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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Yeah, that'll sort it out. Not.

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/31/2011 02:35:00 pm

As much as I enjoy slagging off our political masters, there are one or two decent people in the House of Commons; for them, it must be pretty galling to be lumped in with their lazy, venal and corrupt colleagues—not just by bloggers, but in "proper" studies too.

"Eh? What the fuck are you talking about?" I hear you cry...

Well, it seems that a study by the University of Nottingham has worked out that the MP intake of 2010 are possibly the most rebellious since the dinosaurs. Or something.
The study by the University of Nottingham says MPs have become more rebellious and independent-minded in recent years. The Parliaments elected in 2001 and 2005 produced record numbers of revolts, but the 2010 Parliament is already "easily outstripping" them, say Philip Cowley and Mark Stuart, who conducted the research.

They say the 43 per cent rebellion rate is "simply without parallel in the post-war era", and is even more dramatic because the Parliament is still in its early stages, when new MPs tend to be more acquiescent. "One of the most noticeable features about the 2010 cohort, especially on the Conservative side, is how troublesome they have been," the authors say.

Yes, well, good for them, on the whole. The top five rebellious MPs listed—which includes your humble Devil's blog mascot, I'm proud to say—are generally on the side of decency and, more importantly, their constituents.

And they are, by and large, decent freedom-minded people (if not outright libertarians) who think that Westminster needs a good shake-up.

But these rebels must be mortified at the study's proposed solution for making our fat-headed Prime Minister's life easier...
"Over time the ranks of the rebellious new MPs will swell, unless the Government can create a raft of new jobs to keep its backbenchers occupied..."

So, basically, a bunch of idiots from the University of Nottingham think that David Cameron should invent a whole load of new make-work jobs in order to shut these people up?

How?

Do these people think that men like Nuttall, Reckless, Baker or Carswell can be bought off with some pointless minor ministerial distraction? Or perhaps they think that the jobs should be loaded onto the rebels regardless, so that they are too busy to vote?

I have chatted quite a bit to the last two on that list, and I am pretty damn sure that neither of them could be bribed in this manner.

The way to get people like Baker or Carswell to vote for the government is for the government to actually enact some laws that, cuts government spending, unfetters the free market and increases freedom for the people of this nation.

Other than that, I am pretty fucking sure that the corrupt idiots at the University of Nottingham are on to a loser. Which is why your humble Devil is happy to renew his support for Steve Baker MP for another year...

In the meantime, however, it is hardly surprising that a bunch of academics should suggest that free speech and independent thinking can be stifled by the awarding of a meaningless sinecure—it's just one of the reasons why our education system is so utterly shite.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/31/2011 02:35:00 pm


Friday, December 30, 2011

Pilgrims

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/30/2011 02:01:00 pm

Jane Pilgrim: the face of union corruption and theft. And what a face it is...

Many despise Guido as a muckraker and a "bad" blogger: these allegations may be true, but your humble Devil has always found him rather entertaining (and thoroughly fond of a good drinking session).

And, let's face it, by certain measures—namely making money from blogging, and setting the government agenda—Guido is rather more successful than most of the rest of us.

One campaigns that I am fully behind is Guido's crusade against "Pilgrims"—union activists funded by the taxpayer and not by the unions themselves.
Eighteen months ago Guido was chewing the cud with a source who works in education in some Westminster watering-hole. Even after four Guinnesses, he still did not believe the story he was being told. Apparently there were teachers that were paid full-time salaries, yet worked full-time on trade union activity. Another teacher had to be employed to cover for this activist, this pushed a particular school over budget. Guido didn’t really think much more on the subject until a piece of research by the Taxpayers’ Alliance [PDF] came across his desk a few months later. Their formidable FoI team had scatter-gunned almost every area of the state, trying to work out exactly how much of our money was was being wasted on unions bods who are paid for by us rather than out of the union members’ subscriptions. That leaves plenty of union money around to prop up Ed Miliband and bus people around the country for astro-turfed protests. It was on…

Heavy unionisation is largely a public sector phenomenon (although ex-public sector businesses—such as BA or BT—tend to carry this legacy too) and a great many professions are de facto closed shops (the education and medical sectors spring most readily to mind).

