Willy Hutton is a one, isn’t he?

It is a farrago of inconsistent nonsense, resting on the unchallenged assumption that the 1980s transformed the economy for the better. They didn’t. Last week, Thames Water released an excoriating internal report acknowledging that, at current rates of investment, it will take 357 years to renew its water trunk mains even as the number of sometimes life-threatening water main bursts climbs. The merits of privatisation have never seemed more questionable. This is a company that has been looted by its private equity owners for the last decade. In his self-regarding book, The View From Number 11, Lawson writes that the then deputy prime minister, Willie Whitelaw, had the deepest misgivings about water privatisation, which Lawson dismissed. Whitelaw’s judgment has proved the more enduring.

And yet investment in the water network rose considerably after privatisation. Meaning that if lack of investment was the problem then privatisation was a better cure for the problem than state ownership.

That’s interesting

Popular investor Marc Faber, author of the “Gloom Boom & Doom Report” newsletter, wrote in his most recent edition that he was glad the U.S. had been founded and ruled by white people rather than black people.
“And thank God white people populated America, and not the blacks. Otherwise, the US would look like Zimbabwe, which it might look like one day anyway, but at least America enjoyed 200 years in the economic and political sun under a white majority,” Faber wrote in the newsletter, according to CNBC.

OK, a tad over the top perhaps, some will regard it as insulting. He’s got the right to say what he wants just as all others do to react to it. Shrug.

There was that comment by the ABC cameraman (??) watching the corpses flow over the waterfall somewhere in Africa who said along the lines of Thank God my ancestors were enslaved and shipped.

When asked if he stood by his statements, Faber shamelessly refused to back down from them, but indicated he still believed they weren’t racist.


A very fun piece of wibble

Chad Parkhill visited Italy as a guest of Gruppo Campari

So, journo gets a freebie. And they are fun freebies, a wander around Italy, decent meals, nice hotels, visits to distillers of amari, wondrous actually. The quid pro quo being that you’ve then got to get a piece or two describing the underlying subject, amari, into the papers.

*Headscratch, headscratch.*

How, The Guardian, hmm, what angle?

What kind of carbon footprint, I wonder, is contained in the average bottle of Averna or Bràulio? And how could anyone ever know, given that the recipe is such a closely guarded secret that neither Fici nor Peloni can answer any of my questions about which other parts of the world provided the base ingredients for their amari? (Gruppo Campari responds to my queries about the sustainability of their products with general comments about how the group has “always invested in the quality of its products, the health and safety of its workers and in safeguarding the environment”.)

Climate change! A week in Italy and a decent Guardian fee are secured!

Yes, this is how newspapers work.

Or as I put it over there:

Just to let others know how this works.

So, Campari organises a PR trip. Oooh, something like a week long all expenses paid trip around Italy for an Oz based journalist. Nice lunches and dinners, decent hotels, go see one of our amari producers in Sicily, another at the other end of the country, in the Alps, you know, a very fine press jolly.

The quid pro quo being, get our products into the newspapers. Please. No pressure, of course. But we’ll be running another jolly about, say, vermouth, next year as well.

No, really, this is how it works. One Spanish city once invited me to an all expenses paid (only within Europe to be sure) three day jolly for an announcement about their installation of solar powered LED street lights. Woo Hoo!

Really, these things are the journalistic equivalent of “What I did on my holidays” essay we all faced in the first week of September at school.

The trick is to find something to say about the product so as to get a placement in a paper. Thus the climate change angle. You know, whatever gains the space because there are more jollies next year.

Now this is interesting

US journalist who broke Harvey Weinstein story to get Channel 4 show
Ronan Farrow to present show planned as a ‘satirical take on the UK as seen through the eyes of America’

Well, no, not really. He worked on it, expanded it, but he didn’t break it, that was the NYT.

But, you know famous name and if you claim loud enough….

It doesn’t work this way Donald

Donald Trump yesterday threatened to try to take a major American news network off the air in his latest salvo against unflattering coverage amid reports that he wanted to expand the US nuclear arsenal tenfold.

“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country,” he wrote in a Twitter post.

Hours later, he added: “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!”

Although, actually, you know, it does.

The Murdochs wouldn’t be having problems passing the fit and proper test for Sky if they were generally lefty now, would they? Trinity Mirror hacked just as much as News International and no one’s been spluttering about them.

Some Private Eye stories come true at least

Statement from Dow Jones

OCTOBER 10, 2017
October 10, 2017

Please disregard the headlines that ran on Dow Jones Newswires between 9:34 a.m. ET and 9:36 a.m. ET. Due to a technical error, the headlines were published. All of those headlines are being removed from the wires. We apologize for the error.


