Good Luck With That, Gwyneth

Gwyneth Dunwoody, the chairman of the committee, said: "The Government must stop this folly and endeavour to bring the European Commission to its senses.

"The EU now appears to be sleep-walking into a further vast financial commitment to Galileo which is likely to take the public funding for the project to £10 billion, without any realistic assessment of its costs and benefits.

"We must have independent and up-to-date evidence that proceeding with Galileo is worthwhile, and if it can be demonstrated that Galileo offers good value for tax-payers\’ money. Any decision on funding must be based on sound management of European Union budgets."

It\’s a political project dear: it\’s not amenable to standard cost benefit analysis. Big important people have their own GPS systems. The EU is big and important, thus it will have a GPS system. It\’s dick waving, not rational.

You What?

Richard Murphy\’s latest idea:

I argue for a citizenship based tax – which only the US has.

So if you decide that you don\’t like the way the country is going and decide to leave (not, perhas enjoying the tyrrany of the majority) you still have to pay tax to fund the way that you don\’t like the country going. Truly, you are a slave to the State.

It gets even more interesting though. The US system also taxes you if you decide that you\’d like to give up citizenship.

Section 205 creates a new “exit tax” on all persons who give up, renounce, and/or relinquish their US citizenship or greencard.  For greencard holders, expatriation can and does happen involuntarily.  It also applies to US citizenship (though no one can force you to give up US citizenship).  You are deemed to have sold all your worldly goods on the date of expatriation.  The first $600,000 is exempt, and the rest is taxed and due within 90 days of expatriation.  There is no step-up in basis for arrival to the US, so for greencard holders this tax is also on gain incurred prior to moving to the US.  US retirement plans are deemed distributed and taxed immediately.  Taxpayers’ interests in foreign trusts are taxable, even if there is no legal access to the funds.

No, I think we\’ll not have that tax system, shall we?


Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, killed seven fellow pupils and the headmistress at Jokela High School in Tuusula, 30 miles north of Finland’s capital Helsinki. He then turned the gun on himself, and died after being taken to hospital.


\’\’Bowling for Columbine\’\’ is riveting and scary, and its vision of a society racked by fear, riven by inequality and armed to the teeth is neither comforting nor easily wished away.

Gini for Finland, 26, for the US, 40.

Availability of guns about the same.

Might we need to take "riven by inequality" off our list of causes of school massacres?

Amanda Marcotte

That’s why I’m mostly unable to get on the train with the strange fascination with this woman. Yes, she’s horrendously wrong and pig-headed and possesses a shocking lack of self-awareness, but I’m a softie and I just end up embarrassed for her.

Sadly, no, not a moment of self-realization. She\’s talking about someone else.

Royal Sex Scandal

Naming the person at the centre of the royal sex scandal might not be all that wise an idea:

A lawyer who is defending one of the men accused of blackmailing a member of the Royal Family has called for anyone identifying the alleged victim to be prosecuted.

Giovanni Di Stefano, who represents Ian Strachan, an Icelandic socialite, has written to Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General, and Sir Ken Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions, after overseas media were reported to have named the victim.

The lawyer has emphasised that his client never intended to harm the Royal Family, but wanted to alert them to the behaviour of an aide.

Mr Di Stefano claims that he has consulted several QCs and has been told that British authorities could have powers to act against foreign-based broadcasters and websites and issue a European arrest warrant. They could be liable for breaching an English court order guaranteeing anonymity to the blackmail victim and witnesses if their speculation reached Britain.

Mr Di Stefano said: “I am writing to Baroness Scotland and Sir Ken asking them to bring criminal charges against a number of people who have violated the orders of the judge.

“A violation of a contempt of court act is an extraditable offence and I am going to ask for charges to be brought against any newspaper from any jurisdiction that names any people, even if it is the wrong name, because it is in violation of the order.”

Fortunately, I didn\’t. Phew.

Country Music Lyrics

Ben Mcintyre looks at country music lyrics. Some very good ones of course, but I\’m not sure if he recognises where some of them come from:

on domestic harmony: “Get your biscuits in the oven, and your buns in the bed”;

That\’s Kinky Freidman, of the Texas Jewboys fame (he ran for Governor just recently) and author of the immortal, "They Ain\’t Making Jews Like Jesus No More".

