December 2016

Losing it just a little bit maybe?

Donald Trump met with the heads of several monopolistic private health care corporations in Palm Beach on Wednesday. Bloomberg reports that “A person close to Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter said he also participated.” Trump was soliciting their advice on whether he should force the Veterans Health Administration (VA) to outsource more of the care of our nation’s veterans to monopolistic health care corporations. The comic book executive at least had no apparent conflicts of interests.

How the hell can several competing firms be monopolistic, and the VA the only and only provider of veterans health care, not be a monopoly?

Is the rest of Washington Monthly this bad too?

We’ve a name for this you know

Wake up an hour earlier each morning
I decided to start waking up an hour earlier every morning – 5.30am instead of 6.30am. I now start my day by doing a few sun salutations, followed by a prayer (which I use to be thankful rather than asking for anything), and then write in my journal. This change has helped me keep in touch with myself and my emotions.

Kelly, Indianapolis

Portion of the rosary and scribble in the diary. It’s hardly new this religious observance thing, is it?

Tutto nello Stato

Fred Z says:
December 30 2016 at 2:02 pm
“restriction on the free movement of capital that will be needed”

Are you wanting to keep capital from moving into the UK or from moving out of it?

Richard Murphy says:
December 30 2016 at 2:27 pm
Potentially both – depending on the situation

Financial capital cannot be assumed to be benign

Ed Seedhouse says:
December 30 2016 at 7:30 pm
Surely a monetarily sovereign government like the U.K can create all the capital it needs to fund anything. This being so, how is the flight of foreign capital a risk in any sense?

Richard Murphy says:
December 30 2016 at 7:58 pm



Those damn foreigners can’t just come in here with their money. They must be CONTROLLED!

There’s a solution to this you know

More than 2.3 million families are living in fuel poverty in England – the equivalent of 10% of households, according to government statistics.

Stop making energy more expensive with green taxes.

And an interesting question to which I know the answer but cannot actually prove so.

If we take the definitions of adequate heating of today (there are details of how much of the house should be heated to what temperature for what period of the day, no, really) and that definition of fuel poverty, no more than 10% of income being spent to reach it, well, how many households were in fuel poverty in 2000? 1990? 1980? 1900?

At some point going back we find that the Duke of Westminster was in fuel poverty. And at some interim point we find that just about everyone else was and so on decreasing, perhaps, to this 10% today.

The question, in the end, being well, when was fuel poverty lower than it is today? By today’s heating standards that is?


Finally forgiven!

He is joined on the list by other famous names including Ken Dodd, who is knighted at the age of 89.

He’d have had it 15 years ago if it weren’t for that tax thing.

The point of his act is that this goes on for 3 and 4 hours. There’s no one great joke anywhere. But just this stream for hour upon hour.

The advice is not to drink anything for a couple of hours before the show…

And I’m sure there’s a better clip out there than this if anyone would care to find it.

Sir Ken said: “I’m very proud, I’m very, very happy and full of plumptiousness. I feel highly tickled.”

He wants to make us poorer now

The first is that leaving the EU ends the obligation for the UK to partake in the free movement of capital. It’s not just free movement of labour that is guaranteed by the EU: so too is free movement of capital and there has always been a fundamental problem in linking to the two. Because capital can move vastly more quickly and easily than people (it has no family ties or school arrangements to worry about, for a start) having freedom for both capital and always meant that reward was going to shift from labour to capital because capital has the greater agility. The time has come then to make clear that it is restriction on the free movement of capital that will be needed if the return to labour is to improve in the UK.

We import capital in the UK. That capital adds to the productivity of labour and thus the wages of labour. It’s possible that stopping the free movement of capital will change the share of GDP going to labour and or capital. But it will be of a smaller GDP.

He’s going to make us poorer.

How odd this is

The blog will, however continue. I was never funded to write or publish it: it has always been something I have thought I have done in my time.

Didn’t his annual accounts show that, or claim that, his grants were to write his blog? Could he have been lying to Companies House? To stakeholders?

