The Citizen’s Wealth Fund

We want to cut taxes, don’t we? We want to cut spending, yes? Well, let me suggest a policy that would not just enable us to save billions a year – more than enough to take a penny off income tax, simply by cutting bureaucracy – but would help us pay to build the homes we need, and finance the roads, railways, power stations and airports that this country is crying out for. It would help us to cover the cost of the vast and growing army of older people; and it would end an absurdity – an ontological explosion in the public sector of a kind that has not been seen since the jobbery and Buggins’-turnery of the later Roman Empire.

To explain this opportunity, let me ask you a question I recently posed to a senior member of the Government. How many public-sector pension funds do you think there are in the UK? I asked. “I don’t know,” he said. “A few hundred?” Keep going, I said. “A thousand?” he hazarded. I pointed upwards. His eyes rolled. “Ten thousand? You tell me!”

I told him. There are more than 39,000 public-sector pension funds in this country – each with its own trustees, each with its own managers and advisers and accountants. Every quango, every university, every branch of local government has its own pension fund, from British Nuclear Fuels to the Meat and Livestock Commission to the seven – yes, seven! – that were created to manage the pensions of those who were involved in the London 2012 Olympics.

The waste is extraordinary. Think of all those advisers and investment managers taking their fees – their little jaws wrapped blissfully around the giant polymammous udder of the state. Think of the duplication.

So, Boris’ idea is to roll these all up into one fund which would then be able to “invest” in all that infrastructure stuff that Ritchie likes so much. And I’ve got to say that there’s something for it. Let’s have the pensions of those tax consumers dependent upon how efficiently pension funded projects are run. Might shake some of the complacency out of the system.

And once they’ve done this with their own money for a generation then we can evaluate whether our own private sector pensions should follow them.

In fact, someone really ought to ask Ritchie about this. Someone who is allowed to post there of course. If this is such a great idea for pensions, that they be invested in this sort of infrastructure, then why is it that he’s not campaigning for the public sector pensions to be so invested? Why is he shouting about private pensions only? Given that, you know, government might actually have some power, unions might have some power, over those public sector funds?


Umm, what does this mean?

BHP to Rio Squeeze Rivals on Iron Ore Punge: Commodities


I think it means that Bloomberg doesn’t have the subs working on a Sunday night.

Actually, to explain one of the tricks of the trade of this writin’ fer the internet stuff. You’re always writing directly into the content management system, just as with a blog (indeed, many such systems are based upon WordPress). And there’s the usual spellcheck there for you to use. It can be a bit difficult writing in English on a system set to American but it does work. Except, those spellcheckers never actually cover the headline or title.

So we get this slightly strange outcome. Headlines are where you really, really, don’t want to have a typo. But they’re also where they’re most likely.

Is this why we sent all the convicts over?

A primary school teacher who tried to have sex with one of her students got the boy’s name tattooed onto her chest, a court has been told.

Diane Brimble, 47, of Hamilton in Victoria’s south-west, tried to have sex with the 10-year-old boy but he rejected her advances, the Victorian County Court heard.

Or is
it just that there’s weird people everywhere?

Calling those who know their Irish Gaelic

I have a little writing project in mind. A short story or two perhaps. And I need some help in naming the character. I already know that I want him to be Irish, of Anglo-Ascendancy background. I also want him to be originally from the Gaelic aristocracy (possibly the “Old English”, the Hiberno Normans, but even then I would be insisting that his line really came from the Celts first). And that forefathers changed religion and names and political sides as necessary over the centuries to keep ahold of their estates. Which were then lost in the 1920s of course.

Which is where someone with a good knowledge of Irish Gaelic could be very useful. I want to have as a repeating joke the difficulty of saying aloud/spelling between the two languages, Gaelic and English. Along the lines of “Siobhan” is pronounced “Shevaughn”. But I’d like it to be as extreme as possible.

It should be a place name and a small village out west would be just fine. But preferably not something that actually had a noble title attached to it.

“Ballybedknockerfillintheresthere” isn’t the point. The idea is to have a place name that looks near impossible to pronounce when written down but is very simple once you know the trick. I’m pretty certain that you can’t get from “somethinginirishgaelicthatlookscomplicated” to the English pronunciation of “Smith” but that’s the sort of thing I’m looking for.

So, anyone with any ideas?

It’s possible to do much the same in English itself of course, Cadogan and Caduggan, Cholmondleigh and Chumly, but looking for one in Gaelic to English.

Entirely true

But there are calls for those who oversaw the firms, which flourished in the financial crisis as cash-strapped borrowers turned to them for instant funds, to be held to account.

Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity, which gives free debt advice, said that as it was the rules that were flawed “it’s very difficult to prosecute people for behaving within the law…. They made hay while the sun shone and will depart with their ill-gotten gains”.

I’m not
sure if he’s just noting the fact or arguing that it should be possible to prosecute those who have not broken the law.

