Monday, February 08, 2016

A fake charities victory!

2009-01-19T03:47:08Z

That was the date and time that your humble Devil first registered the fakecharities.org domain—19th January 2009. I built the first fakecharities.org site that night, using a simple Open Source CMS called WebsiteBaker.

I then populated this simple site with a few organisations that I, and Kitchen contributor the Filthy Smoker, had identified as being particularly egregious specimens of the type we called "fake charities".

A few days ago, and a mere seven years later (!), the work of that night—and the efforts of many grassroots and blogosphere contributors—became a significant victory.

As regards the genesis of Fake Charities, I wrote a retrospective of the whys and wherefores some years ago, in June 2012.
Some years ago, your humble Devil and his Kitchen colleague, the Filthy Smoker, noticed that more and more charities were being cited by news media—and, most especially, the BBC—in connection with government initiatives.

These charities almost always reinforced these policies: and these policies were almost always ones that aimed to reduce freedom and liberty in this country.

Out of curiosity, we started to investigate these charities in a very simplistic way: when a charity was quoted as being in favour of yet more grossly invasive legislation, we went to the Charity Commission website and looked up the public accounts.

In the majority of cases, we found that these quoted "charities" were, in fact, largely funded by the government whose policies they were enthusiastically endorsing.

I would like to say that what we unearthed shocked us, but that would be a lie. What did surprise us was just how many of these organisations there were.

People tend to think of charities as being... well... voluntary organisations, doing actual, physical good deeds in the community—whether that be running soup kitchens, cancer hospices or homeless shelters.

But most of these organisations were indulging in little more than flat-out lobbying. And they were using our money to do it. In our view, these charities were being deliberately disingenuous.

And we came up with a name for these organisations—"fake charities".
In that post, I reiterated what we defined as a fake charity.
We define a Fake Charity as any organisation registered as a UK charity that derives more than 10% of its income—and/or more than £1 million—from the government, whilst also lobbying the government. That lobbying can take the form of calling for new policies, changes to the law or increases in (their own) funding.
When we were (inevitably) attacked in various articles by the BBC and the Third Sector, they tended to ignore the "lobbying" clause—we were horrible, sweary, libertarian bloggers who wanted to do down the valuable work that charities were doing. Nevertheless, all these protests did was to bring the concept of fake charities to a wider audience—with the phrase becoming regularly used amongst the politically-aware.

The libertarian blogosphere, of course, had already latched onto the term with aplomb, and it gradually began to gain wider recognition. Contributors to the site increased, and repeated submissions made: the Filthy Smoker and I conscientiously reviewed every suggested charity, manually reviewing their accounts on the Charity Commission website. It was hard work, and took up much of our free time, and we were only ever able to cover a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of organisations that qualified. Finally, various technical server issues, and a further reduction of available time, meant that the website went offline (although I still own the domain).

Luckily, we had gained a powerful ally. Chris Snowdon, now of the IEA, had the resources to compile much more comprehensive research into the sock-puppet eco-system. A few of these reports are listed below:
Importantly, the IEA was a respected think-tank, and thus able to bring much more clout to bear on the new Coalition government.

Gradually, awareness was raised, and we began to chip away at the fake charities. I heard rumours that the part of the Cabinet Office responsible for charities had had to redraft its rules—awarding contracts rather than grants. A pamphlet, released by Eric Pickles' DCLG, advised local governments to save money by ceasing funding to "fake charities and sock puppets".

Finally, a few days ago, we saw a massive victory, as reported by The Telegraph: Charities to be banned from using public funds to lobby ministers.
Charities in receipt of Government grants will be banned from using these taxpayer funds to engage in political lobbying, The Telegraph can disclose.

A new clause to be inserted into all new and renewed grant agreements will make sure that taxpayer funds are spent on improving people's lives and good causes, rather than covering lobbying for new regulation or using taxpayers’ money to lobby for more government funding.

It will not prevent organisations from using their own privately-raised funds to campaign as they see fit.

The Institute of Economic Affairs, a right of centre think-tank, has undertaken extensive research on so-called “sock puppets”, exposing how taxpayers’ money given to pressure groups is paid to fund lobbying campaigns on policies such as a sugar tax and the environment.

Officials are hoping that the clause will ensure that freedom of speech is protected, while stopping taxpayers’ money being diverted away from good causes.