You done stomped on my heart and mashed that sucker flat.
You just sorta, stomped on my aorta.

I think that\’s Lewis Grissom, sports writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution for many years (and columnist). Certainly, he used a version of that as the title of a book of his: after his heart transplant actually.

But he\’s right in the major point: country lyrics are indeed "No pop musical genre is so adept at self-parody, or so skilled at wordplay and irony."


Lord Falconer\’s Pension

There\’s a simple enough solution to this:

Falconer, who gave up a lucrative career in the legal profession to give 10 years’ service as a Labour minister, is said to feel that he has a con-tractual entitlement.

According to the Cabinet Office, however, he is entitled to only £52,193. He is also permitted to receive a lump sum, which is yet to be decided, because of his special position as head of the judiciary for the past four years.

As lord chancellor he was entitled to an annual salary and a pension higher than any other cabinet minister, including the prime minister. However, he opted to take the standard salary of a cabinet minister based in the Lords – worth £104,386 last year – rather than his full salary entitlement of £232,900. When he became lord chancellor and constitutional affairs secretary in 2003, after Blair’s “botched” reshuffle, the historic post of lord chancellor was supposed to be abolished. However, a U-turn by the government led to the title being retained.

Those close to him say Falconer does not regard himself as a rich man. “Unlike some of his contemporaries he did not spend years earning a fortune at the bar,” said one source.

A spokesman said: “The payments are now being made to him in line with the PM’s statement of June 19, 2003.” That was the date when it was agreed that Falconer would take the reduced salary of a regular secretary of state.

What pension is Derry Irvine taking?

Err, Will?


Forget the general election that wasn\’t – the biggest political event of this autumn is about to take place. The 17th congress of the Chinese Communist party starts tomorrow in Beijing.

Ah so. Will you be launching Operation Commie County then? That the ChiComs allow no voting on their internal affairs should not be an impediment to the Great and the Good of British Liberalism making known their preferences now should it?

You What?

And so the great herds of turbo badgers swept majestically down the slopes of our hillsides into the fertile valleys below, there to sweep across the great plains, go twice around the Wrekin and then apply for jobs in the very call-centres of our souls. But not once did such vicissitudes once deter us from our overwhelming desire  to pour lukewarm custard over the naked chiropodist held captive in the car park of The Pervert’s Appendage, for today is – as you should all know –


The Logic of Free Trade

Via Mark Thoma we get Thomas Palley:

"The logic behind classical free trade is that all can benefit when countries specialize in producing those things in which they have comparative advantage."

The logic behind classical free trade is not dependent upon countries specializing. The logic works whether you are talking about people, companies, towns, tribes, cities, regions, countries or continents. To insist on the artificial barriers of the nation state as being a crucial part of the logic is to sell the pass.

The same point comes up in Roberto Unger\’s new book, Free Trade Reimagined (which Palley is riffing off I think):

If countries specialize in what they produce, the whole world can reap the benefits. It is a simple message of enormous power promising both greater riches and more freedom.

I haven\’t finished Unger (he comes up with some excellent points: there\’s one part where by implication he attacks the EU\’s insistence upon standardisation) so I don\’t know what his final solution is. However, if you start by insisting that the logical unit to study trade is the nation state then you end up with the possibility of reaching some very unwelcome solutions. That, for example, Governments have a part to play in creating comparative advantages (something Unger does say). That perhaps they should "manage" trade, that, in short, perhaps the Man in Whetehall does know best.

If you accept the real case for trade, that voluntary exchange benefits (at least in the minds of those doing it) all participants, that is allows the division of labour, there\’s nothing special about countries and nation states as being the unit required to make it work, nor the unit we should consider in our analysis. In fact, once you have accepted the case for trade all you\’re then arguing about is the unit over which it should be free: and there\’s nothing special about countries there at all.

As the once separate countries that now make up the US show, as the currently still sovereign nations of Europe in the EU show.