April 2016

Quite so, quite so

I don’t care what they say about Aretha,” Billy Preston, who died in 2006, once said. “She can be hiding out in her house in Detroit for years. She can go decades without taking a plane or flying off to Europe. She can cancel half her gigs and infuriate every producer and promoter in the country. She can sing all kinds of jive-ass songs that are beneath her. She can go into her diva act and turn off the world. But on any given night, when that lady sits down at the piano and gets her body and soul all over some righteous song, she’ll scare the shit out of you. And you’ll know—you’ll swear—that she’s still the best fuckin’ singer this fucked-up country has ever produced.”

Getting a bit desperate here isn’t it?

Leaving the European Union could see families stung by large mobile phone bills, Culture minister Ed Vaizey has said, as holiday mobile phone charges for Britons fall to just a few pence per minute.

Mobile roaming charges within the EU will be significantly cheaper from today when an interim cap comes into effect ahead of a full ban next year.

That the EU has done something is not actually proof that the only arrangement capable of doing that thing is the EU.

I wonder what goes through what passes for his mind

When he says things like this:

And that robotics are going to dramatically change the world of work, and those new (mostly very lowly paid) jobs that are going to be created.

How does this work? Robots raise labour productivity. Wages are determined by labour productivity. So if productivity rises wages do too.

How in buggery do robots create low wage work?

Americans are weird

This week’s Facebook post offering tips about prepping for Husky cheerleader tryouts became a kind of Rorschach inkblot test of what college cheerleading is all about.

Though it made just a brief appearance on the University of Washington’s cheer-and-dance-team Facebook page Monday night — with guidance about what to wear to team tryouts — it was met with strong reaction from those who said it objectified women and suggested the ideal candidate is a beachy blonde, and from those who said the backlash was much ado about nothing.

The insistence seems to be that eye candy must not be eye candy.

Absolutely gorgeous about the New York Times

So, they’re being sued for being racists:

Mark Thompson, the chief executive of the New York Times and former director-general of the BBC, is facing a multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit alleging that he introduced a culture of “deplorable discrimination” based on age, race and gender at the newspaper.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of two black female employees in their sixties in New York on Thursday, claims that under Thompson’s leadership the US paper of record has “become an environment rife with discrimination”.

Tee hee, biter bit and all that. But here’s what’s really great about it:

Thompson is said to have hired Meredith Levien, the company’s chief revenue office and a co-defendant, to “carry out his vision of the ideal workforce”. The lawsuit claims that under Thompson, who was paid $8.7m (£6m) last year, and Levien, who was paid $1.8m (£1.2m), “age, sex and race discrimination became the modus operandi at the Times”.

In speeches to staff, Levien is said to have made it clear that she wanted a workforce with “fresh faces” populated by “people who look like the people we are selling to”. She is alleged to have told staff that “this isn’t what our sales team should look like”. The advertising staff, many of whom are older, black and female, said Levien’s comments were “shockingly rife with racially charged innuendos”.

And the reason that’s great is that you’ve only got to think for a moment about what the SJWs are saying about the tech industry. And well reported in The NYT of course. That that industry should look more like the customer base. There should be more women and blacks employed in it. Because, you know look like the customer base. It’s actually been specifically said about Twitter that as it has a greater penetration among blacks than whites therefore the workforce should have a higher black percentage than the general population.

Yet when someone actually tries to have a workforce that mirrors the customer base that’s wacist.

And to cap it all, here’s Mona Chalabi getting entirely the wrong end of the stick:

Racism in the media is often linked to a lack of diversity within the industry. And accusations that the workforce in US media doesn’t represent the population are nothing new. In 1968, analyzing protests about the treatment of racial minorities, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders claimed that “the media report and write from the standpoint of a white man’s world”, adding “fewer than 5% of the people employed by the news business in editorial jobs in the United States today are Negroes.”

But that’s the actual claim here: that the NYT is trying to make the staff reflect the population more closely.


NPR’s feed on the US West Coast went silent for over a minute after an employee’s child “pressed some buttons” on Thursday.

The culprit is among the children that were visiting the broadcaster’s offices as part of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work day, National Public Radio (NPR) confirmed.

“One of our junior journalists was somehow able to press the exact sequence, and perfectly timed live insert panel to insert studio 42 into the stream 1. I kid you not” an NPR engineer wrote in an email seen by blog Gawker. “Feel free to giggle at will.”

