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How The US Will Impose Russian Sanctions On British Banks

The Americans are really rather pissed off at the Russians these days. To the extent that they’ve decided to impose sanctions on a number of Russian oligarchs and their companies. Hmm, OK, well, that harms the Americans rather more than anyone else, right? Because it is those USians who cannot work with Russia, while the rest of the world is entirely free to do so. Sadly though, that’s not quite how it works. The secret is here:

A senior American official has warned that British banks will face “consequences” if they flout new sanctions against some of Russia’s wealthiest businessmen and biggest companies.

In words that are likely to cause concern in the boardrooms of financial services groups, Sigal Mandelker, under-secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said that US authorities would be on the lookout for any breaches of their Russian sanctions.

The penalties for banks caught doing business with those sanctioned could include heavy fines, as well as the loss of their US banking licence.

The way this does work is that the US claims authority over any business taking place in US dollars. They’re, well, just about right in this. People who swap cash dollars with each other aren’t covered. But anything which works through the banking system in dollars is. They proved this when they fined BNP Paribas billions for trading with Sudan. BNP is a French bank, Sudan’s not part of America either. There were US sanctions on not trading with Sudan. A French bank should not be covered then, should it? But it was and when caught it paid up too.

For the US says, as above, that transactions in dollars fall under US laws. The link being that in order to settle a transaction it will go through New York. That’s just the way the international banking system works. Transactions in £ sterling go through London, in Yen through Tokyo, in $ through New York. So, even if a French bank, in France, lends to Sudan, if they do it in $ then that’s a transaction that goes through New York and is subject to US law. Including those sanctions – pay up buddy for breaking them.

The same is true of these sanctions against Russia and Russians. Anything done in $ is regarded as being under US law. So, no one can deal with these Russians in $.

But it gets worse than that. For, obviously enough, this doesn’t cover people who deal with the Russians in £, or € or Yen. So, everyone can still deal with the Russians, right? Except no, and this is where the US gets a little controversial. For just about every bank even with pretensions to doing international business does some business in dollars, thus some business in the US. Meaning that they’ve got a US banking licence and a business in the US to protect.

What the US says is, yup, sure, strictly speaking our sanctions only apply to business in $ and if you work in another currency then you’re fine. Except that’s not the way we work, if you work in those other currencies then we’re going to have a good hard look at whether you can continue to do business in the US. And guess what, we bet we could find a reason why you can’t.

And that’s how the US will impose their Russian sanctions on British and global banks. You’ve sure got a nice US business here, be a shame if anything happened to it, wouldn’t it? The tactics of the Mob being used by a government, such a pleasant sight.

Posted: 14th, April 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


Amazon is now the world’s largest investor in research and development

One of the more amusing things that we’re told about the tax dodging by the internet giants is that the government needs all that money in order to be able to invest. We’ve got low productivity rises, this means that wages will rise slowly into the future – and it’s true that if productivity rises are slow then so will wage rises be. Thus the Treasury should get a goodly slice of the moolah so that those wise people in the House of Commons can invest it.

This rather fails with Amazon:

Amazon passed Volkswagen AG in late 2016 to become the world’s biggest corporate R&D spender, and its hold on the No. 1 spot has only grown more secure since.

Amazon doesn’t pay a dividend, the only share repurchases it does are to buy the stock that is then awarded to employees as part of their pay. It also doesn’t make much of a profit. Sure, the number can be large, but as a percentage of anything it has always been tiny. The reason being that any money they do make on one line of business is then sent off to be invested in some other line.

They’re actually doing what people claim they want companies to be doing, sending their profits back into investment so as to create more growth and more jobs with higher wages in the future. So this claim that they should pay more taxes so that government can invest the money is more than a little odd.

Of course, the claim that companies should pay more tax so that government can invest is ridiculous anyway. The company can invest it itself, or it can give it all to shareholders. Who then make the decision to either spend it – raising demand and thus wages- or invest it – raising future growth and future wages. There’s nothing else that can be done with money, you either spend it or invest it, that’s all that’s possible.

The real complaint here is that the politicians can see a pot of money and they’re pissed off that they don’t get to spend it. But then we knew that, right?

Posted: 12th, April 2018 | In: Money, News, Technology | Comment


London House Prices Are Falling, Hurrah!

Or is is hurrah at all? For if London house prices are falling doesn’t that mean lots of people are going to get screwed by their mortgages? And thus we get to one of the great economic problems, there is no way to please everyone.

House prices in parts of London that were once at the epicentre of the UK property boom have fallen as much as 15% over the past year in fresh evidence of the impact of the EU referendum.

Figures from Your Move, one of the UK’s biggest estate agency chains, reveal that the average home in Wandsworth – which includes much of Clapham, Balham and Putney – fell by more than £100,000 in value over the last 12 months.

So, start from what we all would say is the largest housing problem we’ve got in Britain – no one can afford the damn houses. At least no one normal, on a normal income, can afford to buy a house. Therefore we’d really rather like the price of houses to fall.

So, we vote for Brexit, all those foreigners get cold feet about living here and house prices fall, Huzzah!

But we all know what happens next, don’t we? There will now be endless complaints about negative equity, about how people are being bankrupted because their houses are going down in value. Thus we’ll get all the more usual cries that government must do something to keep house prices up.

We could just say this proves you can’t please all the people all the time but that would be trite. We actually want to know what it is that government should be doing about all of this. The answer being nothing. They cannot win, there’s no right thing for them to be doing. Better by far if they simply retreat from the whole sector. Just leaving houses and their prices to the markets and when asked the government can just shrug and insist “Nowt to do with us, is it?”

No, really, what else can they do?

Posted: 19th, March 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


Unilever be gone: Marmite maker leaving Britain don’t matter a damn

The maker of Marmite, Unilever, has announced that it is to give up its UK headquarters and move to Holland. This doesn’t matter a damn. No, really, it’s a triviality of no import at all. It’s also nothing to do with Brexit, They even say this themselves:

Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch group, said on Thursday that Brexit played no part in its decision to choose Rotterdam over London for its single legal base.

