Varying annuities

Something of a shouting match going on here. The annuities that are often bought with pension pots (in fact, it\’s still law that by age 75 you must have spent the pot on such isn\’t it?) are to be varied by likely lifespan.

Seems entirely fair: annuities already vary by sex and it\’s possible to get better rates by revealing that one is a smoker. Both sex and smoking makle a difference to expected lifespan so it\’s actuarially sensible. What is getting some people here is that the variance will also be determined by postcode. But as we know that those in wealthier areas live, on average, longer than those in poorer, this also seems sensible.

It is, if you look at it with the right squint, a reduction in inequality.

Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Chris Grayling said: “I’m worried that people will be penalised for looking after their health. The whole principle of the pension industry is that risks are pooled.

Dear Lord, no ondwer were so screwed up is the Minister responsible thinks that. The pensions industry is about savings and the possible earnings from them. It\’s the insurance industry which is about pooled risks. Sheesh.



Argle Argle Argle!!

Gaaah! Why is that these Greens simply cannot understand the most basic points?

This massive under-utilisation of our green resources is also reflected in job figures. According to government-sponsored research, the UK has, at very best, 26,000 jobs in renewable energy. By contrast, Germany has 250,000 jobs.

With the right investment, the UK has the wind resources to be a European green industry leader. As well as reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy security, wind power also creates a large number of jobs per TWh unit.

While nuclear produces 75 jobs per TWh per year, oil and gas around 250 jobs, wind produces up to 2,400 jobs.

The government\’s own research shows that investing in wind could generate 43,000 new green jobs. This depends on developing turbine manufacturing in the UK. Without a major focus on developing that industry, these projections shrink to less than 7,000 jobs.

Creating jobs is a cost of your schemes you ignorant fool!

The more jobs you create the more it costs!

Fortunately the comments section seems to be well switched on to this point.

Which leads me to wonder a little….this whole CiF thing. Is it going to lead to the readers being brainwashed into leftiedom, as obviously the creators hope, or is it going to work the other way. Writers being exposed to cogent critiques of their world view (well, OK, sometimes) and thus abandoning their more crazed ideas?

Related in only the most tenuous manner….keep an eye open for Polly thinking that LVT might be a good idea. A little birdie tells me that someone has been dropping her ideas and clarifying the odd point or two.

Govt borrowing up


The Treasury borrowed a record £10.4 billion last month – far exceeding previous forecasts. In total, borrowing has risen by 70 per cent during the past five months.

The figures come amid growing fears over the health of public finances as the fallout from the credit crisis and stock market turmoil continues.

The Chancellor is now expected to break the Government\’s rules on how much it is supposed to borrow this year.

He previously predicted that total public borrowing would be £43 billion this financial year – but the Government has already borrowed £28.2 billion in five months.

The increase in borrowing has occurred after a fall in the amount of money expected to be raised from taxes as a result of the economic slowdown. The Government has also had to borrow money to fund a number of emergency measures, including the payment of compensation to those who lost money from the loss of the 10p income tax band.

I think we all rather knew this was going to happen? By not socking money away in the good times (even if it wasn\’t socked away, at least the structural deficit could have been reduced) now the bad times are here we\’re going to see borrowing soar.

Wouldn\’t be at all surprised to see it go over £100 billion in the next year or two.


Absolute Bloody Madness

From a press briefing that I now get:

Recognition of court rulings:  EU approves proposal to try Britons in their absence in foreign courts (The Times, p. 11):  "British citizens could be convicted in their absence by foreign courts for traffic, credit card or other criminal offences under plans approved in principle by the European Parliament…Philip Bradbourn, the Conservative justice and home affairs spokesman in the European Parliament, said: “This initiative would enable courts to pass judgments in absentia. It goes against one of the most fundamental corner-stones of British justice – that the accused has a right to defend himself at trial. If other EU countries want to go ahead with this proposal that’s their choice, but the British Government should have no part [of it].” …The European Criminal Bar Association opposed the plans, saying that they were “by their very nature a violation of the fundamental procedural rights of the accused”…The Parliament said in a statement: “The EU wants to create a common area for justice, which requires the mutual recognition of criminal law judgments by member states.”"  (Frances Gibb)

Well, that\’s that then, isn\’t it?