Matt Hancock, the Cabinet Office minister, told The Telegraph: “Taxpayers’ money must be spent on improving people’s lives and spreading opportunities, not wasted on the farce of government lobbying government.

“The public sector never lobbies for lower taxes and less state spending, and it’s a zero sum game if Peter is robbed to pay Paul.

“These common sense rules will protect freedom of speech–but people won’t be made to foot the bill for political campaigning and political lobbying.
It seems only appropriate for the article to include a quote from our best supporter (even if they do spell his name wrong)...
Chris Snowden, head of Lifestyle Economics at the IEA, said: “This is very good news for taxpayers who will no longer be forced to pay for the government to lobby itself.

“At every level—local, national and European—people have been subsidising political campaigns that they may not know about and might disagree with.

“Campaigning is an important part of a thriving democracy but charities and pressure groups should not be doing it with taxpayers’ money.”
And the precise phrasing to be inserted?
The exact phrase that will be inserted into all new and renewed grant agreements reads: “The following costs are not Eligible Expenditure:- Payments that support activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, Government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action”.

This rule was successfully been piloted by the Department for Communities and Local Government over the last year.
Whilst the fight is very far from over—the Left and the charity sector are, of course, kicking up a stink—this is a very welcome development.

It shows that a small campaign, lightly-funded web resources, and a pithy name can change the course of our society. We must fight to ensure that this clause goes through, unamended, and we must keep up the pressure on these fake charities.

In the meantime, let us claim a small victory—and a significant scalp—for the blogosphere. As Chris Snowdon says:
It might seem obvious that the government shouldn't be paying for pressure groups to lobby itself, but the practice has become endemic in recent years. Hats off to Matt Hancock for doing something about it.

Ministers don't get enough credit when they do good things in politics. Hancock will doubtless receive a flurry of complaints from those who see it as their right to use taxpayers' money for their political campaigns, so if you are pleased about him chipping away at the sock-puppet state, do send him an e-mail at matthew.hancock.mp@parliament.uk. I will be doing likewise.
Your humble Devil will also be sending a note.

I urge all of the great bloggers and other volunteers who have supported the Fake Charities campaign over the years to do likewise. Thank you—all of you.

DK

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Espousing libertarianism

Over at the Libertarian Alliance blog, Keir Martland has written of what he views as a failure of the LA to advance the Libertarian cause in a significant way, and an analysis of the various other ways that might be tried—ending with the rather depressing idea that we should just carry on with more of the same.

I left the following comment...
As someone who has tried to push libertarianism in a number of channels—through a widely-read and deeply offensive blog (which I know converted a few tens of people); through pushing libertarianism in, and writing policies for, UKIP; to helping start the UK Libertarian Party—I can say that the main problem is that the majority of UK people do not take to the philosophy.

The blog became hard work to continue writing (and started threatening my real life work); UKIP has edged back to more statist policies in order to win votes (especially in the north); and the LPUK has never really gained traction (partly because it is under-funded, and run by part-time amateurs who, like most libertarians, rather despise the political process that they are nominally part of).

So, what is it that the British people do not like about our philosophy? The answer is rather interesting—and gleaned from my (admittedly random and anecdotal) surveys of people in pubs.

People are worried about the effects of a smaller state on other people.

I have spoken to people that are pretty poor, and many who are in receipt of benefits. Some have been aggressive, some dense—but most not. Most people would prefer that the state would leave them alone: most proudly (and perhaps unrealistically) opine that they could make a living without benefits, because they are capable people.

But what (they say) about the really poor people? What will happen to them—how will they cope? Today, these "poor people" are as mythical as the rich, top hat-wearing, cigar-chomping capitalists of Victorian yore: but it these people that ordinary British people become concerned about when one discusses the shrinking of the state, and the curbing of Welfare.

As such, two things need to be done:
  • there needs to be a comprehensive libertarian philosophy of welfare. For me, this is based on voluntary contributions, along the lines of the successful Friendly Societies of the late 19th century (and which were destroyed by the introduction of state National Insurance in 1911). A development of this policy enables libertarians to answer the worries of the "man in the pub";
  • libertarians need to find a way to communicate to the "man in the pub"—because there are vastly more of them than there are libertarians (currently), and hugely more than there are academics. And the man in the pub most certainly does not read academic treatises.
The way into the discussion of libertarianism should be based on the ideas that the state interferes too much in our day-to-day lives (the man in the pub often likes a smoke, and he certainly likes a drink), and that the promises that the state makes cannot be counted on. If the state promises you welfare, what guarantee do you have that it will deliver? As Lando Calrissian said, "this deal just gets worse."

