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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rally Against Debt update

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/31/2011 09:07:00 am

The Rally Against Debt organisers have set up a website for the event.

Meanwhile, the Facebook page now has 830 confirmed...

Sign up, sign up, one and all!

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/31/2011 09:07:00 am


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New Troubles For Syria

Posted by The Spine at 3/30/2011 10:47:00 am


Posted by The Spine at 3/30/2011 10:47:00 am


Budget for Growth: not oiling the wheels of business

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/30/2011 09:12:00 am

A few days ago, in my comment on the Budget, your humble Devil pointed out that raising the tax on the oil companies was completely fucking stupid.
Quite simply, with fuel prices lowered, people will buy more of it—demand increases. But Osborne is going to tax the suppliers of this good, so that they produce less of it. Is the man a complete moron?

Well, that didn't take long, did it?
One of the world's biggest oil companies, Norway's Statoil, has halted work on two North Sea projects because of the huge tax hit on oil fields in the Budget.

It comes after smaller companies such as Valiant Petroleum warned that they are re-evaluating new projects, since the Chancellor increased tax by 12 percentage points to more than 62pc.

There have also been reports that oil majors have withdrawn plans to sell billions of pounds in North Sea fields nearing the end of their lives, leading to fears they will be abandoned with oil still in the ground.

Statoil, the Norwegian state-controlled company, said on Tuesday it will "pause and reflect" on the future of its Mariner and Bressay fields to the south east of Shetland.

So, what we are faced with is a decrease (however small it may be in the grand scheme of things) in the supply of oil just as the Chancellor has dropped the price of petrol.

And that drop in price is supposed to be paid for by this increased tax on North Sea oil producers. Only the tax increase will see said producers actually producing less. As Timmy says, this is a very neat demonstration of the Laffer Curve in action...
Whether this will actually lead to a decline in tax revenues overall is moot at this point: it certainly won’t lead to a reduction in short term revenues. But it will definitely lead to a reduction in the amount of oil pumped up over the decades and so is quite likely to lead to a reduction in the long term tax take.

And do note that no one is trying to dodge a tax, no one is trying to pass it on. It’s simply that the imposition of a tax has made previously viable activity now non-viable. We’re, in that long term, poorer because of the tax.

Leading to the conclusion that George Osborne is a total fuckwit because he won't raise the revenue that he expects from the producers.

On the other hand, it might be that George Osborne is, in fact, possessed of a near-fiendish Machiavellian cunning...

Because what may happen—especially with the current uncertainty in the other areas of the oil-producing world—is that these announcements are enough to put an upward pressure on the price of oil. This will then raise the price of petrol at the pump, enabling Osborne to wibble on about "greedy oil companies raping the British consumer".

Then, as the price of oil goes up, the Treasury—collecting fuel duty and VAT (a percentage of the price)—gets even more cash than they would have raked in from the 1p duty anyway. In this way, the government can rim its citizens for more cash whilst looking like the good guy.

Actually, of course, I don't think that Osborne has the intellectual nouse to pull that kind of cunning stunt—it's just that he's a stunning cunt.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/30/2011 09:12:00 am


Rally Against Debt

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/30/2011 12:37:00 am

I was contemplating organising some pro-freedom rally the other day: given my current workload, however, it is very fortunate that someone has decided to organise a Rally Against Debt [FB event].

For those of you who have something to hide and thus—for some utterly strange reason—don't feel like handing over all of your personal details to a ginger freak, here are the details...

Rally Against Debt



A well mannered, polite rally for civilised people who don't wish to see their hard earned money being spent on pointless government initiatives and instead would like government spending to actually fall and our national debt to be cut.

We don't think that it's fair for us to continue borrowing money to live a lifestyle that we simply can't afford - burdening our children with unnecessary debt that they will have to pay back.

Any visits to Fortnum and Mason's by protestors will only be to marvel at their selection of quality goods and perhaps make the occasional purchase.

Bonfires will be strictly forbidden: it's out of season anyway

Trips to see Vodafone and other high street chains will result in congratulations to the company for providing jobs and growth in the UK.

This is only a planning group at the moment and all subject to change.

Offical hashtag #RallyAgainstDebt or #RAD

Although subject to change, the current suggested date is 14 May at 11:00–14:00, in London (netch'relly).

If nothing else, it will be an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people and to drink copious amounts of beer...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/30/2011 12:37:00 am


Monday, March 28, 2011

Do the shake and E-Bac and put the freshness back

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/28/2011 11:56:00 pm

Steve Baker MP has been discussing the English Baccalaureate with some of his constituents and has subsequently tabled a question about expanding the scope of the subjects contained within it.

So, what is the English Baccalaureate?
In most European countries school students are expected to pursue a broad and rounded range of academic subjects until the age of 16. Even in those countries such as the Netherlands where students divide between academic and vocational routes all young people are expected, whatever their ultimate destiny, to study a wide range of traditional subjects. So we will introduce a new award – the English Baccalaureate – for any student who secures good GCSE or iGCSE passes in English, mathematics, the sciences, a modern or ancient foreign language and a humanity such as history or geography. This combination of GCSEs at grades A*-C will entitle the student to a certificate recording their achievement. At the moment only around 15 per cent of students secure this basic suite of academic qualifications and fewer than four per cent of students eligible for free school meals do so57. So to encourage the take-up of this combination of subjects we will give special recognition in performance tables to those schools which are helping their pupils to attain this breadth of study.

Which is all very laudable. But part of the problem with GCSEs—and, indeed, all exams in this country—is that the standards have become deliberately debased for short-term political gain.

Thus, not only have schools pushed their pupils towards easier subjects but the means of passing any subject has become far easier: exams focus on "soft" questions of opinion rather than enunciation of facts; papers concentrate on empathy rather than deduction.

The results is that schools teach to the test, not in order to educate their pupils—after all, their funding depends on the number of passes, not whether the children leaving those schools are actually have the knowledge to thrive at university or to get a job or even to understand the subject that they have spent 11 years learning.

Even on the simplest measure of literacy, Britain has dropped from 6th in the world in 2000, to 26th in 2003 (although the headline rate of literacy remained the same). We also have only 19.1% of adults on a high literacy level, whilst 50.4% are considered to have low literacy.

The challenge for the government, then, is not to ensure that more schools get more "passes", because such scores are fundamentally meaningless: the aim is to ensure that children are educated to the highest possible standard. And one way of doing this is to ensure that the exams test practical ability and are not debased in order to massage a creaky government's education statistics.

And this is why the English Baccalaureate is so misnamed, its title evincing the International Baccalaureate. Because the whole point of the International Baccalaureate is that it is internationalan international, non-govermental organisation.

As such, it is not subject to the political whims of politicians and that is why it is recognised—internationally—as a good educational standard of attainment.

The English Baccalaureate—despite the misleading name—is nothing of the sort. It is, essentially, a diploma based on a few compulsory GCSEs: it does not actually raise the level of attainment for any particular subject, it merely ensures that pupils take subjects that the government of the time happens to favour.

If you want to introduce a rigorous, broad and internationally-recognised diploma, then why not adopt the International Baccalaureate?

If, on the other hand, you have particular prejudices about which subjects should be taught in schools but want to keep the actual standards in those subjects so low that you won't be hideously shamed by the piss-poor state of education in your country's schools, then why not make up your own shit and hook its name to that of a rather more credible institution?

As should be obvious, the English Baccalaureate is the latter and is—not to put too fine a point on it—a pointless fucking waste of everybody's time.

In the meantime, another generation of children are completely failed by politicians, teachers, unions and parents. But who gives a shit, eh—as long as those "passes" keep rolling in, who cares?

Whilst the kids might be absolutely incapable of grasping basic mathematics, the educational and political establishments are more than capable of understanding that the children are most valuable as exam statistics breathlessly regurgitated in positive headlines by a docile media...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/28/2011 11:56:00 pm


Diana Wynne Jones is dead

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/28/2011 09:14:00 am

This is a strange experience, for I have never mourned the death of any celebrity or other "person of renown" before. However, it is with a feeling of genuine sadness that I note the death of Diana Wynne Jones, one of the finest writers of Sci-Fi and Fantasy—actually, of any genre—in the English language.
Jones's fiction is relevant, subversive, witty and highly enjoyable, while also having a distinctly dark streak and a constant awareness of how unreliable the real world can seem. Disguises and deceptions abound. Though avoiding criminally dysfunctional families or unwanted pregnancies, her cleverly plotted and amusing adventures deal frankly with emotional clumsiness, parental neglect, jealousy between siblings and a general sense of being an outcast. Rather than a deliberately cruel stepmother, a Jones protagonist might have a real mother far more wrapped up in her own career than in the discoveries and feelings of her child. The child protagonist would realise this, but get on with the adventure anyway.
...

