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Posted by robinince

210 minutes sleep.
Wake up, brush my teeth.
The tentative bowel movements of a too early morning.
No Sun yet.
Chatty driver to the South Bank.
“what am I doing?”
Mention of science book plugging brings a hush with mildly ground teeth.
He’s a Jehovah’s Witness creationist.
We argue gently.
I try to explain that 13.7 billion years isn’t “just guesswork”
We amicably part and I take the lift to a mild powdering.
Brian Cox is almost late.
Still debating if time is more relative for some, we sit on stools near Piers and Susannah.
Piers mentions he has recently interviewed PROFESSOR Stephen Hawking more than once.
His Professor is in bigger letters than Brian’s.
We joke and talk of simulation.
Apple pastry.
Two apple pastries. To Shaun Keaveny.
Unlike Piers, I have kissed Shaun Keaveny full on the lips…for the sake of the show of showbusiness.
We measure ten volume in peas but not petit pois.
To Victoria Derbyshire and some smart young things of Ruislip High.
Talk of dead strawberries and simulated universes.
I am not allowed inside the studio of Adrian Chiles, just Clever Brian Cox for that.
To the Guardian building for a facebook interview.
Apple pastry sugar running dry by now.
He gently goads.
I parry.
Our book plug done, he to Canada (soon) and me to Broadcasting House
To tiredly attempt to muster patterns for Monkey Cage next with Sash
Producer/co-writer/ wrangler
To Cambridge. Type a page of next book. Delete. retype. Stop.
There’s a psychologist called Dickon
He drinks tea but I stay dry
as he explains Freud and Bowlby
Empathy and imagination
Plug for that benefit that just won’t sell
Blog typing til home
Things done
Though not enough

My last two tour dates in UK for a month are Southport and Norwich.
Benefit is at New Wimbledon Theatre w/ Billy Bragg, James Acaster and more than enough people worth £20
Monkey Cage book is out in 70 hours or less.

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson

This isn’t going to be popular with TMay’s supply & confidence partners

Well done to Martin Baxter for getting his boundaries projection out so fast. His figures showing what would happen if they’d been in force on June 8th have the Tories just into majority territory but with the DUP suffering in Northern Ireland.

It is for this reason perhaps more than any why this plan is unlikely to happen.

But the law reducing the size of the Commons from 650 to 600 is still in place and would require primary legislation to change it. Whether the Tories will do that is hard to say.

There are other big legislative fish that need to be fried at Westminster before the boundaries need to be dealt with.

Mike Smithson

[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Today Tor Books is releasing Old Man’s War in a spiffy new “mini”-format hardcover edition: All the benefits of a hardcover book, miniaturized for your convenience! It’s available at your favorite bookstores in the US and Canada, and it’s no coincidence that it’s being released just prior to the holiday season. Stocking stuffer, my friends, and/or a nice little gift for, like, day four of Hanukkah. But you don’t need to wait for the holidays to get it. You can get it today. For yourself! And pick up several copies for friends! Distribute them like Pez! It’s the Covandu version of OMW, if you will, and if you get that joke, thank you for being a fan.

I’m delighted at this new mini hardcover of OMW because, among other things, the original hardcover run of the book, almost thirteen(!) years ago now, is actually pretty small: about 3,700 for the first printing, and about 7,700 overall. OMW really took off in the trade paperback edition a year after the initial release. As a result, the hardcovers have always been hard to find — great news for collectors, to be sure. Not so great for anyone else.

So, dear everyone else: This edition is for you. Enjoy!

Coming This Weekend

Oct. 17th, 2017 02:26 pm
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Posted by Andrew Hickey

“Was this going to be the end? I wondered as I sprinted down yet another flight of stairs. Was I going to get caught, and get killed, by a geek serial killer?”

When Sarah arrives at a tech conference she’s meant to be covering for her magazine, she thinks it’ll be a few days away from her marriage problems on a tropical island. Instead, she’s surrounded by sleazy men who want to build a computer God, thousands of miles from home and her wife. She hates where she is, and the people who are around her.

But when someone starts killing those people off, Sarah has to investigate. What is the Basilisk? Who is committing the murders? Why is everyone talking about blackmail? And why is everyone drinking fish?

