Now this is an excellent piece of PR

Very well done indeed to whoever is running this little campaign:

A firm supplying bacon through the post has been forced to come up with special packaging for dog owners to stop their pets eating the meat when it drops through the letterbox.

So dogs might try to eat the bacon after the postie drops it through the letterbox. So, they’ve a packaging that they think will dissuade them from doing so. Ahh, how cute, what a lovely little story.

And that’s enough to get a one month old company a 500 word (?) write up in one of the major nationals. And as it’s via an agency, probably more than one of them (actually, it appears that only Metro has also, ahem, bitten).

Truly an excellent little piece of PR work there. I only hope the company did it themselves and that the intervention of a PR agency wasn’t necessary.

Maybe there’s merit in high CEO pay then?

The shambolic state of the Co-operative Group was laid bare in a scathing verdict warning that the survival of Britain’s biggest mutual organisation was at stake.

The Co-op has been undermined by “reckless” dealmaking, “shocking” levels of debt and governance standards far worse than even the banks before the credit crunch, according to Lord Myners, the group’s senior independent director who was charged with overhauling the boardroom.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the City grandee who was installed as a Labour minister at the height of the credit crisis said: “I have observed the bad governance of the banks, but this is on an altogether worse level.

“The rate of deterioration has increased over the last half dozen years because of the recklessness of the strategy being pursued and supported by the board.”

You know, pay that enables the organisation to hire someone who can actually do the job?

Will Hutton on the Co Op pay

It must represent one of the greatest wealth grabs in history. British firms have been the object of a management coup to deliver extravagant executive pay. The argument is that this incentivises performance and drives companies forward. The evidence suggests the opposite. Performance, productivity and innovation across British business are touching new lows. Yet inequality, with all its pernicious side-effects, is at its highest level for a century. This is a bad deal for the economy and society alike.

The virus has now infected the Co-op, one of our greatest retailers, but owned by its members as a co-operative.

They’re trying to find a CEO who doesn’t bankrupt the organisation Will. Something that the Industrial Society could have used.

BTW, does anyone know when the administrator’s report will come out for the Work Foundation?

Mutuals really are different, aren’t they?

The embattled Co-operative Group, still reeling from a banking scandal and preparing to lay off up to 5,000 employees, faces a new storm over plans to pay its chief executive more than £3.5m in his first year in the job, while massively boosting the salaries and bonuses of other senior staff.

Most ethical.
Or, alternatively, proof that you’ve got to pay to get people who know what they’re doing.

Prices up, profits down

British Gas owner Centrica has revealed a £571m profit haul from its residential energy arm for 2013, months after hiking gas and electricity prices.

It marks a 6% drop on the £606m the year before but is unlikely to calm public anger over rising energy costs.

My word, perhaps there was some reason for the price rises other than unadulterated profiteering?

This is most amusing from Autonomy

OK, so you need a bit of background here. Autonomy was bought by HP and then HP wrote down the value of what it had bought by some massive percentage of that purchase price. 80% or so, around and about there.

HP is saying that the write downs came because Autonomy had been fiddling the books. And, well, no comment. A more general market view is simply that HP massively overpaid.

So, HP has now submitted revised accounts in the UK for the UK section of Autonomy. And the old owners of Autonomy have come out swinging:

“Other causes of the change including explicitly stated changes in accounting policy. We note that a majority of the change in numbers is due to transfer pricing between jurisdictions, a mechanism which often reduces a company’s tax bill in the UK. We hope the UK government will take a robust position in rebuffing HP’s attempts to deprive it of over £38m in tax revenue.”

HP has filed a £38.4m rebate claim for taxes Autonomy paid in 2009 and 2010, arguing the bill was inflated by overstated profits. HMRC has not yet agreed to repay any sum.

Tee hee.

My own, entirely personal, view and one that is not well informed in any manner is that both sides have something to answer for here. This is driven by the fact that I could never really understand what Autonomy’s software did: and nor did some reasonably large number of the people who bought it. It was quite famous in the industry for this. And HP at the time was most certainly run by people who would massively overpay for anything that looked “strategic”. A bit like that crew that took GEC down a decade ago.

Interesting business practice

In a letter to suppliers, Debenhams said it was seeking a one-off fee from suppliers worth 2.5pc of its outstanding payments as of Tuesday. It will also apply a 2.5pc discount to orders it has agreed with suppliers.