The end of it all. No longer need your accuser face you, no longer must it be possible for you to defend yourself against any charges.


You can be tried at the other end of the continent without your ever knowing about it and then banged up.


Tried witout a jury, tried without defense. And all so that we can stop Germany from invading France again.

Not really all that good a deal really, is it?

"Mutual recognition of criminal law judgements"?

Yes, that really does mean what it says. A Greek court ties you in absentia for plane spotting, gives you 13 years or whatever and the British police must hunt you down and hand you over.

Yes, Magna Carta did indeed die in vain.

Black Dog

Lifting stories again without attribution.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage is all The Guardian\’s Polly Toynbee despises: a Right-wing, chauvinistic Little Englander.

So she\’ll choke on her muesli to discover this year\’s UKIP rally in Bournemouth is sponsored by the British Humanist Association of which she\’s president. Dog is relishing the Polly and Nigel seaside love-in.

Vindico spotted it first of course.

Also worth getting the description of Nigel correct. Not "Little Englander" but "Great Briton". Rather more classically liberal than right-wing and it\’s odd to see someone with a German wife described as chauvinistic.

But at least they spelt his name right, yes?

Now there\’s a surprise

A leading General Motors executive has called for government loans of up to $50bn to help American car markers build more fuel-efficient cars.

They\’re going bust (rather in slow motion, to be sure, but they are) so they\’d like to pick he taxpayers\’ pockets.

How amazingly surprising.

No, let them go bust, let the legacy costs be wiped out and then the valuable assets will be plucked from the ruins and the US will get an efficient car manufacturing industry.

The costs of organic

Organic food is such an easy target at times like this. It is often more expensive, in terms of the pound in your purse, in the industrialised world. But it is not so in developing nations, where organic-based techniques of soil care, crop rotation and natural fertility-building are often the most effective, safe, productive and resilient ways of producing nutritious food for the local population.

Organic food is cheaper in the poor countries but not in the industrialised world?

How can this be?

Quite easily really. The major point about organic methods as opposed to conventional is that organic requires a great deal more labour. Hoeing instead of spraying weedkillers. Ploughing more, spreading muck rather than fertiliser and so on.

So in places where labour is cheap it\’s entirely possible that organic methods would be cheaper. However, that does indeed require that labour be cheap.

That is, lots of people have to live that oh so desirable peasant lifestyle in order to keep organic cheaper than the industrial substitutes.

Nice and ethical that, isn\’t it? Relying upon the sweating coolies in the fields to grow your food rather than the well fed well paid bloke on the tractor with the chemicals.

Is this true?

The EU\’s determination to tag sheep was always going to end in trouble. In theory, it sounded laudable to compile an electronic database so every sheep in Europe can be traced in the event of a BSE-like disease that jumped to humans.

In practice, it now looks as if the tag could be worth more than the sheep. And the only evidence of need for such a tracing system came from a botched trial in which scientists got cows\’ and sheeps\’ brains mixed up.

Are the tags worth more than the sheep?

Organic sales decline

Yes, sales are down over the past month….although of course we shouldn\’t make too much of a single month\’s figures.

But the Soil Association predicted sales of organic food would remain strong, with people feeling the extra cost was worth paying.

A spokeswoman said: "These values are very important to people still – the concern about the way we farm, the way the countryside is under threat at times and animal welfare. I predict demand will plateau a bit but not decline."

We\’re likely to find out, aren\’t we? Is all this tree hugging simply a product of the recent good times rather than of "important values"?

My bet (on the basis of no information whatsoever) is that it was the good times. It was trendy, that\’s all, and it won\’t survive pain in the pocketbook.

Eugenics Again

Cabalamat (who I usually don\’t have any stong disagreements with) has what I consider to be an absolutely foul post up approving of eugenics plans to "better the population".

It is at least voluntary, more in the "Nudge" direction than anything else, but it misses the whole damn point about people having children.