Surrounded by Russian billionaires, gropey bloggers, alt-right computer scientists, and philosophy professors, can Sarah solve the murders and win back her wife before the Singularity? And can she do it without having to deal with her racist ex-girlfriend?

Part cozy mystery, part technothriller, part biting satire, The Basilisk Murders is a hilarious, gripping, story of irrational rationality, staying kind in a hostile world, and building a better sandcastle.

[syndicated profile] complicity_blog_feed

Posted by Zoe O'Connell

There has been some press coverage today of another proposal on Lords retirements, this time to limit the length of service to 15 years. This isn’t the first time this has been proposed, and something similar with a ten year limit was part of Liberal Democrat ideas for House of Lords reform during coalition.

Firstly, let us take a look at the proposal I discussed previously, namely retiring peers on the basis of age. Is there any correlation between age and how often a peer contributes? How much someone contributes to politics is a largely subjective measure, but for the purposes of this discussion I have used the number of days a member is mentioned in Hansard over the last year. The raw number of mentions is a less helpful measure as a few people have over a thousand mentions due to extended back-and-forth discussions in less well-attended debates. (Click for larger versions of the charts)


Age of Peers vs. Number of days contributed


There’s certainly some link between age and contributions, with 90-year-old members of the house understandably contributing less than those in their 40s. But there is no sudden drop-off and it is hard to identify an age at which members are no longer pulling their weight.

The new proposals do not appear to retire existing life peers, so we would still have the problem I outlined in my previous post about needing members to retire to make more space any time soon. But if this proposal did go ahead, is there any drop off in length of service and contributions?

Length of service for peers vs Days contributed

As we can see, there is definitely a tendency for long-term members to be about less often but perhaps not as much as would be expected, and there is no obvious point at which peers suddenly stop attending. The most prolific Lords tend to be within their first five years but there are plenty of newer peers who don’t contribute as well as a number who manage plenty of engagement – cross-bench peer Lord Hyldon contributing on over 100 days over the last year despite having been a member for nearly five decades stands out, for example.

So it would appear that term limits for peers are not perfect, but a better way of dealing with the excessive number of Members of the House of Lords than mere age.

The post Retiring Lords – should we use age of length of service? appeared first on Complicity.

The Big Idea: Elizabeth Bonesteel

Oct. 17th, 2017 02:07 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Hey, you know how irritated you get when your internet access goes down? Elizabeth Bonesteel gets you. And so does her latest novel, Breach of Containment. She’s here to explain — provided your connection doesn’t suddenly go out…


We live in the woods, and that means, among other things, we have the crappiest internet service in the state*.

(*This almost certainly isn’t true. I’ve heard rumors there are towns in the western part of the state that still rely on dialup. I keep hoping that’s an ugly rumor spread by Verizon to keep us all compliant and grateful.)

People in town rely on a mish-mash of solutions. Ours is a T1 line. It’s slow (1.5 Mb up/down), and when it drops it drops for days. There’s nothing quite like the sensation of seeing Netflix give up the ghost, and then pulling up your web browser to see that progress bar just…stall.

It amazes me how much I’ve come to depend on the net—not just for news and cat videos, but for a sense of connection to the rest of the world. When the line goes down, it’s so easy to imagine there’s nothing out there at all anymore—that the silence will go on forever, and we’ll sit here alone in the woods, never discovering what’s happened to the rest of the world.

Within my lifetime, society has become dependent on instant communication.

Breach Of Containment is set roughly a thousand years in the future, where we’ve colonized a (still pretty damn small) part of the galaxy. Despite the distances, everything is elaborately connected. In addition to a network of government and military communications channels, all monitored and encrypted, there are entirely unregulated data streams over which both reliable and unreliable information fly unfettered. Most of my characters live aboard Galileo, a military starship, and they’re never disconnected from the officers giving orders. Neither are they ever free of consequences when they get creative about interpreting those orders (which happens far more often than it should).

At one point, as I was assembling this book, I thought: what if all that gets cut off? What if I dump them in the soup, and sever their access to intelligence, orders, even news of their families?

