Interesting Links for 31-03-2015

Mar. 31st, 2015 12:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

We’ve just had the revisions for the latest set of GDP figures for the UK and they show that the UK GDP is rising strongly, at 0.5% (note that UK figures are reported as a quarterly number, while US figures are an annual rate from that quarter) per capita. But also that those per capita figures are still below pre-crisis levels. Thus the actual lifestyle enjoyed by us all is still a shade below what it was nearly a decade ago. In one sense this is highly unusual: it’s perhaps the first period of modern times, absent a bloody war, that this has been true. However, on another basis it’s really rather normal. For the recovery from a finance led recession is more difficult and takes longer than recovery from a normal recession.

Here’s the nuts and bolts of the GDP figures:

The Conservative party received a boost from an upward revision in the UK’s GDP estimate for 2014 today. But another release from the Office for National Statistics suggests British households are not necessarily getting richer.

The ONS’s latest report on “economic wellbeing” in Britain shows that in the fourth quarter of last year, GDP per head rose by 0.5 per cent compared to the previous three months but it is still a sizeable 1.2 per cent below pre-financial crisis levels.

What’s more, net national disposable income per head – the income available to UK residents – has remained broadly flat since the first quarter of 2012 and remains 5.1 per cent below pre-crisis levels, the ONS said.

To some extent you can take your pick of those different measures. Certainly, the political parties will all be emphasising different ones.

However, we’ve also just had this from the US Fed:

Figure 3 confirms several well-known results and provides some new ones. First, recessions associated with financial crises are deeper and last longer, no matter the era.

There’s a huge public policy importance to this. Which is that various people are already shouting about how the recent recession and slow recovery show that Keynes was right, that Keynes is irrelevant, that monetary policy can do it all, that instead we should spend, spend, spend and so on. And before we can decide between these alternative explanations we’ve really got to make one thing very clear. This recent recession was not like those of 1992, 1976, the one we all worried about at the end of the dotcom boom (and add in other dates for other economies). This recession came about because of a financial crisis. As the Fed is saying there this was always going to be a hard and arduous, long, process to get back to normal. Thus we cannot compare whatever policies were used this time with the success or failure of other policies in other recessions that did not come about from financial crises. We can only compare it to those recessions that did come about from financial crises.

And to be honest we’ve not really had all that many of them, not in modern times where we’ve got detailed information. 1929 comes to mind, certainly, but not many others. And that’s where the discussion of public policy all gets very complicated. Because the UK experience after 1929 tells is that expansionary austerity does indeed work and it works very well. We came off the gold standard and devalued, cut government spending and were back to normal in a couple of years. Entirely the opposite lesson the Keynesians would have us take from the current mess.

This doesn’t mean that therefore the Keynesians, or the austerians, are correct. The point is that recovery from financial crisis induced recessions is different. Thus we must make sure that we only look at recovery from financial crisis induced recessions when comparing policy effectiveness. And sadly, I see absolutely no sign anywhere of anyone making this crucial distinction: certainly not in politics currently.

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Posted by Tim Worstall

The standard economic answer to Greece’s debt problems is to give that debt burden a haircut already. There’s nothing unusual or odd about this and it would be, in the absence of the existence of the euro, the standard IMF advice. If people simply cannot repay a debt then there’s no point in trying to make them repay it. Accept the obvious, have that haircut and move on. So, Tsipras isn’t being economically stupid, he’s not even economically wrong, to be calling for a reduction in that Greek debt burden. He’s, in fact, being entirely economically sensible. However, it’s also true that he’s not going to get a cut in that headline number of the debt burden. The reason being the manner in which it is currently being financed.

Here’s is Tsipras calling for that reduction just yesterday in the Greek parliament:

Addressing his parliament on Monday evening, Alexis Tsipras said he would seek an “honest compromise” with Greece’s international paymasters, but warned he would not submit “unconditionally” to demands for further austerity on his stricken economy.

Mr Tsipras, who spoke after a frustrating day of progress between his government and officials from the Brussels Group, insisted he would stop “the Greek people’s bleeding” as he ruled out measures such as hiking VAT.

The Leftist premier also repeated his claims for Second World War reparations from Germany, and insisted on debt relief from Greece’s lenders.

