On the WWF’s new report on environmental armaggeddon

By popular request, my look at the WWF’s report that everything is going to shit.

I was going to try an in depth sort of thing but then came across this in their “at a glance” section:

We need 1.5 Earths to meet the demands we currently
make on nature. This means we are eating into our natural
capital, making it more difficult to sustain the needs of future
• The carbon Footprint accounts for over half of the total
Ecological Footprint, and is the largest single component for
approximately half of the countries tracked.

So, if we subtract out those carbon emissions and have another look then we’re using only 75% of the Earth to support our lifestyles. Which means there’s no problem then, is there?

After all, we already know that the carbon emissions are too high and also that we’re doing quite a lot about it too.

And do note that this is even using Wackernagel’s entirely ridiculous calculations of footprints (a nuclear power station is assigned the same carbon foot print as a coal station of the same output…..no, really….and land is only counted once. So the carbon that is absorbed by the wheat that you eat ain’t counted etc, you need both a piece of land to grow the wheat and also another piece of land to absorb the CO2).

In fact, the report has simply come to the same conclusion as the IPCC. Cut down on the carbon emissions and we’re fine. Ho hum……

Ritchie and the economics of pensions

The ‘value’ created in the dot.com era has faded and passed, and the result has been, at least in part, a 0.7% annual decline in the value of pension funds since the turn of the century. The value in all those assets we suggested pension funds should invest in has remained intact for society at large, if undermined in too many specific cases by PFI.

Hmm, OK. For the sake of argument…..the solution is:

People’s Pension will be backed by People’s Pension Funds. These entirely new funds will be created to provide a way in which pension contributions can be invested in the building of new public infrastructure projects such as:

• schools and universities
• hospitals and other health facilities
• transport systems (including railways, trams and bus networks)
• social housing
• sustainable energy systems

D’ye see what he’s done there? He’s compared the private return to investors in the first case to the social return to consumers in the second.

We could, and should, compare the private return to investors in both cases (and who thinks that bonds would be a good investment in current times?) or the social return in both cases. And I’m not all that sure about you but the social, the value to consumers, of things like mobile phones, Google and all the rest appears to be quite large really.

Isn’t Ritchie just so gorgeously marvellous?

So, he’s talking about tax relief for pensions:

Over the period when these funds managed to lose the pensioners of the UK money (even though those of many other countries made positive returns) we spend a total of £451 billion subsidising these pension contributions.

Now, I admit that in this time series some of the tax paid by pensioners will need to be deducted from the cost of tax reliefs given, because clearly over time there is a partial matching process going on here. Equally, not all need be matched: much of the tax paid will have been by people who made contributions before the period began, and so you could argue that the next cost was a but lower than £450 billion. I have no way of knowing by how much that might be the case (and nor has anyone else) but it would be very surprising indeed if this was £100 billion, but just in case let’s call it that.

That still leaves a net £350 billion investment by the state in pensions and apparently that’s all been lost, and more besides.

The problem with this is that when you go and read the report that this is based upon, the one that tells us that the real return is 0.7% minus, that return is after the tax that pensioners pay on withdrawing their pensions. Ritchie hasn’t bothered to read his source material.

It’s also the real rate of return, marked to market, over the 2000 to 2013 period. Ritchie would have everyone investing in infrastructure bonds instead of equities. Anyone care to calculate the real return on bonds over the past few years, when inflation has been higher than bond interest rates?

Tim Daw’s getting good at this PR stuff…..

Yours for £400, eternal rest in a Stone Age tomb …newly built in a Wiltshire field by a farmer called Tim

Farmer Tim Daw has built a long barrow burial site in a field on his farm
The tombs were used to store the remains of loved ones 5,000 years ago
Tim is selling spots for £400 – and 60 people have already reserved places
The ashes of Carol Gray were the first to be moved into Tim’s new tomb
When the Neolithic long barrow is full it will contain 600 cremated remains

Second time now he’s had is splashed in the Mail.

Ooooh, Goodie! Now We’re To Have Censorship!

Extremists will have to get posts on Facebook and Twitter approved in advance by the police under sweeping rules planned by the Conservatives.

censorship. Don’tch’a just love it?

So gloriously in line with the traditional approach, that you’ve the freedom to say anything you damn well like and also the necessity to take responsibility for it.