Structurally, that idea both simplified and complicated the plot. Breach Of Containment is, in many ways, your traditional are-we-preventing-or-starting-a-war adventure story. Galileo is working in an atmosphere of uncertainty and deceit at this point: some of their orders are legit, some are distractions designed to keep them out of the way of internal government intrigue, and they don’t always know which are which. When the communication channels back to Earth are lost, it suddenly stops mattering which commanding officer is trustworthy and which is a seditious traitor. Losing communications meant my characters didn’t need to waste time figuring out whether or not a bunch of tangential folks we don’t care about are on the right side or not.

But severing communications also let me play with people’s heads, and it’s no secret I love the messy character stuff. I’ve got three principals at this point, and Breach Of Containment begins with all of them stretched thin. Elena, formerly Galileo’s chief of engineering, has been out of the Corps for a year, and is feeling rootless and without purpose. Greg, Galileo’s captain, has been dutifully following orders, but is feeling less and less like his years of service have resulted in making any substantive difference for real people. Jessica, Greg’s now-seasoned second-in-command, sees most clearly the tightrope they’re walking between following potentially erroneous orders and dealing with a massive conspiracy that is almost certainly beyond their ability to stop.

Basically, I made sure everybody was tense and cranky, and then I cut their T1 line.

On top of that, I put them on a timer. There’s an armada headed toward Earth, and the big question is whether they’re intending to help, or to invade the vulnerable planet while nobody can warn them. And the only sources of information my happy crew has got? A retired Admiral who’s a gray-hat at best, a rival government’s starship and her relentlessly cheerful captain, and a nervous emissary who’s delivered a cryptic message that she seems convinced makes perfect sense. (Oh, and a talking box. I always forget the talking box.)

When you have no news and you can’t Google, how do you make your decisions?

Here in the real world, I didn’t have a smartphone until last December. (I’m not a Luddite. I’m just cheap.) Since then, the T1 outages have been far less unnerving. It’s comforting to be able to check Twitter and verify the outage isn’t part of some apocalyptic event. Sometimes I’ll even waste some data on a cat video. But every time, in that few seconds before my Twitter feed comes up, I feel that disorienting sense of being unmoored from the rest of the world. It’s not a great state of mind in which to make important decisions…but it’s not a bad catalyst for a plot.


Breach of Containment: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.

On cutting house prices

Oct. 17th, 2017 01:35 pm
[syndicated profile] chris_dillow_feed

Posted by chris

Ian Mulheirn, echoing Kate Barker, writes:

It is very unlikely that the perennial wish of housing commentators to simply ‘build more houses’ will make any meaningful dent in prices.

Many people think this is counter-intuitive, so I’ll try to explain why it’s not.

It’s because flows of supply are too small relative to the stock of housing to much affect prices. There are 23.7 million homes in England. In the 12 months to June, only 153,330 were completed. This means that even if annual housebuilding were to treble, we’d see a less than 2% annual increase in the housing stock.

There’s an analogy here with government bonds. Even before QE, government borrowing did not much affect bond prices. This was simply because the new supply of bonds was generally small relative to the existing stock.

It’s the same with houses. Houses are an asset, and the price of an asset depends upon the willingness and ability of people to hold the stock of it. Changes to the flow of the asset are generally too small to have much effect. For this reason, many economists have traditionally modeled house prices as if only demand matters; see for example this (pdf) or this (pdf).

This isn’t to say that increasing housing supply is a bad idea. It’s not at all. It’s just that it isn’t a magic bullet for solving the problem of affordability. Hpeilgy

If supply doesn’t affect prices, what does? Lots of things: demographics (pdf), incomes, debt levels, expected incomes and the availability of credit. My chart shows another influence: real interest rates. The lower these are, the cheaper is the cost of credit and hence the higher are house prices. (Or if you want to be fancier, lower interest rates mean a higher net present value of future housing services and hence a higher house price.)

All this raises a puzzle: if high house prices are due to high demand, and if they are a problem (as I think they are on balance), what can be done to help young people buy them?