Greek pleas for a bond-swap or outright haircut on its debt mountain have subsided following a February 20 agreement to extend its bail-out by four months.

But Mr Tsipras said he would now pursue a claim for debt forgiveness in order to maintain the sustainability of the country’s finances.

As before around here that claim for German reparations is more than a bit silly but that claim for debt forgiveness isn’t. It really would, in normal times, be the standard solution to this problem. But it’s just not going to happen. As is made clear in a detail further down in the same article. Look at the last of the charts there (I’m not going to steal it from that newspaper) and you’ll see that the largest holder of the debt is the EFSF. Much of the rest of it can be finessed. The T-bills and bonds can be haircut, the ECB could be persuaded simply to print money to cover its possible losses (this would cause heart attacks among the ordomonetarists but it could be done), the IMF has skin in the game but that amount is highly manageable. Which leaves the two remaining holders of the debt, the bilateral loans and the EFSF funds.

Writing off some of those bilateral loans could be done economically: but probably not politically. Because that really would be an admission by the other eurozone countries that real taxpayers’ money was being given to Greece. Something very difficult politically. However, the EFSF monies might not be reducible on economic as well as political grounds.

This depends on the details of how that European Financial Stability Fund is set up. And the real trick here is that there isn’t really a “fund”. What has actually been done is to create a contingent liability for the other eurozone governments. What was really said was “Well, losses from this thing are really extremely unlikely so it doesn’t matter if we agree to pay losses that do happen”. And this contingent liability doesn’t appear anywhere on the books of those other eurozone governments. It’s not calculated into their debt to GDP ratio for example. And that’s, well, that’s probably right by standard accounting. Because the EFSF loans are to be held to maturity and you don’t have to mark to market loans you’re going to hold to maturity. So, we can just say that the loans or bonds inside the EFSF are at face value, or perhaps the value they were purchased at.

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Posted by Newsmoggie

Liberal DemocatsIt’s fair to say that one of the last people we expected to turn up at a Liberal Democrat press conference was Joey Essex from TOWIE.

He was there this morning, though, as he’s doing some briefings for young people.

He managed to grab a selfie with Nick Clegg:

The Mirror has details of the conversation between them when Joey revealed that he thought we were called the Liberal Democats:

I’m A Celeb star Joey even admitted he thought the Lib Dems’ name was cool because it had “cats” in the title – leaving the party leader feline confused until he corrected Joey that it was “Democrats” rather than “Democats”.

he DPM said: “There used to be a Liberal Party and then the Social Democrats and they got together.”

Essex replied: “I was wondering that. I thought it was quite a weird word in it – it’s got cats in it. What’s the cats about?”

Mr Clegg, laughing, said: “It’s not ‘cats’, it’s ‘crats’.”

The reality TV star will also question Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage and the Prime Minister David Cameron for an ITV2 special which will air in the run-up to the May 7 election.

Joey is hoping filming the series will make him more knowledgeable about politics and help him decide how to vote for.

In an interview with the BBC News Channel, Joey said he thought that Nick Clegg was “nice” and “honest” which has to be a good thing.

We love the way that the party website has now changed the party name. Let’s just hope they haven’t done that with the Electoral Commision or lots of Designated Nominating Officers will be scratching their heads…

* Newsmoggie – bringing you comment on the Lib Dems whether it's deserved or not

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Posted by NewsHound

Former Guardian editor Peter Preston has been reminiscing about the Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles by-election 50 years ago which was won by a young David Steel. He’s been to the opening of a new exhibition celebrating the by-election and muses on the difference between politics then and now.

First, he sets the scene:

Fifty years ago, as a neophyte Guardian reporter, I covered the Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles byelection that catapulted David Steel into parliament. Now I’m back in Selkirk to open an exhibition celebrating his victory: a kind of still living artefact in a mini-museum full of faded speeches, posters and promises. Ah yes, I remember it well. The eerily youthful “boy David” who went on to lead the Liberals through that pact; wildly enthusiastic meetings, 300 or more strong, greeting big hitters – George Brown, Lord Hailsham, Jo Grimond – up from the smoke; an enthusiasm and a turnout (81.5%) with referendum intensity.But the past is not an island – even in a chilly mansion-cum-embryo-arts-centre perched by a loch. For the clan gathering to congratulate the old boy (aka Lord Steel of Aikwood) is large and intriguing. Here’s George Reid, the early SNP warrior who succeeded Steel as presiding officer in the Edinburgh parliament. Here’s Tam Dalyell of the Binns, Labour’s superlative stoker of backbench trouble through four decades. Here (well, at least expected soon) is Ronald King Murray, 92, who lost his Labour deposit but went on to win laurels as lord advocate. Here are canvassers who tramped the streets of Galashiels, folk with a memory leaning on a stick.

