Sunday, January 29, 2012

Greece is like...

... according to John Redwood, another effectively bankrupt state... [Emphasis mine.]
If those countries are to have some hope of prosperity, they need to solve the two underlying problems. It is obvious to most external observers that the way to solve the problem of competitiveness quickly is to devalue. Normally, an IMF programme for a country in trouble not only asks it to cut its budget deficit and reduce its excess public spending, but suggests that it devalue its currency and move to a looser monetary policy domestically, so that there can be private sector-led growth, export-led growth—the kind of thing it needs to get out of its disastrous position. That is exactly what those countries are unable to do. That is why the IMF should not lend a country like Greece a single euro or a single dollar. Greece is to the euro area as California is to the dollar area: it is not an independent sovereign state, and it cannot do two of the three things that a country needs to do to get back into growth and prosperity, because it cannot devalue and it cannot create enough credit and money within its own system.

Exactly so.

Except that California is more like a quack doctor bleeding a perfectly healthy person—that patient is weakened, but still able to work and produce, to innovate and generate wealth.

Whereas the Greek situation is rather more akin to flogging a dead horse...

Chocolate fucking oranges

No, that is not a euphemism but, instead, the subject of a thoroughly Devil-like post written by Dick Puddlecote.
The Mars Bar has long been considered a reliable measure of inflation, but we can now add the Chocolate Orange as a telling indicator of our country's appalling political class.
Ed Miliband has attacked David Cameron for failing to stop the sale of cut-price Chocolate Oranges - something the PM complained about in opposition.

In 2006, Mr Cameron criticised WH Smith for discounting chocolate rather than fruit despite the UK's obesity crisis.
Here we have two walking, talking broom handle politicians exhibiting how extremely wrong British politics has become, for four reasons.

Chocolate Oranges are one of life's little treats. The overwhelming majority of the public like them. Indeed, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't like chocolate.

Yet here we are with two leading politicians arrogantly competing to be the one who appears toughest on making that treat more difficult to enjoy. This isn't a mind-altering drug we're talking about here - legal or otherwise - merely a fucking Chocolate Orange!

Secondly, the hideous mindset of the modern politician is of the opinion that they have the right to interfere in decisions of a business - any business - for even something as trivial as a fucking Chocolate Orange! Again, this isn't instant debilitating, excruciating infection such as e.coli in question; no pressing need for regulation on an environmental health kind of level (though I'd argue it's debatable if even that should be handled by the state).

No. They feel empowered to intervene to the degree of a few arse-wibbling pence, on some absurdly minute chance that someone will be tempted to grab armfuls of them to eat in a hedonistic orgy of gluttony ... and then, presumably, carry on doing so for decades before succumbing to diabetes and dying.

Statisticians would punch you in the face if you suggested they waste their time calculating the risk of death from 30p off a fucking Chocolate Orange from WH Smith's, yet the Prime Minister—let me say that again, the fucking Prime fucking Minister—and the leader of the bastard opposition both consider this subject worthy of creating policy.

Just go and read the whole thing...

Don't panic, Mr Mainwaring!

The Kitchen's mascot, the excellent Steve Baker MP, directs me to an article—signed by sixteen scientists—in the Wall Street Journal...
A candidate for public office in any contemporary democracy may have to consider what, if anything, to do about "global warming." Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.

This point of view can be articulated—as it is in this article, of course—from two points of view: the first is that there is no catastrophic warming and that therefore nothing needs to be done. The second argument is that, even if there is, the best thing that we can do is carry on and get filthy rich so that we can afford to adapt (should adaptation be necessary).
In September, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever, a supporter of President Obama in the last election, publicly resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) with a letter that begins: "I did not renew [my membership] because I cannot live with the [APS policy] statement: 'The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.' In the APS it is OK to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?"

In spite of a multidecade international campaign to enforce the message that increasing amounts of the "pollutant" carbon dioxide will destroy civilization, large numbers of scientists, many very prominent, share the opinions of Dr. Giaever. And the number of scientific "heretics" is growing with each passing year. The reason is a collection of stubborn scientific facts.

Facts like, y'know, the lack of warming. Or the lack of any increase in hurricane severity or frequency. Or the lack of sea level rises. Or the lack of ice loss from the poles.

