June 2013

Err, yes?

The US has reportedly been bugging EU offices in Washington and New York, in the latest in a series of revelations about alleged US spy programs.

Umm, isn\’t that what the US actually pays its spies to do? Their very function? Keep an eye on the country\’s enemies?

Put not your trust in Julian Assange

He seems to have fucked over Edward Snowden right royally:

The plan to spirit the surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden to sanctuary in Latin America appeared to be unravelling on Friday, amid tension between Ecuador\’s government and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

President Rafael Correa halted an effort to help Snowden leave Russia amid concern Assange was usurping the role of the Ecuadoran government, according to leaked diplomatic correspondence published on Friday.

Amid signs Quito was cooling with Snowden and irritated with Assange, Correa declared invalid a temporary travel document which could have helped extract Snowden from his reported location in Moscow.

Correa declared that the safe conduct pass issued by Ecuador\’s London consul – in collaboration with Assange – was unauthorised, after other Ecuadorean diplomats privately said the WikiLeaks founder could be perceived as \”running the show\”.

This is after Wikileaks \”escorted\” Snowden out of Hojng Kong. Leaving him in the transit area of an airport in Moscow. Now entirely without documents valid for travel anywere. His US passport withdrawn.

Thanks Julian, you\’re a real mate.

Timmy elsewhere

At the ASI.

Even if you want to insist that there are indeed cyclical problems in places like Spain you also need to agree that there are structural problems in places like Spain.

Well, that\’s that then

“The Duchy does not pay corporation tax or capital gains tax for the simple reason it is not a corporation. The Prince voluntarily pays income tax at the 50 per cent rate, after his official expenses and costs have been deducted. We will be more than happy to explain this.”

Won\’t stop Margaret, Lady Hodge, from grandstanding but then that\’s what politicians do, eh?

But, err, there\’s a simpler solution

And before everyone starts yelling – let me quietly point out that if we want any young person to buy property before their parents die something will have to be done to get us out of the absurd inequality house prices have created. It’s either wealth taxes (including, of course, land value taxation) or market failure that will deliver the change. I think that tax is the better of the two options.

Why not just issue some more planning permission chittys to bring their price down? Ritchie does need to understand that more and higher tax is not the answer to each and every question.

How shocking at The Guardian

Barclays Bank has been forced to admit it paid just £113m in UK corporation tax in 2009 – a year when it rang up a record £11.6bn of profits.

The admission stunned politicians and tax campaigners. It was revealed on the eve of a day of protests planned against the high street banks by activists from UK Uncut, a group set up five months ago to oppose government cuts and corporate tax avoidance.

The Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who lobbied Barclays\’ chief executive, Bob Diamond, to reveal the tax paid by the bank, described the figure – just 1% of its 2009 profits – as \”shocking\”.

The current rate of corporation tax in the UK is 28%, although global banks such as Barclays – which has hundreds of overseas subsidiaries, including many in tax havens – do not generate all of their profits in their domestic market.

Max Lawson, of the Robin Hood Tax Campaign, said: \”This is proof that banks live in a parallel universe to the rest of us, paying billions in bonuses and unhampered by the inconvenience of paying tax.

\”If banks paid their fair share we could avoid the worst of the cuts and help those hit hardest by the financial crisis they did nothing to cause.\”

UK Uncut, which has also campaigned against Vodafone, Boots and Top Shop, intends to take its first national day of action against the banks on Saturday with protesters expected to bring more than 30 high street branches of Barclays to a standstill.

Oops, sorry, wrong quote. This is the one we want:

The events and magazines company Top Right Group ran up a corporation tax bill of just £200,000 despite making a pre-tax profit of £186.2m last year.

Top Right, owned by Guardian Media Group and Apax Partners, landed a huge one-off windfall of £166.1m after selling its motoring research arm, CAP. Its chief financial officer, Mandy Gradden, told The Independent the profits on the sale were \”exempt from tax under the substantial shareholding exemption which is available to every company in the UK\”.

And we all remember that the major determinant of Barclay\’s low tax bill was the use of the substantial shareholders exemption, don\’t we?

Hypocritical tosspots.

I think I can see the problem here

Tom MacDonald spent nine months working in a hotel bar on the minimum wage after graduating last year.

Mr MacDonald, 22, who gained a 2.1 degree in medical and veterinary biochemistry from Swansea University, repeatedly applied for graduate jobs in finance.

A First in anything will help. A 2.1 in something relevant (physics, maths, what have you) will help. A Third from Oxbridge will help if it means that you know everyone in the coming generation.

But a not a First in a not relevant subject from a decidedly third tier university just isn\’t going to open those golden doors. and those who believe it will have been sold a pup.