People are surprisingly libertarian for themselves, but they are also surprisingly worried about these mythical poor people—an underclass whose existence the media and the government have an interest in perpetuating.

Anyway, that's my take on it. For what it's worth.
I also left out one rather crucial element, which those who have read The Kitchen or heard me speak will remember: we need to have a credible transition plan. You cannot simply convert to a system of voluntary Welfare overnight:
  • first, the institutions to support it do not exist;
  • second, the culture of voluntarily saving for problems does not exist in most people.
Both of these need to be addressed, and both will take time.

Luckily for us, the Tories are trying (with only moderate success) to address the second part: however, and perhaps through necessity, they are using—forced withdrawal of benefits, forcing people to do their own budgeting through Universal Credit—rather than cultural change. It may be, however, that this force is a necessary first step to start this transition—time will tell if this shock therapy works (if the electorate allows it to continue, of course).

Whatever happens, I am pretty sure that speaking to academics (most of whom are on the Left) is going to change very little.

UPDATE: a follow-up comment in response to someone else...
I would generally, these days, call myself a "minarchist libertarian" or "classical liberal".

Either way, I don't really think that a libertarian government should have any policy on whether mutuals or businesses are best for making money—after all, even our very statist governments don't bother getting into that debate.

And, yes, the state shouldn't dictate what marriage looks like. But it does because it bases some state benefits on defining what marriage is: remove those benefits, and then the state has no business defining marriage.

As I have frequently outlined, the Welfare State puts us all in hock to the state—which gives it licence to define our actions. Remove state welfare, and you remove any moral or economic justification for the state to dictate how we live our private lives (as long as we do not initiate force or fraud against someone else's life, liberty or property).

How many times have you heard some draconian policy justified because "it costs the NHS money"? The Welfare State is the crux of statism—and thus dealing with it *must* be the priority of those who are anywhere on the libertarian spectrum.

Removing it should be a uniting force for our movement: to do that, we need to describe how we would avoid people starving on the streets, etc. All of these are more important to the general people (and voters) of this country than abstract wibblings about esoteric policies that no one understands or cares about.
By the way, I added the links to previous posts here, for reference, but not in the original comments that I left.

UPDATE 2: links to my major essays on Friendly Societies can be found below.
Both deal with what a voluntary Welfare State might look like, and lean heavily on Friendly Societies to achieve that aim.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Teaching Gruber

John Gruber runs one of the most visited blogs on the entire internet. Most of your humble Devil's readers will never have heard of him, because he writes about technology in general and (largely) Apple in particular.

Today, John is outraged by a particularly stupid Grauniad article (and who isn't, eh?): the article is a comment on Apple by well-known fantasist, Mike Daisey.
But the serious problem is that The Guardian ran this piece (in the Tech section, not Opinion, no less) without any sort of note alluding to the fact that Mike Daisey is a known fabulist who completely made up stories about labor abuses in Apple’s Chinese supply chain.

Mike Daisey doesn’t have zero credibility regarding Apple — he has negative credibility. He’s a liar.

Shame on The Guardian.
Mr Gruber is an American, and so we cannot be surprised at his... well... surprise. Yes, yes—we Brits know that the Grauniad is a joke, whose articles are written by the kind of people on whom you would not piss were they ablaze.

But, as I said, Mr Gruber is an American. So, quite apart from comedically mis-spelling Grauniad, I would like to give John an insight into the British view of that newspaper. And that has been rendered remarkably easy by The Daily Mash, via their excellent line of searingly insightful merchandise.
Perhaps we can all club together to send one of these over the pond to John?

Otherwise, I have a spare somewhere...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wind power is too expensive at any price, you fool

This morning, CityAM published a spectacularly silly article by Ben Goldsmith on energy provision in the UK (which is, as we know, looking pretty dicey right now).

Upon reading the first part of Goldsmith's piece—which dwells on the mind-bendingly high energy price that the government has signed us up to for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant—you might find yourself nodding along in agreement. But then you will have read a little further...
It is not surprising that, instead of setting a new competitive low for nuclear generating costs, Hinkley Point has done the reverse at £92.50 MW/h.

