January 2011

The Globe and the Bible

Some stuff and nonsense here:

Dominic Dromgoole, the artistic director of the theatre on the South Bank of the Thames, was astonished when he was told that he would have to pay the monarch royalties for his planned Easter performances of extracts from the King James Bible.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he tells Mandrake. “It is read out by priests in churches all over the country every Sunday, but I was told that the Queen owned the copyright, which is renewed after each accession.”

Dromgoogle comes over as a little dim here: it\’s Crown Cupyright, the King James and the Book of Common Prayer. It\’s a pub quiz type of thing, not some exoteric arcana.

Dromgoole has, however, managed to negotiate his way out of paying.

You don\’t have to negotiate very hard there. I managed to get a licence out of them years ago: they never charge royalties.

I have the whiff of the PR department here: how do we get a story about our new Easter plays into the press? Ah, that\’s it, make up some bollocks about Crwon Copyright.

Liberal Conspiracy\’s mindless troll actually says something interesting shocker

“Critics of Social Security and Medicare frequently invoke the words and ideals of author and philosopher Ayn Rand, one of the fiercest critics of federal insurance programs. But a little-known fact is that Ayn Rand herself collected Social Security. She may also have received Medicare benefits.
An interview recently surfaced that was conducted in 1998 by the Ayn Rand Institute with a social worker who says she helped Rand and her husband, Frank O’Connor, sign up for Social Security and Medicare in 1974.
Federal records obtained through a Freedom of Information act request confirm the Social Security benefits.”

Now that is funny.

Stewart Lansley: innumerate or what?

Since the end of the 1970s, earnings for the bulk of the workforce have been falling behind increases in wider prosperity. As a result, the share of national output taken by wages has been in freefall, shrinking from around 60% in 1980 to 53% in 2007. In contrast, the share taken by profits in that year stood at a near post-war high.

Moreover, this squeeze has been felt most heavily by middle and low earners. While real earnings for well-paid professionals more than doubled in the three decades to 2008, middle earners enjoyed a rise of 56% and pay for those near the bottom tenth rose by a mere 27%. Some unskilled and semi-skilled jobs now pay little more in real terms – and in some cases less – than they did in the late 1970s. As a result, the proportion of the population working on low pay has almost doubled from 12% in 1977 to over 22% today.

This sustained shrinking of the earnings pool,


While economic capacity has been rising at 1.9% a year over this 30-year period, wages have been rising by only 1.6%, a gap which has been getting even wider over the last decade. Between 2000 and 2007, productivity increased at almost twice the rate of real wages. It was this trend that has been the main cause of stagnant real earnings.

What is the gibbering nonsense?

Having told us that real wages have been rising for decades, having given us the actual number by which they have, how can you then turn around and say either that the earnings pool has shrunk or that real wages have stagnated?

Did you not read the earlier sentences you wrote?

It is true that the workers are getting a smaller share of a larger pie. And if that smaller share of said larger pie led to the total amount, the size of the slice, being smaller then I\’d be just as appalled as you\’re pretending to be.

But as you point out, this isn\’t true. The pie has grown so much larger that that smaller share is actually a larger slice.

Which brings us to a Chuck Norris is wearing Spandex point: your argument is invalid.

Will Straw\’s weird, weird logic

But in a forthcoming paper for the Institute for Public Policy Research, innovation expert Charles Leadbeater argues that alternative models of capitalism are increasingly paying dividends. He points to the \”mission driven\” approach where businesses such as Facebook and Google pursue a specific goal (enabling people to share; organising information) and make money as a by-product. The Financial Times columnist, John Kay, has made this concept a key part of his latest book, Obliquity, in which he argues that \”many goals are more likely to be achieved when pursued indirectly\”.

OK, lovely.

The move away from the narrow shareholder value form of capitalism requires the support of public policy.

No it doesn\’t you miserably stupid little twat.

If being mission driven rather than profit driven leads to greater profits being made then those companies which are mission driven will out compete those which are profit driven. If concern for stakeholders increases profits then similarly. If higher wages for the workers, care for the environment, better pensions, cuddly care or iced buns for tea on Thursdays increase profits then profit maximising businesses will do such things.

This is why we have markets for fuck\’s sake. So that companies can experiment with methods of profit maximising!

Err, Yes?

The government is determined that the state ceases to run forests directly – an approach shaped by ideology

The idea that the state should run forests directly is also an ideological position.

