Archive for August 2012

Roulez, roulez, vous obtenez un emploi ici…*

It appears that the French, having thrown out Sarkozy in May, are rapidly losing faith in his replacement as well. This in and of itself is hardly newsworthy but what caught my attention was this:

The French government announced a €2.3bn programme to create jobs for 150,000 young people without skills […]

By my maths that makes works out at about 15,333 (plus shrapnel) EUR per job. Which, given that the dead hand of government is involved, seems far too cheap. I assume, therefore, that that figure is what will be paid to the recipients of the non-jobs which they intend to create in an attempt to massage their unemployment figures and that the administration costs haven’t been taken into account.

Translating this into a slightly less worthless fiat currency, it works out at approximately 12,140 GBP or fractionally under the our minimum wage (assuming a 40hr week).

Although labelled “jobs for the future”, critics dismissed the scheme as an old-fashioned “make-work” programme. The state will pay 75 per cent of wages for youngsters hired by councils or voluntary organisations to take part in environmental, social, cultural or sports projects.

[Labour Minister Michel] Sapin said the scheme – which will create 100,000 jobs in the public sector and 50,000 in the private sector by 2014 […].

And the critics would be right. 150,000 people taking more money from the French taxpayer than they would be if they were on benefits is not really the way to run a railroad.

Still, if Hollande wants to wreck his economy by being foolish, who am I to argue? If only it weren’t also happening over here

* Roll-up, roll-up, get yourself a job here…

Prohibition in Australia

With the ink barely dry on the High Court ruling confirming that their national government can suppress any intellectual property that they disagree with, politicians in the Australian state of Tasmania have decided that they aren’t satisfied with this (quelle surprise!) and are now considering prohibition.

The daft draft proposal, which was passed unanimously by members of the Upper House of the Tasmanian legislature, doesn’t however apply to everyone mind – just those born in the 21st century:

The Tasmanian Government is considering ruling out banning tobacco sales to people born after 2000, in the wake of a vote in the state’s Upper House last night.

Legislative Council member Ivan Dean wants to make it illegal for people born after 2000 to buy tobacco once they turn 18 – meaning they would never legally be able to buy cigarettes.


“This would mean that we would have a generation of people not exposed to tobacco products,” Mr Dean said.

“It would be easier for retailers to enforce because when they ask for ID, all they would need to see if the person was born after the year 2000.

“Young people are more likely to give cigarettes to more young people.

“As the generation reaches 18 years, there will be fewer of them smoking and while some of those first turning 18 might smoke, as time goes on fewer and fewer will.”

Aside from wondering what the two Chambers of Commerce of which Dean is a member of will think of this extra imposition on their trade, I honestly don’t know where to begin in pointing out the absurdities of this pathetic – and frankly unenforceable – idea. Thankfully however Chris Snowdon has done it for me, concluding:

Nowhere in this article is there any suggestion that grown adults — now or in the future — might have the right to buy and smoke tobacco if they want to. It’s a sort of “think of the children even when they are no longer children” argument, which is fitting since Australian politicians clearly see the whole population as children and themselves as—what other word can there be?—nannies.

I have increasingly come to believe that the worst thing about Australia is that it is not far enough away.

Given that the anti-smoking lobby simply will not stop, even if they manage to achieve their wet dream of total and complete prohibition on tobacco and have rendered the tobacco plant utterly extinct across the entire planet, no matter what the cost, I’m of the increasing opinion that Leg-Iron was right when he said:

What I would do in response to this insanity is this:

Withdraw from the Australian market entirely.

No imports. None. No business going through the docks or the airports. Close all factories and warehouses and distribution points in Australia. Cut all ties to any tobacco-selling business in the entire country. Drop the whole country off the business map.

It’s what the short-sighted fools in the anti-smoking lobby want but, as he points out, I’m not sure they will like the results: lower amounts of money raised in tax, increased unemployment as those directly and indirectly employed by the industry lose their jobs, and a massive black market.

With alcohol being but the next target on the prohibitionist campaigners list, it might even make them think twice about what they are doing, especially if the two major breweries in the country – Foster’s Group and Lion Nathan – threatened to follow suit.