What was the campaign like then?

Were things kinder and gentler half a century ago? Not exactly: Brown and Hailsham, for two, could dish it out. Jeremy Thorpe was already a sly, smiling rogue. But on the doorsteps and in the village halls there was a connection beyond curled lips. Byelections mattered to editors. (I wrote 14 dispatches from the Borders.) A whole pack of hacks followed events day by day. No one set much store by opinion polls. If you wanted – whether as a reporter or a candidate – to find out what was happening, you needed to talk to people, to greet and meet. As for spads, the only minder in sight (for the Tories) went on to become controller of Radio 4 and then Radio 3.

He reckons that the closer you are to the community, the better the atmosphere of the campaign:

The politicians, too, are part of that community. Dalyell (ex-Eton and Oxbridge, as it happens) was the Labour candidate here in 1959, but refused to return to campaign against Steel, whom he admired. George Reid, preparing for an SNP triumph today, should really be the enemy but seems more like an amiable chum.

Steel MP’s first bitter defeat in parliament was failing to stop Beeching’s closure of the Waverley line from Edinburgh to Galashiels and on. This autumn – thanks to a £300m Lab-Lib Dem decision in Holyrood honoured by the SNP when it took over – Waverley rides again. It’s a victory that Steel talks of fondly: he’s booked on the first train from Edinburgh. No bile, no confected hate. The closer you get to the people you live among, the less hate matters.

You can read the whole article here.


* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary published in print or online.


Mar. 31st, 2015 06:36 am
supergee: (coy3)
[personal profile] supergee
Charles Pierce has to explain that Elizabeth Warren is not Ted Cruz or even Bizarro Ted Cruz.
supergee: (actual)
[personal profile] supergee
I can see a whole lot of them, and any I've missed are encouraged to wave.

Highs and lows of the minimum wage

Mar. 31st, 2015 08:21 am
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Posted by Tim Harford

Undercover Economist

‘The lesson of all this is that the economy is complicated and textbook economic logic alone will get us only so far’

In 1970, Labour’s employment secretary Barbara Castle shepherded the Equal Pay Act through parliament, with the promise that women would be paid as much as men when doing equivalent jobs. The political spark for the Act came from a famous strike by women at Ford’s Dagenham plant, and the moral case is self-evident.

The economics, however, looked worrisome. The Financial Times wrote a series of editorials praising “the principle” of equality but nervous about the practicalities. In September 1969, for example, an FT editorial observed that “if the principle of equal pay were enforced too rigorously, employers might often prefer to employ men”; and the day after the Act came into force on December 29 1975, the paper noted a new era “which many women may come to regret”.

The economic logic for these concerns is straightforward. Whether because of prejudice or some real difference in productivity, employers were willing to pay more for men than for women. That inevitably meant that if a new law artificially raised women’s salaries, women would struggle to find work at those higher salaries.

The law certainly did raise women’s salaries. Looking at the simple headline measure of hourly wages, women’s pay has gradually risen over the decades as a percentage of men’s, although it remains lower. Typically, this process of catch-up has been gradual but, between 1970 and 1975, the years when the Equal Pay Act was being introduced, the gap narrowed sharply.

Did this legal push to women’s pay cause joblessness, as some feared? No. Women have steadily made up a larger and larger proportion of working people in the UK, and the Equal Pay Act seems to have no impact on that trend whatsoever. If any effect can be discerned, it is that the proportion of women in the workforce increased slightly faster as the Act was being introduced; perhaps they were attracted by the higher salaries?

The lesson of all this is that the economy is complicated and textbook economic logic alone will get us only so far. The economist Alan Manning recently gave a public lecture at the London School of Economics, where he drew parallels between the Equal Pay Act and the minimum wage, pointing out that in both cases theoretical concerns were later dispelled by events.

