October 2014

Ooooh, how lovely, I am being anonymously attacked!

Over here. Highlights include:

Quoting the opening line of a Jeremy Clarkson piece in the Sunday Times proves I’m a racist.

I attack Ritchie because he’s got more Twitter followers than I do.

My references to being the head of the shadowy international scandium oligopoly are taken seriously.

And so on. And this is cute too:

Questions, questions.

He may be just another angry ranter. I really don’t know. But I’d like to know a couple of things.

Question 1: is someone paying him to write his stuff? If so, who?

From an interview with Worstall back in 2006.

Normblog: What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job?

Worstall: Over the past couple of years, since I started blogging, I’ve been changing my profession, from vaguely unsuccessful businessman to vaguely unsuccessful writer. I’m still astonished that people wish to pay me to tap on a keyboard and I think I’ve found my ideal alternative.

If he’s changed his whole profession towards being a ‘writer’ then he sure won’t make enough from the likes of Forbes. His 3,500-odd Twitter followers – rather feeble, given the attention-seeking headlines – suggest not much potential for advertising revenues. His book rankings place him currently in 2.7 millionth place on Amazon for his climate change book Chasing Rainbows, and he’s at 1.2 millionth place for his more recent 20 Economic Fallacies.

That ain’t how he keeps himself afloat. If there are people paying him to write his outpourings, who are they, what do they get out of it, and what form does this payment take?

Our anonymong here doesn’t seem to know quite how much Forbes pays. I get paid by editors to write things for them: at Forbes, The Register, the ASI and so on. No grants, no secret payments, no salary, none of that and that freelance income amounts to three times the median UK wage or a bit above that. Yes, sorry about this, but I am successfully earning a good living as a freelance writer.

And, of course, I do also run that shadowy international scandium oligopoly.

Be fascinating to find out who it is that has spent time and effort piecing all of that together really.

The filthy capitalist bastard that is Russell Brand

Called Brand, it is co-produced by Mayfair Film Partnership, of which he is a director. Shares in the firm worth £973,000 were sold to 21 outside investors, including an executive with bank giant JPMorgan Chase.

The largest stake went to Sunderland defender Wes Brown.

The shares were bought under the Government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme, which provides tax incentives for people to invest in risky new businesses.

Tee hee.

You’re competing in a market honey

Had I been born with testicles, I’m pretty sure I’d be spared much humiliation when discussing my finances during my sporting career. I remember picking up my first winner’s cheque of €500 at a small competition in Ireland and thinking I had made it. Until I realised that men in the 100m at the same event received €2,000. It was a rude awakening.

Although many sports have moved into the 21st century and award equal prize money at major competitions, 30% of sports, including football, cricket and squash, refuse to move forward, as was highlighted this week in a study by the BBC.

It begs the question, do the governing bodies of these sports actually care about the women who choose to take part and represent the country? I don’t believe the (mainly) old boys do. When the men and women’s teams of Arsenal both won the FA Cup this year, the women were paid £5,000 as a team and the men received £1.8m. Why hasn’t anyone held up these governing bodies by the balls (pun intended) and demand that they put strategies in place to bridge sport’s embarrassing gender wage gap?

It has been argued that women’s sport isn’t as businesslike as men’s, that it doesn’t generate enough interest to justify equality on the pay scale. But this is because they refuse to give women’s sport the same platform.

How many people
watched the female FA Cup and how many the male? And where does the money come from? Quite, the number of people watching.

Further, men and women are actually competing in different sports. To demand equal pay is as crazed as insisting that the World Tiddlywinks champion should be paid the same as the World Heavyweight champion. They’re simply different things.

I often joke about hanging them all but this time I’m serious

Homeopaths have offered their services to prevent and treat Ebola in west Africa, claiming their “remedies” can work in serious epidemics of infectious disease.

“Homeopaths worldwide have been mobilising their efforts toward gaining entrance in those countries affected,” the National Center for Homeopathy in the US said on its website. “The overriding goal is to investigate Ebola firsthand, and thereby determine which remedy or remedies are best for treating this disease.”

The organisation claims that homeopathic remedies have been used successfully in other disease epidemics in the past, naming cholera, diphtheria and hepatitis among others.

Get that gallows ready

I think this is something we get to decide, isn’t it?

