Thursday, 27 November 2014
From the Daily Mail
A Champagne price war has been triggered with Tesco slashing the price of one award winning brand to just £8.
Britain’s biggest grocer and drinks retailer has reduced its Louis Delaunay champagne by some 70per cent from the official list figure of £25.99.
The champagne is now cheaper than many supposedly inferior sparkling wines such as Prosecco from Italy and Cava from Spain.
Champagne is a sparkling wine. It's produced with something called the "Traditional Method", and used to be called the méthode champenoise. So is most sparkling wine that you can buy like Australian fizz and Cava. Prosecco isn't, it uses another approach.
The key difference between Champagne and Cava, or Australian fizz is that only wines from a specific area of France can stick that on the label. It's not necessarily any better than those wines, and is often worse because that wine producer is having to pay higher rent to have the piece of land in the region so that he can print "Champagne" on the bottle than someone just over the border who is selling a sparkling wine who isn't. Sure, there's certain soil properties of the region (in general), but Wairau Valley in New Zealand also has many of the same conditions.
If you've got serious money, top-end Champagne really doesn't have any rivals. I've not tasted anything as good as Krug Grande Cuvee (and only once). But if you're looking more in the under-£30 market, I wouldn't normally go for Champagne. I'd go for Lindaeur Special Reserve (at about £12) or Cloudy Bay Pelorus (about £16), both from New Zealand. And I know people talk about British sparkling wine, but having tasted it, there's better value elsewhere.
In this case, £8 for a bottle of Champagne that won an IWSC award seems like it's worth a try. But Champagne isn't intrinsically better than other sparkling wines.
From the BBC:
The board of directors of Google has voted in favour of breaking up the European Union, as a solution to complaints that it favours its own services. Executives have no power to enforce a break-up, but the landmark vote sends a clear message to European regulators.
European Parliament politicians have voiced their dismay at the vote. The ultimate decision will rest with lobbyists for other large international corporations such as Apple and Fiat. They are currently being investigated for anti-competitive practices and sweetheart tax deals entered into with Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Ireland.
H/t MBK, a series of increasingly panic stricken Homey propaganda pieces:
Sunday Times, 23 November 2014: Early 50s is ‘too old’ to switch mortgage.
The Times, 25 November 2014: Strict mortgage rules shut out over-40s
Telegraph, 24 November 2014: In your 30s? Why you could be too old to get a mortgage
No doubt by next week they'll be writing that people in their late 20s are "shut out of the mortgage market" or some such nonsense.
Wednesday, 26 November 2014
From the Evening Standard:
A lecturer has been banned from a London university after likening being a Muslim to having a “disease” and dismissed the entire religion as "an inferiority complex".
Prof. Dave Smith, 34, also known as the self-styled Knowledge Man who helps people be academic “superheroes”, was today banned from appearing at the University of East London.
He has blamed “wannabe Arabs” for impulses which should be “suppressed”, such as claiming that homosexuality comes “under the category of obscene and shameless” and their irritating habit of blowing things up and killing and mutilating people.
The university also banned his lecture this week, advertised on Facebook by the faculty, over fears — denied by organisers — that religious segregation could be enforced, after “sane people” and “Arabs” were given separate contact points for tickets.
You have to remember that VAT is not a tax on "consumption" (whatever that means). It is a tax on gross profits-plus-wages, the clue is in the name "Value Added Tax". There is then also a tax on net profits, known as corporation tax (which is not a tax on "capital", whatever that means, it is a tax on income). So if this myth were true, then producers of more basic goods would pay a lower tax rate than producers of luxuries.
(VAT's fig-leaf is that taxes on "necessities" like food and rent are exempt. Is it a coincidence that both of those are land-based sources of income? Interest payments are not liable to VAT either. But that is just a fig-leaf.)
Remember also that "luxuries" are status goods, people will pay extra to have such-and-such a label on their car, clothing, musical instrument, whatever, so producers who have attained this reputation can charge larger mark-ups*. So let's put VAT and corporation tax together and do some numbers.
1. A luxury/status item costs £500 to make and retails for £1,000. The overall profit before any taxes is £500.
The VAT is £167, leaving £333 liable to 20% corporation tax = £67. Total tax = £233.
£233 out of the original £500 = 47% overall tax rate.
2. A more basic item costs £50 to make and retails for £75. The overall profit is £25.
The VAT is £12, leaving £13 liable to 20% corporation tax = £3. Total tax = £15.
£15 out of the overall profit of £25 = 60% overall tax rate.
* From Robert Benchley's "Jaws":
The young man was tall and slim. He wore sandals and a bathing suit and a short-sleeved shirt with an alligator emblem stitched to the left breast, which caused Brody to take an instant dislike to the man.
