McFly: The Heart Never Lies

OK, OK, I can now announce that I am officialy an old fogey. No going back from here, next stop the grave, eh?

Wife was flicking through the channels a few minutes ago and stopped to watch a vedo by a band called McFly.  Apparently the young beat combo has had a hit in the teenyboppers parade with a song called "The Heart Never Lies".

While said wifie was tapping her toes along the music made no impact upon me whatsoever. All I could think about was, hey, that was shot in Bath, wasn\’t it? Now which crescent, hmm, no, not the Royal, Lansdown, Camden? None of those look quite right. Portland Place maybe?

Which just goes to show, I\’m more interestewd in 200 year old architecture than I am the chart toppers of today.

Somebody warm up the undertakers would they?

(And expect sanbikinorian to be along in a moment to tell us which one it was.)



Truth telling as ever.

It\’s an apocalyptic view of the future, a stark warning to Spain of what the country could look like if action is not taken to reduce the effects of climate change.

The warning comes in a book, Photoclima, launched this week by Greenpeace in which images of some of Spain\’s most emblematic places have been altered to show what they could look like in the future.


Perhaps the most dramatic image is that of La Manga de Mar Menor in Murcia, where hotels and apartment blocks abut the Mediterranean. In a few decades, according to Greenpeace, most of this will be underwater.

Really? A few decades? We\’re talking, what, 5 -10 cm rise in (to be generous) the next 40-50 years? That\’s enough to put the place underwater?

According to the group\’s director in Spain, Juan López de Uralde, the intention was not to use "scientific rigour" but to "create alarm and a call to action".

Ah, sorry, I misunderstood. I hadn\’t realised that you would admit that you were lying.

Reduced Salt Leads to Obesity!

Unintended consequences all round. It appears that removing the salt from food has increased the caloric content. So the reason we\’re turning into a nation of fatties is because of these people.

Experts said the findings, derived from a comparison of current labels with old ones stored in museum archives, fitted a pattern whereby manufacturers remove salt and some types of fat from food for health reasons, only to replace them with sugar and more fat.

"Reducing salt is an excellent measure, but as a result companies are faced with bland processed food," said Tim Lobstein, the former director of the Food Commission who now heads the child obesity programme at the International Association for the Study of Obesity. "The cheap way of flavouring it up is to sugar it. Fat can also help because it helps your tongue notice the flavours – that\’s why you butter bread," he said.

A Kraft spokeswoman confirmed this is what had happened in the case of the cheese triangles. "We are trying to balance what consumers say they want in terms of the taste they enjoy, while trying to reduce the salt. But instead there\’s more butter, so that led to a modest increase in the calorie level," she said. The triangles today have more calcium and added vitamin D, as well as a third less salt.

So there we have it. Government, making you fat since the 1990s.

Merck and Vioxx

A little more on that Vioxx settlement announced yesterday.

Merck, the US pharmaceutical giant, is to continue battling with hundreds of British claimants over its failed arthritis painkiller, Vioxx, in spite of agreeing yesterday to a settlement with US residents.

Merck agreed a $4.85bn (£2.42 bn) settlement, one of the biggest in history, with US claimants who blamed the drug for heart attacks and other side-effects.

But the company said this would not apply to British lawsuits or others round the world suing for compensation.

Hmm….now why would that be? I think that at least part of it is the difference in the way that legal fees are paid. Here, if you sue someone and lose, then you have to pay their legal bills. Over there, the colonial cousins have a rule that each side (except in exceptional circumstances) pays its own legal bills.

So, Merck lost the first big case and has then won a series of others (not all of them, but a majority). But even though they\’ve won them, even though they\’ve not had to pay damages, I\’ve seen it said that their legal bills were running at $600 million a year. Making a $4.85 billion settlement thus makes some sort of sense for them. It\’s not an admission of guilt so much as a simple trade off. A decade\’s worth of legal bills? Or pay them to go away?

The reason why people here aren\’t being treated equally is that if you sue Merck and lose, you owe them money. So the same pressure to settle isn\’t there.

Now, which system you prefer would tend to depend upon your views about consumers, companies and the lawyers in between them. Should we adopt the US system, meaning that it will be easier for those wronged to sue? Or should the US adopt loser pays? Meaning that fewer will have an opportunity to shake down the innocent, but deep pocketed, corporations?

Your call really, depends on the prejudices you bring to the start of the argument I guess.

What a Surprise!

Fortnightly bin collections have been blamed for an epidemic of fly-tipping which cost taxpayers an estimated £73 million to clean up last year.

And, of course, fortnightly collections were imposed to save money.

