Praising Castro

There\’s a word for people like this:

Whatever one thinks of Fidel Castro, he is one of the few men who have known the glory to enter history and legend in their own lifetime. He is the last "superstar" of international politics. He belongs to the generation of mythical insurrectionists – Nelson Mandela, Ho Chi Minh, Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, Che Guevara, Carlos Marighela, Camilo Torres, Mehdi Ben Barka – who after the second world war launched into political action with the hope of changing an unequal world. This was a generation that thought that communism promised a radiant future, and that injustice, racism and poverty could be eradicated in less than a decade.

Ah, yes, that\’s it. Idiots.

Polly on Gordo

Nice to see this out in the open at last:

Gordon Brown was challenged over and again to admit a somersault in the polls made him back off – but politics always requires economy with the truth.

So, there we have it. Politics is, by definition, shits lying to us. Thanks for that , Polly.

And Alan Greenspan, the Republican who nodded through George Bush\’s trillion-dollar tax cuts for the very rich, bequeathing ballooning public debt.

Err, you do understand the American political system, do you? The Chairman of the Federal Reserve has no power over tax rates. That\’s Congress that does that.

The deputy leadership elections did briefly throw up some passion – revulsion at excess at the top, the word "inequality" spoken out loud, debates that touched on fairness in schools admissions, faith schools and all the barriers to social mobility. That\’s what Labour is for. The Tory masterplan for cutting inheritance tax by £3.5bn while taxing non-domiciles £25,000 each has drawn a key battle line. Labour may have to give assurances that the inheritance tax threshold will never reach more than the current 6% richest, but the principle remains. It will take hard work to remind people what tax is for, why it is a public good and not a burden, how it is the agent of social justice. Those ideas have been allowed to atrophy in the last decade. Labour has redistributed more than any government to the poor, at least slowing the rate of increase in inequality – but by never framing the argument in ideological terms, a generation has never heard how inheritance tax helped shape social progress in the last 100 years.

Yes, please, let\’s do have this debate. On these terms. So, the Plain People of England, what do you actually support? Equality and social justice? Or lower taxation so that you get to do what you want with your money? Let\’s have an election on exactly those grounds. I have a feeling that, as with this very minor change to inheritance tax, the answer won\’t be to Polly\’s liking.

Why not take up Harriet Harman\’s proposal for a social justice commission to overhaul our tax system, which has become grossly unjust? The bottom 10% are taxed more than the top 10%,

Well, we could take up the proposals of those ghastly right wingers at the Adam Smith Institute and raise the personal allowance to £14 k or so. That\’ll take the poor out of income tax altogether. UKIP\’s proposals are subtly different but similar. The first thing to do about the poor is to stop taxing them so damn much.

VAT at such a high rate is deeply regressive,

Indeed it is and to reduce it we\’ll have to leave the EU. Score another one up to UKIP then.

property is taxed less than anywhere else

It is? What, with Council Tax? Some OECD numbers show that 5.4% is the average share of property taxation in the overall take, with the EU below average and the US and Japan both double that average. Unless the UK is an outlier in the EU (which it might be, can\’t find the figures) . A quick estimate though: 24 million housholds, £1 k a year each Council Tax, £24 billion. Another £20 billion in business rates and we\’ve got £44 billion. That\’s er, 8.8% (call it 9% as it is very much an estimate) . This is nearly double the OECD average, the EU average, for property taxation. This is less than anywhere else?

Today\’s comprehensive spending review can\’t camouflage the steep drop in spending in most departments.

I beg your pardon? Which departments are facing spending cuts? Slowdowns in hte rises in their budgets, yes, but actual cuts? Anyone seen any of these mythical beasts?

And finally, the truly outrageous:

The spectacle of one Tory millionaire swaying votes in a few marginals to buy the next election is all the evidence anyone needs of the democratic dysfunction of party funding and of an electoral system that hinges on 200,000 bored swing voters. Jack Straw has already led the way in supporting the alternative vote, giving voters the right to put their choices in 1, 2, 3 order, a first step towards fairer voting: it could be done for the next election. Better by far for Labour to do it before a hung parliament forces them.

We might lose power so let\’s change the electoral system.

Ho hum, a standard Polly Toynbee column then.

One real delight though. She\’s recommending lower consumption taxation, higher property and income taxation. There might be merits in such plans. But you know what she\’s actually doing?

In almost all OECD countries, over 80% of tax revenues come from three taxes: income tax, social security contributions and consumption taxes on goods and services (see Table 3 and related charts). However, the relative importance of different tax revenue sources varies widely from one country to another. For example, Australia and New Zealand do not collect social security contributions, while Denmark\’s revenue from this source is well below that in other countries. Overall, the countries of the European Union rely more on consumption taxes and social security contributions and less on income tax that the OECD average. In contrast, the United States collects a higher proportion in income taxes and property taxes but less in consumption taxes and social security contributions.

Yes, she\’s advocating that we move away from the European system of taxation to the American one. I wonder if she actually realises that?

Frivolous Flights Tax

This is a policy propsal straight out of the barking mad box:

Middle-class families flying on "frivolous" city breaks should be taxed by Labour, a key aide to Ken Livingstone told a conference fringe meeting yesterday.

1) Define frivolous.

2) How are you going to check?

So, I\’m middle class, and I\’m flying to Athens in a couple of weeks for two days. So that\’s obviously a frivolous city break, correct? Err, no, it\’s a businessman going to see a university about a method of extracting metals. Who, how and where is going to be able to distinguish between those two scenarios and apply the appropriate tax?

Unless, of course, we appoint a system of gauleiters who interrogate us all before we can book our flights. Perhaps they could check that we\’ve paid our taxes and recyvled our rubbish before we fly too?



Amanda Marcottism of the Day

Quite excellent this. Amanda Marcotte rips off a rant:

Eric can’t understand why Susie Bright is on the left, and his reasoning seems to be that a) all he knows about Susie is she seems to know her way around a cock as do a lot of liberal chicks b) which is really unfair and nice wingnut guys like him deserve a little of the cock-touching action but all the sluts are on the left. Is it really too much to ask to have a girl and a couple of her bisexual friends tag team you before heading to the polls to vote for a ban on abortion and an end to comprehensive sex education and legal discrimination against those of them who might be leaning on the lesbian side of bisexual? Why on earth do the sex-loving ladies seem to think these things are at odds with each other?

Doubt that would excite Eric much actually.

Of course, the real world debate over women’s sexual freedom doesn’t even enter into Eric’s radar.

Well, not really his thing I agree.

He does extend his defense to prostitution and gay sex, but not gay people—he doesn’t rouse himself to defend gay marriage or fight against discrimination, leaving room for horrible laws affecting gay people while allowing straight-identified people to enjoy same sex couplings, a la Larry Craig or the imaginary bisexual free spirits who hate legal abortion.

Err, Eric is in fact a defender of gay people, although it\’s true he\’s against gay marriage.

Because the “leave people alone” philosophy, aka “libertarianism”, is a lie told to sucker stupid people into believing there’s something progressive about a neo-feudalist society. That has been Simple Answers To Stupid Questions You Should Have Asked.

What makes this all so amusing is that Eric, the one being shouted at here, is in fact gay. Possibly a Stupid Question that Should Have Been Asked?


Cuban Travel Writing

An extract from The Guardian:

Cienfuegos was lovely, but it was in Trinidad, just 50km further along the south coast, that I really fell in love with la vida loca of rural Cuba. A colonial Spanish town built on sugar and slavery and now a Unesco world heritage site. All pink, pistachio and pale blue, it appeared to have taken a civic decision to halt pretty much all conventional progression around 50 or 60 years ago.

Gosh, what was it that happened 50 or 60 years ago that might have caused that? Anyone?