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Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

Christie Malry on CGT

In Taxation on May 28, 2010 at 19:58

Good post from FCAblog – run by an accountant, so you’d think it would be boring, but actually it’s quite good.

Here, Christie Malry (aka FCAblog-ger), outlines some of the pitfalls of a Capital Gains Tax increase:

Inflation makes capital gains unfair by generating increases in value that are the result solely of the ravages of inflation, not a genuine gain. The problem is easy to demonstrate. Imagine you’re a person aged 20 with £10,000. You decide you want to squirrel this away for your retirement. You buy shares worth £10,000 with the money and the central bank manages to keep inflation constant at 2%. 50 years later you cash in your investment (imagine for the purposes of this exercise that the individual has already used up their annual exempt amount on other disposals). Good news – the shares have kept up with inflation and are now worth £26,916! Bad news – the government deems that this gain of £16,916 is taxable and sends you a tax bill of £6,766. Even worse news – the £20,149 you’ve got left is worth only 75% of your original money. You’ve lost 25% of your original investment just because the government taxed your inflationary gains. Seeing that inflation is a direct result of government policy, this is very unfair.

Well worth reading the rest of the article for the rest of the story – and some possible solutions – which you can do over on Christie’s site.

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Prezza, Shanghai, and the Manchester Coppers

In editorial, news, the labour party on May 28, 2010 at 19:27

John Prescott has been sighted at several of Shanghai’s best restaurants recently, as he continues on his speaking tour of the area.  The self-appointed man of the people stands to make (and/or gain) not a few pounds from the deal.

No doubt when he arrives back home to Hull, he will distribute it among the poor in – say – Manchester, where Greater Manchester Police have ruled that officers in the city will not be allowed any unofficial radios or televisions on which to watch the World Cup.

One GMP officer, speaking to the Telegraph, said “I guess that while it might save the force money it will also remove the temptation for officers to watch or listen to bits of games during quiter moments on shift.”

But, where are those quiet moments? We thought they only spent about 13% of their time out fighting crime because of the vast mountain of paperwork they face every day, not waiting around for baddies.

Gripping stuff, don’t you think?

Well, that’s how we see it.

(h/t Tim Walker for Prezza tip-off)

Alastair Campbell whips Lad out, takes measurements

In editorial on May 28, 2010 at 09:23

BBC Question Time caused a row yesterday following the appearance of Alastair Campbell, the former Labour spin-doctor, on the program. (ed. We should note that while we abhor almost everything Labour stands for, Campbell is a bit of a genius at spin, and we – with not a little guilt – find him quite competent)

Campbell was there representing Labour, but the government refused to put forward a senior minister for the show – which focused on the Queen’s Speech debate – because he is not an elected member of Parliament.

The row erupted into a dick measuring contest, with Mr. Campbell calling the government’s communications director ‘totally incompetent’.

He went on to say that the government was staffed by ‘control freaks’, calling their refusal to appear on the program a ‘pathetic ploy’ by ‘a bunch of wimps’.

The actions, he said, subverted the government’s claims to be engaged in a ‘new politics of engagement’.

We suppose that Mr. Campbell can say that, but simply announcing it doesn’t make it true.

First, the government’s actions do not imply that they are trying to influence or ‘veto’ the BBC’s choice of panelists.  If the government actively lobbied the BBC to remove Mr. Campbell from the program, or threatened to cut funding, or sent nobody at all, the claim might stand.

The Tories did send a spokesperson, though.  It may not have been a cabinet minister, but the government was, in fact, present and therefore represented.  So Campbell’s claims are a bit bizarre, really.

Second, one might argue that it is the BBC – with the support of Mr. Campbell – that is doing the bullying.

Gavin Allen, QT executive editor, joined the opposition’s pile-on, accusing the government of ‘political interference’.

What the BBC needs to remember is that they are not the government watch-dog that they seem to believe they are.

There are countless more media outlets, very few of which have such strong ties to the public purse, that are doing the job – in many cases more competently – that the BBC appears to believe belongs to them alone.

In the end, this seems to us to amount to little more than a tantrum by a spoiled child denied his entitlement, and a desperate swing at the government by a defunct, irrelevant party.

Revisit: The right-to-die

In editorial on May 27, 2010 at 20:54

This article was originally published in the St. Angilbert Press, and is reproduced here in advance of our “right-to-make-you-live-if-you-can’t-make-the-decision-we-think-is-right-yourself” piece.

Please note, it was written for a Canadian audience.

So-called “right-to-die” campaigners are celebrating here in the United Kingdom, following new guidelines released by the Crown Prosecution Service.  The guidelines were published following a lengthy public debate surrounding the legal fate of individuals who help others take their own lives.

Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, told the Daily Telegraph that the new “policy is now more focused on the motivation of the suspect rather than the characteristics of the victim”, but that it “does not change the law on assisted suicide. It does not open the door for euthanasia.”

What Mr. Starmer doesn’t tell you is that the new guidelines do, de facto, change the law.

In the United Kingdom, for more serious crimes – and this qualifies as a more serious crime – it is the Crown Prosecution Service that decides who will and who will not be prosecuted.

As an example, something you will see quite frequently in news items from the CPS are phrases such as “high probability of conviction” or “a prosecution is not in the public interest.”  This has been used in past cases of assisted suicide to justify not prosecuting relatives of those who – for example – decide to end their lives at institutions such as the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland.

All these guidelines serve to do is further cement into place a set of practices  that have – for all intents and purposes – been there for some time.

At the end of the day, one must assume that Mr. Starmer’s guidelines are simply the political predecessor to legalizing assisted suicide outright, here in the United Kingdom.

Starmer began laying the groundwork for this new policy back in 2008, when he invoked the “not in the public interest” argument in the case of the parents and a family friend of Daniel James.

The Guardian reported:

The Crown Prosecution Service yesterday effectively ruled out the prosecution of relatives who assist the terminally ill to commit suicide after announcing it would take no action against the family of rugby player Daniel James, despite having sufficient evidence to do so.

In his first decision as director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC stated he would not prosecute the parents and a family friend of the 23-year-old, who was paralysed in a training ground accident, for assisting his death.

“I have concluded that a prosecution is not needed in the public interest,” Starmer wrote, taking the unprecedented step of publishing the reasons for his decision.

The case was described by prosecutors yesterday as a landmark and is the first to rule out prosecution on the grounds of public interest alone. Starmer’s decision, which clarifies the CPS stance on assisted suicide, ends speculation in the case of James and sends a clear message that future cases with similar circumstances are unlikely to result in prosecutions.

Right-to-die critics are correct to point out that should such legislation ever pass through Parliament (or Congress), it can quickly turn into “duty-to-die” for the afflicted.

Barbara Wagner had recurrent lung cancer and Randy Stroup had prostate cancer. Both were on Medicaid, the state’s health insurance plan for the poor that, like some NHS services, is rationed. The state denied both treatment, but told them it would pay for their assisted suicide. “It dropped my chin to the floor,” Stroup told the media. “[How could they] not pay for medication that would help my life, and yet offer to pay to end my life?” (Wagner eventually received free medication from the drug manufacturer. She has since died. The denial of chemotherapy to Stroup was reversed on appeal after his story hit the media.)

While I’m not a fan of the slippery slope argument, it would certainly seem that Mr. Starmer started down it in 2008, and he continues to distinguish himself in that manner, today.

It is, in effect, a Bennite Solution.  One wonders just how long it will be until Parliament capitulates and Mr. Starmer’s guidelines (read “policy”) become law.  And how long, after Parliament capitulates, until it is offered as a service by the NHS?  My dear sweet Lord, can you imagine the NHS being in charge of killing people?  Oh, wait, they already are.

As the sanctity of human life continues to be undermined by organisations such as Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion/pro-choice lobbyists on both sides of the Atlantic, the argument for assisted suicide becomes easier and easier (in the political arena, anyway).

Might be worth checking out what these folks have to say on the matter:

The Sanctity of Life mentality regards individual human life as holy, sacred, and of immeasurable value, regardless of the physical and/or mental quality of the person.  You can place a price on things, but not on human persons who are created by God and who are called by God, each one, to union with Him in the unimaginable joy of eternal life in heaven.

But, at least thanks to blokes like Starmer we can once again say – with a high probability of being correct – that sometimes to only purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others.

Is Twitter good for democracy?

In editorial, news on May 24, 2010 at 08:10

An interesting stab at the subject, this morning in the Independent by John Rentoul.

The tombstone for the article reads “Political commentators must possess a sense of history, an ear for gossip and the courage to hold our rulers to account. I also couldn’t do it without Twitter, writes John Rentoul.”

Perhaps a bit hyperbolic, considering there was excellent, substantive political discourse and commentary prior to Twitter, the Internet – hell, even before the computer. Call me a heretic if you wish, but it’s true.

What makes Twitter unique, found Korean scientists (South Korean, presumably), is the wild-fire manner in which it spreads information.

Researchers at the Department of Computer Science at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have studied Twitter and decided that it is a news medium more than a social network, but the joy of it is that it is both. I use it to keep in touch with other political journalists, politicians and other people who are interested in politics. The joy of it is its connectedness. The Korean researchers found that the average degree of separation between any two Twitterers is four. That is, information needs to pass through four hops to get from anyone with a computer or mobile phone anywhere in the world to me, from follower to follower, to someone whom I follow.

