Thursday, 29 October 2009

That's One Way to Make Yourselves Look Clean...

MPs Plan Wife Swap to Get Round Expenses Rules
The wives, husbands and other family members currently employed at the tax-payers' expense plan to apply for jobs with other MPs as a way of dodging the guidelines expected to be recommended by Sir Christopher Kelly next month.

It's going to be like that, is it? So, rather than actually understanding and sincerely responding to the rage felt by your constituents by following the spirit of the rules rather than the letter of them, like the "honourable gentlemen" (and ladies) that you should be, you're going to try and get around them, are you?

Watch this like a hawk, people. My guess is that MPs will start buying flats and renting them to each other, too.

Eve Burt, the wife of Alistair Burt, the veteran Tory MP, has worked for her husband for 27 years and is his current office manager. She earns £33,500-a-year and has questioned whether people who have contracts can suddenly be made redundant.

Excuse me? £33,500 for being an office manager for an MP? Someone to manage 2 or 3 staff who have to answer a few constituents calls and copy and paste some letters from central office? shows that people doing office manager jobs (in free market businesses) earn somewhere around £25-28K for that in the Bedfordshire area.

Not surprising that MPs don't want this cushy deal to end any time soon, is it?

Models Taking Off Their Clothes For Climate Change

OK, supermodels telling us all to be a lot greener. Right. I've got a few names from that video including a few career highlights:-

Shannan Click
June 2008 Fall Fashion Show, Paris
Sep 2008 New York Fashion Show
Nov 2008 Victoria Secrets Fashion Show (that's in Miami, BTW)

Hanne Gaby Odiele
Sep 2007 Appears on Oprah (that's NY, right?)
Oct 2007 Paris Fashion Show
Jan 2008 Another Paris Show
Feb 2008 NY Fashion Show and Paris Fashion Show
Jun 2008 NY Fashion Show

Heidi Mount
Sep 2008 NY and Milan Fashion Shows
Oct 2008 Paris Fashion Shows

Seems to me like maybe before telling the rest of us about global warming, the supermodels should shut the fuck up and stop travelling so much themselves.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

McDonalds Leaving Iceland

Is this a first? Have they left any other countries before?

Friday, 23 October 2009

World of Goo: Pay What You Like

One of the games that has really impressed me in recent years for its originality and simplicity is World of Goo. It's a physics puzzle game where you have to attach goo balls to make shapes, but bear in mind things like gravity, wind etc.

Normally it's $20, but until Sunday, it's pay what you like.

Runs on Mac, PC and Linux. Get it from 2d boy website.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


If you want a good chuckle, track down Tuesday night's Newsnight where Denis MacShane gets very stroppy over the trafficking non-issue with Paxman and a representative of the English Collective of Prostitutes. And for some reason Denis keeps digging here:-
I honestly don't know how many girls are trafficked into Britain. I once quoted a Daily Mirror report in the Commons. Its headline talked of 25,000 women and was based, so the paper reported, on Home Office and Amnesty International statistics.
What Denis actually said in Hansard was:-
The Minister kindly gave me a parliamentary reply showing that 16 men were convicted for trafficking last year and just 11 had been so far this year. Given that, according to Home Office estimates, 25,000 sex slaves currently work in the massage parlours and brothels of Britain, those conviction figures are derisory.
 Note no mention of "The Daily Mirror" then. The Home Office report for 2005-6 said:-
Though this has not yet been published, the Government told us that it showed that there were an estimated 4,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution in the UK during 2003 at any one time. Because the research has not yet been published, we have not been able to judge the validity of this figure. We note that there are no reliable estimates for the numbers of children or adult men who have been trafficked into the UK for labour exploitation purposes.
And the Mirror's own piece said:-
AT least 25,000 girls and women have been smuggled into Britain and sold into the booming vice trade, a Mirror investigation reveals.
Which made no reference to that 25,000 being home office figures (instead quoting the 4,000 number).

