Thursday, August 23, 2012

My favourite Olympics moment...

... was, without doubt, my friend Frank Turner going the warm-up for the Opening Ceremony with his song I Still Believe.

Why? Because it's a really good song but also because he stood and warmed up the crowd with the line "Come ye, come ye, to soulless corporate circus tops".

One can only admire his cheek!

I met him through a friend, and was thrilled to find that Frank was not only a fan of The Kitchen but also—though once embraced by the left—a thoroughly libertarian gentleman.

But don't take my word for it—just listen to Sons of Liberty (especially the coda)...

So if ever a man should ask you for your business or your name
Tell him to go and fuck himself, tell his friends to do the same.
Because a man who'd trade his liberty for a safe and dreamless sleep
Doesn't deserve the both of them, and neither shall he keep.
I have had lots of fun with Mr Frank Turner—I highly recommend supporting him. Apart from anything else, he's a very nice chap...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jacqui Smith: Writing shit.

Please note: I am not the Devil

It has to be said that I am not the world’s biggest fan of Boris Johnson. Yes, I get that he has charisma in an era of politics where charisma is a rarity, if not an almost extinct, quality. But the reality is that, in power, his policies are at best anodyne and at worst asinine. And no manufactured façade or pointless post-Olympics euphoria* can change that.

However, nothing can make me buy into the incumbent London mayor more than a hatchet job from the former Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.

It begins with Smith showing just the most basic awareness of what has been happening in her chosen field (politics):
Boris Johnson is certainly having a ‘good Olympics’. The newspapers are full of summer stories about his potential threat to Cameron’s leadership.
This opening is worth celebrating because, my good friends, it represents the very pinnacle of quality and writing ability in Smith’s article. All downhill from here, I’m afraid.
I’m not convinced that Mayor Johnson will become Tory leader or prime minister. First, as Steve Richards pointed out in a good Independent piece this week, there are major barriers to him even being in a position to compete. Would he remain so popular if he dumped his London role in order to get back into parliament, for example?
The counterpoint to this tired argument – which has been rehearsed again and again during the hype around the costly and over-rated Global School Sports Day – is so tedious that it is almost not worth repeating. But for old time’s sake as the Olympics are finally – and gloriously – over; Johnson doesn’t have to dump London in order to become an MP and thus get back into parliament. He could do both at the same time. Like a certain Labour former Mayor of London.
Second, while he is undoubtedly popular in London, I wonder how his style would translate to the rest of the country. Let’s not forget that David Cameron encouraged other cities to vote for an elected mayor on the grounds that ‘every city needs a Boris’. The result was hardly a resounding vote of confidence in the politician who personifies the role of elected mayor.
Oh, please. The failure of the “yes” campaigns in the elected mayor campaigns has little to do with Cameron’s rhetoric linking the concept with BoJo. It has far more to do with it being the policy of a government suffering with a chronic – if not fatal – case of the mid-term blues. But I love the failed rhetoric of the attempt to make Boris the personification of the elected mayor; what about Ken Livingstone, who served two terms as London mayor? Or the candidate in a monkey suit in Hartlepool? Or does Smith have such faith in the Boris brand that she thinks he has managed to wipe every other elected mayor in history from the popular imagination?
Third, while mayor of London is an important job it is arguably not as tough and nowhere near as serious as being even a cabinet minister let alone PM. Johnson remains untested through the grind of ministerial life and as a shadow minister he proved not only gaffe prone, but also not particularly interesting or innovative.
Funnily enough, “gaffe prone” and “not particularly interesting or innovative” could nicely define Smith’s time in the Home Office. And that’s when she wasn’t being authoritarian and draconian. And I also love the fact that Smith is able to judge the toughness and seriousness of being London mayor even though, well, she’s never done the job. I guess her get-out here would be the use of the word “arguably”. Well, arguably, Jacqui, it is fair to say that you have no idea what you are talking about.
Finally, I hope the Tory party and the British people will see through his facade. My challenge to Johnson is: why do you put on an affable, unworldly, untidy persona when that is so obviously not who you really are.
No doubt he is quaking in his boots at this challenge from a discredited, failed politician.

