Is this ignorance I see before me?

To reinforce British diplomats\’ wilful blindness, the Foreign Office has closed half a dozen embassies in Latin America in recent years, to minimise the danger of receiving subversive opinions from foreign capitals. All part of Britain\’s national decline.

Erm, isn\’t that in fact the flip side of the European Diplomatic Service?

Replacement of individual country embassies with EU ones?

Despite the obesity epidemic British women are not elephants

A survey has found that just 6 per cent of new mothers agree that Britain has become a better place for families since the election.

A further 47 per cent say ministers’ policies have not made any difference, while 22 per cent say the situation has worsened.

Hmm, so, how was this found out?

In the 18 months since the Coalition was formed,…….The survey of 1,996 women, who were either pregnant or had recently given birth,

So, given that all were in fact humans, not elephants with 18 month gestation periods, none of the women interviewed* has direct experience of the two regimes.

Further, all of the women, given the 9 month gestation common to our species, became pregnant (a positive decision in these days of contraception and liberal abortions laws….although that\’s more about staying pregnant than becoming so) after the Coalition started meaning that the changes haven\’t changed their behaviour, have they? Unless we want to argue that the changes increase the birth rate?

And ooooooh! what\’s this?

More midwives are urgently required as the birth rate reached a 40-year high, the Royal College of Midwives has said.

New figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a 2.4% increase in live births in the last year alone.

There were 723,165 live births in England and Wales in 2010, compared with 706,248 in 2009, making it the highest figure in almost 40 years. In 1972, the birth rate was 725,440.

The number of children women are having also increased between 2009 and 2010, with the total fertility rate (TFR) rising to 2.0 children per woman in 2010 from 1.96 in 2009.

More babies are being born (and it\’s the rate per woman going up, not just there being more women) as a result of people getting the rumpy pumpy on to celebrate the imminent demise of the Labour Government/the arrival of the Coalition.

Revealed preferences folks, look at what people actually do not what they say.

As any fule kno, this works double for what any immediately post-partum woman is telling you.

Dr (and it\’s very important that we include that Dr., her PhD is in \”income inequality in later life\”) Katherine Rake should be ashamed of touting this \”research\”.


* Obviously, some might be having their second child or later but that doesn\’t change the basic point here. They\’re not even claiming to be surveying those with experience before and during the Coalition.

Re the latest Laurie

Just a thought, a near random one.

When it\’s men puffing out their chests, doing the peacock strut, this is macho and bad. When it\’s women thinking about their titties this is a terribly important matter of body image.

Why is it that exactly the same thing, standard gender behaviour, is good when done by one gender and bad when done by the other?

The Guardian\’s comments policy

A tad odd we might say.

Sunny writes a piece arguing (oh so wittily!) that Maggie\’s State Funeral should be privatised.

In the comments, this:

\"\"WouldWouldnt22 December 2011 02:33PM

Here are a few extracts from the Guardian\’s \”community standards\” policy

1. We welcome debate and dissent, but personal attacks (on authors, other users or any individual), persistent trolling and mindless abuse will not be tolerated. The key to maintaining the Guardian website as an inviting space is to focus on intelligent discussion of topics.

How precisely is a jokey article about a living person\’s impending death consistent with this community standard?

By my count, about half the comments here should be deleted on this ground, alone. But nasty comments about somebody dying – as soon as possible – have been invited by the tone of this piece.

3. We understand that people often feel strongly about issues debated on the site, but we will consider removing any content that others might find extremely offensive or threatening. Please respect other people\’s views and beliefs and consider your impact on others when making your contribution.

Again, it is hard to think of a more offensive thing than glorying in the prospect of somebody\’s death. But that\’s a fair characterisation of about half the comments on this thread.

5. We will not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia or other forms of hate-speech, or contributions that could be interpreted as such. We recognise the difference between criticising a particular government, organisation, community or belief and attacking people on the basis of their race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age.

