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Forum => News and Current Affairs. => Topic started by: Prabhakari on 06 Jun 2014 02:54AM

Title: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Prabhakari on 06 Jun 2014 02:54AM


Bizarre claim about benefit tourism.

edit I added a bit more to the title > Sunshine
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........
Post by: Ricardomeister on 06 Jun 2014 11:51AM
No surprises that a rather desperate Duncan Smith is trying to divert attention away from far more important issues that highlight his shocking incompetence. Yesterday the official PIP figures were released which show the very large backlogs that many thousands of people are facing, though Duncan Smith has been rather quiet on that.

Sadly the press seem more interested in what is a relatively trivial issue. Even Duncan Smith admits that there is no systematic evidence of benefit tourism, so I cannot get over-excited about this as there are far more important welfare/benefits issues that need addressing.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........
Post by: feehutch on 06 Jun 2014 11:55AM
Very appropriate snap of him they used.
I guess in they will just continue to divert the press from the huge scale of the muck ups they have made with little easy to write about soundbites.  It's pathetic but even though the media knows that is what they are doing (same with dumping bad news stories on days where all the attention will be elsewhere) no one ever challenges it :(
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........
Post by: Sunshine Meadows on 07 Jun 2014 12:02PM

Iain Duncan Smith says Big Issue magazine is 'helping UK benefit tourists'

Mr Duncan Smith said the magazine was being used "more and more" as a foothold for Romanians to access tax credits

Rob Williams
Thursday, 5 June 2014

Iain Duncan Smith has criticised the Big Issue magazine saying that it provides a way for immigrants from eastern Europe to claim benefits in Britain.

Mr Duncan Smith said the magazine was being used "more and more" as a foothold for Romanians and other Europeans to access tax credits.

The work and pensions secretary, who was answering a question from the floor at an event in Berlin, said that immigrants from Europe were "immediately" able to claim tax credits on arrival in Britain due to their self-employed status as magazine vendors.

The Times reported that Mr Duncan Smith, who was in Germany speaking about British welfare policy, also attacked EU interference in immigration matters saying it was  “unwarranted and unwanted”.

When asked by a member of the audience for examples of so-called "benefits tourism" he admitted he did not have anything other than anecdotal examples, but went on to attack the Big Issue magazine.

“You need to deal with the perception and there is a core element of truth that in that influx a number of people did find themselves drifting in and out of benefits,” Mr Duncan Smith said, The Times reported.

“A good example of that is the Big Issue, a magazine which is a brilliant idea by a brilliant individual who himself was homeless. It is wonderful,” he said.

"But actually what is happening progressively, more and more, is people mostly from southern and eastern Europe have actually ended up being Big Issue sellers and they claim, as self-employed, immediately, tax credits."

"So when we talk about benefits, they are not just out-of-work benefits, they are also in-work benefits that are being claimed."

"Romanians have been claiming those for some time now, regardless of when they came in. We had a reasonable influx of Romanians long before we opened the doors on January 1. "

"They came in on the self-employment level and that is an issue that needs to be dealt with. So [when] I talk about benefit tourism in a sense, we are talking about in-work benefit tourism,” he said.

The Big Issue responded angrily to Mr Duncan Smith's comments, and accused him of using the magazine as a scapegoat for the loophole in the law.

“If the government feels that the rules applying to in-work and out-of-work benefits need changing, then they need to look at that carefully. In the meantime, it is wrong to promote the idea that the Big Issue is doing anything nefarious or harmful in adding to a problem which is not of its making.”

A DWP spokesman said the department had already taken action to stop immigrants using the loophole.

“We recognise that this was a loophole that was abused and that’s why, this March, we introduced the minimum earnings threshold of £153 per week.”
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........
Post by: Sunshine Meadows on 07 Jun 2014 12:07PM
IDS is such a  >bleep< and in some ways the journalist is worse for writing the article they way he did.

A quick web search does bring up the fact the Big Issue does employ Romanians but there is more to it.