It’s always useful to take peoples’ word for such things.

 

Asylum seekers and economic migrants swear by it

 

Unilever has always been a slightly odd company anyway. It’s long been near half Dutch anyway. And it reports its results, does its internal accounting, in euros as well, something a bit odd for a UK company. But then no large multinational is really from or in any one country anyway. There’s some slight importance, mainly due to where the senior execs get to live, to where head office is. Other than that it doesn’t really make any difference.

The factories are going to remain where the factories are. That doesn’t change when HQ moves. The company will still have its shares listed in London. Because you don’t have to be a UK company to do that. In fact, there are FTSE100 members who don’t do any business at all in the UK, they just use the stock market as the place they’re listed and that’s it.

The change won’t even make any difference to taxes collected. Now, as it wasn’t in the past, we don’t tax foreign profits made by companies with an HQ in the UK. We tax only on the profits they make from business in the UK. And we tax companies without a UK HQ on exactly the same basis. Foreign profits aren’t taxed by us, profits made in the UK are.

Unilever moving HQ to Rotterdam makes very little difference therefore. Sure, a few wine bars will miss the spending of the top execs but other than that, pretty much nothing. No factories will move, tax collected won’t change, it’s all a bit of nothing in proper economic terms.

Shrug, have fun over there folks is the correct response.

Posted: 16th, March 2018 | In: Money, News, The Consumer | Comment


Stormy Daniels will reveal all about her candlelit romance with Trump if he returns $130,000 hush money

You know how it goes: you shag the billionaire and take his hush money. Then the billionaire becomes president of the US of And you realise you undervalued your services. And so it is that adult film star Stormy Daniels says she not longer wants the $130,000 she claims Donald Trump paid her to remain tight lipped about their affair. She thinks it best that she return the cash and place her story on the public record.

 

Stormy Daniels

Hush ‘n’ tell

 

Daniels, nee Stephanie Clifford, has laid out her plan in a letter to Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen. She has set a deadline of Friday for the return of the cash. She will then be at liberty to “speak openly and freely about her prior relationship with the president and the attempts to silence her and use and publish and text messages, photos and videos relating to the president that she may have in her possession, all without fear of retribution or legal liability.”

“This has never been about the money,” Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told NBC New. It’s the principle, right? “It has always been about Ms. Clifford being allowed to tell the truth. The American people should be permitted to judge for themselves who is shooting straight with them and who is misleading them. Our offer seeks to allow this to happen.”

 

Generous it is, indeed. And should Trump fall into a a trap marked ‘TRAP’ with huge arrow pointing at it, we can all marvel at how a man who outlined his mating ritual as “Grab her by the pussy” really treats women he fancies.

You can read Daniels’ letter in full here.

 

Posted: 13th, March 2018 | In: Celebrities, Money, News, Politicians | Comment


25% of People in Wales Are in Poverty – Nonsense If We Count Properly

A new report out insisting that 25% of the Welsh are living in poverty. Our conclusion might therefore be that we’d not like to have Labour running the UK as they have been Wales these past few decades. But that would be partial, extreme and unfair. The truth being that we’re measuring what poverty is wrongly:

Growing numbers of Welsh families are at risk of being trapped in poverty, a major report warns today.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows Wales has a higher rate of poverty than England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

What poverty is depends upon how we measure poverty. For the world as a whole we use the World Bank’s measure, $1.90 a day. There is no one at all in the UK living at this standard, not one single person.

Within the UK we use something called “relative” poverty. This is less than 60% of median household income. If you live in a household which gets less than 60% of £25,000 or so a year then you’re in poverty. Sure, it’s not great riches but it sure ain’t the same as that global poverty. Also, note that this is after benefits, this is total income, not just that from work. But note one more thing – that’s the national median income.

And incomes vary over the country. More than that, the cost of living varies over the country. It’s not just housing either – a pint’s cheaper outside London, outside the SE, than it is within either of them. But we don’t account for that at all. And as anyone who has ever tried it knows, trying to live in London on £25,000 a year is very different from trying to live on that in Abergavenny is.

The reality is that many of those described as “poor” in Wales actually have a higher standard of living – well, except for being in Wales – than many of those in London on nominally higher incomes. Britain does have regional variations in wages but it also has large regional variations in costs. Once we account for those differences, both of those sets of differences, much of reported poverty simply disappears.

The biggest problem we’ve got with poverty in the UK is that we just don’t measure it the right way.

Posted: 9th, March 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


Provident Financial’s Nearly Bust, Not Overcharging On Those 5,000% Loans Then

One of the more difficult things to get people to do is make them understand the implications of their prejudices. One such is that all those Wonga-like companies offering high APR loans must be overcharging. APRs of 50%, 500%, 5,000 %, these must just be capitalist greed ripping off the poor, right?

The granddaddy of these firms probably being Provident Financial, starting out as a door to door operation well over a century ago rather than some internet upstart. But the logic and economics work the same way:

Provident Financial’s shareholders are hoping for better days ahead after the troubled doorstep lender unveiled a £331m cash call aimed at reviving the business after a torrid year.

But if the plutocrats are successfully ripping off the working man then why do they need to put more money in?

The update came alongside Provident’s much-anticipated annual results, which revealed a pre-tax profit drop of 67.3pc to £109.1m during a year that was the toughest in its 140-year history.

Well, yes, that’s a decent enough profit there. But on the capital that they’re employing it’s actually lower as a percentage than the average across British companies. They’re making less profit than normal industry, despite those sky high interest rates. Which does rather mean that those interest rates aren’t too high, doesn’t it?

The truth being that lending small amounts of money for short periods of time is a very expensive thing to do. Firstly, say you’re going to lend £100 to someone. Or £1,000? The decision making process will probably cost you about the same. So also the basic nuts and bolts of taking the application, sending the money out, setting up the repayment plan and so on. There are simply costs to doing this. Whatever, call this £10. Now note, that’s 1% of the larger sum, 10% of the smaller.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that not everyone repays all of their loan in full. whatever interest is charged has to cover that fact too. Finally, the way APR is calculated means that the arrangement fee, that £10, is counted as a fee that repeats and repeats through the year. If the loan is for a week then the APR calculation counts that fee 52 times to get to the annual rate.