What is it about being Home Secretary that turns people into fucking fascists?

Look on the bright side I suppose:

EDOs would apply if a judge is convinced that an individual is carrying out their activities for “the purpose of overthrowing democracy”.

That’s every communist in the country to be locked up, isn’t it?

I wonder where the trolls will be tomorrow?

Jolyon’s right: he and I disagree on many things for whilst he is a member of the Labour Party we are very clearly in different places on the left. But, and this is the key point, if this gives rise to serious, policy based discussion rather than crass analysis in support of the status quo or based on myth and not fact (all seen far too often in comments from supposed professionals who should know better on this blog, including today) then I’m very willing to take part, be shot down, take the bruises and then come back for more. That’s how issues are resolved and matters properly taken forward.

My own first contribution is, I think, out tomorrow and made me think during the course of its writing. That’s no bad thing. So, I’d like this policy Jolyon is promoting to work – but it does rely very heavily on his ability to edit appropriately and to keep commentary to the straight and narrow, which by necessity means keeping the trolls at a distance.


Truly, politics is showbiz for the ugly

A mother-of-two whose “sunbathing selfie” was hijacked by a tabloid newspaper to help snare Brooks Newmark in a sex scandal has insisted the MP had nothing to be ashamed of.

Charlene Tyler, 26, told The Telegraph she was upset that a photograph of her in a bikini was used as part of a fake Twitter account in the name of “Sophie Wittams”.

Miss Tyler said it was “quite wrong” The Sunday Mirror had copied her photograph without her consent.

She expressed concern for Mr Newmark and insisted that he had not acted improperly by sending an intimate photograph of himself to the fake “Sophie”, whom he believed was twenty-something Conservative activist.

It’s the
sort of thing a rock guitarist might do. There’s a fan out there whose adulation is such that she’s just gagging to drop her knickers for him. And thus the ugly middle aged bloke in office. There’s a political groupie so enamoured of power that she wants to come up for a no strings shag.

Politics just is showbiz for the ugly.

What The Guardian doesn’t understand about the Labour Party

Ukip has come north to offer itself as a party for blue-collar voters.

It is a fraudulent offer. In the first place, there is no disputing that the SNP talks the talk of a leftwing alternative to Labour in Scotland. Whether it also walks the walk is a different question, on which there are deeply divided views. But there is no disputing that tens of thousands of former Labour voters last week decided that their interests were safest with the SNP and the yes campaign. None of this is true of Ukip. Ukip is not a leftwing alternative to Labour or even the Tories, but a rightwing one — as the conference powerfully underlined.

Mr Farage said that the NHS would be safe in Ukip’s hands. This is simply incompatible with the classic Tory tax-cutting agenda that he then announced a few hours later, in which inheritance tax would be scrapped and those on skilled workers’ salaries would get a 5p income tax cut. The figures do not add up, and the gap between income and spending would widen still more if the flatter tax regime the party favours as a goal, with a further 5p cut in the top rate of income tax, ever came into force. Mr Farage is selling a lie.

None of this is to pretend that Ukip’s current claims will always fall on stony ground. Ukip’s rise in parts of old industrial Britain has been eased by Labour complacency and neglect. There is a widespread appetite for change. But the answer for Labour is to mount a principled response to Ukip, not to ape it.

What the
metropolitan left generally doesn’t understand, not in its gut it doesn’t, is quite how right wing the core vote of the Labour Party is. The British working classes just don’t share most of the trendy concerns that motivate the urban intelligentsia. And it’s that that leaves that door wide open for someone to come in and nick that core vote.

This isn’t a prediction but it wouldn’t actually surprise me if Labour lost a swathe of those Northern and Industrial towns that have been electing dead donkeys as long as they wore a red rosette for the past century. Not because of any change in the desires of that core vote: but because the professional political class that claims to represent them simply doesn’t.


Diplomats and European Union officials have accused the Work and Pensions Secretary of an “act of aggression” by refusing to pay benefits to thousands of Czech, Slovak and Polish migrant workers – even though they are no longer in Britain.

The three governments paid out unemployment benefits to people who had been working and paying taxes in UK before becoming unemployed and moving back home.