The Argentine ambassador to the UK has described Jeremy Clarkson as “an embarrassment to the British people”, criticising him for his “provocative” behaviour while in her country.

His behaviour may have been provocative, may not have been. But I do think it’s up to us to decide whether we’re embarrassed by him or not. Rather than, say, a bunch of Italians who speak Spanish and merely think they’re English.

Slightly de trop

The online retailer Amazon has been likened to the militant group Isis by one of the world’s most powerful literary agents.

Andrew Wylie, the US-based agent who counts Martin Amis and Philip Roth among his many clients, condemned the “brutality” of Amazon’s tactics in a speech to the international festival of authors in Toronto.

Not heard of Amazon executing people in the street.

In March he said: “If you have a choice between the plague and Amazon, pick the plague.”

A tad over the top maybe?

What the hell is this damn Ebola nurse doing?

A Maine nurse back from treating Ebola patients in West Africa followed through on her vow to defy the state’s “voluntary” quarantine on Thursday, leaving her home for a bike ride.

Kaci Hickox and her boyfriend stepped out of their home Thursday morning and rode away on mountain bikes, followed by state police cruiser.

There was no immediate comment from state health officials, who were going to court in an effort to detain Hickox for the remainder of the 21-day incubation period for Ebola that ends on Nov. 10. Police were monitoring her movements but couldn’t detain her without a court order signed by a judge.

Yes, I know all about constitutional rights and fully defend them. But damn the fool we’re talking about a contagious disease with a 50% kill rate here. It’s simply not sensible. So why’s she doing it?

And related question: would Typhoid Mary these days be able to claim discrimination if people refused to hire her as a cook?

Dear God this is stupid

You’ve got to give the local council one month’s notice that you’re about to die:

Here’s how it works. Pensioners on low incomes are entitled to a range of benefits, including council tax benefit, which averages £728 a year, and housing benefit, which averages £48 a week, according to Age UK. These benefits are typically claimed by elderly folk who rely purely on the state pension for income, as they have little or no savings to their name.

If they are on full housing benefits, these pensioners have been deemed too poor to afford to pay rent. Most also receive help with bills and care costs, if they need it.

But on the day they die, these elderly people are stripped of these benefits and are no longer entitled to a penny of help from the state. In spite of this rule, however, local councils write into rental agreements that tenants living alone must give a minimum of four weeks’ notice before they “vacate” council houses and sheltered homes.

In the case of a tenant who has died, the full market-value rent is payable for these four weeks. For someone living in the average one-bedroom council flat, this means £500 (one month’s rent) will be taken from their estate and paid to the council.

Hang them all. No, seriously, no mercy at all. Someone, somewhere, thought this was a good idea and the 6 million people who work for the State haven’t intervened to point out that it’s ludicrous. Therefore hang them all. Every last man Jack of ’em.

Nice obit

Michael Sata, who has died aged 77, was a populist president of Zambia who denounced China’s role in Africa and promised to stop his country from being a “dumping ground for their human beings”.

Prickly, irascible, intolerant and notably inept at the business of administration, Sata had to wait until he was 74 before winning the presidency on his fourth attempt.

Notably inept at administration being just what an abjectly poor country needs of course.

Colin Hines is certainly an economic nationalist

Their present support for the free flow of people is undemocratic, as it ignores the wishes of the majority, increases pressure on overstretched public services and is deeply non internationalist. Look at how the rich countries of Europe have stolen a third of Romanian doctors and how the UK is scouring poorer countries for staff to prop up the underfunded NHS.

What they should be calling for is a more progressive Europe that would allow countries to limit cross border flows not just of people, but also of money goods and services. This would allow countries instead to prioritise the protection and rebuilding of local economies and so provide a secure future for its people.

This is not such a huge step since free trade critics amongst the left and the greens correctly identify the underlying cause of today’s economic, environmental and social malaise as economic globalisation.

Yet they have with no detailed ideas or programmes on how to tackle the entrenched worship of international competitiveness and export-led growth. Today’s open borders in the EU are the interconnected, joint battering rams of neoliberalism and unless all are tackled at once the powerful will continue to increase their grip on the world’s share of wealth.

Indeed it is the EU’s open market that is rarely recognised root cause of the present European crisis. It allowed for example German banks to lend to Greeks to import German cars they couldn’t afford, and then the national debts that resulted are being dealt with by taking money from pensioners and the less well-off.