I might have to help them with this

Interesting new research:

The morphology of human female breasts appears to be unique among primates due to their permanent fat deposits. It has been previously suggested that female breast morphology arose as a result of sexual selection. This is supported by evidence showing that women with larger breasts tend to have higher estrogen levels; breast size may therefore serve as an indicator of potential fertility. However, breasts become less firm with age and parity, and breast shape could thus also serve as a marker of residual fertility. Therefore, cross-culturally, males are hypothesized to prefer breast morphology that indicates both high potential and residual fertility. To test this, we performed a survey on men’s preferences for breast morphology in four different cultures (Brazil, Cameroon, the Czech Republic, Namibia). As stimuli, we used two sets of images varying in breast size (marker of potential fertility) and level of breast firmness (marker of residual fertility). Individual preferences for breast size were variable, but the majority of raters preferred medium sized, followed by large sized breasts. In contrast, we found systematic directional preferences for firm breasts across all four samples. This pattern supports the idea that breast morphology may serve as a residual fertility indicator, but offers more limited support for the potential fertility indicator hypothesis. Future studies should focus on a potential interaction between the two parameters, breast size and firmness, which, taken together, may help to explain the relatively large variation in women’s breast sizes.

This was done at Charles University in Prague.

Brother of a mate of mine is Rector of a Czech University. I think we should study this question more closely. Proper field research. Intensive, detailed, field research. Possibly using the local subject matter to hand. Can think of a few that would be suitable.

Perhaps into whether the male human hand is a suitable measurement device for checking breast firmness. Repeatedly. Over several cycles perhaps for one potential subject.

Shouldn’t worse workers get less money?

Women suffer considerably higher levels of work-related stress, anxiety and depression than men, with workplace sexism and familial responsibilities providing additional career pressures, a leading psychiatrist has said.

It comes as official figures show that women aged 25-54 are more stressed than their male colleagues, with this pressure peaking for those aged 35-44, when many women are juggling family responsibilities, such as caring for children and elderly parents.

Dr Judith Mohring, lead consultant psychiatrist at Priory’s Wellbeing Centre in the City of London, said women were under constant, intense pressure, with company restructuring, lack of managerial support and balancing work and family life leaving them feeling drained.

Women faced additional workplace pressures, such as having to prove they were as good as men, not being valued or promoted, unequal pay, and being expected to “look the part”, added Mohring, who treats many female professionals.

Blimey, really?

A dozen years ago I talked about hope to a roomful of working-class community college students in Washington, citing the German philosopher Ernst Bloch to the effect that without hope there is no action but without action there is no hope. A woman said in a clear voice that she agreed, because if she had not hoped she would not have struggled and if she had not struggled she would not have survived Pol Pot and the Cambodian genocide.

Progressives see a leader in Bernie Sanders as they prepare to fight back
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That floored me. Sometimes hope is just that you will survive, or that you will escape. Then you can hope for more. I wish I knew her story, but that she was in North America, alive and well and confident enough to speak out, told me something of it. Even despotic regimes end, though it’s important to remember that not everyone and everything survives; you can be devastated for what won’t and hopeful for what will at the same time.

In the United States we are probably headed for a very grim phase of uncertain duration.

Surviving Trump will be like surviving Pol Pot?

How amusing

A book review magazine decides to boycott an entire publisher for an as yet unannounced deal with a specific author:

Yiannopoulos told the Hollywood Reporter that negative publicity had only boosted his profile, likening it to MTV banning the video for Madonna’s Justify My Love in 1990 and coverage of Trump in the lead-up to the US election.

“They said banning me from Twitter would finish me off,” Yiannopoulos said. “Just as I predicted, the opposite has happened.”

He did not confirm the precise amount paid for his book, but claimed he was offered “a wheelbarrow full of money”.

“I met with top execs at Simon & Schuster earlier in the year and spent half an hour trying to shock them with lewd jokes and outrageous opinions. I thought they were going to have me escorted from the building – but instead they offered me a wheelbarrow full of money.”

Threshold Editions was founded in 2006 “to provide a forum for … innovative ideas of contemporary conservativism”. According to its mission statement, it is “celebrating 10 years of being right!”

Its recent bestsellers include works by the president-elect Trump, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Dick and Liz Cheney.

The Chicago Review of Books described Yiannopoulos’ book deal as a “disgusting validation of hate” and said it would boycott books published by Simon & Schuster in 2017 in protest.

My, aren’t we all about promoting a diversity of views here.

Err, no, not really

Amazon has designed a floating warehouse that sits thousands of feet in the air, from which the internet retailer could dispatch swarms of delivery drones to metropolitan areas.

The company has patented futuristic plans for enormous “airborne fulfillment centres” that would be used as bases for aerial deliveries to homes.

It’s bollocks. But it’s a few $ thousand on a patent application well spent on getting a PR story into the press across the world.

Well, he had to do something

But there’s not all that much evidence here, is there?

The United States has expelled 35 Russian spies in response to Kremlin-backed interference in the presidential election, further escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington.

Was it actually Russians? And if it was was is state backed (you would not believe what happens in the hacking world over there which is not state backed, although they might be paying off state officials)?