Steve Severinghaus
Senior Director, Communications

Jessica Mara

Err, yes, ever so slightly embarrassing:

There you have it. Steve Jobs’ will + Dow Jones + Apple Park = Google’s buying Apple. I think we finally have algorithmic transparency.

This morning Dow Jones shot some fake news out over the wires announcing that Google was acquiring Apple for $9 billion. For a brief second, the news sent Apple’s stock up about $2 to $158 per share. To the benefit of everyone’s morning, both stock prices quickly returned to normal.

As I say, there are times when even Private Eye stories come true. New technology baffles pissed old hack….

Aw, Diddums

But where Facebook has been much kinder to Trump is in its extremely permissive attitude toward the numerous low-quality and sometimes fraudulent fan pages that dominate the right-wing political space within the social network: Content that features videos of “patriots” beating “thugs,” wild conspiracy theories, fabricated stories and worshipful coverage of the president.
According to a study released in August by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, low-quality websites like Breitbart News, Conservative Tribune, Gateway Pundit, Truthfeed, Western Journalism, Political Insider, and EndingtheFed were among the most popular conservative sites shared by Facebook users.

Despite being operated by small companies with almost no footprint within the larger media landscape, many of these pages have millions of “likes” on Facebook. That’s largely the result of early ad spending, which the social network encouraged in the mid-2000s as it was trying to get a foothold in political advertising, according to people who have worked in the industry.
These junk pages, most of which employ almost no one with real journalism experience, enjoyed more influence on Facebook in the 2016 presidential election than more traditional conservative media organizations like the Washington Times, the New York Post or the Washington Examiner. The conspiracy-peddling Breitbart News, Conservative Tribune and Gateway Pundit sites even beat Fox News Channel, the researchers found.

The readers are clearly getting what the readers themselves desire to get.

Not that lovely line about “no one with real journalism experience.” People without an Ms. in Journalism are writing things I don’t like! And getting millions of readers!

Facebook, which declined repeated requests to comment for this story, appears to inflict no penalty on pages that frequently produce misleading or false content.

People must not be allowed to contradict the narrative!

Yes, a lot of this stuff really is shite but so what? That’s exactly what free speech means.

It would appear that Buzzfeed doesn’t do much journalism then

So he reached out to key constituents, who included a neo-Nazi and a white nationalist.

“Finally doing my big feature on the alt right,” Yiannopoulos wrote in a March 9, 2016, email to Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, a hacker who is the system administrator of the neo-Nazi hub the Daily Stormer, and who would later ask his followers to disrupt the funeral of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer. “Fancy braindumping some thoughts for me.”

“It’s time for me to do my big definitive guide to the alt right,” Yiannopoulos wrote four hours later to Curtis Yarvin, a software engineer who under the nom de plume Mencius Moldbug helped create the “neoreactionary” movement, which holds that Enlightenment democracy has failed and that a return to feudalism and authoritarian rule is in order. “Which is my whorish way of asking if you have anything you’d like to make sure I include.”

“Alt r feature, figured you’d have some thoughts,” Yiannopoulos wrote the same day to Devin Saucier, who helps edit the online white nationalist magazine American Renaissance under the pseudonym Henry Wolff, and who wrote a story in June 2017 called “Why I Am (Among Other Things) a White Nationalist.”

The three responded at length: Weev about the Daily Stormer and a podcast called The Daily Shoah, Yarvin in characteristically sweeping world-historical assertions (“It’s no secret that North America contains many distinct cultural/ethnic communities. This is not optimal, but with a competent king it’s not a huge problem either”), and Saucier with a list of thinkers, politicians, journalists, films (Dune, Mad Max, The Dark Knight), and musical genres (folk metal, martial industrial, ’80s synthpop) important to the movement. Yiannopoulos forwarded it all, along with the Wikipedia entries for “Alternative Right” and the esoteric far-right Italian philosopher Julius Evola — a major influence on 20th-century Italian fascists and Richard Spencer alike — to Allum Bokhari, his deputy and frequent ghostwriter, whom he had met during GamerGate. “Include a bit of everything,” he instructed Bokhari.

In journalism school they tend to call this sort of stuff “research.”

You know, writing about something it helps to go talk to those people who do that thing?

