February 2009

A quite delightful argument

To conclude then, I don\’t think the current relatively mild downturns in the US and UK can be considered a vindication of the anglo-saxon model.

That is, that there are economies with decent structures should not be taken as a vindication of that structure.


Still not quite got this tax incidence argument, eh Ritchie?

And note the involvement of Sir James Mirrless – the man who is heading the Institute of Fiscal Studies current pl;ans to reform the UK tax  system by shifting all corporation tax liabilities onto VAT so that the burden of tax moves from the wealthiest in society to the poorest.

Sigh. We\’ve had both Vince Cable and Larry Elliott pointing out that of course companies don\’t actually bear the economic burden of corporation tax. It\’s some combination of workers, consumers and investors.

We\’ve also had people like the Congressional Budget Office pointing out that in an open economy like the US (and the UK) that burden is carried some 70% by the workers in the form of lower wages.

So the current situation is that, in large part, it is not the wealthiest in society that pay the corporation tax. It is the workers.

Moving that tax burden to VAT might be more regressive…it might also not be. That rather depends upon what portion of goods and services consumed by the poor is subject to VAT and what is not (housing, children\’s clothes, food etc are not, heating and energy is a special low rate and so on) and comparing that to the  VAT impact upon the expenditures of those with rather higher incomes.

That\’s an empirical question which I\’m sure someone would be delighted to dig up the answer to….an answer which I look forward to someone telling me.

But if you start out by insisting that corporation tax is paid by the wealthiest when it most clearly is not then anything else you have to say on the subject is clearly going to be wrong: if not just politically motivated blowharding in fact.

To Anglicise this

Michael Gerson is the rare public intellectual who defies even the stopped clock cliche—he manages to be wrong pretty much all of the time. The ever-earnest former Bush speechwriter and current Washington Post columnist combines a Naderite’s grasp of economics with an Ed Meese-ian appreciation for individual liberty.

Think roughly Polly Toynbee\’s grasp of economics and, erm, Polly Toynbee\’s of individual liberty.

Grotty little fascist

Frank Field\’s proposals for that compulsory voluntary service. You do your 6 months or a year, then:

…..and a final citizenship ceremony.

Have you ever in your puff seen such a perfect perisher?

British citizenship, for those born here, is not something which is in the gift of the Government. It is not the State\’s to award or deny. It is something held as of right.

We are that State, we the citizens of the country simply hire the superstructure of the Government to do society\’s scut work for us. There is not, and cannot be in a free society, a requirement for us to devote 6 months or a year of our lives in order to earn our citizenship. For there is no one for us to earn it from except ourselves.

The concept that it is the State which validates our citizenship is one which is deeply fascist. That only if we are good little boys and girls, only if we do our exercises, show the appropriate genuflection to community, to the order that righteously guides us, are we therefore full members of the society. Absolutely not so, we are, whether we are miserable individualistic misanthropes like myself or Fotherington Thomas types wishing the sky and the clouds good morning that society and we need no permission or ceremony to take our place in it.

The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you\’re someone. You hear them shouting "Heil, Spode!" and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: "Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?"

The inaugural black footy bags award goes to Frank Field.

Sadly, given the state of the nation, I have a horrible feeling that the inaugural award will not be the last.

You know, I think this might be libellous….

Sir Fred\’s mob thieves from fellow citizens and their pension funds by avoiding tax and snatching monstrous "remuneration" instead of mugging and looting, but "everyone does it" is how they would each explain their milieu.

Or is that just far enough away of accusing Goodwin of actual theft that it isn\’t libellous?

The two extremes here in Europe\’s most unequal country

Err, no. We might not say that Turkey and Russia are "in Europe" because they only partially are, but Portugal and Italy are certainly European countries.

Remember, top CEO pay has multiplied from 17 times that of their average workers to 75 times in just 20 years.

The Guardian Media Group top bod is on about £700,000 a year, you join regional papers GMG owns on about £15,000. Darn near 50 times difference. Time you had a word with your own boss, eh Polly?

Equality has flatlined or slightly worsened – and that\’s before the unknown bad effects of the crash.

Erm, equality usually rises in a recession. For those former high fliers are not going to be flying so high. Top incomes will undoubtedly fall.



This really isn\’t news

Anecdotally, it is often said that brass players – often overwhelmingly male orchestral sections – drink the most.

Brass sections have always been rather laddish….and "anecdotally" they used to travel with rather more cases than they had instruments to put them in so as to get the alcohol moved around.

Indeed, Sir Georg Solti used to call one of the pubs around the back of the Albert Hall the Gluepot because he found it so difficult to get the trumpeters out of it after the interval….

The end of the pension story

The Prime Minister has threatened legal action against the former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland to recover the money, amid mounting public and political anger over the deal.

But last night, lawyers said Mr Brown would almost certainly fail to recoup any of Sir Fred\’s £16.9 million pension pot, which was approved by his own ministers.

Lord Myners, the City Minister who sanctioned the deal, is now under pressure from MPs and trade unions to resign. The multi-millionaire minister admits he was involved in negotiations over Sir Fred\’s early retirement – which effectively doubled the size of the pot – but claims he was unaware he could have blocked the package on offer.

That claim was dismissed as "ridiculous" by senior RBS sources yesterday, with critics suggesting that if he did not know, he should have asked.

Slightly one in the eye for all thoise screaming that regulation by the just and the wise is the answer to all our ills.

The just and the wise tend not to end up being the people doing the regulating.

As various bloggers have been able to dig out of the annual reports, if he retired early, he got the enhanced pension. If bloggers can dig it out then someone actually authorising such a deal who did not dig it out cannot be counted amongst the just and the wise, can they?