Obviously, some possibilities would do more overall harm than good. A recession would cut house prices, but it’s a lousy idea. I suspect the same would be true of tougher immigration controls. And other policies to help buyers would do no good because they’d be offset by price increases. Help to Buy, for example, seems to have pushed up prices. And I’d expect cuts to stamp duty to have a similar effect; yes, there’s a strong case for reforming property taxation but we shouldn’t hope it’ll much help first-time buyers.

That said, there are some demand-side policies that might reduce house prices, such as restrictions on owning second homes or housing as investments – in short, reversing the financialization of housing. Instinctively, I’m not over-keen on these; they would be abridgements of freedom. As ways of reducing house prices, however, they might be worth considering.  

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Ed Thornley

As promised, the last part  (Part 1 here, part 2 here) of my foray into political analysis will look at how we move forward in an area of the UK where we kept less than deposits in June of this year. Central to this is, I believe, the strategy suggested by Mark Pack and David Howarth of creating a core vote. However, this is clearly a long-term strategy, and I want to look at the more immediate future.

It is because of our current situation that I welcome the appointment of Tim Farron as our new spokesperson for the North of England. It’s a logical place for him to be, proud as he clearly is of his Preston upbringing. I also think it is a great opportunity for Tim to get back to what he does best, rallying the troops. With all the important local elections coming up, our members really do need that drive. A good first step would be for us to denounce the Northern Powerhouse for the complete fudge that it is, and to scream it from the rooftops. Fractional funding increases in real terms does not constitute a powerhouse anywhere. We should also continue to speak out on the pointlessness of the new City Region Mayors, whose only success that I can see is to get flip-flop Burnham out of the Commons. I was very happy to hear Carl Cashman say that the first thing he would do if elected in the Liverpool City Region would be to have a referendum on his new position – because why on earth does Liverpool need three mayors?

Having mentioned Tim, I feel it is worth reiterating what is for me the defining message of his leadership, pick a ward and win it. We used to run a dozen councils in the North, but now it’s just South Lakeland. If we are to gain Parliamentary seats, we must gain council seats, it’s a very simple and uncontroversial truth. Council elections are always effected by national opinion, there’s no way around that, so we fall back on a record of local delivery, on Labour’s incompetence and the cruelty of the Conservatives. It will be an uphill battle, in some places it’ll be impossible for now. So we must focus our resources on winnable areas, not fritter them in hopeless contests. A strong organisation is also central, such as that now delivering impressive results in Sheffield. The ability of the Sheffield party to co-ordinate and focus their efforts to specific areas across the city is what made the win in Mosborough and the solid swing in Beighton last week possible.

I read an article recently which stated we should “stake it all on Brexit, live and die by it if we must”. This seems fundamentally wrong to me. As a party, we have so much more to offer than pro-Europeanism. It is certainly one of our key values, but it is not the be all and end all of who we are. Liberalism does not become any less necessary in a Britain outside the EU, in fact it will be the opposite. We did not become the party of “I told you so” after the 2008 crash, we got stuck in to fix it, we must not do that with Brexit either. This may seem contradictory, but to me there is a key difference between fighting the ill-effects of Brexit and obsessing over it to our own detriment. All polls show people are fed up with talk of Brexit, so we must also deal with the issues that they care about. That is why we must not ‘stake it all’, because we will be more needed after Brexit than we were before. So, we must have Liberal Democrats in positions where they can help our country once the calamity that is Brexit hits hard, which it will. Which brings me back to winning constituencies, which brings me back to winning council seats.

We recover in the North by winning local elections. We must be ruthlessly focussed in our efforts, because it will be a long haul. To my mind, there is no big breakthrough coming, so we must make one. So find the one, two or three wards in your council where a Liberal Democrat victory is most likely and do what we do best – pound the pavements, talk to local people and work for them. As Tim said, you can’t change people’s lives from second place.

* Ed Thornley is a member of Leeds Young Liberals, co-ordinated their campaigning in June’s General Election and is doing the same for the Leeds Council elections next year. He campaigned in Southport during the EU Referendum.

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Donald Brind

Did you Know?

• “In Singapore 20% of GDP comes from state owned enterprises, 90% of land is state owned and 85% of housing is public.”

