Doesn\’t Change Much

But a previous plan, stating that by 2010 anyone applying for a new passport would be given an ID card as well, has changed. Now passport applicants will be given a choice.

Ministers will then wait to see how this voluntary scheme progresses before any expansion.

Personal details from both passports and ID cards will still be entered on the National Identity Register, Miss Smith will say. New biometric passports contain fingerprints and iris scans.

It\’s that National Database which is, as it always has been, the problem.

And by next year certain workers in "key sensitive areas" like airports and ports will have to carry the new document. That will be part of long-term anti-terrorist measures.

Internal passports, here we come.

Bwahahahahah, Gurgle, Snort

Tee Hee.

And Tee Hee Hee indeed:

I\’ll begin with my former employer, the Guardian Media Group, following its flagship paper\’s investigation last week into Tesco\’s use of tax efficient Cayman Island vehicles.

That one drew quite a bit of flak from those Farringdon Road firebrands, with a Guardian leader thundering: "The Government should make it clear that paying a fair share of taxes is not an option but a duty."

Odd, then, that buried on page 25 of yesterday\’s paper was the following notice: "Guardian Media Group plc, parent company of the Guardian, in partnership with Apax Partners, has incorporated a new company registered in the Cayman Islands as part of its proposed acquisition of Emap plc."

A spokesman from GMG is then quoted as saying: "The tax arrangements of Apax Partners and GMG for the acquisition of Emap plc are completely legitimate, and are based on accepted practice and the recommendation of our advisers. This is not about GMG avoiding tax – indeed we have paid an average of 34pc tax over the last five years."

Fair enough, although I prefer last week\’s words from the newspaper\’s star columnist, Polly Toynbee.

She argued: "Tesco\’s Cayman Islands tax arrangements reminds the world that our tax lawyers are world-beating at \’tax-efficiency\’. When such an emblematic company takes such steps, it speaks volumes about national tax avoidance culture." Ho-hum.

GMG\’s statement raises one obvious question. As the move isn\’t about avoiding tax, can we assume that the company is paying at least as much duty on this deal as it would have done had it never engaged with the Cayman Islands?

A GMG spokesman waffles on about paying the same amount of corporation tax as if the bidding vehicle were a UK-registered company, before reiterating that "the deal is structured as a UK Scheme of Arrangement so no stamp duty is payable on the acquisition". Sounds like less tax to me, then.

My thanks to George in Baghdad for the spot.

Let\’s see what Richard Murphy, Prem Sikka and Polly T all have to say about this, eh?

Should be Fun





Extremely Lazy Blogging Method

Mindbogglingly lazy in fact.

Note that a competitor in American Idol has some news about him.

Plug name into Google Alerts.

Receive email from said alerts service.

Cut and paste email into blog.

Get 350 hits via Google on said blog post in 6 hours.

Any way of automating this?

Rifleman Bhanubhakta Gurung VC



However, during the night the Japanese attacked Snowdon East in overwhelming strength, killing half the Gurkhas on it; the remainder, completely out of ammunition, managed to cut their way through to their comrades on Snowdon.

The following day "B" Company, with which Bhanubhakta was serving, was ordered to retake Snowdon East "regardless of cost".

Bhanubhakta\’s citation (in which his name was spelled Bhanbhagta) recorded that: "On approaching the objective, one of the sections of the company was forced to the ground by a very heavy light-machine-gun, grenade and mortar fire, and owing to the severity of this fire was unable to move in any direction.

"While thus pinned down, the section also came under accurate fire from a sniper in a tree some 75 yards to the south. As this sniper was inflicting casualties on the section, Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung stood up and, while fully exposed to heavy fire, calmly killed the enemy sniper with his rifle, thus saving his section from suffering further casualties."

Bhanubhakta then began to run for the top of the hill, yelling for his comrades to follow him. Though the casualties were heavy, the section ploughed forward until within 20 yards of their objective, when the Gurkhas were again halted by exceptionally heavy fire.

Without waiting for any orders, Bhanubhakta dashed forward alone and attacked the first enemy foxhole. Throwing two grenades, which killed the two occupants of the trench, he immediately rushed on to the next enemy foxhole and killed the two Japanese in it with his bayonet.

All this time he was under continuous light-machine-gun fire from a bunker on the north tip of the objective, and two further fox-holes were still bringing fire to bear upon the section. Bhanubhakta dashed forward and cleared these trenches with bayonet and grenades.

He then turned his attention to the machine-gun bunker, and realising, as the citation put it, that it "would hold up not only his own platoon which was not behind him, but also another platoon which was advancing from the west", he pushed forward a fifth time to knock out the position.

