Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Is this nutpicking? I think no

From time to time, I like to print a selection of the latest from Melanie Phillips. She is still a columnist for the UK's most popular newspaper, a regular panelist on "The Moral Maze" and referred to as "my friend" by people like Oliver Kamm, you know - she's not a marginalised loon at all.

Here's her views on racism in America; apparently racism is "historic" and the problem today is the "monstrously unjust reaction" to racism.

Here she is also, berating Alan Dershowitz for being insufficiently supportive of Israel. Sample (but it is very well worth reading the whole thing)

"Finally, let us not forget how long it took before Alan acknowledged that the Jimmy Carter he had assiduously supported was the same Carter accusing Israel of ‘apartheid’"

Funny old world, isn't it?
14 comments this item posted by the management 7/28/2009 08:03:00 AM

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tharrr she blows! Think! Think Ahoy!

OH MY GOD!!! It's here! "Understanding and Addressing the Nazi Card", a report prepared by the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism! Only ten months late, and at a cost of slightly more than £500 per page! And on a different subject from the one commissioned! Offering policy suggestions which nearly all pitch for more money for EISCA! "The research mostly involved a critical analysis of secondary sources"!

It really is a shockingly thin piece of work. It isn't clear whether this is the job done, or whether more reports will come out of the "research project" for which the twenty grand was stumped up. I very much hope the latter as this is borderline unacceptable.

Still, signs of life in the Potemkin Village of thinktanks. Let's hope that this is the stirring of a new beginning which will lead to a flood of new work from EISCA on this important issue. With luck, perhaps we will even see the now 112 days overdue Companies House return being filed!


11 comments this item posted by the management 7/24/2009 09:05:00 AM

Friday, July 10, 2009

A minor example of what I'm talking about

MacShane gets his name in the papers again, on the basis of being Chairman of EISCA. Perhaps he would care to take some time out from his busy day to file the fucking Companies House Annual Return for the company (limited by guarantee) he is Chairman of, it is more than 28 days late which is a criminal offence. There have still been no new entries on the EISCA website since April, and the promised Report has still not been published.

In the wider scheme of things, of course, it doesn't really matter who the Times phones up for a quote about Bernie Ecclestone. But the fact is, they would not have phoned MacShane if he wasn't Chairman of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism. He does use his position in this thinktank to enhance the credibility of his views, and it is a non-productive sinecure. I really think this is too bad, and am considering starting a project to name and shame other Potemkin thinktanks if I can find any; reader contributions gladly accepted. Alternatively, I think a couple of letters to the Jewish Leadership Council (who IIRC fund the EISCA, and who managed to get their Companies House return in just fine) might be in order, to point out to them that their investment does not appear to be producing.
14 comments this item posted by the management 7/10/2009 03:17:00 AM

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Seals Of Dimblebore

Here's an evening's slightly masochistic amusement for people who are no longer of an age and constitution to play the Withnail and I drinking game. Sit down and watch "Question Time" on the BBC, and try to applaud every time the audience does, for an equal length of time and with equal intensity. I guarantee that you will end the show with a pair of hands looking like two lumps of Sainsbury's "Value Pack" rump steak. Why does that audience applaud so much, often at quite transparently idiotic points? The Max Atkinson politicians' trick bag can only explain part of it. I think that as a nation, we're just getting more clappy.

I tell you what though, playing that game introduced me to an entirely new experience - that of being glad that Harriet Harman was speaking.
3 comments this item posted by the management 7/03/2009 01:48:00 PM

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Real exchange rates

This story (via) reminds me of one of the first ever posts on D-Squared Digest, on the subject of the astonishing cheapness of British public officials and MPs, relative to the price of buying one in the USA.

As you can see, the going rate is $25,000 to have dinner at the publisher's house with 20 people, including "business leaders" (who might also have paid to be there), "opinion formers" (I think this means journos), "Congress members" (but presumably not important committee members or they'd have said, "advocacy leaders" (NGO types) and "other select minds" (presumably family members of the person hosting the thing).

Right, $25,000 is roughly fifteen grand sterling; can we do this? I've got a dining table with extension bits - twenty people would be a bit of a squeeze but doable. I bet I could get the catering done for under a thou, surely? So, what's the cost of eighteen great and goods (I'm assuming that clients will realise that when I say 20 guests, me and the missus are a gimme).

Hacks are surely still available for a free dinner and a crate of light ale - Ozdiller stores is doing slabs of Tyskie for £15, but I suspect that I would be pushing it too far if I got more than three or four of them to my "Salon". So say £100 for four journalists - three @ £15, plus £55 for a decent mixed half-case from Majestic to bring in someone at more of the senior editorial columnist level. I might push the boat out substantially more for a Max Hastings or Simon Jenkins figure, but if I did, it would substitute for some of the higher-ticket attendees further down the bill.

"Advocacy leaders" sound like they'd come a bit more expensive as you have to have someone who's more recognisably in charge of something in order to make it clear that your person from Oxfam isn't the manager of a charity shop. But on the other hand, they're quite poorly paid and I think I could gather a brace for no more than £150 a head, so £300 cash outlay.

Now it starts getting a bit more expensive. "Staffers" means Special Advisors in the British context - most of these people are either slumming academics or hacks with ideas above their station, but lots of them have developed expensive tastes I think that we're talking case of decent champers money. And you probably need at least four of them to make the event look like it's got the movers and shakers. I don't see myself filling out the SpAd ranks for less than three grand.

and then we need MPs and "business leaders", and the "business leaders" are going to have to look at least reasonably respectable. On the other hand, of course, the sponsors paying for the thing will consider themselves to be "business leaders" and there's an obvious opportunity to double-dip here. So I get maybe two business leaders at zero cost, and shell out perhaps a grand's worth of bribery to get a solid FTSE350 CEO along. Be conservative, say £1500 budget for three business leaders.

Now, elected representatives don't come super cheap, but they're not wildly expensive and I think I can get away with presenting a decidedly mixed bag in terms of quality. Say one PPS, one former minister has-been, one cheeky chappie backbencher with a media profile and one callow young no-mark. Average cost, what, £1500 a body? £4500 for four MPs strikes me as reasonable.

That leaves two spots to fill with "other select minds", who might be random friends and family available for zip, but just to be sure I'll assume this means after dinner speakers. Two from the cheaper end of this price list means a final £3k.

So that makes ... what ... £1000 catering, £100 hacks, £300 advocates, £3000 SpAds, £1500 businessmen, £4500 MPs, £3000 jokers - £13,400. So that's £1600 for my profit - to be honest, this seems rather crappy return, particularly as it has to cover the cost of getting my carpet cleaned once they've all effed off. I bet that the Washington Post is hoping to get at least a 20% gross margin on this one, clearing $50k for the series of ten.

On the basis of this calculation, I therefore conclude that British opinion-formers are too expensive relative to American ones, and that therefore the pound is overvalued.

Update: Ajay, in comments, suggests plausibly that the double-dipping is fundamental to this wheeze. Selling the first one covers the costs, but selling the same "Salon" (oh god, cringe) to a second "sponsor" is pure profit. That clearly changes the economics of the whole thing and makes the exchange rate call a little more complicated. So scratch that one.
18 comments this item posted by the management 7/02/2009 07:23:00 AM

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