The costs of coal and gas power are also rising. Recent Bloomberg research has shown that the price of UK coal and gas power rose by around 17 per cent to £74 MW/h in the past year, despite downward pressure from the advent of US shale gas. Now comes the surprise. Over the same period, the costs of energy from onshore wind fell from £70 MW/h to £55 MW/h–making it cheaper than gas.
Sigh.

Look, running an energy system is not an easy job: you need to be able to keep the energy in the grid at a fairly stable voltage, but demand ebbs and flows considerably—which means that you need to be able to control the supply to the grid too.

And this is where wind power fails spectacularly: not only because it is intermittent, but also because you have almost no control over the output. Even were wind power levels consistent, because the actual output is only a fraction of the theoretical installed capacity (around 29% on average), you would need to install around four times the required capacity to be certain of keeping the lights on.

All of this is made abundantly clear in a recent report by physicist and civil engineer, David Partington (and as reported by Not A Lot of People Know That.
Derek Partington, a former Chartered Engineer, has spent a lot of time in the last six years, researching the effectiveness of wind turbines. His findings are damning:
His report runs to thirteen pages, well worth a read. But some of his tables and charts tell the story.

For instance, how capacity utilisation can vary wildly from month to month.
It's well worth reading the whole thing—but, for now, I will just repeat the conclusions.
Over the period studied, January 2013 to December 2014 inclusive, wind turbine operational capacity connected to the UK Grid has increased from 5,894MW to 8,403MW. The operational capacity in January 2011 was 2,490MW; therefore there has been an increase of almost 3.4x over the four year period.
The conclusions to be drawn from the data analysis are:
  1. An increase in the operational capacity does not improve average output. In fact the average monthly capacity factor has fallen over the periods studied, dropping from 33.2% in 2011 to 28.8% in 2014.
  2. An increase in the operational capacity does not reduce the periods of low or very low output as measured by the number of hours per year when output was low (less than 10% of installed capacity) or very low (less than 5% of installed capacity). There is a variation from year to year but no pattern emerges. The mean low output over the four years was 1,617 hours/year with a standard deviation of 197 hours/year and the mean very low output was 599 hours with a standard deviation of 96 hours.
  3. An increase in the operational capacity does not reduce intermittency. If taken as a measure of intermittency, the average monthly minimum expressed as a percentage of installed capacity was 1.9% with no significant variation from year to year.
  4. Taking maximum rise and fall in output over one hour period as a further measure of intermittency, the National Grid is now having to cope with variations in output of over 1,100MW over one hour periods, with this variation increasing by about 250MW per year. This is very significant as it represents the changes in output which the Grid has to cope with and which has to be compensated by conventional fossil fuelled power stations.
  5. An increase in the operational capacity does not indicate any possibility of closing any conventional, fossil-fuel power stations as there is no correlation between variations in output from wind turbines and demand on the Grid. Often the opposite is true – when demand rises, output from wind turbines falls and vice versa. This has a significant negative effect as back-up has to be provided from conventional, fossil-fuel power stations not only to cater for increase in demand on the Grid at peak times but also to cover for any possible fall in output from the UK wind turbine fleet at the same time.
Therefore, taking the four criteria above, there is no case for a continued increase in the number of wind turbines connected to the Grid.

As stated in my previous report, it is incumbent upon the Government to ensure that the British consumer is getting value for money from industrial wind turbine installations and that they are not just paying subsidies to developers and operators (through ROCs) whilst getting nothing back in return in terms of CO2 emission reductions through the supplanting of fossil-fuelled power generation.

Based on the results of this and my previous analysis I cannot see why any policy for the continued increase in the number of wind turbines connected to the Grid can be justified.
So, to return to Mr Goldsmith's article, and his lunatic assertion that onshore wind power is "cheaper than gas"... Well, this is clearly barking insanity of the very first order: wind power does not provide stable and controllable power outputs; as such, it does not provide what we require from a power generation source and, therefore, is too expensive at any price.

So, since you would have to be an idiot not to understand all of this, one has to pose the Polly conundrum—is Goldsmith ignorant or is he stupid?

Actually, that is unfair. Because there is a third option in the conundrum, and it is this—"or is he shilling something?" And it is, of course, this last option that explains the article.