As long-time readers will recall, your humble Devil is not a fan of The Unions. In fact, I have written numerous posts—most pertinently, this one—laying out why. In summary, unions were formed to counter a problem that, largely, no longer exists (unbridled employer power over an unskilled workforce with few options), they increase unemployment, and because they are damaging to their employees and to their customers (largely the British taxpayer).
The unions now largely exist to extort more money from you and me, on behalf of their members, through our taxes—subs that you and I must pay involuntarily. These subs are then used to enforce collective bargaining so that you and I, despite suffering from a massive recession, must pay out ever more to a public sector that delivers less and less.

Furthermore, of course, such collective bargaining diminishes the quality of the workers in that industry—it doesn't matter whether you are good or bad at your job, you will still get the same pay. It is a system that rewards mediocrity at the expense of skill and dedication—thus calling into question whether the unions actually serve the best interests of their members. After all, if a bad teacher must get the same pay rise as a good one, then the good teacher's pay rise is less than it might have been.

In a near-monopoly such as the education system—especially since education is compulsory—all of this means that the general public have no option but to pay the higher (and often undeserved) wages, and reward failure; not only this, but their children's education is then screwed up and these young people's lives irreparably harmed.

For the purposes of this post, the really valid line in that quote is the first one:
The unions now largely exist to extort more money from you and me, on behalf of their members, through our taxes—subs that you and I must pay involuntarily.

And since most of their members are in publicly funded industries, that means that the best way for the unions to get more money for their members is to play politics. And they do this very effectively, mainly by providing the vast majority of the funding for one of the two main political parties—the Labour Party.

The Labour Party is famous for basically bankrupting the country every time that they are elected‚ and this dubious skill is—in large part—due to the fact that a Labour government must pander to its union paymasters.

There are several ways that the last Labour government did this:
  • large salary increases for public sector workers (especially if you belong to a union. Interestingly, I was in a hospital in the North, recently, and in the main entrance lobby, they had a large banner setting out why members of staff should join a particular union. The first point was "you will get paid more".);

  • provided millions of pounds of funding through entities such as the Union Modernisation Fund (what this modernisation consisted of or who it was supposed to benefit, I've never been sure. But if it doesn't benefit the taxpayer, then why are we paying for it?);

  • providing taxpayer-funded staff, venues and facilities.

The first is pretty obvious really—and has, in fact, brought this country to its knees financially.

The second was (and is), as far as I am concerned, a straight piece of money-laundering by the Labour Party, as Shane Greer pointed out in2007.
Without dropping a beat Gordon has today given a further £2.8m of taxpayers’ money to the unions to top up the Union Modernisation Fund; a fund that has already received £10m of taxpayers’ money. Oh, I almost forgot to mention Labour received almost £17m from unions last year.

But if the unions can afford to give £17m in donations to Labour doesn’t that mean they have more than enough money to pay for ‘modernisation’ without the taxpayers’ help? In fact it looks a lot like they’d even have enough left over to make a hefty donation to the Labour Party (and pay for some placards).

If anyone can explain how the Union Modernisation Fund is anything more than a money laundering operation to turn tax revenue into political donations I will be eternally grateful.

It was in 2006 that Guido posted this helpful little diagram illustrating this concept.

Why are taxpayers funding the "modernisation" of the unions anyway? Isn't that what union subs are for? Taxpayers' money is being handed over to a bunch of thugs whose main aim is to increase the amount of taxpayers' money they get: this is akin to me giving some of my money to a man so that he can extort more money from me.

Actually, it's more like me extorting your money from you, and then using that money to pay a massive, psychotic, baseball bat-wielding Glaswegian to come over and extort more from you "in order to pay for ma' fucking weans Christmas presents".

It's even more ridiculous—and really fucking annoying—that Cameron has decided to continue with this Union Modernisation Fund farce.
This does not bode well for Cameron's tactical nouse, fiscal responsibility or his supposed belief in individual liberty. In the massive fucking financial hole that this country is in, we simply cannot afford to keep giving tens of millions of pounds to the unions so that they can ensure that their members—who are overwhelmingly in the public sector—can continue to squeeze as much money as possible for as little work as possible.

Cameron is not only continuing to fund his enemies, he is continuing to fund our enemies—and he is doing it with our fucking money.

Further, from the angle of liberty, Cameron should be able to see that it is absolutely flat-out wrong for the general public to be taxed so that a vested interest can continue to operate how they please. I mean, for fuck's sake, I never expected the Tories to be much different from Labour, but surely even they can see that this kind of thing is wrong in principle, as well as practicality.

One can make a case for any number of things being of benefit to society as a whole and, thus, eligible for funding through taxation. The unions are not one of those things.

Cameron and CCHQ knew about the Union Modernisation Fund, because they explicitly confirmed that it would stay (presumably to pursue some stupid bloody policy of appeasement); it is safe to say that the Coalition were also well aware of the third method of funding the unions—which brings us back to Guido's "Pilgrims"...
With the unions agitating it was only a matter of time before someone said something stupid. In April one such taxpayer-funded trade union official put her head above the parapet and claimed to the Standard that Andrew Lansley had lied about NHS cuts at a pre-election visit to St Georges Hospital in Tooting. Unfortunately for the now infamous Jane Pilgrim, Mark Clarke, the local Tory candidate who had organised said visit, had a slightly clearer recollection of events – mainly that Jane had refused to meet Lansley on political grounds. The first shots were fired and suddenly Jane Pilgrim, the union-funded smearing liar, began to unravel. She had a private consultancy firm on the side and lived at the expense of the taxpayer too. Eventually she was forced back kicking and screaming to frontline nursing, but the can of worms had been opened…

Given CCHQ's attitude to the unions, it is unlikely, I think, that they would have done anything about these kinds of disgusting abuses of taxpayers' money (we can only assume that they need the Labour Party to stay afloat: I suspect that some deals were done in the back rooms of Parliament—something to speculate about in the future, methinks*).

It is only because the Taxpayers' Alliance and Guido started kicking up such a stink (with the press then picking up on it), that the Tories suddenly found themselves under pressure to do something about this scandal.
Guido has seen emails sent around senior brothers expressing concern that the activities of Unison’s poster-girl could be the thin-edge of the wedge and they even speculated that her big mouth might ruin the taxpayer funded fun and games for everyone. How right they were. Suddenly, with personification and a focus point, the outrage about the concept of taxpayer-funded trade-union staff grew. Speeches began to be made in Parliament, motions were put down and people began to realise that there is a Nurse Pilgrim in every hospital, school, government department and pen-pushing office in the country. The TPA numbers came alive and the bandwagon was rolling

As Guido began smoking out further pilgrims, David Cameron was put on the spot about at PMQs in May. June saw public opinion turn in the polls. The tabloids waded in and Eric Pickles and Frankie Maude soon got behind the issue. As conference season approached word reached Guido that a breakthrough was imminent. On the eve of Tory conference leaked CCHQ briefings saw MPs given anti-pilgrim lines and Pickles and Maude opened fire from the podium. In less than six months a full government consultation had been announced and the figures mooted as potential savings saw even more people get behind the campaign. Union funded Labour MPs went berserk

Because of the pressure piled on, the Coalition were forced to act—or, at least, promise to act—against a practice whereby the British taxpayer subsidises the unions to the tune of over £113 million a year, through paying for the full-time employment of some 2,840 staff. Plus, of course, the taxpayer gets whacked twice: we have to stump up for another nurse or teacher or council idiot to do the job that the union person was supposed to do.

This is a total disgrace: there is only one group of people who should pay for the unions, and that is the union members. It is time to put the costs back where they belong—or, of course, the unions could cut their costs (perhaps by refusing to bankroll the basically bankrupt Labour Party, or not paying their lying bosses £100k+ every year).

Your humble Devil has been particularly lame this year: whenever Pilgrims have come up, it has been at a time when my blogging inertia was at its height. As such, this is the first time that I have written about them (although, in the future, I shall be following Mark Clarke's Trade Union Reform Campaign with interest).

Luckily, Guido claims that he is in this "for the long haul" and, in this case, your humble Devil is happy to support him.

* It's interesting to note that, shortly after the Tories promised to abolish Pilgrims, the "poison" of state- taxpayer-funding of political parties started bubbling up again.**

** Apparently, there won't be any state-funding "in this Parliament". So, expect to see it seriously proposed for the next one then...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/30/2011 02:01:00 pm


Not entirely a surprise

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/30/2011 01:09:00 pm

Since the 80s, we have been bombarded with media images of "loved-up" clubbers hugging each other and having, like, a connection, man —an episode of Spaced springs to mind, and basically the whole of Human Traffic.

