But, but, Phil?

Philip Hammond believes Brexiteers should give up on their dreams of striking free-trade deals around the world after leaving the European Union because of their “very limited” economic value.

Setting out his own alternative plan to get Brexit done as talks continued to stall in Brussels, the former chancellor said that the UK should urge the EU to conclude a rapid-fire zero-tariff trade deal with Europe that would do away with the need for a backstop.

Mr Hammond – who argued for the UK to remain in a customs union during Theresa May’s government – accepted that his plan, if enacted, would rule out the prospect of the UK independently striking free trade deals.

If free trade deals have limited value then why should we have one with the EU?

And if they’re valuable, why should we be in a system that prevents us having them?

Greenland’s fertility rate change isn’t actually possible

I call data error.

Fertility rates are *lifetime* rates. It simply is not possible for a population where the women above 40 – just to use some age as an example – all had 7 kids to fall to an average for the entire population of 2.3 in only 8 years. Not unless someone’s gone out and slaughtered all the 48 year olds at least.

Was the past more sexist than the present?

A company has analysed the gender balance of various UK festivals. The best was Latitude, which achieved a gender balance of 48.1% women; next up was Glastonbury, with 44.6%.

And then there was Download, home of superannuated rock bands whose commercial and artistic peaks happened decades ago.


That’s all performers. Female artists or bands? 2.9%.

Lots of female bands at their commercial and artistic peaks decades back, were there?

Why surge pricing works

From a diary of a part time Uber and Lyft driver:

Monday nights are usually slow, and since I had already made more than usual, I called it a night at 5:36 p.m. and signed off the apps.

Some people, some of the time, are driven by the income effect. I want to make $x. Some people, some of the time, are driven by the substitution effect. My leisure is worth $y to me, if people are paying my $y+ then I’ll work.

Actually, near everyone is near always driven by a blend of the two effects. As it happens, empirical studies show that cab drivers are more motivated by that income effect.

So, when traffic for rides for hire is high what do we do about it? Try to kick people over to the $y+ part by raising the pay on offer.

There is significant economic insight behind this part of the gig economy. And substantial increases in utility as a result – it’s a lot easier to get a ride in the rain….

Isn’t logic lovely?

Let me deal with the self-interest issue first. Mr Fisher is described as the founder and executive chairman of Fisher Investments and chairman and director of Fisher Investments Europe. I have seen their adverts. They are targetted at the reasonably wealthy soon to be retired person whose portfolio Fishers wish to manage. So Mr Fisher has an alignment of interest with a particular group who want high-interest rates to keep them in retirement and to increase the value of their annuities.

This is the group who have already done best out of the recessionary environment of the last decade.

So, err, they’re arguing for higher interest rates and higher annuity rates because they’ve done so well out of low interest rates and low annuity rates?

First, Mr Fisher’s facts are wrong. Bank margins on lending – which is what motivates them – have not fallen as a percentage or in value terms over the QE period.

Yes, they have. It’s a standard that falling rates compress bank margins. Why? Because a large part of the deposit base doesn’t receive interest. That float of the money passing through our accounts. A fall in lending rates when your cost base is 0% does compress margins.

This is simple well known stuff. But Snippa seems entirely unaware of it. Even though I’m sure I recall him complaining about this at some point in the past.

I won’t be seeking Mr Fisher’s advice any time soon.

And who else should we be ignoring?

Don’t believe newspaper numbers about drugs

Dawn raids smash £50bn gang hiding heroin in fruit and veg

Err, no.

A £50 billion drug trafficking network believed to be Britain’s largest has been “dismantled from top to bottom” after a international operation, the National Crime Agency said yesterday.

Really, no.

The NCA said the drugs had been hidden in lorries carrying vegetables and juices from the Netherlands. Jayne Lloyd, its head of investigations, said: “We suspect this was a sophisticated crime group and we think we have now dismantled them from the top to the bottom.”

The gang had mainly targeted the UK, she said, and were believed to have been “involved in an industrial-scale operation, the biggest ever uncovered in the UK, bringing in tonnes of deadly drugs that were distributed to crime groups throughout the country”.

OK, so this is a UK operation.

Inquiries led the NCA to believe that 50 tonnes of drugs worth billions of pounds had been imported between February 2017 and October 2018.

That lasted 18 months perhaps?

So, problem one. Whatever the value of what they were doing it was obviously the wholesale value, not the street. Dealing drugs is known to be profitable so therefore there’s a price difference between wholesale and street. And always, but always, our valuations given are of street value. Nonsense that is.

But there’s more here. The total – street – value of the drugs trade is some £5 billion a year for the UK. We even include this number in GDP these days.

So, the claim is that this one drugs gang was moving, into the UK, over a period of 18 months, an entire decade’s worth of the total UK market – at street prices. And people expect us to believe this number?

