Yes, but, we want to know the comparative result

Dentures put wearers at risk of malnutrition because they cause wearers to avoid healthy foods which are difficult to chew, a major study has shown.

Researchers at King’s College London found the same was true for people with teeth loss, who also struggle to chew food properly.

In both cases, tooth loss and wearing dentures was associated with joint and muscle frailty which can leave people at risk of bone breakages and falls.

The scientists said that people with dentures, or fewer teeth find it difficult to eat foods such as fibrous fruits and vegetables, nuts and meat, which are essential for good nutrition.

Although dentures improves chewing function, the bite force is much weaker than that of natural teeth, meaning users often avoid certain foods.

But that’s not what we want to know at all. Assuming tooth loss, which gives the better result, dentures or gumming everything?

Beats the wrong kind of snow

Motorway snow chaos caused by lack of cars as ‘Black Monday’ looms for commuters

Technically it’s true as well, as the wrong kind was:

However, Highways England claimed it had eight gritters patrolling the road continually but said there had not been enough cars in the morning to adequately spread rock salt across the road.

“There was a lot of snow, and the action of the salt relies on traffic, and it was a Sunday and the emergency services were telling people not drive, so there were not enough cars for it to be effective,” said a spokesman.


This is not confined to humans. Chimpanzees, vervet, and rhesus monkeys have all shown the same behaviour – and they’re not oppressed by capitalism, The Man, nor patriarchy.

Advertising is intended to sell the product – thus toy advertising should, as it does, appeal to those gender stereotypes, on the grounds that it works. Those complaining about this cannot have met any human beings, junior or adult, to think otherwise.

Well, no, this isn’t quite how it works

One of the world’s biggest bitcoin exchanges has warned that its systems may collapse if there is a run on the digital currency, leaving investors unable to cash out their holdings.

Brian Armstrong, the chief executive of Coinbase, said fears of wild swings in the value had led the platform to restrict how much customers can sell — “to protect client accounts and assets”.

Restrictions on how much you can sell – on the world’s most liquid exchange and yes, it is, in terms of real liquidity of turning it into fiat cash – just supports the price, don’t they?

No, they’re lying

Rail users in Britain are paying 50 per cent more per mile than throughout most of Europe, a new survey has revealed.
According to researchers, travellers in Britain pay on average 50p per mile compared with just 5p in Latvia.
Austrian train users pay on average 33p with those in France, Holland and Switzerland paying between 28p-31p.

That’s true.

Chris Johnson, head of operations at Vouchercloud said: ‘An average price increase of 3.4 per cent across the rail network is not a huge amount in and of itself.
‘However, when we actually have numbers that show our train prices are already the most expensive across the whole of Europe on a consistent basis, it tells a whole different story.
‘The very least we can expect is an improvement in service and reduction in delays and cancellations – and if that doesn’t happen again this year, then we’re justifiable in our complaints that a once proud, still hugely important transport network here in the UK is holding commuters hostage.’

And that’s lying.

The difference is not in the cost of the railways, it’s in who pays. Either the passengers or the general taxpayers are going to cough up. The British system has the passengers paying for (near) 100% of the operating costs, the European systems have the taxpayers carrying more of it. Myself I think that those who travel should pay to travel, something that of course is open to disagreement. But the move from “passengers pay more” to “the railways are more expensive” is lying.

Important question here – is Willy Hutton right?

No, don’t go with the important and obvious answer – you fuckin’ kiddin’ me that Willy might have got something right?

Let us examine the contention:

We live in a world of corporate goliaths and the trend to gigantism is accelerating. The new era of hi-tech data capitalism has an embedded proclivity to monopoly. The bigger the network, whether Facebook or Google, the more valuable it is to be connected. Big is good in the digital universe, while even bigger is better.