We’re not so sure, though, that is does actually qualify as a news service, per se.  For one thing there is no burden of verification, no accountability – apart from perhaps being ostracised by your peers.

Mind you, it does provide a great deal of information to the general public that allows them to make good decisions based on reasonably verifiable information.

That, of course, is one of the most important jobs of a free press; to give the public the information needed to take educated political decisions in order that they may live in a free and democratic society.

But then again, sometimes Twitter is more like a massive online Letter to the Editor. Except, it’s self-publishing, and self-propagating (to a certain extent).

That’s not news, though it is commentary. In many many cases it is very good and learned commentary, but commentary nonetheless.

Most of the time, however, Twitter is like a news service. It is different from social networks in that links are not necessarily mutual. People can choose to follow each other, but the Korean research found that four-fifths of links were one-way. This means that hub Twitterers with a lot of followers act as diffusers of news. When I started on this newspaper as a political reporter in 1995, the main source of UK “breaking news” was the Press Association wire – short bulletins of news, as it happened. Now Twitter fills that gap, as journalists and citizen-reporters let each other know when someone has left their microphone on, or has ruled out standing for the Labour leadership. When Adam Boulton started to lose his temper with Alastair Campbell on live television during the post-election negotiations, people tweeted to tell others to put Sky News on – to catch the best bits. William Hague announced that the talks with the Liberal Democrats were back on on Twitter. It is a way for politicians to speak to – or beyond – the conventional media. But it also offers journalists other ways of reporting.

Ding! Yes, it does offer a pretty unique tool to journalists.  A good and important one at that.  It’s free.  Freely available.  Used at the popular level. Subject to the editorial opinion of the reading public, but free of the corporate editorial line – to some extent.

It may just be one of the most important – and simple – defenders of freedom and democracy since the blog.

Huh? Wha?

In David Cameron, Nick Clegg, the conservatives, the lib-dems on May 19, 2010 at 21:41

We’re watching SkyNews. They seem to think George Osborne is Chancellor, now.  Was there an election?

Oh, yes!  There was!

We went into hibernation, focusing our considerable attention on Twitter for the duration – mainly because nobody reads this blog, and because we’re not so self-important to think anybody would want to, anyway.

But, it does seem that a breath of fresh air has swept through Whitehall. The Cameron-Clegg coalition actually does appear to show promise – and not just promise that is carefully engineered to appear hopeful.  We think it actually is hopeful, and reasonably so.

It does seem to go beyond spin.  We asked Paul Waugh of the Evening Standard whether he thought the CamClegg relationship reflected chemistry or tension. Waugh replied almost immediately – chemistry.

As we await the emergency budget – on June 22 – and watch as CamClegg continue to fulfill the hopes and dreams of a nation battered by intrusive, incompetent and arbitrary government, we do so with a sense of expectation, and hope.

“Britain is once again open for business” were the closing remarks from the Chancellor, this evening.  It implies, of course, that Britain was closed for business.  Indeed, it was.

Following the massive fiscal cockups of the Labour regime for the past 13 years, and the consequences that will be felt from those for years to come, let’s hope George can pull off a hat-trick.

If any government could do it, based on the momentum they appear to be continuing to build, this one can.  Boo to Nanny.  Go team.

p.s. We know the blog header needs to be changed, now.

George Osborne: One day left to change our country

In the conservatives on May 5, 2010 at 18:19

via email:

Tomorrow we have the chance to change Britain for the better. But this election is very close and we need all the support you can give in the time that’s left to make that happen.

We have just 24 hours to choose a new government led by David Cameron and save Britain from five more years of Gordon Brown. Only by voting Conservative tomorrow will you get a new government that starts cleaning up the mess on Friday. A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for five more years of Gordon Brown.

William Hague sent you this video yesterday about the last thirteen years under this Labour government. If you can think of any friends who need to be reminded about their record of failure, please click here to send this on to them.

WATCH: 13 years of Labour

David’s energy, leadership and values have really shone through in this campaign. As I write, he has been on the campaign trail for almost 36 hours non-stop, right through the night. Nobody has campaigned harder than him.

During this political marathon he has travelled across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and done an overnight bus tour to talk to groups of night shift workers. His final rally speech will be in Bristol at 6.30pm, so don’t forget to watch it on TV.

This tour shows that this campaign is all about winning door by door, street by street, constituency by constituency – and we need you to get out there and fight for every last vote.

But if you’re not able to get out onto the streets or do some telephone canvassing, you can still do you bit online to make a difference. As well as forwarding this email on, please tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter why you are voting Conservative, and please donate online to pay for last minute leaflets and online adverts.

The election moment we have been waiting for these last thirteen years is upon us. Together, if we work hard, we really can bring the change Britain needs.

Thank you,

George Osborne's signature

George Osborne
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer