Close the corner shops

I’ve just heard George Monbiot on the Today programme, perhaps not surprisingly (BBC bias claimants might want to note that the other guest was ASI director Eamonn Butler), claiming that the closure of local shops was bad for consumers.

Has Mr Monbiot ever been to a corner shop? They’re uniformly rubbish, with a tiny range, enormous prices, and gone-off food. My local Tesco Express (opened on the site of a corner shop) has an excellent range, is much cheaper, and understands that you need to store yogurt in the fridge.

Indeed, the preponderance of superstores and their miniature relatives makes it easier to buy decent food in any small English suburb than in New York City. All the grocery stores in NYC are corner shops, and nearly all are also overpriced and rubbish (I’m not sure whether this is due to protectionist laws – if not, big chains would do well to set up there).

There are some arguments against the big supermarkets on the cost side – whether they use their power to avoid paying suppliers fairly, whether they exploit staff (the fact that big supermarkets tend to come near the top of the country’s best employers survey implies not, but doesn’t prove it). But anyone claiming the growth of Tesco and Wal-Mart is anything other than good for consumers is wrong.

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Time to learn foreign

It would appear that the only way to avoid being stuck with a fat bird is to stop dating Brits or Americans. Heureusement, les filles francaises sont toujours très belles.

I was going to provide some links to justify the final sentence, but keep being distracted. If anyone would like to suggest a worthy place/places to link to, let me know.

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Freedom? Not round here

It’s become unfashionable to point out that some armed Islamic militants are genuinely freedom fighters, in that they’re fighting against terrible injustice and for freedom. Apparently, if people who share some of your views kill a bunch of Americans, then you’re a terrorist forever, no matter how justified your aims and how restrained your methods.

As a result, we have a bloke imprisoned indefinitely in the UK for helping the rebels in Chechnya. The logic seems to be that since he’s a Muslim, and the Russians are our allies, then it’s only a matter of time until he blows up Canary Wharf.

This is slightly odd, given that the Russians are a vicious bunch of authoritarians whose conduct in Chechnya borders on genocide, that the only moral grounds for non-intervention in Chechnya are consquentialist (starting a nuclear war with the Russians would be even worse than what’s going on now), and that we should therefore give the guy a medal rather than lock him in jail.

But hey, I’m sure he’s guilty really. Let’s just sit back and relax while our leaders protect us from the Terrible Islamonazis Who Would, If They Could, Destroy Every One Of Us (why can I never type that without breaking into laughter? Oh, because it’s fucking ludicrous…)

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Harsh discipline required

The fact that prostitutes advertise in phone boxes is a good thing for all concerned. Nobody is harmed by the adverts [1], while prostitutes can now legally work from their own rooms rather than on the streets, reducing the scope for abusive pimpery. Likewise, the streets are left less full of tarts and punters at night, and of condoms during the day.

Westminster Council, being silly, don’t understand this. Instead, they make phone box operator BT spend quarter of a million pounds a year removing hooker cards; and also ask BT to disconnect any of its customers whose phone numbers are advertised on the cards. BT, disgracefully, complies with the request.

Fortunately, the UK’s competitive telecoms market allows people to avoid losing out to this sharp practice. BT’s share of the hooker market has fallen to 10% since the policy came in, while landline rival Telewest has gained a 28% share. Mobiles are also popular, accounting for around half the numbers on the cards.

Westminister Council, who I may have already described as silly, don’t like this state of affairs – but when they tried to get the other phone companies to agree, they were told to get lost (it’s good to see private enterprise standing up to sad bureaucrats with no real power…)

This clearly wounded the council’s pride, leading it to print 20,000 of its own cards containing the personal details of the top UK executives at the relevant companies. The plan appears to be to stir up the local busybodies and/or Taxi Driver-style vigilante nutcases into complaining to and/or assassinating the businessmen responsible for this terrible outrage.

So to recap: Westminister Council not only wants to compel private businesses to obey its whims despite having no legal grounds to do so, it is also willing to spend taxpayers’ money on personal campaigns against individuals who refuse.

Hopefully it won’t work; still, if you live in Westminster and aren’t a raving lunatic, it’s fairly clear you should vote for anyone other than the ruling Tories next time.

[1] Except under the lunatic conception of ‘harm’ by which French Connection adverts are harmful. Anyone who believes that this is a relevant criteron can safely be ignored.

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Ikea death crush

Three people have been killed in Saudi Arabia after a stampede at Ikea. This shouldn’t be funny, but somehow is.

This may because I can’t get rid of the mental image of assorted crazed mullahs denouncing self-assembly pine furniture as a tool of Satan, and perhaps claiming that Allah righteously strikes down apostates who buy furniture fashioned from the very tree that the Crusaders use to honour their false god…

In fairness, they would be correct: self-assembly pine furniture is very, very clearly a tool of Satan.

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