"He ran forward and leapt on to the roof of the bunker from where, his hand grenades being finished, he flung two No 72 smoke grenades into the bunker\’s slit." Two Japanese rushed out of the bunker, partially blinded by the smoke and with their clothes aflame with phosphorous; Bhanubhakta promptly killed them both with his kukri.

One Japanese soldier remained inside, holding up 4 Platoon\’s advance with the machine gun. Bhanubhakta crawled in and, prevented by the cramped space from using his bayonet or kukri, beat the gunner\’s brains out with a rock.

Most of the objectives had now been cleared by the men behind, but the enemy which had been driven off were collecting for a counter-attack beneath the north end of the objective.

Bhanubhakta ordered the nearest Bren gunner and two riflemen to take up positions in the captured bunker with him, from where they repelled the enemy counter-attack.

An Excellent Argument

Henry at CT.

If he’s being quoted accurately, Mankiw seems unduly defensive. If I were him, I’d take a much more pro-active stance. I’d claim that I was teaching my students a valuable practical lesson in economics, by illustrating how regulatory power (the power to assign mandatory textbooks for a required credit class, and to smother secondary markets by frequently printing and requiring new editions) can lead to rent-seeking and the creation of effective monopolies. Indeed, I would use graphs and basic math in both book and classroom to illustrate this, so that students would be left in no doubt whatsoever about what was happening. This would really bring the arguments of public choice home to them in a forceful and direct way, teaching them a lesson that they would remember for a very long time.

Yup, that would do it.


This Will Be Interesting

About 100,000 workers at the Olympics site in London are to be screened using advanced face and palm recognition techniques in one of the largest and most expensive security operations undertaken on a British construction project.

Every worker on the site – up to 10,000 at one time at the peak of construction in 2010 and 100,000 in total – will pass through a two-tier biometrics access system that includes palm-print reading and face recognition.

“The gates will be like the Jubilee Line – put your hand down and it will open,” John Armitt, chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), said.

Keep an eye on this. I suspect that it will be an expensive disaster: and that such will be covered up. Because if biometrics cannot be made to work on such a scale then of course, they won\’t work for the National Database either, will they?


Cannabis use among young people has fallen since the Government downgraded it to a Class C drug, according to figures published yesterday.

Of course, the Government thinks that cannabis should be upgraded back to Class B in order to reduce the number of young who take it….


Could be Better

Seumas Milne on Hamas, Gaza and Israel:

More than 120 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli forces in the past week, of whom one in five were children and more than half were civilians, according to the Israeli human rights group B\’Tselem. During the same period, three Israelis were killed, two of whom were soldiers taking part in the attacks.

I agree this is more than a little bloodthirsty but redo those numbers. In urban fighting, scragging 50% enemy soldiers, with 50% civilian casualties (the so called "collateral damage"), taking out 60 armed enemy while losing 2 of your own. In most armies that would be considered a very respectable result.

The ins and outs of why the fighting is going on, sorry, but this has been going on since I learned to read and I\’m sure it will still be doing so when I am decomposing in the grave and beyond reading about it. I\’m afraid that it all simply washes over me: but I suspect that those actual figures quoted by Milne simply aren\’t evidence of the atrocities that he wants us to believe they are.


Spotting the Laffer Curve in the Wild

Now, we all know that the Laffer Curve exists, that\’s a simple piece of maths. Where all the argument comes in is at what tax rates do we start to see Laffer Curve effects?

Such effects can go either way: a fall in tax rates leading to higher tax collections, or a rise in tax rates leading to lower such revenues. The Guardian tells us that we\’ve actually spotted one such Laffer effect in the wild:

The last time a windfall tax was imposed on North Sea operators in 2005, it brought short-term gains to the Treasury but led to a slump in drilling activity that ultimately cut tax revenues.

Interesting, no?


The problem has not been extended licensing itself, but its often baffling application. I don\’t recall, for example, widespread public demand for supermarkets and off-licences to sell booze around the clock.

Well, the widespread public demand is surely in the fact that people are buying and drinking the stuff, which is what you\’re complaining about, isn\’t it?

And The Problem Is?

In other words, the big retailers have used the latest headline stories on food price inflation to jack up their profits on pork, without passing any of the gravy down the chain to the wretched farmers.

Instead, they chose the moment to bury stakes into the barely palpitating breasts of the only people that stood between themselves and cheap imports.

Cheap imports are good, cheap imports are what we want.

Sure, domestic producers don\’t like them very much but there\’s what, a few thousand of them? As against 60 million consumers?


John Smeaton said she congratulated him for his actions last summer.

"We just had a wee chat. The Queen said, \’Well done and congratulations\’," he said.

After receiving the Queen\’s Gallantry Medal, Mr Smeaton, flanked by his parents and sister, said it had been "a magnificent experience" coming to "Buck Palace" and played down talk of his heroism.

I\’d missed the announcement of this award.

Well done that man.