Accompanying the piece, in typical (usually decent) CityAM style, is a short biography that coyly explains that Goldsmith is "the founder of Menhaden Capital and WHEB Group". These are investment firms, of course, but what is their speciality? Well, given that Goldsmith is brother to environmentalist nut-job Zac, I think you can guess.

And you'd be right.
Ben Goldsmith, brother of Conservative MP and environmental campaigner Zac Goldsmith, is floating an investment fund backed by high-profile business figures to invest in green businesses.

Menhaden Capital will target business opportunities that specialise in saving resources such as energy and water or cutting waste.
...

Goldsmith said investment in green projects was no longer an act of faith and that there were many opportunities to make good returns from backing environmental businesses.
...

Ben Goldsmith is the founder of WHEB, an investment firm focused on energy efficiency, clean technology and sustainable development.
Can it be that "investment in green projects" is, in fact, "an act of faith". And could it be, with the government steadily rowing back from subsidising these white elephants, that Mr Ben is having trouble persuading people to invest money into his fantasyland adventures?

You might say that: I couldn't possibly comment...

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Quote of the Day...

... comes from an anonymous Labour advisor on the subject of Jeremy Corbyn.
“We’ve had shit leaders before and we’ve survived,” a longstanding adviser said. “This is politics; anything can happen and we’ve got to do the best we can.”
Indeed.

Labour's fixed that for you

According to the Daily Wail, George Osborne (amongst others) lobbied hard against the Tories' EU referendum pledge.
George Osborne pleaded with David Cameron not to hold an in/out referendum on the European Union, it emerged last night.
Senior Tory sources revealed the Chancellor had repeatedly warned against the move in the run-up to the Prime Minister’s referendum pledge in 2013.

He is said to have warned Mr Cameron that a referendum would not resolve the tensions within the Tory party over the issue, and risked an accidental British exit from the EU.
If we exit the EU, Georgie-boy, it won't be "accidental": it will be the quite deliberate will of the British people—a people who would rather make their own laws and articulate their own priorities (for better or for worse).

But why, George? Why would you do this thing: why campaign against an EU referendum...?
[Osborne] also warned that holding an in/out vote risked putting the Conservatives on the wrong side of mainstream business opinion…
Well, if by "mainstream business" you mean big corporates, yes: if, on the other hand, you mean "the vast majority of British businesses that have to implement a bunch of regulations even though they don't actually trade abroad"—the ones that make up 80% of our trade and commerce—then not so much.

But Georgie is a sneaky little tyke: surely he can just be cuddling up to businesses? Is there, perhaps, some kind of political side to this?
... handing a political gift to Labour.
Ah. I did wonder.

Still, that shouldn't be a problem after September 12.

The Tories will have to worry far less about the opinion of businesses (or, indeed, voters) when the main opposition party is about to elect a terrorist-appeasing Communist, pushing a generally fascist manifesto—the financials of which are cobbled together by an economic illiterate.

George & Co. must be delighted.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bee calm

Obviously, we are all going to die because... Noooo beeeeeees.

Or not.
Activists insist wild bees are being killed by neonicotinoid insecticides. But as the research paper notes: “[T]he species that are the dominant crop pollinators are the most widespread and abundant species in agricultural landscapes in general.” The variety of wild species that forage on commercial crops is limited, but in terms of population, those species are everywhere. They are by far the most commonly encountered type of wild bee. The study found that, in 99.7 percent of the cases, the wild bees that come into contact with crops (and neonics) are not in decline.
File under "scare stories to sell peer-reviewed journals to naive reporters".

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trading lies

Now, one could be charitable and say that it's an editing issue. However, I choose to believe that Lucy Thomas is, in fact, telling a deliberate untruth in today's City AM debate. [Emphasis mine—DK]
Nearly half of our trade is with other EU countries, and the “outers” cannot say how British businesses would be affected by any of their scenarios for exit.
No, Lucy: "nearly half of our trade" is not with other EU countries, actually.

At any time, around 80% of "our trade" is internal. Our actual trade with EU countries is, in fact, about 10%—very far from "half" (and it is more like 8% when the Rotterdam effect is taken into account).

This might seem like nit-picking, but Lucy Thomas is the campaign director of pro-EU Business for New Europe organisation: we can expect organisations like this to step up the peddling of these subtle lies as the EU referendum approaches.

