What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-01-31

  • Saigon seems clean and orderly. I think I've spent too much time in India. #
  • Comedically, Facebook is blocked in Vietnam (for Subversive Activity reasons), but Twitter isn't #
  • So I can incite the toiling masses to twevolution, but I can't post my holiday snaps for my mates to see #
  • Current trending topics include #Haiti, #NowThatsGhetto – yes, correct. #
  • Aha, my skills triumph: Vietnam's evil genius censors have blocked http://www.facebook.com, but not lite.facebook.com #
  • RT @libcon: Constituent harassed by Telegraph readers after sending email to Tory PPC http://bit.ly/8XFTTW #
  • #ebz obligatory Echo Bazaar plug. It's a really good game, honest http://fallenlondon.com/c/12001 #
  • Massage for $4, laundry for $2, entry to the world's worst museum for $1. Prices reflect value. #
  • Vietnam, S-S-Saigon. Vietnam, S-S-Saigon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3LdMAqUMnM #
  • Needed that as respite from the Americans Are Bad museum. Which was harrowing, and surprisingly accurate for a totalitarian regime's museum #
  • …but didn't quite get the point that the people who need hanged are Kissinger, Nixon, Schlesinger, not the poor buggers in the trenches #
  • #ebz yes, I'm an addict http://fallenlondon.com/c/12530 #
  • A day of hangover. Nothing achieved. Expecting early bed. Quite fun afternoon of lazing over recovery beers, after the AAGH subsided #
  • Tomorrow, a riverboat to the coast, should we manage successfully to get up in the morning… #
  • #ebz and again, sorry http://fallenlondon.com/c/12941 #
  • 90-minute river trip on Soviet hydrofoil, 2 hours of pretty seaside, and 150-minute return on slightly buggered Soviet hydrofoil. A good day #
  • Unrelatedly, this – http://bit.ly/bhcgbK – on why opponents of public sector targets are probably wrong #
  • #ebz I really am enjoying travelling the world, but I can't stop playing this blimmin' game http://fallenlondon.com/c/13354 #

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What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-01-24

  • #ebz The snow that falls in the Neath every December is something of a mystery. Condensation from the … http://fallenlondon.com/c/7853 #
  • Bombay wins awards for excellence. Enjoying life far too much to be inspired to poli-blog/tweet… #
  • One exception – the cops involved in this, and anyone who defends them, need their skin removed by cheesegrater: http://bit.ly/5COfiB #
  • Terrorism isn't a threat; if you think it is, you are an imbecile. Authoritarianism is a threat; if you think it isn't, you are an imbecile. #
  • (incidentally, "a threat" here means "causes serious changes to our way of life", not "kills a statistically negligible number of people") #
  • …and *breathe*. Wow, all that carefully-dispelled tension's coming back; need to stick to beer, shopping and playing Echo Bazaar #
  • In Bombay airport awaiting flight to Goa. It's tough, but I think we'll survive. #
  • Who says there are no new ideas left on the Internet? http://cheesesurfer.blogspot.com/ #
  • Meanwhile, am about to see if there are good restaurants in Thiruvananthapuram that serve a) meat b) beer c) not solely coconut sauce #
  • Yes, there are good restaurants in Trivandrum that meet my criteria, although apparently they're all affiliated to posh-ish hotels #
  • Armed police at the London Fire Authority meeting, say @LondonFBU – what, I leave the country for a week and it turns into China? #
  • Spiral coffee houses rule: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Coffee_House – inside it looks like a helter-skelter too #

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What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-01-17

  • #ebz What we have instead of moonlight, down in the Neath: the uncertain glow from phosphorescent thin… http://fallenlondon.com/c/4939 #
  • #ebz The Masters of the Bazaar – Mr Wines, Mr Spices, Mr Veils and the rest – speak in high-pitched wh… http://fallenlondon.com/c/5342 #
  • #ebz In a city where death can be temporary, lunatic murderers are not treated with especial respect. … http://fallenlondon.com/c/5696 #
  • Everything packed or binned. Bills payed; refunds claimed; addresses redirected. now BEER #
  • …and as I sit with my beer, it occurs to me for pretty much the first time that this is REALLY HAPPENING. from now, i'm not a UK resident #
  • "goan fish curry" sounds more like an offensive imprecation than a lunch menu dish #
  • #ebz These little charmers sneak into the bedrooms of sleepers and bite their eyes off. They take them… http://fallenlondon.com/c/6713 #
  • UK successfully fled. Hurrah! Mumbai is exactly as sunny, loud, polluted and EXCELLENT as it's supposed to be. #

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Reversion to the mean

The BBC has an article based on an interesting House of Commons report on alcohol consumption… well, more accurately, it’s a very bad report on alcohol consumption with some interesting data.

The data shows that, before the global descent into miserable puritanism around World War I that led to prohibition in the US and draconian licensing rules in the UK, alcohol consumption was around its current level.

It then spiked after the war ended, fell during the Depression, rose slightly during the mid-late 1930s and WWII, fell in the austerity period, and then rose fairly consistently from 1950 onwards – accelerating slightly since 1995 due to increased wine consumption [*]. We’re now at about 9 litres of pure alcohol per head per year, compared to 11 litres in 1900.

The obvious conclusion to draw is that, with miserable busybodies out of the equation, 10ish litres per head is the natural level that Brits want to drink, that this is all well and good, and that the puritans should be deported to America on pain of pain, as we did in the good old days.