Under EU rules the UK—as the last state of employment–is obliged to contribute to the unemployment benefits of jobless Czechs, Slovaks and Poles who once worked and paid tax in Britain.

But the Central European states claim this is no longer happening, and the UK has left them to pick up the entire bill.

Well, yes, I can see the logic in the plan. But no, just no.

It’s because it’s a fucking terrible idea Ritchie

What I have also argued is that a condition of this relief is that 25% of all contributions – likely to easily exceed £80 billion pa – should be invested in job creation programmes. It is impossible to specify that these must be in the UK but the availability of specific infrastructure bonds would make this incredibly easy to link to investment in UK sustainable growth. £20 billion a year would transform that.

So why is no one adopting the idea? Is it another case of cowardly politics where it is too risky to demand that pension funds be used for social good rather then funding speculative bubbles?

1) You don’t want your long term pensions savings to be in bonds. Because inflation: anyone who had stuck their money into gilts in the 1950s would be dead of starvation by the 90s. Also because you want exposure to the generally increasing wealth of society: that means equities.

2) You’ve also insisted that this 25% must go into new projects. That means venture capital. And no, VC is not really the right investment world for pensions.

No one is adopting this idea because it’s a fucking stupid one. Especially since there’s an R. Murphy out there demanding that we have a higher inflation target in order to shed some of the debt load. Bonds are a really, really, bad investment in a high inflation world. That’s why R. Murphy is suggesting the higher inflation of course, so that gilts become worth less.

What bastards UKIP are, eh?

The father of the main prosecution witness in Britain’s biggest child sex grooming scandal has accused Nigel Farage of exploiting the issue for political gain as the UK Independence party attempts to unseat Labour in a Manchester byelection.

The man, known as Tom, whose daughter’s testimony led to the prosecution of nine Asian men and an overhaul of Crown Prosecution Service rules, said that the anti-federalist party had resorted to British National party-style tactics while campaigning to win Heywood and Middleton in Greater Manchester.

The town of Heywood, where Tom lives, was at the centre of the Rochdale scandal, after a sex-trafficking gang of men of mainly Pakistani origin were found to have preyed on at least 47 girls, all of whom were white.

Statements issued by Farage and leaflets distributed by his party have blamed Labour’s “love affair” with “immigration, political correctness and multiculturalism” for the betrayal of “white working-class girls”.

Political party, fighting in a byelection, uses the biggest local political scandal of the times to campaign for votes.

What bastards, eh?

Hollande might have the last laugh here

France’s ex-first lady Valérie Trierweiler, allegedly mocked by François Hollande over her modest origins, looks set to become richer than her ex-partner thanks to her tell-all book on her troubled times with the president.

“Merci pour ce moment” (Thanks For This Moment) has been one of Amazon France’s bestsellers and has sold 442,000 copies since it came out at the start of the month, according to the latest figures from its publisher.

Hmm. OK.

Any financial worries she might have had have now been chased away by the runaway success of “Merci pour ce moment”, which Le Figaro newspaper calculated has netted her 1.3 million euros (£1 million).

The publisher, Les Arènes, said it thought that figure was “excessive” but was unable to provide a more exact number when contacted by The Telegraph.

Yes, 3 euros a copy on a paperback does sound a bit high.

“Merci pour ce moment” will almost certainly make her richer than Mr Hollande. When he came to power in 2012, he declared his wealth — consisting mostly of property – to be 1.17 million euros.

Well, I’m not sure. Doesn’t France have a 75% income tax rate currently: one set by a certain M. Hollande?

So how much of this is feminism?

Two-thirds think that GPs seeing 60 patients a day is putting people at risk, whilst 60 per cent would support more NHS funding being given to family doctors.

The number week-long waiters has risen sharply from 47million in 2013, with the delays being blamed on the fact that there are too few GPs to meet rising demand for their services.

We know
a few things about the GP workforce.

Increasing numbers of women in it for example. And increasing number of women who go part time while their children are young.

We are absolutely certain that this leads to getting fewer working hours out of each GP that is trained over their careers.

What we don’t know (or I don’t know) is whether this is actually important. For example, has the number of training places been expanded as the profession becomes increasingly feminised?

we would rather hope that it has for this is supposed to be one of the advantages of that all encompassing NHS isn’t it? That things can be planned by that omniscient State?