Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Guardian - ignorant again.

Is any painting really worth $179m?

Sarah and Tiffany scream at each other, ignoring, across the hardly-crowded bar of Comment is Fatuous, the public. Sarah is, apparently, a "cultural sociologist", while Tiffany has the job that rightly belongs to Brian Sewell* at the Torygraph.

They add:

Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O) set a new world record last week for the most expensive painting sold at auction

What they fail to realise is that value is purely in the eye of the purchaser, or potential purchaser. That's it. All of it. The definition of value. To the purchaser, who almost certainly doesn't care what a fundamentally unimportant pair of British metro-ignroant harpies decide.

On a personal equivalency, I've paid a couple of hundred quid for various bits of debris this month, much to Mrs SE's disgust. Admittedly, they are 4.6 billion year (a few 100,000 years less for some of them) debris so I think I have a point. Her opinion varies.

Would I have paid staggeringly large amounts of cash for that Picasso? No. Even if I had the wodge. Which I don't. Would I have sacked my entirely hypothetical investment portfolio manager if she had? No. Because she isn't interested in art. She's interested in gain after tax.

* Who is, actually, for all the acerbic front, a really genuine bloke. Well, not "bloke". Possibly "chap".

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Christians should resist persecution without violence

Dear ++Cantur,

Whilst I understand the theological derivation, even certainty, behind your message, can I politely suggest that reality will generally say "Sod that for a game of victims"?


Surreptitious Evil.
(A clerk under minor holy orders.)

Monday, February 09, 2015

Now, I got this completely wrong ...

BBC headline:

"Lawyers bite over 'Left Shark' model"

So, there's me thinking some lawyers complaining about some other lawyers new form of sales strategy which describes the participants as sharks.

Nothing so amusing. Instead, it's a rather boring IPR thing about Katy Perry's Superbowl show.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Politicians. Why are they so ignorant?

Okay, so there was some politician* ranting on the Today programme about how utopia would arrive when she became Lord Protector (I think.) Anyway, the usual spend, spend, spend (costings to be explained in our manifesto in March) but this wasn't, definitely, not, a manifesto for the 2015 General Election. No way.

Anyway ...

One of her key points was "to raise the Living Wage to £10 per hour". Now, this is pig ignorance of the highest quality, and went unchallenged by the leftists on BBC Radio's flagship programme. Demanding that, or stating that they would, increase the Minimum Wage, that would be logical, if not necessarily sensible.

However, the Living Wage is a measure of what you need to be able to spend to not be considered poor. It is a combination of Purchasing Power Parity rates and social expectations (Adam Smith's linen shirt example.) Raises the Living Wage is a matter of general inflation and changes in social attitudes, not political diktat. In an ideal world, the Living Wage should be very low (although as social attitudes and spending expectations change, it is unlikely ever to go below Minimum Wage levels, whether legally enforced or set by the markets.)

If you assume that the Living Wage Foundation, who have taken this over from the Joseph Rowntree Trust, spend reasonable care in their calculations, then this probably is a better guide to an aspiration wage (remembering in work benefits) although I'm still more convinced by Tim's arguments about the difference between the taxed Living Wage and a putatively untaxed Minimum Wage (both at current rates.)

* Google suggests it was Natalie Bennet. This means that what she is actually talking about is the maximum wage anybody can afford to pay once Green Party economic policies have been widely implemented. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

That evil Benefits Cap

Driving to the train station this morning, I listened to the denunciation of the Benefits Cap on the Today programme. Typical for the metro-socialist tendency of al-Beeb.

Key amongst the points made was that, against a climate of rising Housing Benefit, the saving from the Benefits Cap was neglible.

This, of course, missed the point. The Benefits Cap was not, fundamentally, introduced to provide significant savings to the Exchequer. It was introduced because it was felt that it was wrong, improper, or even immoral, that some people were earning more in benefits than the average earnings - hence the £26000 figure. Barring some people with significant disability costs (such as live-in carers, which almost certainly could be dealt with outwith the benefits system, or even just excluded from the Cap - which, of course, they currently are), it does take a particularly statist mindset to see this as unreasonable (albeit that the London-centric media will quibble about the specific level being unfit to keep a family in Fairtrade organic quinoa.)

However, specifically, there was a note that most of the families hit by the cap had seen a reduction in Housing Benefit by over £100 per week. This was interesting - I don't live in a tiny house, nor in a particularly cheap housing area, although I don't live anywhere near London. £100 per week, £440 per month, is just under half of my mortgage (and the mortgage was for pretty much the entire purchase price, since I hadn't sold the previous property at the time, and had been subsequently extended for a central heating replacement.)

So the _cut_ in Housing Benefit, not the full amount they had previously been getting, would have paid half the mortgage on a mid-Victorian farmhouse.

Is it any wonder normal working people found this appalling?

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The "rule of law" should be suspended for people we dislike


Responding to the ruling NSPCC Wales head of service Des Mannion said: "It is extremely frightening that a child rapist described as 'very dangerous' and unrepentant has been released back in to the community due to what seems like a legal technicality surrounding the timing of the offence."

This is increasingly common, not least amongst the Richard Murphy tendency.


As a starter, in my opinion, it is bad enough that the law is as complex as it is. The average punter has nothing expect the increasingly vague moral framework we inherit from our environment (and, of course, mandatory testing on the Road Traffic Act) to determine what is actually legal. Professionally, I have corrected senior counsel on their interpretation of the law (albeit it in a field of professional and personal interest) - and I have had fewer law lectures than I have had stats ones. And, to their credit, they admitted (after lunch) that I was correct.

If we require people to obey the law as it might be framed in the future?

This has nothing to do with whether the appropriate sentence for a specific (or any) rapist should be less than the statutory maximum - which is life.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Is this a made up name?

From here, talking about organised, paid, pro-Putin trolling:

"Kristina Potupchik is probably kicking herself right now," he adds, referring to the blogger, now seemingly retired, who for years led trolling efforts by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi. "In her day, of course, there wasn't nearly the budget for Internet pollution as they have now."

Whatever. But Kristina "Pop Up Chick"? Seriously?

Thursday, September 04, 2014

I'm puzzled.


In Reprieve's eyes, BT was therefore partly responsible for deaths dealt from Djibouti drones, and should be answerable for it.

So I had a look at the OECD document that Reprieve are complaining BT are in breach of. One of the first things I see is

They provide non-binding principles and standards for responsible business conduct in a global context consistent with applicable laws and internationally recognised standards.

So, actually, the guidelines are completely irrelevant. What is relevant and what BT should be accountable for is any breach of applicable law.

Of course, if Reprieve win, it will effectively signal joint-supplier liability for any multinational from providing any products or services to any military or paramilitary organisation anywhere. Even in their home-base country. Which, frankly, ain't going to happen.

Oh, and, if BT can crack the encryption that the Yanks will have put on the carrier circuit, then they better not tell the NSA.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


(Ed notes: I drafted this on the train in to work this morning and had pretty much a day of end-to-end meeting hell. Although I now know that a [coughs] "long-term" ceasefire has now been agreed, I don't think it changes the sentiment of what I had written.)

The population of Gaza is some 1.8 million people, crammed in to an area of 139 square miles. Not quite Macau, or even Hong Kong (which I had thought was the most crowded 'country') but certainly quite cramped.

Over the last seven weeks, the planes, tanks, attack helicopters and infantry of the Israeli Defence Forces have, according to Hamas figures, killed some 2200 of them. Roughly 0.1%.

In contrast, the Rwandan genocide, conducted with machetes and fire, saw the slaughter of some 70%* of the Tutsi population.

What can we judge from this?

Either that there was (Ed note: I originally wrote 'is') no attempt to commit genocide in Gaza or that the IDF are simply not very good at it. In fact, very bad at it.

* 'Fact' from Wikipedia. YMMV.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Yes, the USA is different ...

We know the Yanks do things in different ways. From playing the World Series*, to which the world is not invited, to ignoring almost everything they do to alleviate poverty in calculating their poverty statistics ... The USA is different.

This time, it is the BBC banging on about the environment:
Beef cattle need 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than pork, poultry, eggs or dairy.

The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Well, yes. Almost everybody else allows beef cattle to graze and then supplies them with fodder over the winter. Famously not, of course, Kobe beef cattle nor the vast amount of US beef cattle which are grain fed.

The statistic may be true for the US, but the watermelons are already out denouncing the wholly different European method of beef farming.

* Yes, I know it is claimed that even Yanks aren't this parochial and the competition is named after the "New York World" newspaper but, it probably wasn't. From Snopes: "The New York World never had anything to do with the World Series, however, other than being one of the many newspapers to report the results."

Friday, June 27, 2014

"Utter Humiliation" says the Millitwerp

Apparently, Jean-Claude Juncker becoming President of the EU Commission will be

"a total failure to deliver and an utter humiliation" for David Cameron
according to Ed Milliband.

Clearly, of course, it is a failure to deliver - against a rather impressively stacked system signed up to by well, a Labour Prime Minister. So, yes, obviously a "did not achieve". But a "humiliation"?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bet you Nigel wishes he'd had this vote-booster before Thursday

The least popular man in Britain speaks out:
UKIP has "no solutions to the problems of the 21st Century", former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said. ... Mr Blair said it must also "confront and expose" parties like UKIP. "You look underneath that UKIP facade and you see something pretty nasty and unpleasant," he told BBC Radio 4.
I wonder how many more votes UKIP would have got with that enthusiastic anti-backing from the Middle East Peace Envoy?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

EU election results widget

It's not going to work until Sunday but ...

Priorities: You've Got Them Wrong, Russia

Whether Prince Charles was correct or appropriate in what he said, it is clear he had a defensible point.

Hitler's annexations of the Sudentenland and Austria were ostensibly to protect native Germans from provocations that were largely engineered by the Nazis themselves.

Putin's annexation of Crimea was ostensibly to protect native Russians from provocations that were largely engineered by the previous, corrupt Russophilic regime.

However, an lets be clear on this, if HRH's comments "risk triggering an international scandal", what exactly is the result of Russia's illegal invasion and occupation of Crimea and interference in Eastern Ukraine? Mild shivers?

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Modern Lefties and their Incentives Problem.

Lefties care. They care very, very much. They're always telling us so. (As well as telling us that "the far right", "neo-liberals" or whoever simply don't care.)

Thinking about a piece of Tim's over on Forbes, I realised that, if you are a sufficiently intelligent lefty to abhor state (as opposed to common or collective, actual state) ownership, which has proven to work so well in the USSR, East Germany and even China, and is still ruining the economies of Cuba and Venezuela (I'm not sure that the DPRK actually counts as having an 'economy' as such), then you have a serious problem.

1. Making poor people better off is, by and large (and not necessarily in cash terms) what you are trying to do.

2. All the good ways we have seen of making really poor people directly better off actually make rich people even better off faster (that would be the capitalist globalism of the post-WW2 era.)

3. Redistribution only works up to a point (Laffer.) And doesn't really affect the seriously rich, especially as long as we have such complex tax laws.

4. Wealth taxes trash long and even medium term economic development. While Piketty thinks this is insufficient to denounce wealth taxes, he, as a well-salaried French public servant, "would say that, wouldn't he."


This is petty to the point of imbecility.

While I'm not quite in the "get out the piano wire" mode of Mr Worstall, this case (Telegraph, Mirror) makes me cringe through its abject stupidity.

Kim Walmsley, 49, said her 23-year marriage was declared illegal and she was forced to return from Australia after she could not renew her passport.

Her troubles began when the registrar wrongly recorded her as a male after she was born in February 1965.

Okay, so there are two totally separate issues here - the bureaucracy and the church. Now, nobody expects sense out of any bureaucracy and nobody expects sense from the Church of England on matters that could be considered, from even a hypothetically reductio ad absurdum conservative point of view, to have anything to do with sex.

But ...

As far as the bureaucracy is concerned, a transsexual would be entitled to a "certificate of gender recognition". Mrs Walmsley should be entitled to a "certificate of sex and gender recognition". Or just "sex recognition". So that's settled.

As far as the Church is concerned, their error is far more egregious. It should not be worried about matters of bureaucratic incompetence or, in fact, bureaucratic recognition. Given that the Church's current position is that marriage is between a man and a woman - Section B, Canon 30, paragraph 1:

The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord's teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

And Kim is clearly a woman (she's given birth to five children) and, Jack is a man, then the marriage is clearly canonical, regardless of the failings of the English Registry system.

Edited to add: reading elsewhere, Kim clearly has a case for an amendment to the register under s29(3) of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953:
An error of fact or substance in any such register may be corrected by entry in the margin (without any alteration of the original entry) by the officer having the custody of the register, and upon production to him by that person of a statutory declaration setting forth the nature of the error and the true facts of the case made by two qualified informants of the birth or death with reference to which the error has been made, or in default of two qualified informants then either by two credible persons having knowledge of the truth of the case or, where it applies, in accordance with section 29A of this Act. 

Noting that s29A does not apply in this case (it is restricted to mis-identification of the father), then two qualified informants (in accordance with s1(2) of the same Act). Her parents would do, if they are still alive (and she's 49, so it wouldn't be abnormal) or two credible persons. I would suggest any of the obstetricians or midwives who oversaw any of her pregnancies or births or any gynecologist would do.

Now, this would not alter the initial in-correct registration but it would correct it and allow her issue of an accurate birth certificate and, providing the Church wasn't insanely stupid (I'm not offering odds here) belated re-recognition of the validity of her original marriage.
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(c) 'Surreptitious Evil' 2006 - 2013.