Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Careless talk cost lives (Mr Livingstone)

It was reported by the BBC today that almost 300 children have been diagnosed with measles in a epidemic that is sweeping through Hackney. The average yearly infection rate is between 10 and 20 cases.

Of course, the reason that there is a measles epidemic is that MMR vaccination rates are low in London. Rates are down ever since Dr Andrew Wakefield linked the MMR vaccine to an increased chance of autism despite the lack of an evidence supporting is claim (and the considerable amount of evidence that the MMR vaccine is safe). In an attempt to boost vaccination rates in Hackney and help reduce the number of cases of measles, the local Primary Care Trust is resorting to a mobile unit traveling around the borough. The PCT alarm at the pick up in measles is in part due to the serious complications.

Now what is the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, doing to help his fellow Londoners. Nothing has been reported, which is strange given that in 2002, Ken was more than happy to comment about MMR. In an interview broadcast on Radio 5, Ken questioned the safety of the MMR vaccine, saying that there is ""no way would I inflict on a child that risk". His comments, based on no evidence or obvious knowledge have supporting the fear that has led to the fewer vaccinations which has led to Hackney's epidemic. This might now be the time for Ken to say he was a prat, he was wrong and the MMR is safe.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

First denial...

The funniest thing about the non-snap poll is the denial coming from Labour Party ranks. If you read the comments as Labour Home, you find two main themes:
  • Boy, were Gordon's advisers stupid, he should fire them; and
  • Yes, Gordon has done the right thing (phew). It will be rough for a couple of week, but people will forget about it before Christmas.
Obviously, their going through denial - anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance still to come.

Firstly, who are Gordon's advisers? Ed Balls, Ed Milliband, Dougland Alexander (supposedly). Ed and Ed have been with Gordon in the Treasury for ten years (Harvard not withstanding) - his supposedly brilliance must be partly due to their advice up to now. And where Gordon's responsibility in all this. Surely, he is not a creature of his advisers and agreed with them up to now. All this "blame the adviser" reminds me of feudal England, when revolting peasants would blame the King's advisers, least they offend His Majesty's divine right to rule.

And secondly, will people forget before Christmas? They may if Gordon has a storming year. But if he is average, and the contest is tight with the Tories, people and as importantly the media, will remember the spin and the dithering and the lack of nerve. It plays to a impression many people already had of Gordon, and because of that it will stick.

May we live in interesting times

So, what were the odds of England getting to the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup over our arch-nemesis Australia (who needs cricket anyway); French mugging the All Blacks in Cardiff; and Gordon bottling it!

I did predicted on Wednesday morning that there wouldn't be a early general election (I do have witnesses), before most of the punditry went public with their doubts - before Benedict Brogan, who I think was one of the earliest print journalists, but I must admitted I did get some pointers from Guido.

And I did think England would have more chance against Australia than any other of the Tri-Nationers. Australia always flatter to deceive in Rugby Union.

But even I didn't think French would conquer New Zealand. And even more unbelievable, I was cheering on the French (first time I've ever cheered the French on for anything). I do feel for the All Blacks slightly; how long before the best side in the World get their hands on the trophy again. But it does stick one up the Southern Hemisphere arrogance.

Come on the semis is all I can say (and the general election, confidentially predicted in 2010, because we are about to see a recession which Gordon will want to be as far away as possible before he has to face the country - Gordon, Labour's John Major without the decency).

Monday, September 03, 2007

Nigella is Back!!! But where's Nigella

Nigella Lawson has returned to our screens with Nigella Express. But who's replaced to coquettish Nigella with a smug mum. No surprise that she shops in Waitrose though. And who serves one poussin a person. Just get a chicken.

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Tories can't win here - but where's that?

I've just received my September issues of the Steatham Brixton & Clapham News. Life without it is hardly worth living.

