June 2012

Dear New York Times: Fuck Off

It is, occasionally, vaguely possible that you will publish something that I would be interested in reading.

However, whatever it is that you are using to operate your paywall crashes my browser.

No, it is not my responsibility to make sure that my system is compatible with yours. I am the customer: it is your responsibility to make sure that your code is compatible with the user base.

You will therefore no longer be able to make money from showing me advertisements.

yours etc, Tim Worstall

You what Polly?

When on God\’s Green Earth did this number come from?

Oxfam reported food prices trebling in five years as incomes fell,

You what?

There is an Oxfam report out there stating that food prices could treble in 30 years, this is true. That\’s before adjusting for inflation of course.

But seriously, where on earth could anyone get a number indicating that food has tripled in price in the UK in the past 5 years? That\’s just argle bargle.

Local council about to discover the internet

So young Ms. Martha Payne had a blog about school lunches.

Took the piss a bit about what she was getting.

Story gets picked up a bit, filtering through the blogs and forums and generally this internet lark. A national paper or two pick it up as a human interest story (she\’s raising money for African schoolkids school lunches on the blog).

Piss taking of very serious people who run local council is not allowed, Oh No. She is told that she may not take photos of her school lunches any more.

Cue local paper. Wired. And then it really starts to roll this story:

Having just heard the BBC R4 Today item (at about 7.20 – 7.25) on Martha’s ‘termination’ it’s now imperative for the councillor responsible for education to ‘come clean’ and try and rescue the situation – for all those people who voted for a cleaner council, if for no-one else. Any notion of supporting senior officers would be utterly misguided.

That would be about an hour ago I believe.

I\’d say that the council have until about lunchtime today to backtrack on this. Their best bet is a \”terrible misunderstanding, lessons learned, staff training to take place\”. Any \”mockery of the system is not allowed nor should be allowed\” will undoubtedly lead to people being fired.

Richard Black is a know nothing cretin

Why in fuck do we have to pay taxes to pay the wages of morons like this?

\”GDP is quite simply a measure of all the money we spend on all the stuff we buy – every financial transaction that takes places in the economy, all that adds to growth,\” says Andrew Simms, a fellow of the New Economics Foundation (Nef) and author of several books on the subject.

Dear God. Look, taking advice from Andrew Fucking Simms is a sign of idiocy in itself. But more than that, GDP is not a measure of financial transactions. It is a measure of value added in the market portion of an economy.

Just as an example, the purchase and or sales of shares is a financial transaction. It\’s also a financial transaction that is not included in GDP measurements. Or, just to make it simpler so that even a BBC journalist can understand it, let us look at currency. Trade, financial transactions in currencies, is some $1.5 trillion or so a day in London alone. UK GDP for the year is about £1.5 trillion. Sure, in theory, if the $ to £ exchange rate is the 250:1 of the number of trading days in the year then FX trading could be included in GDP. But given that the rate is more like 1.5 to 1 then what is this fucking moron bleating about? GDP does not measure transactions, it measure value added in transactions. You Moron.

But Black is the idiot who keeps on giving. Given that he has no clue what he is talking about he just stumbles into ever greater error. To drivelling, moronic, idiocy. And have I mentioned that we are forced to pay taxes for his wages yet?

Oxford University economist Dieter Helm has just been appointed to lead the UK\’s Natural Capital Committee.

Its role is to assess the financial worth locked up in trees, clean water, insect pollinators and every other part of the ecological kingdom, and present this set of accounts to the Treasury – which should then be able to make better informed decisions.

It\’s worth recalling that the UN-backed Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) project calculated the value of forest lost globally around the world at $2-5 trillion (£1.3-3.2 trillion) each year.

Yes, that is indeed excellent. We really should take a stock, not a flow view of such matters. We really should look at how much capital (whether natural or not) we are using to produce the current value add or income. Last time I looked at such numbers the OECD country which was pissing away the future the most was Norway. \’Coz they\’re pumping up all that oil, see? But as I say, sure, excellent, we should look at both the stocks and the flows. Or, to move from economic terms to accounting ones, at both the profit and loss account and the balance sheet, the capital position. Which is where fuckwit (have I mentioned that we pay for this ignorant yet?) Mr. Black goes wrong yet again:

Criticisms of GDP include:

* it measures \”bad stuff\” as well as \”good stuff\”
* it\’s a short-term balance sheet that pays no heed to longer-term factors such as a build-up of debt

No, you Godawfully ignorant tosspot. Your complaint is that GDP is not a balance sheet of any kind at all: it is purely and solely a P&L.

P&L\’s have their place: as do balance sheets. Both are useful depending on what it is that you wish to divine.

My problem now is, why are we forced to pay taxes to fund the salary of one so ignorant as this? Given the sheets and wankstains references already given, wouldn\’t it have been better if the perpetrator of this nonsense had been left as one after the grunting and sweat of their creation? Rather than being grown to spray his ignorance on the face of our society and then have the effrontery to charge us our own £sd for the privilege?