The problem is that stupid people who have children often have stupid children, because intelligence is largely inherited. Then these stupid children often end up being in the 20% of people at the bottom of society who are functionally illiterate. OK, many people who’re illiterate could be literate if the education system was better, but they’re still going to be a bit thick, and so they’re unlikely to be suitable to do work in the high technology sectors of industry that the Britidh economy is going to increasingly rely on.

So it seems to me that it could be very beneficial to society if the state did control, at least to some extent, human reproduction. (And in fact it does already, for example it says that people who are under 16 aren’t allowed to have sex, nor are people who are close kin allowed to marry each other. So if you’re in principle against laws that say who can reproduce and with whom, then to be consistent you would have to oppose all such laws.)

I’m talking about a very “light touch” form of state control here. I propose that the least intelligent 20% of the population be discouraged from breeding. I’m agnostic how we would define who falls in this category — maybe it could be an IQ test, or be determined by educational qualifications, or a simple test of basic literacy. Whatever scheme is used, one must bear in mind that people will try to game the system. (By the way, I’m not claiming that IQ tests are a particularly good way of measuring intelligence — I don’t think they are — but I do think they’d be good enough for our purpose.)

What sort of “discouragement” do I have in mind? For example, we could tell stupid women that getting pregnant will not get them a council house, nor would they get child benefit. Stronger discouragement, such as compulsory sterilisation, would be counter-productive since most people would find it morally repugnant.

As well as discouraging the least intelligent from breeding, the state could intervene at the top end too, by having a pool of sperm and egg donors, who would all be of high intelligence, in good mental and physical health, and not genetically prone to diseases. British people come in a wide variety of races, and we’d want our donors to reflect tihs diversity, so parents can have kids that look like they could be genetically theirs.

People who’re infertile would be able to make use of this pool, without cost, but so would the wider population too and it’s quite likely there would be significant take-up. After all, many parents have told me how clever their children are, but no-one has ever bragged to me about how stupid their kids are, so I conclude that many parents want to have clever kids. Come to think of it, no-one’s ever bragged to me about how ugly their kids are either, so we could put physical beauty on the list of desirable attributes for the sperm/egg donor scheme.

In fact, under this scheme, there’d be no reason to prevent/discourage the least intelligent 20% from having children — merely ones that carry their genes. And any two humans are 99.9% genetically identical anyway, so their children would carry 99.9% of their genes anyway.

This idea of egg and sperm donation is missing the whole damn point about evolution. It doesn\’t work at the species level (nor even more absurdly the national). Each and every one of us is the result of individuals (over a 3 billion year time span to boot) attempting, and for those of us here of course, succeeding, in passing on their own genes. Not the genes of the species, nor those of closely allied species or even people. But of the genes of those parents.

That\’s why eugenics of this sort is repugnant: because it runs counter to the most basic motivation for the having of children there is. To have one\’s own children.

Put it another way around. Someone is seriously suggesting that the poor and dim should labour all their lives to rear the children of the rich and bright.

I\’d also note one other thing about the plan. This denial of council housing, or of child benefit, to the dim. Since the very motivation for such actions is that the dim create the underclass, the proposal is that the poor should not get welfare benefits.

Well, if the poor aren\’t to get them then there\’s no justification for them at all….something I\’m fine with but others might differ,

Bleedin\’ \’Ell

Shock Horror: Will Hutton says something sensible:

To further tax Centrica, for example, whose 58 per cent tax rate is the highest in the FTSE 100, simply because the oil price has gone up is arbitrary. Is the government proposing a rebate when oil and gas prices fall?

I propose a toast to Centrica\’s PR operation. They\’ve managed to get that "highest tax rate in the FTSE 100" and the other point, that the already pay 75% profit tax on their North Sea gas extractions, into all the major stories over this weekend. That\’s a bloody marvellous piece of circulating the talking points.

Hats off to those chaps.

