July 2018

This isn’t the worst of it

One of Britain’s biggest charities gave £275,000 to an Irish republican group whose offices were raided this year by anti-terrorism police investigating sex-trafficking, violent intimidation and “paramilitary-style attacks”.

Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust funded a support group closely linked to the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), a banned terrorist organisation. A man held in the raids was charged with running a brothel and extortion.

The York-based trust was strongly condemned yesterday by a politician from Northern Ireland’s nationalist SDLP party. She called the award “sickening”. The Charity Commission ordered the trust last night to “explain and justify” its funding decision. A source close to the regulator labelled it “astonishing and absolutely appalling”.

The Times reported this week that the trust, a Quaker organisation, had given £550,000 to a group that accused a Labour MP of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the sexual abuse of girls by gangs of British Pakistani men.

Didn’t they send some money Ritchie’s way? Far worse, obviously.

Typical Guardian

As Brexit looms, stockpiling food seems the only sensible response
Ian Jack
I’m not spreading fear and alarm. A government as inept as this one cannot be trusted to feed us

We’ve not got that National Food Service. Anyone told The Guardian as yet?

Ha, ha, ha, that’s a cute legal claim

Four of Europe’s biggest airlines have joined forces in a fight against striking French air traffic controllers, demanding European authorities step in and help a sector that is “on the point of meltdown”.

British Airways owner International Airlines Group, Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air today submitted complaints to the European Commission.

French industrial action restricts the fundamental principle of freedom of movement within the EU, the airline quartet claim.

No lorry driver can ever strike as that damages the free movement of goods, no ISP can ever go bust as that disrupts the free movement of services…..

Why I don’t believe Michael Mann

The extreme heatwaves and wildfires wreaking havoc around the globe are “the face of climate change”, one of the world’s leading climate scientists has declared, with the impacts of global warming now “playing out in real time”.

Climate change has long been predicted to increase extreme weather incidents, and scientists are now confident these predictions are coming true. Scientists say the global warming has contributed to on the scorching temperatures that have baked the UK and northern Europe for weeks.

The hot spell was made more than twice as likely by climate change, a new analysis found, demonstrating an “unambiguous” link.

Extreme weather has struck across Europe, from the Arctic Circle to Greece, and across the world, from North America to Japan. “This is the face of climate change,” said Prof Michael Mann, at Penn State University, and one the world’s most eminent climate scientists. “We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate change.”

“The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle,” he told the Guardian. “We are seeing them play out in real time and what is happening this summer is a perfect example of that.”


It is not too late to make the significant cuts needed in greenhouse gas emissions, said Mann, because the impacts progressively worsen as global warming increases.

“It is not going off a cliff, it is like walking out into a minefield,” he said. “So the argument it is too late to do something would be like saying: ‘I’m just going to keep walking’. That would be absurd – you reverse course and get off that minefield as quick as you can. It is really a question of how bad it is going to get.”

I have actually had a run in with Mann before now, directly. He challenged me to produce a better piece of science than a James Hansen estimation of what a carbon tax should be. I did this easily*. He’s not responded since.

But OK, this is climate change then. And we know what the most effective cure for climate change is, every economist on the planet has been shouting it for decades now – a carbon tax. So, Professor Mann is out there shouting we must have a carbon tax, is he?

No, no, he’s not. Thus I don’t take him seriously.

* Mann’s claim was that Hansen had shown that a carbon tax should be $1,000 a tonne. It was trivially easy to show that actually, he’d shown that it could be as much as that. The actual, from Hansen’s own calculation, rate would be not $1,000 but more like $100. Hansen has gone “If every thing goes wrong, if sensitivity is very high etc, then what should he rate be?” which is interesting. But the calculation of the actual rate must be weighted by the probability of that set of things happening. Which Hansen didn’t do.

Alas, Woo is popular, as Jezza shows

Facebook is putting children’s lives at risk by reviving spurious MMR claims, the UK’s top health chiefs have said.

The anti-vaccination sites which promote the fake science that caused a surge in measles cases as well as conspiracy theories about other vaccines appear at the top of searches when parents use Facebook to find information about the MMR vaccine or other vaccinations.