The drug responsible, of course, is Ecstasy—whose active component is MDMA—and Wikipedia briefly describes its effects thusly:
MDMA can induce euphoria, a sense of intimacy with others, and diminished anxiety.

I would say that this is a pretty accurate description of its effects; further, when pure, MDMA has pretty few side-effects (especially when compared to many commonly prescribed anti-depressants, etc.).

As such, your humble Devil has always thought that drug therapies could well be developed from MDMA—either in the field of anti-depressants or in the area of autism. And it seems that studies into the latter are certainly ongoing.
One promising new avenue of research that may one day provide treatment for adult autism involves the use of the psychedelic drug MDMA, or “ecstasy,” within the context of a psychotherapeutic setting, which has been shown to produce lasting feelings of empathy in some people.

Many people who have used MDMA report increased sociability and strong feelings of empathy that last long after the psychoactive effect of the substance wears off. There has been substantial interest in using MDMA as a possible treatment for less severe cases of adult autism, because two of the hallmarks of the disorder are an inability to communicate socially and a lack of empathy.

David Jentsch at the UCLA Center for Autism found that MDMA enhanced the transmission of a key neurochemical in the brain called “vasopressin,” which is known to help mediate sociability. In another study, by G.J. Dumont and colleagues at Radboud University in the Netherlands, researchers found that MDMA increases levels of oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of love and bonding.

The Santa Cruz-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has also gathered together numerous anecdotal reports from people with a high-functioning form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome, who have found MDMA to be helpful in their learning to cope more effectively in social situations, and enough reports have now been compiled to warrant further investigation.

A number of people with high-functioning autism and Asperger's syndrome have reported improvements after taking MDMA outside of research contexts. MDMA shows promise for treating autism spectrum disorders, as the effects of MDMA that increase empathy and enhance communication are precisely the abilities that autism tends to degrade.

MAPS is reviewing proposals from autism researchers for a pilot study using MDMA as a possible treatment for Asperger's syndrome and autism spectrum disorders. MAPS will offer a grant of $10,000 for protocol development expenses to run this pilot study.

If you or someone you know has heard of MDMA having either positive or negative effects on symptoms of autism spectrum disorders or Asperger’s syndrome, MAPS would like to hear from you. Please contact MAPS Lead Clinical Research Associate Berra Yazar-Klosinski, Ph.D., at berra@maps.org, if you have any information about this.

Which is all good news—although hardly a great leap. After all, if you have a disease in which people are unable to empathise socially, then using a drug that does precisely that seems obvious.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/30/2011 01:09:00 pm


Thursday, December 29, 2011

And so it goes on...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/29/2011 01:48:00 am

As the laziness of the festive season has started to wear thin, your humble Devil has woken up and noticed that the Coalition have quietly pledged to implement some spectacularly stupid policies.

The first of these is the Vickers Report which, amongst other pointless remedies, suggests splitting the retail and investment arms of banks. Despite the fact that this ignores the fact that the collapse started amongst the government-guaranteed retail arms of said banks, the government has said that it will press ahead with the recommendations in full.

The second piece of colossal stupidity is Cameron's reported commandment to implement minimum alcohol pricing: this suggestion really grips my shit for a number of reasons—not least that it won't work, that it will be illegal under EU law, that there is no drinking problem in this country, and that the massively-foreheaded twat has finally shown his true colours.

Most irritating of all, of course, is that we know that Tory aides read many blogs voraciously—and that, therefore, CCHQ are aware of all of the above. And they know that we know that they know. As such, they are pissing into our open mouths.

As such, I feel that some of these issues need to be addressed by your humble Devil—if only for my own catharsis. But, it is late, and so this post is a bookmark, an aide memoire for myself and a menu of things to come for my remaining readers...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/29/2011 01:48:00 am


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Michael O'Leary on innovation

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/28/2011 02:36:00 pm

I am, I know, a little late on this—having seen it at numerous places, including Old Holborn's—but I very much enjoyed RyanAir's Michael O'Leary roundly insulting the European Commission, repeatedly, whilst speaking at the laughable European Union Innovation Conference.



Do watch it—and I only wish that our government would heed O'Leary's advice to "get the hell out of Brussels as fast as you can"...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/28/2011 02:36:00 pm


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/25/2011 06:45:00 pm

... and all that jazz. Oh and, if you feel like it, ignore the predictions of doom and gloom and have a thoroughly excellent new year.