And even the most basic glance at Johnson’s career would show that he is more than just an untidy hairdo and a bumbling personality. Anyone fooled by his façade is a moron, really,
I worked with Johnson while I was home secretary. He proved utterly ruthless in cutting off Met Commissioner Ian Blair at the knees immediately after his election. I don’t believe people should make their way in politics by trashing other people, but that was his clear aim in getting rid of a commissioner who had led the Met during a time of falling crime and reform. Others have commented on Johnson’s lack of team spirit – I can remember him turning up so late for a COBRA meeting on Olympic security that the meeting was ending as he burst into the room.
First up, Ian Blair was an cunt on a cosmic scale whose incompetent ineptitude means he has blood on his hands. If BoJo was responsible for his fall, then he deserves a medal for cutting Blair off at the knees. Hell, it may yet be his greatest achievement.

The COBRA charge is more interesting – in fact, it may be the most interesting part of the whole article because, when deconstructed, it shows just how flawed Smith’s attempted rhetoric is. Ignoring the slightly sad attempt to remind us all that she used to hold and important office and had to go to important meetings about important stuff, what she appears to be doing is suggesting that Boris was in some way negligent on something so crucial as a vital meeting on Olympic security. Yet even the most basic fact checking shows that this meeting was very probably far from essential.

Let’s break it down, then. Boris was elected Mayor of London in May of 2008. Smith resigned as Home Secretary in June 2009. So there were 13 months in which this meeting – assuming Smith is telling the truth about is existence (sadly, a big leap of faith for our political class) – could have taken place. Crucially, though, the latest it could have happened was just over three years before the London Olympics was scheduled to take place. This removes a lot of the ersatz urgency on the meeting that Smith is trying to create. Perhaps BoJo was late because he had priorities other than trying to plan security for an event that was still years away. Yup, you can argue that this does show a lack of team spirit. But you can also argue that it shows a politician who can prioritise.

And given COBRA meetings are meant to be emergency responses to catastrophic events hitting the UK, the real question is why the fuck was it convened to discuss security for an event that was still years away? The answer, I’m guessing, is that Gordon Brown had a hard-on for COBRA, presumably because it reassured him that he was a very important person with lots of important power. The same goes for his shitty ministers
I know people are disenchanted with ‘traditional’ politics, but it is wrong to respond to this by suggesting that elected politics is something you can fit in between writing your lucrative newspaper column and appearing on television gameshows.
Oh, please. Who the fuck is making the sort of assertion that Smith cites here? Yes, if such a person existed, they’d be a dickhead. But to actually meet with someone who believes in what Smith writes here would be meeting with a straw man.

And if you want to know what most people do want to overcome their disenchantment with traditional politics, it is politicians with ethics, convictions and solutions to the problems the last Labour government created for us all. And preferably politicians who don’t use their expenses to pay for their husband’s wank material.
To become a senior politician, you will have put other parts of your life like your career and family on the back-burner in order to even get to a position where you can face the electorate.
Do you have any evidence that Johnson has not done this, Jacqui? Any at all? Because Johnson is currently a senior politician who has a mandate from over a million voters (as opposed to someone who could not convince thousands of people in Redditch to return her to Parliament less than 12 months after holding one of the Great Office of State).
Fighting and winning an election involves an immense amount of energy, stamina and quick-thinking as you meet and talk to hundreds of people each day.
Swing and a miss from Smith. Once again. Aside from the fact that taking advice on winning elections from someone whose recent electoral history would suggest that she isn’t the go-to person in this field, it is worth noting that BoJo defied electoral gravity this May by retaining his role as London mayor. Sure, he was greatly aided by the fact that he was running against an odious candidate who managed to alienate members of his own party with his execrable opinions, but if I was to run for office** I’d be more inclined to ask BoJo for advice than the loser that is Jacqui Smith***.
You need to have thought through your position on a whole range of issues or you will soon be caught out. And quite rightly. Being an elected politician is an immense honour and a great responsibility.
So, when in office, it might be best not to exploit, say, the expenses system to your own advantage? Or so your other half can have a cheeky one off the wrist?
You are a voice for those you represent; you embody the mandate granted in our democratic system. This isn’t something that you should suggest can be achieved lightly.
Don’t think anyone is suggesting this can be achieved lightly, Jacqui. But nothing beats a good straw man argument now, does it?
Acting as if you woke up in City Hall one morning and are now engaged on Boris’ Big Adventure; artfully ruffling your hair to suggest that you’re not really bothered about your appearance; turning up late to important meetings so that other important people have to wait for you are designed to make you stand out from the political crowd. They are a tactic as clever as any other political tactic and people should not be taken in by them.
What, a political tactic like claiming to be a “pretty straight kind of guy” or “not Flash, just Gordon”? And what makes Boris stand out is not so much his unkempt hair but the fact that he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously and has a basic level of charisma. Perhaps this is Smith’s problem with BoJo, at the end of the day. Because she comes across as a po-faced authoritarian with all the charisma of decaying roadkill. And that’s before we factor in the fact that this article so wonderfully reminds us of the reality of Jacqui Smith, politician – an unashamed party hack, spewing forth the Labour line with the sort of unthinking devotion that would be humorous if these fuckers weren’t trying to run all of our lives for us.