Or, actually, The Times expects us to believe this number? Because it’s not in the NCA press release.

Quite so, quite so

Is Vassa a political play, then? For Craig, it is more about family and how politics can muddy the waters. “One thing Mike and I talked about a lot is that families are mostly based on a kind of socialist structure when they work. Which is to say that everyone is considered to be equal; if people are worse off for whatever reason we help them out; there’s a leader but the leader is there to make sure everyone is elevated; we share. In a nice, good family all those things are in place, right? We don’t have favourites, there’s equity, there’s equality, and we like that in families.” In Vassa, however, the central family “have drifted into a capitalist structure, essentially. So there are winners and there are losers, and gains and losses, and they are like ‘Are you useful to me or not?’ Which is a question in the capitalist world, [and] how capitalism fucks over loads of people. So you’re looking at a family who have rejected the socialist structure. What does that do? And can you sustain it? The answer, I think, is no.”

The important point here being that the socialist structure doesn’t work when expanded out to beyond the family, to those who are not so genetically intertwined. That being the useful insight that lefties simply don’t get.

As with AG Cohen’s (hmm, might not be the right name) and his description of socialism as being like going camping. OK, great, and why not? That description rather glossing over the point that everyone who has gone on the camping trip has decided, at the start, to go off on the camping trip and do the sharing. Imposed camping and sharing works about as well as when Pol Pot tried it.

On the IFS thing

So, disorderly Brexit would push public debt up to 90% of GDP. This would be a bad thing therefore we must not have disorderly Brexit.

This will become a standard now, will it? John McDonnell becoming Chancellor will push up debt levels over 90% – yes, it will, he’s going to nationalise using debt – and this would be a bad thing therefore no making JD Chancellor then?


On Monday afternoon, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone issued a statement with a faux apology about the ban.

“Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts,” the statement reads. “We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn’t look like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the great Communist Party of China. May the autumn’s sorghum harvest be bountiful. We good now China?”

This works both ways love

Most of us will be familiar with the “12-week” rule – the longstanding social convention that dictates that women mustn’t tell anyone they’re pregnant before the 12-week mark, “in case something happens”. It’s time to talk about the insidious effect it has on women who suffer a miscarriage early in their pregnancy.

An estimated 650 babies are miscarried every day in the UK, with the vast majority occurring during the first trimester. Most of these losses will be suffered in silence, because it’s considered so socially unacceptable to reveal that you’re pregnant before 12 weeks – let alone that you were pregnant, but now you’re not. It’s baffling that in 2019 we seem so wedded to an anachronistic superstition……

Yes, but we’ve also got rather a lot of people saying that in the early stages it is nothing but some gob of meiotic cells that can – possibly should – be done away with. With no more consideration than a blowing of the nose.

Anti-Cakeism sorta demands that either it’s something to be mourned and not killed or it’s a nothing that can be excised at will but not noted.

Could someone tell me where this is?

It had finally dawned on the British government that it had committed itself to two incompatible things. One was that under no circumstances would there be a return to a hard border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

I have actually read the Good Friday Agreement. And I simply cannot find any reference in it at all to the border, let alone a pledge that there won’t be a hard one.

So, and this is a genuine question, not an attempt at a gotcha, can someone tell me where this pledge is?

Gosh, how does this work?

Heavy rains over recent days in the Bolivian Amazon have helped put out forest fires that have raged for two months across the land-locked South American nation, charring more than 4m hectares of land, local authorities said on Monday.

Fires in the Amazon. Which aren’t the fault of the newly elected right wing government and the slide into fascism.

How unlike Brazil.

Complaints over the government’s handling of the crisis have dented the popularity of Bolivia’s leftist president, Evo Morales.

Well, obviously, as Bolivia doesn’t have a newly installed, fascist, right wing government. But it’s possible to just vaguely mutter that perhaps it wasn’t the fascism, nor the government, that caused the Brazilian fires?

Smelling of wood smoke and anchovies

Boris isn’t being all that polite:

The prime minister has attacked the Extinction Rebellion activists protesting in London over the climate crisis, dismissing them as “uncooperative crusties” who should stop blocking the streets of the capital with their “heaving hemp-smelling bivouacs”.

But there’s a certain truth there. As with Auberon Waugh’s comment about the Greenham Common women. Smelling of wood smoke and anchovies…..


And this time I think few doubt recession is coming. It’s hard to see how this combination will fail to deliver the downturn that has been delayed for longer than I suspected, given all the failings of austerity.

What we know is that austerity cannot happen this time. There is nothing left to cut without enormous harm resulting.

Both taxation and government spending as a proportion of GDP are higher than they were under the Brown Terror.

What austerity?