Nearly 21 years after launch and attaining 1,000 issues is reason for celebration, but not entirely. We still have to find better ways of working with people so they get off the street. We still need to address the problem of how we push up the value of our product so that the public dive on to the Big Issue vendor, thirsty for the next issue. And we still have to invent new means of ‘helping the homeless to help themselves’.

Twenty-one years ago there were no Romanians selling The Big Issue. Now we work with a sizable group of people from Eastern Europe. That has thrown up problems for us because some question our take on Romanians.

The Big Issue was started to help decriminalise people; so to feed and tend to themselves, and at times to feed their habits, they didn’t get involved in crime. This sticks in the throat of many.

We work with Romanians because if we don’t their children don’t go to school, and the chance of them getting into trouble increases. Poverty throws up crime and we have to address that, even if it upsets us to admit it.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: devine63 on 07 Jun 2014 02:59PM
I'm puzzled why their statement seems to use "Eastern Europeans" and "Romanians" are used interchangably

regards, Deb
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Dic Penderyn on 07 Jun 2014 06:04PM
Racism basically.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: NeuralgicNeurotic on 08 Jun 2014 11:18AM
When asked by a member of the audience for examples of so-called "benefits tourism" he admitted he did not have anything other than anecdotal examples, but went on to attack the Big Issue magazine.

Yep, because who needs facts when you've got anecdotes.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: stalwart on 08 Jun 2014 03:19PM
This sounds strange coming from a tory welfare minister, yes I know that should be expected of him, but looking at the aims of the Big Issue it states

"We operate an open door policy and work with individuals who have made the first step to try and work themselves out of homelessness."

Isn't this the stated aim of the tories, to encourage people to work themselves out of poverty? 

Someone should remind him that while we remain in Europe we cannot stop any European from working here.

Perhaps the gov should stop the practice of allowing job seekers to say that they are self employed and then claim tax credits...............oh, no that would show the true figures for the unemployed wouldn't it!

That wouldn't suit the pm in waiting, sorry the chancellor, as it would mess up his claim that the country has good growth and more people employed.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Dic Penderyn on 08 Jun 2014 03:40PM
I's strange that not long since I was told that Job Center staff had been advising people to do just that,  sign off JS register as self employed and claim working tax credit. As it was more money.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Sunshine Meadows on 10 Jun 2014 11:17AM
I's strange that not long since I was told that Job Center staff had been advising people to do just that,  sign off JS register as self employed and claim working tax credit. As it was more money.


The article about Romanians and the Big Issue did make me wonder if the Con Dems used it as an excuse to up the earnings level that has to be reached before a claimant can get Tax Credits.

Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Hurtyback on 10 Jun 2014 02:50PM
I asked 'full facts' to take a look at IDS's claims and they will let me know if they get anywhere. I will keep you up to date with any news I get.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Sunny Clouds on 11 Jun 2014 02:44AM
I've a horrible suspicion I'm going to be deeply unpopular for what I'm about to say.  This goes back to pre-2014.

Near where I live, a vendor spot was taken over by a Romanian woman.  She's very pleasant and chatty but also very pushy.  She partially blocks the shop doorway.  She has very few BIs and when you watch, it's clear that, like some (but not all) other vendors, her main income is from donations not purchases.

Anyway, park her mentally to one side for a brief moment.  People with influence locally went on the warpath against the local beggars.  Legal restrictions were sought and people moved on.  The man who liked to just sit there with his dog at a polite distance from shop doorways and politely ask for money without saying 'have a nice day' in a snidey tone of voice if you didn't give him any money got moved on.

But someone from BI made a bit of a thing about how it was a good thing that now we only had the BI seller who was genuinely selling things.

Well so was the woman who was selling cheap lighters etc. but who was driven out of the shopping area with the new court order as all the beggars were driven out en masse, and she didn't pester people, just politely offer her wares, and she never asked for donations, just for you to buy.

I stopped to think about it.  What was so special about the BI woman that made it ok for her to waylay us on our way in and out of the shop with her smile and her very, very small number of magazines?