The big news is that the Conservatives cannot win here! But where is here. Supposedly, votes last time, was 38% to Labour, 35% to Lib Dems and 15% to the Tories. But, the article does not say what votes these are. The two obvious one would be the last general election (Lab 47%, Lib Dems 28% and Tories 18%) or the last council election (Lab 40%, Lib Dems 29% and Tories 19%). But it isn't. So where is this mythical place?

PS - The Lib Dems think that the Tories should dump David Cameron because of their poor poll rating. Have that looked at how well the Ming has done!!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Springwatch returns

Springwatch returns to the BBC. I've been waiting since autumn for it to come back to our screens. Now I can watch the tumbles of barn owl, the stubbornness of a set of badgers, and the daft flirting and courtship rituals of the presenters Bill Oddie and Kate Humble. It also allows me to discuss Kate's great tits with my wife.

Lambeth's green wrapped money grab

I have just received by first letter from Lambeth Council since the present lot got voted back into power last year. And it should not be too much of a surprise, it will cost me money. The Labour councillors have decided to double the cost of parking permits.

Now, a tax rise of around £50 is probably a fairly modest tax rise. I am sure their next council tax increases will be bigger. But what is particularly objectionable is that they have tried to spin it as a environmentally-friendly policy. To quote their letter:

This policy is designed to persuade people to limit non-essential car use, and to encourage people to think how much cars pollute when they come to change their vehicle

There is no chance that this policy will achieve these stated objectives. Lambeth's tax is levied on car ownership, not use. Once someone has decided that they need a car, they will pay the same amount irrespective of whether they drive five miles a week or five hundred. There is no new incentive to limit non-essential car use. And while Lambeth will tax cars with larger engine sizes more, the extra is trival. Parking permits will cost £80 more for the largest cars, a bit more a full tank of petrol. Compared to how much more it costs to buy and run these cars, £80 a year will make no difference to people's decisions.

The main reason for Lambeth to increase the cost of parking permits is to raise cash. Yes, there are restrictions about where the council can use this cash, and the Lambeth will be investing the money into road safety schemes. But such hypothecation is also just a useful piece of PR which are easy to get round. The council can just reduce or slow the growth of funding for these safety schemes from central funds, and divert the savings for their own pet projects.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

How the police are the biggest drugs cartel

In its first annual report, the Serious Organised Crime Agency trumpeted the seizure of 74 tonnes of cocaine. It reckons that this hefty amount is about a fifth of Europe's supply, worth £3 billion on the street. Though street values are always difficult to estimate, SOCA suggests that the seizures certainty cost the criminals who owned them at least £125 million. These figures are wrong. And it's not wrong, as in the price of cocaine is not posted in the Financial Times, so a precise estimate is difficult. Its wrong as in the seizures have probably made the the drug traffickers money.

The reason the SOAC figures are wrong is that they considered only the 74 tonnes they got hold of. They didn't think about the 300 tonnes left behind which is now worth more. Like any other good, with less cocaine on the market its price will increase. So, even as the drug lords suffer losses as some of their merchandise taken, they gain as what remains goes up in price. Research suggests that for every 10% reduction in supply, the price of cocaine increases by 12%. Therefore, the best guest is that the seizures of 20% of the European supply will have benefited the criminals by £25m.

So why, if all that drug traffickers need to do toincrease their
profits is to reduce their supply, don't they do it themselves. Because
they are not, whatever they may call themselves, cartels.
If one supplier reduced the cocaine he sells, there's nothing to stop
another stepping in to fill the gap. But the police, by seizing a chunk
of the market, effectively enforce a partial cartel.

Seizing drugs makes no economic difference to the narcotics industry. Not unless you seize so much that their consumers can't afford the inflated prices. To do that you would need to seize more than half the supply, and that does not seem likely. Of course, that doesn't mean that taking 74 tonnes of cocaine out of circulation is a bad thing. There will be less of the stuff to go around. But whatever sums of money are banded around by the police or the media, it's never going to be unprofitable to met a demand for an illicit drug.

Try again

After about a year of doing nothing with this blog, I have now hope to be somewhat more committed to this blog, especially if Lambeth Council provoke me enough.

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