Why is blackmail illegal?

So, you’ve probably seen the story about David Letterman being blackmailled over his affairs. This forms the basis of a thought provoking piece in the New Yorker asking why blackmail is illegal: A final call went out to Walter Block, the libertarian economist. Block believes that blackmail, like smoking, is “yucky” but should be legal. “He only threatened to be a gossip—maybe a screenwriter,” he said of Halderman. “Screenwriting and gossiping are legal. If it’s legal to do it, it … Read more

Bleg: What is the issue with money for P&J?

Exciting innovation! The excellent Freakonomics blog occasionally runs a “bleg” defined as: A bleg = blog + beg — i.e., using a blog to beg for information. In that spirit, the following types of comment keeps popping up regarding the devolution of Policing and Justice: PSNI is in serious financial trouble at present, if a serious terrorist campaign were to raise its’ head, where would additional funding come from? No Government will promise a blank cheque, that is for sure. … Read more

“But I don’t happen to believe in Unionism”

H/T to qubol for this. On a predictably heated thread on football eligibility from a few years back: IJP Go join the UUP. Posted by kensei on Oct 24, 2007 @ 11:28 PM Why would I join the UUP? Well, the North Down Westminster seat in due course? Or a walk-in for MEP? If I were in politics for the position, I’d have joined long ago. But I don’t happen to believe in Unionism Posted by IJP on Oct 25, … Read more

On the uneasy morality of violence

This article from Vincent Browne does eventually wind up comparing the killing of Louis Mounbatten to the Nazis in a roundabout way, but his attempt at working through his logic should be appreciated rather than scorned. Many on this site profess a moral certainty in their favoured direction over the Troubles that I have never been able to possess. Vincent takes the argument from one direction, but I have always found it as easy, if not easier, to arrive at … Read more

The state of the SDLP is leading to a crisis in Nationalism

I think Mark, in common with others, has underrated the Sinn Fein performance in the North. Brian lamented parties playing up the significance of topping the pole, but seemed miss that whatever Chris or commentators here might have posted, the SF leadership assuredly did not do it. They also largely resisted the temptation to cause difficulties for their coalition partners or expend large amount of resources in pushing their vote as high as possible in a vanity project. It was … Read more

Musical Interlude

So a little interlude on one of my other interests. A now extensive gig going record has revealed that it is painfully rare to catch band that is special, especially a local one. I stumbled over The Lowly Knights supporting California indie folksters Port O’Brien, and they accomplished the very rare feat of being better than the main act. Self described as “grand ramshackle folk opera”, and having about a million members the lazy comparison is with the likes of … Read more

The Unpost

Or the “Social Media Super Political Text Vortex” if you prefer. Inspired by Mick’s unconference, I am having an unpost. No doubt you, like me, get through about a zillion articles that you either forget about a bit later, aren’t entirely relevant to the remit of the site, or you don’t have time to dig into. Well, this is the place for all that stuff. Highlight interesting things that people may have missed. This isn’t an open topic; don’t post … Read more


Stephanie Flanders nails why I found it impossible to build the requisite outrage at the expenses scandal: The idea is this: money is fungible. Put simply, that means one £50 note is the same as any other. They all have the same value and they will all buy the same amount of stuff. Put it even more simply, if you give someone £100 to buy a chair, you can’t say for sure that he bought a chair with your money … Read more


So someone finally asked me why it’s the Ulster Conservative and Unionist New Force, or CUMBLA. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c 10 F#@king Years – NAMBLA thedailyshow.com Daily Show Full Episodes Economic Crisis Political Humor I love the Daily Show. Kensei

Cameron promises to elevate Salmond to his equal

I can’t actually believe I read this one: DAVID CAMERON last night challenged Alex Salmond to agree to an annual grilling by MPs under a Conservative government. The First Minister would be asked to appear at least once a year before a cross-party Westminster committee to discuss policy and spending decisions affecting Scotland. … In addressing his Scottish conference in Perth on Friday, Cameron went further: “If the Scottish Parliament so wishes, I will come to Holyrood once a year … Read more

Effort in Education

More from the New Yorker, I’ve been picking it up the last few weeks and simply can’t recommend it enough. Douglas McGray writes on Green Dot, a charter school organisation in Los Angles and its energetic founder, Steve Barr. This one is locked down too, but fortunately Green Dot have put a scan of the article on their website here. Meanwhile, Malcolm Gladwell looks at how underdogs can succeed. Both I think are relevant to the ongoing education debate.Green Dot … Read more

Rwanda in Recovery

A few weeks back The New Yorker did a powerful article on Rwanda 15 years after the genocide. It details the incredible progress the country has made and the tensions and difficulties in a place where genocide survivor must live side by side with genocide killer. Sadly it’s locked down behind subscriber registration. However a podcast with the author covering much of the topics can be found here. Well worth listening to, and well worth tracking down the original article … Read more

Soaking the Rich

I think it would be fair to say that Pete’s favourite business reporter, Robert Peston, is somewhat skeptical of the 50% tax rate: What’s more, the IFS says that the Treasury is actually being too optimistic, on the basis of the best economic model of the impact on revenues of tax-rate increases. This model predicts that the Treasury will actually lose money on the new 50% rate, once the reduced harvest from indirect taxes is taken into account. Now we’re … Read more

Is the difference between Iceland and Ireland not R but €?

I have been reading Paul Krugman’s “The Return of Depression Economics”. It was originally written to cover problems in the Asian economies in the late nineties, but has been updated to cover the strikingly similar things that have occured everywhere in the past year. He spends a good deal of time on how small economies come under pressure. It’s interesting to note how this works, and interesting to note that Ireland has largely escaped. As I best understand it, the … Read more

Orde quits PSNI to head Police Association

I thought someone else would have picked this up by now Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde is to leave his post and become president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo). Reaction from the BBC BBC Analysis Any thoughts, reflections or predictions welcome. Kensei

She will cut you!

Jon Stewart on the Obamas meeting the Queen and the apparent breach of protocol. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c The Poisonous Queen comedycentral.com Daily Show Full Episodes Economic Crisis Political Humor Kensei

Was China’s call for a world currency a sign of weakness?

A couple of economists have weighed in on the Chinese proposal for a world reserve currency. They are both worth reading in full, as I think it highlights a perhaps overlooked aspect of the current crisis.Stephen Flanders at the BBC is impressed, giving the Chinese kudos for global leadership for a proposal that ….would have made it quite difficult for economies like China to exist. If there had been a Keynes-style global currency system, China would have had to rein … Read more

When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death

The Way of The Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say dying without reaching one’s aim is to die a dog’s death is the frivolous way of sophisticates. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one’s aim. The words above are by Yamoto Tsunetomo, taken from his treatise Hagakure on … Read more