I thought even more about it.  She'd been there a very long time.  I looked at the local housing market.  There was no way she could still be homeless, surely?  Not after years.  So I looked into it.  I realised (which I never had before and most people I know hadn't) that you don't have to be homeless or even recently homeless to sell BI, you have to be 'insecurely housed'.

So I looked into it further.  How could someone argue that she was insecurely housed after all this time?  After all, a bog standard AST is such that you can be chucked out on two months' notice after the initial 6 or 12 months and if she's got a new tenancy she's got that 6 or 12 month security essentially so long as she pays the rent, so once she sells a few BIs and gets some LHA, she's presumably more securely housed than I am.

Then someone at BI explained.  This was before the rules changed and at that stage you couldn't come from A2 countries to be an employee but you could in order to be self-employed and you could get tax credits.  So long as she sold a few BIs (no minimum number) and hung around for a certain number of hours a week, she could claim not only tax credits but also HB/LHA.  If she stopped selling her BI, she couldn't get any benefits, so she was regarded as being insecurely housed because her HB/LHA depended on her selling BI.

I'm afraid I didn't like it.  If they're going to sell a product on the basis that it's understood by most people (I believe) to be for homeless or very recently homeless people, that's what it should be there for, not as a long-term career for someone for several years, because in some areas, that is what it has become.  Simply a job with the bonus of lots of donations topping up the profits, that enables you to get benefits you otherwise couldn't get.

I don't give to our local BI seller and I don't buy her product.   I give to those locally whom I know to be genuinely homeless or genuinely close to it.  I give to those quiet people who don't try to tug on my heartstrings but just offer a friendly smile and hello. 

To be fair, not all my hostility towards BI and their long term 'insecurely housed' sellers is just about this.  I have been fed up with other BI sellers being aggressive.  There's one who's recently moved onto a pitch outside a supermarket in a neighbouring area and you can't get in or out of the shop without him being in your way.  If you try to unlock a trolley, you'll be distracted by him trying to get money off you.  He's not the only one and it annoys me.  He looks like he may be East European, but I don't know and I don't assume.  I know that as a BI seller, there's a one in three chance he's Romanian but that's as far as it goes.

Nevertheless, I think that if BI is going to function to a large extent, albeit not primarily, as a (lawful) vehicle for immigrants to get benefits to which they would not otherwise be entitled, and if in order to achieve that they're going to have the same people selling BI for years on end to people less securely housed than they are (new AST = 6 or 12 months, after that rolling tenancy or AST with 2 months notice) they need to be up front about that being what their organisation is about.

Meanwhile, I rarely use that local shop where the woman lies in wait in the doorway like a tarantula waiting to pounce and having got in the way of shopping in the other shop where the new vendor has moved in, I will now be transferring my custom elsewhere.

And yes, I will still give to beggars (of whatever colour/ethnicity) who are honest and who don't stand in my way and hassle me, and I will still help homeless people, be it with money or food, but I regard BI as dishonest.

If it thinks that what it does is ok, that's fine, but tell us that that's what it's doing and stop selling itself as being primarily about  homeless people getting back on their feet.  In relation to a proportion, and I'd guess most, of its A2 sellers, they're not genuinely homeless or genuinely insecurely housed in the sense in which most of us would understand it, whatever BI's small print definitions may be.

Like I say, insofar as it's been legal, BI can do what it does, but I don't regard it as honest in terms of what it gives the public to understand what it does.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: lankou on 11 Jun 2014 08:29AM
I have never seen a Big Issue seller.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: oldtone27 on 11 Jun 2014 09:38AM
I have never seen a Big Issue seller.

I don't know what area you hail from but around my way, Poole, they are commonplace. Even my own small suburb of Poole supports one and I have often wondered how she can make any sort of living. Sunny has given me a clue because I suppose it is from benefits rather than employment. These benefits being contingent on minimal employment.