And said ideological position, that the state should run things directly, proved something of a failure in the 20th century. We\’re only 11 years into the 21 st century: bit early to be abandoning the lessons so expensively learnt isn\’t it?

This is fascinating

Jeremy Bamber, one of Britain’s most notorious multiple killers, may be on the verge of being set free 25 years after he was given a life sentence for murdering five members of his family.

Whether he will be set free or not is a complicated matter.

But the story is that the Court of Appeal might quash his conviction.

One bit that really disturbs me:

Even if he overcomes the first hurdle, the Court of Appeal is unlikely to sit for at least six months.

Why? If the contention is that an innocent man sits in jail, why wait? Bugger that for a lark, get the judges in, cut into their evenings or weekends if necessary, and get on with it.

But the other part of it: if the sentence is quashed, does he get the (huge) inheritance back?

Not quite sure here

Razwan Javed, 30, and Kabir Ahmed, 27, are to appear before magistrates in Derby accused of handing out leaflets calling for homosexuals to be executed.

The pair, who were arrested after a tip-off from the public, have been charged with distributing threatening written material intending to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

It is the first prosecution since laws outlawing homophobia came into force last March.

They are also accused of placing the leaflets through local letterboxes during the same month, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

The pair were yesterday (THURS) charged with distributing the leaflet, titled “The Death Penalty?”, outside the Jamia Mosque in Derby in July last year.

Prosecution on the grounds of incitement to violence, as with prosecution on the grounds of libel or slander, I\’m fine with.

\”Stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation\” I\’m not so fine about as a grounds for prosecution. Sure, I agree, we don\’t want to change the law in the manner they propose: I don\’t think we want to end up executing anyone for any reason.

I don\’t know in detail what the leaflet said of course, but imagine it this way. That they were recommending that UK law be changed so as to reflect one of the more extreme versions of Sharia law.

No, of course I don\’t support such a move. But we\’ve really gone and made it illegal to recommend a change in the law?

If the leaflet said \”Kill Teh Gayers\” then it comes under that first part which I\’m entirely happy about: incitement to violence. If it really was \”we should change the law so that Teh Gayers are executed\” then while it\’s obnoxious, appalling even, I\’m deeply unconvinced that urging such should be against the law.

Isn\’t this actually what democracy is all about? That the peeps get the chance to say, however absurdly, what they think the law should be?

So Richard would like a debate

It’s a draft.

I will improve it. But it’s already on the table.

Now would anyone (serious) like to debate it?

It\’s this plan he wants to debate.

I would happily do so. Neutral territory, neither my blog nor his. Comments to be controlled by neither of us.

I don\’t think he\’ll take me up on this though. For I have a funny feeling that because I\’ve already shown my opinion of his theorising thus I\’m not \”serious\”.

Interesting news about Richard Murphy\’s speech in Jersey

This is the speech which Richard has written about here:

Last evening I spoke at a meeting in St Helier, talking, seemingly to the audience’s pleasure for 30  minutes and taking questions for more than 75 minutes after that, the while thing only slightly delayed by local television interviews.

The text is here.

Now I\’ve been sent an email which tells me that:

I hope this may amuse you. One thing the Channel TV piece you linked to neglected to mention: only six people turned up to his little talk, according to our local rag. I believe three of them were politicians from the \”party\” that invited him.

Now I have no way of checking this at all other than to ask anyone who did go to the meeting (or who can find the newspaper report) whether this is true or, as Richard himself says, attendance was better than that:

I guess about 100 came

Do we have any Jersey readers here (other than the one who emailed me)?Anyone with a link to the report in hte local rag?

Update from our correspondent in Jersey:

Good instincts on your part, as it seems I have made a bit of cock-up – for which I sincerely apologise. As Richard Murphy points out in the comments to that post, the attendance-of-six was a lecture he held for all States Members (53 in total), not the public meeting.

This is vaguely amusing

Via, we find out that Press TV\’s bank account has been frozen.

What amuses is that one of my appearances on the channel was precisely to talk about the freezing of Interpal\’s account.

Two years ago, the Palestinian charity Interpal suffered almost precisely just such a business attack. Interpal still has major banking problems because their account with Islamic Bank of Britain has no external clearing facilities. Basically, banks can pick and choose who they hold accounts for, and can close accounts without any reasons being given and with no right of appeal.