• “48 million Americans, in over 2000 cities and districts, get their electricity from the public sector, at a price on average 12% lower than the price charged by private energy companies.”

So, it seems, it’s not just Venezuela that inspires those “Marxists” Corbyn and McDonnell in their ambition to use public ownership as a key driver of economic policy.

Singapore and the United States are significant because they are the places to which right wing Tories direct you when they want to show all will be rosy in the post Brexit world. Thus Tory MEP Daniel Hannan launched his free-trade think tank by lauding Singapore: ”They have gone from being half as rich as us to twice as rich. What was the magic formula? Just do it. They dropped their barriers.”

Unhappily for Hannan, he came in for a bit of fact checking by Laurie Macfarlane who tweeted the facts in the first quote above.

The economist is a research fellow in University College London’s new Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose which was launched last week by its charismatic founder and director Mariana Mazzucato. Mazzucato’s book The Entrepreneurial State has been hugely influential within the Labour party and Liam Byrne, the shadow minister for Digital weighed in with a tweet supporting Macfarlane: “Singapore, lionised by free marketeers, long ago learned the value of an entrepreneurial state.”

(Lest this is taken as a recommendation for all things Singaporean, blogger provides a cautionary corrective.  “In this rich kids’ playground, there isn’t even a minimum wage. Although Singapore sells itself as a model for racial harmony, there are certainly hierarchies, and they tend to be along racial lines.”)

The key question is what is the right role for the government and the public realm in general in creating economic prosperity. And when it comes to the US, Professor’s Mazzucato’s thesis might be summed up as Do As They Do, Not As They Say. She shows how important federal research agencies have been in driving innovation in defence, electronic, health and energy.

The fact that 2,000 US cities and districts have publicly owned utilities fits in with her thesis.

The quote above comes from the campaigning and research website We Own it which, I understand, is followed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s team. It declares “We’ve been told myths about privatisation for 30 years. It’s time for public ownership.”

The website highlights a report by Professor David Hall, of Greenwich University which suggests moving to a publicly owned energy system in the UK would pay for itself in 10 years. It estimates the savings of £3.2 billion per year would be possible because of the lower cost of borrowing in the public sector, and “an end to extraction of dividends by shareholders.”

The report proposes a new model of public ownership based on “ national, regional and local public ownership” which would “encourage renewable energy generation by local authorities, co-operatives and community groups. They would supply consumers and compete with the Big Six suppliers.  “In Germany, such companies have captured up to 50 per cent of the market.” And, by the way, “the proposals are designed to be practical under existing EU law.”

The Singapore and US examples challenge to the right-wing assumption that public ownership is a bad thing, a view articulated last week by Andrew Neil on the BBC’s Daily Politics on when he asked Labour front bencher Jenny Chapman.  “Can you give us an example of where nationalising something has raised productivity?”

I’m a fan of Neil and I’m not suggesting he was offering a personal opinion. His interviews are a tough gig and one of his little tricks, as his guest stumbles, is to answer his own question. Not this time. But if he’d done his research he would have found answer to his question in the OECD report Improving Infrastructure in the UK

It says “the British rail system has an efficiency gap of about 20-40% with respect to comparable European countries.” The costs of the rolling stock in the UK, which accounts for about 70% of total private investment are “40-60% higher than in other European countries.”

So, Andrew, just in case you were betraying a personal view you are wrong. The state owned rail systems in France and Germany are more efficient that than the UK’s privatised system. I knew you’d want to know.

Don Brind

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Jane Dodds

I have to start by saying that I am not that happy to be standing against Liz Evans, a colleague for whom I have enormous respect.  My only comfort is that the Welsh Liberal Democrats will have a Welsh speaking woman from mid-Wales as their next leader.

I believe that the Welsh Liberal Democrats have the talent, the drive, the enthusiasm and the ambition to start winning again, but we need to rebuild the party.  We need more members, more councillors and to win seats in the Welsh Assembly elections in 2021 and in the next Parliamentary elections.  The Welsh party needs to work with the Federal Party to forge a relationship that helps us to transform ourselves.  And Wales needs the Welsh Liberal Democrats to offer real, meaningful, and Liberal solutions to the deep seated inequalities people face.

Progress has been too slow.  As a social worker, I have seen at first hand the inequalities in our society and the hardship suffered by people as they face a lack of good quality homes and a paucity of well-paid and full time employment. People in Wales have health services which are well below the standards in England, and we need improved access to mental health provision.  We need to sustain our support to our Education Cabinet Secretary in Kirsty Williams as she continues to deliver progressive policies to improve educational standards for Welsh children.

We need an economic plan that breathes life back in to Wales, and to put green policies and renewable energy developments at the forefront of our strategy. We need to be an outward looking Wales – welcoming refugees and helping those in need, as well as joining Vince and all other Liberal Democrats in challenging Brexit.  

I want to lead a party of social justice to address the five evils that Beveridge identified more than 75 years ago.  I want to lead a party that is radical and reforming.  I want to lead a party that is diverse and offers distinct policies.  We’re resilient, we’re determined, and we’ve got renewed energy.  I want to work with members to capture that renewed enthusiasm and to deliver change in our party and in our country.

A Leader in Wales is only as good as her team, and I believe the Welsh Liberal Democrats are a team that will go on to win.

Fydd y Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol yn mynd ymlaen i ennill.

(last line says “The Welsh Liberal Democrats will go on and win)

* Jane Dodds was the Liberal Democrat candidate for Montgomeryshire and is standing to be Welsh Lib Dem Leader.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Paul Walter

This is the fifteenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

Without any doubt, the highlight of my USA tour was my visit to Mongomery, Alabama. To coin a phrase of Stephen Fry’s, for someone interested in history, it was like swimming through liquid chocolate. Within half a mile of the State Capitol, there are a clutch of historic sites which bore witness to some of the most seminal events in the history of the USA.

Indeed, what astounded me, is that I was able to take the photo above which shows three sites which witnessed very significant events in the history of the American Civil War and the fight for Civil Rights for all races. To take the image, I was standing inside the porch of the Alabaman State Capitol building looking out of one of the front windows and down Dexter Avenue towards Court Square.

Here is an annotated version of that photo, with the list of events which took place in the area:

1. The spot where Jefferson Davis stood to make his inaugural speech as President of the Confederate States of America on February 18th 1861, thereby making the American Civil War inevitable.

2. Court Square, where African American slaves were bought and sold at auction:

Slaves of all ages were auctioned, along with land and livestock, standing in line to be inspected. Public posters advertised sales and included gender, approximate age, first name (slaves did not have last names), skill, price, complexion and owner’s name.

The telegram order to start the bombardment of Fort Sumter was sent from a building on the square on April 12th 1861. This started the American Civil War.

3. Also on Court Square, Rosa Parks boarded the bus on which she refused to give up her place to a white person, starting the Montgomery Bus Boycott which eventually started the dismantling of racial segregation in the USA.

4. Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where Dr Martin Luther King Junior was the pastor during the Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955-56.

5. On these steps on 25th March 1965, Dr Martin Luther King Junior made a historic speech at the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery march for civil liberties. It included a passage when he repeated the words “How long? Not long!” and included this sentence which is one of the engravings on the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington DC (see photo at the bottom of this post):

We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.

Here’s an excerpt from the speech on YouTube:

6. A front pillar of the Alabaman State Capitol, which was completed by slaves in 1851.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is a councillor and one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Despite having no parliamentary majority, and do having no mandate for fundamental constitutional change, the government is permitting work to continue on the reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600.

This is a fundamentally undemocratic move. I know all the arguments about supposedly delivering proportionality. If that’s the desire then my answer is simple: deliver what we really need to create that, which is proportional representation.

But if instead we are to have first past the post and the continuing pretence that one person can represent all the interests of the people in their community, even if many would never have voted for them, then at the very least there has to be a very profound dedication to the principle that constituencies must represent real communities, and not gerrymandered blocks of the population who happen to fit a geographically based, statistically consistent, model that has no bearing to the places where people live.

Amazingly we’ve been doing this for a couple of centuries now. One of the great Parliamentary irruptions of the Enlightenment being those reallocations away from the Rotten Boroughs. And today’s allocations work upon, roughly enough, the following rules:

The boundary commissions are required to apply a set series of rules when devising constituencies.