Simon Herrick, the chief financial officer at Debenhams, said the discounts are a “contribution” to the retailer’s investment in new store openings and the £25m revamp of its flagship Oxford Street store.

Demanding a discount on goods already delivered…..

This is amusing

London has been dubbed the world’s “talent capital”. The accolade has been awarded by business advisers Deloitte after a survey of 22 high-value sectors ranging from banking to telecoms and digital media.

The results put London comfortably in the lead, with 1.5m people apparently employed in the “high skill” sectors, compared with 1.2m in New York, 784,000 in Los Angeles, and 630,000 in Hong Kong.

Deloitte researchers delved into official employment data in the cities to arrive at the conclusion that London employed the most people in 12 of the sectors, such as banking, legal services and digital media, while New York was ahead of the field in just seven.

The amusement comes from the fact that various leftoids keep telling us that we must build a high wage, high skill economy. But they absolutely hate London which is a high wage high skill economy.

Sorta time to make up your minds about what you actually want, eh?

No George, sorry, you’re wrong here

Remember that referendum about whether we should create a single market with the United States? You know, the one that asked whether corporations should have the power to strike down our laws? No, I don’t either. Mind you, I spent 10 minutes looking for my watch the other day before I realised I was wearing it. Forgetting about the referendum is another sign of ageing. Because there must have been one, mustn’t there? After all that agonising over whether or not we should stay in the European Union, the government wouldn’t cede our sovereignty to some shadowy, undemocratic body without consulting us. Would it?

The purpose of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is to remove the regulatory differences between the US and European nations. I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago. But I left out the most important issue: the remarkable ability it would grant big business to sue the living daylights out of governments which try to defend their citizens. It would allow a secretive panel of corporate lawyers to overrule the will of parliament and destroy our legal protections. Yet the defenders of our sovereignty say nothing.

The mechanism through which this is achieved is known as investor-state dispute settlement. It’s already being used in many parts of the world to kill regulations protecting people and the living planet.

No.

This does not kill regulations at all.

What it does do is hold governments to the same contractual standards as everyone else. Thus if a new regulation is passed that means that someone is about to lose a lot of money then you’ve got to pay them that money they’re going to lose. Because, by passing that regulation you are taking that money from them.

A little suggestion for a business opportunity

A piece about how various singers and songwriters are getting screwed out of their royalties.

Brice is not the only featured artist to have had such problems with Fragma. Kirsty Hawkshaw, former frontperson of Opus III, who\’s hit It\’s a Fine Day went to No 2 in the UK charts in 1992, co-wrote and sang Fragma\’s Radio Waves, but hasn\’t received any royalties for it. \”They never signed a contract with me,\” she says.

Hawkshaw wrote to iTunes about the dispute, and it promptly took the track down, but she says she has no money to hire a lawyer. Like many other artists I\’ve spoken to, she also fears being threatened and blacklisted for speaking out.

There\’s a wonderful opportunity here for some aggressive young thing that understands accounting and a bit of copyright law. It\’s actually the sort of thing I\’d love to do if it weren\’t for the fact that I\’m already doing two other things. Sign up the singers and songwriters on a percentage of recovery basis and then go monster the DJs, record companies and rights organisations.

For copyright law (and songwriting which is copyright) works the other way around from the way these people seem to think.

You do not need to have a contract in order to be paid royalties: quite the opposite in fact. You can have a contract that states that you\’ve simply done work for hire and that you\’re not due royalties. You can also have a contract that says you\’ve assigned royalties. But in the absence of a contract that work is yours: you don\’t have to have a contract for that to be true. The act of creation makes it yours. It\’s the absence of a contract that makes it easier to assert that you are due the payments.

So it is with mash ups. That someone lifted a vocal or tune without a contract does not mean that they don\’t owe you: it means that they definitively do owe you for there is no contract to state that they\’ve bought out your rights.

There\’s a very cute little business in there for someone.

Sainsbury\’s boss talks bollocks

The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 will allow US states to force online retailers to collect a tax on the sale of online products or services.

The Act is being introducing in an attempt to level the tax playing field between the high street and online-only retailers, amid criticism about the amount of tax paid by internet groups.

In the UK, Mr King is one of a number of high-profile retailers who have warned that businesses rates, a tax on commercial property, are crippling the high street because there is no equivalent for online retailers.

