Newspaper Watch

Erm, Polly?

Enfield cuts grants to voluntary organisations – yes, the charities Cameron promotes as an alternative to the state.

Yersss, not giving state money to charities does indeed make them an alternative to the state rather than an arm of it.


George Monbiot tells us that Murdoch* faced off with the Chinese Government.

He has now retreated from China after losing at least $1bn.

This is used as an example of how powerful corproations are.

It\’s an example of how powerful governments are, surely?


* Yes, I do indeed sometimes earn money from a part of the empire. And?

John Kelly

Well, it looks like we bloggers are indeed teaching the professional journos things.

John Kelly, a Washington Post columnist, is a visiting fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. He blogs at

The "Odd Google searches that brought people to my blog" has moved from blog post to Guardian column.

Timmy Elsewhere

Erm, that nice Nick Cohen\’s column today:

Even bloggers who have made their name by lambasting the mainstream media – Matt Drudge in the US, Tim Worstall here – believe newspapers and television companies are letting themselves down. \’Don\’t these people have editors!\’ Worstall bellows as he dissects another howler. They do, but maybe not for long. Or if editors survive, they may not have the resources to ensure that what they print is intelligently researched.

Although to be pendantic, it\’s normally with a ? rather than a !

Don\’t these people have editors?


I\’m All of a Flutter

My word, Polly T does rather lay into the tax system today. And, umm, quite rightly too (not what you expected to read here, did you?).

Those at the very bottom pay a far higher marginal tax rate than those at the top, with a bungled benefit system imposing a 70% tax loss for every extra pound they earn.

Indeed, it\’s the overlap of the tax and benefit systems. Solvable in a number of ways: lower benefits perhaps (perhaps not a good idea), greater tapering (very expensive), no means testing of benefits (hugely expensive but possibly the way to go with a citizens\’ basic income) but te simplest i simply to take the poor out of the tax system altogether.

He could take all 10p payers out of tax altogether, a move that would cost £7bn and cut everyone\’s tax a bit, with the lowest-paid gaining most.

Of course, I and other vicious right wingers like the Adam Smith Inst would go further. Let\’s really bang that tax free allowance up to £12 k or £14 k, really take the working poor entirely out of the income tax system.

Indeed they are right as secret fiscal drag, failing to raise thresholds, has quietly brought more people into higher tax brackets – but not the richest, whose earnings rose fastest; no new tax band for them.

We\’ve been muttering about fiscal drag for a long time: as wages generally rise faster than other prices, tax bands should go up faster than the general level of prices. Something whih has deliberately not been done, pulling people into those higher tax bands indeed. We could though use this very same argument about raising the IHT limits…..given the rise in house prices.

Now the Fabian Society proposes ways to start winning back the argument. It is too late, the society thinks, to win back IHT. It suggests a capital receipts tax used in other countries, where recipients of gifts are taxed over a lifetime instead of estates after death: everyone could receive up to £80,000 tax free, with tax rising gradually until £260,000, and everything above taxed at 40%.

Not a bad idea: tax the recipients, not the estate.

How odd that, on personal allowances at least, Polly is now onside with the Adam Smith Institute.


while hedgehogs are into girl-on-girl cunnulingulus.

Wow! Umm, and just what is the cunnulingulus of which the Good Professor speaks? A google search provides four entries, two the rather strange online handle of a game player, this article itself (and this blog post will presumably follow at some point) and the Great Peter Briffa commenting upon the same piece.

Dogs do it,
Frogs do it,
Even horny hedgehogs do it,


Gary Younge

Mmmm, yes.

That does not make such a conversation about class any less vital.

Just what America needs, a discussion of class along Marxist lines.

This also looks a little odd:

One in 10 of those with mortgages is in negative equity; one in 16 is behind on their payments.

Anyone know if those figures are true? Sounds like remarkably high figures to me. I might believe it of certain bubble States (Florida, California), but of the country as a whole?

Wee Willy

Yup, Hutton is at it again.

The Chancellor should take a closer look at the 1930s. The heart of Roosevelt\’s New Deal was not public works or programmes for the unemployed, significant though both of these were. It was the root-and-branch reconstruction of an American financial system that, like ours today, had run amok in a laissez-faire, deregulated free-for-all. The Federal Reserve was created, public banks were launched to lend to homeowners, refinance mortgages and lend to industry and investment banks and commercial banks were legally separated.

Sigh. The Federal Reserve was created in 1913. It was the SEC that was part of the new deal legislation. Fannie Mae was also, but the second such public bank, Freddie Mac, was launched in 1970, to break Fannie Mae\’s monopoly.

He\’s got a deep knowledge of economic history, don\’t he?

For social democrat politicians, as Gordon Brown and Darling still purport to be, this should be a golden opportunity. They should not hesitate and set out to reconstruct the British financial system around solid progressive values. Credit needs to flow again. We cannot live in a society where the flow of credit doubles then halves almost from year to year. What Obama can only propose in America is possible in Britain. And by doing this, the government would be relaunched. It would show purpose, expose the Conservatives as bankers\’ narks – and save the British middle class from a house price disaster. All that is required is what the government lacks – conviction.

You\’d never have guessed that Mrs. Hutton is a buy to let landlord, would you?

How Revealing

Guardian leader:

His younger opponent – the 52-year-old centre-left candidate Walter Veltroni, the outgoing mayor of Rome – is more experienced than Mr Berlusconi, having entered politics earlier.

The creation of a multi-billion fortune is not "experience"? Only time in politics counts?

Umm, Ben?

700 million?