Her career began as a playwright, with three plays produced in London between 1967 and 1970; her first novel, Change- over (1970), was adult humour; since then her work has been written for younger readers. Besides the two series already mentioned, she wrote the Howl books, beginning with Howl's Moving Castle (1986; filmed in 2004 by Hayao Miyazaki), and two sequels, and the Dalemark sequence (1975-2003), dark-tinged fantasies set in that eponymous country.

Some of her best and most enjoyable books are stand-alones, in particular The Ogre Downstairs (1974), The Time of the Ghost (1981) and Fire and Hemlock (1985), each a remarkable blend of pathos and genuinely funny writing. Archer's Goon (1984), extravagantly mixing fantasy with science fiction, was serialised for television by the BBC in 1992. Her most recent novel, the light-hearted Enchanted Glass, appeared last year.

Diana Wynne Jones was a fantastic writer, genuinely witty and fiercely original—I cannot recommend her work enough. For those who are interested, my personal favourites are:
  • Hexwood—mind-bendingly complicated conceptually but a compelling romp with a bitter edge.

  • Fire and Hemlock—probably my all-time favourite of her books, this brooding mystery is heavily entwined with the myth of Tam Lin.

  • The Homeward Bounders—one of the recurring themes in Jones's books is that of parallel worlds, and this one takes you to a whole host of them.

  • Archer's Goon—a tale of how an immensely alien family "farm" a town, this is full of memorable characters and fast-paced storyline.

  • Time of the Ghost—a genuinely scary book in which a ghost tries to work out which of four sisters she is... And how to stop the dark force that hangs over their family from claiming a life.

  • Power Of Three—set in a version of our world in which "people", Dorig and Giants are in constant conflict: a conflict which is driven by a curse made long ago...

Although these are a few of my favourites, Diana Wynne Jones wrote a huge number of novels and stories, all of which are worth reading—I genuinely have not found a book of hers that I did not enjoy.

Oddly, I was reading about Diana only the other day on Neil Gaiman's site—and today Neil's own obituary for Diana Wynne Jones has appeared.
As an author she was astonishing. The most astonishing thing was the ease with which she'd do things (which may be the kind of thing that impresses other writers more than it does the public, who take it for granted that all writer are magicians.But those of us who write for a living know how hard it is to do what she did). The honest, often prickly characters, the inspired, often unlikely plots, the jaw-dropping resolutions.

(She's a wonderful author to read aloud, by the way, as I discovered when reading her books to my kids. Not only does she read aloud beautifully, but denouments which seemed baffling read alone are obvious and elegantly set up and constructed when read aloud. "Children are much more careful readers than adults," she'd say. "You don't have to repeat everything for children. You do with adults, because they aren't paying full attention.")
...

Rest in Peace, Diana Wynne Jones. You shone like a star. The funniest, wisest writer & the finest friend. I miss you.
...

I do miss her, very much. I have some wonderful friends. I have people in my life who are brilliant, and people who are colourful, and people who are absolutely wonderful, and who make the world better for their being in it. But there was only one Diana Wynne Jones, and the world was a finer one for having her in it.

Diana Wynne Jones lived her life to the full, enjoying herself immensely—and enriching the lives of thousands of readers, young and old.

Truly, a sad day for British literature.

RIP Diana Wynne Jones (16 August 1934 - 26 March 2011).

UPDATE: FlipC delivers his own eloquent eulogy...
When I first moved to Stourport, and thus gained easier access to the public library, my first forays into the fantasy genre was DWJ; If memory serves—Archer's Goon. I've never looked back since.

Here was an author who didn't write down to me, didn't condescend. Her plots were complicated and forced you to pay attention to what you were reading; and her characters were believable; acting and reacting in ways you could understand. She didn't ram home the differences in her worlds she simply worked them into the story in such a way that you would happily accept this situation as just that which was normal.

She took you by the hand and led you into a strange world and let you do the pointing, gaping and staring.

There's few authors who can do that, and now there's one less.

Indeed.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/28/2011 09:14:00 am


Quote of the day...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/28/2011 07:09:00 am

March of the Parasites: "I say we nuke the site from orbit: it's the only way to be sure."

... comes from Sam at the ever-excellent Counting Cats In Zanzibar.
I either can’t think of anything to say, or - and this weekend is an example - there’s so much stupidity, idiocy, and downright mouthbreathing fuckwittery going on in Britain that it seems like some kind of Herculean labour to chronicle what I’ve noticed about it and vent my bulging spleen. So I don’t bother. I can’t hold it in today, though. Some people are just so fucking… oh, I don’t know. I can’t find words in the English language sufficient to describe the utter, wilful defiance of objective reality.

That is rather how I feel. It's almost as though one has relied upon people being able to accept, understand and interpret objective reality—and then realised that they don't.

I have written many tens of thousands of words at The Kitchen assuming that people can be reasoned with when quite obviously, it seems, they absolutely can't.

Like your humble Devil, Sam finds himself flabbergasted at Saturday's march in London.
Take the small number of morons who took to the streets of London yesterday. I mean, where to begin? As I said about the students last year, here we have self-styled “anarchists” protesting against a reduction in the size of the state. A reduction, moreover, that isn’t actually happening. If the legacy media and my own acquaintances were all I had to go on, I’d think the entire country was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

It's insane—and deeply fucking irritating.

To a minarchist libertarian like myself, Saturday's march represents the epitome of pathetic, rage-inducing demonstrations. Here we have a whole collection of people (many of whose jobs are solely designed to make our lives more miserable) who are employed on higher wages and better bonuses than those of us in the private sector—the sector that actually creates the wealth that enables these parasites to be employed in their pointless non-jobs.

That the jobs that these people have exist at all is an affront to me.

That these people would march down the street, quite proudly demanding that us and our children's children—aye, unto the nth generation—be enslaved through taxation is enough to make me see red; the fact that these arseholes would unctiously spout these platitudinous catechisms about the evil of slavery, whilst changing their behaviour not at all, brings me to the brink of a coronary.

But the sight of these twerps marching to protect their jobs would be bearable if the cuts in the size of the state were actually happening—but they aren't. We have the worst of both worlds: we must endure sight and sounds of this whinging rag-tag of parasites, moochers, looters, socialists (proclaiming themselves to be anarchists) and union thugs whilst also knowing that the jobs cuts about which they are protesting aren't even happening.

It's enough to make one weep. Or rant on a blog...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/28/2011 07:09:00 am


Open

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/28/2011 04:55:00 am

One of the things that makes Google so super—as compared to, say, Apple—is that all its software is "open source".

Apart from its search algorithms. Obviously.

Oh, and Honeycomb—the latest version of its Android operating system.
Google says it will delay the distribution of its newest Android source code, dubbed Honeycomb, at least for the foreseeable future. The search giant says the software, which is tailored specifically for tablet computers that compete against Apple's iPad, is not yet ready to be altered by outside programmers and customized for other devices, such as phones.

As John Gruber notes...
Guess we need a new definition of “open”.

Snigger...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/28/2011 04:55:00 am


A smoke and mirrors Budget

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/28/2011 02:14:00 am

George Osborne: "look into my eyes, not around the eyes, into the eyes, you are feeling sleepy—now you are feeling wealthier..."

Many people have cautiously welcomed George Osborne's first non-emergency Budget, but the simple fact is that we are being soaked for even more money—it's just that George is clever enough to know how to grab the positive headlines.

You can see the key points on the Beeb website, but I would like to put some of the current situation in perspective.
  1. Fuel duty cut by 1p.
    Which is very nice for those who drive, but rather ignores the fact that the VAT rise in January put more like 3p on a litre of fuel. As such, both this cut and the scrapping of future taxes is hardly putting more money in people's pockets right now. Especially as some 62.2% of the price of fuel is already tax.