I would have thought jokes about a very old person being about to die constitutes \”attacking people on the basis of their … age\”


In short:

– If you act with maturity and consideration for other users, you should have no problems. 
– Don\’t be unpleasant. Demonstrate and share the intelligence, wisdom and humour we know you possess.
– Take some responsibility for the quality of the conversations in which you\’re participating. Help make this an intelligent place for discussion and it will be.

Joking about a living person\’s death is a wonderful display of intelligence, wisdom and humour, and is in no way unpleasant .

I\’d be interested to see if the Guardian actually applies its own moderation policy.

Yes, in fact, they do apply their moderation policy, the ban the comment!

(N0, not my comment)

There\’s an explanation for this

Let\’s imagine that Etxebarria is, indeed, going to teach creative writing. What she\’ll discover on her first day is that the students in her seminar room have very little interest in how much money they are likely to make from their published work. I teach on just such a course at UEA, and I can report that no one tries to write, starts to write, keeps on writing, because they think it would be a handy way to make a living. I\’ve never yet had a student ask about the finances of publishing – how much they might get for a piece of work, as if it were a piece of velvet or a stash of jewels. They don\’t ask about sales, either. They write – just as published authors write, and will take the most congenial job that allows them to carry on writing – because it is an innate drive, an itch that won\’t go away.

I can imagine that this is true of those who go on creative writing courses.

To extrapolate from those who want to write about upper middle class adultery in Hampstead to all who deploy words routinely is ignorant though.

I know why I write. For money. Sure, this blog thing, it\’s fun, entertains me if no one else, allows me to try out ideas and I certainly started it simply to see whether I could actually write.

Comes, I think, from having played music as a child and a teen. You know, once you\’ve gone through that process of Grade III*, climbing the Roman numerals until you fail at VIII, you know very well that practice is what is needed. You\’ve simply got to do in order to get better at doing.

I thought I could write, certainly hoped that I could, and hammering down several thousand words a day was part of the process of exploring whether that was true.

Oh, and I should add, when I did start I was skint. So as soon as confidence had risen far enough that I thought I really could hack out 800 words that someone might like to pay for off I went looking for someone who would pay for 800 words. Found a few people too.

Running a small business, even if it is the shadowy international scandium oligopoly, doesn\’t pay all that much nor, as everyone who has run a small business knows, does running a small business pay all that regularly. Wiggles in cash flow come out of the income of the person running it.

So eight years later around half of my income comes from writing. I might be unique in that freelancing is a more stable source of income for me than my other job.

And thus I refute Ms. Hughes. I am not a blockhead and thus I write for money. Even if this, the training ground, is done just for the fun of myself and a few hundred readers.




*There is no I or II, or at least was not, for the trumpet

No, not the right way to do it

In an attempt to make it easier for children to be placed with loving families, a panel of experts from the adoption sector has been set up to overhaul the rules.

Who has concocted the current cat\’s cradle of ideologically motivated stupidities?

The experts in adoption.

Getting said experts to overhaul the rules will simply lead to the current stupidities being entrenched into the system.

We used to have an adoption system that, from the child\’s point of view, worked rather well. It had the most essential of all characteristics, that it was swift.

Matches weren\’t entirely accurate it has to be said, around where I come from a Maltese couple who were 5 foot on a good day ended up with a teenage daughter heading for 6 foot by the time she was 15. Racial considerations were not all that worried about: partly, admittedly, because there weren\’t that many different skin colours around to worry about.

But it did work in a rough and ready but above all fast fashion. Asking the experts who broke it to fix it seems a little odd.

Personally I\’d grab a few of the nuns who have been doing this for 40 years and tell them to write the rules. When they\’re done, without the intervention of any priests and certainly keeping the bishops out of the way, then just add the relevant clauses about same sex adoption and we\’re done.

Screw the academics above all.

Complete bollocks Sir Simon

Come along now, you used to edit a newspaper.

But fairness cuts both ways. Today\’s report on the tax leniency shown by the Revenue towards big corporations indicates that toughness towards the poor is not replicated by toughness towards the rich. The estimate was of some £25bn in taxes gone missing, the bulk of it concealed by an insistence on \”commercial confidentiality\”, otherwise known as incompetent secrecy.