Some people—your humble Devil included—have been banging on about these inconvenient truths for some years now: it is good to see that at least sixteen people from the scientific community have finally been able to locate their testicles and point out the truth.

In fact, to many of us (especially those who have studied equally damaging consensuses in other areas of science), it has come as something of a shock—I, for one, thought that scientists had permanently lost all integrity.

Still, it's good to see that some of the "professionals" finally stepping down from their ivory towers to acknowledge that we lay-people might, actually, be right...

Rank hypocrisy

So, it appears that the Parliamentary Labour Party are going to force a vote on the bonus awarded to RBS CEO Stephen Hester.
Labour says it will force a Commons vote calling for RBS chief executive Stephen Hester to be stripped of his near-£1m bonus.

It will hold a debate early next month to pressure the government over the £963,000 shares-only payment.

So, let me get this straight: a vote on Hester's bonus is going to be forced by a Labour contingent which:
  1. is almost entirely made up of MPs who were collaborators in the last Labour government,

  2. the government, in fact, which signed Hester's bloody contract in the first fucking place,

  3. and which overspent by billions of pounds a year (most of which was handed to Labour-supporting special interest groups),

  4. but which now seems to believe that a vote on a million quid bonus is incredibly fucking important.

Seriously, are these bastards possessed of absolutely no self-knowledge...?

P.S. Could I just take this opportunity to point out something else? The bailout of RBS was performed by buying RBS shares; if the shares do well, we taxpayers can get our money back. If the bank doesn't do well, then we won't.

As such, if you are a stupid fucking protester wanking on about the money we threw into bail-outs, then I suggest that you start protesting for big bank profits—because then we can all get our cash back.

Understand? Good.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Quote of the Day

It seems that your humble Devil missed the sixth birthday of this blog, which occurred on the 13th of this month—still limping on!

Anyway, here's a quick quote of the day from Dumb Jon, regarding the Benefits Cap.
See, that's the penalty of basing your policy platform on appealing to a tiny slither of North London. You really do start to think that an income equivalent to £34K gross is the equivalent of Dickensian poverty.

Meanwhile, that creaking sound is one of the central pillars of the left's platform collapsing into dust. They've spent years telling everyone that the Tories are heartless. Now they've got to explain that by 'heartless' they mean 'opposed to taxing people with jobs so they can give some other people more for watching TV than most of the country earns working full time'.

Quite—it is an utter scandal. As far as I am concerned, this state of affairs simply isn't defensible in any way. And it seems that, according to Liberal Voice of the Year (by a massive margin) Mark Littlewood, the majority of the country agrees...
Only around 10% of the electorate oppose the principle of an annual cap on benefits. Approximately 80% support the cap being no more than £26,000 and about 60% think Iain Duncan Smith’s policies are, if anything, too generous.

However, I also think that the Tories are shying away from the most necessary reform—we must cease paying for the unemployed to have children.

If you would like to be kind about it—we don't want retrospective taxes, etc.—then you announce, very publicly, that nine months from now there will be no child benefit of any sort.

Obviously, the unelected and utterly irrelevant Bishops will kick up a stink but fuck 'em, frankly. We cannot afford to keep paying those who will not work to have children (preventing many of them working for another 18 years) who will then also not work—but who will beget yet more offspring who will also not work, and so on and so forth.

Stop all Child Benefits now (or in nine months)! You know it makes sense.


In the meantime, the massive piece of software that your humble Devil has been working on has just been through it's first alpha testing phase—and received an average score (from actual customers) of 4.5 out of 5. Needless to say, we are very happy!

We are now moving into beta and we should be finished, a little behind schedule, in mid-February. And then comes the challenge of the full release...

In addition to this, I have been inveigled into taking part in another Barnes Charity Players production—this time playing the irrepressible, and slightly sociopathic, Frank in George Bernard Shaw's Mrs Warren's Profession. This is already proving to be fun but, with the run starting on 20th of February (until the 25th), life is a little full right now!

Anyway, your humble Devil hopes to be a little more active around mid-February, although I shall attempt to post a little more frequently in between now and then.

Even should I fail to do so, I hope all of you have lots of fun in the meantime!