Denis continues:-
Rahila Gupta demolished the Guardian report on Comment is free.
No she didn't.
She also drew attention to an outfit of former prostitutes called Esso, which believes only 2% of women freely chose prostitution.
"Believes" doesn't count as an argument, Denis. They also seem to be largely invisible on the web. I'd also suggest that the only former prostitutes who put their head over the parapet are those who want to complain about it, the rest would rather not talk about it too much.
Esso is new to me, and I hope the BBC and other media turn to it instead of always to the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP). I mean no discourtesy to this organisation, which grew out of the Wages for Housework campaign started by the International Marxist Group in the 1970s, but I cannot find on the web any details of its constitution, internal democracy, funding, or membership. The ECP spokeswoman said on Newsnight that only two trafficked women had come to her attention. This sounds far-fetched.
But you can't disprove her claim, nor do you have any alternative figure on this.
The Newsnight report managed its investigation without talking to a single prostituted woman or a single trafficked victim. Instead we had self-appointed "experts" indulging in a futile war of statistics in which the victims are voiceless. But to say that the reports of every international outfit that has highlighted sex slave trafficking do not apply to our blessed isles is silly.
Well, Denis, as you started the ball rolling in 2007 by talking about the number of women involved. If you'd wanted to just make a moral case aga? inst prostitution, then that's what you should have done then then.
Regional newspapers publish advertisements from brothels offering "new girls every week", and the web is awash with offers of paid-for sex from young women brought into Britain to service male needs. The Poppy project, which seeks to help trafficked girls and other prostituted women who try to flee from their pimps and controllers, can house a few dozen at its refuge, but it turns away hundreds more who seek to escape from the slavery of offering themselves to dozens of men a day in massage parlours and brothels. Perhaps Newsnight might go and interview these victims instead of "experts" pooh-poohing the problem.
Oh dear. Denis citing the "Poppy Project" which has been utterly debunked. They turn away hundreds of women escaping from slavery? How come there hasn't been a single prosecution based on Poppy's work?

The real debate turns on what is to be done. Male politicians rarely challenge the conventional wisdom of the Belle de Jour or Happy Hooker books and articles that becoming a prostitute is a voluntary business of pleasure and profit – and just another profession. I pushed the House of Commons and Tony Blair to sign the Council of Europe convention on trafficking, despite opposition from Whitehall and some boy members of the cabinet. Now Labour women like Harriet Harman, Vera Baird, Fiona Mactaggart, Jacqui Smith and others who suffer unspeakable condescension from the media – and, if truth be told, too many patriarchical masculinist Labour MPs and current and former ministers – have edged the debate into new territory.
Straw man. Most MPs don't consider prostitution as "Belle de Jour"/Happy Hooker. It's a mix of sordid street walkers, single mothers making a living, and a few high class types. But what's at stake is the numbers in each of these categories, and the bizarre assertions from some of the New Labour Wimmin about why women are involved in it.
They are seeking to switch the focus of responsibility from women to men in the debate over how to deal with trafficking and sex slavery. The idea is simple. Instead of penalising women, make men accept that paying for sex with a trafficked woman or under-age girl is a criminal activity. If that means more appearances in front of magistrates and naming and shaming, so be it.
If you want that, you bring in regulation of the industry, which would be able to check identification and age of women AND would then drive a wedge between legal women and illegal workers, and the legal women would be able to report illegal women and would have an incentive to do so (reducing competition).
The rough analogy is with kerb-crawling. It was commonplace until police and councils started photographing and publishing the number plates of the kerb-crawling cars. Nothing eliminates the willingness of some men to pay for sex, but there is no need to use this desire as an excuse to turn a blind eye to the tragic exploitation of women, often with murderous consequences, that the sex industry entails.
Kerb-crawling is still quite commonplace. And I guess a lot has just gone "off-street". I guess the internet is used a lot now too.
Last night's Newsnight debate showed how difficult it is to get a serious discussion on this important issue. Perhaps it is time to ask middle-aged male grandees from the Guardian and Newsnight to step aside and allow a different journalism to examine the problem.
Translation: I looked like a joke on Newsnight and completely avoided the points from Paxman and the other women.

Evil Undemocratic Bastard

From The BBC:-

Labour backbencher John Mann, who tabled the Early Day Motion, said he was "delighted" by the result of the vote: "This stops the BNP parading round here as if they're legitimate politicians."
Listen, pal. You might not like the BNP, but the fact is that they were elected to the European Parliament, and that means that they are legitimate politicians. Or maybe you think that people's votes don't count?