James Hulme can kiss my hairy freckled arse

Sometimes ideas are so good yet so simple that you wonder why they haven\’t been enacted by the Government already. This is the case for the recently published proposals from James Crabtree and Frank Field MP to establish a compulsory civic service for young people in the UK. Whilst Hampstead liberals and professional harridans will no doubt balk at the idea, citing an abhorrent infringement of our young people\’s liberty, the scheme could spark a revival in civic pride and help to tackle unemployment, crime and anti-social behaviour.

It\’s slavery dimwit.

Now fuck off and dig out those black footy bags so you can play in the streets with Roddy Spode.

Jesus, where do these people come from? Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?


For those who haven\’t already come across him (and there can\’t be that many of you who haven\’t) I present Stanislav:

….in HighJocklands is no bastard dentist for suffering human sonoffuckingbitch with toothache or fucking abcess. Oh, fuck me, the noo, says First Minister McSalmond, is all fault of Englishbastard steal all my fucking oil, that there isnae any fucking dentist for Jock with toothache and so instead get pissed from mind and slap Mrs around, dressed-up like transwotsaname in traditional costume and stuff ginger face and rotten teeth full with deepfry MarsBar and Irn Bru and drop down fucking dead in Sauchiehall Street from heart attack, is like fucking Culloden every fucking day down there, big fat bastards keeling the fuck over with stroke and heart attack.

There\’s a genius of a sort in there…..

Ms. Betancourt


This is understandable. The FARC are a only bunch of illiterate peasant drug dealers who have been force-fed Marxist Boloxology. This is combined with the arrogance and egotism of knowing they have the power of life and death over people thanks to their drug bought AK-47’s. They are trained to take what they want without considering the suffering they cause, and treat the “people” they supposedly represent with a haughty distain.


Greenpeace against bog roll

No, really, that\’s their latest campaign.

The tenderness of the delicate American buttock is causing more environmental devastation than the country\’s love of gas-guzzling cars, fast food or McMansions, according to green campaigners. At fault, they say, is the US public\’s insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply products when they use the bathroom.

"This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous," said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council.

"Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age. Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution." Making toilet paper has a significant impact because of chemicals used in pulp manufacture and cutting down forests.

We could go back to corn cobs I suppose, if we weren\’t already using them to make ethanol.

However, (and I\’m certainly not going to try and provide any proof of this, this is simply floating an idea) I\’m not actually entirely certain that using virgin wood rather than recycled paper is in fact detrimental to the environment.

Assume first that the trees cut down to make the bog roll are specifically grown to make bog roll from. Sounds about right to me given that just about all paper is indeed made from plantations.

Last time I looked the emissions and costs of making virgin paper were about the same as making recycled paper. In fact, using Friends of the Earth figures from a few years ago virgin slightly edged recycled.

But there\’s something else here as well: the carbon cycle.

If those woods go uncut (and unreplanted) then the trees will fall over at some point and release their carbon. Is it as methane or as carbon dioxide when wood rots?

If they are cut down and made into bog roll then they end up being flushed and then treated in sewage plants: where we collect the methane and convert it to CO2 via energy generation (or at least modern plants do).

So I cannot see that there\’s any problem with using virgin material from plantations.

Indeed, if rotting wood gives off methane in the wild (and I have absolutely no idea whether it does or not) then we might say that using virgin material to wipe our botties is a good idea: as we collect and convert the methane given off at the sewage plant.

Anyone care to set me straight here?

Fred the Shred\’s pension

Looks like it is indeed part of a contract:

It has emerged that Lord Myners, the City minister, signed off the deal which swelled Sir Fred\’s pension pot by a staggering £8 million, leaving the Prime Minister and the Chancellor facing serious questions over how much they knew about the payoff.

Lord Myners was involved in negotiations over the terms of Sir Fred\’s departure from the bank in October. He approved the formal document setting out the early retirement deal before it was signed by the outgoing chief executive.

I agree that many won\’t or don\’t like it and it may all be down to the stupidity of a Government Minister, but if we\’re to retreat from the idea that a deal\’s a deal, a contract is a contract (especially one actually signed by a Government Minister, however appalling or stupid it or he is) then I submit that as a society we\’re going to face much larger problems down the years than whatever letting Fred have his £650,000 a year for a decade is going to cost us.

More Stanford Loveliness

The complaint against Pendergest-Holt said she failed to tell investigators she had served on the Antigua bank\’s investment committee and that the investment portfolio holding more than 80 per cent of its assets included a $1.6 billion loan to Stanford "Executive A" – evidently Stanford himself.

It said Pendergest-Holt also wrongly denied she had prepared with company officials before her SEC interview on Feb. 10 and said a Stanford attorney had sought to keep the top executives from being questioned.

The complaint details sometimes stormy preparation sessions for Pendergest-Holt in January and February during which the bank\’s shaky asset base became apparent to a wider circle of officials and to the lawyer – "Attorney A" – who later quit.

During those preparations, the complaint said, Pendergest-Holt and other officials learned of the $1.6 billion loan and that $541 million credited as a capital contribution in December 2008 consisted of assets already bought by the bank just months before for $88.5 million.

It described "Executive A" – Stanford – as "pounding the table" and insisting "the assets are there."

Did they really not know?

2009 and all that

In 1066 and all that there is the famous erratum admission….for sausage read hostage, for pheasant read peasant and vice versa.

In our more modern 2009 we have the creation of endless Tsars of this and that. I think the erratum slip for our present rulers should read "for Tsar read Commissar".