We need to be aware of them, call out those asserting them, and debunk them on a regular basis.

BRAAAIIINS!

It appears that we are suffering the night of the living dead! For lo! as The Kitchen rises, slowly, from the grave, it seems that Bella Gerens has also uttered started to mutter about "brains"...

Monday, June 22, 2015

BBC armageddon bollocks

Apparently, the Buttered New Potato told Nick Robinson that he was going to close down the BBC.
Mr Robinson said that while travelling on the bus, Mr Cameron dismissed a BBC story claiming that he had told Nick Clegg that the Tories would not win a majority as "rubbish" before adding: "I’m going to close them down after the election."

Mr Robinson yesterday told The Guardian: "What really matters is the impact it has on other people. Some people on the bus regarded it as funny but they generally didn’t work for the BBC. The people who did [work for the BBC] regarded it as yet another bit of pressure...
Oh, diddums.
... and a sort of sense of 'don’t forget who’s boss here'."
Hey, Nick—you know how you could really ensure that Dave couldn't say 'don’t forget who’s boss here'?

Yeah, that's right—by not using the law to force people to pay the Licence Fee. In this way, the government need not be your boss at all. Do you see?

So, unless you're going to do the decent thing and stop stealing people's money by force, might I recommend that you shut your hole?

Cheers.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Actually, the poor did cause it

It is raining hard right now, and this makes me happy.

Why?

Because it will hopefully ensure that the "tens of thousands" of people marching against "austerity" have a thoroughly miserable time.
The protest is expected to draw 75,000 people according to its organisers who are a broad coalition of left-wing political groups.

It began outside the Bank of England at noon followed by a march to Parliament Square where a rally is expected to take place from 2:30pm until 5:30pm.
Damn. It looks like all of these brave Social Justice Warriors will have already been in the pub, drinking expensive cider before the rain really hit. So, it seems that your humble Devil will have to derive his satisfaction by sitting here (armchair warrior that I am) and mocking them instead.

So, no doubt a number of publicity-seeking slebs will be there—who has deigned to walk with the great unwashed, I wonder?
Among those better known faces attending are comedian and activist Russell Brand, Guardian journalist Owen Jones, singer Charlotte Church, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, Green MP Caroline Lucas, and Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn.
Charlotte Church? Marching with an estimated 75,000 people? Gosh.

A couple of weeks back, on Facebook, I urged Charlotte to heed her own advice and pay more tax.
Dear Charlotte Church,

I think that it's lovely that you would be happy to pay 70% tax (albeit with provisos). However, I suggest that you make the first move, and send all of the extra tax to:

The Treasury,
1 Horseguards Road,
London.

You can tell those nice mandarins what budget you'd like the money to go to, and we can see how generous you've been.

Further, I am very much looking forward to the Treasury's coffers being boosted by the similarly generous contributions of all of the people who will be joining you on the anti-austerity march.

If they all follow your example and pay tax at 70% for the rest of their lives, I am sure that the government will be able to support poor people much more generously.

Thank you in advance—you are a true philanthropist.

Regards,

c
Alas, Ms Church back-tracked somewhat—she said that, even if she did pay extra, it really wouldn't sort anything out. Rich though she might be, her donation would be barely enough to keep the government running for more than 5 minutes.

But, just think, Charlotte: if only you were to stand up at this march and urge these kind socialist souls to join you in paying more—perhaps you and the 75,000 could raise meaningful amounts of money, year after year. A few days later, the Spectator embraced the suggestion—even being considerate enough to urge the Treasury to make it easier for these rich people to donate their cash.
At the end of our tax returns, we declare how much tax we owe. Osborne can introduce a new line in the tax return saying: if you think this isn’t enough, how much extra would you like to pay? People like Ms Toynbee and Ms Church can then fill in the extra so they can pay 50 per cent, or even 70 per cent, if they like.

This ‘nudge’ tax reform would be consistent with the liberal principles of a Conservative government while allowing left-wingers to act along with their conscience and hand over more of their income to the government.