You wouldn\’t have let the most junior cub reporter get away with that mangling of the truth.

There is £25 billion of tax which may or may not be due. Which is in the system for it to be decided, possibly by the courts, as to whether it is due or not.

What rather grates is that Jenkins is a great civil libertarian: he does not say that as and when the State accuses us of something we should just go \”It\’s a fair cop Guv\’\”.

He says that we have a system to decide these things, the presumption of innocence, a court system, hearings, sight of the evidence and even the ability to say \”Err, no, you\’re wrong even if you are a bureaucrat\”.

Vodaphone paid just £1.25bn towards a tax bill that should have been some £6bn.

No, it didn\’t.

I\’m really looking forward to the NAO report. I think this lie has gone on long enough, hasn\’t it?

Awa\’ with the fairies, this lad

What nobody seems to think worth mentioning is how corporate sponsorship changes the very meaning of these palaces of culture. The British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, in particular, are meant to stand for who we are as a people, as a democracy. They are the cathedrals of democracy.

He really does seem to have missed that art is elitist, doesn\’t he?

Journalists and numbers, journalists and numbers….

So the Scots are doing deep fried butter now.

Nutritionists said its estimated calorie content was 1,450 – enough to keep an adult alive in the Arctic for a week.

Jesus fucking christ, can we not get a few of these arts graduates to understand some basic numbers?

Not asking for any arithmetic or anything, certainly not calculus. Just a general understanding of what certain numbers are likely to be?

You know, like the arts graduates ikeep snarling at the rest of us about simple things like a sentence must contain a verb, it\’s and its are different, that sort of level of thing?

Just numbers that any educated adult should have a rough idea of. UK GDP is around £1.4, £1.5 trillion, EU £15 trillion, there\’s 60 odd million people in the country, the Earth\’s 25,000 miles (ish) around in the middle, the Sun\’s 90 to 100 million miles away……not trying to say that people have to be accurate, just aware of the rough numbers.

And that 1,450 calories won\’t keep an adult alive in the Arctic for a week. Actually, it\’s a little less than three Big Macs and also a little under 3/4 of the daily calorie requirement for a sedentary male in the UK.

Or somewhere between 1/3 and 1/4 of what you\’d try to feed someone running around the Arctic.

I know, I know, it\’s a hopeless task, asking the arts grads to find someone who can do sums but can they at least try to find people who are vaguely numerate?

Another statistic that will be abused

Researchers found people who live rough are likely to die more than 30 years earlier than the average British person.

According to new figures homeless people will die in their 40s – men on average at 47 while women have a life expectancy of 43.

The homeless life expectancy rate compares to that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, central Africa. In stark contrast, the average age of death for the general population in Britain currently is 77 years.

I\’ve no doubt that is true: with a certain caveat.

What they\’ve found is that the average age of death of those living rough is 47 and 43.

Which isn\’t the same at all as saying that living rough makes you die at those ages. For people move in and out of living rough. So what has been selected for is those who die while living rough…..who do indeed die at 47 and 43 on average.

You might think this is a trivial distinction but it isn\’t. By definition the measurement is of those who have died while living rough, not a measure of what living rough for some period of time, long or short, does to life span.

So it\’s not a great number to use in the first place. But here\’s how it will be abused:

Separate figures, meanwhile, have shown that almost 70,000 children will wake up on Christmas Day in temporary accommodation, without a home to call their own.

We have a number of different definitions of homeless. There\’s the one we all understand, that living rough one. People without a roof over their heads. Then at the other extreme there\’s the one used by the homlessness industry like, say, Shelter. Someone living in unsuitable accomodation without a secure tenancy.

Again an important distinction. From memory, on any one night, there are 300 to 400 people living rough in London, a city of 8 million people. According to the likes of Shelter there are hundreds of thousands of \”homeless\”.