A much simpler and more accurate method of working out whether these charges to borrow are too high is to look at the profits being made by those doing the lending. If those aren’t high – and that Provident Financial shareholders have to put more capital in shows they ain’t – then the lending rates aren’t too high either.

It just costs a lot to lend small amounts for short periods of time. Shrug.

Posted: 4th, March 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


Haven’t We All Got So Much Richer?

This little statistics rather surprised me. I should have known it but didn’t:

The average house price has soared by 7,578 per cent, from £2,100 in 1952 to £161,937 in 2012, according to Halifax. But in the 1950s, prices were much lower relative to earnings — around 3.5 times the average salary compared with 4.8 times over the past decade, so it was more affordable to get on to the property ladder.

OK, well I did know that. Houses have got more expensive relative to wages. It’s one of the ways in which you can say that we’ve not actually got richer over the generations: sure, wages have risen, but we’ve got to spend it all on a house.

It would have cost around £160 a year over a 20-year mortgage term to buy a typical home in 1952, but at that time around two thirds of properties had no hot water.

And that’s the important point. Sure, houses have got more expensive: they’re also less shit than they are. Central heating didn’t become even a luxury until the 1950s either, widespread adoption only coming in the 1960s. Which brings us to another complaint. We’re often told that a generation back one income could feed and house and raise an entire family. Now it takes two: so we’re no better off at all.

To which I would say bollocks. You can live a 1950s lifestyle on one income in the UK no problems. A house with maybe an inside lav, more likely than not no hot water, almost certainly no actual bath in a bathroom. And certainly no central heating: mebbe a coal fire in one or two rooms. Shitty food, no foreign holidays at all (this is still the era of a week’s camping at Scunthorpe). No meals out of course: it’s not just that no one could afford them, restaurants, other than those in expensive hotels, just didn’t exist (seriously, the expansion of Berni Inns in the 50s and 60s was the first experience of restaurants for many).

You can very easily live a 50s lifestyle on one single earner these days. The problem is that we all like being a great deal richer than that.

Posted: 28th, February 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


Kardashian balls: Kylie Jenner’s billion dollar tweet

All power, then, to Kylie Jenner, 20, half-sister to Kim Kardashian, who has issued the first billion dollar tweet: “Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore?”

Her message was liked more than 250,000 times. Around the same time, shares in Snap, which operates the social media app., dropped 6 per cent ($1.3bn).

Such is Jenner’s power that a role as share tipster must beckon. Kylie tips a few companies for greatness and  – waboom!- their short-term share price rises sharply. You can debate why anyone would follow the advice of a woman who called her first child Stormi Webster later. But they do. So there.

Of course, there’s more to it that just Jenner’s tweet. Citigroup analyst Mark May has seen a “significant jump” in negative reviews of the app’s redesign. Over one million names appeared on an online petition asking Snap to keep the old look.  Maybelline New York asked its followers if it should bother staying on the Snapchat platform.

But the story is out there – “Kylie Jenner’s pop at Snapchat wipes $1bn off value” (Times); “Reality TV star Kylie Jenner wiped $1.3bn off Snap’s stock market value after tweeting that she no longer used its Snapchat messaging app” (BBC);  and “SNAPCRASH -Kylie Jenner wipes £1BILLION off value of Snapchat just by saying she doesn’t use the app any more” (Sun).

When later on Jenner tweeted “Still love you tho snap”. The stock did not rally. Last night shares in Snap closed down $1.13 at $17.51.

Still, it’s good marketing for Jenner and Snapchat, which now appears to be relevant. It’s almost as if – as if! – it was all a spot of PR…

Posted: 23rd, February 2018 | In: Celebrities, Money, News | Comment


Save the Children accused of putting business before women

Justin Forsyth resigned his post as chief executive at Save The Children because he made, in his words, “unsuitable and thoughtless” comments to three younger women. The evidence is in a “barrage” of text messages the current deputy executive director at Unicef sent female staff in which he appraised their looks and clothes. Mr Forsyth was never subjected to a formal disciplinary hearing. Save the Children says it did examine Mr Forsyth in 2011 and 2015. And that was it. Back then whatever he did was deemed to be ok. Now it isn’t.

Forsyth is a forgettable looking chap with the looks of a minor public school’s cricket coach. “I made some personal mistakes during my time at Save the Children,” he states. “I recognise that on a few occasions I had unsuitable and thoughtless conversations with colleagues which I now know caused offence and hurt.”

Were they thoughtless? Or was he thinking, you know, with his manhood? It’s pretty hard to bang out a text without engaging any brain power. Unless it was instinctive and Forsyth was operating on the same level as a sponge reacting to the presence of water or a puppy on the vicar’s leg. Where does flirting slide over into sexual harassment? A YouGov survey tells us that over a quarter of 18 to 24 consider winking “always or usually” sexual harassment – the figure falls to 6% for over-55s. Two thirds of the same think the same of wolf-whistling – for over 55s it was 15%. Nottinghamshire police consider wolf-whistling a “hate crime”.

“When this was brought to my attention on two separate occasions,” Forsyth continues, “I apologised unreservedly to the three colleagues involved and my apologies were accepted and I thought the issue was closed many years ago.”

Well, it wasn’t closed. One woman tells the BBC: “The complaints of harassment were not treated with the appropriate degree of seriousness. It seems there was more interest in preventing the exposure of misconduct than in protecting its female employees from predatory behaviour.”

The PR is now in full cry. Following new that Brendan Cox was not best behaved when he worked at Save The Children, the charity tells everyone: “We apologise for any pain these matters have caused and sincerely hope that the complainants feel able to help us with the review in the coming weeks.”