In his adolescence Brody had thought of those shirts as badges of wealth and position. All the summer people wore them. Brody badgered his mother until she bought him one - 'a two-dollar shirt with a six-dollar lizard on it', she said - and when he didn't find himself suddenly wooed by a gaggle of summer people, he was humiliated.
Here's a list of celebrities who are well past their sell by date:
Griff Rhys Jones
Here's a list of celebrities who are still at the top of their game:
Tuesday, 25 November 2014
From the New York Times
The letters of transit — “signed by General de Gaulle, cannot be rescinded, not even questioned” — were hidden under its unusual hinged lid. It is golden yellow with touches of green and gold, a surprise to people who know it only from its black-and-white adolescence. It has a wad of chewing gum in a place where a wad of chewing gum really should not be.
It is the stuff that dreams are made of.
It is one of the most famous pianos in the world, the piano Ingrid Bergman was close to when she delivered one of Hollywood’s unforgettable lines: “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’ ” It is the short little upright from Rick’s Café Américain in the movie “Casablanca.”
Signed by General de Gaulle? A Vichy France official would let someone through with papers signed by the leader of Free French Forces?
The line is "signed by General Weygand", who was a collaborator in the Vichy government, Took me about 1 minute on Google to find the clip of Peter Lorre saying it.
H/t Ben Jamin, a keen Mark Field watcher.
London MP Mark Field, two years ago:
... property investment does not just generate profits for property owners. In central London, half of the properties in the private sector are bought for rental investment rather than owner occupation. Known as the “private rented sector”, this not only stimulates significant tax revenues, it actively fuels economic growth. It has been estimated that, for every central London property bought for rental, a further 20 per cent of its value is spent on other services. This brings employment to lawyers, accountants, architects, builders, and so on...
The [Mansion Tax] will result in higher rents, making London less attractive to multinationals. Corporate headquarters have global choices – many can, and will, relocate. Corporate tenants, and privately-educated foreign students in central London, contribute a large amount to the £10bn spent on shopping, education, the night time economy and tourism in the heart of the capital. International investment also makes many developments viable. It can support cash flow, and underpin the provision of public amenities and affordable housing.
So he says, hooray for wealthy foreigners, they bring money into the country. And the Mansion Tax will frighten them away (it wouldn't of course, because a tax on land values does not increase rents, if anything it would bring them down a notch). And hooray for buy-to-let investors (it would appear).
London MP Mark Field, two months ago:
For a start, let’s debunk the idea that those living in pricey properties are rich. There are many people in London who happen to reside in homes whose value has inflated to a level that bears no relation to a household’s ability to stump up large cash sums. An annual charge on properties valued at over £2 million would be ruinously expensive for many of these so-called ‘super rich’.
It would also most likely drive greater numbers of traditional Londoners from their homes, vacating even more prime property for foreign buyers and heightening the sense of injustice that a mansion tax is designed in part to salve.
So he says, boo to wealthy foreigners, coming over here, taking our homes, paying our taxes etc. And boo to buy-to-leave investors (it would appear).
From the BBC:
Telecoms giant BT is in talks with Telefonica about buying the O2 mobile network from the Spanish firm...
The irony is...
In 2002, BT spun off O2, then called BT Cellnet. In 2005 it was acquired by Spain's Telefonica for £17.7bn.
Taking irony to the next level...
[O2's] value is around half that paid by Telefonica. Deutsche Bank values O2 UK at £9bn, while UBS values it at £9.6bn.
From the FT:
Germany has made a dramatic appeal to Sweden to help it out of an energy dilemma that threatens Europe’s biggest economy as it shifts away from nuclear power and fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Oops, caught with their trousers down after they overreacted to the Fukushima meltdown.
And what does the German government want 'Sweden' to do..?
Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s vice-chancellor, warned Sweden’s new prime minister Stefan Löfven last month that there would be “serious consequences” for electricity supplies and jobs if Sweden’s state-owned utility Vattenfall ditched plans to expand two coal mines in the northeast of Germany.
I'm not sure what level of irony we're on here. Waving the Greenie flag, the Germans want to go from nuclear to renewables... but first they're taking the retrograde step back to coal, and the coal which they want to use was theirs anyway before they sold it off to foreigners.
Squaring the circle, we get this...
Angela Merkel’s cabinet is due to meet next week to discuss mothballing some coal-fired power stations as a means of helping the country reach its carbon goals.
But Berlin’s lobbying of Stockholm underlines a view held by some in the German government that coal-fired generation is vital to the security of the country’s power supply.