Firstly, each proposed constituency has to comply with two numerical limits:

the electorate (number of registered voters) of each constituency must be within 5% of the United Kingdom electoral quota. The electoral quota is the average number of electors per constituency, defined as the total mainland electorate divided by the number of mainland constituencies, where “mainland” excludes four island constituencies: Orkney and Shetland, Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles), and two on the Isle of Wight.
the area of a constituency must be no more than 13,000 square kilometres.
There are a small number of exceptions to the numerical limit on electorate which are specified in the legislation:

the four island constituencies are permitted to have a smaller electorate than the usual limit;
a constituency with an area of more than 12,000 square kilometres may have a smaller electorate than the usual limit; and
constituencies in Northern Ireland may be subject to slightly different limits under certain circumstances.
Having satisfied the electorate and area requirements, each commission can also take into account a number of other factors:

“special geographical considerations” including the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency;
local government boundaries;
boundaries of existing constituencies;
local ties which would be broken by changes to constituencies;
inconveniences resulting from changes to constituencies.
It is evident that the other factors can to an extent be mutually contradictory, and therefore each commission has discretion on how it applies them. In so doing, each commission aims for a consistent approach within a review.

We should take this whinge for what it really is, nakedly political. Labour, as has been true for many a year, has a preponderance of seats in those areas losing population. Meeting exactly Ritchie’s criteria means they lose a few safe seats.

[syndicated profile] el_reg_odds_feed

Posted by Gareth Corfield

Airsoft player cleared but case raises many questions

A man was prosecuted for posting a picture of himself on Facebook posing with airsoft equipment.…

[syndicated profile] el_reg_odds_feed

Posted by Andrew Silver

But yep, there are power points

“A lot of people are like, ‘Where’s the AV?’ And I’m like, it’s a treehouse,” Bret Boulter said of Microsoft's new tree-based meeting spaces. “We wanted people to intentionally unplug, because they are sitting in front of screens all day long.”…

Tom Watson should lose weight, yes

Oct. 17th, 2017 08:40 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

I’m going on hunger strike from today. I’m not allowing myself anything but sips of water.

Why? This is not some George Osborne-inspired weight-loss plan. No. I’m following the Guantánamo diet in solidarity with two men who are being slowly starved to death by President Trump.

His administration has changed its practice towards detainees who choose to refuse food in protest at their incarceration. Previously they were force-fed, a cruel and inhuman punishment in itself. Now they are no longer fed at all. Make no mistake, these men will die at the hands of Donald Trump if nothing is done.

Perhaps the clarity of mind that hunger brings will aid his logic. Not force-feeding someone is not killing them.

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Posted by Tim Worstall

Julie Bindel argues convincingly that legalising prostitution is not the best way to prevent women and girls from abuse and exploitation by pimps (The case against legalising prostitution, 11 October). However, history has demonstrated that abolition does not prevent this either. The solution may be to set up state-run brothels throughout the UK.

The management could ensure that all the sex workers were over 18 and consenting; sex workers could receive help with any alcohol, drug or other problems; and counselling and advice in areas such as jobs, benefits and housing could be offered to those who wished to move away from sex work. They would be working in a supervised environment, to greatly increase safety, and any violent users could be banned and, of course, arrested and prosecuted.

It’s not actually necessary for an organisation to be state run for Plod to do his job. In fact, given that it’s already true that prostitution itself is legal in the UK sex workers do indeed call in Plod at times.

But then think of state run – rather than state licensed – brothels. The plethora of anti-ageism, anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-fat shaming, anti-lookism that will descend…..to say nothing of the state setting of prices.

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Posted by Tim Worstall

Jamie Oliver’s 10p tax on sugary drinks sold in his Italian restaurants has resulted in a significant drop in sales, a study has found.

The Jamie’s Italian chain introduced the sugary drinks tax to set an example as part of a campaign to persuade the government to take action. In June 2015, Oliver announced that every drink containing added sugar would cost 10p extra and that the money would help pay for food education and water fountains in schools.