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Murdoch Paywall

I've got popcorn ready for the Poseidon Adventure level of epic fail that's going to come from this (via Roy Greenslade's blog):-

As I understand it, general news will still be free but exceptional columnists such as Jeremy Clarkson, Steven Howard and the big-name celebrity 'writers' like Terry Venables, Harry Redknapp and Ian Wright will only be available in the paid-for package...

"Sports will be a key seller, particularly with The Sun service. Subscribers will be offered a free direct-to-your-mobile results service, there will be videos of goals and cut-price offers from all the sports goods and clothing manufacturers.

"This, wrapped up with Page 3 girls at their most alluring, bingo and puzzle games offering huge cash prizes plus a promotional link with Sky will, they hope, make it an offer too good to refuse."
OK, Clarkson's a decent columnist, but in the end, how much better is he than the free options? Sure, I'd miss reading his columns, but I can get the likes of The Daily Mash for free. Sport? I'm not one for sport. Are guys like Venables and Wright anything special? I'm not just asking if they're the best, but if they're better by enough to warrant someone forking out the cash. Goals? There seem to be goals on YouTube. Cut price deals on sports clothing? I'm sure you'll be able to get the same deals elsewhere. But finally: Tits. The idea that getting to see Page 3 girls on the internet is something worth paying money for is just risible. You can go to Google Image Search and get 7 million pages of tits to look at, and most of them aren't the sort you find in your garden.

The problem is that this idea is based on entitled sense of business, the idea that as they've always made $200 million of profit, that that should ever remain the case. But throughout our history we have seen technology come along and ruin certain people's livelihood. I'm sure that Tyndale's bible didn't do those latin speakers a lot of good as English guys could now do preaching. And I doubt that innkeepers were happy when the railways started getting built and people didn't have to stop for the night with their horses. Blacksmiths had to find something else to do when the car arrived. And in recent years, typesetters got put out of business by the computer.

Running based on your entitlement, that somehow, the old models can fit into the new world rarely work. IBM succeeded after Microsoft beat them on the desktop by recognising that hardware wasn't where the money was at - services were.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Olympic Coins

I don't really mind the 9 year old's drawing. It's that it also has that bastard pile of shit fucking logo on it.

Can we do this?

From The Daily Mash:

THE row over MPs' expenses escalated last night as voters across Britain agreed to hire Jimmy Conway from Goodfellas.

With MPs threatening to claim expenses for legal action over their expenses claims, voters said they would now bring in the New York-based consultant to recover their money through a series of intensive, face-to-face meetings.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Heffer on Expenses

I sometimes think that Heffer is off the mark, but he's quite brilliant here on MPs expenses. But one passage got me thinking:-

Of course, if you don't want to stand again, you can tell Sir Thomas where to put his repayment demand. He probably wouldn't have any legal recourse if you do; and you won't care that the public thinks you a crook, because you don't need their votes any more.

Is this going to give us some more data on how bad the Labour defeat will be next year? Any MP that refuses probably know that their seat is sunk already, so see no reason to pay it back


To be sung to the Toreador song from Carmen...

Trafigura, Tra-fi-gu-ra
Tra-fi-gura, Tra-fi-gura,
Traaaaaa-fi-gura, Traaa-fi-gura

(bet you wish you hadn't slapped that injunction on now that everyone in the world has heard about it, eh, Carter-Fuck)

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Fingernails Down Blackboards Moment

From Janice Turner in The Times:-
I decided to check out Sainsbury’s booze aisles in the mode of someone with great thirst and little cash. Excitingly, my own under-age teenage fave Babycham — “the happiest drink in the world” — is still a snip at £3.18 but, at only 6 per cent proof, it would take more than four dainty bottles to make you feel like smashing up a bus shelter. Special Brew (two litres for £6 at 9 per cent proof) seemed worthy of Chris Grayling’s opprobrium until I spied this week’s soaraway offer: £7 for two bottles of nice Chilean chardonnay, 11.5 per cent proof. Neck that outside the community centre and you’d be in pole position for an ASBO.
But really there is only one winner, endorsed by maudlin Russians and Scandinavian suicides for centuries: vodka. Just £6 a litre and EU regulations dictate that it must be 37.5 per cent proof minimum. Mr Grayling insisted that he would root out shopkeepers selling alcohol below cost price. But the point of vodka is that, as it is little more than distilled potato juice, it costs pennies to produce.
 Actually, it's a great piece, but one of my Things I Would Do If Made PM is to have people birched for using "proof" when they mean "ABV". Everyone, EVERYONE gets this wrong. We dropped "proof" about 2 decades ago in the UK. Get with it...

