Hmm, right

San Francisco declares state of emergency over coronavirus

An emergency over something that isn’t happening:

San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) declared a state of emergency for the city on Tuesday amid concerns over the international coronavirus outbreak.

While no coronavirus cases have been confirmed in San Francisco, “the global picture is changing rapidly, and we need to step-up preparedness,” Breed said in a statement.

And tens of thousands shitting in the streets is something they don’t declare an emergency over.

Ho hum, the art of government being to find the alarums that allow you to spend the crap out of everything then, eh?

Remind me

SUSSEX: It is agreed that The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will continue to require effective security to protect them and their son. This is based on The Duke’s public profile by virtue of being born into The Royal Family, his military service, the Duchess’ own independent profile, and the shared threat and risk level documented specifically over the last few years. Neither have disclosed how this security will be paid.

I get that as a Royal Duchess she needs – and gets – tax paid security. But this independent profile bit.

OK, mid-level TV actress. Has a profile, sure. Might need security because of that. OK.

But why are UK taxpayers to cough up for that?

The point being, security required for “the Duchess’ own independent profile” is something that is to be paid for by “the Duchess’ own independent profile”.

No?

We always do get our politics from pop songs, right?

Dave’s performance of his song Black at the Brit awards marked the moment that grime truly gave full-throated and undeniable voice to the politics of black Britain.

“Things can only get better” worked out so well.

All music is political

“Baby do me one more time” will be the theme track for Hillary’s parachute into the Democratic primaries?

As someone whose political education began with early American hip-hop it is affirming to see the strong emergence of black political voices in British music. Artists such as Public Enemy, KRS-One and Tupac were more important to my intellectual development than any academic text.

Bopping to it as a teenie has its merits, of course. But at some point “Dis is da sound of da police” does need to be replaced by a light scanning of Marx, Mill, Kant possibly, Smith, Hayek maybe? Or not?

Kehinde Andrews is professor of black studies at Birmingham City University.

Ah, no, not.

This is amusing

He has also deleted a number of his previous posts on Twitter, including one which dismissed three female Labour politicians as “dim”, and another which claimed “women’s sport is more comparable to the Paralympics than it is to men’s.”

This is true:

in a 2016 interview argued that “intelligence is largely inherited”.

This is true but incendiary:

Responding, Mr Sabisky wrote: “If the mean black American IQ is (best estimate based on a century’s worth of data) around 85, as compared to a mean white American IQ of 100, then if IQ is normally distributed (which it is), you will see a far greater percentage of blacks than whites in the range of IQs 75 or below, at which point we are close to the typical boundary for mild mental retardation.”

Note the If at the beginning there. If that is so then the rest does follow.

Boris Johnson has been told to “immediately” sack a controversial new adviser

It’s so difficult to get the help these days.

That will all also explain why I’ll not be working in SW1 any time soon.

‘Ang on…..

£1 billion’s real money:

A new supercomputer providing more accurate forecasts of severe weather is to receive £1.2 billion from the Government towards its development.

Seriously?

The supercomputer itself is expected to cost £854 million

I thought we’d got to the point where a supercomputer was simply lashing thousands of PC boards together? Is there really a computer out there that will cost £800 million? And if there is, won’t it still cost £80 million in 3 years time?

This is impressive

TfL insists that its land is already playing “a vital role in meeting the Mayor’s priorities to build affordable homes”, including with plans to build 1,800 homes on a 26 acre site at Earl’s Court, in west London.

Not much garden to those houses then. Or perhaps blocks of flats of course. Still that’s packing them in – 180 dwellings an acre?

From the FT

Raising tax is always politically difficult. But Britain can no longer afford a delay. The proximate cause is a shortfall in the public finances. Likely downgrades to productivity forecasts, spending commitments already announced and a change in the accounting treatment of student loans all mean the government will need to raise funds to meet its fiscal rule of balancing day-to-day spending by 2023. Truly “ending austerity” and reversing the cuts of recent years will cost even more.

Well, yes. Except the tax burden (percentage of GDP that goes in tax) is already at record highs. The shortfall is because they’re pissing away what they do collect.

This isn’t entirely so, no

Metropolitan Police bosses said they may have to cut recruitment of officers to fight violent crime after being told by ministers they would have to foot a multimillion-pound bill for policing the XR protests and other events.

In a letter to the Home Office, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, who has responsibility for the force, said it was “unacceptable” and “deeply concerning” to expect the Met to pay the £31 million bill for such exceptional events when he said officials had previously indicated they would meet the cost.

He told Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, that refusal to fund the bill through a special grant could have a knock-on effect that “risks reducing the money available for officers”.

This isn’t the police saying anything. It’s a politician at one level of the system demanding more money from the next level above him. As all politicians always will demand.

Snigger

These are all the clever people who want to run the country, right? Are going to sort out healthcare, inequality, with central government plans?

Iowa caucus results: what we know so far
Democratic presidential primary contest descends into chaos in midwestern state

But what if the State’s worse?

Vulnerable children are being left at risk of sexual abuse from within their family by the failings of state agencies tasked with keeping them safe, according to a damning report into child protection.

For we do have rather a lot of evidence that the State itself – the evidence from all those Northern cities and the grooming gangs – is worse at protecting children from abuse than families.

It’s a rather nice example of the larger point about market failures. Sure, they exist, as does evil. But to say that market failures exist is not to conclude the argument for state intervention. It still has to be proven that the state intervention leads to a better outcome.

Willy Hutton on economics

Yes, he will talk of grave mismanagement, saving money and maybe reshaping the project – but it will get the green light. He has been influenced by the Treasury recognition that, given the sunk costs, there is no cheaper way of creating vital extra north-south rail capacity.

But Willy, the entire point of the very concept of sunk costs is that they’re not an influence upon current decision making. Because they’re sunk, d’ye see? Whatever we do they’ve been spent already, we can’t get them back. Thus whatever the decision now about the future they’re irrelevant.

Sigh.

Plus, of course, we don’t need more north south passenger (freight being a different matter and freight not needing that speed) capacity because the internet, 5G, autonomous cars and working from home are all going to cut rail travel rather than increase it.

None

There is a new urgency to debates about the future of public broadcasting. The first question we should be asking is not how the BBC can be saved from its enemies on the right, but more constructively, what kind of public media organisation would best meet the technological and political challenges of the 21st century?

See headline.

Carry on

The Financial Conduct Authority has been slapped with a £2,000 fine from a fellow regulator after failing to provide enough detail in its staff pension plan report.

Even the regulators can’t keep up with the regulation. Obviously going to happen at some point, but will they now stop?

Like this will work, right?

HS2 says the changes to its agreements with its “main civil construction contractors”, which remove financial incentives for firms to stay within budget, will save an estimated £1 billlion and were related to the collapse of Carillion, the construction giant, in 2018.

They surfaced in a 62-page report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

But Mr Morris said that HS2’s “short term savings” appeared to come at the “potentially substantially higher risk of increasing their liability for future cost increases – which would ultimately be borne by the taxpayer.

“This artificially lowers the cost now but inevitably the final price will be a lot higher.”

Joe Rukin, campaign manager of the Stop HS2 lobby group, claimed that the move was evidence that HS2 Ltd were “conning politicians into making sure that their gravy train keeps running”.

The NAO report, published last week, states: “At the time of publishing this report, HS2 Ltd was finalising revised commercial terms with its main civil construction contractors … HS2 Ltd estimates that these revised terms will achieve £1 billion of savings, through contractors reducing their pricings in response to the reduced risks that they will bear.”

It adds: “Revising the commercial arrangements was a reasonable response to HS2 Ltd’s analysis on the reasons for cost increases.

“However, like all contractual arrangements, these revised terms carry risks to value for money, which the Department and HS2 Ltd must manage.”

Contractors “were previously incentivised to control costs” because they were liable for 60 per cent of any forecast cost increases above a target price”, but “there is no longer a fixed target price for the contracts.

“HS2 Ltd has collaboratively developed an estimated cost for the works with its contractors and will be responsible for funding increases above the estimated cost.”

No fixed cost agreement is going to limit costs is it?

Just cancel the damn thing. By the time we’ve got to this sort of nonsense claim we’re well into something that can never, never, work.

No, not really

A small government agency is supporting fossil fuel projects abroad with estimated carbon emissions of a country the size of Portugal, it has emerged.

UK Export Finance (UKEF), a government agency in the Department for International Trade, is spending billions of pounds on the projects, Newsnight researchers have found.

UKEF does export finance and credit guarantees.

Agreed, it’s a silly thing for government to be doing. But it most certainly doesn’t spend billions doing it. Total turnover might well be billions but not spending….

How interesting is this?

Fewer than 4 per cent of offences investigated by police in a crime-ridden area of north-east London end up in court, it has been disclosed.

Statistics show that last year 1,094 crimes were investigated in Stoke Newington – an area on the Scotland Yard map that is made up of about 30 streets.

Just 45 offenders were dealt with in court in the same period, equivalent to just 3.37 per cent of the offences under investigation.

Note that that’s not convictions, that’s just those prosecuted in court. Which is an even worse number that the rape ones, right?

No shit

HS2 is over-budget and years behind schedule because ministers “underestimated the complexity” of the project, a damning official report states.

The National Audit Office said the Government did not “adequately manage risks to taxpayers’ money” and failed to “take into account” the sheer scale of the railway.

HS2, originally costed at £36 billion, is now forecast to cost £106 billion, but the NAO warned it is impossible to “estimate with certainty what the final cost could be”.

Junk the thing, seriously.

Why does this cost money?

Air travel should be taxed more and EU funds redirected to pay for a dramatic reforesting of Britain’s countryside, the government’s climate change advisers have recommended.

Farmers should be incentivised to plant 100 million new trees a year and consumers encouraged to eat a fifth less lamb, beef and dairy to cut sheep and cattle grazing by 10 per cent, the Committee on Climate Change has said.

If you don’t graze – or plough or anything else – land then it turns to forest. Assuming that the land is suitable for forest in the first place. The cost of creating a forest in a pace where a forest wants to be is therefore nothing.

Equally, we all eating less meat costs less, not more. So, why the insistence that the change will cost anything?