October 2010

Defending Stephen Fry

Not that he needs defending by me of course.

But this thing that female sexuality is a little different from male, that if said sexuality were in fact the same then we\’d be seeing female cottagers on Hampstead Heath.

Umm, it\’s not actually that different from Robert Heinlein\’s comment, that only on Earth could we have a shortage of what every woman has an infinite supply of.

It\’s not that different from the common (in both senses) observation that women use sex to get what they want and men don\’t: for what men want is sex.

As a heterosexual male I feel entirely confident in making all three of those statements.

As a married man I just hope my wife doesn\’t read them.

Well, yes Nick

But it remains a business, which exists by selling its users to its advertisers. Most on the net have yet to grasp that when they are on free sites – Facebook and Twitter as well as Google – they are not citizens enjoying a public service or customers whose wishes must always come first. They are the product whose presence the site owners sell to the real customers in advertising.

Exactly like your column in The Observer then?

Which, er, carries Google Ads?

Statistics bleg

I\’m trying to find a number: anyone help out?

What I really want to know is what is the amount of subsidy to housing from below market social rents?

Now, a rough guide can be got from knowing how much is actually paid in social rents now: they\’re about 50% of market rents, so if we knew how much, in total, was being paid now then we could simply say that the subsidy was equal to this sum.

I\’ve had a rootle around and can find what specific social rents are, by region, etc, but does anyone know of where that total sum can be found?

In the absence of being able to find that total subsidy number?

Quote of the day

\”Edgar Allen Poe wrote this thing about music where he said, \’People think that when they cry to music it\’s because they\’re being sentimental about the memories of a time gone past, but it\’s not true. The reason they cry is because they get a glimpse of the banquet that gods are feasting upon.\’ I completely agree with that.\”

More on my vague contention that the Great Depression was actually structural, not cyclical….

In 1928, as Herbert Hoover campaigned for the presidency, the country was largely prosperous. But a depression was slowly spreading through the agricultural sector. European agriculture had recovered from the ravages of World War I, cutting demand for American exports. And, as more and more land once devoted to fodder crops for horses and mules was turned over to producing food for humans, the food supply at home began to seriously outstrip demand.

I hadn\’t thought of that before. Of course, the mechanisation of farms would reduce labour demand. But also the mechanisation of farms would \”create land\” as oil replaced oats.

Not again Johann

He does have a way with history, doesn\’t he?

Let’s start with the most hopeless and wildly idealistic cause – and see how it won. The first ever attempt to hold a Gay Pride rally in Trafalgar Square was in 1965. Two dozen people turned up – and they were mostly beaten by the police and arrested. Gay people were imprisoned for having sex, and even the most compassionate defense of gay people offered in public life was that they should be pitied for being mentally ill.

Imagine if you had stood in Trafalgar Square that day and told those two dozen brave men and women: “Forty-five years from now, they will stop the traffic in Central London for a Gay Pride parade on this very spot, and it will be attended by hundreds of thousands of people. There will be married gay couples, and representatives of every political party, and openly gay soldiers and government ministers and huge numbers of straight supporters – and it will be the homophobes who are regarded as freaks.” It would have seemed like a preposterous statement of science fiction. But it happened. It happened in one lifetime. Why? Not because the people in power spontaneously realized that millennia of persecuting gay people had been wrong, but because determined ordinary citizens banded together and demanded justice.

Nothing at all to do with Leo Abse, the Wolfenden Report, no, it was all people power, eh?

In the 1960s, one MP, Leo Abse and a peer Lord Arran put forward proposals to humanise the way in which criminal law treated homosexual men by means of the Sexual Offences Bill. This attempt at liberalisation in the laws relating to male homosexuality can be placed in the context of rising prosecutions against homosexual men. The potential for these prosecutions to bring existing sexual offences legislation into disrepute was seen as acute and is evidenced by an article published by The Sunday Times entitled \”Law and Hypocrisy\” on 28 March 1954.

In his 1965 Sexual Offences Bill, Arran drew heavily upon the findings of the Wolfenden Report (1957) which recommended the decriminalisation of certain homosexual offences.

The Wolfenden committee was set up to investigate homosexuality and prostitution in the mid 1950s, and included on its panel a Judge, psychiatrist, an academic and various theologians. They came to the conclusion (with one dissenter) that criminal law could not credibly intervene in the private sexual affairs of consenting adults in the privacy of their homes. The position was summarised by the committee as follows: “unless a deliberate attempt be made by society through the agency of the law to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private that is in brief, not the law\’s business” (Wolfenden Report, 1957).

And yes, of course Johann gets his tax stuff messed up.

The company – which has doubled its profits during this recession – engaged in all kinds of accounting twists and turns, but it was eventually ruled this refusal breached anti-tax avoidance rules. They looked set to pay a sum Private Eye calculates to be more than £6bn.