We apologise for the reactions. But not for doing anything wrong. Indeed, we urge the alleged victims to trust us. Only we can get to the bottom of things. Adding: “This is so that we can better support our skilled and highly valued staff as they help change the lives of millions of children around the world every day.” Translation: we’re great. Sure some of your charitable donations will go on staff reviews, PR and guff. But keep giving!

Posted: 21st, February 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


Sod the Green Belt: give people the right to own their own homes

The country needs more and better housing. That much is certain. Demand outstrips supply. The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and more legislation rooted in it have stymied house building and skewed the market.

Around 10% of land has been built on. There’s space for housing. In expensive, congested, desirable, money-making, opportunity-rich London, more than a fifth of the land is classified as Green Belt.

And since the 1972-1973 building boom when around 300,000 new homes were constructed – the current supply is around 200,000 new homes; demand is 250,000; Chancellor Hammond says we need 300,000 – technology has improved.

What’s the problem, then? Why aren’t there enough homes?

Rowan Moore tells Guardian readers:

The problem that Britain has, partly as a result of cultural and governmental promotion of ownership, is that renting is, objectively speaking, second best. You can currently pay more in rent than an owner would in mortgage interest

Well, quite. It’s also true that the landlord doesn’t only pay a mortgage. Properties need to be maintained. Estate agencies are dedicated to overseeing property care, and ensuring a place is occupied. It’s not all profit.

But none of that explains why homes are not being built. It’s not about rented or owned; it’s about the total number of homes. We need more.

The question is why with such a pressing need for homes, so much land remains protected by legislation. If building homes is the priority, it’s time to free up the market and in so doing allow more of the less well off the opportunity to own their own homes and not be beholden to the State.

 

Posted: 18th, February 2018 | In: Money, News, Politicians | Comment


Lisa Armstrong prepared to part with her half her fortune to get shot of Ant McPartlin

When Ant McPartlin’s lawyers thrash out any divorce settlement with his estranged wife Lisa Armstrong, they may refer to the Sun’s reporting on the family fortune.

In today’s paper the news is that Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon have been “comforting” Lisa and offering “real support”. That news of their good hearts should emerge just as Britain’s Got Talent, the show on which the pair work as judges hits the PR circuit, is surely coincidental and not opportunistic tosh pulled from cynicism’s deepest mine.

 

AntLisadivorce

 

Of more interest is that Sun’s news that Ant is “prepared to part with half his £62m fortune”. You might suppose that money accrued by childhood sweethearts who’ve ben married for 11 years would belong to both of them. The message could be: “Lisa is prepared to part with half her fortune”?

And it’s not £62m. Well, not according to the, er, Sun it isn’t.

 

 

One thing is clear: in the tabloids the money is always his and not hers.

 

Posted: 16th, February 2018 | In: Celebrities, Money, News, Tabloids | Comment


John McDonnell will bankrupt the Tube and there’s no such thing as a free market

No sooner has John McDonnell outlined his ambition to renationalise energy, rail and water than news reaches us of a shortfall. The Guardian notes:

Transport for London (TfL) has insisted it is not facing a financial crisis despite planning for a near £1bn deficit next year after a surprise fall in passenger numbers.

Mr McDonnell told BBC Radio 4’s Today earlier:

“It would be cost free. You borrow to buy an asset and when that asset is producing profits like the water industry does, that will cover your borrowing cost.”

The assets make the profits. The profits pay the bills. What about if people alter their behaviour?

He went on:

“We aren’t going to take back control of these industries in order to put them into the hands of a remote bureaucracy, but to put them into the hands of all of you – so that they can never again be taken away.”

But bureaucrats will still run the entity, albeit ones appointed by the State, right? Who are they accountable to? How does anyone get redress for poor service? Is McDonnell seeking to serve taxpayers best or just tying to give meaning, direction and authority to the State?

“Public ownership is not just a political decision, it’s an economic necessity. We’ll move away from the failed privatisation model of the past, developing new democratic forms of ownership, joining other countries, regions and cities across the world in taking control of our essential services.”

So you take over the London Underground, and budget accordingly. And then there’s a £1bn deficit. Which means..? As Ronald Reagan put it in 1986: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

 

 

But business has never been independent of the State. What of PPI, regulation and subsidies, which rather dampen the idea that immense profits are being made? (In 2006-7, the Government spent £6.8 billion of public money in the the privatised rail industry – around half what it cost to run the entire thing.) What of Government calls for curbs on executive pay and vows to “fix the broken housing market”? So much for the free market.

Tony Blair told us “Stability can be a sexy thing”. Theresa May wants to be “strong and stable”. They seek to maintain the status quo. Doesn’t that add up to the established businesses and their links to Government rolling on and on and not entrepreneurship, the best of which is often triggered by volatility and daring?

McDonnell’s monocular and forgetful call for re-nationalisation has not come out of the blue. It’s just an addendum to current and recent Government policy and a crisis of purpose.

Posted: 15th, February 2018 | In: Broadsheets, Key Posts, Money, News, Politicians | Comment


Stuntwoman wigs out over men in drag taking her jobs

Does pulling on a wig and acting like a woman make you a woman? In Hollywood there’s a backlash against wigging. It’s when men pull on wigs, dress like women and perform stunts in place of the female star for TV and movies. the thinking is, perhaps, that the stunt men in wigs are more expendable than the actress.

But stuntwomen – well, one stuntwoman – say wigging is preventing her getting work. It’s a man doing a woman’s job.  Deven MacNair, a Los Angeles-based stunt artiste, is looking to sue Hollywood’s acting union and a production company because a man in drag did a stunt she could have done.

“The practice is so common, ” she says. “It’s historical sexism – this is how it’s been done since the beginning of time.”

 

glamour woman of the year

 

Fair enough. We can’t have men in wigs taking jobs women can do, even if it they do well enough to earn them plaudits.

 

 

And let’s make it law that 50% of all primary school teachers are men, too.