  2. Fuel duty cut to be paid for by increasing tax on North Sea oil producers.
    Now this is absolute pure barking insanity. From a personal point of view, it has hit some of my shares—although not to the extent that it has hammered City Unslicker (simply because I have less skin in the game).
    Today's budget has cost me £10,00 on the nose thank so to the collapse in share prices of our North Sea oil companies. Such companies have been doing really well of late, discovering bigger fields and eeking out a longer future for the UK as an oil producer—all the time with 50%+ of the profit going straight to the Treasury.

    But that alone is not enough for your humble Devil to describe this measure as lunatic—no, what leads me to make that comment is far more fundamental...

    As readers will know, your humble Devil is not—in any way—a trained economist. Nor have I read any books on economics. However, even I can understand the theory of supply and demand—and Timmy is able to explain how it applies to this situation with some force.
    Yes, that’s right, you’re taxing the excess profits of those who supply it thus making them, and possible new entrants, less likely to go and find more, so as to increase the supply and bring prices down.

    This is, you’ll have to agree, fairly stupid.

    What lifts is up into the realms of rampant lunacy is that the money so raised is going to be used to reduce the price of the fuel itself: that is, to increase demand.

    So, our solution to prices rising because of tight supply and increasing demand is going to be further restricting supply and increasing demand.

    Quite simply, with fuel prices lowered, people will buy more of it—demand increases. But Osborne is going to tax the suppliers of this good, so that they produce less of it. Is the man a complete moron?

    This lunacy is further compounded when you consider how much the Coalition has been wibbling on about "energy security" and all that other bullshit. The man's a nutter.

  3. Personal Tax Allowance rise.
    So, let us move on from fuelling this fuel fuckwittery and edge cautiously into the realm of personal taxation. In the emergency Budget last June, Osborne raised the Personal Tax Allowance to £7,475...
    ... worth £170 a year to basic rate taxpayers. It is expected that 880,000 of the lowest-paid will be taken out of income tax altogether...

    ... and effective this April; and from next April, the PTA will be raised by another £630 to £8,105. Which is nice.

    However, what has been rather less dwelt upon is the fact that National Insurance—for both employers and employees—is going up by 1% to 12% and 13.8% respectively. My humble salary sees the following changes (calculated by Listen To Taxman):
    • 2010/11: Income Tax of £4,905.00 and National Insurance of £2,780.80 = £7,685.80
      Employers' NI Contributions: £3,968.00

    • 2011/12: Income Tax of £4,705.00 and National Insurance of £2,852.64 = £7,557.64
      Employers' NI Contributions: £3,302.06

    • Total: I am up by £128.16 a year, apparently. And my employer seems to be too—which is odd... Is this right?

    Perhaps the "squeezed middle" is not quite so squeezed? Except, of course, that I am not really much better off since the VAT rise makes just about everything that I buy 3% more expensive than it was in December 2010.

    As with the fuel duty, the Chancellor has made a headline-grabbing reduction in one tax, to mask the fact that he is taking much more from us elsewhere.

    However, these large rises in the PTA are actually rather clever from a PR point of view since they have alerted people to the fact that such allowances exist and can be significant. If a Labour government were to come in and reverse these rises or, as Nulabour did, simply limit them to below inflation—measures which would explicitly hit the poorest hardest—they would be in a very difficult position.

  4. Consultation on the merging of Income Tax and National Insurance.
    This has been mooted for the last few months—or rather longer by both the Adam Smith Institute and UKIP—and is a definite plus as far as your humble Devil is concerned.

    As I have long pointed out, although NI is supposed to pay for your pension, your healthcare and your unemployment benefit, it does not. In reality, there has never been a National Insurance Fund and NI is simply another tax—a colossal £120 billion per annum Ponzi Scheme.

    What it has allowed certain governments to do—as with the below-wage-inflation PTA rises—is to raise more tax whilst dropping the headline rate of income tax.

    What this measure would do is to drop the pretence that NI is anything other than an income tax, thus making it far more difficult to raise direct taxes by stealth.

    It would also hammer home to people that NI does not pay money into a fund for your use but into the general pot of cash for government-delivered services that you access on sufferance.

    It would also bring home to the population in general just how much they pay in direct taxation. A slight caveat, however: as Dizzy points out, despite the glee of pro-campaigners, one would not, in fact, be paying a 32% rate of income tax.
    You see, we have, irritatingly, a progressive tax system. That means you pay NI on the gross before tax. Then you pay Income Tax on the taxable amount, which is the gross less the free 7Kish. Then you pay one rate on the next 20 odd thousand. If you go up into the 40% rate you only pay it on the amount you are in it by.

    In other words, if you earn £1 over the threshold you would pay 40p to the taxman on that £1. Horribly confusing I know.

    Anyway, the bottom line here is that not even someone earning £150,000 per year pays 52% of their income in taxes. In fact, someone on £150K (the 50% tax rate) will pay a combined amount of NI and Income Tax to the tune of £58,900, that 39% of their earnings in tax. Someone on £50K (the so-called 40% higher rate) will pay £13,910 in NI and tax, that's 27% in total.

    Now don't get me wrong, I still think that is way too much. However, trying to win the argument for lower taxes on the basis of exploiting the confusing nature of a "progressive" system to make it sound much worse than it is is the wrong argument to be making because you'll be called on it.

    A much sounder platform to be on is to make the case that the tax system is so utterly confusing that tax rates should be flatter, instead of this crap where you pay a percentage on the gross, then you get a pay one rate on one part, and another rate on another part, less your free part.

    And, of course, this is the other big bonus: such a system would be far simpler to administer, thus allowing the state to get rid of a goodly number of pointless pen-pushers thus leading—hopefully—to a lower rate of tax altogether.

    I wouldn't hold your breath though—with 32% being the figure bandied around, I wouldn't be surprised if that it where it starts.
  5. Corporation Tax dropped by 2%.
    As a shareholder in the company that I work for, I naturally applaud any cuts to Corporation Tax: in fact, I am (in theory) a double winner here since, as we all know (don't we...?), that the actual tax burden ("incidence") of Corporation Tax falls on two groups of people: the workers (some 70%) and the shareholders. Being both, this move will—in theory, I stress—make me rather better off on two fronts.

  6. R&D Taxes Allowances.
    Another rather good piece of news for our business are the changes to Research and Development taxes, as highlighted by Timmy at El Reg.
    Here's (suitably adjusted for the new rules) what HMRC says about the scheme:
    [T]he tax relief on allowable R&D costs is 200 per cent – that is, for each £100 of qualifying costs, your company or organisation could have the income on which Corporation Tax is paid reduced by an additional £100 on top of the £100 spent. It also includes a payable credit in some circumstances.

    That's really rather attractive: if you're paying £100k in R&D a year, and making £100k in profits even after doing so, then you've just wiped out your entire tax bill.

    Now, this is rather super, to be honest. In my day job, one of my many hats is that of (effective) head of research and development*; as such, one of your humble Devil's yearly rituals is to write our R&D submission to the government, upon which we get a pretty decent tax rebate (mainly on people's salaries).

    Whilst the amount of R&D that we do is hardly likely to wipe out all tax on our profits, it should go some way to mitigating our liabilities—and thus allow us to invest even more into creating even better software.

  7. Pension Age.
    One of the final things that I am going to comment on (it hardly seems worth mentioning that "sin" taxes are going up again), is the proposed rise in pension age. Once again, Timmy's Register article explains what this is about.
    Almost everyone therefore expects to live to an age to collect a pension: it has become assurance instead of the original insurance**. The proposal therefore is to tie (as some other places, Denmark among them, already have done) the pension age to the average age of death. In a perfect world, to the average age of death of the previous cohort... Thus the pension becomes what it was originally, insurance against outliving your rational level of savings.

    A useful byproduct of so limiting the concept is that it could become a reasonable and serious payment again. If it is something that's paid to only half of old people and paid to all only for six or seven years rather than 12 or 14, then it could be more generous, while still reducing the total cost.

    Yes, this is rather bloodthirsty, but something must indeed be done about the long-term costs of rising lifespans.

    Bloodthirsty it may be, but the scale of the government's pension liabilities is truly terrifying: it is the largest component of the various studies that have put the British state's true debt at somewhere near £8 trillion—a truly colossal sum that is roughly six times our yearly GDP.

And on the question of the public debt, the news is not so good...
2011 growth forecast downgraded from 2.1% to 1.7%

2012 forecast also down from 2.6% to 2.5%
...

