George Osborne: bonuses will make the credit crunch worse

The Chancellor’s tough words in opposition are all but forgotten as the government backs away from c

David Cameron has pulled back from curbs on bankers' bonuses or a tax on the banks, according to reports this morning (£).

The Centre for Economics and Business Research predicts that bankers will receive £7bn for 2010, down from £7.3bn for 2009 – a difference that will appear negligible to most of the public, and insulting as the rest of the population faces pay freezes, wage cuts and redundancies.

This backtracking from any serious confrontation over the banks is being portrayed as a blow to Vince Cable and Nick Clegg, both of whom have been vocal advocates of a clampdown on bonuses.

Yet it was not just the Liberal Democrats who were noisy critics of bonus culture while in opposition. Here is George Osborne, speaking in October 2009:

I am today calling on the Treasury and the FSA [Financial Services Authority] to combine forces and stop retail banks – in other words the banks that lend directly to businesses and families – paying out profits in significant cash bonuses. Full stop.

Strangely enough, now that he is in power, the Chancellor seems somewhat less concerned about taking this urgent action.

He and Cable are said to be working on a face-saving deal to be announced in the next month. It will focus on greater transparency, and on increasing lending to first-time buyers and small businesses. The strategic shift in emphasis away from clamping down on bonuses and towards more lending is misleading.

In fact, Osborne also had some thoughts on this, in the same 2009 speech:

It was a year ago that I first warned that the money taxpayers provided to support bank lending must not be diverted into bonuses. A year later, the banks are making billions in subsidised profits.

But instead of using these profits to lend more and get credit flowing again, the banks are threatening to pay out billions in cash bonuses instead. If this happens it will make the credit crunch worse.

We need to take emergency steps to support bank lending and move the economy forward this winter. The banks have to understand that we are all in this together.

Yes. Quite.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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White supremacists are embracing genetic testing - but they aren't always that keen on the results

Users of far-right site Stormfront are resorting to pseudo science and conspiracy theories when DNA tests show they aren't as "pure" as they hoped.

The field of genomics and genetics have undergone almost exponential growth in recent years. Ventures like the Human Genome Project have enabled t humanity to get a closer look at our building blocks. This has led to an explosion in genetic ancestry testingand as of 6 April 2017 23AndMe, one of the most popular commercial DNA testing websites, has genotyped roughly 2 million customers.

It is perhaps unsurprising that one of the markets for genetic testing can be found among white suprmacists desperate to prove their racial purity. But it turns out that many they may not be getting the results they want. 

Stormfront, the most prominent white nationalist website, has its own definition of those who are allowed to count themselves as white - “non-Jewish people of 100 per cent European ancestry.” But many supremacists who take genetic tests are finding out that rather than bearing "not a drop" of non-white blood, they are - like most of us a conglomerate of various kinds of DNA from all over the world including percentages from places such as sub Saharan Africa and Asia. Few are taking it well.

Dr. Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan, of UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics and the research institute Data and Society respectively, presented a research study (currently under peer review for publication) at the American Sociological Association a week ago, analysing discussion of GAT on Stormfront forums. Panofsky, Donovan and a team of researchers narrowed down the relevant threads to about 700, with 153 users who had chosen to publish their results online. While Panofsky emphasised that it is not possible to draw many quantitative inferences, the findings of their study offer a glimpse into the white nationalist movement's response to science that doesn't their self perception. 

“The bulk of the discussion was repair talk”, says Panofsky. “Though sometimes folks who posted a problematic result were told to leave Stormfront or “drink cyanide” or whatever else, 'don’t breed', most of the talk was discussion about how to interpret the results to make the bad news go away”.

Overwhelmingly, there were two main categories of reinterpretation. Many responses dismissed GAT as flimsy science – with statements such as a “person with true white nationalist consciousness can 'see race', even if their tests indicate 'impurity'".

Other commentators employed pseudo-scientific arguments. “They often resemble the critiques that professional geneticists, biological anthropologists and social scientists, make of GAT, but through a white nationalist lens", says Panofsky. 

For instance, some commentators would look at percentages of non-European DNA and put it down to the rape of white women by non-white men in the past, or a result of conquests by Vikings of savage lands (what the rest of us might call colonialism). Panofsky likens this to the responses from “many science opponents like climate deniers or anti-vaxxers, who are actually very informed about the science, even if they interpret and critique it in idiosyncratic and motivated ways".

Some white nationalists even looked at the GAT results and suggested that discussion of 100 per cent racial purity and the "one drop" rule might even be outdated – that it might be better to look for specific genetic markets that are “reliably European”, even though geneticists might call them by a different name.

Of course, in another not totally surprising development, many of the Stormfront commentators also insisted that GAT is part of a Jewish conspiracy, “to confuse whites by sprinkling false diversity into test results".

Many of the experts in the field have admitted to queasiness about the test themselves; both how they come to their results and what they imply. There are several technical issues with GAT, such as its use of contemporary populations to make inferences about those who previously lived in different places around the world, and concerns that the diversity of reference samples used to make inferences is not fully representative of the real world. 

There are other specific complications when it comes to the supramacist enthusiasm for GAT. Some already make a tortous argument that white people are the “true people of color" by dint of greater variation in hair and eye color. By breaking up DNA into percentages (e.g. 30 per cent Danish, 20 per cent German), Panofsky says GAT can provide a further opportunity to “appropriate and colonise the discourse of diversity and multiculturalism for their own purposes". There's is also, says Panofsky, the simple issue that “we can’t rely on genetic information to turn white nationalists away from their views."

“While I think it would be nice if the lesson people would take from GAT is that white nationalism is incoherent and wrong. I think white nationalists themselves often take the exact opposite conclusion."