These people are idiots

California is suffering its worst drought in 60 years – and even its stars are trying to do their bit to save water.

Yet their efforts have thrown into stark relief how far removed their lives are from ordinary reality. Actor Kurt Russell, for example, has replanted the vines on his vineyard closer together so they require less watering.

Other celebrities have revealed perhaps a little too much about their personal lives. ‘When I pee, I don’t flush,’ said former X Factor judge Sharon Osbourne, 62, who lives with Black Sabbath rocker husband Ozzy in rain-starved Beverly Hills.

There is no problem with water that proper pricing wouldn’t cure.

Well, yes, but….

Paul Krugman is annoyed that the media focuses on character instead of the issues in election coverage, especially because the one character trait that actually matters — intellectual integrity

Ohhh kaaaay.

Hardly an endorsement of a Clinton that, is it, calling for us to look to integrity?

There’s some sorta story about Krugman and the Clintons. Not sure of the details: something about how he should have (expected? Was offered then it was withdrawn?) a job in Bill administration but it never quite happened.

And he’s been positively venonmous about Robert Reich, who was in that admin.

So Miliboy really is a fascist then

21st-century technical education bill
This would deliver compulsory work experience for teenagers;

must be a slave!

Being slightly more serious the 10 bills that he’s offering all seem pretty dickish.

Strong economic foundation bill
This would set out new rules to get the deficit down and debt to fall as soon as possible in the next parliament. It would implement a mansion tax and a tobacco levy to fund the NHS, and introduce plans for the Office of Budget Responsibility to audit all the main parties’ manifestos.

So that state bureaucracy gets to vet the appeals to voters of those who would go on to run the state bureaucracy?

Energy freeze bill
A bill to freeze energy prices until 2017. The bill would also give the regulator the power to cut prices

Yeah, like price fixing works, eh?

Make work pay bill
The make work pay bill would ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, and make it illegal to use agency workers to undercut the wages of employees. It would set a new framework for the low pay commission, so that the national minimum wage rises to at least £8 an hour by October 2019, and introduce new make work pay contracts to give a tax rebate to employers that sign up to become living-wage employers in the first year of a Labour government.

Why not raise the personal allowance for income tax so that the minimum wage is that living wage?

Stronger families bill
This would contain measures to increase free childcare for working parents of three- and four-year-olds to 25 hours a week, funded by an increase in the bank levy,

The bank levy is a Pigou Tax. There to correct a market imperfection. Not as a revenue raiser to be raided for whatever.

NHS time to care bill
This bill would repeal the market framework for the NHS and guarantee GP appointments within 48 hours, or on the same day for those who need it.

NHS Wales and NHS Scotland are less market orientated than NHS England. And work worse.

Immigration and exploitation bill
This would make it illegal for employers to undercut wages by exploiting workers,

Eh? Define exploit.

Tuition fees reduction bill
This would cut tuition fees to £6,000 and increase the student maintenance grant by £400.

Why? Why shouldn’t those who will benefit from a degree pay for getting a degree?

So, Tesla….

A wall-mounted battery which would store energy from solar panels and wind turbines as well as taking power from the National Grid during cheap periods, will be available in Britain by the end of the year.

At a launch in California this week, the car manufacturer Tesla claimed the new device could change ‘the entire infrastructure of the world.’ And British environmental groups said it could become as common as central heating.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said the rechargeable lithium-ion battery could store up to 10kWh of energy, enough to power 100 boils of the kettle, 10 washing machine loads or 20 days of laptop use.

You know, I’m deeply unconvinced that lithium is the correct battery te3chnology for someone to have in their home. It would most certainly (well, I bloody hope it would at least) fail any sort of fire test for an apartment bloc.

Those fire risks seem worthwhile in transportation because of he power to weight ratio. But for a static battery it doesn’t seem worth the risk somehow.

Ever heard of rent creation?

Ritchie does like to tell us that rents in the economy are a very bad thing. So it’s interesting to see him endorsing the idea that the law should be used to specifically create a rent for Ritchie:

I have long agreed with them.

I was pleased to note this in their ten suggestions:

Tax Dodging: Procurement must be used, as part of massively stepped up efforts to tackle tax dodging and tax avoidance, here and in developing countries. This could bring in much-needed billions for the public purse. There should be pre-qualification disclosure of company taxation policies, not just of illegal tax evasion. Country by country reporting should be a condition and companies registered in tax havens should not be eligible. Public bodies should be able to evaluate a tender on the basis of which company pays tax or not, with penalty clauses for tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance, post contract. Assessment of bids could make use of the Fair Tax Mark and/or other similar checks developed in future that monitor companies’ tax behaviour, locally and globally.