The UK minimum wage took effect 16 years ago this week, on April 1 1999. As with the Equal Pay Act, economically literate commentators feared trouble, and for much the same reason: the minimum wage would destroy jobs and harm those it was intended to help. We would face the tragic situation of employers who would only wish to hire at a low wage, workers who would rather have poorly paid work than no work at all, and the government outlawing the whole affair.

And yet, the minimum wage does not seem to have destroyed many jobs — or at least, not in a way that can be discerned by slicing up the aggregate data. (One exception: there is some evidence that in care homes, where large numbers of people are paid the minimum wage, employment has been dented.)

The general trend seems a puzzling suspension of the law of supply and demand. One explanation of the puzzle is that higher wages may attract more committed workers, with higher morale, better attendance and lower turnover. On this view, the minimum wage pushed employers into doing something they might have been wise to do anyway. To the extent that it imposed net costs on employers, they were small enough to make little difference to their appetite for hiring.

An alternative response is that the data are noisy and don’t tell us much, so we should stick to basic economic reasoning. But do we give the data a fair hearing?

A fascinating survey reported in the most recent World Development Report showed World Bank staff some numbers and asked for an interpretation. In some cases, the staff were told that the data referred to the effectiveness of a skin cream; in other cases, they were told that the data were about whether minimum wages reduced poverty.

The same numbers should lead to the same conclusions but the World Bank staff had much more trouble drawing the statistically correct inference when they had been told the data were about minimum wages. It can be hard to set aside our preconceptions.

The principle of the minimum wage, like the principle of equal pay for women, is no longer widely questioned. But the appropriate level of the minimum wage needs to be the subject of continued research. In the UK, the minimum wage is set with advice from the Low Pay Commission, and it has risen faster than both prices and average wages. A recently announced rise, due in October, is well above the rate of inflation. There must be a level that would be counterproductively high; the question is what that level is.

And we should remember that ideological biases affect both sides of the political divide. In response to Alan Manning’s lecture, Nicola Smith of the Trades Union Congress looked forward to more ambition from the Low Pay Commission in raising the minimum wage “in advance of the evidence”, or using “the evidence more creatively”. I think British politics already has more than enough creativity with the evidence.

Written for and first published at

California Dreaming: Laurel & Hardy

Mar. 31st, 2015 08:02 am
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Posted by Andrew Hickey

Jan Berry was back from Dead Man’s Curve.

At least, he was part of the way back.

Jan was, if not an actual psychopath (a diagnosis it would be improper to give without knowing him personally, but which is not implausible), certainly an incredibly impulsive, thrill-seeking personality. His car crashes had caused problems for Jan and Dean in the past — they were about to make their feature film debut when Jan was in a serious accident and had to cancel filming — but one was significantly worse than any of the others.

On April 12, 1966, Jan had his final appeal with the draft board. The man who had written The Universal Coward, attacking anti-war protestors, was himself a chickenhawk who was desperate to get out of military service, and his attendance at medical school had so far kept him out, but this like time it looked like he was going to Vietnam.

To this day, no-one knows what the result of his draft board attendance was, because straight after it, he got in his car, sped off — and was in a crash so bad that he was in a coma for two months.

Was it exhilaration from discovering he didn’t have to go? A suicide attempt from discovering he did have to go? Anger and frustration? Just wanting to be on time for his next meeting? No-one can know. But it seems at least plausible that Berry was attempting to get hurt — not badly enough to do himself serious damage, but badly enough that he could have the draft deferred.

If that was the case, his plan backfired spectacularly. When Berry awoke from the coma, he had almost completely lost the power of speech, which had to be regained over a period of months, he was almost paralysed on his right side and had to go through intense physiotherapy, and his brain was sufficiently damaged that the young man who was widely regarded by those who knew him as a genius (it’s been widely claimed that he had an IQ of 180, and while IQ is a very unreliable measure of intelligence, that would put him in the top 0.00003% of scorers if true) now had very severe learning disabilities.

While doctors were using words like “vegetable” about him, Jan still hoped to get better, and that hope was shared by those around him. Dean Torrence, in particular, decided to keep the “Jan and Dean” name alive until Jan was capable of working again. Singles were released of material that the duo had previously recorded, and the promotional material was deliberately vague about how well Jan was doing. Eventually Dean went into the studio himself, and recorded a new “Jan and Dean” album, Save For A Rainy Day.