Forecast borrowing of £146bn this year, £2.5bn lower than anticipated

Borrowing to fall to £122bn next year, dropping to £29bn by 2015-16

National debt forecast to be 60% of national income this year, rising to 71% in 2012 before falling to 69% by 2015

As Booker highlighted this weekend, despite the optimistic projections, the government is still spending money like water.
Despite the general impression that our new Government is cutting back on public spending – as Channel 4’s Jon Snow put it, we are facing the most severe cuts since World War Two – the Budget revealed that our spending will in fact increase even faster than we were told it would last October.

In the small print of last year’s spending review, Mr Osborne told us that annual spending was due to rise from £696 billion to £739 billion in four years’ time. In the small print of last week’s Budget, spending is projected to rise from £694 billion this year to £743.6 billion in 2014-15, an increase of some £50 billion.

Then there was Mr Osborne’s claim that, to encourage small businesses, he is planning to save £350 million by scrapping unnecessary regulations. What again only emerged from other official sources was that, as usual, “deregulation” cannot include any regulations originating from the EU, although these now account for the vast majority of our regulatory burden.

This point was neatly put forward by England Expects.
The Government has set great stock by its red tape cutting approach. One in, One out is the cry. Here is the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills statement from last year,
a new approach that will control and reduce the burden of regulation. A “one-in, one-out” approach, designed to change the culture of government, would make sure that new regulatory burdens on business are only brought in when reductions can be made to existing regulation.

Pretty good stuff you must agree.

Indeed. And more hope was engendered when iDave Cameron pointed out that we needed to stop the "huge amount of regulations—particularly coming out of Europe." Hoorah!

Unfortunately, this is but a pipe dream, as Priti Patel found out when she asked a question about this "one in, one out" rule.
Priti Patel (Witham, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills whether his Department's one-in, one-out policy applies to EU regulations.

Fair Question one might have thought, what with the Government being so proud of this policy. The answer? Ah that is a little difficult,
Mark Prisk (Minister of State (Business and Enterprise), Business, Innovation and Skills; Hertford and Stortford, Conservative)
At present EU measures will not be counted as INs unless a Department exceptionally imposes a measure that goes beyond the minimum requirements (i.e. if it is gold-plated, in which case the gold-plated element will be cost as an IN). Existing EU legislation can be counted as an OUT if it is repealed or revoked, or if gold-plating is removed or if a derogation that imposed costs to business is voluntarily curtailed ahead of its maximum term expiring.

So that is a No then.

Poor Priti, there she is asking the right questions, and even getting interesting answers, but what can she do with them? If she goes public the whips will crush her kittens.

And Booker spells out just how much these EU regulations might cost us.
Then there was Mr Osborne’s claim that, to encourage small businesses, he is planning to save £350 million by scrapping unnecessary regulations. What again only emerged from other official sources was that, as usual, “deregulation” cannot include any regulations originating from the EU, although these now account for the vast majority of our regulatory burden.

Coming into force next October, for instance, will be the Agency Workers Regulations, implementing a 2008 EU directive giving temporary workers similar employment rights to full-time employees. This was fiercely resisted by our Government at the time because it will hit Britain much harder than other EU countries. The Government’s own estimate of its annual cost is a staggering £1.9 billion. So, while the Chancellor boasts about saving £350 million, what he doesn’t mention is that the cost of just one EU regulation which we cannot repeal will be nearly £2 billion a year.

Not to mention the fact that we are on the hook for the bail outs of Eurozone countries—a measure that our rat-faced Chancellor nodded through.
Then there was the peculiar farce of David Cameron’s trip to Brussels last Thursday, to sign up to an amendment to the EU Treaty creating a European Financial Stability Mechanism. Under this, it is estimated that we may have to stump up £5 billion to help bail out countries such as Portugal, the latest victim in the slow-motion collapse of the euro, even though we are not in the eurozone. (Weren’t we meant to be given a referendum on any further amendments to that EU treaty?)

Ah, no, Christopher. You see, as I pointed out, there are any number of excuses that the government can deploy to get around their pointless referendum lockDouglas Carswell enunciated a number of them, so feel free to take your pick...

Anyway, to return to the point of this post, overall the Budget was not too bad—despite containing a number of barkingly insane measures. However, the EU remains the elephant in the room, issuing regulations that not only threaten to stifle the Coalition's plans for lighter business regulation but also puts us on the hook to for a likely imminent bail out of Portugal—which could wipe out a great deal of the Coalition's proposed savings.

If we are also required to dip into our pockets to shore up the collapse of the increasingly creaky-looking Spain—whose banks are suspected to have a €100 billion exposure to Portuguese debt—then we will be in real trouble.

Intimately linked to the EU, of course, is the whole Green agenda.

Can we leave yet...?

In the meantime, there are two other Budget points that I want to mention, although I may cover the former in more detail later: that is the move "to introduce a carbon price floor for the power sector". Quite simply, this will make power a hell of a lot more expensive than it currently is—and it has risen considerably over the last ten years.

A rise in power costs will lead to considerable cost rises in just about every damn thing—wiping out any tax advantages that you might gain, and driving inflation upwards.

The final point have been condemned—like the tax on North Sea oil companies—as a piece of absolute insanity...
The Firstbuy scheme would see the government and house builders offer loan help for first-time buyers purchasing a newly-built home.

Buyers must save a deposit worth 5% of their property's value, with the government and housebuilders putting up 10% each through an equity loan, enabling people to qualify for 75% loan-to-value mortgage.

The equity loan would be interest-free for the first five years, with interest charged at 1.75% in year six, and at inflation plus 1% thereafter.

We have just had a near-complete economic collapse driven by people buying houses that they cannot afford: what the government is proposing to do is to help people to buy houses that they cannot afford. However, to many people this measure would appear to be a sensible one.

Why?

Well, despite the supposed problems with bad mortgages, we have not actually seen much of a house price crash in this country—and certainly not in the more affluent south east. However, we have seen a severe contraction in lending by the banks, meaning that first-time buyers are, indeed, finding it difficult to get a mortgage.

This, of course, has impacts all the way up the chain: if the buyers of your first home cannot get a loan, then you cannot sell your first home. And, if you cannot sell your first home, the likelihood is that you will be unable to move to your next house. And the owners of your next house will not be able to move to their next house if you cannot buy theirs, and so on.

As such, as people find it harder to get loans, we will see a truly colossal house price crash start to move through the system. Which means more bad mortgages, the housing market grinding to a halt, builders going to the wall and banks collapsing again.

So, Osborne's proposed idea might be seen to be quite sensible. Except for two things...
This would be funded by the levy on banks, Mr Osborne said. Some £210m will be spent in England, with the other £40m in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Riiiight. So, what Osborne will do is to take money from the banks, giving them less capital to lend; he will then filter it through government bureaucracies—which will significantly reduce the amount of money available—and then hand what remains to people so that they can give this reduced sum back to the banks from which it was taken in the first place.

That's absolutely fucking brilliant, George. You moron.

Second, I believe that this fund is only available to those purchasing new builds—which is fine for the building industry, but does absolutely nothing to help the general housing chain. So, despite this £250 million, you still won't be able to find someone to buy your first home so that you can move on to your second.

Let's all look forward to that super new crash, shall we?

Overall, this Budget could have been worse, but let us not delude ourselves—economically, Britain is still in pretty dicey waters. And I fear that is it going to take rather more than this to enable Britain to prosper again.

But, on the bright side, at least George Osborne is not Gordon Brown or Ed Balls...

* Actually, I am the Product Manager but, in a small company, that means that I lead the Development team and, at least partly, design the software. Part of my remit is to understand our customers' needs, the market at large (including the politics) and the wider technological developments in the web software world. As such, I effectively lead research and development for the company.

** As Timmy explains in the article, assurance is payment against something that will happen, e.g. your funeral costs. Insurance is payment against an event that might happen, e.g. a meteorite falling on your house.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/28/2011 02:14:00 am


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fact of the Day

Posted by The Spine at 3/23/2011 10:58:00 am


Posted by The Spine at 3/23/2011 10:58:00 am


Just wondering...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/23/2011 02:35:00 am

Over at EUReferendum, on the eve of The Budget, Richard's frustration is particularly evident and his dire predictions of bloody revolution becoming ever more bloody... [Emphasis mine.]
The average British household has seen its real-terms income fall by £365 in the worst three-year squeeze since the early 1980s, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, dragging it down 1.6 percent since 2008. During the previous half-century, the average income had risen by 1.6 percent each year.

Against that, inflation is up to 4.4 percent, taxes are up, and are set to increase further with today's budget, as Government finances continue to spiral out of control.

This is balanced by reduced entitlements, poorer services, increased charges and public sector fees – all the while the ruling classes continue to pay themselves more and better salaries and pensions, while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

This, it seems, it just the time to embark on a foreign adventure, to keep the minds of the plebs focused on the bread and circuses – except that most people aren't buying it. They are deeply suspicious of the cost and alarmed at the evidence that the Boy doesn't actually know what he is doing.

This is getting close to the stuff of revolution. We are not there yet, but each of these developments brings us a step further down this perilous road, from which there is no turning back once the destination is reached.

Maybe so and I have often, in the past, yelled loudly for British citizens to man the barricades!

But I am troubled by just one question should this unhappy situation ever arise...

Tell me—who will rush to enforce a no-fly zone in Britain when the government turns its guns on us...?

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/23/2011 02:35:00 am


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sub-prime students

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/22/2011 09:11:00 pm

Your humble Devil appears to be a fixture on various low-rent media lists and, as such, receives a large number of unwarranted but occasionally hilarious press releases. Today's little gem is from UCL Occupation"students occupying University College London in protest at fee rises and cuts".
At 2pm on Monday 21st March students occupied the UCL registry, the main administrative wing of the university. We stand against all cuts and for free education.

We are occupying in solidarity with our lecturers and support staff who are taking part in the UCU strike to defend their jobs, pay and pensions. We as students are taking the direct action denied to our lecturers by anti-union legislation.

UCL management are meeting on Thursday 24th to decide whether to increase tuition fees—we call on UCL management to not raise tuition fees and to lobby against the government cuts.

Management will also discuss the restructuring and outsourcing of estates and facilities. We stand in solidarity with the staff whose jobs and wages are threatened, and continue to demand the London Living Wage.

We call for no repercussions or victimization...

I'm sorry—what? Oh, do you mean "victimisation"?

Well, can I suggest that you capable little intellectuals either learn how to spell your own language, or use those colossal brains of yours to figure out how to switch your MS Word Dictionary to "British English" or "International English"?
... of any students or staff involved in industrial action and associated protests.

We hope that the UCU strike and the nationwide university occupations it has inspired encourage a wave of strikes, occupations and protests leading up to the March 26th national anti-cuts demonstration and beyond. We are all in this together.

Naturally, I sent a reply to these eager little revolutionaries; I thought it best to keep it short and sweet...
We are all in this together.

Um. No we're not. You want me to pay for your education through my taxes, even though the greatest beneficiary of your education will be you.

You want something that's going to benefit you?—you pay for it.

Regards,

DK

Do you think that they'll be able to decipher that message?

Ever since I read Nick M's post at Counting Cats, I have been considering the following proposition: subsidising students is, in fact, utterly sub-prime—where sub-prime is defined as laying out a considerable sum of money which you have almost no chance of recouping.

This is especially true when such a large proportion of the population now goes to university; how many of those who go to university will ever repay their student loan—let alone contribute enough tax over their lifetime to repay the taxpayer for the rest of the cost?

I reckon that the proportion is pretty small, frankly.

Some people would say that society benefits from having an educated workforce: that may be true, but does society benefit over and above what it costs to pay for these people?

If students are unwilling to pay £9,000 per year in fees, then I think that we could easily conclude that said degree is not worth £9k to the prime beneficiary of this education—what is it worth to those of us who currently have to pay?

So, no: we aren't in this together, frankly.

UPDATE: in the comments, the Fat Bigot makes the point rather more eloquently than I could, rushed as I was...
On the substantive point it's worth observing twenty-odd years ago the student grant scheme was workable and affordable because, generally speaking, there was a pretty good chance that the recipient would pay it back in spades through taxes during his or her working life.

There are only so many people for whom university education can add value. That many jobs now require a degree is a reflection of the fact that degrees from many institutions are seen as the modern equivalent of A-levels.

The lower you set the bar for university entrance, the less likely it is that the additional students (that is, those who get in now but wouldn't have got in when entrance standards were higher) will be net (or you might prefer "nett" [I do—DK]) contributors to the public coffers.

Once the bar is lower you either have a two-tier system of funding whereby the best get tax-funded support and the lesser qualified do not, or you have the same system for everyone. Practical politics requires the same system for everyone. What you cannot have is everyone being paid by taxpayers because
  1. there are too many of them for it to be affordable and

  2. only relatively few are of the quality that will repay the gift with a profit for future generations of taxpayers.

This is all basic common sense. Unless you believe in the magic money tree, of course.

Quite.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/22/2011 09:11:00 pm


It warm the cockles of my heart

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/22/2011 09:20:00 am

There are times when George "Moonbat" Monbiot almost engenders my respect: not only was he one of the few journalists to admit that he was "dismayed and deeply shaken" by the Climategate emails showed that maybe he had overstated the certainty of climate change, he has now written a vaguely sensible article about nuclear power.
You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

Some greens have wildly exaggerated the dangers of radioactive pollution. For a clearer view, look at the graphic published by xkcd.com. It shows that the average total dose from the Three Mile Island disaster for someone living within 10 miles of the plant was one 625th of the maximum yearly amount permitted for US radiation workers. This, in turn, is half of the lowest one-year dose clearly linked to an increased cancer risk, which, in its turn, is one 80th of an invariably fatal exposure. I'm not proposing complacency here. I am proposing perspective.

Whoever heard of a loony Green embracing anything so inconvenient as "facts" or advocating anything so radical as "perspective"?

The thing is that Moonbat does not simply endorse nuclear power (with caveats): he actually rips apart the whole concept of powering our economy through "renewable energy".
Like others, I have called for renewable power to be used both to replace the electricity produced by fossil fuel and to expand the total supply, displacing the oil used for transport and the gas used for heating fuel. Are we also to demand that it replaces current nuclear capacity? The more work we expect renewables to do, the greater the impact on the landscape will be, and the tougher the task of public persuasion.

But expanding the grid to connect people and industry to rich, distant sources of ambient energy is also rejected by most of the greens who complained about the blog post I wrote last week in which I argued that nuclear remains safer than coal. What they want, they tell me, is something quite different: we should power down and produce our energy locally. Some have even called for the abandonment of the grid. Their bucolic vision sounds lovely, until you read the small print.

At high latitudes like ours, most small-scale ambient power production is a dead loss. Generating solar power in the UK involves a spectacular waste of scarce resources. It's hopelessly inefficient and poorly matched to the pattern of demand. Wind power in populated areas is largely worthless. This is partly because we have built our settlements in sheltered places; partly because turbulence caused by the buildings interferes with the airflow and chews up the mechanism. Micro-hydropower might work for a farmhouse in Wales, but it's not much use in Birmingham.

And how do we drive our textile mills, brick kilns, blast furnaces and electric railways – not to mention advanced industrial processes? Rooftop solar panels? The moment you consider the demands of the whole economy is the moment at which you fall out of love with local energy production. A national (or, better still, international) grid is the essential prerequisite for a largely renewable energy supply.

Some greens go even further: why waste renewable resources by turning them into electricity? Why not use them to provide energy directly? To answer this question, look at what happened in Britain before the industrial revolution.

It's an extraordinary screed; although Moonbat is very far from declaring himself "not a Green", he does at least seem to be considering the facts and evidence. In fact, he remains one of the more interesting journalists simply because, over the years, there has been some development in his views.

Don't get me wrong—the man is still deeply wrong, massively hypocritical and mildly terrifying on questions of private property rights and other civil liberties matters. But it is nice to see that Moonbat can not only actually grasp and assimilate some actual evidence but also modify his views based on said evidence.

If only he could teach Polly to do the same, we might make some progress. And, of course, Polly could stop writing the same column every week...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/22/2011 09:20:00 am


Friday, March 18, 2011

Radiation, Relative Risk and Reality

Posted by The Pedant-General at 3/18/2011 09:49:00 am

There is a vast amount of cockwaffle being foisted upon an insufficiently informed or sceptical public on the risk to the world at large resulting from the issues at Fukushima.

