Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Elusive Profits

The remarkable manoeuvres  by which Apple has avoided a great deal of tax are said to go back to 1991. If it has taken 25 years to deal with such an extreme case, it seems likely that more modest strategies of evasion go undetected altogether.

There is a case for basing tax on something less elusive than so called 'profit', the value of which depends greatly on the skill of accountants.

If a little more money were squeezed out of less easily manipulated taxes such as business rates, value added tax, tax on dividends, and employers' National Insurance Contributions we shouldn't need to worry about profits.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Exporting Works of Art

I notice that a temporary ban has been placed on the export of a coronet that used to belong to Queen Victoria.

I find it hard to understand such bans. It makes very little difference to  most of us where such objects are. Their existence is of moderate interest, illustrating the way people used to live, but photographs are all we need. Even if the object is put in a museum, few of us will get round to looking at it.

On the other hand, if the legal owner has found a willing buyer, it seems impertinent for others to interfere with the transaction. If some individual or group of individuals very much want to coronet to stay in Britain, they should offer the owner a higher price.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Innumerates Play with Percentages

I'm frequently irritated by muddles involving percentages, but today's Radio 4 news perpetrated an atrocity worse than anything I recall encountering before.

There was a report that 14% of adults claim to have suffered sexual abuse in childhood. 11% of women report such abuse, as do 3% of men, and 11+3 = 14.

I wonder what errors may have been involved in the derivations of the 11% and the 3%.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016


Last week I joined a party of U3A members who visited our local bell foundry see:  http://www.taylorbells.co.uk/.

I discovered that bells and their manufacture are both much more complicated than I'd previously imagined.

A bell has five notes and after being cast bells are tuned to get all five notes in the correct pitch. That is done by removing metal very carefully in selected places from the inside of the bell.

Tuning lowers the tone, so bells are cast to be sharp; if a bell is flat the only remedy is to melt the metal and recast.

Molten metal is heated to 1200 C and then poured into a mould made from a mixture of sand and horse manure. The mould is buried in sand to contain any leaks. Before casting the mould has to be dried in an oven, otherwise water in the mould will evaporate explosively when the hot metal is poured in. One such explosion, in another foundry, once killed fifteen people.  After casting the bell is left in the mould for several days to cool.

The metal used makes a great difference to the tone of the bell. Steel is particularly unsatisfactory and the alloy nearly always used is bronze - about 2/9 tin and the rest copper.

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Last Box

I've just finished unpacking the last of the boxes I packed more than two years ago in preparation for   moving house, so I'm feeling quite pleased with myself.