Posted: 12th, February 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


Studies in the mafia’s lemons

Big news on Mafia money. Queen’s University, Belfast declares on February 7 2008:

Researchers from Queen’s, in collaboration the University of Manchester and the University of Gothenburg, have uncovered new evidence to suggest that the Sicilian mafia arose to notoriety in response to the public demand for citrus fruits.

Who knew? Well , in 2012, this academic paper produced at the university of Gothenburg us:

In this paper, we study the emergence of an extractive institution that hampered economic development in Italy for more than a century: the Sicilian mafia. Since its first appearance in the late 1800s, the origins of the Sicilian mafia have remained a puzzle. In this paper, we develop the argument that mafia arose as a response to an exogenous shock in the demand for oranges and lemons, following Lindís discovery in the late 18th century that citrus fruits cured scurvy.

And this from 2009:

And improbable as it sounds, the birth of the Cosa Nostra, in part, was down to…the lemon…

The first evidence we have for the Mafia is in an account by one Dr Galati. Galati was certainly not the first to be persecuted by the Mafia, but he was the first person to leave a detailed account of his dealings with them. In 1872 Galati came to inherit a pristine four-hectare lemon grove only a ten-minute walk from Palermo. However, all was not well inside its walls. Its previous owner, the doctor’s brother-in-law, had died of a heart attack following a series of threatening letters. Some time before he died, he learned that the sender of these letters was a warden on his own grove, Benedetto Carollo, who had dictated them to someone who was literate. He said that he swaggered around the grove making wild threats against Galati and it was well known that he creamed at least twenty per cent off the sale price. He even stole coal for the steam engine. Eventually lemons started to go missing from the grove. Orders couldn’t be met and the grove got a bad reputation. Carollo was trying to ruin the grove so as to buy it himself. Galati sacked him and hired a replacement.

Some ‘good friends’ of Carollo’s came around and advised that Galati should take him back, but Galati refused.

At approximately 10pm on 2 July, 1874, Carollo’s replacement was shot several times. The hitmen had built a platform behind a stone wall so as to shoot him in a winding back lane. This method became a staple of early Mafia hits. The police were called and they tactfully ignored Galati’s convictions that it was Carollo, arresting instead two men who had no connection with the victim and then promptly releasing them. He received a series of threatening letters, seven in all, which said it was a disgrace for a ‘man of honour’, such as Carollo, to be fired.

Eventually he was forced to flee the country after a series of attempts on his life.

And there’s a book:

As Helena Attlee writes in her history of Italian citrus, The Land Where Lemons Grow, “the speculation, extortion, intimidation, and protection rackets that characterize Mafia activity were first practiced and perfected in the mid-19th century among the citrus gardens of [Palermo].” In fact, the association was so strong that some historians and political economists now think the group actually arose directly from the citrus trade: life gave them lemons, and they made organized crime.

And another book:

Ever since it was born in the fragrant lemon gardens of Palermo a century and a half ago, a sworn brotherhood has pursued power by cultivating the simple, terrible art of killing people with impunity.

That cutting-edge research, then, bit of a lemon…

Spotter: Tim Worstall

Posted: 8th, February 2018 | In: Money | Comment


Manchester United’s Sanchez accepts a 16-month suspended jail sentence for tax fraud

How’s Alexis Sanchez fitting in at Manchester United? Pretty good. The new Manchester United striker has accepted a 16-month suspended jail sentence for alleged tax fraud. This means he’ll avoid a trial. He will repay the full amount plus interest.

The BBC:

The ex-Barcelona player faced going to trial in Spain over unpaid taxes amounting to around 1m euro (£886,000). The unpaid taxes derive from image rights deals in 2012 and 2013. When Sanchez, 29, was first accused in 2016, his agent said the Chile forward had “fully obeyed” laws and his image rights income “has been declared”.

Sanchez now earns £14m a year after tax. United pay his tax bill so any future alleged miscalculations might be best avoided.

You wonder how playing a man with such a record impacts on Manchester United’s brand values. We looked up what those values are. On the always entertaining Red Cafe, a conversation headlined “What are Manchester United’s ‘values’?” tells us:

Personally for me it’s hard to look at the modern iteration of United without seeing commercialism written all over it. They must be the only club in the world with an “official noodle partner” for Christ’s sake.

This idea of United being “different” is a bit pretentious for me given they are probably the most commercial football club in the world and commercialism is seen by many as the biggest issue in football behind corruption.

Agree with the OP that the club is entirely about profit and it will remain that way I’m afraid.

We are different because of our history. From Munich to the Busby Babes, to the 70s and 80s of the club. Then the 26 years of SAF. We are a unique club. We have done things differently with our attacking football, our breading of youth, which has continued with the call up of Lingard into the squad. We do have ethical values. We won’t sack LVG if we feel he is doing a good job just because a shiny new manager (Ancelotti/ Pep in this case) has come along. We really tried with Moyes even though after just a few months we all knew he was out his depth. That season could have been saved but we stuck to our guns and kept faith in him.

Now we have coaching staff with Giggs and Butt in it. We have ambassadors such as Charlton, SAF, Robson, Cole. We have kept with traditions and have tried to maintain the culture throughout the club.

It’s what makes me proud to be United.

That was then. But it’s something to hold on to next time the ‘keeper bypasses the defence and smacks it long to the front players. For many people, football’s all about the money. Now pass the official prawn sandwiches round…

Posted: 7th, February 2018 | In: manchester united, Money, Sports | Comment


Wax your pay gap: Love Island mating pairs are not all equal

Love Island finalist Olivia Attwood claims the reality TV mating show does not secure all would-be breeding pairs the same level of income. She’s part of a story that female stars were “reportedly offered less than their male counterparts for the same work after leaving the show”. Yeah, different human beings earn different amounts of money on account of their popularity, skills and reaction to limelight. WTF! It’s the ‘gender pay gap’, dummy. And no, it’s not something you can wax.

The women and men who participated in the reality television show, in which single contestants are sent to an island and instructed to couple up and find love, were given a variety of employment opportunities with outside companies after the programme ended.