In particular, the danger here shares a common feature with many other environmental scares: the staggering inability to support vastly unlikely future risk resulting in really actually massively increased present damage to the public. For example....
  • Keeping reservoir levels high in Queensland as a protection against drought, so that it cannot perform its actual task which is to mitigate against floods. (And then on discovering the problem releasing water to protect the dam from overtopping at the peak of the flood water flow levels...)
  • Using corn for ethanol.
  • Making a fuss about new reactors being built, thus ensuring older, less inherently safe, reactors cannot be decommissioned.
  • Crippling Western economies with ludicrous overheads, ensuring that more responsible, less polluting manufacturing work in the West is replaced with vastly less responsible, vastly more polluting manufacturing work in China.
With both of those things in mind, I would echo our diabolical host's direction to Barry Brook. He is doing sterling work reporting what is actually happening at the site and reproduces a short essay at the bottom of today's regular update post from which the following quote is a gem. The context, as if we needed reminding, is that the Pacific coast of Japan has been swept by a massive earthquake and even more catastrophic tsunami which has destroyed vast areas of countryside taking with it all the infrastructure required to support civilisation as we have come to know and love it:
Yet in Japan, you have radiation zealots threatening to order people out of their homes, to wander, homeless and panic-stricken, through the battered countryside, to do what? All to avoid a radiation dose lower than what they would get from a ski trip.


UPDATE: The unparalleled excellence of xkcd puts all this in its proper graphical context.

FURTHER UPDATE: john b takes issue with my mention of the Wivenhoe dam above. The actual sequence of events may be even more - ahem - damning if this report is true.

And Jon Snow apparently needs a thorough kicking for good measure too.

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Posted by The Pedant-General at 3/18/2011 09:49:00 am


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The people (and Peter Bone's wife) vs. Mr Cameron

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/15/2011 11:55:00 pm

On 9th March 2011, Peter Bone MP used Prime Minister's Questions to ask a serious question in an amusing way.
Peter Bone (Wellingborough, Conservative)

Mr Speaker, 373,000 Daily Express readers want it, 80% of Conservative Members support it, the Deputy Prime Minister would love it, and my wife demands it. The British people, Conservative supporters, the leader of the Liberal party and especially Mrs Bone cannot all be wrong. Prime Minister: may we have a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union?

Note, please, that Peter Bone invoked a number of entities in support of his question. And what was the Prime Minister's answer? [Emphasis mine.]
David Cameron (Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative)

I wish that my wife were as easy to please. I was worried about where that question was going.

I am afraid that I must disappoint my hon. Friend and Mrs Bone. I think that we are better off inside the EU but making changes to it, in the way that we are setting out.

So, whilst Peter Bone pointed out that the majority of the Conservative Party are for a referendum, as are a relatively large number of Daily Express readers (let alone everyone else in the country), Cameron replies purely in the first person.

Obviously, this massively-foreheaded cunt thinks that his opinion trumps that of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of the people that he is supposed to serve. Could this bastard be any more arrogant and conceited?

Almost certainly, but then he'd be Ed Balls.

The fact is that neither Cameron nor Head of Policy Oliver Letwin have been able to articulate precisely why we are so well off in the European Union; indeed, as regular readers will know, Letwin bunnied out of a debate with your humble Devil, even though he is apparently starting to doubt the wisdom of his opinion.

It is hardly coincidence, then, that both Dan Hannan MEP and Douglas Carswell MP are trailing the launch of The People's Pledge—a campaign to hold a referendum on the EU.

Obviously, I would urge you all to go and sign up but, whilst a campaign probably needs to start now, I do not support a referendum right now—as I have told the Albion Alliance a number of times.

Why?

Quite simply because it would be too close: I want a referendum that we—that is, the EUsceptics—will definitely win. And I do not think that the numbers support that at this present moment.

Especially since the EU is busy amending laws to enable them to pour millions of pounds into the pro-EU side [the link to England Expects seems to be dodgy—firing up tens of windows with "page not found". I shall restore it when the problem—or hack—is fixed].
Today a report was passed in the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Parliament which now moves up to the plenary. The report, called the the Giannakou Report after its draftswoman Marietta Giannakou... who was on the Convention which drew up the European Constitution, is titled,
A Draft Report [PDF] on the application of Regulation 2004/2003 on the regulations governing political parties at European level and the rules regarding their funding

In it we see this,
  1. Points out that since 2008 European political parties have been entitled to use sums received as grants for ‘financing campaigns conducted ... in the context of the elections to the European Parliament ...’ (Article 8, third paragraph, of the Funding Regulation); further points out, however, that they are prohibited from using these sums for financing ‘referenda campaigns’; considers that the reason for this is probably a concern that European parties and foundations could interfere in the domestic affairs of Member States; believes, however that, if European political parties are to play a political role at EU level, they should have the right to participate in such campaigns as long as the subject of the referendum has a direct link with issues concerning the European Union;

Thus they would be able to shovel taxpayers money to the pro-EU side, indeed that would be the express purpose of the change in the law.
What is more this recital was amended as it went through the Committee. Amendment 95 [PDF] by one Andrew Duff, Lib Dem MEP for the Eastern Counties and federast supreme. What did the Duffer succeed in doing, well he removed this sentence,
considers that the reason for this is probably a concern that European parties and foundations could interfere in the domestic affairs of Member States

In other words he whitewashed any suggestion that the EU at one time recognised that there are some aspect of national democracy where it shouldn't interfere.

This is a direct attempt to find extra taxpayer funding for the Yes side in any forthcoming EU referendum in the UK. They are as aware of the liklihood of an In/Out referendum in the UK sooner or later and have every intention of loading the dice with taxpayer's money. As things stand the UK is affected in the sense that of the parties elected to the European Parliament and that have Political Parties at a European Level, that is the Tories, the Greens, the Labour Party and the Lib Dems are all formally partisans of an 'In'.

Think about all this. What this means is that money donated to the Lib Dem Euro political party, by someone living in France, could be used to fund a pro-European referendum campaign in the UK by washing it through the European Poltical Party. Neat eh?

In direct contravension of British electoral law, but so be it.

The EU federasts have been able to do immense damage and to hammer through enormous changes to our laws and constitution in the few decades since the last referendum: we simply cannot afford to lose this one.

As such, I am in favour of waiting a couple of years, until the colossal interference that EU undertakes through laws that we have never voted for becomes so onerous and so obvious that the British people will—for an absolute certainty—vote to leave this piece of shit federal union.

Can we leave yet? Yes.

Will people vote to do so? No.

Not yet.

But soon...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/15/2011 11:55:00 pm


Uncle Balls and His Best Friend Ed

Posted by The Spine at 3/15/2011 12:24:00 pm



Posted by The Spine at 3/15/2011 12:24:00 pm


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japanese nuclear power-plants: an accurate assessment

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/13/2011 11:43:00 pm

A nuclear reactor: now you can build your own...

Via EUReferendum, I have read—with great interest—this article on the situation surrounding the Fukushima nuclear incident.

Whilst media outlets, such as the BBC, have been amplifying the dangers (whilst simultaneously appearing to downplay them) the simple fact is that, according to the linked article, there really is no risk.

The article is written by Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT, in Boston: he is a PhD Scientist, whose father has extensive experience in Germany’s nuclear industry. As such, Oehmen can be taken as a rather more authoritative source than, for instance, the BBC's Roger Black; I have been unable to find a biography for the latter but, given the lack of scientific qualifications in the rest of the BBC's environmental team, I think that we can assume that Oehmen is rather more believable than Black.

Anyway, the whole article is utterly fascinating—laying out, as it does, not only what happened in Japan but also describing, in detail, exactly how a nuclear plant of the light water design actually operates.

So, I recommend that you read it all—I will simply leave you with Oehmen's conclusions:
  • The plant is safe now and will stay safe.

  • Japan is looking at an INES Level 4 Accident: Nuclear accident with local consequences. That is bad for the company that owns the plant, but not for anyone else.

  • Some radiation was released when the pressure vessel was vented. All radioactive isotopes from the activated steam have gone (decayed). A very small amount of Cesium was released, as well as Iodine. If you were sitting on top of the plants’ chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy. The Cesium and Iodine isotopes were carried out to the sea and will never be seen again.

  • There was some limited damage to the first containment. That means that some amounts of radioactive Cesium and Iodine will also be released into the cooling water, but no Uranium or other nasty stuff (the Uranium oxide does not “dissolve” in the water). There are facilities for treating the cooling water inside the third containment. The radioactive Cesium and Iodine will be removed there and eventually stored as radioactive waste in terminal storage.

