More, more, elsewhere

As William Shakespeare told us, there are ages, seven of them, to the life of man.

The idea is rather older than that, forming the basis of the Sphinx’s riddle as well. My point being that we all do, barring unfortunate accidents and circumstances, end up in old age. Given that we all do, there’s no economic problem here, for something that happens to all is quite easy to deal with.

However, increasing lifespans do mean that we’ve got to recognise that those different ages, old age itself, turn up at rather different ages these days. That does pose an economic problem and also a political one. For what is the correct age at which we now say that people are old? When they are due some privileges from the rest of us?

AMA Muhith has just suggested that in Bangladesh, this definition of “senior citizen” should change, from a general idea of 60 years of age to one of 65. This isn’t a hugely important change, as there’s not much that goes with being so called.

But it’s an illustration of something much more important — pensions ages and any other fiscal or state privileges we might grant to the old, and at what age we consider them old enough to gain such privileges.

More elsewhere

Yes, you’re quite right, CryptoKitties is entirely ludicrous, just absurd. CryptoKitties is also why economists insist that it really doesn’t matter if the robots come to steal all our jobs. No, this does not make economists absurd nor ludicrous, it’s just that they’re looking at the world with a slight list to their thoughts.

Yes, this quite possibly could mean a society in which absolutely everything is done by the machines except for the amassing of collectibles on blockchain. A CryptoKitty licking a human face, forever.

Beats rat poison I guess

The drug that caused a mass overdose among nine backpackers who were taken to hospital in Perth has been identified as a common prescription drug called hyoscine, which is used to treat travel sickness.

The group of backpackers, aged 21 to 25, thought they were snorting cocaine on Tuesday night but suffered violent reactions, with three put in intensive care in induced comas.

The group reportedly included young people from France, Germany, Italy and Morocco.

Just another example of why legalisation is such a good idea. Tooting will happen – why not make sure it doesn’t kill people?

Blimey, that’s a shock!

John Torode: Millennials are changing what we eat

As does every generation passing through this life.

It’s entirely possible that Torode, in his professional life, has never served a plate of what 1950s Britain would have called “food.” Probably for the better, true, but still.

Another tiresome variation on apres moi la deluge.

Well, yes, obviously

Labour’s plan to hike the minimum wage to £10 per hour could put increasing numbers of workers at risk of losing their jobs to robots, an economic think tank has suggested.

Well, yes. But that’s going to happen anyway. All that will change is the speed at which it will happen.

Much more important is that a high minimum wage will stop some to much of the experimentation needed to produce jobs once the robots are taking some of them.

This is the most pernicious effect I’m afraid. It increases the costs of trying to do new things with that newly abundant – but still expensive – labour.

The homeless man on an international airplane flight

Homelessness is not quite, today, what we might think it is:

The passenger who tried to leave a Ryanair plane by opening an emergency exit and climbing onto the wing is unlikely to be able to pay a possible £40,000 fine because he is homeless and has no fixed abode, it emerged on Wednesday.

Maybe homelessness is still a problem, but it’s rather a different problem from what it used to be, isn’t it?

Well, what did you expect?

White working class boys are being left behind because of the “negative impact” of a focus on ethnic minorities and women, a member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet has said.

Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said cultural change is needed among Britain’s white working class to encourage more young people to strive to succeed.

She told The Spectator magazine white working class boys had been left “at the bottom of the heap”.

She said: “The culture towards migrant families towards education is considerably different to the culture of British families, that’s something I’ve noticed.

Design an education system not for white working class boys and you’ll end up with an education system that doesn’t serve white working class boys well, won’t you?

Elsewhere

Quite why this is so can be argued. It could be the patriarchy, the oppressions of capitalism, the manner in which we simply don’t have enough female politicians to sort things out properly. It could also be that this is just the way things work in a species that evolved as hunter gatherers.

An often monogamous and usually sexually dimorphic animal, one with an exceptionally long period of childhood helplessness, has a division of labour in the raising of offspring? Get away, it’s obviously ridiculous that hunters might provide a little more, gatherers nurture. Occam’s shaving kit does however insist that if we have two explanations which both explain all of observed reality then we should prefer the simpler.

Those Vietnamese nail bars

The investigation began when police, immigration officials and staff from the charity Unseen visited nail bars in Bath in February 2016. At the Nail Bar Deluxe premises, in the city centre, they found two Vietnamese girls working on clients’ nails.

It emerged they were working 60 hours a week. One was being paid about £30 a month while the second was not paid. They were staying at the four-bedroomed home of the owner, Jenny, in Bath. One lived in a tiny room, while the other slept on a mattress in the attic.

Should this happen? No, of course not. But it’s a hell of a long way from 100,000 being prostituted through those Vietnamese nail bars, isn’t it?

This really isn’t a problem

Retired peers will now be allowed the privilege of returning to parliament to eat in the Lords’ exclusive restaurant.

We’ve only just started having the concept of retired peers. Before this they were there for life – meaning they could go eat in the restaurants and claim £300 in expenses for doing so.