Two went to work as sub-title writers for ITVBe, one became the German chancellor and another scored a job testing NHS  orthopaedic treatments on a pro-celebrity ice dancing show.

Although ITV offers an equal prize for winning the show, regardless of gender, stars have allegedly found that other companies they have worked with offered women less money.

Work like…

The jobs on offer included nightclub appearances, paid sponsorships on social media, media appearances and partnerships with brands. Ms Attwood claimed that women were offered less money for these roles than the men who participated in the reality television show.

Might it be that the punters would pay more to see the boys than the girls?

Spotter: Telegraph

 

Posted: 7th, February 2018 | In: Celebrities, Money, TV & Radio | Comment


Dear daughters, an apology: grid girls and darts babes are worse than porn

grid girls sexism

 

This is an apology to my three daughter. I’m an idiot. I never realised women could only do certain jobs and should dress a certain way. I thought you could do it all, and maybe make up some new roles and fashions that offer fun, fulfilment, independence and a living. And you, the eldest, when the school rang to tell me what you’re life choices amounted to “Get lucky or be a Victoria’s Secret’s model”, I should not have said, “Well, luck’s great and – wow! – what a great life that must be.” I should have gasped and steered you toward something you don’t want to do, and a life which, crucially, more educated and caring people know you need.

Thankfully, these better more paternalistic people are helping you and me by setting new rules. You must not be a Formula One grid girl or accompany an overweight, white, male darts player to the oche. If you are attracted to traffic and multi-millionaires in very expensive cars, you can get a job as a Transport Minister or cleaner roads campaigner in Knightsbridge.

Radio presenter James O’Brien explains: “Unless there are lots of parents who would genuinely prefer their child to dream of wearing a skimpy outfit & being sprayed in the face with champagne for money rather than dreaming of being a racing driver, this ‘grid girl’ business seems rather straightforward.”

It’s not about choice for you; it’s about preference from them. They are here to steer us towards a more dignified and ‘appropriate’ you.

Lauren-Jade (@laurenjadepope) is one women who wasn’t privy to the Twitter School of liberal conservatism. She notes:

“Because of these feminists, they’ve have cost us our jobs! I have been a grid girl for 8 years and I have Never felt uncomfortable! I love my job, if I didn’t I wouldn’t do it! Noone forces us to do this! This is our choice!”

She doesn’t know her own mind, of course. You might wonder why dressing like an air stewardess or bank clerk by fast cars is outrageous but going naked in Vogue, a film role and for Peta, say, or dry humping a building site is empowering? I thought the answer was something to do with class, wage and articulation. Strong-minded upper and middle-class women take off their clothes and have on-the-clock sex to lampoon society, take a stand and become a broadsheet-loved, ITV-endorsed, best-selling author (see: Belle du Jour); working class women take off their clothes because they’re mentally negligible aids to masturbation, and know no better, having been conditioned to limit their lives and imaginations by a society that knows what’s best for them.

We’ve come a long way, I’m told. Now women should prioritise not what they think they want but what others know they really want.

Sorry, girls.

Posted: 4th, February 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News | Comment


What BBC gender pay gap? Gracie and Sopel are just different people

Is it about equal pay or equal recognition? And do BBC staff do comparable jobs? What price reputation, on-screen charisma, popularity and individuality? Or is it a simple fact that you need a knob to earn the top whack at the BBC?

Former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie was giving evidence to the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday. She was angry and upset to learn that the BBC’s male Middle East and North America editors earned “at least 50% more” than their two female counterparts – the women taking home around £100,000 a year less. She left her job and is to work back in the BBC newsroom. Gracie, 55, has been at the BBC for over 30 years.

“We’re not in the business of producing toothpaste or tyres at the BBC,” she said. “Our business is truth. We can’t operate without the truth. If we’re not prepared to look at ourselves honestly, how can we be trusted to look at anything else in reporting honestly?”

Adding: “I could leave the BBC tomorrow and get a better paid job. I don’t want to leave it in this state. It is in deep trouble and we need to sort it out and I need to be there alongside the other great BBC women, helping the BBC to sort it out.”

Always interested when well-paid people at the Beeb talk about how much more they can earn elsewhere. The question is always: where? Working at the BBC for big bucks is not a sacrifice.

She then added.

“I do not want any more money, that is not what it’s about. This will not resolve my problem. My problem will be resolved by an acknowledgment that my work was of equal value to the men I served alongside as an international editor. An apology would be nice….

“One of the things that’s made me sad is the tendency for this to turn into a comparison between me and the North America editor, and me and the Middle East editor.”

But don’t we have to compare the jobs to work out how underpaid she was? Do we consider the jobs of China editor and North America editor the same?

 

 

The BBC offers some guidance:

BBC head of news Fran Unsworth said that when Gracie was appointed as China editor, her salary was actually higher than that of the Middle East and North America editors.

“At the time that we set Carrie’s pay in that role, there was no issue around gender at all,” she said.

However, after Gracie’s appointment, Jon Sopel was hired to be the new North America editor. “Jon Sopel came with a different pay history,” she said.

“He had been a BBC One presenter, he had been a presenter on World News. He was a former political editor of the News Channel. He was a former Paris correspondent. And he had accumulated a much higher salary than Carrie was on at the time as a presenter of the News Channel. And we did not cut his pay in asking him to go to North America.”

The North America editor was on air “twice as much in peak time – and that is at a busy time in the China story”, she explained.

She added: “It’s a different job, the China job. It’s a more features-based agenda, it’s not on the relentless treadmill that something like the North America editor’s job is.”

Lord Hall [BBC boss Tony Hall] added it was “a mistake not to review Carrie Gracie’s pay when the new North America editor was put in place”.

The gender pay gap wasn’t news until the BBC was forced to publish a list of its best earners. It was only then that we saw that US editor, Jon Sopel, and the Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, were earning a lot more than Gracie and Katya Adler, the Europe editor. Sopel and Bowen are familiar faces on the magic box. Adler would be hard to identify in a crowd of two women, and until Gracie became news, relatively few viewers would have known her name and face. In panic mode, after Gracie complained and a lengthy review, the BBC offered her a lump of backpay and assured her that the oversight had nothing to do with gender pay discrimination.