Meanwhile, analogue capitalism, confronted by the challenge of the new, is reacting by consolidating and merging into ever larger entities. Unless they do, comes the reply to any challenge from national competition authorities, they won’t have the heft and scale to meet the new competition. Increasingly, we are surrounded by the most awesome concentration of corporate power in the history of capitalism.

Well, that’s an interesting thought. Do we actually have an increasing concentration in the economy? Say that Google’s turnover is $100 billion. Not far off at least. Global economy (for it is a global company) is $100 trillion, not far off. Google is 0.1% of the global economy therefore.

Is this more or less of a concentration than the past? I don’t know myself although I would think it unlikely. More or less than, say, Standard Oil? Less, I think I insist. For it’s half the turnover of Shell today. (Yes, I know, turnover isn’t quite the right measure here but this is very rough indeed).

Then there’s this:

Last week came another small milestone, in Britain. Hammerson, a property company few will have heard of, swooped on its rival, Intu, even less well known, in a £3.2bn bid. Yet the outcome will affect us all. Many major shopping malls – London’s Brent Cross, Birmingham’s Bullring, Manchester’s Trafford Park, Oxfordshire’s Bicester Village – will be owned by the same company. Hammerson will be the arbiter of how we shop: what stores are positioned where, in what mall and at what rent; it can even determine the restrictions on forms of permissible public activity in its private spaces.

That’s the value of the property/land. The ONS just reported that this is, in the UK, worth £5 trillion (can’t recall if that’s land only or land plus property upon it). 0.064% is evidence of an increased concentration?

Can’t see it really, can you?

In every industry, reported the Obama administration last year, the market power of the biggest companies has been growing and mark-ups and profit margins with them. America’s era of the robber barons in the late 19th century had nothing on this.

Anyone looked at retail just recently? With Amazon steaming in that’s not really how it’s working out, is it? And I really am pretty sure I reject the idea that margins are like those of the robber barons. Observers here (and The Observer) are being fooled by IP. More of the value of production is in that IP these days, making those gross margins look larger simply because of the way in which we account for IP. After cost of sales that is, as part of gross profits, instead of part of the cost of sales.

Hammerson will argue that it had no choice. So much shopping is online that the mall is looking increasingly like a late 20th-century phenomenon, outdated and outmoded. E-shopping is booming and, with the advent of virtual reality, you can go beyond browsing online to “handling” the goods you plan to buy. Hammerson’s only option is to buy up its competitors and try to hold the digital invaders at bay. You can see its point, but its monopolistic grip on the market will be such that it is better empowered to resist declines in rent and will take any opportunity to lift them. Our competition authorities stand idly by, helpless onlookers rather than proactive interveners.

And isn’t that sweet? His proof of increased concentration and market power is the increased competition being faced?


This is also entirely wrong:

Meanwhile, the digital invaders are getting bigger. One of the laws of economics, itself an analogue discipline teaching doctrines far removed from the realities of today’s markets, used to be that as companies grow they start to lose control of their capacity to be efficient and unit costs rise. This is called decreasing returns to scale. In this way, or so the theory went, we could trust a free market not to produce corporate goliaths because they become inefficient, the ideology that Brexiters so blindly believe. But one of the features of data capitalism is exactly the opposite: increasing returns to scale.

It’s not a law of economics that there are decreasing returns to scale. It’s an observation that returns to scale vary dependent upon scale. Sometimes they increase, sometimes they reduce, the correct answer being “it depends.” Sure there are network effects these days. But then so have there been in things like lorry repair. Those who have a network to repair lorries across the world (and the manufacturers do indeed run something very much better than the AA for their own lorries) can sell lorries into the long distance lorry market. Those that don’t cannot. Rolls Royce’s global jet engine repair network is the – yes *the* – major come on for buyers. Equally there have been diseconomies to scale – the cancerous mestastasizing of bureaucracy in large organisations for example. And as the gender wibble has shown at Google, the new firms aren’t immune to HR taking over now, are they?