Well done those girls

Tiny things but:

Women had been admitted to the Games only in 1928, and were still not allowed into the Olympic Village. The 12 British girls were closely chaperoned during their time in Germany.

Evidence of how the Nazi creed had permeated life was everywhere. The standard greeting was “Heil Hitler” (to which the girls gamely replied “Hail King George”) .


Plans to treat ‘mild alcoholics’ with pills may fail because people who drink two glasses of wine a night often do not believe they have a problem and may refuse to take drugs, Royal College of GPs has said.

Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, from the Royal College of GPs, said it was a ‘welcome addition to the armoury’ but doctors will only prescribe it to those who want to reduce their drinking.

That two glasses a night is a problem is a problem in itself. I’d certainly class it under the freedom to find our own way into that long dark night. Not that it actually works particularly well. But isn’t it nice that they tell us that only people who actually want it will be prescribed it?

Yes, yes, very good

Britain must be given the power to limit the number of migrants it admits as the price for staying in the European Union, Iain Duncan Smith says.

The Work and Pensions Secretary warns that unchecked migration fuels tensions within communities that have to cope with large numbers of non-English speakers and can lead to “resentment” and “civil unrest”.

In an interview with The Telegraph, he calls for individual EU countries to be able to impose “general limitations, so you could fix the number of people you want to come in”.

And there is absolutely no way at all that the EU would ever agree to that. It’s baked into the essential idea of the entire organisation: that it’s on the way to becoming one country and who, outside the more disgusting totalitarian states, has a system of controls upon internal migration within one country?

Do not that what you think about migration here is entirely irrelevant. Doesn’t matter whether you support it or not. The point being that there is no way at all that the EU would ever agree to controls. If it really is the goal, to be able to control such migration, then the only way is out.

‘Smart dog…trained the human in 5 secs…’

During the video, the young man holding the camera explains: ‘ The dog keeps throwing his toy over the fence’ meaning he then feels obligated to throw it back into the garden.

The man says, ‘This dog keeps throwing his toy over the fence like this so I’ll pick it up and throw it over. Good to leave right, gonna go home?’

Moments later the dog retrieves the ball and drops it over the fence and the man states, ‘No, drops it again.’

Where’s that bloody work life balance gone then?

Less waste is one big advantage of shopping more often, with a clearer idea of the food needed in the couple of days ahead. There’s no doubt this is a healthy development, environmentally speaking. You could argue it’s more morally healthy too, if moral health wasn’t seen as the preserve of cranks these days. Chucking out piles of suppurating grub, when food banks are springing up all over the country, makes for queasiness on a couple of levels.

But another advantage of more regular, more modest food shopping is more enjoyment, more connection. We all have to shop for food. But there are now more opportunities than ever to make it a bit of an event. Lots of us now visit farmer’s markets at the weekend, having something to eat from a stall while we’re there, buying something we fancy for dinner.

This is not a cheap way to buy food, per se. But there’s a lot of added value, because it’s food-shopping-as-leisure-activity, not food-shopping-as-chore. The trip is sociable and interesting in itself, especially on a nice day – and there have been plenty of those lately. The meal that’s prepared and eaten using the things bought in the market usually feels a bit more special, a bit more invested-in, too.

Spending more time on the necessity of feeding ourselves. This increases our leisure time, the thing we actually care about, how?

Lucky, lucky, Zimbabwe, eh?

Robert Mugabe’s much younger wife has stepped into the battle to succeed the Zimbabwean president in an address to a ruling party rally in which she proclaimed she was the “chief advisor” to the nonagenarian leader.

Just gets better and better for the country, doesn’t it?

Describing herself as “chief advisor to the president”, Mrs Mugabe hinted she sees herself in a position to take over presidency. “I have so much ambition,” she warned.

Just how ignorant is Ritchie?

There are very good reasons why most people in the UK need credit on occasion. The fact is that our UK wealth distribution is so skewed that the majority of households in the UK have little or no safety net if the unforeseen happens, as it, inevitably does. We used to have a ‘social fund’ to deal with the situation. it was, in effect, a state backed loan scheme for those in particular, and pressing current need at a time of crisis, which could in many households be represented by something like the need for a replacement cooker.

That social fund was abolished some time ago and now there is no way in which most people can access necessary essential credit at the time when they need it without recourse to payday lenders.

Rather than being abolished the social fund was devolved down to local authorities: with, yes, a block grant to pay for it.

Competition shows that people don’t want choice

Excellent work here from the Sage of Downham Market:

And, fifth, and at least as important, there is a rejection of choice in this move. People are overawed by the big supermarket, it seems. I am not surprised, but I would not have assumed my own considerable distaste for them might be more general until the trend had become apparent. The fact is, it seems, that people are actually put off by being presented with too many options and too many alternatives. They have neither the time, nor inclination, to make so many complicated choices and are realising that in far too any cases the cost of choosing is in any case too high: simply assembling the information is an exercise they do not want to undertake. So they go somewhere that has done the job for them by setting a criteria (price) as priority and has an offering set against that sole criteria where limited options are then put to them. People can handle that, and like it.

