalantly states that to make a homeopathic remedy, they start with the active ingredient and then proceed to dilute it to 1 per cent concentration. Then they dilute that new solution again, so there is now only 0.01 per cent of the original ingredients. For my 30C pills this diluting is repeated thirty times, which means that the arnica is one part in a million billion billion billion billion billion billion.

The arnica is diluted so much that there is only one molecule of it per 7 million billion billion billion billion pills.

It's hard to comprehend numbers that large. If you were to buy that many pills from Boots, it would cost more than the gross domestic product of the UK. It's more than the gross domestic product of the entire world. Since the dawn of civilisation. If every human being since the beginning of time had saved every last penny, denarius and sea-shell, we would still have not saved-up enough to purchase a single arnica molecule from Boots.

The amazing thing to me is that the folks lining up to be fleeced by this industry, and who will vociferously defend that they are not being fleeced, are the types of folks who are typically the first to throw up the barricades in the street when gas prices rise by 5 cents.

By the way, Arizona has a state board of homeopathic examiners to check ... what, exactly?  To guarantee no active ingredient made its way into the product?

Here is a funny related video:

A Green Business Model

An enterprising UK resident has questions about starting a new green business:

My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a check for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs. I would now like to join the "not rearing pigs" business....

My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is "“ until this year, when he received a check for not rearing any.

If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100?  I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department....

Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tons of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don't rear?

I wonder if we adopted this in the US, if jobs not lost not growing grain to not feed to pigs that aren't reared  would count in the stimulus numbers?

via Tom Nelson

It's Official: Global Warming Alarmism is a Religion (at Least in the UK)

Via Anthony Watt, from the UK Telegraph:

An executive has won the right to sue his employer on the basis that he was unfairly dismissed for his green views after a judge ruled that environmentalism had the same weight in law as religious and philosophical beliefs.

In a landmark ruling, Mr Justice Michael Burton said that "a belief in man-made climate change "¦ is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations".

The ruling could open the door for employees to sue their companies for failing to account for their green lifestyles, such as providing recycling facilities or offering low-carbon travel.

John Bowers QC, representing Grainger, had argued that adherence to climate change theory was "a scientific view rather than a philosophical one", because "philosophy deals with matters that are not capable of scientific proof."

That argument has now been dismissed by Mr Justice Burton, who last year ruled that the environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore was political and partisan.

The decision allows the tribunal to go ahead, but more importantly sets a precedent for how environmental beliefs are regarded in English law.

Wow!  Its a  religion, not a scientific position.  I probably should be laughing, but I'm not.

Eeek! The Brits Have REALLY Lost Their Way

I am really left speechless by this.

The Children's Secretary set out £400million plans to put 20,000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV super-vision in their own homes.

They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.

Private security guards will also be sent round to carry out home checks, while parents will be given help to combat drug and alcohol addiction.

Around 2,000 families have gone through these Family Intervention Projects so far.

It actually undershoots the mark to call this "Orwellian," since in "1984" the government monitoring was aimed mainly at combating subversive thought and behavior.  But the Brits are going one better, monitoring families to make sure their kids are eating their vegetables and getting to bed on time.

Incredibly, the oppositions response is that this is... not nearly enough intervention!!!

But Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: "This is all much too little, much too late.

"This Government has been in power for more than a decade during which time anti-social behaviour, family breakdown and problems like alcohol abuse and truancy have just got worse and worse."

Is there any voice left for individual liberties in England?  Am I missing something here?  This seems simply horrible.  Is there at least due process involved, such that such measures can only be imposed as a result of a criminal conviction (I don't think so, from my reading of the story and comments -- I think this is like Child Protective Services in the US, with a lot of not-subject-to-due-process intervention powers, but maybe my UK readers can fill in more detail).

I liked this from the comments:

These cameras should be in MPs homes so we can see what the scumbags are up too.

Ditto for Congress.  And how about a Lincoln Bedroom cam?

Hat Tip:  Engadget

The Brits Are Really Losing It

Banning welcome mats...

Families living in a flat block have been told to remove welcome mats from their porches because they are a health and safety risk.

They have also been told to remove pot plants because they create trip hazards and fire risks.

Residents at the block in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs. say the items have never caused problems.

...and implementing Castro-style block watches

In partnership with regional chapters of the charity group Crimestoppers U.K., multiple local police forces have launched a program called "Too Much Bling? Give Us a Ring." The object of the program is to encourage people who suspect that a neighbor or acquaintance is living off the proceeds of crime to anonymously provide information about that person to the police...

A key component of the "Too Much Bling?" program is its effort to tap into any resentment and anger members of the public may feel toward suspected criminals.

In a release issued by the Sussex Police Department, which used the program to help seize more than £1.5 million between April and December of last year, Detective Sergeant Mick Richards said, "Members of the public are sick and tired of seeing people with no legitimate income living a lavish lifestyle. We are working hard towards taking the cash out of crime making use of all the powers granted to us under the Proceeds of Crime Act and other legislation.

"I am very aware that in these difficult times how disheartening it is to see people 'flashing the cash' when you know that it has come from a life of crime and that they appear to be 'getting away with it,'" he said.