It does help if you actually understand what Marx said

Our alternative title could be that Giles Fraser is an ignorant twat:

Viscount Ridley argues that capitalism makes us better people as well as richer. It is a morality driven by enlightened selfishness in which my own interests are only advanced if I look after yours as well. This is supposed to be the moral case for market capitalism: I only get to be extremely rich if you get to be a little bit richer too.

Well, no. This has been studied, in detail. Entrepreneurs get to keep around 3% of the total value created through their activities. Near all of the rest goes to the rest of us as the consumer surplus. The basic contention by Fraser is therefore wrong. Just not a description of this universe.

This is the economy of the “invisible hand”, powered by greed, where my own desire for ever greater wealth drives ingenious new opportunities for this magical thing called growth, which in turn creates greater wealth for everyone else. Yes, capitalism is basically a superstition, a belief in the power of magic. I’m with David Attenborough: “We have a finite environment – the planet. Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist.”

Again this has been studied extensively, the economists are right. That limitation of the environment does indeed mean that we cannot have unlimited physical growth. Sure, that limit might be a lot further away than many think but it is still there. But economic growth isn’t merely physical growth. GDP, say, is the value added in an economy. Increasing the value added is thus growth. We can do that without abstracting more from the environment. Thus, the environment is not the binding limitation upon growth. This is exactly the same as Herman Daly’s qualitative growth.

Of course, I am not the first person to argue that capitalism is based on a superstitious belief in the efficacy of magic. Marx’s Kapital, one of the great works of 19th-century atheism, is a genius attempt to disabuse us of this dangerous mystification. Of course, the god in Marx’s sights is not the one of the Bible but one celebrated by the philosophers of Enlightenment rationalism: the god of capital.

Idiot. Marx’s point is that there will be more such growth without capitalism. That was also the promise of the scientific socialism of the Webbs and the Fabians.

Those with money are able to own the means of production and the labour needed to operate it. Throughout the whole cycle of making things and selling them on, the capitalist creates more money for themselves by getting employees to work longer and longer hours. This extra labour creates surplus value that results in profits for the capitalist.

Again we come up with this comparison with the real world problem. Working hours have fallen over this couple of centuries of capitalism. They’re still falling too. A theory which fails comparison with the facts fails as a theory.

Profit here is intrinsically exploitative – it does not exist without the extra hours worked by the capitalist’s employees.

Again, failing at the real world. The current contention is that the capital share of the economy is growing. Yet working hours are falling. Thus it cannot be true that increasing profits comes only from increasing hours.

All of this becomes more and more obvious as global capital seeks new and ever more ingenious forms of concentration.

Interesting that global inequality is falling at the same time, no?

As with Mark Twain, it ain’t what you don’t know that’s dangerous it’s what you’re certain is that ain’t.

Ah, Polly….

Who really needs an Amazon delivery at whim within hours, when a once-a-day universal delivery makes so much more sense?

The point isn’t that people get what they need and it’s most certainly not that they get what you think they need. Nor what I think they need either – I can’t see the point of Simon Cowell for example.

Rather, the point of our having an economy at all is that people get the maximum amount of what they want.

Well, yes, erm

Americans want better gun laws. We can’t let lobbyists stop us
Shannon Watts
We must start talking openly about how to solve the gun violence, crisis writes Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

Shannon Watts, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is herself a funded lobbyist.

People send her money to advocate things they believe in in front of legislators. As they do with the NRA. That’s what lobbyists are.

The new new media

A cooperative organisation has been launched to advocate for and raise money for independent media free from state or corporate control.

The Media Fund has launched days after the BBC’s Today programme presenter Nick Robinson said alternative news sites were part of a “guerrilla war” against the BBC and other mainstream media outlets. It aims to give way to digital platforms to counteract an “old media system” dominated by broadcasters and newspapers, which it says displays a rightwing bias. It has so far partnered with 21 outlets, including Novara Media, the New Internationalist, Open Democracy and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

To partner with the fund, these outlets have to sign up to the National Union of Journalists’ code of conduct, demonstrate a commitment to factual and accurate reporting, and within a year of joining become fully unionised workplaces. New partners must be approved by existing partners, suggesting that rightwing outlets are unlikely to be selected.

It’s the factual and accurate reporting that’s going to be the problem, isn’t it? For it’s the usual groupuscules of right on lefties and it’s going to be their truths, their facts, not actual ones.

No, they’ve got this wrong about hedging losses

The slide in the pound since the Brexit referendum vote almost wiped out annual profits at the family firm of George Osborne.