The Guardian on the NAO report

Original headline and sub:

HMRC failures \’led to billions in lost tax\’

National Audit Office finds tax officials failed to seek proper legal advice while negotiating settlements with large companies

Current headline and sub:

Audit office attacks tax deals for corporations

National Audit Office finds tax officials failed to seek proper legal advice while negotiating settlements with large companies

Maybe they finally got around to reading the actual report?

Thanks to Shinsei67 for pointing this out.

Ritchie on multinational taxation

It is just exquisite how he fails to see that one of his arguments entirely destroys another of his arguments.

Well, I do not agree: an intangible asset only gets a value because a product to which it relates is bought. Intangibles have no value without sales. It’s as simple as that: anyone who argues otherwise has never been in business. So income needs to be taxed where income is earned.


Therefore Vodafone should be taxed in Germany on the sales it makes of phones and services to Germans. No UK tax should be payable on any such profits.

Glencore should pay tax on copper in the countries where it sells copper. The UK, US, China, wherever: not Congo or Zambia where it mines it.

He\’s just destroyed the entire system of taxation that he himself argues for.

NAO to UK Uncut: Fuck off hippies

The NAO report into the five tax cases. The two that UK Uncut etc have been whining about, Goldman\’s and Vodafone, amazingly they have both turned out to be what I (guided by many among you readers who actually know about these things) said they were.

Vodafone was about the conflict between FCC and EU law and yes, EU law wins.

Goldman was about interest charged or not charged during the litigation process.

Meaning that the essential message from the NAO to UK Uncut is fuck off hippies, you\’re ignorant.

This also applies to Private Eye\’s coverage of these cases. And as for Mr. Murphy, well, we always knew he was blathering here, didn\’t we?

The Vodafone case

Sir Andrew Park’s overall conclusion is that the settlement reached was a good one and represented fair value for the wider taxpaying community. Had the Department not reached a settlement, the case would have gone to litigation. In Sir Andrew Park’s opinion, company D had a good chance of winning both of its two arguments: the motive test defence and the Cadbury Schweppes defence. If it had won on either of these, the outcome would have been that it had no tax liability at all relating to subsidiary D’s interest income.

As we\’ve been saying all along.

EU law trumps UK law. Vodafone had a very good chance of winning in court making the settlement a good one.


Company D was only one of several major companies that had long-running disputes with the Department over the application of the controlled foreign companies provisions.

HMRC therefore didn\’t face the (some say) 100 companies lining up behind Vodafone on the same issue. Face themv having lost that major case that is.

The Goldman Sachs case

When negotiating the settlement with company E, the Department’s staff believed that there was a barrier to charging interest on the employer’s National Insurance contributions (NICs). There was no barrier to charging interest, and the Department did not check this before agreeing to settle without interest. The Department’s decision not to charge interest was reasonable in the context of reaching a settlement on several issues, but the Department should have checked the position on interest so that it could have made an informed decision on this issue.

As I speculated when the case was first discussed, there never was any being let off tax. It was about charging interest on the amount that had been owing throughout the period of litigation.

And since the other companies involved in exactly the same schemes had not paid interest on the late paid NICs then, well, OK, perhaps GS should have done because they litigated and perhaps they shouldn\’t.

But note that the \”deal\” here was HMRC\’s own inabiity to know what the law actually was: making that spirit thing really very hard to defend, eh? For if HMRC themselves don\’t know what the letter is then how can anyone divine the spirit?

That NAO report into the UK Uncut tax cases.

It all looks rather fun really:

All five settlements were reasonable, and at least one may have been better than reasonable. We found that all five settlements were reasonable ones for the Department to have reached in the circumstances.

So that\’s the Uncutter\’s hopes dashed.

These large tax settlements are complex and there is no clear answer as to what represents the ‘right’ tax liability.

And that rather tells Ritchie to bugger off. For if even the letter of the law is unclear it\’s impossible for anyone to obey the spirit of it.

Ritchie on tax

We live in an incredibly wealthy world. That wealth could be taxed. And those with that wealth have captured the political system to make sure that their wealth is not being taxed.

Is he actually arguing for a wealth tax?

Or is the man who would write the world\’s taxation system ignorant of the difference between wealth and income?

Can\’t they bother to invent new sexual panics?

Giving examples from the capital, she said: \’There are parts of London where certainly children expect to have to perform oral sex on line-ups of boys, up to two hours at a time from the age of 11.


This is just the Rainbow Party without the lipstick.

Deborah Tolman, director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University, writes: \”This \’phenomenon\’ has all the classic hallmarks of a moral panic. One day we have never heard of rainbow parties and then suddenly they are everywhere, feeding on adults\’ fears that morally-bankrupt sexuality among teens is rampant, despite any actual evidence, as well as evidence to the contrary.\” Tolman finds that several features of the story ring false. She was skeptical that many adolescent girls would be motivated to engage in such activity in the face of the severe social stigma still attached to sexual activity, and rejected the idea that adolescent boys would examine each others\’ lipstick marks. However, the urban legend was widespread; an informal survey taken by The New York Times in 2005 found that most teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 were familiar with it

Ed Miliband insists on BBC break up

And he\’s quite right too:

He says 20% of the market is fine; more than 30% is worrying.

Given that the BBC has, by some measures, 45% of the TV and radio news market then obviously, we all agree, that the BBC should be broken up.

I, for one, look forward to two interesting future events:

1) The inclusion of this policy in the Labour Party Manifesto and

2) The BBC\’s reaction to it….

There\’s two ways to read this

Mr Cable said the success of the automotive industry and the Automotive Council – a policy group made up of government and industry representatives – “offer a model we want to replicate in other industries and sectors, one underpinned by a coherent, considered industrial policy that works with the grain of markets”.

He added: “That means developing a strategic vision for where our future industrial capabilities should lie, and how to deliver it, to ensure UK manufacturers are in the best possible shape to compete for global business.”

The benign reading is that it keeps the fools in committee meetings where they can do no damage.

The not benign one is that Cable thinks such councils can actually do something which is a return to the days of government picking losers.

And of course for the eonomy as a whole the entire idea is complete barking nonsense. For the important industries of the future will be the ones we know absolutely nothing at all about as yet and therefore cannot plan for.

French politics just got fun!

So there\’s the new President\’s old bird, Segolene Royal. Then there\’s the new President\’s new bird, Valerie Trierweiler.

Amusingly, it\’s the new bird who is jealous of the old one.

In what has been dubbed \”the war of the roses\”, a single explosive tweet from Miss Trierweiler supporting Miss Royal\’s rival sent shock waves through the Socialist party\’s parliamentary election campaign. Some warned that the bombshell could cost Mr Hollande\’s party crucial seats on Sunday.

A commentator close to Miss Trierweiler, 47, said she had acted out of \”blind jealousy\” against Miss Royal, the 58-year-old mother of Mr Hollande\’s four children, creating a private and political \”psychodrama\” at the pinnacle of state.

Now all we need is for Sarkozy to shack up with Martine and we\’ve got the beginnings of a classic farce, eh?

Could the Grantham Institute please learn some economics?

It\’s all really terribly fascinating. Onshore wind is nearly as cheap as natural gas right now and it will only get better over time!

Two huge economic failures.

1) They assume that wind will just keep on getting more efficient. But gas will just stay at current levels of efficiency. Yup, really. Windmill blades will get ever better, gas turbine blades won\’t. I can prove anything with this sort of assumption.

2) They really do say that onshore wind is now largely competitive with natural gas generation. And that it really really will be in only a few years.

However, the one suggestion they do not make is that we should stop all subsidies now and then, as and if, it really really is cheaper we go build the damn things then.

Which is very much an economic error. For none at all of the things which are making onshore wind cheaper have anything at all to do with installation in the UK. It\’s expanding world base that does and as any economist wil happily tell you such improvements in technology are a public good. If someone else is paying for them then you get to enjoy them for free.

Well, you still have to pay for the turbine but that the 2018 one is actually cost efficient but the 2012 one isn\’t is something you get for free off everyone else\’s subsidies.

And, sadly, that they do not say this means that I don\’t think that even they believe their statement about onshore wind being competitive.

Bob Ward tells us about wind power

Myth 1: that there is a requirement for gas-powered backup to counter the unreliability of wind power. “This is plainly untrue,\” said Bob Ward. “Only 1% of carbon savings are wiped out, because there are many ways of managing both demand and supply due to the intermittency of the wind.\” The report says: \”The cost penalty and grid system challenges of intermittency are often exaggerated. There are several other ways of compensating for the variability, such as bulk storage of electricity, greater interconnection, and a more diversified mix of renewable sources, as well as measures to manage demand, like smart grids and improved load management.”

\”Manage demand\”.

Wind\’s just great as long as we can turn the lights out the wind isn\’t blowing. Or is blowing too hard.

Myth 2: that onshore wind is expensive. “We found that it is the cheapest of all low carbon forms of electricity generation,\” said Bob Ward.

It may be the cheapest form of renewable power (although I know some people with dams who would disagree) but it is still expensive. That\’s actually our problem Bob: renewables are expensive. If they were cheap we\’d all use them and we wouldn\’t have this climate change problem.

Myth 3: that using gas power generation is low carbon and will help us meet our climate commitments. “This is only true if we stop using gas in 2020,\” said Bob Ward, because at that point emissions need to drop further than relying on gas can permit.

This is abject twattery. How much climate mitigation we do as opposed to how much adaptation depends upon the cost of doing the mitigation. It\’s the cost of relying or not relying upon gas (or wind etc) that determines what we do, not anything else.