Andrew Wakefield, the discredited doctor behind the fraudulent research linking the MMR vaccine to autism, features prominently on the sites with his film Vaxxed in which he accuses the US government’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention of a cover-up over the risks.

Unlike Google, which filters out anti-vaccination sites to promote guidance from the NHS, government or World Health Organisation, Facebook’s searches appear to be based solely on their most popular and active sites irrespective of whether they are peddling false information. The biggest anti-vaccination sites have more than 100,000 followers.

The problem here is, well, who gets to decide what is Woo?

Proper examination of detailed claims would show that pretty much any economic plans to the left of Tony Blair are woo for example. Should that be filtered out of Facebook listings? One could go on with many other popular beliefs….

No, not really

Three things to note and use in conversation. This proves:

The state can do things better than the private sector;
The Tories now know this;
The government can take services back into the state sector.
The obvious corollary is that is this can be done for the probation service is can be done elsewhere.

Absolutely everyone agrees that the State can do some things better than the private sector. Just as everyone other than Nicolas Maduro thinks and agrees that the private sector can do some things better than the state.

The arguments are always over which. And here the claim is – claim note, not proof – that the state can do probation better than the private sector. Could be true too, this isn’t a ditch I’d be willing to die in. I’m interested to find out too. But that the state claims it can do it better isn’t proof now, is it?

No doubt to be advertised with a hashtag

We’ve got Dry January for anyone tempted to try alcohol abstinence and Stoptober for smokers who want to quit. Now, will target the use of social media.

The Royal Society for Public Health, which is behind the campaign, is urging everyone to stop using – or reduce use of – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and other social media platforms for the month.

Does the tax gap shrink by £1 billion then?

And if not, why not?

Bookmakers are in line for a £1bn tax rebate after a court ruled they were wrongly charged VAT on revenue from controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

The finding, in a case brought against HM Revenue & Customs by the high-street bookmaker Betfred, will be seen as a major victory for an industry reeling from the government’s decision earlier this year to slash the maximum bet on FOBTs from £100 to £2.

A tax tribunal ruled that collecting VAT on FOBTs between 2005 and 2013 had “breached the principle of fiscal neutrality” because similar roulette-style games played in casinos and online were exempt from the tax.

Note what the ruling is. That £1 billion of tax already paid is not righteously due under current law. Therefore that calculation of what the tax gap is must be reduced, no? For it is – supposedly – the amount righteously due but not paid, something which must clearly be offset by that not due but paid.

And how much other tax is being over collected?

Facial recognition is still pretty shit

Amazon’s facial recognition technology falsely identified 28 members of Congress as people who have been arrested for crimes, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The ACLU of Northern California’s test of Amazon’s controversial Rekognition software also found that people of color were disproportionately misidentified in a mugshot database, raising new concerns about racial bias and the potential for abuse by law enforcement.

There’s no AI – as yet – as good as a human at recognising a face. It’s a difficult and complex problem.

Of course, 100% of members of Congress should be identified as arrestees at least in a just world but that’s another matter.


As it turned out, Roosevelt had things almost perfectly backwards. A century of immigration has done little to dislodge the status of English in North America. If anything, its position is stronger than it was a hundred years ago. Yet from a global perspective, it is not America that is threatened by foreign languages. It is the world that is threatened by English.

What conceivable threat is there to the world that people have a common method of communication?

Other than whitey – you know, us – imposing himself again.

And everywhere it goes, it leaves behind a trail of dead: dialects crushed, languages forgotten, literatures mangled.

Which is to misunderstand how languages work. English is splintering into those dialects as we speak. Because that’s what languages do, they’re not only methods of communication they’re markers of in and out group.

Every day English spreads, the world becomes a little more homogenous and a little more bland.

And every time some kid uses it in a slightly different manner – which some hundreds of millions of kids do each and every day – the lexicon and the language becomes more heterogenous and diverse.

Blimey, anyone would think we’ve not already seen Latin become French, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian (Florentine, Venezo and Sicilian at least being different languages themselves) and so on.

As usual, nothing so conservative as a lefty with a grudge.

Facebook? Cash cow?