“I didn’t want the money,” she said. “I wanted robust data for people’s different salary levels. I wanted acknowledgment that my work was as good as my male colleagues.” The BBC told after decades at the corporation her work was in “development”. That’s absurd.

But she was well paid. And the question as to whether she was working at the same level as the more recognisable Sopel and Bowen is pertinent. Comparrisons do need to be made.

Posted: 1st, February 2018 | In: Money, News, TV & Radio | Comment


Tax the brains: BBC should pay less to stop Amazon and Netflix

About those BBC salaries – and overlooking the bit about you needing a bellend to get top whack at dear old Auntie – the Telegraph tells readers:

The BBC is under pressure to cut the salaries of “untouchable” male stars including Chris Evans and Gary Lineker, ahead of a report into the on-screen gender pay gap.

Only male stars? What about female big earners? We won’t know what everyone’s on because the very well-paid bureaucrats running the BBC – spending your money – operate what former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie called a “secretive and illegal pay culture”.

Women at the corporation questioned why the the pair are maintained on such exorbitant salaries – £1.75m for Lineker and at least £2.2 million for Evans.

Evans is seen as a versatile crowd pleaser. Lineker fronts the BBC’s Premier League football highlights show, Match of the Day – the only show terrestrial TV show broadcasting Premier League highlights. It could be presented by a masturbating gibbon and fans would still tune in. Any number of good journalists could do it for much less.

The BBC claims that it cannot cut the pay of entertainment and sports personalities as it has done for news presenters, because there is too much competition from Netflix, Amazon and BT.

So why not make a commitment to producing stuff the BBC’s rivals can’t or won’t? Netflix, Amazon and BT don’t do broadcast news. Let’s have more of that, then. And would you follow Lineker to an Amazon PL show? The BBC shuold give new blood a chance – investing in experimental and daring telly. If you can’t compete with private outfits, use the vast sums raked in through tax to play a new game.

Spotter: Tele

Posted: 29th, January 2018 | In: Broadsheets, Money, News | Comment


Action on Sugar and the new Puritans know what’s best for the poor and chilled

You don’t need to share a big back of crisps of chocolates, you know, the small sacks of the stuff you can buy in cinema foyers. A friend of mine eschews the small packets and asks for the “fat bastard” popcorn bucket. He finds it just the right amount. But some people thinks he’s spending his money on too much nosh. They want a return to those halcyon says of less, when rationing was all the go. The Guardian says the country is gripped by an “obesity crisis” – which it isn’t –  and wants us to listen to the uncharitable charity Action on Sugar, which is demanding a 20% sugar tax on all sugar-enriched confectionery.

The poor will pay more for their sugary treats. The better off and thick won’t much notice. (Unless they add a new tax to wine, which is full of sugar.)

AoS also wants a ban on supermarket deals for “sharing” bags of treats like M&Ms, Maltesers, Cadbury Dairy Milk and Giant Buttons. The stuff’s being made too cheap. People are buying too much. There is too much freedom.

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar is outraged. “It is shocking that food companies are being allowed to exploit consumers by manipulating them into purchasing larger size bags of chocolate confectionery on the cheap,” he says. “Theresa May is letting companies get away with this despite pledging to help the socially deprived when she first became the prime minister. Companies must be held accountable and reminded to reconsider their ethical and corporate responsibility.”

It turns out you help the deprived by, er, depriving them of things they enjoy. And the easily manipulated should be manipulated not by Bertie Bassett but by anti-sugar campaigners. No money for a skiing holiday this year, but you’ve got a few quid for a big bag of Revels on the sofa in front of the telly. You get your pleasures where you can. But other people know what’s best for you. Step back from the Minstrels trough, fatso. Stop being chilled about your weight and diet. It’s panic stations time. (Call 0800TASTE4STRESS – Our therapists are waiting for your call.)

According to the data, the most sugary sharing bag is a pouch of Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate (198g), which contains 29 teaspoons of sugar in one bag – “four times the maximum daily limit for adults”. Maximum limit? It’s not a limit that if exceeded causes you to overdose. It’s a recommendation.

The Guardian doesn’t mention the reply from the Industry body the Food and Drink Federation. “There is no substantive evidence that they make any meaningful difference to obesity,” it says. “Instead of demonising individual nutrients, products or categories we should instead be promoting balanced diets.”

They all agree on one thing: the purpose of life is health and longevity. So wrap you and yours in cotton wool, avoid all risk and take your five a day. It might not be fun. But at least you’ll be miserable for longer…

NEXT UP: The Pension crisis and people living longer than ever!

Posted: 26th, January 2018 | In: Broadsheets, Key Posts, Money, News, The Consumer | Comment


Presidents Club Dinner: moral outrage trumps cancer victims

presidents club dinner

 

Lots of reaction to the President Club do, a charity fundraiser in London in which a soak of rich men (is that the correct group term?) convened in Park Lane for a night of extempore giving in the company of able-bodied, attractive female serving staff. The event’s been going for 33 years, but this year’s shindig at the flashy Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane has been damned. A journalist for the Financial Times says while working undercover she experienced lots of wandering hands and the needy blokes who equate being minted with sexual attraction treating young women as chattels.

Many upset voices have taken to the airwaves. #SexistDinner runs the hashtag on social media. Kate Maltby, the woman who survived Damien Green MP touching her knee, says it’s a game-changer. David Meller, who worked at the event, has quit the board of the Department for Education. The Prime Minister is “appalled”. Jess Philips MP says the women were “bought as bait”. Ubiquitous TV face and pal to the super-rich David Walliams says he had no idea he was at a slave auction when he entertained the bastards and is crawling over broken glass to get back in with the right sort of people.

 

 

The money raised is tainted. In the rush to damn, the actions of a few men at a “notorious” dinner  are hurting the most needy.