Fascinating stuff

Support for the Courageous State seems to be falling away:

Earlier this year, the polling company Ipsos MORI began to publish the fruits of its work on 17 years\’ worth of polling results, spread across four generations, starting with those born in 1945 or before, and ending with Generation Y. Among the most striking examples of a yawning gap between the generations was their respective responses to the claim that \”the government should spend more money on welfare benefits for the poor, even if it leads to higher taxes\” – a signifier for the principle of redistribution, support for which has fallen among all generations over the past 20 or so years. Here, though, is the remarkable thing: whereas around 40% of those born in 1945 or before still agree, the numbers tumble as you move down the age range, reaching around half that figure among those aged 33 and under. Similarly, among Gen Y, the claim that \”the creation of the welfare state is one of Britain\’s proudest achievements\” is now supported by around 20% of people; when it comes to the prewar cohort, the figure always hovered at around 70%.

And given that democracy is the highest value (or so we\’re told) therefore that Courageous State should be dismantled.

But snark aside:

A large share of Generation Y seems to build its opinions around a liberalism that is both social and, crucially, economic.

Well, yes. If people should indeed have the freedom to fuck whoever they want then they should have the freedom to buy and sell what, with whom, ever they want.

I assume that this is some blindness on my part, some inability to empathise perhaps, but I really cannot ever understand those who argue in favour of social freedoms but not economic, nor economic freedoms but not social. I do understand those who insist that people are not worthy of either set: there are anal retentive authoritarians with us always. I disagree with them but I understand them. But I really do not get some of the more red blooded conservatives who argue for, say, free markets and capitalism but shudder at the thought of Teh Gays being allowed to not frighten the horses behind closed doors. Nor those who insist that the horses be damned and public parks should have free extra strong condoms everywhere but that allowing people to exchange goods, services and money without regulation is the beginning of the very fall into damnation.

Like everyone else I assume that it is they, not me, that is blind: why cannot they see that the two sets of freedoms are in fact the same set? What consenting adults get up to is up to consenting adults as long as they\’re not, in doing so, restricting the freedoms of other consenting adults to do the same?

This is a fascinating piece of hubris

The Sun should ditch Page 3 and make the paper relevant for today\’s reader

That\’s one of the editorial staff of The Guardian telling The Sun what it should print.

You know, one of the people running a falling circulation and grossly loss making paper telling the people running a profitable newspaper how to make it \”relevant\”.

So that\’s shale gas sorted out then

The British Geological Survey estimates that there could be 1,300 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas trapped in the rocks under Lancashire, Yorkshire and surrounding counties – far more than previously thought.

No-one yet knows how much – if any – can be recovered by fracking, the controversial process of blasting water, sand and chemicals into the ground to release the gas.

However, even if only 10pc could be extracted, it could potentially meet Britain\’s annual gas demand, of 3 tcf, for more than 40 years.

I assume that\’s just the Bowland Shale. And I see mutterings around the place that 40% is a reasonable estimate to hope for of finally recoverable reserves. Not that I actually know of course.

As to earthquakes, it was a reader here, Matthew, who calculated that a 0.5 on the Richter Scale, what is set as the limit allowable by Ed Davey, is really rather small. Say that you\’ve over such a \’quake. Directly over one happening in the drilling, half a mile down.

Now, walk outside to the lawn with your handy example bowling ball. Raise it to head height and drop it on the lawn. You have now experienced the same amount of awesome earthshaking and building destruction that a 0.5 earthquake in the drilling depths would cause.

Awesome, isn\’t it? Terrifying even.

And as to the DECC predictions on prices…..they\’ve been saying all along that shale won\’t make any difference to gas prices because it will all be exported. Which is entirely nonsense of course: gas isn\’t as transportable therefore not as fungible as oil. Thus the market is a great deal more regionalised, localised. Local production of any sigificant portion of local consumption will indeed drive prices down. In turn that will lead to a resurgence in certain manufacturing processes: some plastics and most especially fertilisers. Strangely, exporting fertiliser is a cute way of exporting natural gas.

Cheaper energy, low carbon energy, a manufacturing export renaissance: what\’s not to like here?

Doesn\’t Ritchie know this stuff already?

Law is the foundation of a state.

And the principle that all are equal before the law is the foundation of democracy.

The Guardian reports:

The Ministry of Justice’s budget of £6.8bn in 2014-15 will fall to £6.2bn the following year. Most of the savings appear to come from the courts. The news will dismay lawyers already fighting the latest round of legal aid cuts. That £220m saving in criminal legal aid is included in the chancellor’s figures.

But a proposed saving of £200m in the costs of running the courts – through partial privatisation, efficiency savings or rises in legal fees – emerges for the first time.

So now the law is to be privatised and will only be available to those with wealth.

This is the Tory world view – that the UK is run for the rich.

Err, the commercial courts pretty much are \”privatised\”, in that they pay for themselves from the fees that are charged. And quite how \”efficiency savings\” in the criminal courts are a signal of privatisation I\’m really not sure. Maybe PCS is the union for the court clerks or something?

Logic Ritchie, logic

According to the Guardian:

HM Revenue and Customs‘s resource budget will be cut by 5%, but extra resources will be provided to tackle tax evasion.

This is utterly bizarre logic. In a system – and we have a tax system – you simply cannot make such claims. It is not possible.

What you can say is the resources required to collect tax are being cut with the inevitable consequence that the tax yield will fall – probably by more than £11.5 billion.

