February 2012

I think I\’m right here: tell me if I\’m not

Sunny thinks that:

But parodies of films and music aren’t allowed under UK copyright law, unless you have explicit permission of the copyright owner. I didn’t know this either until this week.

My response:

That’s because it’s not true.

You can parody anything you like. You just cannot include someone else’s copyright material in your parody.

Thus, for example, you can parody “Yesterday” by Paul McCartney, no problems. Change the key perhaps, make a minor adjustment to the notes (there are well known ways of doing this sort of thing, it’s done all the time by advertisers who want a soundtrack without having to pay royalties) then stick any words you like over it.

Oh, and make sure that you’re not actually using Sir Paul’s voice or playing on it.

At a guess the problem with the above video, quite apart from anything else, is the use of the Olympic rings and then 2012 logo. Whether they’re copyright or trademarks not sure, but they do indeed belong to someone.

Easy enough to get around. Slightly change the colours, the shades, of the rings and you’re not using someone else’s property any more.

This is all well known stuff. Just, apparently, not by the people who created this parody.

There are plenty of parodies of, say, Star Wars, out there done with Lego or Playmobil. No one needs George Lucas’ permission to do that. How do you think Spaceballs got made and shown in the UK if permssion to parody is required? Or Men in Tights, South Park, etc etc?

It’s not parody which you cannot do.

Apropos no political race in particular

I think it\’s an interesting reflection on politics today when the choice in a major election is between a drunken, possibly alcoholic, philanderer and a philanderer.

I\’ve nothing at all against booze, excessive consumption of such, extra-marital legovers nor even illegitimate children. All add enormously to the gaiety and variety of life and no society with even the slightest claim to being liberal or free would say different.

But it is an interesting insight into the characters of those who rise to the top in politics, isn\’t it?

Jobs and investment are a cost not a benefit you ignorant fucking cow!

We\’ve the usual screaming nonsense from The Guardian today about offshore wind power. Twats:

As well as hundreds of miles of cabling to connect the turbines to the shore, fleets of boats have to be built, including heavy barges for laying the foundations and turbines, and smaller vessels to ferry workers for construction and maintenance – which needs to be carried out regularly for the 25-year lifetime of the turbines.

Divers, port workers, onshore transport companies, road-building, connecting up substations on land – all of these are needed.

Investments of hundreds of millions of pounds in factories to make offshore wind turbines are now under review. But the investment potential is multiplied many times over if the many related industries are taken into account

These are all costs of offshore windpower, not benefits.

If optimistic predictions for the sector are borne out, according to the wind trade association RenewableUK, offshore wind could spark £3bn of investment in the UK supply chain by 2022, supporting more than 45,000 long-term jobs.


Fuck me but these people are dim.

That\’s £3 billion (I assume per year) that we cannot spend on curing cancer, providing clean water in the third world or research into why unicorns poop rainbows. That\’s 45,000 people that cannot be employed building telecoms networks, wiping elderly bottoms or hunting across the Scottish Highlands for that all important Rabbie Burns treat, the haggis.

Seriously, people who don\’t understand the concept of opportunity costs just shouldn\’t be allowed to go outside unaccompanied.

Total and complete dingbats.

That sleeping pill killing everyone thing

Given the success of my last foray into this story I fihnd this interesting:

The consensus among health professionals yesterday was that there is something about people who take sleeping pills that makes them likely to die earlier – but it’s almost certainly a complex combination of factors. If they need pills to sleep, that might indicate an underlying anxiety caused by physical ill health. Alternatively, the anxiety itself could be eroding the body’s defences, causing any number of symptoms that can shorten your lifespan in subtle ways. But that’s guesswork.

And we\’ve even a method of testing it:

Other benzos act faster than diazepam and do induce greater drowsiness; they’re more likely to be used only at night. But in the course of my research I don’t think I came across one sleeping pill that wasn’t also being used recreationally.

“Valium and zopiclone are very popular at rock festivals,” says Alice, 23, who works in publishing. “People want to come down and chill out after taking uppers. It’s absolutely normal.” And where do the pills come from? “Oh, somebody’s GP. Or through the internet from Thailand.”

The rise of internet pharmacies has helped to popularise tranquillisers among young drug-takers from all social classes. On the streets of the north-east of England, Z-drug pills circulate in strengths that are unavailable in the UK – evidence that they have been ordered online.

