Eggs Reduxed and Friends In High Places

A further thing regarding the ‘eggs by the kilo’ story occurred to me last night as I was selecting some supermarket steaks. Steaks are sold by weight, and although the packs are all the same size the price (and weight) of the meat within can vary quite considerably- so much so that my preferred method of steak selection starts with looking for the highest prices, before other factors like marbling etc.
I don’t think anybody has been seriously expecting that the EU’s latest daft-sounding regulation will affect the number of eggs in your box, it will still contain six, ten or twelve eggs but (like steaks or pork chops) each box will have to be individually priced. It’s not a Big Thing in itself, supermarkets already have the infrastructure in place to sell products in this way, corner shops will probably have the work done supplier-side and the net result will probably be to make accounting slightly more complicated (and therefore slightly more expensive). The biggest losers will be farm shops and they can easily cope by adding another setting to the electric scales they undoubtably already own for selling fruit and veg. Of itself, this seemingly bizzare regulation is unlikely to cause too much disruption to either shoppers or retailers.
However, taken as part of the wider trend it suddenly looks a lot worse, as part of the death by a thousand cuts to small businesses, regulations like this and WEEE and tobacco display bans and minimum alcohol prices and a multitude of others each apply small reductions in the profitability of Big Retail’s smaller, more agile competitors while the likes of Tesco either have the weight infrastructure already in place or enough redundancy in their system to take up the extra workload.

Companies like Tesco aren’t the problem however. Whether they lobby for regulation (as they did with the minimum pricing story), have a quiet word with the powers that be behind the scenes or simply sit back and take advantage of the situation Big Retail acts in Big Retail’s best interests which is exactly how it should be. Tesco has a responsibility to Tesco’s shareholders to maximise profits. Suggesting that they act otherwise would be akin to suggesting a tiger refuse to take advantage of its prey having a gammy leg because it’s ‘not sporting’ and sounds a little bit commie to me. The problem really lies with the States both National and Supernational that create the prevailing conditions, and with the pooulations that allow this to happen. Boycotts are useless. Take the alcohol pricing issue: even if there were enough outraged bloggers to seriously reduce Tesco to its knees over the issue then Sainsbury or Morrisons would simply take up their place, if indeed they are not already making quiet noises in the ears of those who need little persuasion anyway.

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Robbing Hood

The BBC are pushing the idea of a ‘Robin Hood Tax‘ this morning, in order to “fight poverty, protect public services and tackle climate change (perhaps to pay someone to put the wheels back on!).”
Curiously enough, there doesn’t seem to be much mention of it on the BBC’s website although they had gone to the trouble of making a nice-looking arrow-styled graphic which lead to my original belief that this will be something they will re-visit in order to build consent for such a thing.

Regardless of what the tax will be used for (although there is plenty just in those three aims to disagree with), who is “calling for” it (Charities! Unions! Aid Agencies!), and from whom it will be raised (evil bankers!) the thing that really piqued my interest was what they didn’t say.

“To work,” they said, “this tax will need to be levied in ALL tax jurisdictions.” A global tax then? “If we did it alone it would just make the UK less competitive.”

“Of course, the main problem then would be that there is no international body to administer and collect such a tax.”

They didn’t tell us that what we really, really need to fight poverty, protect public services and tackle climate change is a global government. They want you to think it -like Windows 7- is YOUR idea.

Nice.

Fakes Can Kill You

Forget cigarettes and whiskey, those are long gone. Forget even ham sandwiches. This morning the BBC are reporting that counterfeit goods can kill you.

This comes at the end the segment this morning regarding the French and Italian governments’ descisions to prosecute tourists returning from abroad clutching fake Prada bags and the like. Although our freedom-loving government has decided against this course of action, in the face of this new and severe threat to our economy they have decided to wage an “information campaign” against us, part of which I can only assume this segment was.

After a fairly unconvincing attempt to paint the people buying fake designer goods abroad as stealing job away from the British manufacturing industry (seriously!! Most people who buy a fake Armani handbag are never going to buy a real one, are they? Or did they mean stealing jobs from British counterfeiters?) they guy from the Trading Standards institute wheeled out the now-standard ‘summody-pleeez-thinka-the-cheeeldren argument. Apparantly some uninformed parents bought a fake gameboy charger abroad which malfunctioned and electrocuted their son. Very tragic I’m sure, but seriously, If you’re buying fake electrical goods or medicines then you are taking your life in your hands. Fake designer gear isn’t exactly in the same league is it?