Dean thought that Jan would be pleased that Dean was keeping their career going, but he was anything but. As far as Jan was concerned, he was Jan and Dean. Dean hadn’t even sung on many of their big hits, while Jan had written, produced, and sung on them. Jan would show Dean who Jan and Dean really were.

After a year of physiotherapy and constant support from his friends, including Davy Jones of the Monkees, who had befriended Jan when he first moved to LA and had become a star while Jan was still recovering, Jan felt that he was ready to go back into the studio. But the problem was, he couldn’t sing — he was still slurring his words, and losing words all the time. He couldn’t write songs — he could get vague musical ideas, still, but he didn’t have the concentration to pull them into coherent shapes. And he couldn’t arrange or play any instruments — he had no control yet over his right hand.

But Jan did have an iron will, an ability to manipulate people, and huge amounts of energy, and he could put those to use. He called in Roger Christian, and gave him ideas — sometimes a few bars of melody, sometimes just a title — and Christian finished the songs for him and gave him co-writing credit, as did Jan’s songwriter ex-girlfriend Jill Gibson. George Tipton and others wrote arrangements, and Jan hired in session singers, including Glen Campbell, Jill Gibson, Tom Bahler, and Davy Jones.

A typical track from the era was Laurel & Hardy. Jan Berry had always been a fan of the films of Stan & Ollie, and Jan and Dean’s between-songs comedy routines had been inspired by them, and he and his collaborators took them as inspiration for a piece of “psychedelic” music, which to Jan apparently meant just that the track had a sitar on it (played by Mike Deasy, a frequent collaborator with Curt Boettcher), while otherwise being highly-orchestrated soft pop.

Two versions of the song were recorded, with slightly different lyrics, one with Davy Jones on lead vocal which didn’t see release until the 2000s, and another with Tom Bahler on lead that was released as a single under Jan & Dean’s new Warner Brothers contract (presumably Davy Jones’ voice was too distinctive for use on a single, given that he was signed to another label — Bahler on the other hand does a fairly decent imitation of Jan’s vocal style.

Starting off with a sitar version of the famous Laurel & Hardy theme, the song goes on to talk about how what “Mr. Laurel and Mr Hardy” meant to Berry was “roller coasters on a rainbow reaching far across the sky” (and in the released version, but not the version with Jones singing, that Laurel and Hardy were sat in said roller coaster with the Maharishi behind them — Jan Berry once again trying to leap on every bandwagon going, regardless of logic).

From these sessions, two singles eventually emerged — I Know My Mind/Laurel & Hardy, and Girl You’re Blowing My Mind/In The Still Of The Night (the latter of which featured Jones in a spoken section in the middle eight), but neither was successful. An album was recorded, to be titled Carnival of Sound, but it remained unreleased until 2010.

When it was finally released, it was greeted by some as a lost masterpiece of psychedelic pop, but in truth it’s a mixed bag at best in terms of musical quality. But as testament to someone who was struggling to keep making music despite having lost everything that had made him capable of doing it, using sheer force of will to overcome his incapacity, it’s quite astonishing. On the released CD, one of the bonus tracks is Jan Berry’s guide vocal for Laurel and Hardy. We hear him not even attempting the words, just “la-la”ing through the melody — and the “la la”s are flat, slurred, and off-key. Yet he got the single out, and the album was recorded, if not released.

Carnival of Sound was the last gasp of Jan Berry as a recording artist, but despite the fact that he wasn’t vocally present, it may be his greatest achievement.

Laurel and Hardy
Jan Berry & Roger Christian

Line-up: Davy Jones (vocals), Jimmy Bond, Joe Osborn, Lyle Ritz, and Ray Pohlman (bass) Don Lodice, John Cave, Ronnie Ossa, Roy Caton, and Virgil Evans (horns), Emmet Sargeant, Igor Horoshevsky, Jan Kelley, Jesse Ehrlich, Joseph Ditullio, and Joseph Saxon (cello), Al Casey, Bill Pitman, David Cohen, Don Peake, Tommy Tedesco, and Glen Campbell (guitar), Michael Deasy (guitar and sitar), Don Randi, Glen D. Hardin, and Larry Knechtel (keyboards), Harry Hyams, Joseph Difiore, Leonard Selic, Philip Goldberg, and Samuel Boghossian (viola), Arnold Belnick, Darrel Terwilliger, Israel Baker, James Getzoff, Leonard Malarsky, Ralph Schaeffer, Sid Sharp, Tibor Zelig, and Bill Kurasch (violin), Tom Bahler (vocals on released version). NB this is the list of players on the Carnival of Sound album, not all of whom may be on this particular track.