The food budget for the Worstall family is to be cut by 5%. But the budget for cake will increase. This is of course entirely possible. The budget for non-cake will fall by more than 5% leaving room for an increase in the cake budget inside the smaller overall food budget.

Yes? And?

For the past decade, the corn farmers of this village in southern Guatemala managed to scratch out two harvests of maize a year from the 10 hectares (24.7 acres) of land they rent. But the crop they planted in May will be their last.

\”We no longer have land to grow on because the owners of the land told us that this will be our last harvest there,\” says Moisés Morales, president of the Amanecer farmers\’ association. Sugar cane growers, they were told, had offered double the rent that the corn growers paid. The corn farmers couldn\’t match the price.

Being able to pay more rent is a signla that plam or cane farming is more profitable than corn farming. Thus the land is being moved from a lower value use to a higher. This is the very definition of wealth creation.

The problem
is what?

So Mr. Kamprad, what was it about Sweden abolishing inheritance tax that prompted you to move back to the country?

Mr Kamprad, 87, said he would leave Switzerland before the end of the year and settle down on a farm outside of Almhult, a southern Swedish town where he founded Ikea 70 years ago and put Swedish \”flat-pack\” furniture on the global map.

Interestingly, Swedish inequality will rise as he does so. I assume that the Spirit Level crowd will be able to identify the consequenty breakdown of society?

And the Daily Mail gets infected by the Enviro Woo


American families may soon be using waterless toilets and recycling their urine, according to new research.

Chemical engineers at the University of Florida have been looking at ways to extract phosphorus – a life-sustaining element – from urine, before it enters the sewage system and becomes diluted.

Since estimates suggest that phosphorous – which occurs as phosphate rocks and is mined for crop fertilizer – could be exhausted in the next 50 to 100 years, urine recycling may be the key to conserving the non-renewable resource in the future.

No, phosphorous is not going to run out in 50 to 100 years.

Today\’s phosphorous reserves are going to run out in the next couple of generations, that\’s true. It\’s also trivial: a useful definition of mineral reserves is the minerals that we\’ve prepared for everyone to use in the next generation or two.

The number that\’s important for running out of something is mineral resources, not reserves. I can never remember whether we have resources of phosphorous for 7,000 or 13,000 years (whichever it is the other is for potassium). And please do note: resources is not some pie in the sky number, some estimate of what we think might be out there. That is total availability, which for phosphorous is either 0.1% or 2.5% of the weight of the entire lithosphere (the other is potassium again). Resources are rocks we know where they are, have a pretty good idea of how much there is and guess that there\’s a reasonable chance we can mine them at today\’s prices, using today\’s technology and make a profit.

Resources are, in effect, what everyone thinks they\’re measuring when we talk about reserves: which is rock that we know, have proven, we know where it is, can mine at today\’s prices and today\’s technologies and make a profit doing so. The important difference being the \”proven\” and this is an extremely costly process, proving it. Because that \”proof\” is to the standards that a bank will lend you the money to go dig it up.

So the basic problem they\’re trying to solve is simply not extant.

Under lab conditions, the researchers were able to successfully extract about 97per cent of the phosphates in urine within five minutes.

They achieved the extraction with a scientific technique called ion-exchange using HAIX resin, which may form the basis of systems to be installed in U.S. homes in the future.

David Brown, chief executive of the Insistution of Chemical Engineers, said of the findings: \’Our attitude and whole approach to recycling will need to change as we come under increasing pressure to conserve valuable, non-renewable resources like Phosphorus.

\’The research is another great example of chemical engineers providing alternative approaches and solutions to the creation of more sustainable approaches to issues like waste water management and recycling.\’

And the method they\’re using is also redundant. For we already know how to remove the phosphorous at the sewage plant. Something you can imagine is easier: bulk operations normally are.

Think of it this way, a town of 50,000 souls. Perhaps 150,000 toilets in such a town (including offices etc). What\’s going to be easier? Altering all of these toilets to being \”urine only\” and collecting the phosphorous from them individually? Or sticking a machine in the sewage treatment plant?

Quite. It\’s a barking mad solution to a problem that doesn\’t actually exist.


Richard Murphy says:
June 25 2013 at 4:08 pm

I presume I’m bugged

My wife reckons that if I’m not the security services will have lost all their bias

You what?

Cut teacher\’s pay now!

Primary school teachers in England are among the youngest in the world but they still earn almost £4,000 more on average than their counterparts across the rest of the OECD.

The average salary for a primary teacher in the OECD countries was £24,690 in 2011, compared to £28,660 in England.

The report found England\’s primary teachers delivered 684 hours of lessons in 2011, significantly below the OECD average of 786 hours.

In Chile, teachers spent 1,120 hours in front of their classes, while teachers in the United States clocked up 1,097 hours of teaching time in 2011.

They\’re getting
more pay for fewer hours…..and I seriously doubt that anyone thinks that the education system is better. Clearly we should cut pay so as to be average.

For isn\’t that what we\’re repeatedly told? That we should indeed be like other places in our pay and equality and so on and on?