And thus there should only be one health service, one train company and all the rest.

The outcome of choice means that people don’t want choice. National Food Service here we come…..

Breaking! Nigel Farage can eat a bacon buttie!

My word, how does he do it?

It’s the snack that came back to bite one party leader – but Nigel Farage fearlessly tucked into a bacon buttie yesterday in front of photographers.

The Ukip chief was canvassing ahead of next week’s by-election in Heywood and Middleton in Greater Manchester, when his deputy leader Paul Nuttall ordered the MEP a bacon sandwich from a takeaway van.

Unlike Ed Miliband – who was subjected to widespread mockery – Mr Farage passed the test, taking sizeable mouthfuls throughout.

No, there is a serious point here. Which is that our next Prime Minister could be someone who is provably incapable of eating a bacon sandwich. Not on religious, ethical or moral grounds, any of those would be fine, but just in the physical ability to manage the process.

Is it too much to ask that those who would rule us be competent at something or other?

And today in the Guardian

Azalea has caught the ire of music critics, feminists and anti-racist activists of all kinds. They denounce her lyrics, alleged racist tweets and her “mimicry of sonic blackness”. They also argue that she displays, at best, an uncomfortable ignorance about the complexities of race issues. But what she represents is more complex than a white girl who doesn’t think before she speaks: actually, she is the inevitable product of neoliberal capitalism, and in some ways she is much a victim of it as a culprit.

No, really: before the dreadful neoliberals arrived with their capitalism we never did have pretty girls singing on stages. Nor any songs that appropriated the cultures of another nor even any racism. All of these things have only happened in the past 30-40 years that the neoliberals have been poisoning the minds of da youf.

She puts on an American accent when she raps because that’s what the vast majority of Australian musicians do when they sing – kind of like little kids who put on an American accent when they play pretend – because the world of the imagination in her country is dominated by US products.

As I recall it was only Ringo who sang in Liverpudlian. Those damn neoliberals, eh?

In 2012, female workers in the US were earning 77% that of their male counterparts. Non-Anglo women, however, were also more likely to be without health insurance; have higher mortality rates from diseases such as breast cancer; a higher occurrence of HIV; higher infant, fetal and perinatal mortality rates; and were far more likely to be the target of sexual assault — particularly if they are Native American. In Australia, the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in the health system is only the beginning of the story.

Haranguing Azalea and over again for her thoughtlessness isn’t going to get us any closer to solving the root problems: the systemic inequality perpetuated by capitalism over colonised and marginalised peoples; the sexism entrenched in the capitalist process in which black women fare significantly worse than white women, and the particularly twisted cluster of exploitation in which a black man can make a fortune off a single-minded white woman taking pride in her own ignorance.

Australian leftists are even more mad than British ones. Discuss.

What are the Tories going to suggest here?

The impact would be wide-ranging. The UK armed forces would cease to be subject to human rights legislation overseas, and Labour’s 1998 Human Rights Act would be scrapped to be replaced by a “British bill of rights and responsibilities”, the policy document states.

“Responsibilities”? A slightly dangerous idea don’t you think? A bill of rights is a list of things the bastards may not do to us, the citizenry. Start adding responsibilities and we’ll end up with a list of things that we the citizenry must do for the bastards.

And that ain’t right at all.

Sorry, no, this doesn’t work

Britain could withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights under plans for a new Bill of Rights to give UK judges the ultimate authority over laws in this country, the Justice Secretary has said.

Chris Grayling said that a Conservative government after the general election will deliver an ultimatum to European judges to ensure that Strasbourg courts are in future little more than an “advisory body”.

The commitment will put a stop to the “farce” of foreign criminals and terrorists being allowed to fight deportation from Britain by invoking European human rights rulings.

It will “restore common sense and put Britain first” with new laws will ensure that the British Supreme Court is in future the “ultimate arbiter” on whether human rights are being respected, the Conservatives said.

Under plans for a new British Bill of Rights, MPs in the House of Commons will be able to veto any rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

This isn’t EU either, this is European Council. And to do this you’ve got to withdraw from the EC. Which, in and of itself, means withdrawing from the EU (EC membership is a pre-condition of EU).

Now, I think leaving both would be a great idea. But it’s not possible to have this interim stage, of being in but not agreeing to abide by the rules.

Ritchie on Jersey

In 14 years Jersey has grown in just four.

Total gains were 15%.

Total losses were 29%.

Hmm. On Twitter Ritchie gets reminded of something:

That is so silly. A disaster? Income per capita in Jersey is one of the highest in the world.

To which he says:

But it is not shared per capita so that argument is the silly one

And then:

Gini coeficient for Jersey (35) is lower than the rest of UK (40). You’re inventing.