The reason being bandied about back then was that Interpal was, under US banking law, considered to be financing or aiding naughty stuff in some manner. Which meant that a UK bank which offered them an account could lose its US licence to operate.

I would assume, but have no real idea about it, that something similar has happened here. Perhaps some effect of US sanctions against Iran means that NatWest fears that providing Press TV with an account could threaten their USD interests.

I\’d just go one step further and point out that insisting upon greater regulation of the banking system might not lead to results that all lefties devoutly desire.

Ms. Laurie Penny goes undercover

Over the past few months I have become, and remain, deeply embedded in the student movement in the UK and Europe. Many of the young people who feature in the piece – on whose activities I\’ve been keeping meticulous notes, and who are of a similar age and political attitude to myself – have since become as close to personal friends as observational subjects ever can be. It\’s not so much a question of going native as finding that all the other natives have suddenly come out of the forest to take on the invaders. This has stretched my objectivity to its limits.

When the police report back on having done this sort of thing it\’s an outrage. When a journalist does it\’s umm, well, different.

And no, don\’t even go there. We just don\’t want to think about it, OK?

Most interesting

The threat of the Greenland ice sheet slipping ever faster into the sea because of warmer summers has been ruled out by a scientific study.

Until now, it was thought that increased melting could lubricate the ice sheet, causing it to sink ever faster into the sea. The issue was a key unknown in the landmark 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which pinned the blame for climate change firmly on greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.


Researchers had feared that more melting from the surface of the ice in hotter years would in turn provide more meltwater for a slippery film at the sheet\’s base. More melting would mean more slippage and a greater rise in the sea level.

But they discovered that, above a certain threshold, the slipping began to slow. On-the-ground studies and work done on alpine glaciers suggest that higher volumes of meltwater form distinct channels under the ice, draining the water more efficiently and reducing the formation of a lubricating film.

The Greenland ice sheet studied by Shepherd\’s team is up to 1,000m (3,280ft) thick. If the entire ice sheet melted, sea levels would rise by a catastrophic seven metres, but this is likely to take 3,000 years if warm air blowing over the ice is the only way in which the ice melts.

More evidence that what we face is not an immediate and catastrophic problem, but a chronic and long term one.

Greenland melting in full is now pencilled in for 5,010 AD*. Rather a lot of things will change by then: while I\’ll not be around to see it of course I\’d rather expect there to be a Space Elevator by then for example.

What amuses, I have to say though, is that they\’ve reached this conclusion by noting that water flowing downhill, in quantity, seems to form streams and rivers rather than flowing as a sheet down the side of the hill.

You don\’t say?

* I have a feeling that they\’ve got that 3,000 wrong and that it might actually be 300 but it\’s still not an immediate problem.

There some truth to this

Peter Sands, the chief executive of Standard Chartered, warned that much of the new regulation could \”stifle growth\” and was contradicting governments\’ fiscal and monetary policies that are attempting to support countries coming out of the recession.

“What I most worry about is that in the next cycle, as the regulatory pendulum swings, we are going to have to use taxpayer money to bail out unregulated businesses that, unlike the banks in the last crisis, may not be able to repay them,” he explained.

He said that new regulation was important but there was a major risk of over-engineering the solution.

Gary Cohn, president of Goldman Sachs, warned regulators must focus on the whole financial system, rather than just banks.

Mr Sands comments, made on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, are echoed by many banking leaders spoken to by The Telegraph. They said they were losing patience with endless “bank bashing” by politicians and regulators.

A reasonable description of what went wrong is that the shadow banking system suffered a run. What triggered it isn\’t all that important: yes, mortgage bonds, a housing bubble, gross overpayment for ABN Amro, these had a part to play.

But the real problem was what this led to: the wholesale markets, that shadow banking system, freezing up and damn near toppling the whole edifice of the financial system. Those stories of ATMs not having cash in two hours time: nothing to do with mortgage losses. They were due to the interbank system, overnight etc, disappearing.

OK, so what was the problem with this shadow banking system? Banking systems, at least fractional reserve ones, which do not have deposit insurance are likely to be subject to runs. Hmm.

But why did this shadow banking system grow up? Because the players in the market were looking for ways to get out from under what they saw as the stifling regulation of the insured and thus regulated parts of the banking system.

