March 2014

On AR5

Excellent, so we’ve the latest stage in the report that is on the subject of consummate importance for the human species. WTF do we do about climate change?

And the silly bastards can’t actually run a server with enough capacity for the people who want to have a look at the document.

On the .pdf for the summary I get a “503”. And the main page of the working group is entirely offline.

Seriously folks, we’ve put the future into the hands of incompetents.

Bank fraud is more difficult than you might think

Two smartly-dressed men armed with forged bond certificates worth trillions of euros have been caught while trying to talk their way into the Vatican’s bank,

….trillions. That’s like 20, 30 % of all euro bonds in circulation.

telling Swiss guards they had an appointment at the bank, which has been dogged by scandals over the years. When bank staff said they had no record of an appointment,

At least try to make an appointment….

The two men, Lt Col Cardia, said, were likely planning to use the certificates to fraudulently open a line of credit at the bank.


“We noticed the grammar of the English used on the certificates was full of mistakes – it looked like they had been written using Google Translate,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “Searching their hotel room we found the seals used to forge the bond certificates.”

Not a high level fraud then…..

Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, ….. added, “I don’t think we’re talking about a plot by criminal masterminds….”

No. I get similar stuff every couple of weeks. Last one was gold certificates for 200,000 tonnes of gold from the Phillipines (the remains of that story Marcos used to tell). The guy hoping I would help him, sell the stuff was most put out to be told that that’s more than all the gold that’s ever been mined.

You what?

The new offence would make it a crime to do anything that deliberately harmed a child’s “physical intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development”.

This could include deliberately ignoring a child, or not showing them any love, over prolonged periods, damaging a child’s emotional development.

Harming their social development? Not taking them to Chuck E Cheese for their birthday party? Not buying the “right” trainers for them?

What the fuck has got into people here?

You can prosecute anyone under this. Sending them off to boarding school at 7? Harms their emotional development you know. Not letting them attend the prom? Harms their social development. “Not showing them any love”. What if you don’t in fact love the child? During a bitter divorce if one side doesn’t let the other actually see the kiddie can the unseen one then be prosecuted?

And what the hell’s going to happen to all those social workers who simply manage but not love the children in their care?

This is insane.

A rather nice piece on Nigel Farage

Here, by Martin Durkin.

Mr Farage, I realised, is a passionate man. He has a romantic attachment to history and Britain and Europe. Surprisingly perhaps, he really loves Europe (he’s worked for a French company; his wife is German) and clearly enjoys going there. More than anything, however, he is passionate about his political beliefs. When he speaks of liberty, he does it with a certain something in his voice and a glint in his eye.

That bit about Europe applies to many of us in UKIP. It’s not the place, people, nations, cuisines or any of that that we despise. It’s the system of governance that we want to leave, nowt else.

And so the campaigners come full circle

Campaigners and nutritionists said the study showed how alcohol contained “hidden” sugars which could contribute to a series of health problems.

Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist and science director of Action on Sugar, a campaign group, said: “The amount of sugar in some of these alcoholic drinks is really quite astonishing.

“I enjoy the occasional drink as much as anyone else but it is clearly better to choose the option with the least amount of sugar as the evidence for added sugar being the number one health villain in the diet grows ever stronger.

“Evidence reveals that a moderate amount of red wine, which is comparatively low in sugar, may actually protect against cardiovascular disease and this is my drink of choice.”

So we’re all to be limited to the “occasional” (ie, one small one every blue moon) glass of red wine, all in the name of toxic sugar.

Next they’ll be telling us that fags are laced with fructose no doubt.

Hurrah! Ritchie’s tax gap just shrank by billions and billions!

The UK government may have to pay about £1.2bn to Littlewoods after a judge ruled in the company’s favour in a tax dispute dating back over 30 years.

The home-shopping company, owned by Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, won its claim to receive compound interest on improperly collected value-added tax.

It came after a decade-long legal fight that went to the European Court of Justice before being referred back to the UK in 2012.

“This is a very complicated case,” said Judge Launcelot Henderson in London, handing down a 163-page ruling, “with a huge amount of public money at stake.”

HM Revenue & Customs is facing separate lawsuits over improperly collected VAT that may prove costly for the British taxpayer.

“Today’s judgment means that HMRC will be liable to pay billions in interest to other taxpayers who have already claimed overpaid VAT going back to the early 70s, but have only been paid simple interest,” said Giles Salmond, a tax lawyer at Eversheds LLP, who wasn’t involved in the case.

Recall, the tax gap is the difference between the amount of tax that should have been paid and the amount that is paid. So, if there is tax that has been paid that should not have been then this shrinks the tax gap. And here we have an example of billions that have been paid which should not have been: thus the tax gap is smaller than before, by those billions.

No doubt we’ll see a little piece by Ritchie applauding this victory in the fight against tax abuse real soon now, eh?

They’re entirely losing it, aren’t they?

As the Venezuelan government attempts to quell opposition protests that it claims are part of plot to overthrow it, official suspicion has landed on an unlikely hotbed of conspiracy: the crossword department of regional newspaper El Aragüeño.

Delcy Rodríguez, the minister for communication and information, said she had requested an investigation into the daily from the state of Aragua, accusing it of hiding messages “linked to conspiracy” in its crosswords.

“The El Aragüeño daily is sending coded messages linked to conspiracy and violence in its crosswords. We have requested an investigation,” she said.