“The burden of taxation falls very heavily on bricks and mortar retailers,” Mr King said. “I think we need to rebalance the tax burden.”

Business rates are costing the retail industry more than £7bn a year and increased by an inflation-linked £175m in April. The British Retail Consortium, the trade body, has held talks with the Treasury about their concerns after a string of high street retailers collapsed into administration earlier in the year.

Mr King said the Marketplace Fairness Act was designed “specifically to address this issue”. Shop owners in the US have backed the tax, although it has proved controversial because of concerns about how the tax can be collected when online transactions occur across state and national boundaries.

Bollocks. The MFA insists upon the collection of sales taxes, not business rates. Online retailers in hte UK already collect VAT. Thus it is not the same thing at all.

By the way. Online retailers also already pay business rates. It\’s just they pay them on their warehouses: because that\’s the business premises they use instead of high street retail space.

Amazingly, I don\’t pay business rates on high street retail space either for the simple reason that I don\’t use it. Funny that, eh?

Well, yes, this is actually the point of it all

Britain\’s workers have suffered more financial pain since 2008 than in any five-year period of the modern age, according to research by a leading tax thinktank that shows employees have sacrificed pay to keep their jobs.

Describing this downturn as the longest and deepest slump in a century, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says workers have suffered unprecedented pay cuts of 6% in real terms over the last five years.

Historically, real wages rise by about 2% a year. This suggests that people are more than 15% worse off than they would have been if the pre-crisis wage trends had continued.

Worth recalling how Germany got itself into the sweet spot it\’s currently in. Back around 1999, 2000, wages were too high in relation to the production coming from those being paid. Productivity was too low in short. So, the German government engineered a relative fall in the workers\’ wages. As productivity continued to rise wages did not thus reducing the labour cost of production.

Et voila. After a decade of doing this German industry is now extremely competitive.

And there are those who have insisted that British industry faces much the same problem. Wages are simply too high compared to the output from employing people. Thus the wages need to fall relative to output. All of which seems to be happening and Hurrah!

But what we really ought to note here is the difference between the German unions/lefties and their British counterparts. The Krauts, when faced with this problem, said, hmm, you\’re right you know. We really had better restrain wages for the next few years. Can anyone at all, anyone not going through drug induced hallucinations, imagine the British unions and or left agreeing a similar plan?

No, I didn\’t think so either. My conclusion from which being that while that German style, that cooperation that the TUC continually calls for, might work in Germany it don\’t over here. Because TUC.

I do wish the Wowsers would at least try to understand capitalism

All that, and it cost $100 USD less, too, coming in at $399. It seemed like Sony could do no wrong. But for all this fanfare and literal standing ovation, there\’s a problem for Australian gamers. The PS4 is set to retail at a tooth-grindingly expensive $549 because of… reasons? That\’s too much. I\’ve checked. You can too. Sony haven\’t explained their unique pricing structure yet, but it seems like a fairly arbitrary dollop of Australian tax.

Because they can.

Really, that\’s it.

A capitalist, a profit seeking corporation, will always set prices at the maximum they think the market can bear. There is no other reason for these price differences.

Both Sony and Microsoft have looked at the people of Australia and concluded that they are the sort of dorks who will pay more for a gaming machine than people in other countries will.

They may be right and they may be wrong but that is what they\’ve done and no more than they\’ve done.

We can explain this

They were the bread and butter cars of British family motoring during the 1970s and ‘80s and still remembered nostalgically by millions– yet today they are an endangered species.

But a generation of popular cars that once dominated the nation’s highways and kerbsides – with evocative names like Allegro, Montego, Maestro, Marina and Maxi – are now on the brink of extinction.

Essentially, because they were shit.

The analysis of cars built before 1995 reveals that when measured and ranked as as a proportion of the total of each model built, 1980s cars have disappeared from roads faster than any others.

But while some may mourn that so few are left, others with less rose-tinted spectacles and memories of the era of poor car quality and motor industry strikes epitomised by union militants like Derek ‘Red Robbo’ Robinson, may wonder instead that any of them have survived at all.

Quite.

Imagine what would happen if we had government run things today like we did then. A nationalised banking industry would be such a wonder, wouldn\’t it? And as for the stupidity of government provided health care…..