I think this is essential. Only then will behaviour really change.

All bidders on all public contracts must have the Fair Tax Mark. Won’t that create a lot of business for Ritchie, director of the Fair Tax Mark? And create it by law too!

But, of course, rents in the economy are a bad thing. So Ritchie tells us.

Absolutely fascinating about Hodge the Dodge

HM Revenue and Customs is facing legal action over its failure to prosecute hundreds of British customers who used HSBC’s Swiss bank to evade tax.

Online campaign group Avaaz, which claims 40 million members worldwide, has initiated judicial review proceedings against the UK tax office over its decision to offer an amnesty to hundreds of the 3,600 UK customers it identified as potentially hiding money in Switzerland.

OK. So they’re seeking review of the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility. Essentially, why were these tax cheats allowed to simply cough up and not be prosecuted nor heavily fined?

“In consequence, large sums in penalties have been foregone,” Avaaz states. “Further, HMRC has lost the opportunity to bring criminal prosecutions against those guilty of widespread tax evasion.”

In evidence to parliament this February, the HRMC chief executive, Lin Homer, told the public accounts committee that HSBC customers had been encouraged to use the amnesty. She said 1,100 individuals had settled with HRMC. Asked about the process, she said: “When we talk abut the numbers that went on to settle under this, they will be under Liechtenstein. Of the 1,100, some will already have been in [the LDF] … Some will already have taken themselves into the disclosure, and we think about another 500 went in as a result of us encouraging them to do so.”

This was in front of Hodge the Dodge of course.

Margaret Hodge, former head of Britain’s parliamentary public accounts committee, was among the beneficiaries in 2011 of the winding-up of a Liechtenstein foundation that held shares in Stemcor, the private steel-trading business set up by Hans Oppenheimer, her father.

The shares were brought onshore using a scheme, known as the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility, that offered reduced penalties and no risk of prosecution for Britons moving undeclared assets back to the UK.

Ms Hodge said she had not been a beneficiary of the Liechtenstein foundation until the shares were brought onshore using the LDF in 2011, and that she had not played a role in setting up or running it.

But the disclosure, reported by The Times, has exposed her to charges of hypocrisy. At issue is whether she should have been more transparent and made a public statement about her interest sooner.

Ms Hodge became one of the UK’s best known politicians in the last parliament by denouncing businesses and individuals over their tax arrangements, and criticising Revenue & Customs for its handling of avoidance. But she has previously made no public statement about the use of offshore vehicles or the LDF associated with the family shareholdings.

Her committee has been particularly critical of the lenient terms offered by the LDF, not least last month during its investigation into alleged tax evasion by clients of HSBC’s Swiss bank.

Just wondrous, eh? Just. Absolutely. Fucking. Wondrous.

So, what Avaaz is really asking for is that Margaret, Lady Hodge, be fined and jailed. Well, let’s be honest here, can’t say fairer than that, can we?

And as a comment on this blog has it (a comment that Ritchie did not allow to be published at his site):

Posted at TRUK – unlikely to survive moderation:

I have to take minor issue with one of the points here.

The only reason for using the LDF is to declare tax evasion, not avoidance. Using the LDF guarantees no criminal proceedings and minimises penalties for the evasion. Avoidance is not illegal, therefore there would be no purpose to using the LDF. I think we can safely assume evasion took place here.

Whomever carried out the evasion, whether Ms Hodge or not, has used this facility to avoid criminal proceedings. I had a similar case with a client and a secretive European trust which we disclosed under the old Swiss regime for similar reasons. She had no idea she was a beneficiary (despite being in her late 80s, early 90s from memory), and the Trust was so secretive is was a nightmare getting information on the income which had been omitted (and, needless to say, which she had not seen a penny of. However, tax doesn’t work like that: as beneficiary, she was obliged to declare the income and pay tax). I don’t believe we ever did find out who the Trustees were; the only reason it came up was the Swiss bank which held the Trust’s funds wrote to her as part of the UK-Swiss agreement going on at the time. How they knew she was involved we never did fully find out..