They may have been clever or dumb about this, perhaps they should or shouldn\’t have done this, but that is one way of describing what had been going on for decades. Not just regulation of course: tax as well. The entire Eurobond market started as tax arbitrage out from under the US system of bond taxation.

OK, so we\’ve narrowed down our root problem as being part of the banking system growing outside of the regulatory structure. Growing there as a way to escape from what was considered to be onerous regulation.

Which leads to the policy implication: we really don\’t want to make the new regulations so onerous that what we encourage is the growth of a second unregulated shadow banking system. One which will, in hte fullness of time, most likely fall over again.

It\’s a tricky balance but there isn\’t, in anything close to a free society, any method of doing anything else. Ban this and ban that and people will simply construct a stucture even further out there: and yes, as and when this falls over it will be necessary to bail it out again. Simply to stop the whole system crashing.

Too much regulation will lead to exactly the problem that everyone wants to avoid: as will too little of course.


Himalayan glaciers are actually advancing rather than retreating, claims the first major study since a controversial UN report said they would be melted within quarter of a century.

Note that it\’s actually some are advancing rather than shrinking, not as the headline makes out, all.

And the amusment comes, not from whatever change this might make to climate science. I, as you know, don\’t regard myself as competent to comment upon the details of something I know so little about.

No, the amusement comes from this:

Dr Pachauri, head of the Nobel prize-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has remained silent on the matter since he was forced to admit his report\’s claim that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 was an error and had not been sourced from a peer-reviewed scientific journal. It came from a World Wildlife Fund report.

He angered India\’s environment minister and the country\’s leading glaciologist when he attacked those who questioned his claim as purveyors of \”voodoo science\”.

The environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had cited research indicating some Himalayan glaciers were advancing in the face of the UN\’s claim.

It\’s always nice to see an international bureaucrat with egg on his face.

On Ms. Laurie Penny\’s inability to use logic

In her first counterblast Laurie says:

In recent years, both men and women have found that their working hours have increased

In the next paragraph she says:

Men do work longer hours in many industries – but only if you subscribe to the view that paid work is the only work that counts. Women\’s unpaid caring, childrearing and domestic labour contributes tens of billions of pounds to this economy, and 35 years after the Equal Pay Act, women\’s share of the domestic load remains close to double that of men.

So, quite clearly, Laurie thinks that we should be measuring both paid and unpaid, market and household production, hours, as being work.

Good, I both agree and approve of this.

But if we do do this, as we should, we find however that male and female working hours have been decreasing for the past century or more. For while female market working hours have been rising, male market working hours have been falling. And household production hours for both sexes have been falling: for women by more than market working hours have increased.

Thus by using the definition of working hours that Laurie urges us to use we cannot then say that working hours have increased, for that would be illogical.

Still as I never tire of pointing out, Laurie is the Germaine Greer of our days so it\’s only another 40 years before she too will have a gardening column.

Radioactivity at Hinkley

The City lads are worrying a bit about this report of uranium in the soil at Hinkley.

I\’m not competent to judge the method that this would be Green MEP has used to do his calculations. But I\’d just point to two things:

1) However, this value of 330Bq/kg is for high-uranium granite areas like Dartmoor and Aberdeen, so this statement is highly misleading. 330Bq/kg is far too high for normal soils (Eisenbud and Gesell 1997, NCRP94 1981). Data is available for background Uranium in the UK from the Environment Agency 2007 report (Beresford et al 2007), as the authors must have known. The range of Uranium activity given in that report for the area is 1.6 to 2mg/kg or about 18-24Bq/kg. The map of Uranium levels from Beresford et al 2007 is reproduced in Fig 2. High levels above 100Bq/kg are only indicated in the granite areas. We conclude (conservatively) that the levels of Uranium (below 0.4 m depth) in the EDF survey site are up to 40Bq/kg greater than expected.

That is, that if the contamination by enriched uranium is exactly as he\’s calculated it to be, the power station has made one corner of Somerset as much as 10% more like another corner of Somerset: radiation levels at Hinkley Point have risen by 10% (ish) of the natural radiation levels on Dartmoor.

Decide for yourself how big a problem this is.

2) an increase of 40Bq/kg over the background natural uranium represents about 10 tonnes of uranium which must have been added from the historic releases

Again, if his calculations are correct, 10 tonnes of uranium has been deposited on the site.