The House of Commons report instead draws the conclusion that OMG FFS AAAGH the sky is falling. Particular stupidity lies in:

Ten million adults drink more than the recommended limits and between them knock back 75% of all alcohol consumed in the country. More than two-and-a-half million adults (8% of men and 6% of women) drink above the higher-risk levels – more than double the government’s daily guidelines.

…but we know that the daily and weekly guidelines are based on *nothing at all*. And we know that, on aggregate, the only people who show a greater risk of mortality or morbidity from alcohol than teetotallers are those who drink more than 30 units a week, which is equivalent to 17 litres of pure alcohol a year. So we can crank up our national drinking by another 70% before we need to start worrying about health impacts.

Paraphrasing the report’s conclusion:

It was not inevitable that per capita alcohol consumption was only one third as high in the middle of the 20th Century as its natural level. The decline was fuelled by miserable prohibitionists lying about the data, a draconian licensing regime and massive propaganda budgets. Now that we’ve returned to normal levels, let’s bring back the 1950s. Who needs fun anyway?

[*] which, as it’s mostly consumed in moderation and with meals, mostly doesn’t have negative health effects anyway.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-01-10

  • Certain of the Masters of the Bazaar – Mr Stones, Mr Apples and Mr Wines, and possibly others – s… http://fallenlondon.com/c/3522 #
  • Longrider is good on Anjem Choudary: http://bit.ly/5CiYsj #
  • Icelandic president bottles out, bows to public demand to steal our money: http://bit.ly/4F06ax #
  • Remind me not to go on Twitter between 10pm and 11pm weekdays #freakshowtwathouse #
  • Never mention the Second City to the Masters of the Bazaar. Mr Wines will look at you narrowly an… http://fallenlondon.com/c/3735 #
  • Snow whiners put thoroughly in their place by @tygerland – approved. http://bit.ly/7PnAkl #
  • Reading the Gilligantastic river report, I suddenly understand why right-whingers were so upset about taking the Thames off the Tube map #
  • Right, it's time to tie Hewitt and Hoon together, put them in a sack of rats, and throw them in the Thames. Treacherous bastards #
  • (and no, I'm no Gordon fan, but doing this 4 months pre-election is unforgiveable) #
  • (and no, I'm no Gordon fan, or even a Labour supporter, but doing this 4 months pre-election is unforgiveable) #
  • Yanks incapable of understanding Not Everyone Is A Yank, with hilarious 'false accusations of racism' consequences: http://bit.ly/7DBUys #
  • It must be, in part at least, frozen water: when it melts, it refreezes as black ice. Tiny, despe… http://fallenlondon.com/c/3934 #
  • CITV enhanced my life as a child. The ads on CITV didn't blight my life. Therefore, those who'd ban kids TV ads are eejits… #
  • I'm not normally a fan of political executions, but I'd make an exception for idiots who claim we've just had "12 years of socialist gov't" #
  • I'm not sure the Hitler motif adds much, but I like the revised copy: http://bit.ly/5ULSTR #
  • In London's trendy Camden, awaiting London's trendy @devilskitchen, of London's slightly odd LPUK #
  • London's trendy Camden is playing London's trendy Cure, preceded by London's trendy TT D'Arby #
  • London's trendy bar lady is very attractive, although possibly too young for London's trendy @johnb78 #
  • http://fallenlondon.com/c/4184 #
  • Shorter Steve Hilton scandal: man doing nothing wrong gets mugged for gbp80 by evil jobsworths; 2 years later people pretend this is news. #
  • NHS Constitution includes "right to choose to die at home". Easy one: just don't call an ambulance… #
  • #fl With so much business in Fallen London, you can't expect the inhabitants of Hell to go home at th… http://fallenlondon.com/c/4471 #

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I’ll drink to that

An excellent piece on CiF on the neo-puritans and their efforts to wage class war on the poor through banning and taxing booze. Killer quote:

The 19th-century temperance movement was defeated by an alliance of liberals and the working class, and it looks like a repeat performance might be required. A prohibition bill was squashed in the Commons in 1859, the year in which John Stuart Mill in On Liberty savaged the “beer house purism” of the religiously inspired anti-alcohol lobby.

Let’s face it – irrespective of the issue, if you’re lining up against JS Mill, you’re most likely on the wrong side of the argument…

Quick Icelandic banking redux

Just for the avoidance of doubt:

1) the democratically elected Icelandic government, under EU/EFTA financial regulation equivalence rules, agreed long before the crisis even began that it would guarantee compensation of the first EUR20887 of deposit to retail depositors in Icelandic banks from other EU countries.

2) the Icelandic banks, with explicit permission from the democratically elected Icelandic government (as part of the economic boom that vastly enriched Icelanders for many years), actively marketed their savings accounts to depositors from other EU countries.

3) The Icelandic banks then went bust and lost their depositors’ money.

4) This means that, unequivocally and in every possible sense, the Icelandic government is responsible for paying the first EUR20887 of compensation to retail depositors in Icelandic banks from other EU countries. They agreed to take on that debt, and retail depositors in the Icelandic banks made the deposits on the basis that the Icelandic government weren’t a bunch of ropey shysters who’d refuse to pay debt that they owed.

5) For understandable reasons of domestic harmony, the governments of the UK and Netherlands (where the majority of Iceland’s victims were located) agreed to pay the compensation themselves, and subsequently chase the Icelandic government for the money it owed.

6) Today’s populist refusal by Iceland’s president to pay the UK and Netherlands government the US$5bn it owes as a result, despite the extremely generous payment terms they’d been offered, represents every single Icelandic person nicking more than US$10,000 from British and Dutch taxpayers.

If that’s democracy, screw it.