So next time, rather than complain that they would be happy to pay 70 per cent tax, such people can proudly claim that they do pay 70 per cent tax. And they will have the tax return to prove it.
The Speccie even has the decency to address Charlotte's complaint that paying more tax would make little difference.
Those saying that this voluntary tax would not make much difference are mistaken. The US runs this a similar (here) and under Osborne a huge share of the tax is drawn from tiny number of people. The best-paid 1pc now contribute 27pc of all income tax. The top 0.01pc pay 4.7pc (an average £2.6m each). The Charlotte Churches of our country – the 1 per cent, if you will – have never shouldered a greater share of the burden. So if she volunteered to shoulder an even larger share, it really would help bring an earlier end to austerity.
This change, alongside Charlotte Church's fine example, really could make a difference—at least 75,000 people putting their money where their mouth is, and actually paying more tax. How heart-warming.

Of course, all of this does rather assume that these protesters are paying any tax at all. I would bet that a pretty hefty chunk of them are, in fact, nett beneficiaries of the state. Apart from anything else, a great many of them are almost certainly students, complaining that "austerity" is restricting the frequency of their ski holidays or something...

But hist! Who is this grinning loon, her evil shark-like eyes darting amongst the crowd? Why!—it is that bastion of barminess, Dr Caroline Lucas MP! Hooray for the good doctor (of Elizabethan literature)—lang may her lum reek, as they say in Scotland (apparently). I wonder what words of wisdom will drop from her lips...
Green MP Ms Lucas, who held onto her Brighton seat at the last general election, has spoken to packed crowds in Parliament Sqaure: "This Government is continuing to punish the poor for an economic crisis they didn't cause.”
Well, this is a bit of a problem, isn't it? I mean, I don't want to be indelicate, but it is precisely the poor who have caused this "economic crisis".

After all, the trigger for the banking crisis was people who walked away from mortgages that they couldn't afford to pay. A great many of these people were... well... "the poor". (Especially at the point that they couldn't afford to pay their mortgage.)

For sure, this was exacerbated by over-leveraged banks trading mixed assets and, yes, in the UK we did bail out the banks. But we did, at least, bail them out by buying shares: and selling these shares (and sundry others charges to the state) will, in fact, make an estimated £14 billion profit for the British taxpayer. In fact, the government has been profitably selling Lloyds Bank shares for some months now.

But the "economic crisis" was exacerbated in the UK by the fact that the government was already running a pretty hefty structural deficit all through the boom years. And what was the largest part of this spending? Why—supporting "the poor", of course.

And, of course, the Coalition and, now, Tory government has also been massively over-spending too. And who are the main recipients of this money? I'll give you a clue, Caro—it's not "the rich" because they don't need it.

What? Yes, that's right, the main recipient's of this cash are "the poor"—'cos that's how redistributive welfare works, y'see.

When looked at it that way, Caroline, the poor are, in fact, the primary cause of this particular economic crisis. I know it sounds harsh but it is, from this perspective, actually true.

So, I'm sorry, Caroline: on this—as on every other topic on which you offer your utterly valueless opinions—you are wrong.

Bad show—better luck next time, old girl.

Now don't let the door hit your scrawny arse on the way out, will you?

UPDATE: Obo the Clown highlights some more rampant stupidity from "doctor" Lucas.
76% didn't vote for this Govt - Osborne has no mandate for austerity. He wants to shrink state not cut deficit #EndAusterityNow #JuneDemo - Caroline Mucus
That's lovely, Cazza, but as was immediately pointed out to her, 71% of the people in Brighton Pavilion didn't vote for her, so is she going to resign out of principle?
She really isn't very bright, is she?

UPDATE AGAIN: Longrider's final comment might be the most pithily offensive I've seen today.
Hundreds have gathered with placards reading “No cuts” and “Stop Union Busting” and celebrities such as Russell Brand and Charlotte Church have joined protesters on the street.

Oh, right, Britain’s finest brains, then.
Heh.

Lindsey Stirling: Take Flight

I love this video—it's beautiful and inventive. The music's not too shabby either...

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep...?

The above is the title of the Philip K Dick novella from which Blade Runner took inspiration and, finally, we can now answer the question that it posed.

No, they don't.

Apparently, they dream of dog-fish, camel-birds and pig-snails...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

On the other hand...

Well, this makes sense...
For many years, I was confounded by my blackouts, but the mechanics are quite simple. The blood reaches a certain alcohol saturation point and shuts down the hippocampus, part of the brain responsible for making long-term memories. You drink enough, and that’s it. Shutdown. No more memories.
On the bright side, I may be 37 but my memory tells me that I'm still about 24...