But I digress. It is entirely possible in my view that Ms Hodge knew nothing about this Trust at all until recently, as she has stated. However, that does not mean that if she was beneficiary she is not guilty of tax evasion. Ignorance is no excuse in the law. I find it less easy to accept at face value that she was not a beneficiary prior to this point (albeit ignorant of the fact): who has she received the shares from? We can only assume it is a close family member (unfortunately random strangers are not in the habit of passing on shares in companies to people they don’t know), in which case why pass shares on to someone in the family who has no need of them (I think it fair to state she doesn’t need the money). It doesn’t pass the smell test that she has only recently inherited shares from a family trust. Who were the previous beneficiaries? In family trusts this would normally be the previous generation. Are they really still with us? Beneficial ownership would have passed to Mrs Hodge on their death.

What this highlights to me in particular is the dangers of strict liability for tax evasion, which I believe you are unfortunately a supporter of Mr Murphy. It is possible, and we have now seen, for people to be unaware of income for completely innocent reasons. But a beneficiary of a Trust must declare to HMRC; to fail to do so is evasion.

Perhaps you might speak privately with Mrs Hodge for the real details. If my suspicions are correct, then I would hope you revise your position on strict liability.


Margaret Hodge, the chair of the public accounts committee in the last parliament, who has since been revealed to have used the Liechtenstein facility to disclose her own tax affairs, criticised the procedure as sending a “really rotten message” to tax evaders.

HMRC’s handling of the Falciani files in effect told them “it’s a risk worth taking”, she said. “The worst that can happen to you if HMRC can be bothered to catch up with you is that you may have to pay, you won’t have a prosecution, you won’t have any shame, you won’t be an example to anybody else, you’ll get away with it.”

I think it would be fair to point out that she said that before she was revealed to have used the Facility.

Well, yes, 4 oC would be bad

But it’s not going to happen.

One out of six species faces extinction as a result of climate change and urgent action must be taken to save large numbers of animals from being wiped out, an analysis said Thursday.

The study, published in the US journal Science, found that a global temperature rise of four degrees Celsius could spell disaster for a huge number of species around the world.


“If we follow our current, business-as-usual trajectory (leading to a 4.3 degree Celsius rise)… climate change threatens one in six species (16 percent),” the study said.

All these fuckers are doing this.

Whether they’re using the older SRES models or the newer ones for AR5, they are always taking the worst projection and then calling that business as usual. And that is wrong.

No, not arguable, not justifiable, simply wrong. All of the projections are, by design, business as usual. All are deliberately constructed so as to be possible results without any governmental action upon emissions or climate change.

So, whichever people are using, A1FI, or the newer RCP 8.5, this is not “business as usual”, this is “one possible business as usual”.

Except that even that’s not quite right. Because we know absolutely that A1FI isn’t going to happen. We’ve already done enough in getting the price of solar down to make sure that neither that not RCP 8.5 are going to happen. And if we accept the projection that solar will be as cheap as coal in the next 5 years (something I am inclined to accept) then neither of those are in fact remotely possible. For we’re just not going to have a coal intensive energy generation system in 2070 if solar is cheaper than coal in 2020.

Yes, 4 oC would be a bad idea. But before we get upset about it we’ve got to work out how likely it is and the truth is, not very.

Trade offs, eh? Such a bastard…

The move prompted a profound shift towards diesel cars, which produce lower levels of carbon dioxide because they are about 20 per cent more efficient than petrol engines.

Over the past decade, the number of diesel cars on Britain’s roads has risen from 1.6 million to more than 11 million and accounts for a third of vehicles.

However Labour’s plan failed to take into account that diesel vehicles emit 10 times the fine particles and up to twice the nitrogen dioxide, which has been linked to 7,000 deaths each year.

All hail powerful government planning and the Courageous State!

I wouldn’t describe it as sophisticated

But it’s certainly anthemic.

Jack Ely:

His tortured, incoherent slurring of the lyrics — almost drowned out by the over-loud backing — made Louie, Louie virtually impossible to understand. It certainly baffled the FBI, which conducted an investigation into whether the song contained secret obscene messages. Their 455-page report concluded that it would be “unintelligible at any speed”.

Ely blamed his indistinct vocals on the microphone suspended from the ceiling, forcing him to crane on tiptoe, tilt his head back and shout up at it. Matters were not helped by the fact that he had just been fitted with dental braces.

Even if there’s just that one moment of such glory in a life, well, that’ll do, eh?


All entirely legal, of course:

A senior Labour politician was accused of hypocrisy last night after it was reported that she had received more than £1.5million in shares from a tax haven.