The abuse of these numbers and definitions will start soon enough. Someone will pop up and tell us that we must have more social housing otherwise hundreds of thousands will die at 43.

One other thing:

The new study into living rough, titled \”Homelessness: A silent killer\”, found suicide rates were nine times higher among homeless people than the general population.

They also found drug and alcohol abuse accounted for more than a third of all deaths among people living rough.

Meanwhile the research found deaths as a result of traffic accidents were three times as likely, infections twice as likely and falls are more than three times as likely to result in death.

Not a great surprise. To be living rough for any great length of time these days it is pretty much necessary to be an alcoholic, drug addict or mentally ill.

And what we\’d really like to know is, what is the average age of death of these groups so that we can compare it to the age of death of those living rough? For that is what will tell us about the effect of living rough, not a comparison with the general population.

That\’s the damn point, fools

The Coalition\’s planning reforms are biased in favour of developers and create an “inevitable” risk of more development on the greenest parts of England, a cross-party group of MPs has warned.

Green? It\’s grass you morons. Not something that needs the power of government to protect it.

What is this, people have to go live in the butt ugly \”brown\” parts of the country just so the rich can look out over rolling acres?

In which Ritchie castigates Philip Inman

Odd for me to be defending a Guardian columnist, one on economics come to that. But it does have to be done.

You see, what Inman has done is gone off and found out about the economic impact of taxes. And he\’s come back with this new found knowledge. We should lower or abolish corporation tax, have a land value tax and stick up VAT. Oh, and lower income taxes as well while we\’re about it.

To which Ritchie says:

That’s going to ….? And boost the economy a lot, isn’t it?

And the answer is, yes, it is. Because Mr. Inman has done what Ritchie has conspicuously failed to do, which is go and look up the economics of taxation.

As in this from the OECD.

All taxes have deadweight costs. That is, they wipe out economic activity that would have occured in hte absence of said tax.

Yes, it\’s absolutely true that the spending of the taxes raised can increase said economic activity. I\’m rather fond of having a court system for example. Ann\’a police force, bin collections, vaccinations and so on.

But we would obviously prefer to collect that tax in the least reducing of economic activity manner possible. Even if we do wondrous things with the money that\’s still what we\’d like to do, the least harm in the collection of it.

And what the OECD tells us, what the basic economics of taxation tell us, is that different taxes have different effects upon the amount of economic activity that they wipe out. That is, that there are different deadweight costs. Or, if you prefer, if we tax in one manner we might wipe out £30 of activity for £100 in revenue (a reasonable estimate for current US tax rates at the margin) and if we do the taxing in another manner that we might wipe out £20 for £100 of revenue collected.

And we even know the order of precedence of these taxes. From least effect to most: recurrent taxes on property, taxes on consumption, taxes on income, taxes on corporations and capital.

So, if we collect exactly the same amount of revenue, but shift taxation from corporates, capital and incomes to consumption and land then we get a boost to the economy. For we\’ve moved from taxes with higher deadweight costs to taxes with lower deadweight costs.

Which is what Inman has found out because he\’s bothered to go and look up the economics of taxation and what Ritchie is ignorant of because he\’s not bothered to go and look up the economics of taxation.

Something that hasn\’t bothered Ritchie in his vehemence about how we should all be taxed but then that\’s the problem, isn\’t it?

@richardjmurphy says something true shocker!


@RichardJMurphy Richard Murphy

Brown\’s 0% small co. corporation tax was an avoidance nightmare –

Yes, yes, it was wasn\’t it?

What with Norfolk based accountants setting up limited companies which took the £10,000 tax free profits as dividends, paid themselves minimal salaries as directors so as to gain NI benefits but pay only a minimal amount for them.

Those who actually wanted to pay for the vital services we all receive from government would not have done this. They would have paid the money out as income to the directors, thus incurring both employers\’ and employees\’ national insurance.

But then there are those that talk the talk and those that walk the walk.

There are even those that repent of earlier error. True repentance involving a cheque sent to The Accountant, HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London SW1A 2HQ, I would have thought.