  • The seawater used as cooling water will be activated to some degree. Because the control rods are fully inserted, the Uranium chain reaction is not happening. That means the “main” nuclear reaction is not happening, thus not contributing to the activation. The intermediate radioactive materials (Cesium and Iodine) are also almost gone at this stage, because the Uranium decay was stopped a long time ago. This further reduces the activation. The bottom line is that there will be some low level of activation of the seawater, which will also be removed by the treatment facilities.

  • The seawater will then be replaced over time with the “normal” cooling water

  • The reactor core will then be dismantled and transported to a processing facility, just like during a regular fuel change.

  • Fuel rods and the entire plant will be checked for potential damage. This will take about 4-5 years.

  • The safety systems on all Japanese plants will be upgraded to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami (or worse)

  • I believe the most significant problem will be a prolonged power shortage. About half of Japan’s nuclear reactors will probably have to be inspected, reducing the nation’s power generating capacity by 15%. This will probably be covered by running gas power plants that are usually only used for peak loads to cover some of the base load as well. That will increase your electricity bill, as well as lead to potential power shortages during peak demand, in Japan.

If you want to stay informed, please forget the usual media outlets and consult the following websites:

As Oehmen points out, he has published this in order to provide an accurate portrayal of the situation—something that he has not seen, and you will not see, in the hysterical articles written by the under-qualified hacks of the MSM.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/13/2011 11:43:00 pm


Friday, March 11, 2011

Japanese Tsunami Hits World Media

Posted by The Spine at 3/11/2011 05:27:00 pm


Posted by The Spine at 3/11/2011 05:27:00 pm


Nearly one third of Britons are in receipt of benefits

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/11/2011 12:01:00 am

The Express today reported that some 20 million Britons are in receipt of benefits.

Because it was the Express, I decided to go and find the original Public Accounts Committee report and, sure enough, this figure is accurate. [Emphasis mine.]
  1. The Department for Work and Pensions is responsible for much of the benefits system, and the majority of payments are processed by the Department's agencies, Jobcentre Plus and the Pension, Disability and Carers Service. The benefits system is both large and complex: there are around 30 different types of benefits and pensions, with 900 distinct rates of payment.[2] In 2009-10, some £148 billion of payments were made to 20 million people.[3]

As Obnoxio dryly commented on Twitter...
That is one FUCK OFF "safety net"

Indeed.

It's also one fucking massive client state...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/11/2011 12:01:00 am


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Quote of the Day...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/10/2011 11:11:00 pm

Andrew Lansley: no Ellsworth Toohey, but still a disgusting illiberal bastard.

... is from Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, used by the Adam Smith Institute in a discussion about the new anti-smoking proposals put forward by that utter cunt, Andrew Lansley.
Look at the moral atmosphere of today. Everything enjoyable, from cigarettes to sex to ambition to the profit motive, is considered depraved or sinful. Just prove that a thing makes men happy—and you've damned it. That's how far we've come. We've tied happiness to guilt. And we've got mankind by the throat. Throw your first-born into a sacrificial furnace—lie on a bed of nails—go into the desert to mortify the flesh—don't dance—don't go to the movies on Sunday—don't try to get rich—don't smoke—don't drink. It's all the same line… Kill the individual. Kill man’s soul. The rest will follow automatically.

This advice on how to rule the world is given by Ellsworth Toohey—one of the most brilliantly repulsive characters in English literature—to one of the protagonists, Peter Keating (a man who compromises his talent and ability in order to gain success and is thus damned).

Andrew Lansley is not like Toohey or Keating—he is neither magnificent nor corrupt enough to resemble either character. But he is the Coalition minister who has done the most to swell the contents of the massive coffer that is my swearbox, by being an utter bastard.

Lansley is now continuing to be a total and utter bastard through these new proposals concerning the sale of cigarettes.
Tobacco displays in shops will be banned in England as part of a package of measures to discourage smoking.

Instead, cigarettes and other products will have to be kept under-the-counter from 2012 for large stores and 2015 for small shops, ministers have announced.

A consultation will also be launched on whether manufacturers should be forced to put cigarettes into plain packets.

I could rant and rage about this, but why would I bother when spiked! has already done the job for me...?
As Patrick Basham and John Luik have pointed out elsewhere on spiked, the evidence that banning tobacco displays will cut smoking rates is pretty much non-existent. In fact, smoking rates have often gone up after such measures were introduced.

Indeed, the belief that making something more mysterious and more illicit is going to discourage young people from trying it demonstrates remarkable ignorance. Smoking is one of those rite-of-passage activities that allows an older child to demonstrate that they are, in fact, a grown-up. Moreover, having spent the past few years treating adults more and more like children, the government has inspired an adolescent-like ‘fuck you’ attitude to health campaigns from many people, where smoking becomes a tiny show of passive resistance to being constantly lectured about what to do.
...

In reality, the major parties are slugging it out over who can be the most illiberal. While both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats made some positive noises about rolling back the state prior to last year’s General Election, in office they have been an absolute match for New Labour in terms of interfering in our private lives. You couldn’t call it unexpected. When the ever-so libertarian-sounding Boris Johnson became London mayor, his first act was to ban the drinking of alcohol on London transport.

Your humble Devil was absolutely incensed about this at the time, and wrote a couple of pieces: one excoriating Boris and the other slamming the commenters who agreed with him. As I said at the time...
Boris, as The Nameless One points out, is now the most powerful Tory in the country and his policies are going to give some indication of what a Tory government might be like.

And Boris's very first act is to implement a policy that is more authoritarian than that of NuLabour's representative. It is a policy that involves more government interference in our daily lives (and if you think that this is the end of such policies then you are even more stupid than I thought).

Regretfully, I have been proved right again; it gives me little comfort.

It seems that spiked! also have no illusions on this score...
While there have been some small, but welcome, shifts in policy on the vetting of those who work with children and on some specific civil liberties issues, the reality is that personal autonomy and freedom are all but disregarded in British politics today. Instead, we are all seen as ‘vulnerable’ in one way or another, with the state stepping in to watch over us. The effect is to exaggerate fears and to undermine constantly our sense of having the capacity to cope with problems as they arise or make decisions for ourselves.

This creates a situation where the authorities will step in to regulate and restrict everyday life on the flimsiest of pretexts. So, as Sally Davies suggests, our children need to be protected from evil tobacco manufacturers luring the young and vulnerable into a life of addiction through, err… a neatly laid-out tobacco display case.

Defending the right to sell tobacco in a particular manner is not going to send the masses to the barricades. But the implication that we are so feeble that we cannot be trusted to protect our health in the face of some coloured boxes is a very good reason to oppose this ban. It also shows that any Lib-Con pretence to being defenders of personal freedom has long since gone up in smoke.

Indeed. Or, as the Daily Mash so eloquently put it...
Tories to treat you like children too

IT is not just the Labour Party who wants to treat you like a three year-old child, it has emerged.

Indeed not. And whilst this modern Coalition government are too stupid and vapid to try to stamp out individualism—to "kill a man's soul"—in order to rule the world, they feel entirely justified in doing so simply because they are dreary hypocritical Puritans who cannot resist their authoritarian desires.

As Pater so succinctly put it in an email to your humble Devil...
I am a non-smoker but the government's announcement that it is to force tobacco under the counter is a most dispiriting development. After years of meddlesome interference by New Labour in the private lives of British citizens, it would appear that the Coalition's only wish is to continue down the same dreary and self-righteous road.

It makes a mockery of Cameron's recent pronouncements about the value of small government and of his pre-election promises to get government off the backs of ordinary people.

If this is the direction of travel, I for one am heading off towards the Libertarians. I hope that this profoundly wrong-headed and illiberal piece of legislation is thrown out by the Commons.

They are all tediously evil bastards: isn't it time that we hanged them all...?

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/10/2011 11:11:00 pm


Jill Duggan: epic FAIL

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/10/2011 09:19:00 pm

Jill Duggan: "I open my mouth, and rubbish pours out..."

Today seems to be the day for car-crash media, so let us move on from Charlie Sheen and cross over to Australia, where they are having something of a debate about whether to introduce a cap and trade carbon Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), similar to the one that has lined the pockets of government bureaucrats and transnational corporations in Europe.

Generally speaking, the Aussies are not overly keen on making everything more expensive on the unproven threat of Armaggeddon: they are also up in arms about the fact that the government is about to spend millions of Australian tax dollars on a softening up exercise marketing campaign to "inform" Australians about the scheme.