UPDATE: A Very British Dude opines on the Coalition's tactics here, and then finishes up with the kind of sentiment that the vast majority of the people in this country agree with.
The idea that an income equivalent to a salary of £34,000 "will thrust families into poverty" is absolutely abhorrent to the people who are forced, by the threat of expropriation and violence, to pay for it, people who are sneered at as "middle class". I would not be surprised if the Government quietly persuaded enough of its supporters in the Lords to stay away from yesterday's vote, to ensure a right royal battle on ground on which it is absolutely certain of the public's support.

Good luck, lefties, trying to persuade anyone that an income equivalent £34,000 a year salary is going to thrust anyone into "poverty". I suspect the Government is absolutely delighted to have this in the news for a few more weeks. "Labour wants to pay its voters more than you earn".


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Do you trust...

... governments and huge corporatist multinationals? No, nor do I.

PIPA and SOPA are stupid, dangerous acts that threaten the internet. And this comes from someone who, by and large, supports Intellectual Property rights...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Smartphone makers...

... in negotiations with mobile phone network carriers:
Android handset makers: Here are our phones. How would you like us to change them so that you will sell them?

Microsoft: Here’s $200 million. Please sell our phones.

Apple: Here is our new phone. It comes in black or white. We will let you sell it.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

A sinner repenteth?

It seems that Jon Worth is having a crisis of faith, engendered by a dose of harsh reality.
What do you do when one of the fundamental things you’ve believed in for years, have spent ages working towards, is actually not anywhere near as desirable as you previously thought?

Why, rethink your position, of course.
The old federalist argument, repeated ad infinitum at Ventotene, drawing on Spinelli’s manifesto, is that the nation state is broken and only supranational democratic structures in Europe (a European federation) can fix it.

This is the essentially the same argument that Nosemonkey has used in my discussions with him (over many years now).
That’s all very well if your systems of representative democracy work OK, but what if they don’t? What if political parties are tired and hollowed out, and beholden to narrow interests and are in awe of the power of the markets? With election turnouts decreasing? With messy multi-party compromises, and leaders ready to ditch the few principles they once had? Why should we expect leadership to be any more enlightened at EU level than is the case nationally just now?

The main problem with this idea is that those who are leading the European Union (and other supranational organisations) are those same people who are elected by this tired, worn-out and ultimately corrupt democracy that Jon has decried above.
Make the EU a representative democracy in the classical sense (government contingent on a majority in parliament, executive proposes legislation that the legislature approves and amends, parties run in elections etc.) tomorrow, and we’re just going to replicate all the disfunction on a continent wide scale.

Actually, what Jon has described there is not "classical democracy"—it is representative democracy. And representative democracy is part of the problem.

Because the problem is disengagement—people don't bother voting because they don't believe that it will make any difference. "They're all the same"; "whoever you vote for the government always gets in"—these sentiments are common-place in the British electorate, at least.

And, as Jon also points out, "the illegitimate technocracy of the past that has lacked citizen involvement and democratic control" is not the answer either: first, because technocratic planners are never as good at planning as they think they are and, second, because people feel even more disenfranchised (and that usually ends with blood in the streets).

My objection—put to both Nosemonkey and Jon (over a pint or two)—have always, actually, been much the same as those raised above, i.e. if nation states' governments are tired and corrupt, how does a supranational government differ? And, of course, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

For what it is worth, I have argued for a long time that national governments are too centralised—hence the electorate's feeling of powerlessness and thus inevitable disengagement.

My argument is that there this centralised model should be replaced by far smaller, more local units of government—with far more power (especially as regards tax-raising) than our local authorities currently have.

The electorate would be able to see the changes that they have voted for—for better or for worse—much more immediately and, as such, would be far more inclined to vote and otherwise engage with the political process.

So, having identified the problems that Jon did, my answer was smaller, more local democracy—not bigger, more remote, supranational governments. And, if those issues that transcend borders are so important—pollution or, if you enjoy that particular scientific perversion, climate change—are so important, then countries can get together to make international treaties (which is more or less how the EU operates anyway).

The difference is that the West is becoming more and more irrelevant in these debates, and increasingly we are hamstrung in these deals by the EU.

Time for a change!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Uncle Tom Cobbleigh...

Apparently, your humble Devil is now an uncle, with my brother's wife giving birth to a baby girl at about ten past eight this evening. Mother and baby doing fine, and little brother ridiculously excited.

I'm putting this here so that I have some way of remembering the child's birthday.

Remember, remember, the second of January...

Anyway, back to the office tomorrow for another couple of months of frenzied work...