The EFSA, for example, have produced three PDF reports full of technical material, including a massive statistical re-analysis of the original data (kindly provided by the original researchers) which they harp on about enormously, but which they conclude changes basically nothing. For an organisation representing the interests of 700 million people, well-funded by Ukip voters\’ tax money, and with a massive advisory panel, they also make some slightly bizarre criticisms of the science.

The European Food Safety Authority is an EU institution, no? So how do we get to 700 million? 450 million rather, no? Even if it\’s EFTA or EEA I can\’t see it getting to 700 million.

Anyone know the answer?

Spot On

So, a newspaper carries and advertisement for the BNP. The editor\’s comment?

In his editorial column, Mr Martin wrote: "To be able to tolerate those we vehemently disagree with is the hallmark of an open, egalitarian and democratic society, where freedom of speech and expression are sacrosanct."

Quite. As DK said in a slightly different context. Why do we not censor or ban fascists?

Because we are not fascists.


Umm, Polly?

Interestingly, however, this is not a programme the present Swedish conservative government is expanding; only about 10% of Swedish children attend "free" schools, and Reinfeldt\’s ministers say their energy is directed to improving ordinary state schools. "Free" schools have proved socially divisive, attracting more middle-class families and ethnic minorities, many have restrictive academic admissions criteria, and there is intense unease over new segregated faith schools.

Here is an example of how "choice" can also restrict choice: a former social democrat minister tells me he is sad he feels he no longer has the choice to send his child to the once socially mixed neighbourhood school that he attended. Instead she travels miles away to a "free" school, where the brightest children have congregated, making his old school much worse. It\’s an irony that the Swedish conservatives no longer promote the "free" schools that Cameron will make his centrepiece policy: expect similarly divisive effects.

I\’m sorry, but how can anyone actually look at that description of the Swedish school system and say that choice restricts choice?

Great Minds Think Alike

Or the consistency of small minds. Your choice.

Mad Max\’s Nazi Sex Orgy.

My comment.

Then again, as PJ O’Rourke has pointed out, absolutely no one has ever fantasised about being tied up and ravished by a liberal.

Nick Cohen:

He had a little of my sympathy for proving the truth of P J O’Rourke’s assertion that, “no one has ever had a fantasy about being tied to a bed and sexually ravished by someone dressed as a liberal”.

Stefanie Marsh:

If we were in a generous mood, we could even decide to find the whole thing hugely comical, if a touch Benny Hill, and concede that P.J. O\’Rourke was right when he said: “No one has ever had a fantasy about being tied to a bed and sexually ravished by someone dressed as a liberal.”

They at least bothered to look the quote* up which must be why they\’re paid the big bucks, eh?


* It is also the most mindbogglingly obvious quote to use in the circumstances. I\’m actually a little surprised that Google News doesn\’t show more uses of it.


Time Warp

Guardian Leader:

In reality, of course, neither Lady Thatcher not Ms Harman is a wuss at all. Both are politicians with strong – even dogmatic – opinions and both know the value of a photo opportunity when they see one. Still, it does Labour\’s deputy leader much credit that she went on the Today programme yesterday and stuck it to Mr Humphrys and the Mail for their vested interest. Not enough ministers are as bold.

Subs? Are you sure this wasn\’t supposed to be published yesterday?

Well Done Indy!

Lead story today is all about poverty in the US. They manage to get through it all without noting one very important fact:

The minimum wage had stood unchanged for a decade – its longest freeze ever – until it was increased to $5.85 an hour from the $5.15 set in 1997. The national poverty rate stands officially at around 13 per cent, a level little changed from the 1970s. Poverty is currently defined as an income of $21,500 (£10,750) for a family of four.

Indeed, however, there\’s a little wrinkle in the way in which poverty is measured in the US. It is market incomes, before tax, and with the addition only of direct cash transfers.

So, what it actually measures, that 13%, is the number of people who would be below the poverty line if they were to get no help or aid from the various organs of state.

But there are various forms of aid. There are food stamps (which the article mentions, but does not make this point clear) which, being aid in kind, are not counted. Housing vouchers are not counted, Medicaid is not counted.

Perhaps more importantly, the EITC (very like our tax credits) works through the tax system and is thus not counted. So America\’s largest program to aid the working poor is not actually counted in the poverty figures.

Now it may well be that the poor are treated differently in the US than they are here: but that doesn\’t actually mean worse, or at least not necessarily.

I once went through a rough exercise of taking that family of four though the system to see how much aid they would in fact get.  The EITC would be worth some $4.5-$5 k (that\’s including only the Federals: many States top this up), Medicaid a similar sort of sum, housing vouchers, food stamps perhaps on top.

As it happens, median household income in the US is about $42 k or so. So the poverty line (I\’m ignoring the difference in household sizes, sorry, this is from memory) is about 50% of median incomes: but add in the help that someone gets and for those on said poverty line actual income is more like 75%.

Now I\’m cherry picking, of course: but the important point still stands. Because of the way that poverty is measured in the US (pre tax, pre benefits) using these uncorrected figures always makes it look much worse in comparison with European figures than it actually is.

My Lord

Someone on The Sun has actually studied some history!

Via, their entry for today:

From next year, Britain will move to a system with 10 hours in a day and 100 units in an hour – doing away with the old minute completely. Downing Street is yet to announce whether they intend to oppose the ruling by EU officials or whether MPs will get a chance to vote on the proposed changes. Souo Mestre, the EU planner who oversaw the changeover in Portugal and Spain in 2007, insists that the new time standard will allow for a better work and home life balance.

This is, of course, the old French Revolution idea of decimal time.

But hey, we\’ve had to adopt the French Revolution idea of decimal weights, so why not?