The Silicon Valley giant, which for years has served as a reliable cash cow for shareholders,

Normally – abut we’d not expect the Telegraph’s young shavers to know this, would we? – cash cow is reserved for shares that actually pay out cash. Facebook doesn’t pay dividends….

Wonder what the result will be here, eh?

The home secretary has ordered research into why men convicted of grooming-gang sex crimes are disproportionately of Pakistani origin.

Sajid Javid, whose own family roots are in Pakistan, said that establishing the “particular characteristics” of the perpetrators was “critical to our understanding” of offending in places including Rotherham, Telford and Newcastle.

The puzzle that is Frances Ryan

It may well be that things should be better than this. Possibly even that we should all be paying more tax to make it so. And yet, as ever, there’s something missing in Frances Ryan’s understanding of the world:

These days, Ruth sleeps on plastic sheets. A spinal cord injury means she is doubly incontinent. One of her lower legs has been amputated, she has osteoporosis, and she leans on two crutches to walk. Social care used to be the saving grace of each difficult week. Two hours each weekday were set aside to help her wash and do the laundry after an accident, or to help her go to visit friends. But for the four years after 2012, Ruth’s care time was repeatedly cut, year on year, all the way down to just one two-hour slot a week.

In 2016, she fell in her kitchen. The crash to the floor was so severe that she broke her back. That led the council to agree to a carer coming over every day – but only for a “15-minute pop-in” slot in the morning and at night. “It means they have enough time to make a cup of coffee, or do some washing up. But that’s it,” Ruth says.

Without a care assistant to help with her incontinence, Ruth has no way to clean herself or change her bedding. “I try my best with wet wipes,” she explains. She doesn’t use sheets and a duvet any more because if she was wet at night, she would have to stay in soaked linen for days. Instead, Ruth sleeps on incontinence sheets and pulls a blanket over herself for a bit of comfort.

Tell your average Bubba out there on the production line that incontinent sleeps on incontinent sheets and the reaction will be?

Well, quite.

This is presented as being a scandal crying to the very heavens for rectification. Everyone else will agree that it’s all very sad but and? Isn’t that what incontinence sheets are for? Even adult nappies? So that incontinents can sleep in/on them?

Science being another thing The Guardian doesn’t understand

A newly identified group of materials could help recharge batteries faster, raising the possibility of smartphones that charge fully in minutes and accelerating the adoption of major clean technologies like electric cars and solar energy, say researchers.

The speed at which a battery can be charged depends partly upon the rate at which positively charged particles, called lithium ions, can move towards a negatively charged electrode where they are then stored. A limiting factor in making “super” batteries that charge rapidly is the speed at which these lithium ions migrate, usually through ceramic materials.

There are many different battery technologies, all of which do involve ions*. Most of which do not involve lithium. Thus lithium ions – despite being part of one battery technology – are not common to all battery technologies.

Now, researchers at the University of Cambridge have identified a group of materials called niobium tungsten oxides through which lithium ions can move at astonishingly high rates, meaning much faster charging batteries.

Well, yes, that is interesting.

Another advantage of these alternative materials is that they are cheap and straightforward to make. “These oxides are easy to make and don’t require additional chemicals or solvents,” said Griffith.

That’s interestingly wrong. A major source of Nb being that coltan which produces the Ta for mobile phone capacitors. You know, all that blood minerals stuff all over again? Yes, there are other sources but still. And it’s not cheap. The Ti (note, the oxide, not the metal) is hundreds of $ per tonne, yup, that’s cheap. We can divert the stuff we use in white paint if we desire. But the Nb? Definitely dollars per pound, perhaps tens of $ per lb. Not exactly what we do call cheap.

And if we’re to get it from Ta containing minerals (not an absolute necessity) we’ve got significant processing pollution (using hydrofluoric acid is not for the faint of heart and yes, we do have to) and again significant radioactive residue (there’s always Th in them thar hills).

Oh, and reprocessing Nb and Ti mixtures isn’t easy. OK, my experience is with the metals but still….

*OK, possible to argue here but good enough.

Ah, yes, I have mixed Ti and W, haven’t I? Sigh, still, this was worth what you paid for it then.