Then, suddenly, the exchequer – run by George Osborne – cancelled almost all of the outstanding tax bill, in a move a senior figure in Revenues and Customs says is “an unbelievable cave-in.” A few days after the decision, Osborne was promoting Vodafone on a tax-payer funded trip to India. He then appointed Andy Halford, the finance director of Vodafone, to the government’s Advisory Board on Business Tax Rates, apparently because he thinks this is a model of how the Tories think it should be done.

By contrast, the Indian government chose to pursue Vodafone through the courts for the billions in tax they have failed to pay there. Yes, the British state is less functional than the Indian state when it comes to collecting revenues from the wealthy. This is not an isolated incident. Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK, calculates that UK corporations fail to pay a further £12bn a year in taxes they legally owe, while the rich avoid or evade up to £120bn.

Look who his source is?

Not very well thought out class analysis of the day

One of the things I wonder about is the way that a certain section of the lefty intellectual set seem so angry about top people\’s incomes.

And I think I\’m beginning to understand where some of it comes from.


Take for example the Neil Lawson\’s of this world: La Toynbee herself perhaps. The latter\’s household income is well past £300 k (two £100k salaries, books and freelance income on top) and, adjusting for inflation how you will that\’s a solid upper middle class income in any era.

The rewards of being a well regarded intellectual \”thinker\” haven\’t fallen any. Will Hutton\’s on a good screw at the Work Foundation, I\’ve no idea what the Indy pay Young Johann but I doubt that, with the freelance stuff, he\’s on less than £100k.

These people aren\’t, in any real nor even historical sense, being underpaid for what they do.

Yet, in the past few decades, whose who would have been on comparable numbers historically, the bankers, stockbrokers, corporate mavens, have soared past them to five to ten times that very decent upper middle class income.

That is what grates I think: that those who did sums not arts, lordy forbid, those who actually went into trade, have pulled away from those who do all the hard stuff like thinking about what oppressions the government should impose upon us.

And given that at those sorts of incomes purchases are very much positional goods (there are only so many Georgian mansions in Clapham, 5 bedder Victorians in Hampstead, The Ivy only has so many tables) this really does hurt.

I\’m sure this is unkind of me but I really do think there would be less whining from such quarters about \”top peoples\’ pay\” if it had actually been all top peoples\’ pay which had inflated.

Rather than just that of the spotty geeks with the slide rules and pocket protectors that the incrowd laughed at on the way back from that Young Fabian\’s lecture on the importance of having right thinking people doing all the thinking.

You what?

Mike McKenna, director of Kronospan\’s Chirk factory, said the subsidies for electricity generators which use biomass encouraged them to take \”the easy option\” of burning freshly felled timber.

He told BBC Radio Wales: \”The easy option for them is cutting down trees and burning them for electricity generation.

\”That\’s because the subsidies are worth more than twice the value of the wood.

Please can we hang Chris Huhne?

On the soaring pay of chief executives

The average FTSE 100 chief executive earned £4.9m last year, almost 200 times the average wage, according to research group Incomes Data Services, with the gains largely due to sharp rises in bonuses and performance-related pay.

Err, yes.

Profits are up, share prices are up. What do you think should happen to the wages of people hired to increase profits and share prices?

Fun typo at The Guardian

\”In the four quarters following the end of the 1981-92 recession,\”

Yes, of course, it\’s just a typo. But possibly just a tad of projection there too*? Three Republican Presidential terms couldn\’t be anything other than permanent recession, could they?

* By the Graun, not Dean.


\”How would Adam Smith fix a mess such as the current recessionary aftermath of a financial collapse? Sorry, but it\’s fixed already. The answer to a decline in the value of speculative assets is to pay less for them. Job done. Don\’t Vote (2010)

Displaying contempt towards a public servant

I really do think the Froggies have got the wrong end of the stick here.

She apparently didn\’t see the funny side of the email however, and after tracking the man down via his IP address, Lyon\’s Judicial Police raided his home and arrested him. Following 48 hours in custody, he faces a prison sentence of up to a month and a fine of up to €10,000 on charges of \”displaying contempt towards a public servant\”.

Prison and a fine for what was really rather a witty little (and entirely non-threatening) joke?

And to think that we\’re actually in a political union with a country that makes it a criminal offence to display contempt for the ghastly little tax gobblers?

Makes me all wistful for Trafalgar and Waterloo it does.

Given that we don\’t actually have a written constitution I can\’t show you the page where it\’s laid out, but I\’m absolutely certain that it\’s every Englishman\’s birthright to tell public servants, whether politicians or bureaucrats, to fuck right off. Or ask them for an \”inflation\”.

Ooooh, dear

This does bugger up some people\’s theories:

…the fiscal multiplier is relatively large in economies operating under predetermined exchange rate but zero in economies operating under flexible exchange rates;….