And finally, it was the content of the emails that was the problem, wasn’t it?

But, you know, Hills couldn’t have lost just because she was a shit candidate, could she?

All rather reminiscent of Weimar Germany. We didn’t lose! We were stabbed in the back!

Spud strives mightily to bring forth

That said in some areas the state is much more likely to be managing activity than now, and will do so without any pretence that it is mimicking the market. The confidence of the public sector in its own ability to manage in the public interest which cannot be determined by the power of consumer spending alone will be greatly enhanced. The key performance indicators may recognise financial constraints but it will be service priorities that will predominate.

Taxes may, or may not rise. It is highly likely that those on financial wealth will. Their power to avoid obligations will be broken by international cooperation, enhanced accountability and the sensible use of bank and other financial data to identify those who really owe taxes on the reward they make from the societies that provide them with benefits. Some of the resulting taxes will be new, but taxes on income and consumption, the use of land and trade will all still be found. Accounting though may look very different: a system of reporting that is at least as much concerned with returns to employment as it is with capital will look very different to one that seeks to hide financial power from view.

What will be certain is that the social safety net will become more central to the relationship between the state and those who live in its jurisdiction and it will be the state who will be supplying most of the associated services.

To put it another way, such a system will redraw the boundaries of power, management and control and redefine the reason why they exist. Capitalism – in the form of the power of the market – will be embraced and encouraged to allocate resources to maximise the return to people across a range of interests, from being consumers, investors, employees and fellow citizens (each of which it will be realised can exist simultaneously and not discretely) – but the limits to that power will also be recognised. When there is a natural monopoly there is no effective market. When there is no choice the consumer is disenfranchised. When the market cannot price returns there is no point pretending that it can. Then the state has to act and use its discretion, and there is also no point in pretending that when doing so it is not rational: truly accountable democracy provides that rationality.

And gives birth to fascism.

He really does have to go and look up the economics of fascism, doesn’t he? Even if only to make sure he’s getting it right.

Snowflakes, snowflakes, snowflakes

Steve Martin was forced to delete his Twitter tribute to the late Carrie Fisher after critics labeled the remembrance as ‘sexist’.
Fisher’s death at the age of 60 took her fans, friends and family by surprise and Martin was one of the many celebrities who voiced his shock and sadness at her passing online.
‘When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well,’ the comedian wrote on Twitter.
Some on Twitter came out to criticize Martin’s post however, saying that his attention first on her physical appearance before her personality wasn’t the right way to remember Hollywood princess.

We have reached madness gone politically correct now, haven’t we?

You know, given that a major attribute of an actress be that she is light on the eyes?

Snowflakes, snowflakes

Amazon has sparked outrage by continuing to sell ‘racist’ and religiously offensive fancy dress costumes despite criticism from customers.
The online retail giant is offering a ‘traditional black burqa hood’, ‘Arab costume’ and Jesus garment as part of its selection of party outfits.
The ‘Arab’ tunic and headdress, with a ‘Palestine’ scarf, is modelled by a white man covered in what looks like face paint.

Meanwhile, Amazon is also selling a ‘naughty nun’ costume, ‘Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Fedora hat’, and ‘native Indian’ outfit.
There are also ‘French man’ and ‘Mexican bandit’ costumes, the latter of which has been criticised by customers on the retailer’s website.

One wrote: ‘Have you ever thought that wearing this kind of “costumes” might be -actually- racist?
‘Have you ever thought that making fun of people’s heritage and traditions might not be that funny? I have not seen kilts sold as “costumes”… How weird!’
Another left a one star review branding the outfit ‘racist’.

Amazingly, Amazon sells kilt costumes.


What we need now is a commitment to a much greater – and universal – equality of outcomes. Is that a liberal value?

From our ever popular Questions in the Guardian we can answer series.

Not how the argument is constructed:

Liberalism stands for the freedom of the individual and the sanctity of individual liberties – as well as the openness and plurality that Freedland prefers to celebrate. The right of the individual to freedom from regulation or restraint is the notion that has driven globalisation, market fundamentalism and our present, unfettered, toxic form of capitalism. And those are the forces that have stripped many of the Trump voters in the rust belt and Brexit supporters in the north of England of their security, their dignity and their hope for their kids. Clinton (both), Blair, Cameron, Obama, all social liberals, all drank the neoliberal Kool Aid. The failure of progressives to sever social liberalism from its economic counterpart has led us to this crisis (Clegg, take note). Brexit and Trump are in many ways the fruits of liberalism.

Apparently liberalism means you can fuck anyone you want but not buy an apple from them. Odd view of the world really.