Ms Rodríguez did not give details of exactly what messages had been detected in the crosswords.

Explaining Piketty’s argument

This new book of Thomas Piketty’s, Capital in the 21 st century. There’s a terrific chart at the New Yorker explaining the whole argument.


So, just to recap his basic argument. If the return to capital is above growth then wealth becomes more concentrated, inequality rises. If growth is above the return to capital then inequality falls.

OK, pretty basic.

But look at that assertion! All is going to be woe for the rest of the century because the return to capital has blipped above growth a couple of years ago and I’ll project that out for 87 years. Or, perhaps, I’m predicting that it will in a few years and continue to get worse.

And someone seriously is predicting this when we’re in the middle of a vast technological revolution based upon computing and telecoms? Seriously?


We’ve got that fucking for virginity thing again

Britain still needs all-women shortlists to correct sexist stereotyping

In order to conquer sexism we must be sexist.

But fair play to the picture editors at The Guardian. No, really, this is monstrously magnificent. For the illustration is of Harriet Harman. Who made sure that her husband, Jack Dromey, could be parachuted into a safe seat in spite of the fact that it was supposed to have an all women short list.

Hats off to whoever that was: gonads of steel there.

Wrong way round here

Why do we permit this? The transfer of wealth between generations is an injustice: it is a reward for no work, and a form of access to privileges that are otherwise beyond reach. Professor Thomas Piketty, in his new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, makes the argument that, after a social-democratic blip in the middle of the last century, inheritance is once again becoming the key route to wealth. Piketty argues that if wealth is concentrated and the return on capital is higher than the economy’s growth rate, inherited wealth will grow more rapidly than that stemming from work. This returns us to the terrain of Balzac and Austen, where the road to financial security is to target those who already possess wealth and, where possible, marry them. The data Piketty analyses – a huge and comprehensive set – suggests that the proportion of people receiving a sum in inheritance larger than the lifetime earnings of the bottom 50% is set to return to 19th-century levels in the next couple of decades. Pleasant news for our neo-Victorian government; less pleasant for the rest of us, and a disaster for anyone who cares about inequality.

It is difficult to justify inherited wealth from anything other than a class-partisan position. It is the point where the already threadbare veil of “meritocracy” falls off to reveal a fiscal system designed to reward already concentrated pots of wealth. Far from a Keynesian “euthanasia of the rentier”, we are seeing the triumph of a rentier economy: in such conditions, rather than further accumulation by the sons and daughters of the wealthy, we should instead demand an end to inherited wealth entirely.

Yes, inherited wealth brings freedom to a life. Which is why we should be working towards everyone being able to inherit it, not none. For the desirable outcome is where all have that freedom to do as they wish, not none.

So bleedin’ what?

And yet, despite its status as king of all fruit, we discard an estimated 1.4 million bananas every single day. And that’s berserk because bananas aren’t just delicious, they’re endlessly useful.

Seriously, who cares?

Which is, as I say above, a lot of bananas. But it’s not actually that many bananas. World production of them is some 145 million tonnes a year. There’s a thousand kilos in a tonne, say a banana is 100 grammes (sounds about right, four bananas to the pound, ten to the kilo) or 1.45 trillion bananas a year eaten around the world. Divide again by 365 and 24 to get the hourly consumption rate and we get 165 million bananas consumed per hour.

From Mr. Serwotka

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The rhetoric from the government on the need to tackle tax avoidance, which deprives our economy of tens of billions of pounds every year, is completely undermined by its actions.

Err, no.

It might deprive the Treasury of tens of billions, the public purse, public services even, but it doesn’t deprive the economy.

Which way will Polly jump here?

Thousands of terminally-ill cancer patients could be denied life-extending drugs under new plans from the NHS rationing body, charities say.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) will today announce proposals to change the way it decides which medicines the health service should fund.

The body was asked to change its funding formulas to ensure the NHS gets best value from the drugs it funds.

But last night charities said the new proposals amounted to a “devastating” attack on cancer sufferers – which could mean more than 12,000 terminally-ill patients a year are denied drugs they currently receive.

Under its existing formula, Nice uses “end of life” criteria to approve some drugs if they are the only hope of extending life, and might otherwise have been ruled out on cost grounds.

Back a while, when Labour was running the NHS, Polly argued that of course there was rationing and that obviously, we shouldn’t spend vast sums prolonging life for a few weeks or months. Wonder if she’ll hold to that or will this become another evil Tories killing off the poor old folk thing?

I thought we already knew this about autism?

A small study that examined brains from children who died found abnormal patterns of cell growth in autistic children. The research bolsters evidence that something before birth might cause autism, at least in some cases.

Clusters of disorganised brain cells were discovered in tissue samples from brain regions important for regulating social functioning, emotions and communication – which can all be troublesome for children with autism.

The abnormalities were found in 10 of 11 children with autism, but in only one of 11 children without the disease. The children’s brains were donated to science after death; causes of death included drowning, accidents, asthma and heart problems.

The authors said the clusters, detected with sophisticated lab tests, are likely defects that occurred during the second or third trimesters of pregnancy.

“Because this points to the biological onset in prenatal life, it calls sharply into question other popular notions about autism,” including the scientifically debunked theory that childhood vaccines might be involved, said lead author Eric Courchesne, an autism researcher at the University of California, San Diego.

This simply confirms Simon Baron Cohen’s theories, doesn’t it? A hormonal influence during brain development in utero?