The SNP: timely as ever

One might almost believe that the SNP were eagerly monitoring the Kitchen, alert for any sign of the guidance that your humble Devil (as a former resident) might offer these benighted politicians.

Just a few hours ago, I pointed out that the Scottish Parliament had the opportunity to test the Scots' social conscience by means of access to their wallets...
The supposed driver for this is that Scotland is a "more socialist" country, willing to pay more tax in order to stave off the tyranny of austerity. This narrative is, of course, bollocks: were it not, the SNP (also the dominant party in Holyrood) would already have used the tax-raising powers that the Parliament has—up to 3p in the pound extra in income tax, if I recall correctly.
And now, in the face of further cuts from Westminster, it seems that the SNP—now dominant in both Westminster and Holyrood—are flinging up their kilts and showing everyone what big balls they have.
John Swinney has admitted he is “considering” increasing income tax in Scotland next year to fill the gap in public spending from cuts by the Tory UK government.
...

ollowing a summit in Whitehall with Chancellor George Osborne, the deputy first minister said that he could be prepared to use powers handed to Holyrood from the 2012 Scotland Bill to set a Scottish income tax rate above that of the rest of the UK.

An increase of 1p in income tax north of the Border would, according to the Scotland Office, raise £330 million for the Scottish Government.
How exciting—let us see how keen the Scots are, indeed, to show how they are different to the UK. Oh, wait...
The move has echoes of the SNP’s “penny for Scotland” in the first Holyrood election in 1999, where they lost heavily to Labour after proposing to raise income tax.
Not so keen then.

But, given their earlier failure, what has driven the SNP to contemplate this dreadful message (apart from the fact that, politically, they have the people of Scotland in a double headlock)?
[Swinney] went on: “The cut of £107m is substantially lower than the UK government’s original estimate but is still too bitter a pill to swallow.
“This comes on top of an overall budget cut of 9 per cent since 2010, including a 25 per cent cut to the capital budget.

“It is completely unacceptable for reductions to be imposed in this financial year to the budget that has already been agreed by the Scottish Parliament.”
Ah, no: this is what happens when you have relied on an overly generous relative for many years—and that relative runs out of money. It doesn't matter what plans you may have made: said relative simply cannot pay for them.

So, unless you are going to get off your fat arse and fund those plans yourself, you must alter said plans.
Mr Swinney also made it clear he told Mr Osborne that he “does not have a mandate in Scotland”, with the Conservatives winning just one seat and suffering the lowest proportion of votes since 1865.
Yes, Mr Swinney: but, equally, that means that Mr Osborne has precisely nothing to lose by slashing Scotland's budget to ribbons, and sending the savings to places where the Tories might actually win more voters, e.g. almost anywhere in England (or even Wales or Ireland).
But the threat of an increase in tax was condemned by the Scottish Conservatives, whose leader Ruth Davidson has made a pledge that her party would try to block tax rises in the next parliament after the Holyrood elections.

A spokesman for Ms Davidson said: “The new tax powers for the Scottish Parliament should not mean higher taxes for the Scottish people.
Why not? If the Scots want increased public services and less austerity, why should they not pay for it?
“The Scottish Conservatives have pledged to ensure that taxes will not be higher as a result of the devolution of these powers.

“There is no reason why John Swinney should not be able to issue the same assurance to families and businesses in Scotland.”
Well, apart from him actually being in power—and having to make some derisory effort to balance the books. Apart from that, Ruth.

But what about the oil, eh? Well, as chokkablog points out, this is not really going to help that much.
Three times in the last 15 years the oil tide has risen high enough to submerge the underlying £1,700 per capita deficit difference and give Scotland a lower deficit than the rest of the UK. When the oil tide flows out we can see more of that underlying £1,700/person deficit difference, we see more of the £9.1bn.

So let's take a closer look at the oil figures.

For Scotland to cover the underlying £9.1bn deficit gap we need total North Sea oil revenues of £10.1bn (because c.90% of North Sea oil revenues are attributable to Scotland).
And the projections for the next few years are nothing like £10.1bn: in fact, for 2015–16 oil is likely to raise just £600 million—short by £9.5 billion. That's rather more than 10% of Scotland's GDP.
John Swinney must be pretty desperate to even consider increasing income tax in Scotland.

If the SNP do get full fiscal economy, the man will probably shit himself.

And with good reason...