A study of the effects of the levy, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, has found that sales of sugar-sweetened drinks such as colas and lemonades fell by 11% in the first 12 weeks. At the end of six months, sales were 9.3% lower than they had been before the levy was introduced.


Jamie Oliver is to close six of his Italian restaurants after tough trading and the “pressures and unknowns” following the Brexit vote.

Oliver intends to close Jamie’s Italian restaurants in Aberdeen, Exeter, Cheltenham, Richmond, Tunbridge Wells and Ludgate Hill, near London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, by the end of the first quarter of the year.

Why don’t they bloody edit Polly?

Oct. 17th, 2017 08:29 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

She too grand for the odd correction or something?

Brexit casts its shroud over everything. The no-dealers grow more wild-eyed by the day; though sterling drops, prices rise.

It’s because sterling drops that prices rise.

Or is it that the editors just don’t know this either?

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Posted by Tim Worstall

Workers in the constituency of shadow chancellor John McDonnell are at the highest risk of seeing their jobs automated in the looming workplace revolution that will affect at least one in five employees in all parliamentary seats, according to new research.

The thinktank Future Advocacy – which specialises in looking at the big 21st century policy changes – said at least one-fifth of jobs in all 650 constituencies were at high risk of being automated, rising to almost 40% in McDonnell’s west London seat of Hayes and Harlington.


Of the 92,150 employees in Hayes and Harlington in 2015, 36,170 (39.3%) were at high risk of having their jobs automated by the early 2030s.

Aha! 15 years in the future.

Jobs churn is 10% per annum for destroyed and recreated jobs, another 10% for quits and hires. There’s at least some technological movement in near all of these changes.

We expect somewhere between 150% of all jobs and 300% to change, technologically, over this same period. Just as has been happening these past 250 years.

It just doesn’t matter. It happens tomorrow then we’ve a late 20s (for the UK) early 30s (for the US) type problem. Over 15 years? Pah!

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Posted by Tim Worstall

Palladium, a silvery metal used in catalytic converters for petrol cars, has become one of the star commodities of the year, hitting $1,000 an ounce for the first time since 2001.

The metal, mined primarily in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Russia, has risen 48pc this year, making it the best performing precious metal.

Palladium has added $70 an ounce in the last week alone, and rose 2pc in Monday morning trade in London to break the $1,000 mark.

Palladium’s strong run is linked to surging sales of petrol cars globally, in part because consumers are turning their backs on diesel vehicles.

A slew of negative publicity around diesel pollution, combined with wavering support from governments that had previously encouraged motorists to buy diesel, and the emissions data scandal that engulfed Volkswagen, has resulted in the fuel falling out of favour.

It’s not entirely cut and dried but Pt tends to be used in diesel catalysts, Pd in petrol. So, if the new car fleet is now to swing, in Europe at least, from diesel to petrol, which version of the wise and omniscient planner is going to delve down enough layers in the supply chain to tell the miners to adjust? Crack on with really optimising that extraction process for the Pd not the Pt (you do tend to be getting both from the same mineral flow)?

And another level, out into the scrap recycling chain. Catalysts are indeed collected and processed for their scrap. We want a change in prices at the collection end, to make sure that more attention is paid to those formerly less valuable petrol ones. The refiners of the catalyst material also need to be optimising their process for Pd not Pt recovery (the catalysts are processed together, for there are many mixed types as well). And from memory, although I’d not want to swear to it, the scrap feed back into the industry is somewhere between large and a majority of supply.

So let us imagine that planner, some Level III in the bowels of the Ministry of Metals. Then compare with markets that stimulate the lust for the gilt and pelf of profits, that near immediate, by comparison at least, dissemination of that information out through the economy.

Even to the silicon chip makers. Certain types will use Pd, Pt and even at times Nb to do something well beyond my ken. Each solve the problem but with varying success, the choice dependent upon two things, whether the problem really, really, needs to be solved perfectly or whether changing prices make any one of the three good enough. Without the price mechanism how does that information get to the chip designers and specifiers, that we need more Pd over here, not in chips?

Planning’s hard which is why we let markets take the strain.

matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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October 2015


Stuff and nonsense

I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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