An End to Spin

Isn\’t that what we were promised? Gosh, how lucky we are!

The Home Office was involved in another spin row last night after a series of identical quotations were sent out under different names on a government press release.

The department issued regionalised press releases a month ago to mark Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, meeting representatives of the Youth Parliament.

The press release for the North East region quoted Natalie Irvin, member of UK Youth Parliament for the North East, saying: “This has been a chance for the Home Secretary to meet some young people who have been affected by gun and knife crime and to hear about our experiences and the ideas we have to tackle this violent behaviour.

“It is good to hear that gun and knife crime is a key priority for the Government – they must not let this continue to destroy young people’s lives. I’m glad that the Home Secretary met us to talk about these issues.”

But one good thing has in fact come out of it:

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “It would be good to know how it is possible for so many different people with different personalities, having had a meeting with Jacqui Smith, all had come out with exactly the same quotation. I would have thought that each one would have had a different insight to the meeting.”

Keith Vaz is in fact capable of saying something intereswting. Who knew?

Richard Murphy in The Guardian

He\’s still not really got it:

As a result tax burdens are shifting from companies to ordinary people, whose effective taxation rates in the UK have risen as corporate contributions have fallen.

He\’s missing the idea of tax incidence. Sure, it looks like the corporations are paying all of that tax. But they don\’t really. The corporate income tax is paid by investors, by workers or by customers: the company is just that convenient legal fiction that the cheque comes from. As is detailed here.

Which is why we should abolish coproation tax altogether and simply tax the income when it arrives with the workers or the investors.

What\’s The Vision, Gordon?

As Jonathan Freedland asks:

The prime minister has been treated like some swooning French peasant girl given to seeing the holy mother in her sleep: everyone wants to hear about his "vision".

So, err, what about it? We can, of course, judge by what he\’s actually proposing:

Then there\’s anti-terrorism. As expected, the government wants longer detention without charge – probably 56 days (up from 28, already the longest period in Europe). They also want to be able to continue questioning suspects after charge, and allowed to draw adverse inferences from silence when questioned. No more habeas corpus then, and no more right to silence.

Freedom of expression is in trouble too – possession of "extreme" pornography not covered by the Obscene Publications Act will be a crime. And freedom of speech gets another kicking, with a new crime for inciting hatred against gays, lesbians, the transgendered, and disabled people. Not that I\’m in favour of hating anyone, of course, but people should be free to express their opinions, repugnant or not.

And to top it all off, there will definitely be no referendum on the EU Constitution Reform Treaty. That will mean more national powers to Brussels now, and no chance of preventing more powers being taken away in future.

So, from that we can deduce that G. Brown\’s vision is the destruction of freedom in this country. How lucky we are, eh?

Typical

This is no surprise:

John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI said: "The CBI welcomes the Government\’s plan to review when and how the right to request flexible working will be extended to parents of older children. It should beware of increasing numbers eligible to request too far too fast, however, as this could jeopardise the future flexibility of those currently eligible."

No doubt the CBI does welcome it. For such plans hit small business disproportionately heavily, big business being able to deal with it better. Thus the small strivers who compete with big business are hamstrung. How could you not welcome such a development?

Weird Metals Story of the Day

Slightly odd:

South Korean scientists said Tuesday that they have developed an eco-friendly topsoil that enhances plant growth and drastically reduces harmful residues of pesticides.

A research team led by Chung Byung-yeoup at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) said the new soil is made by using small quantities of so-called rare earth elements. These are a group of compound materials made up of Lanthan, Scandium and Yterium.

"Test have shown that this new topsoil boosts plant growth by 30 per cent, strengthens roots, while lowering nitrate and pesticide levels by up to 60 per cent.

There\’s another name for Lanthanum, Yttrium and the like: heavy metals. Serioulsy, most surprised that anyone is recommending adding these to topsoil.

Best Blog Posts

There\’s a little meme going around the blogs at the moment, which are, were, the best blogs, the best blog posts. There\’s even which were the worst being asked.

Megan McArdle asks a slightly different question.

I\’m actually more interested in what people would select for their own best blog posts. Who do they think they are, at their best?

Why, we might take that as our very own little game, why not? You, you other bloggers out there. What do you think is the best blog piece you\’ve done? Take up to five if you wish. Spread the meme far and wide.

Of my own output I\’ll go with this:

Fuck Him

Via The Englishman we get this:

Spending on compensation paid to those wrongly convicted of crimes is to be cut by £5m a year, Home Secretary Charles Clarke has announced.

Those who win their appeals at the first attempt will get no compensation. Others who have spent years in prison will see any pay-outs capped.