Original release: The version without Davy Jones on was released as I Know My Mind/Laurel & Hardy, Jan & Dean, Warners 7219. The version with Davy Jones on lead was only ever released on the now-deleted The Birds, The Bees, & The Monkees 3CD box set from Rhino Handmade.

Currently available on: The Davy version is not currently available. The version with Bahler on lead is on Carnival of Sound, Rhino CD

Tagged: california dreaming, davy jones, jan and dean

No tax on the minimum wage

Mar. 31st, 2015 08:15 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

One of Ukip’s basic promises for this campaign. One of only five in fact.

Yes, we all know where my sympathies lie anyway. And some of us know the source of this policy as well. But it’s also a good enough policy to get my vote all on its lonesome.

A Murphmonster classic

Mar. 31st, 2015 07:49 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

HMRC announces that the number of tax investigations it is doing rises. Ritchie complains that it’s not enough:

And apparently knowing that suggests that there are just 60 people a year worth investigating. Even if we only assume they are looking at higher rate tax payers that is still only about a 0.002% chance of being investigated.


From his own source article:

A Finance Team set up by HM Revenue and Customs to target wealthy fund managers and investment bankers……The Finance Team is part of HRMC’s High Net Worth Unit, which targets high earners in private equity, investment banks, hedge funds and other funds.

This isn’t the team looking at high income earners. Nor the team looking at higher rate payers. It’s not even the team looking at rich people. It’s the team looking at one distinct subset of the finance industry who also happen to be rich people.

The total population being looked at here is some thousands, possibly extending to a couple of tens of thousands (there’s a few hundred thousand working in wholesale finance, this is some subset of that and then only the top earners/wealth owners in that subset).

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Caron Lindsay

Everyone makes mistakes. That’s a fact of life. However, when you do, you need to properly acknowledge it and make amends.

One of the key Liberal Democrat priorities for this election is that we would fund the £8 billion that the NHS in England needs. In fact, we’re spending more than that on health because  there are Barnett consequentials giving about another billion to Scotland and Wales. It’s not difficult to understand.

Last Thursday, campaign organisation 38 Degrees put up a graphic on its Facebook page which compared party’s pledges against what the NHS needed. The figure cited for the Liberal Democrats was just £2 billion, a mere quarter of what we intend to spend.  This has now been shared by over 1400 people and has been seen by many, many more.

Many people have pointed out the glaring error in their graphic. To each comment, the organisation has made an individual reply:

38 Degrees apology over NHS


The many people who shared that graphic will have to go looking for that apology. Have they amended the graph? Nope. Have they deleted the post? Nope. Is there anything on their website to say that they got it so wrong? Nope.

People are still sharing that powerful and wrong graphic. It’s time for 38 Degrees to state explicitly that only the Liberal Democrats have pledged to fully fund what the NHS says it needs by the end of the next Parliament.

As for the rest of their campaign, their poster claiming that politicians have “privatised huge parts of the NHS” is complete nonsense. The decision making is in publicly owned hands. A very small amount of private services are used. We’re talking around 6% here. That’s not “huge” by anyone’s standards. We also need to take into consideration that Labour wasted a fortune on deals with the private sector and the coalition has put a stop to that.

This is not the first time that the credibility of 38 Degrees  has been called into question. People should treat what they say with a very large pinch of salt and verify their claims from independent sources. This is all the more important when they don’t properly acknowledge when they get it wrong.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Caron Lindsay

Today was the first of the traditional morning election press conferences. Liberal Democrats hold ours in the National Liberal Club, just off Whitehall. It’s a lovely building with super views over the Thames. This morning Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb launched the party’s Manifesto for the Mind. This sets out how the party would invest £3.5 billion over the next Parliament to improve mental health service, reduce waiting times. Nick Clegg said:

Liberal Democrats believe that no matter who you are, where you come from and what your circumstances, you should not be denied the opportunity to fulfil your potential.