Friday, 9 October 2009

Public/Private Partnership

From John Redwood's Blog

On Wednesday at conference I attended a meeting organised by private providers of health care who work for the NHS.
Their presentation was well crafted and interesting. They stressed that they were wholly committed to the values of the NHS. They supported as fully as most voters the idea that health care should be delivered free at the point of treatment, regardless of means but based on needs. They agreed that the bills should be paid for out of taxation.

I'm not sure quite why John is telling us this, because a brief answer is "Well, yes. Of course they would". The last thing you want as a businessman is trading with millions of little customers who care about getting good value because they really want to have some money to spend on getting their car fixed.

No, the thing that any sane businessman wants is to trade with a lazy, incompetent bureaucrat who will agree to a terrible contract in your favour, and barely enforce it.

It's where people get so mixed up between business and markets. There is no incompatibility between business and big government. Business frequently likes government (especially if they're a blessed supplier). It's not pro-business we want, it's pro-market.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Why I'm Never Giving To Kiva Again


Waiting for a load of donors to give may well be "inefficient", but the fact is that telling people they're giving to one person and not another is, in my opinion, fraud.

I lent to someone through Kiva precisely because he worked in a particular industry in a particular country which I believed in supporting. Me. Not some Gap Year NGO worker or in a bureaucracy.

If the person I wanted to help had already got my money, that therefore means that someone else who might have been doing something that I wouldn't want to support got my money instead.

I'd already been warned off "sponsor a child" programmes which don't sponsor a child, but instead sponsor the village of the child (where spending then gets decided by Gap Year NGO workers), but I'd assumed Kiva was different.

Obviously not. My money will go elsewhere now.

Tory Booze Tax

In case any libertarians had forgotten the dark side of the Tories, Chris Grayling has made a speech reminding you all:-

The cost of a four-pack of high-strength lager would rise by £1.33 and a large bottle of alcopop would increase by £1.50, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said.

Firstly, there's no definition anywhere in the law for an "alcopop". Any definition will put Bacardi Breezers and Pimms & lemonade together.

He told the Conservative party conference in Manchester the tax rises would not hit "responsible drinkers".

Bullshit. More like "not hit you and your friends". I've drank Bacardi Breezers a few times. Nice refreshing drink on a summers day, and done so responsibly. I drink very strong Belgian beers and do so responsibly.

He said: "The ordinary pint in the pub will not be affected and there'll be exemptions for some local traditional products. But we'll call time on the drinks that fuel anti-social behaviour.

There's the problem, though. As soon as you start taxing one form of liquid for getting shitfaced with, people will switch to another. They might even discover that local 8% scrumpy doesn't taste bad and is normally a bit cheaper than all those branded alcopops.

Mr Grayling also pledged to ban supermarkets from selling alcohol below cost price, warning that this "fuelled Britain's binge drinking culture".

No it doesn't, and Grayling's got no evidence to back that up.

He said that under Labour's "lax" licensing system, "virtually anyone" could get a licence to sell alcohol.

Which is exactly how the licensing system should be. The only requirements for getting a license should be that you aren't going to serve kids or people who are already too drunk.

"We even have all night takeaways selling more drink to people as they stagger home from the pub," he said.

And what's wrong with that?

"We will change that. Local councils will have the power to stop town centres being taken over by pubs, clubs and off-licences."

So, you prefer ghost towns with properties falling down instead?

Look, we already have far too much retail space in town centres as it is. Kicking out the pubs won't suddenly give us lots of independent butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. You'll have the even more unsightly charity shops, empty shops and pound shops.

George Osborne's Speech

OK, I'm really not at all impressed with this.

He started out quite well, talking about how deep the problems were, but then went off and talked about across the board pay cuts (in real terms) in the public sector.

If the Conservatives truly believe in localism, they'd consider this as none of their business, devolve budget cuts (in real terms) to local management and let them work things out.

A blanket pay cut (in real terms) is a stupid idea. It doesn't deal with the real problems which are about inefficiency, lack of discipline, poor processes and the scope creep which has occurred over the past 10 years.

Such a thing may signal to people that they should leave the public sector. This is fine if we're talking about terrible managers or 5-a-day co-ordinators, but the problem is that they won't be the people to leave. They know they've got a good deal and will stay until they're pushed out of the door with a generous redundancy package. It will be staff who know they can make it in the public sector who will go, who are generally the better staff.

I was also glad to see the end of breeding bonds.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

BBC Presenter Tax Avoidance

From the Telegraph:-

They are saving thousands of pounds by using the avoidance tactic – at the expense of the rest of the public.

Insiders say the BBC has advised them to set up 'service companies' so that they can convince the tax man they are legitimately working as freelancers.

Those that have done so include Fiona Bruce, the 10 O'Clock News presenter who also fronts Antiques Roadshow; Emily Maitlis and Jeremy Paxman from Newsnight.

Bruce has set up a company called Paradox Productions; Maitlis has Mouse Inc. and Paxman Out in the Dark.

There's a regulation known as IR35 which was designed to stop this sort of thing going on, what was known as "Friday to Monday" where you leave your desk on Friday as an employee and return on Monday as a freelancer which was only done to avoid tax.

Two of the tests are the time you've been with a client and the number of clients that you service. Paxman and Bruce are really going to struggle to get past that if the HMRC investigate.

A BBC spokesman said: "We are not going to discuss individuals tax arrangements. Clearly how people organise their tax status is something that they would need to take their own personal advice on.

"Some individuals working as freelancers in broadcasting, and a range of other sectors, like IT, set up service companies which deal with their tax arrangements and this is perfectly lawful."

The difference is that most freelance IT people don't spend 2 decades working at the same place, and mid way through set up a limited company (Companies House has all the details on these companies) to work as the contractual arrangement. Or, not if they don't want a visit from the taxman.

Monday, 5 October 2009

What Kind of Fuckwittery Is This?

From The Conservatives:-

The Shadow Universities and Skills Secretary explained that the new places would be paid for by introducing an early repayment bonus for existing graduates repaying their debts to the taxpayer ahead of schedule.

OK... can someone explain the sums of this? People already pay interest on their student loans once they reach a certain salary. If you give people a bonus, that will not only cost money, but you'll lose the interest (which I think is at the rate of inflation). Not sure how it adds up, but I can't see it making much money. Sounds more like a giveaway to people with rich parents to me: borrow money for tuition, do your course, mum and dad pay it off and get an early bonus.

"With one in six young people not in work or education or training, it is vital that we prevent a similar crisis next year. Our plan to give graduates a discount for repaying loans ahead of schedule will give thousands more young people the opportunity to go to university, rather than staying on the dole."

If you're a young person and unemployed, it's either because you've got NO qualifications, are lazy, or are too picky. Universities aren't going to take people with no GCSEs, so how this cuts unemployment I don't know.

h/t Mark Wadsworth

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Lisbon Treaty

There's something nagging me about Cameron's "well, we can't really undo international treaties" line that he's been selling. Does this mean that a future Labour government could just sign a treaty with various Labour friendly governments like Cuba or Venezuela to send them a couple of billion per annum to each, and the Conservatives would just accept it and not be able to undo it?

Then again, Cameron and most of the Conservatives refused to wait and vote for Bill Cash's sovereignty amendment, so we know how much they really care about this matter.

An Excellent Paragraph from Tim Worstall

From his blog:-

This is perhaps the saddest thing about ASH and all the rest: they’ve poisoned the well. Someone as achingly liberal (classically so) as myself, one who believes fiercely in the power of voluntary cooperation to solve human problems, finds that he can no longer trust those who make claims to be part of the little platoons.

I'd have to agree with this. Any time I read a pronouncement from a charity, I'm off to the Charity Commission web site to read their accounts and see the sources of their funding (although the Iron Rule on this is if they're on the BBC making statements, they're probably a fake).

Thursday, 1 October 2009

A Guardian Post about Cuts in Doncaster

From a Guardian Journalist:-

But when community services are assessed, let us think of Jagtar Singh Dhindsa, who came to Britain without English as a first language. He benefited from funding– in his case, section 11 money that was channelled towards the education of young people from ethnic minorities and. Today, he is leader of the Labour group on Watford borough council and is chair of the National Association of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority Councillors. If that doesn't represent best value for him and the wider community, what does?

Well, how about not bringing him in to the UK? If the result of this spending is to get yet another politician, then I'd say that burning the money is probably a better idea.