A discretionary compensation scheme, introduced in 1985, which paid out £2m a year would be scrapped immediately because it had become "increasingly anomalous", Mr Clarke said.

Scrapping that scheme means people will not be allowed compensation if their cases have been quashed while going through the normal appeal process – winning at the first attempt.

And new limitations will be placed on claimants under a statutory scheme – which will remain in force – which currently pays out £6m a year.

"The changes I have announced today will create a fairer, simpler and speedier system for compensating miscarriages of justice," Mr Clarke said.

"These changes will save more than £5m a year which we will plough back into improving criminal justice and support for victims of crime."

So let’s think through what happens when someone is wrongly convicted shall we? They lose some years of their life to the prison system.  Sad but true and there’s no way we’re ever going to have a justice system where this doesn’t actually happen to some unfortunates at least occasionally.

What matters is what we do when it does happen.

There are a few other trivial things that happen too. They miss seeing their children grow up perhaps, lose their jobs and careers. Most will probably lose their house, whether rented or mortgaged. Some trauma perhaps at finding the State imprisoning you for no good reason.

All in all you could say that there’s some direct damage, both economic and psychic, from such wrongful convictions.

So what does Charlie the Safetly Elephant suggest? That if you’ve only spent, what, 20 odd months, damn near two years inside (the length of time it usually takes to get an appeal heard), lost perhaps your house, job, children, maybe even marriage, well, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, eh? Y’know, bad things happen, not my fault Guv?

And for what? To save 5 million a year? 5 fucking million? Out of 500 billion that he and his wastrel compadres are spending each year?

That is, 0.001% of public spending is going to be saved by not compensating those whose lives have been irretrievably fucked up by the actions of the State?

Have these people no shame?

Do you know what else costs some 5 million a year? Subsidising the snouts in the trough in Parliament. Literally:

parliament\’s £5.7m annual catering subsidy

Talk about your misplaced priorities mate.  Nope, sorry, I don’t care how nice he was to Rachel and her Dad (eventually), think  nothing of whatever laws have been passed about the incitement to terrorism and give, quite frankly, two shits about the consequences of this statement.

Charles Clarke should be hung from the nearest lamp pole, assuming we can find one to bear the weight of the fat fucker, the assembled political parties forced to watch as he tap dances on air and happy children gambol at his feet.

If we as a society get things wrong and imprison the innocent it is our duty, as that very society, to both say sorry and to compensate them as best we can. What we offer can only ever be inadequate but to deny this moral fact, to save the price of MP’s pork pies?

You fuck Clarke, for shame.

Yes, I\’ll stand by that: makes up in part for some of the inanity I\’ve been responsible for I think.

New Blog!

Good Grief!

A well written Sex Blog!

Carrying the mantle for radical feminism between my legs isn\’t easy. Not even for me, Belinda Swallows – wife, mother, sister, daughter. Actually none of those are true except the last one but it sounds good, doesn\’t it? The point is I am a woman. A woman putting her arse, pussy and breasts out there in full view of men, just to get a better deal for other women. And instead of every single woman getting behind me and admiring my hot figure, they write to me and abuse me, saying that my fucking has nothing to do with eliminating the glass ceiling.

You might find the occasional, umm, echo, of another sex blogger in this.

Interesting Political Party

Unfortunately, you can\’t vote fo them as they\’re in Australia:

It is not moral to give away other people\’s money.

The LDP doesn’t believe that the government should have any role in regulating, controlling or monitoring our love lives.

Adults should be free to control their own sex lives without the coercive interference of the government or any other group.

Raising a child is the job of parents, not the government.

The LDP supports free choice for adults.

The LDP believes that each individual should be allowed to discriminate using their own property, but should not be able to use to the government to discriminate against any group.

And a lovely answer:

What would your Party do to safeguard family time?

Nothing.

Honest politicians, eh? Who would have thought it possible?

Errm, Dean, Well…

I see your point but….

The regulatory policy that states had in place was deliberately to designed to have a cross subsidy, with industrial users paying more so that residential and commercial users could pay less. One expected result of deregulation would be that this cross-subsidy would be eliminating, which would mean that electricity prices for residential and commercial users would rise relative to prices for industrial users. It would be quite striking, if it turns out that even industrial users did not benefit from deregulation.

I\’m perfectly willing to agree that such a cross subsidy was in fact what was planned, what was desired. However, I would argue that there is at least the possibility of an alternative explanation of the results of deregulation. That such a cross subsidy was not in fact achieved. That, despite the desires of the planners, it was actually industrial large users who were subsidised by residential and commercial users.

That does at least explain the observed facts, that industrial users are facing higher (I assume relative to commercial and residential…for if everyone is paying higher prices then that might just be changes in raw materials or fuel costs) prices under the deregulated system.