Sigh, so much fuckwittery out there, so much fuckwittery.

So, to a question I don’t know much about. Things like Oxbridge colleges. Do they make a distinction between “being employed” as in being paid and “enjoying dining rights”?

Ignorance, ignorance

Not everyone who uses offshore vehicles is a crook. But the main takeaway from the Panama and the Paradise Papers, published again by the Guardian and media partners in November, is that the offshore industry is not a minor, shadowy part of our economic system: it is the system. The burden of taxation has moved away from multinational corporations and the rich to ordinary people. Offshore has made this happen. We – those of us who pay our taxes – are the dupes.

No, it’s the other way around., The vast majority of those who use offshore are not crooks. Instead, they’re – if they’re from the more turbulent areas of the world – those trying to protect their property from their own government. Or, as with those funds of David Cameron’s father, people struggling to make sure that people from different tax regimes can all obey those different tax regimes.

You know, they all were paying tax?

As to the burden of taxation moving away – corporation tax has never been a large portion of the economy in the first place. A few percentage points of GDP, no more. It’s been a larger portion of the tax take, true, but then that was back when the tax take was a smaller amount of GDP. And as to taxation moving away from the rich – the portion of income tax coming from the rich is at record highs in both the US and UK currently.

Well, yes, OK

Coughing, sneezing and clutching the stomach might be obvious signs of sickness, but humans can also spot if someone is healthy simply from a glance at their face, new research suggests.

Scientists have found that signs of a person being acutely unwell – such as pale lips, a downward turn of the mouth and droopy eyelids – are visible just hours after an infection begins.

We are, after all, descended from those who avoided – or survived – such infections until they’d had time to breed…..

That it’s difficult might be true

Doctors in Germany on Tuesday spoke out against proposals for medical tests to check the age of asylum-seekers.

Leading politicians have called for compulsory tests amid allegations that migrants are lying about their age and posing as minors in order to avoid deportation and claim extra benefits.

But senior doctors warned that medical tests would not be reliable and risked harming asylum-seekers’ health.

“The investigations are complex, expensive and laden with great uncertainty,” Prof Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the president of the German Medical Association said. “If you carried them out on every refugee, it could interfere with human wellbeing.”

Perhaps it’s something that is used sparingly. That three foot one over there, w’ll assume – in the absence of a beard – that it’s a child not a dwarf. That 6 ‘ 8” hulk trying out for the basketball team, perhaps that claim of being 15 should be checked?

But “we’ll not test because that would be nasty” is perhaps not the way to go.

One of the interesting things about Germany is that there are lots of rules. Also, that the population think there should be lots of rules and also that they obey those lots of rules. To the point of following the listings of whose turn it is to sweep the communal courtyard etc.

Going to be interesting to see what happens with the addition of large numbers of people who don’t think there should be lots of rules nor that they should be followed.

How much does “ordnung” depend upon people being Germans in the first place?

Innumeracy in journalism

China’s ban on importing millions of tonnes of plastic waste is already causing a build up of rubbish at recycling plants around the UK, experts have warned.

The decision, which means that half a billion tons of the toxic substance could be burned in Britain rather than exported is predicted to bring chaos for councils in the weeks ahead.

Not that people have to know this of course. But it is useful for a journalist to have a rough idea of relative numbers and sizes. Plastics consumption (or, perhaps, use then throw away) is of the order of 300 million tonnes a year globally.

It’s really not likely at all that we’ll end up burning 500 million tonnes in the UK alone.

Also, plastics aren’t toxic, that’s rather the point of them. Their combustion products, if not combusted properly, can be, but it is very much the point of plastics that they don’t in fact poison us.

Simon Ellin, chief executive of the UK Recycling Association, said his members had already seen lower grade plastics piling up and warned urgent action was needed.

“You can already see the impact if you walk round some of our members’ yards,” he said.

“Plastic is building up and if you were to go around those yards in a couple of months’ time the situation would be even worse.”

The leaders of the UK’s recycling industry admitted that they have “no idea” how to cope as China’s policy came into force on January 1.

But on to the much more important point. There’s no use for this stuff, is there? That’s why it’s piling up.

So, why in fuck are we recycling it?

Well, costs of living are indeed costs of living

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to drop plans for an income tax hike in April after it emerged Scottish households were hit with a 15 per cent increase in their energy and insurance bills last year.

Price comparison website comparethemarket.com published research showing on average Scots paid £300 more last year in total for their utilities and car and home insurance premiums.

The rise was one of the largest anywhere in the UK, with an £268.39 (19.7 per cent) average increase in energy bills responsible for the vast majority of the squeeze on household incomes.

I wonder why Scottish bills are rising faster than elsewhere?

Still, as Ritchie says, nothing that can’t be solved with MOAR TAX.

Let’s start the year with idiot sodding stupidity, why not?