All of this you can hear in this Australian radio show, broadcast on the 9th of March and featuring Andrew Bolt.

The highlight (and I use that word advisedly), however, is the interview with a British woman called Jill Duggan.

You probably haven't heard of Jill Duggan before, but she is an EU apparatchick who is responsible, amongst other things, for Britain's ETS.

And she gets absolutely slapped, politely but repeatedly. I have an MP3 [2MB] of the relevant section, thanks to His Ecclesiastical Eminence, who describes Duggan's performance thusly...
The Australians who are conducting the interview are worried that perhaps an ETS is not such a good idea.

Having heard the interview you will understand why they feel this way—Duggan's performance is truly catastrophic, with our the woman from Whitehall apparently unable to quantify either the costs or the benefits of the scheme she runs. It's hilarious, toe-curling and utterly compelling.

These, ladies and gentlemen, are the Rolls Royce minds that run the UK these days.

Just in case you are unwilling or unable to listen to this epic failure from this idiot, thieving EU moron, via The Englishman, you can read the transcript of the whole interview in Andrew Bolt's Herald Sun column—I have reproduced some of the best bits below...
Jill Duggan is from the European Commission's Directorate General of Climate Action. She is the EC's National Expert on Carbon Markets and Climate Change. She was head of Britain's International Emissions Trading. She is in Australia to tell us how good Europe's emission trading system is and why we should do something similar [PDF].

No one, therefore, should better know the answers to the two most basic questions about this huge scheme. The cost? The effect?.

Well, you might think that, Andrew, but obviously you haven't had many dealings with the EU before: as Strange Stuff has eloquently pointed out, the EU doesn't give two shits about cost (after all, it's not as though the EU Commission have to answer to the electorate, member governments or anyone else, for that matter) and nothing is going to stop them carrying out batshit insane ideas regardless of whether those policies will achieve the stated aims or simply beggar everyone in Europe.
Andrew Bolt: Can I just ask; your target is to cut Europe's emissions by 20% by 2020?

Jill Duggan: Yes.

AB: Can you tell me how much—to the nearest billions—is that going to cost Europe do you think?

JD: No, I can't tell you but I do know that the modelling shows that it's cheaper to start earlier rather than later, so it's cheaper to do it now rather than put off action.

AB: Right. You wouldn't quarrel with Professor Richard Tol—who's not a climate sceptic—but is professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin? He values it at about $250 billion. You wouldn't quarrel with that?

JD: I probably would actually. I mean, I don't know. It's very, very difficult to quantify. You get different changes, don't you? And one of the things that's happening in Europe now is that many governments—such as the UK government and the German government—would like the targets to be tougher because they see it as a real stimulus to the economy.

AB: Right. Well you don't know but you think it isn't $250 billion.

JD: I think you could get lots of different academics coming up with lots of different figures.

AB: That's right. You don't know but that's the figure that I've got in front of me. For that investment. Or for whatever the investment is. What's your estimation of how much—because the object ultimately of course is to lower the world's temperatures—what sort of temperature reduction do you imagine from that kind of investment?

JD: Well, what we do know is that to have an evens chance of keeping temperature increases globally to 2°C—so that's increases—you've got to reduce emissions globally by 50% by 2050.

AB: Yes, I accept that, but from the $250 billion—or whatever you think the figure is—what do you think Europe can achieve with this 20% reduction in terms of cutting the world's temperature? Because that's, in fact, what's necessary. What do you think the temperature reduction will be?

JD: Well, obviously, Europe accounts for 14% of global emissions. It's 500 or 550 million people. On its own it cannot do that. That is absolutely clear.

AB: Have you got a figure in your mind? You don't know the cost. Do you know the result?

JD: I don't have a cost figure in my mind. Nor, one thing I do know, obviously, is that Europe acting alone will not solve this problem alone.

AB: So if I put a figure to you—I find it odd that you don't know the cost and you don't know the outcome—would you quarrel with this assessment: that by 2100—if you go your way and if you're successful—the world's temperatures will fall by 0.05°C? Would you agree with that?

JD: Sorry, can you just pass that by me again? You're saying that if Europe acts alone?

AB: If just Europe alone—for this massive investment—will lower the world's temperature with this 20% target (if it sustains that until the end of this century) by 0.05°C. Would you quarrel with that?

JD: Well, I think the climate science would not be that precise. Would it?

AB: Ah, no, actually it is, Jill. You see this is what I'm curious about; that you're in charge of a massive program to re-jig an economy. You don't know what it costs. And you don't know what it'll achieve.

Let me just underline this point for you: Jill Duggan—the arsehole who is theoretically in charge of this enormously expensive ETS programme—does not know what the costs are, nor the supposed benefits.

That's a pretty stunning admission, isn't it?

After all, regardless of whether one believes in the whole catastrophic anthropogenic climate change theory (CACC), surely any steps that we do or do not take should be properly assessed?

Let's imagine that CACC is real and we need to act: well, given that premise, we need whatever we do to be effective, and to be as low cost as possible. And we should do that by means of a quantifiable cost-benefit analysis (CBA). Without an effective CBA, you could be pissing many billions of pounds up the wall whilst absolutely not achieving your aims at all.

Which is, of course, precisely what has happened with the EU ETS.

But it gets worse (believe it or not)...
JD: Well, I think you can look at lots of modelling which will come up with lots of different costs.

AB: Well what's your modelling? That's the one that everyone's quoting. What's your modelling?

JD: Well, ah, ah. Let me talk about what we have done in Europe and what we have seen as the benefits. In Europe, in Germany you could look at, there's over a million new jobs that have been created by tackling climate change, by putting in place climate policies. In the UK there's many hundreds of thousand of jobs.

Jill, Jill, Jill: even if this were true—and I know that Timmy will be proud of me for pointing this out—jobs are a COST not a fucking benefit, you moron.

But, unfortunately for Jill, it is not true, as Andrew Bolt is swift to point out.
AB: Actually, that's not right, is it? I just saw research. Did you see this? It came last week. Verso Economics saying that, for example, in Scotland the investment in green power has cost 3.7 jobs for every one green job created [BBC link inserted by me—DK]. And there are similar figures; I'm looking at Italy here, Germany, Spain. They're all the same figures.

One can almost hear darling Jill physically reeling as she is slapped down once again. But she's got her script and she's going to stick to it... [Emphasis mine.]
JD: They're not all the same figures. You can pick figures to support any argument. What I'm saying is that the experience in Europe is we've done things well and we've had some things which we wish we'd done differently at the start. The impact on the economy has been that it has stimulated growth in jobs that will last. It's not been noticeable in the impact on households. Not compared to gas and oil prices and the impact that they have on households. And that we actually have governments in Europe including the UK, Germany and France who are asking for tougher targets now. Now governments aren't in the business of trying to undermine their economies. They want their economies to grow. If the UK, Germany and France did not believe that this was good for their economies and good for the planet they would not be asking for tougher targets.

Really? Andrew Bolt is sceptical (to put it mildly) and comes in for the kill—using a brilliant tone of naive wonder...
AB: I wish I could believe that. We’re talking about a region—Europe—that has unemployment at 10% and a growth forecast this year of 1.6%. I don’t know what we could learn from Europe actually.

Boom! If Jill hadn't been struggling before—and she was—she could hardly bounce back from that. And sure enough, she just wibbles on about nothing until she is unceremoniously cut off.

But Jill Duggan's statesmanlike assurance delighted at least one listener, who was moved to call in...
Paul: Where do I donate money to get this interview published? Can it be an advert? Can it be run during "An Inconvenient Truth"? Please, I’m praying, where do I give money?

Let us hope that Jill Duggan realises that she is now an international laughing stock and slinks quietly away to cry in her room. Maybe she will even be moved to slit her wrists in a warm bath.

Do go and listen to the interview [2MB]—listen out particularly for the bit where poor Jill is rendered utterly speechless—and reflect on the major point here: this woman and her EU colleagues have committed the people of Europe to a colossally expensive programme without, apparently, doing any sort of cost-benefit analysis.

Or, if they have done a CBA, they are so incompetent that have sent someone who doesn't know those figures to lecture Australians about how wonderful this ET scheme is.

It would be funny if it wasn't costing us billions of pounds...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 3/10/2011 09:19:00 pm


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