It also fits with my own prejudices Bayesian Priors, that when a system of such cross subsidy, of regulation, is set up, whatever the intended outcome, those with the biggest incentives are going to be those who strive most to make sure that the system benefits them. Thus the industrial users, given that they had vastly higher and more concentrated benefits from gaming the system than residential users did, worked harder to make sure that they system benefitted them, not the residential users.

In short, such planned systems might have an intended outcome, and we often see when they unravel that the actual outcome was the opposite of what was planned.

A good reason not to have such planned systems, of course.

 

Making Politicians Behave

Jamie Whyte has an interesting idea:

When no amount of prior regulation reduces the quantity of subsequent regulation, it is clear that politicians\’ incentives to legislate are disconnected from any good that their laws might do. How can this preposterous situation be remedied?

An attempt is currently before New Zealand\’s Parliament. The Regulatory Responsibility Bill aims to improve the quality of legislation by specifying principles of responsible regulation and requiring the sponsor of any new Bill to report on its compliance with these principles.

The principles are simple and uncontroversial but still sufficient to rule out most recent British legislation. For example, one states that legislation should not diminish the rule of law by creating uncertainty as to whether actions are lawful. That would dispose of Britain\’s “incitement to hatred” laws. Another states that legislation should not diminish freedom of contract. That would rule out most employment legislation, which is little more than a conspiracy against freedom of contract. And the principle that a Bill should not be passed into law if its goal could better be achieved without it would do for almost all other legislation of recent years.

Alas, the Bill does not go far enough. It provides no extra-parliamentary mechanism for ensuring adherence to its principles, explicitly ruling out judicial review. The shame of publishing a report about their misguided, principles-violating legislation is supposed to keep politicians honest.

As the first comment points out, that mechanism was in fact the House of Lords.

But the general thrust seems sound. If we cannot have my preferred solution to politicians (hang them all and let God sort them out) then can we at least make them irrelevant?

Enoch Was Right!

I\’m still really rather amazed about this scandal over Enoch Powell:

Nigel Hastilow, Conservative candidate in a Midlands marginal, wrote in a newspaper in Wolverhampton (where Powell was MP when he made his infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1968) that most local people think immigration is our biggest problem, and that “Enoch was right” to say mass immigration would change Britain “irrevocably”.

Because of course this is entirely true. Mass immigration did change Britain irrevocably. As did the invention of the telephone, the seed drill and as the internet currently is. That is simply a complete no brainer.

The rather more complex question is whether all four changed Britain for the better: I happen to think so, yes, but that\’s a rather different matter. That the change was predicted and that the change has happened are simply facts, facts that cannot be argued with. So why the lynch mob?

Simple Answer

A quarter of graduates do not have full-time jobs more than three years after getting their degrees, according to government figures.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency, which examined the career progression of 24,000 people, also found that 20 per cent of those who were employed were not working in graduate occupations.

So too many are getting a degree then.

Absolutely Agreed Polly!

It\’s time to end faith and grammar schools that damage children\’s chances and limit most parents\’ choices.

It is absolutely the time to remove the limits on most parent\’s choices. Of course, we shouldn\’t do that by the method you advocate, which is that pupils are assigned to a school, rather, we should work the other way around. We should maximise parents\’ choices by slapping a voucher on the back of every kid and letting parents choose as they wish.

As they do in Sweden.

Yes George

You\’re right:

It doesn\’t get madder than this. Swaziland is in the grip of a famine and receiving emergency food aid. Forty per cent of its people are facing acute food shortages. So what has the government decided to export? Biofuel made from one of its staple crops, cassava. The government has allocated several thousand hectares of farmland to ethanol production in the district of Lavumisa, which happens to be the place worst hit by drought. It would surely be quicker and more humane to refine the Swazi people and put them in our tanks. Doubtless a team of development consultants is already doing the sums.

This is indeed insane. But what causes this insanity? Well, have you noted that little phrase, "government decided"? Yes, that\’s it. It\’s government, the planners, who have made this howling error. There\’s our own system of governance, the EU, insisting upon 10% biofuels, then there\’s the Swazi one, making their own error given those incentives.

You see, something we keep trying to tell you: politicians and bureaucrats do not make decisions which benefit us all, they make ones which benefit polticians and bureaucrats: which is why we would like them to have as little decision making power as is possible, consistent with still having a State capable of doing the things that it must.

Ziegler took up the call first made by this column for a five-year moratorium on all government targets and incentives for biofuel: the trade should be frozen until second-generation fuels – made from wood or straw or waste – become commercially available.

And there you go, falling immediately into the same trap. It\’s no good going around pointing out the errors of planners: you need to point out the error of such planning.