“Profits as a share of GDP in advanced industrial economies are rising and”

We need proof of this Willy, proof. And it’s not something I’ve seen much of to be honest. The labour share has fallen, certainly, but it’s not necessarily true that that means an increasing profit share. In the US economy domestic profits are a percentage point or two around where they’ve long been, in the UK similarly after that 70’s slump. We really do nee proof of this contention before we accept it.

International trade is not a game of cricket between equally matched teams, only disturbed by Brussels Eurocrats, as Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson et al imagine, waiting for a Britain, energised by leaving the EU, to further stimulate it. It is a dog-eat-dog world in which the choice for a medium-size country is to make common cause with one of the three economic blocs capable of challenging the new monopolists and cartels – China, the US or the EU – or roll over and be plundered. Britain alone has no chance of challenging the West Coast tech giants over their policies on anything from tax to data or challenge any of the analogue goliaths over their stance, say, on diesel emissions or plastic packaging.

We’ve always been at war with EastAsia, haven’t we?


Thus this solution. Some 70 odd countries have this already, it’s not one of the things that is hugely difficult to do. People get to keep their number when they switch network. That’s what this deal between BTRC and Infozillion is about, running the system which allows that.
I wouldn’t want anyone to go into an economics exam and use this as a direct example of ordoliberalism but it does rather neatly capture the basic concept. No one is saying that you must use this or that company, no one is demanding that privileges accrue to any particular supplier. What we are doing is changing one of the rules of the marketplace to make that market more efficient.
Once we’ve done that we’re not going to interfere at all. You want to take your number with you, you can. You don’t then don’t use the service. You don’t want to switch supplier, that’s fine, all we’ve done is make it easier for you to do so.
Some things the government must do, some things it is useful if it does.

This is an interesting contention

When Ted Heath signed up to the EEC, Britain was out of step with France, Germany, Holland and even Italy. The UK was a low-cost, low-wage economy when its neighbours operated behind high tariffs to protect high-cost, high-wage economies.

It’s not immediately obvious from Google whether this was true. Were British wages low compared to those other countries in the early 70s? I don’t in fat know but I don’t think it likely. So, where does the contention come from?

Then this is wondrous, isn’t it?

On the right it is favoured by free-market Brexiters like the economist Patrick Minford, who see the EU as a barrier to efforts at driving down the cost of living through access to cheap food (such as US chicken and beef), cheap energy and striking out almost every rule that protects workers’ rights.

Such a bastard, eh? Trying to raise real wages by reducing the costs of the things people buy.

What excellent news this is

Theresa May’s hopes of securing a unique post-Brexit trade deal with the EU were under threat on Saturday night as Brussels said it was coming under international pressure to deny Britain special treatment.

After a week that saw May reach a deal with the EU that will allow Brexit talks to move forward on to future trade relations, EU officials insisted a bespoke deal more favourable to the UK than other non-EU nations was out of the question.

So, whatever we do we cannot have a special trade deal.

Great, tell ’em all to fuck off and go unilaterally free trade then.

Women and the patriarchy

As a lifelong feminist I have always balked at the idea that women might be “better than men” because it perpetuates the myth that women and men are polar opposites, and that our skills (or lack of them) is to do with innate qualities rather than as a result of socialisation or opportunity. This particular competition of “who is best at what” further ingrains the false belief that “the battle of the sexes” is here for time immemorial.

The reality is that after thousands of years of living under patriarchy, through no choice or fault of our own, women have developed certain skills as a result of this tyranny. A feminist friend once remarked that “if oppression made one a better person there would be something to be said for it”, and while I agree wholeheartedly with this, the truth is that we have had to become far better than men at most things.

Well, yeeeees. Or, perhaps, and I realise this is somewhat unpopular these days among the bien pensants, perhaps this differential in skills has some innate cause. Of course, the variation across individuals is larger than that between the groups, but still. The more we actually find out about things like hormones, brain structures (the first largely being the cause of the second), physiques and so on the more we find out that there really are substantial differences between men and women on average.