Umm, yeah, sure, right

David Miliband is expecting to be a appointed to a “top” US government position if Hillary Clinton becomes president in January 2017, it was reported on Thursday.

The former Labour foreign secretary, who now works as president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee in New York, has told MP friends that Mrs Clinton would like to appoint him as a foreign diplomat – for the United States – The Sun reported.

I hadn’t known this

Tory deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft has settled his libel action over a website claim that his companies offered banking facilities which helped customers unlawfully to evade tax.

Lord Ashcroft, the chairman and majority shareholder in BB Holdings Limited, accepted a public apology and a substantial undisclosed donation to a charity he founded – Crimestoppers – from accountant Richard Murphy.

Murphy, a director of Tax Research LLP, who has a website, Tax Research UK and a related blog, will also pay the legal costs of the peer and two subsidiaries of BB Holdings – The Belize Bank Ltd and Belize Bank International Ltd.

Busuttil said Murphy, of Downham Market, Norfolk, appeared to have based his allegations on his understanding of what he had read on a third party’s website, but that in fact that website said no such thing and its owners had subsequently confirmed that they were not making any such allegations nor were they even referring to the claimants.

Unfortunately, Murphy did not approach the claimants for comment before posting the defamatory allegations, Busuttil said, adding: “In fact, as the defendant accepts, these allegations are entirely false.

An interesting definition

Corruption is the abuse of public interest and the undermining of public confidence in the integrity of rules, systems and institutions that promote the public interest.

This definition is broader than those offered by the likes of Transparency International, who suggest it is “the misuse of entrusted power for private gain” or the World Bank’s “the abuse of public office for private gain”. This is important. These very narrow definitions are themselves usually interpreted quite narrowly. What we need is a much broader perspective on this issue and in the context of May 12 this is vital: unless the definitions used are appropriate the outcomes of that conference will be inadequate.

I confess I am not confident that the appropriate definition will be used, and would suggest that if it is not that will, in itself, be a form of corruption.

Is making shit up about deals, Vodafone and HMRC something which will undermine public confidence in the integrity of rules, systems and institutions that promote the public interest and are, therefore, TJN and Ritchie corrupt?


Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination

Well, who wouldn’t want to watch a public execution by beheading?

Well, OK, perhaps lots of people actually. But there’s nothing like niche marketing these days, is there? Actually, you could probably (do I mean probably? No, certainly) make a very pretty penny indeed by charging exorbitant sums and guaranteeing that there will indeed be the fun at the mosque, Friday after prayers. 5 day trip to Dubai for the booze and the hookers, Friday arvo’ off in the copter to whichever Saudi town is having one.

Depending on how much the Saudis want to go for this tourist thing you might even get them to schedule for you. Possibly even arrange to up the rate. Well, maybe not that last but I bet ISIS would….

Well, not so much actually

This morning Ken Livingstone said “Hitler was supporting Zionism… Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel”.

Just reading Timothy Snyder’s book about this and no, it wasn’t Israel.

It was “anywhere other than Europe” really, with Madagascar and Siberia both talked about. It was the Poles who were arguing that it should be Israel.

Prohibition works so well, doesn’t it?

Bihar, where prohibition is in force, suffered a shock when three persons died after consuming spurious alcohol near Patna and seven boozers were arrested from a posh hotel in the State capital.

According to police, three friends consumed spurious liquor in the Rakabganj area near Patna on Tuesday night and when their condition deteriorated they were admitted to a local hospital where they died.

Timmy elsewhere

The Times of India has published a book talking to Indian engineers about how to get a good career, education, job, all that sort of stuff. They picked up something I had said about Facebook’s Free Basics in that country. The question:


My answer:

I CARE NOT one whit whether Free
Basics is a charitable method of
providing basic internet access. As a
pure utilitarian I do care whether it
will be useful and whether it will aid
in reducing poverty. As the answer
here is yes, it will (and one of our
great proofs comes from a study of
mobile phones and sardine fishermen
in Kerala), then that’s good
enough for me. We know that
increased access to communication
resources for poor communities aid
in completing markets, the most
basic first step in gaining economic
growth. For, that is the necessary
condition for us to have Adam
Smith’s division and specialisation of
labour as in the pin factory.
As Viscount Ridley recently quoted
me as saying: “Tim Worstall, who
wrote recently: ‘Someone is offering
to give away one of the few things
we know about that
absolutely increases
economic growth.
And people are
whining about it?’”
Increased access
will aid the poor. So,
let’s do it then. And
questions about
how are near irrelevant.
Charitable? Paid? Net neutrality?
They are just whining about trivia
compared to the basic point at issue.