A recent study by the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen shows that the official estimates have ignored the contribution of nitrogen fertilisers. They generate a greenhouse gas – nitrous oxide – that is 296 times as powerful as CO2. These emissions alone ensure that ethanol from maize causes between 0.9 and 1.5 times as much warming as petrol, while rapeseed oil (the source of more than 80% of the world\’s biodiesel) generates 1-1.7 times the impact of diesel. This is before you account for the changes in land use.

I haven\’t seen the study but I\’m willing to believe it. David (?) Pimental has been making the same point about maize derived ethanol for nearly a decade. But that hasn\’t stopped the idiot planners from pushing it forward.

If the governments promoting biofuels do not reverse their policies, the humanitarian impact will be greater than that of the Iraq war. Millions will be displaced, hundreds of millions more could go hungry. This crime against humanity is a complex one, but that neither lessens nor excuses it. If people starve because of biofuels, Ruth Kelly and her peers will have killed them. Like all such crimes, it is perpetrated by cowards, attacking the weak to avoid confronting the strong.

A little strong perhaps, but sound in essence. Yes, indeed, we must stop this push towards biofuels, for it is indeed economic nonsense.

But do remember this little episode next time George has a suggestion for dealing with any particular problem, won\’t you? The planners are not always right.

Taxation Bananas

This is good news don\’t you think?

Richard Murphy, a tax expert who advised the NAO on its report on the performance of the UK Revenue and Customs, said that large companies are effectively now able to set their own tax rates. "Corporation tax is falling worldwide as a percentage of profits. Corporations seem to be deciding what they should pay, not as a percentage like the rest of us, but as a sum above which they don\’t want to go."

John Christensen, a former economic adviser to the Jersey government and director of the campaign group Tax Justice Network, said the Guardian investigation confirmed that the flight of capital was continuing, having reached unprecedented levels in the 1990s. "The trend in the last 30 years has been to shift the burden of tax away from companies on to the consumer and labour. Capital is increasingly going untaxed."

For as we know, the taxation of corporate profits actually leads to lower wages. Proof here. So we can in fact celebrate these glorious upholders of the workers\’ wages at the expense of the predatory State.

We might also note that capital isn\’t in fact going untaxed: it\’ just being taxed where it ought to be, at the level of the individual, when they receive their dividends or capital gains. A good thing all round then.

WW III and Climate Change

This is nonsense of course:

The battle to deal with climate change needs to be fought like "World War Three", the head of the Environment Agency has warned.

…..

"This is World War Three – this is the biggest challenge to face the globe for many, many years. We need the sorts of concerted, fast, integrated and above all huge efforts that went into many actions in times of war.

"We\’re dealing with this as if it is peacetime, but the time for peace on climate change is gone – we need to be seeing this as a crisis and emergency," she said.

Something that is going to happen over several centuries is nothing like a war at all. This is simply the institutional memory of a bureaucracy harking back to the days when they got to boss people around.

She said measures such as improving the resilience of existing homes to flooding, not building on floodplains and improving water use efficiency were needed.

That\’s more like the sort of level of things we\’re talking about. Sticking water meters in, not doing things isanely stupid like building on ht Thames Gateway flood plain….simple enough and not in any way "war".

Robert Watson, chief scientist of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was asked later whether Britain needed to spend 42 per cent of its budget on climate change as the United States did on the war in World War Two. He said tackling climate change required will but was possible at relatively little cost.

Quite, in fact, if we were actually being sensible about this we could tackle it at no cost to us. Allow those in the future, who will be far richer than us, to deal with it.

Darling in Sensible Act Shocker!

I know I shouldn\’t say it, but it looks like the man actually did something sensible. How it grates to say it though….

Speaking to the BBC\’s business editor Robert Peston for a File on 4 programme tonight on Radio 4, Mr King said the emergency talks broke down after Lloyds demanded a £30 billion Bank of England loan at competitive rates as part of the deal.

Critically, he said he told Mr Darling this was "a matter for government" to decide.

The governor said: "I said to the Chancellor, \’This is not something which a central bank can do: they don\’t normally finance takeovers by one company for another – let alone to the tune of £30 billion, which is rather a large amount of money\’.

"So I said, \’This is a matter for government, but you have to recognise that if you were to make available such a facility to one bank, you would have to make it available to any other potential bidder and therefore it will become public.\’

"And I don\’t think it took the Chancellor very long to recognise that not only was this something which central banks don\’t do, it\’s also something that governments don\’t do."

For of course, any such deal would have rescued the shareholders in Northern Rock. Exactly what shouldn\’t happen. Preserving the financial markets, yes, but preserving the wealth of those who have gambled and lost, no.