Deeply unconvincing argument

The language of “free speech” and “censorship” is old, but the fervour of this panic is new. Of course, this could be entirely due to a sudden rise of censorious behaviour. But this explanation is hard to credit for one obvious reason: the current wave of “free speech” advocacy has coincided directly with the rise of social media, amateur publishing and the “citizen journalism” that is now possible at virtually zero cost. The proliferation of platforms that grant anyone a public voice should, in principle, have put concerns about censorship to rest. After all, even very bad writers with offensive opinions can now see their words published – or broadcast their voices via YouTube and podcasting. By any measure, speech is less regulated or inhibited than ever before. This has spawned some ugly argumentative tactics, including the hostile mobilisation of online supporters against opponents, which have made public debate angrier and less inviting to many. But, as unattractive as this is, it is not censorship. The claim that free speech is under attack is often a mask for other political frustrations and fears.

The complaint isn’t about censorship, it’s about the censoriousness. Say something the mob don’t like and watch as the pitchforks wave to silence that view. Sure, that is rather what free speech is meant to be about, we all get to say and suffer the consequences. But the real complaint is about eh smug self-satisfaction pf those doing the shouting……

Given what Conde Nast does publish…..

Gwyneth Paltrow’s partnership with Condé Nast was touted by the publisher’s artistic director Anna Wintour as a “something remarkable, a thoroughly modern take on how we live today”. The plan was for the publisher to make a regular Goop magazine, but it all fell apart when Condé Nast wanted to fact-check Goop articles, according to an interview with Paltrow in the New York Times Magazine.

Paltrow wanted to publish interviews with non-traditional healers and practitioners, as they do on the Goop website. She wasn’t especially concerned about checking whether what they said in their answers was medically correct or even scientifically possible. But Condé Nast insisted on claims being verified – when that became impossible, some health interviews were replaced with quickly pulled together travel pieces. The magazine closed after two issues and the partnership ended.

the junk in those pieces must have been pretty bad.

There’s something of a difference here

The Government ‘should abolish’ the Lifetime Isa, says new Treasury report


The Lifetime Isa should be abolished just over a year after its launch, and may have been mis-sold to the public, according to a new report from the Treasury Committee which took aim at Britain’s savings market.

Ah, no, not the Treasury. Rather, a bunch of backbench MPs has said so.

The sort of differentiation the Telegraph used to be quite keen on.

Formally reprimanded, eh?

A doctor has been formally reprimanded by the Dutch medical complaints board for carrying out euthanasia on a 74-year-old woman with dementia, despite her resistance.

The woman refused a cup of coffee containing a sedative and when she struggled, the doctor asked her husband and daughter to hold her down so she could insert a drip containing the lethal injection.

My word that is a stiff punishment for murdering someone, isn’t it?

The patient had been placed in a nursing home in Mariahoeve in The Hague after her condition became significantly worse, and it was there that a review by the on-site doctor concluded the woman was suffering unbearably from her condition.

The unnamed patient had completed a living will five years prior to her death, saying she wished to die when she considered the time was right, but it was not a formal euthanasia declaration.

A drug designed to make the patient sleep was put in her coffee, in breach of rules, it was found. The doctor, who is appealing against the ruling, also ignored the woman’s protests and inserted a drip into her arm, it was found. She further breached guidelines by asking family members to hold the patient down, according to an official report into the death.

When she thought the time was right, not when someone else did.

No matey, it ain’t

In fact, all that they have not noted is that the role of tax is to cancel the money the government has created, meaning that the tax yield and not the interest rate is now the primary tool for the control of inflation in the UK.

This is important. What we actually have here is, as Peter has noted, an admission that the government can create money at will. So the ‘magic money tree’ exists, as a matter of fact. But what we have not got is an admission on the role of tax in this equation.

What that suggests is that the role of tax in controlling inflation has to be the next argument brought to the Treasury’s attention.

Interestingly, the Tuberator thinks the economy is not running at full whack, therefore we require further fiscal stimulus. Thus taxes should fall so as to provide both that and a little moe inflation. The Tuberator does not recommend lowering tax levels. Thus the Tuberator does not believe his on theory.