Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Centre for Policy Studies

I was under the impression that the CPS was a right-wing think tank, and indeed its website says that:

It exists to promote coherent and practical public policy, to roll back the state...

In today's Sunday Telegraph there is a letter from a "Kathy Gyngell" that blames Gordon Brown for teenage drinking because he has not raised taxes on alcohol sufficiently and she demands (presumably vastly) higher taxes. How is this coherent with rolling back the state?

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Tax and Smith & Williamson

"Familes pay 50% more tax under Labour", screams the Daily Telegraph, repeating (I assume, as the conclusions seem as absurd) an updated version of the completely flawed analysis undertaken by Smith & Williamson three (can it really be? - must be because of the prospect of an election). As I noted last year, here and here, the implications of this analysis are either that the average family buys a £1m plus house, or they move house every year.

More based in reality is the Sunday Telegraph's rather similar story, which is that "income tax had doubled under Labour". By this the mean twice as money is now collected by income tax than it was in 1997. This seems plausible. However they then say:

Official figures show a 100 per cent increase in the tax burden faced by wage earners – whose income has only risen 40 per cent since 1997.

This is less defensible. The wording 'burden' implies usually the % paid in tax, rather than an absolute figure. In any case it is only correct if 'wage earners' means ALL 'wage earners' as collective group, not an average individual. As the article notes later there are more 'wage earners' than there was in 1997. Finally, that 40% figure looks very suspect. It would mean that average earnings have risen by 3.4% a year since 1997 - in NOMINAL terms. So less 2.5% inflation, that would be real wage growth of just 0.9%, which I think is too low. The National Statistics data suggests more like 50%.

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A statue but no factory?

A letter in yesterday's FT:

From Mr Andrew Cook.

Sir, A few years ago I was touring the Rolls Royce car factory in Crewe. On a plinth in the middle of the factory is an example of the Merlin aero engine, which powered the Spitfire and the Hurricane and which the factory had been built to make in the run-up to the second world war.

"Without that engine, this factory wouldn't be here," commented my guide. "Without that engine, none of us would be here!" I replied.

The latter suggestion seems easier to defend than the one before it - I think a maker of aeroplane engines might have done quite well in a Nazi-controlled Britain. But in addition,with rather bad timing, we just a few pages before this letter learn that Rolls Royce have decided to locate their new aeroplane engine factory just outside Berlin.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tim Worstall's blog now dedicated to showing pictures of Britney Spears and other celebrities naked.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wider still, and wider

I quite like "Land of Hope and Glory" as a song for all its Henry 'Scoop' Jackson Societyesque lyrics, but hearing it again for the first time in a while I realised that it's been forever ruined for me by Peter Lilley's badly sung and badly conceived version, "Land of Chattering Classes". I just can't help but hear his whiny and weedy voice heading for political oblivion. I can't find it online but here's some others and here's some more.

Here's also some favourite moments from conferences. You don't see drama such as Kinnock's militant speech any more.


What a difference a year makes

With Labour 11% ahead in the polls (albeit a conference special) it is interesting to hear the thoughts of political commenters and bloggers on Gordon Brown.

Stephen Pollard (and Oliver Kamm) have described him as:

Mr Unelectable

Robert Harris, in the Times, argues:

[Gordon Brown] has shown the most appalling political ineptitude and has reduced the Labour government to a farcical grotesquerie without precedent in living memory. So much so that, as the reality sinks in, I would put Brown’s chances of succeeding Blair at not much more than 50-50 and his hopes of winning the next general election at substantially less than that.

Ah, apparently those comments were made last September. "Has reduced the Labour government to a farcical grotesquerie without precedent in living memory" - good grief, surely analysis of that standard should disqualify Robert Harris from ever being taken seriously again?

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Naked pensioners

If ever there was a case for a government bail-out it is to stop pensioners parading naked. What is it with people in Britain in the last few years and taking their clothes off - hardly a week passes without some new hilarious bunch of people stripping off for a charity calendar.

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Norman Tebbit to vote Labour

He doesn't quite say that, but if he believes Gordon Brown is the natural heir to Thatcher it's the logical conclusion, particularly as he is apparently the current MP for Chingford. In fact, that adds two to the Labour majority.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Did Henry 'Scoop' Jackson regret his enthusiastic support for internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII?

The Henry 'Scoop' Jackson Society claims he did:

In America, Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson initially believed the internment of Japanese-Americans to be a necessary action in the fighting of the Second World War, but he later realised that this action was a mistake.

Oliver Kamm (who possibly could be getting his information from the H'S'JS page, or be the contributor) also believes this:

I have a suspicion that you refer to his support for the shameful injustice of the internment of Japanese Americans in WW2 because it may be one of the few things you know about him. Yes, he was wrong, and he regretted it.

Others aren't so sure. Robert Kaufamn, in his biography of 'Scoop', makes no reference to any 'regret'. And David Neiwert, who has written a book on Japanese/American internment, has noted on his blog that:

In all my research, I could, however, find no evidence that Jackson ever expressed any regret for his wartime activism against Japanese Americans, even as reparations were being discussed late in his career. He remained mum, hoping no one would remember his own role in the affair.

Anyway, it'll be far easier to prove he did than he didn't (if he did), and so I've emailed the head (Alan Mendoza, a Conservative councillor in Brent)
of the Henry 'Scoop' Jackson Society asking where their information has come from and hopefully this matter of historical fact can be cleared up quite quickly.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

46 out of 60 on US politics

At this quiz. I was quite pleased with that score. I think if I had not been rushing (ie about 10 seconds per question) I might have got 50, as (for example) I misread the Fed buying bonds one as having the answer 'lower interest rate'. On the other hand I guessed quite a few, and might not be so lucky another time.