Given the massive effect claimed, as much as smoking, we should therefore be able to observe that effect among recreational takers of the same drugs.

Yes, obviously, it\’s a difficult thing to measure, who has been taking it recreationally. But it is through that that we would be able to unscramble the effects. If it\’s the drugs causing the deaths then we should be finding an elevated death rate among those who go to such festivals and take the drugs.

And if that elevated death rate isn\’t there then we\’d rather swing towards it being the underlying condition(s) which produce the prescriptions causing it rather than the drugs themselves.

Of course, I\’m not going to do such a study and nor are you. But I have a feeling that someone is. Quite possibly the drug manufacturers. For I have a feeling that there\’s going to be a lot of pressure from the plantiff\’s bar in coming years off the back of that original paper. Pressure that the pharma companies would rather like to have some defence against.

No Richard, no

Sorry Laura; that’s just wrong. The duty of a company that wants to be a good corporate citizen – or even just law abiding – is to be tax compliant. Tax compliance is seeking to pay the right amount of tax (but no more) in the right place at the right time where right means that the economic substance of the transactions undertaken coincides with the place and form in which they are reported for taxation purposes.

In that case the only duty a company has is to pay the right amount of tax in the right place at the right time. Deciding to do otherwise is always tax avoidance.

Sorry, but you can\’t say this.

\”law abiding\” and \”tax avoidance\”. By definition you can be law abiding and engaging in tax avoidance. Because, by definition, breaking the law to dodge taxes is not tax avoidance, it\’s tax evasion.

Tax avoidance is, again by definition, legal and thus you can do it and be law abiding.

Ritchie and Barclay\’s

I love this. A series of posts. All saying much the same thing.

Because HMRC already has the power to stop abusive tax shenannigans and has done so in the case of Barclay\’s this proves that HMRC must have more power.


That HMRC were able to put a stop to it without the general anti-avoidance principle of Ricthie\’s dreams shows that we don\’t need a general anti-avoidance principle to put a stop to these shenannigans.

In which I agree with Julie Bindel

Makes me feel very odd indeed but I do agree:

I would outlaw marriage for everyone, including heterosexuals, and grant access to a civil partnership union across the board.

This is the situation in, just as an example, Portugal. In a legal sense there is no such thing as marriage. There is just the single civil partnership thing for all potential mixtures of two people (they are traditionalist enough still to insist upon that) who wish to sign up to the contract.

Of course, it\’s possible to refer to this as marriage if you wish to. But what, in the terms Bindel is using at least, we normally describe as marriage has no legal weight here. You want to go to church, synagogue, mosque, the local gun club or get the publican in to run a ceremony for you? Sure, go right ahead. As far as the law is concerned you\’re entirely free to do that just as the law is entirely free to ignore that you have done so. Which many people do and the law does.

Yes Polly, this is the point

The NHS was always rationed. What matters is whether it is done rationally or haphazardly, nationally or by postcode, in public or secretly. Entering its greatest ever cash crisis, it matters more than ever how its shrinking funds are spent.

Indeed, something free at the point of use and also highly desirable will need some form of rationing. Which is why we want to have markets in the health care industry.

For there\’s something we learned in the short 20 th century, that period betweem 1917 and 1991.

Market based systems improve total factor productivity better than centrally planned systems.

Agreed, the socialist insistence at the start of that period was that planning would do better than that wasteful nonsense of competition, repetition, reinventing the wheel and profits. It didn\’t quite turn out that way and the socialists are reduced to arguing that economic growth, \”hunh!, who wants it anyway?\” as an argument for the very same socialist planning. Indeed, there are those who insist that as we cannot afford to have growth then we must have socialism.

Leave aside all of the technical arguments for a moment: that change in the justification for the very same policies is all we need to see that the 20th century did indeed teach us something about productivity growth.

And rationing is a product of the constraints imposed by that productivity we\’re discussing. If we can improve tfp by, just as an example, 2%, then that means that we can have 2% more health treatment for the same resources we expend on providing health treatment. If 10% then 10% and so on.

Which is why we want markets in that health care stuff. Because it means that, over time, we can improve tfp and thus we need to less rationing. Because we\’re able, through that increased tfp that markets work towards, to provide more health care for the same ingoing resources.


I\’m not entirely sure that this can be true

Doctors call for rethink after large study finds prescribed pills could be associated with up to 0.5m extra deaths a year in US

That\’s a lot, certainly.