Well done chaps! Joined up government at its best.

No, I\’m Not Surprised

A barrister suggested yesterday that Scotland Yard might have leaked news about a breakthrough in the Stephen Lawrence murder case to deflect criticism from the report into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.

But should I be surprised about not being surprised? I know we joke about cynicism being the only appropriate response to the utterings of any politician but is it actually the correct one? Really?

That when they are accused of acting like complete scumbags our reaction is "Sure"?


Not the FT As Well!

Alerted in the comments earlier to this from the FT:

As climate change intensifies, floods such as this could become more severe, requiring new defences such as an additional Thames barrier. Although sea levels have risen only slightly through climate change, the Thames barrier is now raised about six times a year, having been designed to be raised twice a year.

Guys, please? A little favour? When discussing this subject could you please note that the SE of England is dropping 2.3 mm a year as a result ofthe end of the last ice age?

Thank you, your cooperation is appreciated.

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?

This Blog\’s Reading Level

You\’ll have seen the fun little tool that\’s floating around, estimating the reading level required to be able to deal with a specific blog? I\’d thought of running it here but fortunately don\’t have to as Fabian has done it for me.


Now of course I cannot speak for Chris, Tyler and Alex but about this blog\’s  level of language….

Speaking clearly to the masses perhaps?

Ms Bance

Sadly, terribly, terribly confused. So confused in fact that she took the post down, although of course it still exists in RSS streams.

There aren’t many prejudices I’ll admit to, but I will admit to a strong dislike, at times escalating to hatred, of private landlords and letting agents. Not the ordinary family who lets out a room, mind you – though I am dismayed when people who I thought had reasonably benign politics reveal themselves to be landlords. Particularly in high-cost housing areas like Oxford and London the buying up of homes as investments and the inevitable charging of extortionate rents are massive drivers of housing poverty and inequality; how anyone with any conscience can do it and be complicit in the biggest driver of inquality between rich and poor and between young and old in the UK today, I don’t know.

So, I detest landlords. Having moved several times in the last ten years, I’ve met quite a few, and as a councillor I’ve come into contact with a few more. I have recently had cause to look at flats in Oxford again (sigh). Most of the ones I have seen (and I’ve seen twenty or so) have one or more of the following features:

a. No cooker – “you’ll manage with a couple of rings and microwave, won’t you?”
b. No grouting between tiles (how do they stay on the wall?!)
c. A living room that’s actually a corridor
d. Damp looming balefully from the corner of the bedroom
e. Mouldy carpet
f. Enough stale cigarette smoke to develop immediate-onset asthma
g. Three different types of woodchip on one wall, peeling gently

Having walked around another badly-converted depressing draughty half-house, you get back to the hallway and the landlord or agent says cheerfully “So, that’ll be £650 / £675 / £700 / £750 / £800 per month, then, not including bills of course”. I’ve met lots of agents, too, with their refrain “that’ll be £150 non-returnable to stop us showing the place to anyone else, and £50 for keys, and £60 to prepare a tenancy agreement, and £60 to check you out when you leave, oh and we need a cheeky £2000 deposit…”

It really makes you think what little power us poor sods needing to rent somewhere to live have, when agents and landlords know that they can mess us about with such sheer impunity.

What she\’s really complaining about of course is a shortage of private landlords. That\’s why the prices are so high, the agents so extortionate and the goods supplied so shoddy.

Antonia Bance is employed full-time by Oxfam as their Policy and Communications Manager for its UK Poverty Programme, known as UKPP.

Looks like we\’ll be geting some useful policy ideas out of Oxfam then, eh?


How does this work again?

And if anybody still thinks that health care operates in a free market, try going to a doctor and buying health care. You know, just like you go to McDonald\’s. You get your treatment (hamburger and fries) and you pay your bill. Only, you can\’t just pay your bill, you also have to pay a New York State surcharge. Why are you paying this surcharge? Because … you are ACTUALLY PAYING FOR YOUR HEALTHCARE. You must be some sort of rich person! If you were truly deserving, you would be on medicare like any sane poor person is, so NYS charges you extra for paying in cash.


Well, Yes…

Where would it all end if people who had risked their lives for freedom were actually allowed to have any.

Those bastard war veterans, arrogantly assuming that the liberty they risked their lives fighting for includes the right to participate in $5 cribbage games.


The Life of Brian

We are a very weird lot, very weird indeed:

British martial humour remains an odd but enduring weapon of war. In 1982, after HMS Sheffield was struck by an Exocet missile, her crew sang Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from Monty Python\’s Life of Brian as the vessel sank.

Absolutely, totally, bonkers in fact.