It is, for example, pretty easy to tell the difference between a male and female skeleton from the pelvis. In a species which has such a difference, why might there not be a difference in some mental attribute as well? It would be most odd if physical differences existed but not any others after all. And absolutely no fucker is going to be stupid enough to argue that hips are a result of the patriarchy now, are they?

Well, OK, there probably are some out there but seriously.

We beat men at raising money from crowdfunding, which is just as well because we are paid less for doing the same job.

Men give more money to women than they do to men. This is the patriarchy?

We are less likely to abandon our children, and therefore make better parents.

Extensive and intensive child production methods are the result of the patriarchy? Rather than the investment required by biology?

But then this is Julie Bindel.

I wonder

One of London’s most notorious former crime bosses has paid back almost three quarters of a million pounds in ill gotten gains, after being warned he would go back to prison if he failed to pay.

Terry Adams was hit with the bill under a confiscation order, after he was convicted for money laundering in 2007.

But the 63-year-old claimed he was too poor to pay, despite the courts being told he lived a lavish lifestyle, enjoying nights out at the Dorchester Hotel and the Royal Opera House.

The alleged former gangster, also argued that it would be against his human rights if he were forced to pay back the debt – which had risen to over £1 million with interest.

But despite claiming he had no money left, Adams came up with the full amount after being warned that he faced another two and a half years behind bars if he did not cough up.

Will we be seeing one of those rental cars of a recent divorcee heading back to the showroom?

This doesn’t sound right really, does it?

As a historical theologian, I researched the role that pious Christians played in developing and producing alcohol. What I discovered was an astonishing history.
Religious orders and wine-making
Wine was invented 6,000 years before the birth of Christ, but it was monks who largely preserved viniculture in Europe. Religious orders such as the Benedictines and Jesuits became expert winemakers. They stopped only because their lands were confiscated in the 18th and 19th centuries by anti-Catholic governments such as the French Revolution’s Constituent Assembly and Germany’s Second Reich.

Deeply, deeply, uncertain that the Jesuits were ever major land holders (in Europe) or vintners.

Yet this is from an academic.

Michael Foley, Associate Professor of Patristics, Baylor University


Sociologist cannot do numbers

Surprise, eh?

On the same day that news broke that staff at the University of Birmingham are protesting the obscene pay of their vice-chancellor, I opened an email asking for donations to a food bank that my university, Birmingham City, has started for students. This Dickensian contrast in fortunes demonstrates the widening problems of inequality in universities since fees have been introduced.

I have seen firsthand how hard some of our students struggle to make ends meet so I understand why the university offers emergency food services. I’m sure we are likely not alone. The initiative was started by those on the frontline of student support and is a valuable effort to provide help in a broken system. The very fact that staff have had to reach out for food charity demonstrates the failure of higher education “reforms” to provide for those that need it most.

When my sister went to university, tuition was free and there was a generous maintenance grant. When I went a few years later, my fees were minimal and the grant was still intact for the students who needed it. I now teach in a sector that charges some of the highest fees in the world, and the maintenance grant has been replaced by a loan, with an interest rate far higher than that of most mortgages. It is chilling to think what future generations of students will have to overcome in order to participate in higher education.

There is no claim upon cashflow either or interest or capital repayment until graduation. Thus the existence of the loan and or the interest rate make no difference at all to student lifestyles while at university.


Prem Sikka and economics

At the heart of the intensifying debate about fairness and inequality is tax. Who can think without shuddering of the opportunity costs incurred by needy economies robbed of the tax to which they are entitled?

Well, yes, if you stretch a bit, you can say opportunity cost there. Tax not paid means revenue which the government cannot spend.

But if we are to consider opportunity costs then we’ve got to consider them all. What is the rise in revenue from having a larger economy as a result of tax dodging foreign investment? Standard economics tells us it’s really rather large in a developing economy. Possibly (and this is contentious, whereas “large” is not) more than 100% of the dodging actually.