However, when Will starts thinking for himself he returns to usual standards:

Worse, the London oil market has been designed only to benefit its member traders. The so-called London loophole, created by the Labour government, excuses the London oil market from independent and transparent oversight. Traders\’ positions are unpoliced; the scope for market manipulation is vast, the extent unknown. Britain has resisted worldwide criticism, arguing that London-based speculation and rigging has nothing to do with the oil price rise; but the $25 a barrel collapse in the price over the last three weeks as speculators unwind their position has made the government\’s argument untenable.

By definition in a futures market there are as many people betting upon falling prices as there are upon rising ones. For futures markets are a zero sum game.

Don\’t you know that Will?

For speculators to be ramping up the market there would have to be a rise in physical stocks (or for those pumping the oil to be keeping it underground). And guess what has happened? As physical stocks have indeed been rising slightly in recent weeks then the oil price has fallen……rather the opposite (AGAIN!) of will\’s analysis.

That Coastal Path

Umm, there seems to be some controversery over whether owners of land should get compensation for the access to their land being demanded.

Owners affected by the route of the coastal path around England should be paid if they can prove they will suffer financial loss as a result, says a new report.

This could mean, for example, that a farmer who loses the use of a field due to having to allow the public to pass through it could be given a payout to cover the loss.

Landowners should also have the right to appeal if the route of the coastal path allows walkers on to their land, says the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA).

The MPs describe the lack of a formal appeal process in the Draft Marine Bill as a "fundamental weakness" and say it will be impossible to create a continuous path around the coast without causing financial loss to an owner or occupier.

It astonishes me that such provisions are not already in the act.

Land is property: if the government takes someone\’s property then just compensation must be paid. It\’s that simple.

Yes, I\’m aware of all the points about how land was originally stolen etc: but we are where we are now. And that means that takings of property must be compensated. No ifs and no buts. And it doesn\’t matter whether the taking is to build an airbase or create a walking path.

Unless we defend what is theirs from the depredations of the government taking property for what government thinks is a good idea who will defend what is ours in the future?

This is Cock

So, our own government having decided that there should be no extension of copyright upon mechanical recordings, there\’s an end run around the issue and we get it imposed from Europe.

The rock dinosaurs of the 1960s are in line for a spectacular windfall after the EU announced plans yesterday to extend musicians’ entitlement to retrospective royalties from 50 to 95 years.

Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Cliff Richard and Roger Daltrey have all campaigned for what the record industry calls “the Beatles extension”, which will guarantee most artists royalties covering their entire careers.

The first Beatles recordings will come out of copyright in 2012 and EMI, which owns them, has been a leading campaigner for the change in legislation. Sir Cliff, 67, sees his first hit go out of copyright this year but under the EU proposal he would not lose a penny before his 113th birthday.

So why is this cock?

The point of copyright is to provide a monopoly to the creator: the argument is that if anyone can copy the creation then there will be too little creation done. We thus provide a (limited) monopoly to provide an income stream to encourage such creation.

On the other side, we recognise that such a monopoly has costs to the wider society. People can\’t copy the creation and this is a loss to that wider society. So what we want is enough or a long enough monopoly to encourage the creation with the least wider societal loss.

So, what\’s the right number?

Well, 50 years didn\’t stop Cliff, the Beatles or the Who in their creations did it? Sure, it\’s very difficult to see what hasn\’t happened (thank you M. Bastiat) but are there any musicians out there now who are not recording their works because such creations (and do note that we\’re talking about mechanical recordings here, this is nothing to do with songwriters\’ royalties) will only be protected for 50 years?

Are they cock.

There is thus absolutely no justification whatsoever for extending the term of the copyright as it won\’t do what copyright is designed to do: increase creative production.

A couple of other things:

John Smith, of the Musicians’ Union, said that thousands of unsung heroes of vinyl would benefit. “Countless session musicians who have contributed so significantly to the musical heritage of the UK will greet this recognition with delight and relief.”

Did I miss some change in the law? Since when have session musicians received royalties? It\’s a one off payment for time in the studio.

And as for Cliff:

The Shadows were not a typical backing group. They would become contractually separate from Richard, and the group received no royalties for records backing Richard.

So \’Arry. The Shadows going to get a cut of the royalties now or will they be held to the law as it was in the days when they signed the contract?