Osborne & Little, the upmarket wallpaper and furnishings company controlled by Sir Peter Osborne, his father, incurred currency hedging losses of £855,000 last year after sterling collapsed in response to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

Mr Osborne, the chancellor under David Cameron’s Conservative government, on whose watch the referendum was held, is among the company’s shareholders.

Osborne & Little made pre-tax profits of £73,000 on sales of £33.8 million in the year to the end of March. Without the hedging losses profits would have hit £928,000.

The company has a big US subsidiary and North America accounts for just over half of overall sales. Its revenues and expenses are denominated mainly in dollars. To minimise currency risk the company uses “forward contracts covering 40 per cent and 70 per cent of the forecast exchange exposures for up to two years ahead,” its accounts show.


This is a timing issue, nothing more.

Despite the costly hedging losses Osborne & Little reiterated that “if exchange rates stay as they are, in particular the exchange rate between sterling and the US dollar, then there will be a material benefit in the current year ended March 31, 2018”.

Quite so, they’ve hedged for 12 to 24 months ahead. You take the losses on your hedge as soon as the rates change. You collect the profit from having hedged over the 12 to 24 months as the cash rolls in. Net they should be flat minus the premium they paid for the hedge.

Sigh, The Times used to be better than this.

If you say so Nick

Trust is what we who earn our living from the media depend on, and any decline in trust is a cause for concern. The latest data from the Reuters Digital News Report shows a decline in trust in the UK media of 7%. In one YouGov survey, Wikipedia was held to be marginally more trustworthy than the BBC. So what’s the problem and what can be done about it?

It is due, I believe, to two main factors: the increased polarisation of our society and the increased use – particularly by the most committed and most partisan – of social media and alternatives to what they call the MSM, the mainstream media.

Of course, it could be just that competition is showing up the inadequacies of the incumbents….

Well, no, not really

Parsha is keenly aware of the incongruity of going to work each day at one of the richest companies in the world after sleeping in the back seat of her car. “Sometimes people ask me, ‘Where do you live? What city do you live in?’” she said. “I just feel ashamed.’”

Parsha earns well above Facebook’s minimum wage – she is a content specialist, moderating live videos and other content – but she still hasn’t been able to find an apartment or room that she can afford alongside her student loans and other bills. She’s set up a GoFundMe page, and shared it on Facebook.

“It’s not enough pay to survive based on the rent that’s out there. How can people survive? A one-bedroom is at least $1800,” she said, underestimating what she would likely have to shell out for an apartment of her own.

“That’s my whole check right there.”

Well above” so, say $20 an hour? 180 hours a month, $3,600.


The more amusing thing about this piece is that it’s all about how people who work at Facebook can’t afford to live there. Which is entirely true by the way:

But those wages only go so far in a region with out-of-control housing costs.

That it’s the local governments which cause this isn’t one of the things they deign to mention.

Err, Rilly?

Frank Field, the chairman of the Commons work and pensions committee, tells me universal credit will bring back destitution to Britain for the first time since the foundation of the welfare state. Not poverty, but real destitution, where our fellow citizens have no legal means of obtaining money.

Not an allegation I believe I’m afraid.

For I’m really very certain indeed that there will be no laws against getting a job, accepting charity. Really very certain indeed.

The Observer and economic history, not a great match really

Erm, folks, you need to get your economic history straight here.

“In 2014 Bernanke hinted that the time had come to sell some of this vast fund back to private investors or, more precisely, to stop buying back the bonds when they matured.
Widely seen as a precursor to much higher interest rates, this had the effect of sending the cost of borrowing in dollars over the next 30 years rocketing.

Markets across the world went into shock. The taper tantrum, as it became known,”

No. As part of the Fed itself says, that’s not what happened at all:


First, positive economic news in the spring of 2013 led Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to testify to Congress on May 22, 2013, that the Fed would likely start slowing—that is, tapering—the pace of its bond purchases later in the year, conditional on continuing good economic news. This testimony laid the groundwork for the June 19 press conference in which the Chairman optimistically described economic conditions and again suggested that asset purchases might be reduced later in 2013: “[T]he Committee currently anticipates that it would be appropriate to moderate the monthly pace of purchases later this year.”

It was in 2013, not 2014. And it wasn’t about selling bonds back into the market, nor was it about not replacing bonds as they matured. It was about *not adding* to the stock of QE bonds. The taper tantrum was about not increasing the amount of QE, not about not maintaining the amount of QE that is.

Getting basic historical facts wrong does lead to slight concerns about the validity of the subsequent analysis, doesn’t it?

As to which, if borrowing is indeed out of control then raising rates to curb borrowing is the appropriate policy, isn’t it?