Fake designer gear has been around for years. Apart from the obvous cases (in which caveat emptor applies) no real harm is done to anybody and criminalising tourists for buying something a bit dodgy in a market (and can you see it applying to tourists travelling through France and Italy? I can) is a bit too much for me.

Results!

Well, the results are in, and everyone is shocked. No, I’m not talking about The Apprentice, although from watching BBC breakfast this morning you could be forgiven for thinking I was.
They did, to be fair, cover the Euro election results from 7, although I wasn’t quite awake yet. Late shift today, you see.

In my antediluvian morning condition, I was sure Harman was saying it’s all our (the voters) fault. I couldn’t be right, surely.

I’d had a coffee by the time William Hague came on, he seemed quite pleased that his lot had got the most votes, although he couldn’t wait to explain that UKIP and the BNP had only won some seats because it was a PR ballot, and “people tend to indulge in fringe and extreme parties in PR ballots,” and “that’s why I don’t want a PR ballot for Westminster.”
Hmmm… Makes sense, you wouldn’t want parties with policies that people actually want sitting alongside you, would you? Just wouldn’t be cricket. You might have to listen to them. Can’t have that, might put the project in jeopardy.

That Griffin fellow was on as well, and surprisingly they gave him quite a long interview. Hoping he’d say something terribly national socialist and racially-motivated I expect. He’s much too clever for that though. He made a few points (although I can’t remember any of them now! -he’s one of those), and despite Turnbull trying to lead him to say something about “as long as they’re white” he didn’t bite. Even when he slipped it in at the end. Stilll, he’s packed off to Brussels now where he can’t actually do anything for a while, so no harm done. Interestingly, the BBC is still promoting them as a far-right party, which makes sense. Nobody would vote for a far-left party after Zanu would they?

The Cybersecurity Czar and You

It’s happening in a foreign land, and it hasn’t really made the news over here, but Obama’s creation of the post of Cybersecurity Czar affects internet users the world over. As we can see from this diagram, a majority of the world’s internet traffic travels through the United States, as that is where it was first built and expanded from. Many of the things we use every day like Hotmail, Google, lots of blogging sites are all based in the USA so the reality is most of what we do outside the US has already been subject to FISA and will no less be subject to the Cybersecurity Czar and the Cybersecurity Bill, should it pass. For a UK Libertarian blogger, that may not seem so scary, until you remember firstly the US Government‘s view of bloggers and libertarians, and secondly that UK subjects can be extradited to the US on presentation of no evidence whatsoever. Considering the lastest moves in the USA against free speech, does that not make you a little worried?

Apart from the report from the Electronic Frontiers Foundation that the Act’s new requirements will actually make life easier for anyone wanting to commit a cyber-attack on the USA (and therefore, by extension anyone else) perhaps the scariest provision is giving the White House the power to shut down the internet completely, or at least the US portion of it. Since such a large proportion of internet traffic travels through the US, this would effectively cripple what has become the backbone of the world’s financial and business systems. Many companies use the internet not only to generate custom, but also to organise their inventories, place orders, control their logistics and communicate with their customers and suppliers. The company I work for, small fish globally compared to the likes of Wal-Mart and Tesco but nevertheless a huge business sustaining millions of jobs worldwide would be crippled in the event of an internet shutdown. Pretty much all the big players worldwide would be in just such a jam, Y2K eat your heart out, and all of it in the hands of one man. Still, he’s the mesiah, right? The White House’s cure in this instance could definitely be worse than the disease, in fact provoking just this sort of response from a panicked Washington may well be the goal of “Cyber-Terrorists” were they, in fact, to exist. The Endarkenment in an afternoon!

One last thought: Perhaps these proposals will lend weight to the EU’s demands that the US let go the reigns of the internet and hand control to a new, globally-appointed and unaccountable body?

Harrow

I’m not sure what to make of the latest developments in North Korea. I’d like to think that they are merely hoping that once they’ve got the bomb and the missiles to use them that everyone will leave them alone. After all, Saddam merely pretended he’d got the bomb, and look what happened to him! I’m not sure it works like that though. They are already being left alone, so much so that their population are starving, and yet they still feel the need to have a huge army. Public opinion seems to be that, like Iran, the country is being run by lunatic madmen who, foaming at the mouth, wouldn’t think twice about launching thermonuclear war for the sake of an ideology. (Considering where the bulk of public opinion comes from) I disagree, instead forming the opinion that these regimes merely pretend to be loonies, in the hope of a little international cachet and putting a little uncertainty into their enemies, al-la Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon series. They may even be hoping for some more nuclear blackmail cash. I hope I’m right because if I’m not we could all be regretting it soon…

Update: The Russians are worried