Yet, in Britain today, millions of people are denied the opportunity to get on and live happy, fulfilling lives because they live with mental health issues.

One in four of us will experience mental health problems at some point in our lives. And yet, for decades, mental health services have been neglected by successive governments, the poor relation of physical health problems.

That’s why in Government, the Liberal Democrats have slowly started to undo that damage.

In the coalition government’s final Budget we secured more than a billion pounds to revolutionise services for children and young people, alongside the first ever waiting times standards and a plan to roll out talking therapies across England.

But we cannot and must not rest there. Equality for people with mental health issues is a liberal mission.

As this document sets out, in Government again, we will continue to put mental health front and centre of the political debate.

That’s why I am so immensely proud that we are the first party to put equality for people with mental health problems on the front page of our full General Election manifesto.

Only the Liberal Democrats can keep Britain on track and provide both a stronger economy and a fairer society with strong public services.

Only the Liberal Democrats can and will make sure mental health is treated with the same urgency as physical health, with money to back that up, and challenge the stigma every day.

After that, Nick heads off to Watford for a health themed visit with candidate Dorothy Thornhill.

Then sunshine coloured battle bus heads off to Wales for the campaign launch there. He’ll be visiting a factory with Jenny Willott and Kirsty Williams.

That’ll be the Stronger Economy, Fairer Society, Opportunity for Everyone themes covered, then.

In Scotland, poor Alistair Carmichael has to visit a distillery in the Gordon constituency with Christine Jardine. I mean, it’s a tough job…. This is becoming a bit of a theme. One of the big set piece photocalls of the European election last year had him, Willie and George Lyon at another distillery.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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Posted by Mark Pack

Following on from the good news on party membership and canvassing, comes this on fundraising:

At midnight tonight (Tuesday) the party’s latest matched fundraising drive closes so it’s worth repeating: if you donate before midnight, a group of donors have agreed to double the value of your donation.

Donate and get your donation doubled here.

So far over £232,000 has been donated – and doubled. The doubling will apply on all donations up to £300,000, so there’s still time for even more to be raised.

But there’s only a few hours left to make full use of the generous doubling offer.

There’s so much in this

Mar. 31st, 2015 06:11 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

A Christian street preacher has accused a judge of trying to “censor” the Bible after he was convicted of a public order offence for quoting an Old Testament passage condemning homosexuality.

Mike Overd was fined £200 for quoting part of a passage from Leviticus 20 which condemns same-sex relationships as sinful and calls for gay men to be put to death.

But District Judge Shamim Ahmed Qureshi told Overd he could instead have chosen a separate passage in Leviticus 18 which merely describes homosexuality as an “abomination” but does not specify death as a punishment.

He acquitted the former paratrooper, who regularly preaches on the streets of Taunton, Somerset, of a separate charge for suggesting that the Prophet Mohammed was a “paedophile”.

At least
one person manages to get it right:

“Whilst we all want to encourage public civility, there is a higher principle at stake,” he said. “As long as there is no incitement to violence, then people should be allowed to speak freely without fearing legal repercussions.

Quite, that’s what free speech means.

It should indeed be legal for me to stand outside Next and declaim that those wearing clothes of mixed fibres should be put to death.

Global warming my arse

Mar. 31st, 2015 05:58 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

March 31 st and it’s minus 1 oC and we’re getting serious snow. Of the freezing my tootsies and blocking the roads kind serious.

Bugger London drowning I want my global warming, as I was promised I could have, and I want it now.

Belated entry: FOGcon, Saturday

Mar. 30th, 2015 11:00 pm
azurelunatic: "Fangirl": <user name="azurelunatic"> and a folding fan.  (fangirl)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
So the last actual update from me was pre-FOGcon; I'd run afoul of beer bash and decided that I was going to be miserable at home in my own bed. I woke up cheerful and perky and drove in. This time the valets were much better briefed on the event; I was asked if I was here for the thing. I was. Yay!

There was exactly one person at the convention this year who I was hoping to avoid. It was the person who used to play some role in gathering up issues for That Damn Helldesk Program and had some organizational role in the releases. I had met her in person exactly once: she was sitting at the other pole of the horseshoe table across from me, looking quiet, serious, pale, and vaguely miserable.