Marcel Marceau was still alive on Friday

Tributes here.


Northern Rock and the Taxpayer

Press coverage of the Northern Rock, credit crisis, etc has been all over the place. Business editors of newspapers are suddenly experts on monetary policy, able to tell Ben Bernanke how it should be done. There's been almost no consistency either, with sometimes the same article appearing to both demand government intervention, and attack it. On the whole there has been much criticism of the Fed - This was a particular favourite.

Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman's celebrated predecessor, spent 20 years putting off the day of reckoning by cutting the cost of money at the first whiff of trouble.

TWENTY YEARS putting off the day of reckoning? So it should have been in 1987, 1988, 1989 and so on? Given the US economy must have nearly doubled in size in those 20 years I suspect almost everyone would take the putting off, rather than the apparently desirable pain.

This story quotes the Taxpayer's Alliance. I have some sympathy for their view, although the political realities were such that I doubt any government would follow the course they suggest. My concern though is that the Times calls them an 'organisation representing British taxpayers'. I think this should be 'organisation that purports to represent British taxpayers' at the least, unless they have a huge mass membership I am unaware of.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Northern Rock...

is not apparently as hard as we'd been led to believe. At present we have an old-fashioned bank run, and Robert Peston at the BBC suggests it can go on for almost as long as there are savers with money left in Northern Rock, as it just about has enough cash available. Surely then however the Bank of England would end up as the de facto owner of a huge chunk of Northern Rock's mortgage business, which is perhaps not the situation it wanted itself to be in.

The one thing I don't understand is whether these savers know that bank deposits are guaranteed by the government up to £2k for100% and then 90% on the next £30k or something like that. Sure there are still pretty good reasons to get your money out if there's no major penalties, but you'd think it might be worth the government pointing this out a bit more. I suppose to do so would imply they think there's a chance of it going bust.

At this point, those who aren't shouting 'Land Value Tax' or 'Citizen's Basic Income' start to go on about moral hazard, but I suspect that wouldn't go down to well in the Northern Rock panic withdrawals queue*.

* If you were wondering whether people really were walking around with thousands of pounds in cash on them, then it appears probably not. Most of the 'run' was done via the bank's website. That must be a first in UK history.

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Strange Conservative times

First we have Conservative MP (albeit not one I had heard of) in an attack on Mrs Thatcher's mental state, and an attack that was apparently that was sanctioned by the leadership. Malcom Rifkind asks some slightly more decent questions, though this is something only a politician could say:

Why did she agree to go last week, of all weeks, when there was talk of an election in the air?

Last week, of all weeks? Did you notice anything different about last week compared with any other political week? Not sure I did. I imagine most people if asked to characterise last week would either talk about Kate McCann, England v Russia or the first bank run since the 1970s. Apparently however there was an election in the air.

Then in today's Sunday Telegraph, Cameron blames Labour for the crisis at Northern Rock, arguing that:

Under Labour our economic growth has been built on a mountain of debt.

and argues that we need more State regulation and less free markets. Perhaps we do, although I can't see what policy any Tory government would have followed that would mean less debt. Kenneth Clarke, whom we now must see as being on the economically liberal wing of the party, argues the opposite in the same piece. Or maybe it's just that George Osborne and David Cameron have never seen the point of a mortgage?

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

The McCanns

The whole situation is terrible, and I have to say I'm in the camp of rather disbelieving the Portuguese police's story on grounds of sheer impracticalty plus scepticism that anyone could be that good actors. On the other hand so little detail is really known about the events of the day Madeleine disappeared that it's not possible to be 100% certain.

But the McCanns are now back in Britain. If the Portuguese police do press charges then presumably they will have to go back, although I do not know anything about the extradition laws, European arrest warrant etc. But in any case, unless the British authorities are explicitly going to say they don't believe the charges, and so far the Home Secretary has apparently expressed satisfaction with the investigation, given the gravity of the charges - murder/accidental killing of their child, hiding a dead body, fraud, etc - they should be arrested in the UK?


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Is there an opposite of:

"victim of his own success"?

I suppose "beneficiary of his own failing", but I'm sure there must be something better.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ambrose Evans Pritchard

If the French people chose to accept this disgraceful rehash after already having voted No, shame on them. I am not sure I wish to share a Union with a nation that proves itself so supine, and so unwilling to defend its democracy.

Here's one for the lawyers. Is there a way Ambrose Evans Pritchard could leave the EU, whilst the rest of us remain in it? I don't like sharing a Union with him.


Bush not engaged in key policy areas

Not really a revelation, is it?


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Did he, or didn't he?

I am mystified:

On September 7th, 2006, Oliver Kamm talked of "Brown's Coup". One cannot fault his calm and rational language:

"The Chancellor has mounted a coup against a serving Prime Minister, and a successful coup at that."

Nine months later, on June 27th 2007, Oliver spoke of Blair, presumably bouncing back from that 'successful coup', such that it was neither 'successful' or a 'coup'

"leave[ing] office today after a decade as prime minister and at a time of his choosing."

Two quotes not in the most perfect of harmony. Unless, the successful coup happened exactly the same time as Blair decided to resign. Unfortunately, today , there's more:

To my regret, Tony Blair has left office earlier than he would have done otherwise and with a tarnished public image.

This will take a bit of arguing, but really it's quite simple. Tony Blair was forced out in a coup, but that fortuitously happened exactly at the time of his choosing, however rather less fortunately that time of his choosing was earlier than his time of choosing really would have been, if he had been free to choose, nevertheless one shouldn't believe it wasn't his choice.

Got that?