I guess this is the core of the governments dilemma. How much does the state subsidise people who might otherwise be more gainfully employed. BI might be a worthy journal but if she only sells a handful that is hardly contributing much.

The government does seem to have mishandled the whole issue, but then previous governments didn't have any solutions either. I guess there is no overall consensus on who should be supported nor to what extent, so there will always be contentious cases.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Dic Penderyn on 11 Jun 2014 02:05PM
There is a lady who sells the big issue near our local Wilkinsons some times I buy one sometimes not. When ever I pass bye she always says hello and smiles, if she is self employed she is entitled to apply for Tax Credits its then up to the revenue to access her claim it is not for IDS to castigate her for applying no matter her ethnic or national origin. The vendors get the first ten copies any subsequent copies have to be paid for by the vendor. They also have to give evidence of their current situation regards housing and finances when applying.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Sunny Clouds on 11 Jun 2014 02:52PM
The thing is, though, that what IDS is addressing is the fact that until now you could run what was no more a real business than the shell companies that half his mates probably use to ferret their money away and take advantage of the tax system.

It's a nice set of soundbites for him to refer it in terms of immigration, but it's also a practical issue.

You see, if you want to claim tax credits, your business has to be effectively full-time (I don't remember the exact number of hours) but that can include paperwork, drumming up  business etc.  In effect, if you stand outside a shop for five hours and sell one Big Issue, on paper you are operating your business for five hours.  That would be the same if you were selling teddy bears or having a market stall and selling one cake.

I wonder how many people on JSA realise they can do this?  Like I say, it doesn't have to be selling BI.  Why not hang outside the local pub/club on a Friday/Saturday night selling  lighters to smokers who've forgotten theirs and maybe a few other bits and bobs?   You can enjoy the music, chat with your mates, do very little and claim enough in tax credits to be better off than on JSA.

It's a loophole I find odd and I don't object to there being some sort of minimum earning idea or maybe an assumed minimum income.  Taking arbitrary figures to illustrate my point, if JSA-type stuff gives you £75 and tax credits would top up business earnings to £100, then I think that it would be fair not only to expect you to work full time in your business but also to assume earnings of, say, £75.  As I say, that's a random figure. 

As to the A2 thing, I have a mixture of feelings involving, for example, a sympathy with those Romanians who are also Roma and therefore on the end of social exclusion and hostility everywhere, the knowledge that I have lived and worked in other countries, a belief that people of different backgrounds should be treated fairly, a feeling of sympathy towards people whose life is rough enough for benefits and/or leaving their homeland to be attractive and a concern for population size in this country.  (As regards the latter, I have long said to others that I believe that we could afford to be  less concerned about immigration if we had a very hard-hitting campaign for everyone to reduce the size of their families, to make having more than one child socially unacceptable [but not unlawful] until our population has dropped below 50 million.)

So that's my cards on the table.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Dic Penderyn on 11 Jun 2014 06:22PM
The latest Eurostat population figures show that there were 392,600 more people in Britain in 2012 compared to the previous year, putting the total population of the UK at 63,888,000.
More than a third of the increase, 38 per cent or 148,700 people, was accounted for by immigration with the rest accounted for by “natural change”, the fact that 243,900 more babies were born than people that died.
The number of live births in Britain was 813,000 in 2012, the second highest in Europe, falling just behind France where 822,000 babies were born.

So all immigrants are sterilized on entry to the UK then, and make no contribution to "natural change"
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: devine63 on 12 Jun 2014 01:33AM

Hi Sunny

your post made me wonder about the actual impact of the One Child policy - here are two different perspectives on it...