Naturally, she was working registration desk when I arrived. I wasn't sure which name they would have filed me under (for credit card purposes I gave them my wallet name as well) but it was under the correct name, albeit with my wallet name on the back. I declined the offer to reprint, and scribbled out my wallet name with some vigor. She didn't mention work and neither did I; I don't know whether she recognized me.

As I was looking at the description of the panel in the nearest room, and debating which panel I wanted to go for, someone called me by name. The correct name. It was [personal profile] emceeaich, who I hadn't seen since the rollout of ALL THE NEW THINGS. And where [personal profile] emceeaich is, [personal profile] cynthia1960 is often nearby, in this case being fitted with a very nice corset.

We decided that since it was noonish, lunch was probably an excellent life choice, and so we headed up to the lobby. The lobby combines restaurant, bar, and general lobby lounge area, with a dedicated restaurant section behind the large freestanding wall that composes the bar, and then lounge in front of it. However, restaurant service isn't limited to the restaurant area, which makes for a pleasant, but sometimes chaotic, experience.

Someone stopped by to chat with Emma and Cyn; something about her demeanor suggested she recognized me, but hers was a very common name; it turned out she was [personal profile] metaphortunate! Hooray!

After lunch I went to the downstairs lobby to figure out what panel(s) I wanted to see. There were plenty of people about. I chatted with a few of them. I pulled out my traveling laptop George to check my mail.

Before I made any sort of decision about panels, it was check-in time at the hotel, so I did that so I'd have a place to leave some of my gear. I relaxed in the quiet for a bit, then figured I'd wander panel-wards by way of the con suite, which was on my floor.

I walked in to a con suite full of awesome women talking about weightlifting. I was enthralled. These are the sorts of conversations that don't tend to happen when bros are bro-ing about being bro-ful and loud, and I could have enjoyed an entire convention just like this. And that was how I met [personal profile] kshandra, and I recognized [personal profile] forestofglory's name but couldn't place the exact acquaintance. (Someone whose badge name was Melissa was saying a lot of the awesome things, and Michele from the concom was there being awesome too.)

When I was packing for the convention, I had tossed a number of things into a large transparent plastic box, just the right size to fit in a large tote bag with some room left over. It is in fact large enough to hold George, some jellybeans, several menstrual pads, makeup, hair pins, glitter, a notepad, a package of highlighters, and some other random things. I had found a few packages of pop rocks under some boxes on my bookshelf while shuffling things around in preparation for moving (whenever that's going to happen). Long story short, [personal profile] norabombay was totally overreacting and I did not die from eating shelf pop rocks. And I tossed one in the box, because why not.

The discussion turned from weightlifting to obscure dietary restrictions, and someone mentioned that one of the weird ones was lactose in pop rocks. People were sort of baffled, because why do POP ROCKS need MILK. I remembered that I had tossed it in the box. I whipped out the package of pop rocks. Yep, lactose.

Cliff wandered through. It turned out that describing the helldesk software to someone who used to work on is an actively painful experience for that person. It is a solved problem, and Virtual Hammer has attempted to re-invent the weasel by glueing several gerbils together (which, I might add, would be doubly illegal in California).

Saw some people who are identified in my notes as Wendy and K. [personal profile] ethicalslut identifed my Dreamwidth d button, and we got a picture together.

The banquet was next, and ethicalslut was looking to pull together a table of interesting people. I was amenable to joining this table. I identified someone in line who I thought might be [personal profile] firecat, and I was correct. Also at the table were Aahz, and several other people.

The banquet was great fun. After that, there had been a lot of people, so I went up to my room for a bit.

I decided to go for some lobbycon time. I ran into forestofglory, and this time had managed to identify people we know in common ([personal profile] kaberett, among others). Shweta Narayan was passing through, and they and their husband sat down in the group, and I met the Designated Extravert of the group, the adorable, cheerful Mippo (a tiny stuffed animal which looks like the delightful intersection of Moomin and Hippopotamus). Emma and Cyn joined the group as well.

There was an unfortunate incident with Shweta and some too-hot water, and ice became necessary. It was lovely to meet them though!

I got a large amount of loonembellishment done.

Eventually I was dizzytired and went off to bed.


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Mat Bowles

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I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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