I doubt it though.

Right to die

Tony Nicklinson, the man who lost his legal battle on assisted suicide, died yesterday from pneumonia having refused medication to treat it and, since the court ruling, food.

It was not, I assume, an easy death but I hope he is now at peace and that his family will be able to move on with their lives.

I cannot imagine what he has been though since his stroke but the subject of ‘right-to-die’ has however come up in dinner table discussions with the family over the years and, as someone who is vaguely more intelligent and manoeuvrable than the average fence post, I not sure which is the lesser of the evils. Not that choosing between

  1. Mentally alert but physically incapable (e.g. Nicklinson), or
  2. Mentally incapable but physically able (e.g. Alzheimer/dementia), or
  3. Neither mentally or physically alert (e.g. a persistent vegetative state)

is much of a choice mind.

My view on the matter, since my teens, has been that, with regards to the second and third options, I would not wish to exist* like so and if I were unfortunate enough to end up in such a situation then someone (family/close friends) should pull the plug/slip something into my food and drink in order to resolve the matter sooner rather than later.

However it is the first option which is the most difficult to decide upon a course of action for as the mind is still able even if the body is not. Being alert to everything going on around you whilst being utterly incapable of doing even the smallest of things without external help certainly doesn’t sound like much of a life but yet someone like Stephen Hawking has managed to fashion something for himself despite knowing that he would become progressively more incapacitated.

Ultimately however the choice should rest with the patient, not with their family, not with the legal profession and certainly not with the medical staff treating the patient. The latter groups though should be free to act upon the wishes of the patient without suffering any legal consequences as a result.

* I won’t say live as there is no quality of life in such circumstances.

Princely Mistakes

Making the mistake of clicking on a link which Guido was pimping on twitter this morning, my eye was drawn not to the small out-of-focus picture of someone who might or might not have been Prince Harry but to the vanity URL being used for the post:

William or Harry?

Has Guido been outsourcing his sub-editing to a company well known for getting members of the family mixed-up or, given the time at which it was posted (0233hrs), was it done quickly by Harry from a late-night drinking establishment?

Enquiring minds etc etc..

“I do not think it means what you think it means…”

It would seem that this year’s (much abbreviated) silly season will run into the party conferences if reports of some of the motions to be debated at the Illiberal Democrats confrence are anything to go by.

A motion, to be debated on the Sunday 23 September, says the party should call for “fiscal measures such as the taxation of heavily sugared drinks”.

The plan – which has been proposed by Baroness Parminter, the party’s co-chairman of its Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee – is part of a series of “policies and measures aimed at promoting healthier and more sustainable diets”.

Party officials said taxing fizzy drinks was only one example, and the levy could also include heavily sweetened sweets and other goods.

One idea would see a charge levied on products which breached a set sugar content threshold.

This is, I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised to hear, for the children. Apparently we have half a million children at risk of suffering from liver disease because they are too fat but as this figure comes from Professor Martin Lombard, England’s National Clinical Director for Liver Disease it is possible that we can dismiss it as rent-seeking.

Even if it isn’t, the Torgraph article helpfully tells us that “taxing sugary drinks and other unhealthy foods could cut up to 2,700 heart disease deaths a year” (my emphasis).

Given that in 2010 the Office for National Statistics tells us that 493,242 people across England and Wales, 53,967 in Scotland and 14,500 in NI, that is less than 0.5% of the total.

For comparision, 3,377 people committed suicide in 2010 in England and Wales alone.

Fizzy drinks and sugary items are therefore hardly a national emergency, are they?

Yet another example, it would seem, of politicans searching for answers to a non-existent problems rather than just letting people get on with their lives. Not exactly the actions of a so-called Liberal.

The only potential justification that I can possibly see for an extra (Pingu) tax is if the amount currently raised by VAT doesn’t cover the externalities. Does anyone know how much VAT on these ‘harmful’ products raises against how much treatment (denistry, medical care etc) caused by their consumption costs?

She [Lady Parminter] said that the party was only asking for a consulation on the plans and was not at the moment in favour of a sugar tax.

Looks like the start of another branch of that non-existent slippery slope to me…