The study was carried out in the US, where up to 10% of the adult population took sleeping pills in 2010. The authors estimate that sleeping pills may have been associated with 320,000 to 507,000 extra deaths in the US that year.

And that\’s two a lots. Lots of people and lots of deaths. However, there\’s a little problem as far as I can see.

Deaths and Mortality

(Data are for the U.S. and are final 2009 data; For the most recent preliminary data see Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2010 Adobe PDF file [PDF – 724 KB])

* Number of deaths: 2,437,163

Perhaps there\’s something I\’m missing here but I just can\’t see how something that 10% of the population does accounts for 20% of all deaths.

It\’s certainly possible if it\’s something new: 10% of the population could get some lurgy that kills them outright immediately and that could be 20% of deaths in that year. But I\’m not sure that I can see that something ongoing, something that\’s been happening for decades, can, if only 10% of the population do it lead to 20% of the deaths.

Help me out here. What is it that I\’m missing?

Plain and obvious truth here

\”The role of the private sector is critical because innovation at the technology frontier is quite different in nature from catching up technologically. It is not something that can be achieved through government planning.\”

That\’s about China but it applies everywhere.

The technological frontier is where, by definition, you don\’t know what\’s going to work, what\’s the best thing to do. So how can it be planned?

It\’s one of the critiques I\’ve got of Ha Joon Chang. He often uses the example of S. Korea but what he\’s talking about when he does is their period of catch up growth. It\’s not applicable to a country at that frontier. Doesn\’t stop people saying that he\’s arguing for planning in our economy though, does it?

@RichardjMurphy finally admits that his tax gap calculations are bollocks

So, we\’re talking about tax avoidance.

No one, of course, denies that business should not claim allowances and reliefs clearly intended for their use. To claim capital allowances and R & D relief is tax compliant in most cases (there can be doubts when leasing is involved in some cases). Tax compliance is seeking to pay the right amount of tax (but no more) in the right place at the right time where right means that the economic substance of the transactions undertaken coincides with the place and form in which they are reported for taxation purposes. So let’s leave that issue aside: we can argue whether there should be capital allowances but if there are no one is saying business should not claim them.



The TUC’s Tax Gap report, by Richard Murphy, argued that businesses avoided at least £12bn tax a year through sophisticated tax planning and offshoring of profits. Murphy said in the 2008 report that his calculations showed firms had an effective tax rate of 22.5%.

In Ritchie\’s calculations of the tax gap he does not include those entirely legitimate uses of allowances which Parliament has expressly put into the law so that companies will use them. That is, he\’s not in fact calculating tax avoidance, he\’s calculating some combination of tax avoidance and tax compliance.

This is a criticism I have made before, of course.

But it interesting that Richard J Murphy is now, himself, admitting that his calculation of the corporate tax gap being £12 billion is, as I\’ve been saying all along, entirely bollocks.

Yes, this will solve the Greek crisis

More than 160 German tax collectors have volunteered for possible assignments in Greece to help the struggling Mediterranean country gather tax more efficiently, the finance ministry said in Berlin at the weekend.The offer risks fuelling resentment among Greeks who have already reacted angrily to earlier German calls for the appointment of a \”budget commissioner\” to monitor the Greek government\’s financial management.

Not the
tax collection, obviously. But the security apparatus needed to protect them will provide a nice little fiscal boost to the economy.

My word, this is a surprise Ms. Lawrence!

Sales of fairly traded products have bucked the trend of decline in the UK retail market to grow by 12% in the last year. The value of Fairtrade products sold through shops reached £1.32bn in 2011, compared to £1.17bn in 2010, according to figures from the Fairtrade Foundation, as it launches its annual marketing fortnight on Monday.

Blimey, amazing, eh?

By definition everything Fair Trade is imported. We\’ve a currency that has declined in value. Imports thus rise in cost.

Just astonishing, isn\’t it?

And it\’s all as much as 0.2% of retail spending. Or is it 0.5%…..summat in there anyway.

Portillo is a Dimwit

Michael Portillo, the former Conservative defence secretary, also said the statistics had taken him by surprise.

“The tax system is more progressive than I had imagined,” he said.

How long have you been in friggin\’ politics?

Shouldn\’t you actually know by now that the UK tax system is markedly more progressive than those of most other OECD countries?