Calling all Geeks. So, let\’s start a Kickstarter

Arguing, as you never should, from the specific to the general there\’s a product that I think the market needs. And I have a feeling that it wouldn\’t be all that hard to do: either that or it\’s impossible. And it is the sort of thing that Kickstarter seems to enjoy funding.

So, can we have a go?

The basic idea is something similar to this. But much simpler.

They\’re building a little laptop which you slide your phone into. The phone then becomes the processor, memory etc. The laptop gives you a (small) screen and keyboard.

I know very little about the details of tech. But I assume that this does mean that it is possible to take off the phone video and input devices etc. Must be: they\’re plugging the phone into an external keyboard and screen. And to use those external devices to instruct the processor on the phone. So this must actually be possible.

But: why do this with a poxy little screen and laptop keyboard? Why insist that people have to buy that poxy screen and keyboard at all?

Instead, just make the magic little box that allows you to attach any screen, keyboard, mouse etc to a phone?

OK, not any. I can imagine that iOS would be different from Android. Or Windows.

But basically a pretty simple piece of kit. A bit like a USB extension slot thingummy. One wire comes out of the phone into the thingy. Into the thingy you can plug VGA, HDMI, USB (for mouse and keyboard) and whatever else. Printer maybe? Which is USB these days isn\’t it?

The phone itself can, as above, be the trackpad.

Inside the phone we\’ve got a processor, an OS, RAM, Wi-Fi, quite probably a direct internet connection over wireless. All we\’re doing is adding easier input options and a larger screen.

Shouldn\’t this be simple enough to do? Something that can be sold for $50 or so? A gidget that turns any smartphone (OK, any Android or iOS) into a reasonable fascimile of a low end desktop with a $10 keyboard and a $50 screen?

Ish-ish, you understand.

Can anyone tell me how difficult the electronics/software of such a thing would be? Would it be just hammering together some standard parts?

And the other thing is, who the hell would want it? Which is where I\’m arguing from the specific. I would certainly want one. And I\’m also convinced that in the medium term this is where computing is going to go. Everyone\’s going to end up with just one processing unit. Which is, at times, just a phone. At others a smartphone, and at others the processing engine for the laptop/desktop.

There will be some people who require much greater ooomph in their computing. But the basic PC stuff migrates onto a phone style processing box. And those requiring more ooomph are those we would currently describe as using \”workstations\” (ie, graphics, heavy music editing, CAD etc) while the rest of us use \”phones\” instead of \”PCs\”.

So, Geeksters out there. How tough would a little box like this be to make?

On that British industrial decline

A little story about that decline in British industry. Sadly, no, not about shipbuilding, rather, about crane building.

Some of the changes that happened from the 70s onwards were simply inevitable. Doesn\’t matter who was in power, they really were just going to happen.

In the centre of Bath there used to be a crane builder called Stothert and Pitt. They made cranes for the ports of the Empire. I\’m told that Sydney Harbourside was littered with them for example. A fine and stirring tale of proper metal bashing, high wage, industry.

A slightly odd thing to have in a city like Bath you might think but it was indeed there. It formed the core of working class male employment in the city, along with the printing works across the street.

So, what happened to Stothert and Pitt? Now the site is home to a vast development of yuppie housing. Very strange housing really: in Bath but without the benefit of actually looking good like much of Bath does. Still, that\’s a shame and a tragedy for one political view of the economy. Real work pushed aside by gentrification (and there was some Robert Maxwell argy bargy in there as well, with Central and Sheerwood and Geoffrey Robinson and all sorts).

But that\’s not actually the story. What we really want to know is why is the land now worth more for housing than it is for building cranes for the world? And the answer to that is: size.

Stothert\’s cranes were, as with all cranes, simply getting larger and larger. Containerisation and offshore oil rigs just meant that cranes suffered from gigantism. And, as we\’ve noted, the site was in the centre of Bath. As they got larger, far, far, to large for road transport out, the solution was to float them down the River Avon, to Avonmouth, and thus to the world.

Excellent: but they kept getting bigger. Until this solution no longer worked. It simply wasn\’t physically possible to continue to build cranes in the centre of Bath. Thus they stopped building cranes in the centre of Bath.

We could have had an Owen Jones/Bennite workers\’ takeover of the plant, a Mondragon collective: and still they would have stopped making cranes in the centre of Bath. As much government aid as you like and it would still have stopped.

They would have stopped building cranes there whether or not they covered the land with yuppie flats afterwards or not.