Alas, it is unlikely that your humble Devil will return—in any but the most fleeting of fashions—until mid-February. But you never know...

But, in the meantime, I hope that you have lots of fun—or, at the very least, don't drink yourself to death!

Regards,

DK

P.S. We are wandering over to Pater Devil's place, on Boxing Day, to enjoy yet more boozing fun. This has, of course, been made much more difficult by the Aslef strike. So, this is for you, Aslef members—I would like you to know that I endorse every word...



Thanks to Bloggerheads and the Amateur Transplants for putting what we all feel so succinctly—and for creating that song (and video) that just keeps on giving...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/25/2011 06:45:00 pm


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Economics spot

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/21/2011 12:36:00 am

Oh look! Yet more evidence that students—even those commenting on a topic that they are supposed to be commenting on—are completely fucking ignorant...

And this, of course, simply builds adds more fuel to the fire of The Devil's Second Law of Economics, i.e. that if a student says that something is so, the opposite is true.

Thus, naturally, feeding into the general law that there is not a single social sector on this planet so ill-informed, self-righteous and pig-ignorant as a student.

And then they join UKUncut—after passing an entrance exam to prove their idiocy—and become even more comprehensively fuck-witted.

Students: ignore them—you know it makes sense.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/21/2011 12:36:00 am


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A EUsceptic?

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/06/2011 11:11:00 pm

The Buttered New Potato has come out with a line designed to quiet the increasingly vocal EUsceptics in his party today.
David Cameron has said he will not sign any reworked EU treaty designed to solve the eurozone crisis if it does not contain safeguards to protect British interests.

The prime minister said there must be protection for the single market and the UK financial services sector.

The EU treaty may be rewritten to achieve greater fiscal integration within the eurozone.

But that would require the agreement of all 27 members, including the UK.

Unfortunately, as EUReferendum has repeatedly pointed out, this is a complete and utter lie.
Unfortunately, this Janet & John appreciation is somewhat at variance with the political realities of the European Union. Specifically, they lack any knowledge of the history of the Union, they are unaware of the "Craxi doctrine" which emerged from the 1985 Milan European Council, where Thatcher was ambushed, with the "colleagues" agreeing to an IGC against her will...

At the time, the rules for convening an IGC dictated that there should be consensus amongst member states, but what Craxi established was that, in the case of dispute, this meant simple majority voting by the leaders of the member states.

What has since emerged also, honed and refined during the shenanigans over the EU constitution and the Lisbon treaty, is that the agenda is also determined by "consensus", with the EU commission holding the pen. Thus, whether the UK would even be able to put her demands on the agenda would be a matter for the rest of the "colleagues".

Now, given that any forthcoming IGC will be convened to deal with the needs of the 17 eurozone members, which comprise the majority of the 27 states, it is unlikely that they will want the distraction of The Boy's political demands. Thus, the likelihood is that these will not even get onto the agenda. They will be blocked by a majority vote of the eurozone members, if need be.

This, of course, will leave The Boy stranded, with but one option – then to veto the conclusions of the IGC, blocking any new treaty. That would make him about as popular as an Israeli ambassador at a Hamas convention. Cameron would have to decide whether to incur the wrath of the entire collective, or cave in. And we know exactly what the result would be.

Thus, whatever the political motivation of The Boy is pursuing the current line – and we'll explore that in another post - it is not going to happen. As always, the only real options are two-fold: all in, or all out. Repatriation is not an option … not through negotiation, anyway. It is smoke and mirrors, not political reality.

So, we are forced to apply the Polly Conundrum—is Cameron totally fucking ignorant, or is he an unscrupulous, lying shit?

I'd vote* for both personally...

* A figure of speech. I would never vote for that massively-foreheaded spiv...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 12/06/2011 11:11:00 pm


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  • "Art."—Bob
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  • "DK himself is unashamedly right-wing, vitriolic and foul mouthed, liberally scattering his posts with four-letter-words... Not to be read if you're easily offended, but highly entertaining and very much tongue in cheek..."—Everything Is Electric
  • "This blog is absolutely wasted here and should be on the front page of one of the broadsheets..."—Commenter at The Kitchen
  • "[This Labour government] is the most mendacious, dishonest, endemically corrupt, power-hungry, incompetent, illiberal fucking shower of shits that has ruled this country..."—DK

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