As for the stuff about the Big Issue - may I suggest everyone who can manage it buys this week's Big Issue and reads the article there about that topic?   Surprise surprise it's not eactly as IDS presents it...
regards, Deb

Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Sunny Clouds on 12 Jun 2014 02:42AM
I'm not basing my views on what IDS says, I'm basing my views on
(a) a series of correspondance between myself and BI,
(b) observations of what has happened in my local community and neighbouring communities on a general scale,
(c) attendance at community meetings and reading minutes of and reports of community meetings involving BI representatives,
(d) conversations with BI sellers and others selling and/or begging in my local community,
(e) a knowledge of the local property market,
(f) a knowledge of the rules relating to tax credits,
(g) observation of how few magazines are sold by local BI sellers claiming tax credits and of how much money is given to them,
(h) the personal observation that after years of giving money to various BI sellers in various parts of the country, I was rarely handed a magazine,
(i) a sense that I'd rather people who were homeless or struggling to keep a roof over their head sold a range of products not one that I don't actually want and that even if I did, they seem reluctant to hand over in exchange for my money,
(j) a sense of indignation over the snobbery that says that if someone begs by selling the odd copy of BI, most of which end up in the bin or the gutter just down the road, and accepting lots of donations, it is somehow more acceptable than someone simply sitting there asking for money with no pretence of selling anything, or selling other items be they cheap lighters or religious tracts or the local rag.  Yes, I'm supposed to be more supportive of someone selling BI than someone selling any other publication.  I'm not.  Either they're running a business or they're not.
(k) a dislike of people/organisations who do something they think is ok but who dress it up as if it were something else instead of coming out and openly defending what they're actually doing.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Dic Penderyn on 12 Jun 2014 03:10PM

your post made me wonder about the actual impact of the One Child policy - here are two different perspectives on it.

And here is another.

Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: devine63 on 12 Jun 2014 05:56PM
grim reading indeed, Dic

regards, Deb
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: AccessOfficer on 12 Jun 2014 08:28PM
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!!
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Sunny Clouds on 12 Jun 2014 09:50PM
But China's one-child policy is a legally-enforced policy with compulsory abortions, sterilisations etc.  I am not suggesting that, I'm suggesting a campaign to change public culture.  Anyone who thinks that can't be done, think of seat belts, smoke alarms, not smoking while pregnant, breast feeding, not leaving your kids to play by themselves in the street at an early age etc.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Dic Penderyn on 12 Jun 2014 10:16PM
not smoking while pregnant, breast feeding, not leaving your kids to play by themselves in the street at an early age

All of which apply only if you have children procreation is a primal urge for the majority  not a cultural preference  to take it away you will need to use force it would be like trying to educate people not to eat drink or breath.

Mind you The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement recommends global zero population growth and extinction of the human race.

Here is some info on global fertility rates. The uk is fairly low on the ranking lists.

Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Sunny Clouds on 13 Jun 2014 12:32AM
If procreation is such a great urge and if cultural norms don't modify it, what does cause the variation in birth rates?  Ok, so there is the oddity of China, but what, for instance, keeps the birth rate low in Germany where there is ample financial and practical support for babies, children, mothers, families?

I think we have a stark choice - reduce the number of new immigrants and/or reduce the number of babies.  My preference is for a bit of both. 

Incidentally, for all that we have the urge to procreate, that manifests itself primarily in an urge to engage in sexual intercourse.  My gut feeling is that the population could also be held partly in check just by better information/education as regards contraception.  I have discovered over the years how few people remember what the failure rate is for a good quality condom correctly used.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: devine63 on 13 Jun 2014 01:00AM
According to the UK Census Office


There were 7.7 million families with dependent children in the UK in 2012, 1 in 7 [14.3%]  of which had three or more dependent children.  [which means that 6 out of 7 families have two children or less]

The UK has a higher percentage of households with three or more children than three-quarters of European Union countries.

Nearly 9 in 10 couple families with three or more dependent children had either one or both parents working.   [which means only 1 in 10 families with 3+ children are "on benefits" in the totally unemployed sense]

What all of that means is that many couples do not produce enough children to "replace themselves" which means that if birthrate were the only factor, the population is/would be already dropping.   