No, I don’t know why they wanted me either.

Is the death penalty for drugs offences illegal?

Under international law that is? The Guardian seems to think so:

Nearly half of death row prisoners were sentenced for drugs trafficking – a punishment that violates international law

That might be wishful thinking on their part.

While ‘limitation to the most serious crimes’ is an established principle of international law, the term lacks overall definition and agreement. The UN General Assembly has endorsed a set of Safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty which stipulates that ‘the most serious crimes’ only applies to international crimes with lethal or other extremely grave consequences. The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions has similarly stated that the death penalty should be eliminated for economic crimes, drug-related offences, victimless offences and actions relating to moral values including adultery, prostitution and sexual orientation. This interpretation is contested by a number of countries.

A pronunciamento from a UN bureaucrat does not international law make.

This isn’t an argument about rape

So, bird passes out, booze, bloke has oral sex, is this rape or not?


But the trial judge dismissed the case. And the appeals court ruling, on 24 March, affirmed that prosecutors could not apply the law to a victim who was incapacitated by alcohol.

“Forcible sodomy cannot occur where a victim is so intoxicated as to be completely unconscious at the time of the sexual act of oral copulation,” the decision read.

Cue outrage. Except that’s not quite it. This is:

Its reasoning, the court said, was that the statute listed several circumstances that constitute force, and yet was silent on incapacitation due to the victim drinking alcohol. “We will not, in order to justify prosecution of a person for an offense, enlarge a statute beyond the fair meaning of its language.”

The law says x, y, z. And as this isn’t x or y or z then it’s not covered. Seems about right to me to be honest.

Michelle Anderson, the dean of the CUNY School of Law who has written extensively about rape law, called the ruling “appropriate” but the law “archaic”.

“This is a call for the legislature to change the statute, which is entirely out of step with what other states have done in this area and what Oklahoma should do,” she said. “It creates a huge loophole for sexual abuse that makes no sense.”

Quite so, quite so.

The outcome is clearly ridiculous but then the law is an ass. The answer is to change the law, not ignore it or misconstrue it. Because for something to be a crime it actually has to be a crime.


Dominic Chappell, the former owner of BHS, has launched a blistering attack on the retailer’s chief executive, accusing Darren Topp of “haemorrhaging” money from the company.

Mr Chappell, who called Mr Topp a “jumped up store manager”, said that the BHS boss had “failed on every point of the business plan he presented”.

So, err, why didn’t you fire him and get a new one in? That is actually your function….

Quite right too

A famous chef’s vegan offerings proved to be so unpopular at a soup kitchen in Italy with homeless people, some threatened to “return to the streets”.

TV star Simone Salvini, from Tuscany, created a healthier menu for the Antoniano shelter in Bologna but some of those in need rebelled against the vegan food and said they needed meat.

“Some of the poor people told me ‘we are heading back to the streets because we need meat’,” Salvini said, the Times reported.

I mean, come on, a house or bacon? Make a choice!

So, err, you say this roof is worth 3,000 bacon butties, do you?

The point I was making about the Murphaloon’s macroeconomics

Richard Murphy writes:

[The government and OBR] believe that austerity generates growth and so cuts the deficit. The trouble for them is that all the evidence shows that the opposite is true: cuts shrink national income and government spending increases it.

This has attracted cheap abuse from some of Tim Worstall’s commenters. Such abuse is wrong, and misses the point.

It’s wrong, because – in the context he is writing about – Richard is right to claim that fiscal multipliers are big.

But that’s not actually his claim. In the comments:

Is Richard right the OBR assumed negative multipliers, G down Y up? I’d be surprised

Posted by: Luis Enrique | April 26, 2016 at 03:35 PM

No, he’s not.

Quite so. The Murph doesn’t realise that a multiplier of less than unity does not mean the economy shrinks. But he claims that that is what a multiplier of less than unity means. Wrote a whole paper making that assumption in fact.