The blacklist does not include any western country, even though accountants, lawyers, banks and much of the infrastructure that lubricates global tax avoidance are located in the west.

Note the rhetorical shift there. “Entitled” should mean tax evasion. A government is only entitled to the tax that the law says is due. Avoidance isn’t the same at all, is it?

The issue of tax avoidance is not going away.

Well, no, obviously not. It’s actually a right to organise your affairs so as to reduce your tax bill.

So everybody:

The EU, the UK and other countries could also ensure that no individual or company under their jurisdiction would be able to import or export any goods or services from designated tax havens. The UK is being asked to pay a fee to secure access to EU markets after Brexit; by the same logic, a fee should be demanded from tax havens in the shape of better transparency and accountability. Persistently aggressive jurisdictions might suffer travel and visa restrictions, or be denied the use of international satellites that tax havens rely on for communications and financial transactions.

Can you say colonialism? Picaninnies must do as we European say or else.

There’s a solution to this

Four out of 10 council homes sold under Margaret Thatcher’s flagship right-to-buy policy are now in the hands of private landlords, with their tenants paying more than twice the rent levels charged by local authorities.

Raise council rents to market rates.

Yes, this will mean the housing benefit bill rises, at least to start with. But then we should see the true cost of housing policy, shouldn’t have substantial parts of it off hidden in opportunity costs.

Just to clarify. If we can get £x in rent from a property, but only charge £x/2 for it, then £1/2x is a cost of our housing policy. It’s not obvious, not in the open, but it’s still a cost. Better by far to have all costs open so that we can at least consider them.

Guardian journalist gets shock

Having premature twins in Manhattan can cost in the hundreds of thousands – and in my case did – and my UK insurer never passed on a bill.

The only mystifying thing was how it made any money. Well. A few days ago a nervous-sounding agent rang me from Britain and, in what sounded like a script dictated by lawyers, said that he regretted to tell me the company, a huge European conglomerate, was getting out of the US market and my policy would not be renewed in January.

Things which are not profitable to supply stop being supplied. Shocker, eh?

or apply yourself to the free market and buy insurance from, for example, a provider part-owned by Jared Kushner’s brother that dwindling numbers of New York doctors accept and has a $14,000 (£10,000) excess on a family policy that costs more than $800 a month. (This isn’t an anomaly, it’s the industry standard.)

Things cost to supply what they cost to supply. NHS costs £2,000 per capita per annum. £8,000 for a family of four (I assume there’s a Mr. Viner around somewhere). That NY policy doesn’t look out of the correct price range, does it?

This isn’t quite the way to do it but still

More than half of the European Union’s 619 coal-fired power stations are losing money, according to a new report. As a result, the industry’s slow plans for shutdowns will lead to €22bn in losses by 2030 if the EU fulfils its pledge to tackle climate change, the report warns.

Stricter air pollution rules and higher carbon prices are set to push even more plants into unprofitability, according to the analysts Carbon Tracker, with 97% of the plants losing money by 2030. Furthermore, rapidly falling renewables costs are on track to make building new wind and solar farms cheaper than continuing to run existing coal plants by the mid 2020s.

The correct way to do this has always been to work with the capital cycle. That is, the William Nordhaus version of the carbon tax.

We want to use the things we’ve already built and paid for for as long as they still work. To scrap them before they wear out loses us what we’ve already spent.

We don’t want people to build new ones though. Therefore a low tax now, rising off into the future in a predictable manner. That way we sweat those assets we have as they fall apart but still make the transition.

No, please, leave aside all the climate change isn’t happening etc. This is purely about what should we be doing on the assumption that it is. Which is, as people should know by now, the thing that really pisses me off. Just for, and only for, the sake of argument accept that it is happening. The idiots are still doing the wrong things.