A 1,000 MW coal-burning power plant could have an uncontrolled release of as much as 5.2 metric tons per year of uranium (containing 82 pounds (37 kg) of uranium-235) and 12.8 metric tons per year of thorium.[17]

We\’d have to play around a little with the numbers (note, he does not say 10 tonnes U235, he says 10 tonnes enriched uranium, and we don\’t know what the level of enrichment with U 235 is) but it\’s not immediately apparent that those releases from a nuclear power plant are higher than those from a coal fired one. for do note, those coal figures are annual ones and Hinkley B has been running for 34 years now.

It\’s true that there shouldn\’t be such emissions. And it may be true (as I say, I don\’t know) that our Green friend has shown that there are emissions which there shouldn\’t be.

But by his own calculations, we can see that even if he is right, it\’s not actually important, the level of contamination. Even if we reject hormesis and so on, he\’s shown that the danger is around 10% of the danger of moving 30 miles to Dartmoor.

Most amusing

A leading tax specialist has warned Jersey\’s finance system needs to be more open and transparent.

Richard Murphy, from Tax Research UK, says the system needs to be clearer to achieve a successful long-term future.

He says the current secrecy in the system is fuelling rumours of tax avoidance.

I wonder who it is spreading those rumours?

The next super cycle

Interesting piece from Standard Chartered:

The third super-cycle started – in our view – in 2000. The period between the second and third super-cycles, from the early 1970s to 2000, was characterised by ongoing economic challenges in the West, a slowdown in Japan, the collapse of the Soviet Union, debt and currency crises in Latin America, and the relatively small size of China and India, both of which were in the early stages of opening up. There was no dynamic driver for the world economy. In 2000 the world economy was $32 trillion in size. Now, following the global recession and financial crisis, the world economy is almost twice the size of a decade ago. There was a significant contraction as a result of the crisis and global recession, but now the world is back to its pre-recession peak. Next year, based on conservative growth assumptions, this could rise to $64.7 trillion. Global trade has also recovered to pre-recession levels.
By 2030 – the time period for this analysis – we believe that the world economy, on the projections laid out here, would rise to $308 trillion, which would equate to $129 trillion in today\’s prices and dollars, and would be $143 trillion, keeping prices constant but allowing for some emerging-market currency appreciation (see chart above).
Now we could of course dismiss this a piece of bankerly tosh. But it might be unwise to do so.
For we do have an entirely non bankerly estimate which makes much the same point. Here.
The global economy expands at an average annual rate of about 3% to 2100, reaching around US$550 trillion (all dollar amounts herein are expressed in 1990 dollars, unless stated otherwise). This is approximately the same as average global growth since 1850, although the conditions that lead to this global growth in productivity and per capita incomes in the scenario are unparalleled in history. Global average income per capita reaches about US$21,000 by 2050.
3% growth on that $64.7 trillion, with compounding, is $116.8 trillion by 2030. We\’re in the same sort of ballpark then. And that second estimate? One of the economic projections upon which the entire edifice of climate change is based. Yes, this is one of the numbers which gets plugged into the IPCC models.
Further, it\’s the estimate which comes closest to the best estimation method we have of the future. Tomorrow is going to be much like today, next week much like last week, next year much like last.
Sure, there will be minor variations, 1% this way or that: days do get longer going into the spring, shorter in the autumn, but our best bet is that daylight tomorrow will be much like today. If it\’s -20 oC here, today, then our best estimate of temperatures tomorrow is going to be -30- -10 oC: we\’re not about to say that the system will jump to plus 20 oC. If global economic growth has been 3% in real terms for a century and a half our best estimate of future global economic growth is going to be about 3%.
Unless we want to call in some extraordinary evidence to show that it won\’t be of course. Or follow some blindingly stupid policy (and there are so many to choose from!) which kills economic growth stone dead. But even then, the stupidities which we perpetrate in the UK won\’t have all that much effect on the global economy.
But reject this as bankerly tosh if you wish: in doing so, you\’ve also got to reject one of the building blocks of the whole climate change thang. And as you know, I don\’t reject the underlying science and assumptions of climate change and thus do not regard as bankerly tosh something which agrees with it.

That export led recovery

My my:

However, it is probably good news that the pound fell on the GDP news. The recent rise in sterling, on the expectation of rate rises, has made life harder for exporters. And they are the only firms growing at the moment.

Amusing that it\’s Larry Elliott who spots it…….