Of course birthrate isn't the only factor: people living longer is tending to increase the size of the population, as is the number of immigrants...

regards, Deb

Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Dic Penderyn on 13 Jun 2014 10:03AM
There are many factors governing fertility these include environmental, economic and social factors but there is also personal choice and that can be changed by what some call education, but I would characterize as indoctrination; which  the Chinese found insufficient so then had to resort to compulsion and force. I would rather not go down that path.
Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Sunny Clouds on 13 Jun 2014 01:45PM
Education when you like it, indoctrination when you don't?

I think it comes down to this - those people who want the level of immigration we currently have to continue need to either decide how we're going to expand facilities or decide how we're going to otherwise reduce demand on the facilities we've got.

As regards size of families, there's also the issue of distribution.  If you live in an area where larger families are the norm, you're going to be more twitchy than if you live in an area where they're not.  I'm not just talking about whether I'm twitchy directly but whether I'm twitchy about other peoples twitchiness.

The other thing as regards education vs indoctrination, is that family size isn't just a general thing, it's influenced by things like social class, religion, town/country etc.  And being very undiplomatic, it's not just about the size of family that shows on the census, there's the size of family of the illegal community, which may be a small part of the population but which nevertheless has more of an impact on some conurbations than others.

I'm sure people here have heard me speak before of my views on the dreadful dilemma that will, I believe, strike us in relation to climate change.  You see, I believe in the importance of taking people in need of a home.  However, as more and more of the earth becomes more barren, more and more people will be starved into emigrating and more and more will come our way, not just from very far south but gradually from closer to home, such as Italy and France.  We can, under our obligations under international law, send non-European would-be immigrants packing (except those that get in illegally which would, IMO, be a small proportion).  But starvation brings war, war brings 'genuine refugees' (as if the risk of being shot is somehow worse than the risk of starving to death) and we will eventually have to decide whether to stick to our treaty obligations.  I myself would want to know that I could rely on such obligations, so this breaks my heart.

So why do I raise this?  Because now is the time when there needs to be a very public open and frank discussion not so much of whether we like foreigners or what their cultures are etc. but literally how many we have room for.  Then we need to consider how many of our own people (including those we have adopted as our own by already allowing them to immigrate here, our lovely varied mix of neighbours, friends and relatives) we have space for and very specifically how we will feed them etc, in a very nasty 'global market'.

Because I'm not joking when I say that I believe that as global climate change escalates, we will be able to import less and less food and will need to become more and more self-sufficient and limit or reduce the size of our population or, within 50 years, this country will starve and have civil war or major gang war. 

And closer to home is something I believe to be frighteningly true - as our population increases and our ability to support ourselves decreases, the temptation to kill people who are seen as the most burden increases.  It is out of self-interest as much as anything that I'd rather start reducing birth rate now, look next at our immigration policies and keep my fingers crossed that we can stay within our ability to feed and accommodate people sufficiently for me not, as a 'useless mouth' to be got rid of as the most socially acceptable way of limiting the population. 

So there you go.  I'm afraid I'd rather have what some would regard as indoctrination now than killing later and I have an uncomfortable self-interest in it.  An analogy I've used elsewhere is that the earth is a sinking ship and I'm asking myself at what point I'm going to find myself either hitting people's fingers and pushing them as they try to climb into my lifeboat or being unable to handle that and going down with them.


Title: Re: I.D.S. ...........Big Issue and Self Employment
Post by: Sunny Clouds on 13 Jun 2014 01:54PM
But back to Big Issue.  I don't think they're doing what they originally did and I think that what they do in providing medium to long term support for some people by legitimising begging (which, as a generality, I don't object to provided that it is not aggressive) is perfectly lawful.  My objection is to how they portray what they are doing and my objection is to keeping up a pretence that they are somehow substantially different from other beggars and small-time street-traders in an area.  If they were selling a different newspaper or magazine, we would not tolerate the way many that I have seen get in people's way. 

Let them be up-front about it.  To be otherwise just annoys more and more people.  If they think that how things are benefits-wise is how they should be, get out there and say it.  Put forward their case.  Maybe they'll convince a lot of people.  Any of you who've known me for any length of time know that it's very far from the case that I won't reconsider my position if a different position is well argued.