Margaret Hodge has been a fierce critic of tax avoidance and ‘secretive’ offshore funds as the chairman of the Commons public accounts committee.

But The Times reported she had benefited from a controversial scheme that lets wealthy Britons move undeclared assets back to the UK without facing criminal action.

But Mrs Hodge said she had ensured that ‘any shares I held were above board and that I paid all relevant taxes in full. Every time I received any benefit from the company this happened.’

Yes, but paying all relevant taxes in full. So have amazon, Google, Starbucks, Vodafone and the rest.

Yet you still shout at them, don’t you?

This is an interesting problem

A picturesque Normandy village with a declining population is selling land for 1 euro (71 pence) per square metre in the hope of attracting new residents.

Champ-du-Boult, a community of only 388 people, a quarter of whom are British, has put four municipally owned plots of 900 to 1,000 square metres up for sale.

OK, that’s nice Lovely part of the world at least. And the Normans are very much better to live amongst than the French.

The cost of building a modest house would be about 1,300 euros per square metre of living space.

Hmm, maybe, a little high I would have thought. But right order of magnitude at least. But the problem is, why would you want to go and lose money in this manner?

The municipality has also put a stone house of 150 square metres on the market for only 55,000 euros (less than £40,000). It is the former residence of the headmaster of the village school, which closed three years ago.

You can get the house and the land for a quarter of the price of a new build. And this is a basic point about areas that are depopulating. I see it here in Northern Bohemia (and in the Algarve as well recently). It’s not just that a new build isn’t worth it but it can be entirely possible for a renovation not even to be worth it. There’s whole blocks of this town you can have for €1 a unit. Not worth it as the renovation costs would be more expensive than buying an already refurbed unit elsewhere in town.

This is just what happens with depopulation. Some part of the extant property base will have a negative value.

A Normandy cottage at €55k sounds great. Buying land and building one for €195k doesn’t sound so good when extant ones are going for that quarter of the price.

Aid for Nepal

An interesting suggestion from a reader here:

Dear Ambassador,

Forgive me. I am just a random UK citizen and I realise this is a difficult and busy time for you and Nepal. So I will brief. I have just read Carole Cadwalladr’s piece in the Guardian. I think she’s dead right but she left out one point. Increased trade is the key to the long term development of Nepal. Thus I propose that you ask, hint, suggest (as well as welcoming well meaning offers of relief) that you sieze the opportunity of the current sentiment to ask the British government/ political parties to abolish all tariff barriers and quotas between our countries.
I will be suggesting this in other quarters, if any of your staff have figures for the current restrictions on trade the EU provide please ask them to email me.

With great repect.


I expect that there’s not really much in the way of EU tariff barriers on products from Nepal. As a very poor place it will have exemptions from pretty much everything. And the horrible textiles controls have pretty much gone these days. except, of course, for food, which is one place where a poor rural country might be able to do well. But trade is, in the medium term at least, the way that poverty is beaten so it’s a good idea to remove whatever restrictions do exist.

Ritchie on GDP


So, services are continuing to keep growth afloat, just. But we’re not making things, we’re not exporting, and we’re not building. Indeed, as the graph shows, whilst Labour boosted production, construction and even agriculture after the 2008 crash this is simply not true under the Coalition. From when the Labour growth plans ran out in 2011 until 2015 all three of these sectors have declined. That’s no economic miracle, and if it’s a plan it’s a bad one. This is an economy that’s still not working.

Since services are the vast majority of the economy they’re the important thing though, aren’t they?

You what?

Organic milk is less healthy than regular milk and could cause unborn babies to have lower IQs, a study suggests.

Compared with conventionally-produced milk, organic milk contains around one third less iodine which is essential for maintaining a strong metabolism.

Pregnant women who switch to organic thinking it will be healthier may also be putting the brain development of their unborn child at risk, experts have warned.

Iodine is known to be important for the healthy brain development of babies, especially in the early stages of pregnancy.

Previous research has shown that mothers-to-be who are iodine deficient during this critical time can give birth to children with reduced IQs.

Milk is the primary source of iodine in the UK diet and researchers from the University of Reading said the finding could have potentially serious health implications.

The danger of iodine lack, sure. Goitre in the woman and cretinism in the child. But where’s this milk thing come from? I thought we all got our iodine through our salt?

Or can’t they say that because salt is the very devil and we’re supposed to cut our intake?