Great Ormond Street hospital – sending the money back, will not accept future donations
Received: £530,000 between 2009 and 2016.

Comment: “We are shocked to hear of the behaviour reported at the Presidents Club charitable trust fundraising dinner. We would never knowingly accept donations raised in this way. We have had no involvement in the organisation of this event, nor did we attend and we were never due to receive any money from it.”

Evelina children’s hospital (part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS trust) – sending the money back
Received: The Presidents Club pledged £650,000 to fund a six-bed high-dependency space within a new intensive care unit. Construction is under way. At the dinner, Richard Caring pledged £400,000 to put his name on the unit – Evelina confirmed that would not be going ahead.

Comment: “We are very alarmed by the allegations about the behaviour of some of those attending the Presidents Club fundraising dinner. This is not the kind of event we would wish to be associated with and we will therefore be declining funding from it and returning all previous donations from the Presidents Club.”

Clatterbridge cancer charity – sending the money back
Received: £15,000 towards the building of a new specialist cancer hospital in Liverpool.

Comment: “We can confirm that we received a donation of £15,000 from the Presidents Club charitable trust last year.

“Following reports of completely unacceptable behaviour at their event we will be returning that donation.”

Royal Academy of Music – sending the money back and will not accept future donations
Advertisement

Received: £10,000 scholarship for a child violinist with special needs.

Comment: “The allegations of sexual harassment are deeply disturbing. The Royal Academy of Music received a £10,000 donation from the Presidents Club in July 2017, which was awarded as a scholarship to a gifted violin student. We had nothing to do with the event last week, or previous Presidents Club fundraising events.

“In light of today’s allegations, we will be returning the £10,000 donation and will not be accepting any future donations from the Presidents Club. The student will not affected by this course of action. We would never knowingly associate with an organisation which condones the type of behaviour we have learned about today.”

Cancer Research UK – will not accept future donations
Received: £20,000 towards equipment for children.

Comment: “We are shocked by the allegations of inappropriate behaviour. Such behaviour is intolerable and completely incompatible with the values of Cancer Research UK.

“We have never had any involvement with the Presidents Club and no one from Cancer Research UK has ever attended the dinner.

“We did receive a one-off donation from the trust in the past, which has already been spent to fund research into childhood cancers.”

Can it be right that these charities think grandstanding is more important than helping the pained, in need and deprived? Do the women who worked at the event want this? Has anyone thought to ask them – or are they mentally negligible dolts whose views are worth less than their wages and contacts books?  Madison Marriage, the Financial Times reporter who worked at the event, says the 130 hostesses were asked to sign a five-page non-disclosure agreement about the event upon arrival at the hotel. But surely that doesn’t include a ban on reporting criminality?

And on what planet can it be right that moralisers and the offended trump the needs of cancer patients? Answer: this one, apparently. Let’s spot the real victims and not let a few sad men and moralisers hold sway.

Posted: 25th, January 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News | Comment


New Leeds United badge looks like an advert for Gaviscon

The news Leeds United badge – the one on which the club claims to have consulted 10,000 people (how many of whom are Leeds fans is not know but I’d guess none) – looks like…the design on a bottle of Gaviscon, the treatment for upset stomachs.

 

SLAL-leeds-gaviscon

Posted: 24th, January 2018 | In: Money, Sports, The Consumer | Comment


Data proves that owning a bulldog is for idiots

Thanks to David McCandless we know which dogs make the best pals. Considering six facts – intelligence, costs, longevity, grooming, ailments, and appetite – McCandless crunched the numbers and concluded that bulldogs are not worth the effort an expense.

 

best dogs to buy and own

 

best dogs to buy and own best dogs to buy and own best dogs to buy and own

 

Spotter:  Knowledge Is Beautiful

Posted: 23rd, January 2018 | In: Money, Strange But True, The Consumer | Comment


Manchester United: Mata is the antidote to Sanchez and Pogba’s greed

How much does Manchester United’s Paul Pogba earn? This is not to shame ‘Old Pogba’, as the BBC dubs him, to cast him as a footballing mercenary, a barb former Arsenal defender Martin Keown has aimed at Alexis Sanchez as the Chilean prepares to leave Arsenal for a £450,000-week deal at Manchester United.

The vast majority of us work for the money. Footballers should be no different. Although some of us want footballers to be role models for the slack-jawed masses, which is why the Guardian has made Juan Mata its footballer of the year. The Manchester United midfielder heads the Common Goal project, in which players and managers donate 1% of their salary to charity. Good for him and the recipients of his generosity, but relegating an athlete’s ability with the ball to somewhere below their morals is unhelpful to anyone who sees football as a fun leisure pursuit. Does journalism award prizes to commentators and editors on the strength of how many charities they give to? Do newspapers publish staff earnings in league tables and link wage packets to their owner’s net worth? The maximum fee for professional footballers was scrapped in the 1960s. The current obsession with footballer’s earnings and spending power looks a lot like snobbish disdain.

 

Young man from working-class background buys house!

 

And in the rush to sneer at footballers, facts are manipulated to suit the narrative. When Pogba signed for United on 2016, the Daily Mail stated his wage at £290,000-per week. Today the Mirror reports that Pogba earns £200,000-a-week. That’s quite some difference. And the Express says Pogba wants his wage”doubled” to match the “£500,000-a-week” Sanchez is set to earn.

Pogba’s basic salary is £165,000 a week, says the BBC. But his 41-page contract contains substantial incentives to earn more.

Will United give Pogba such a massive raise because his agent senses an opportunity? You wouldn’t bet against it. If the club are desperate enough to pay Sanchez a massive wage and in so doing risk destabilising the team – the reason Pep Guardiola gave for Manchester City pulling out of any deal for Sanchez – they’ll pay through the nose to keep their main marketing asset happy. Good for them. The rest of us should all agree on one thing: everyone should be on huge wages.

Posted: 22nd, January 2018 | In: Back pages, Key Posts, manchester united, Money, News, Sports, Tabloids | Comment