And do remember that you don’t pay for any of that spending anyway. That spend comes to £802bn, but revenue looks like this

(revenue pie chart)

That comes to £744bn. So even if you find savings in the first chart there is no way that they will necessarily reduce your tax bill because (as I have long argued) tax does not actually fund government spending. That’s paid for by (metaphorically) printing more of these

(sterling note)

The promise to pay printed on there is fulfilled by accepting such money in settlement of your tax bill, which only exists precisely because the government spent in the first place and has to tax some, all, and on occasion even more than that spending back only because if it did not there would be inflation. Its decision on how much to tax to control inflation then leaves a surplus, balanced budget or deficit, but it does not mean tax pays for the spend: that’s paid for by the Bank of England extending the government credit against its promise to pay, in exactly the same way as all other money for spending is created.

It’s just the wondrous manner in which he moves from a particular accounting elucidation – money creation – to the more general statement – no one pays tax.

It’s still true though that we do pay tax.

GDP is everything done by everyone in the year in the economy. Government claims some 35% or so of that to be deployed as government says it will be deployed. That means that everyone has only 65% of everything done by everyone to deploy as the people doing the doing decide they’d like to.

That’s a tax. Cannot be anything else.

Now, it’s most certainly true that some amount of this government decided deployment is more than worth it. I too think that the existence – even if I quibble with certain parts of it – monopoly on military violence, or a criminal justice system, are worth more than the amount skimmed to make them happen. I’m very much less convinced by some other areas of said deployment.

But it is still true that resources are abstracted to pay for government – that’s tax being paid, the relinquishing of those real resources. Even for those items that are undoubtedly worth it, there’s still that abstraction, that tax.

But, you know, why not start off the new year with the delusions of idiot sodding stupidity?

But that’s not the problem

How 1,000C car park inferno vaporised the FLOOR: Apocalyptic images show gutted multi-storey with no sprinklers where all 1,400 vehicles were reduced to ashes by heat that could melt aluminium

Melting aluminium isn’t really the problem. It’s when the aluminium catches fire that you really want to worry.

As we found out in the Falklands…..

Can we explain this? Yes we can!

Average salaries for advertised jobs in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are under £30,000, according to a study by jobs site Adzuna. Jobs near Sloane Square tube station pay an average of £25,686, South Kensington offers £26,447 and High Street Kensington is marginally better with average salaries of £29,367. But statistics show the affluent borough is home to Britain’s top earners. A new study has revealed how Britain’s richest borough has some of the lowest wages in London – but its wealthy residents are the country’s top earners. Figures released by the Office of National Statistics last year show residents of Kensington and Chelsea had the highest income in the country – an average salary of £158,000. In contrast, the Adzuna study found jobs in Tower Hamlets – one of the capital’s poorest boroughs, where residents earn an average of £41,800 – offered much higher salaries. Jobs near Shoreditch High Street paid an average salary of £37,074, those near Tower Hill pay £30,118 on average.

Sigh.

The retail outlets in a largely residential borough don’t pay very much.

The spillover from The City and the tech hub into Tower Hamlets pays a lot.

Who would have thought it?

This is hugely, hugely, amusing

Staff at an exclusive private members’ club co-owned by the Tory donor Lord Ashcroft have been asked to take a cut in their basic pay in return for a share of the service charge, in a move that could leave low-paid workers vulnerable while reducing the company’s tax payments.

Workers at the Devonshire Club in London, where members pay £2,400 a year for access to a 68-room boutique hotel, brasserie and champagne bar, were asked last month if they would take a formal cut to the legal minimum wage.

They were promised that their total pay would be topped up to the current level using money from the service charges automatically added to customers’ bills and distributed via a system called a tronc.

The scheme would potentially cut the Devonshire Club’s tax bill as, unlike basic pay, national insurance payments are not levied on independently distributed tips.

Although staff will save on national insurance in the short term under the scheme, cutting their contributions will affect statutory protections such as redundancy pay, maternity or paternity pay, or the state pension. Money from a tronc also cannot be included in staff contracts, potentially leaving staff vulnerable to a pay cut.

If the amount must be paid – if it’s not a tip therefore, but it is a service charge – then NI is payable on the distribution.

If it really is a tip, not a service charge, then the management don’t get to decide upon the distribution, the money already belongs to the staff.

The basic set up just doesn’t work.

So, who do they belong to?

More than 11,000 homes across the country have been lying empty for longer than a decade, figures show.

The data, collected from freedom of information requests to local authorities also showed that 60,000 properties had been empty for two years or more while just one in 13 councils make use of powers that would allow them to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months.

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said such properties should be used to provide homes for some of the most vulnerable in society and called for an urgent government review of the system.

Interesting isn’t it? Those empties, they belong to society as a whole,? Or individuals within it?

At which point, who gets to dispose of them, individuals or society?

It is actually true that there must be a system of clearing up those which are truly abandoned. So there’s a line somewhere.

However, I have a feeling about this. The reason that councils aren’t using those powers is because they are expensive to use. The council then has to pay to bring them up to spec. Cheaper to be renting somewhere already at spec, no?