Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Take me to your leader

Sometimes Economist readers spot the punchline I missed.

A commenter on my just-posted item on alien diplomacy remarks: "for the UN this represents another important milestone in their quest for relevance."

Blog: The UN’s secretive alien ambassador, Sep 28th 2010, 16:03

Friday, September 24, 2010


In Britain the relatively new government is struggling to overcome a mountain of debt. Lots of radical plans for cutting the budget have been proposed. What is most fascinating is the reaction of all sorts of vested interests to budget cuts. Every day there is a new story about how disastrous it is all going to be, leading to riots, terrorism or a cultural black hole.

Its all fuelling a sense of increasing doom about the proposal. Proposals which, let us not forget, are about a nation living within its means rather than spending money it doesn't have, and blowing what it does on billions of pounds of interest payments.

Listening to people try to justify their ludicrous entitlements or the status quo is really informative. For example, today comes news that hundreds of quangos (strange quasi nongovernmental organisations financed by government) are going to be abolished. Hooray. Will we miss the Advisory Committee on Organic Standards and Cycling England? I doubt it.

One quango under threat is the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority which oversees fertility treatment. Its work looks set to move elsewhere. This is the really good bit. The former head of this agency, Baroness Deech, was just interviewed by the BBC. She claimed abolishing it would not save any money.

She went on, "It only costs £5m and it's not taxpayers' money. Most of that £5m comes from the patients. Now if you redistribute the functions, you're not going to save anything."

Er, hello? Earth to Baroness Deech? Women undergoing IVF are asked to pay £100 quid a cycle to fund her quango. Are you suggesting this is some kind of voluntary donation? I've never had IVF, but the idea that I'd be asked to write a cheque to support the regulator and be told that this isn't a tax is insulting.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lord of the dance

A fun story about what makes a man's dance moves attractive to women...


Updated: This story was in the top five most popular items on the Economist website during the week of September 10th to 16th.