Meanwhile, the flow of migration and the inability of countries to control their borders under the single market are increasing tensions across the continent.

And he’s also a socialist so that makes him a national socialist, doesn’t it?

And the thing is his actual proposals are indeed Fascist economics. As I’ve pointed out before. there’s not a fag paper between his proposals and the BNP’s election manifesto.

Isn’t this a balanced panel?

I am taking part in a debate on tax justice at the Class conference this coming Saturday at TUC Congress House in London.

This session will have a pretty lively panel made up of Margaret Hodge, Ann Pettifor, Prem Sikka and me,

Lively? Could you put a fag paper between their ideas?

There’s there’s the actual proposals:

Having dealt with my opener, what would a more redistributive system look like?

1) First, the bias against labour income that provides consistently lower tax rates on capital would be removed. That means either merging income tax and NIC – which would create enormous problems, especially relating to pensions – or instead creating an investment income surcharge of 15% to replicate the NIC charge paid by labour on income such as rents, dividends and interest. And yes we would have to give an extra allowance to pensioners but this could still raise billions and level a playground field.

2) Second, we have to charge capital gains to tax at the same rate as income and reduce the absurd allowances for so called entrepreneurs – none of whom need this incentive because entrepreneurs are born and are not created by the tax system.

3) We need wealth taxes, on land via LVT, on dealing via a financial transactions tax, and in wealth itself by a proper gifts tax – that would also eliminate for ever the abuse created by trusts and corporate tax shelters beloved of the wealthy and their advisers.

He never did pay any attention in his economics classes, did he? And thus entirely missed the entire point of optimal taxation theory: that, because of deadweight costs, taxes on returns to capital should be lower than (or non-existent in a perfect world) than taxes upon labour income.

Ritchie’s just not got the first clue about the economics of taxation.

Oh joy

Russell Brand and Michael Winterbottom will unite for the political documentary The Emperor’s New Clothes, billed as an exposé of the social inequities which led to the financial crisis.

Winterbottom will direct a film that is expected to combine comedy, archive footage and interviews to show how “the people at the bottom are paying for the luxuries of those at the top”, according to backers StudioCanal. Brand will take the role of presenter-spectator, examining the crisis at financial centres in cities such as London and New York.

I suppose
it’ll be Johan Hari writing the script…..

So what did anyone think would happen?

Cinema workers celebrating victory in a campaign to adopt the London Living Wage were today hit by news that around a quarter of the workforce is now facing the sack.

Picturehouse Cinemas said that the cost of increasing basic wages at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton to £8.80 an hour would be absorbed by reducing the number of staff by at least 20, with a redundancy programme starting next month.

Seems logical really.

Timmy elsewhere

In the New York Times.

It’s always rather odd writing for a US newspaper. That short piece went back and forth 5 times I think for edits and approvals. And the point I really wanted to make (we don’t actually know whether wealth inequality is growing or not, as we don’t measure the things we do to reduce wealth inequality) wasn’t one they were interested in….

I note that Joe Stiglitz thinks differently but then that’s hardly a surprise.

Umm, you what?

What would you do to keep your baby from starving? Perhaps the same as Lucy Hill. At the start of October, the 35-year-old mother from Kidderminster was broke. After missing an interview at the jobcentre, her disability benefits had been stopped – which left her, her partner and her toddler of 18 months without anything to live on. So she went to the local Spar and stole a chicken and some soap powder.

Two weeks later, Hill was up before the magistrate. Her police interview noted that she said “sorry to the shop … but had no money … and was in a desperate situation”. She was ordered to pay compensation, a fine, costs and a surcharge: a total of over £200 to be taken off someone who’d only committed a crime because she had no money. Her solicitor John Rogers remembers that the mother’s chief worry was that the social services might  find out and take away her baby.

After running me through the details, Rogers sighs. Cases like this keep coming his way, he says: “They miss an appointment so their benefits are sanctioned [docked or stopped altogether], so they have no money, so they steal.” His local office now handles “at least half a dozen” such cases each month – up from almost nothing a year ago.

He’s just one lawyer in one post-industrial town, describing a national policy: of starving the poor into committing crime. Nothing is accidental about this regime.


But if she’d turned up for the interview then the bennies wouldn’t have been stopped, would they? This isn’t a deliberate policy of starving the poor into committing crimes: it’s a nudge to get them to turn up to interviews.