*Which may well be dented by the fact that the closing ceremony – judging by the Facebook comments I read on the night of said ceremony – was a steaming turd served up with a hearty marinade of liquid shit.
**Rest assured, kind read, that this will never happen. Ever.
***Yeah, yeah, there were boundary changes etc etc. But if Ed Balls – who has the personality of an aggressive form of anthrax mixed with rabies – can carry his constituency at the time of a great big swing against Labour, then I don’t think it is too much to expect Smith to do the same, Of course, we can cite things such as the expenses scandal as damaging her chances. But whose fault was Smith’s tainting in the expenses scandal? Exactly.

Murphy's Law #94,000

Yes, I read Timmy regularly, so it's only inevitable that I should decide that we should look at tax-avoiding accountant Richard Murphy's latest prognostications, shall we?
Google is tax avoiding: by definition that means what they are doing is legal, of course. And it may even be that what Google is doing is within the spirit of EU law, although that is to simply miss the fact that EU tax laws have now been spectacularly rigged to advantage companies over people so that the spirit of the law has itself been corrupted.

But even that is not the real point of why Google needs to be in the dock over its tax. The real reasons is that Google has set itself the motto “don’t be evil”. That means that Google explicitly recognises it has choices about the way it does business. And by choosing to do business as Google does, in a way that ensures it pays little or no corporate tax on its vast profits earned outside the USA in almost any of the countries where they actually arise Google is saying it is willing to free-ride our economies.

What that means is that in my opinion Google is saying it has no interest in giving a return back to the societies that are letting it prosper.

That’s doing evil in my book.
Look, I am no stranger to calling Google out on its somewhat optimistic catchphrase; but—via Daring Fireball—let's just look at another side to the company, shall we?
Instead, Bock, who joined the company in 2006 after a stint with General Electric, blew me away by disclosing a never-before-made-public-perk: Should a U.S. Googler pass away while under the employ of the 14-year old search giant, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there’s “no tenure requirement” for this benefit, meaning most of their 34 thousand Google employees qualify.
Now, someone like Richard Murphy will shriek and scream about this benefit. The money that is going to the widows of people who actually added value to the company—people like Murphy will say—is actually owned to the millions of people who have added fuck all to the company.

But that is because people like Richard Murphy are, in fact, fucking devil-spawn. They are scum-sucking shit-holes, fit only for fucking with the most rancid cocks; they are like a three-week dead vagina with maggots and an unhealthy cockroach infestation.

People like Richard Murphy—though not, necessarily, Richard Murphy himself, you understand—are evil little bastards who, having saved huge amounts of money through their own tax-avoidance practices, would now deprive a company's widows and children of benefits so that Barry Wiggins down the council estate can buy another mastiff.

To describe Richard Murphy as a disgusting, hypocritical little cunt with all the morals of a weasel would, you might think, be utterly beyond the pale. And, of course, I am not doing that.

I will merely let you draw your own conclusions...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Quote of the day #2...

... comes from the magisterial (and much-missed) Mr Eugenides, writing over at Think Scotland. [Emphasis mine.]
I am not a smoker. The first time I had an asthma attack was after a particularly smoke-filled birthday party in a long-gone student flat. These days, I am more careful; I carry my inhaler, open windows to let people puff away, avoid or ration my time in excessively smoky atmospheres. What I don’t do, and will never do, is tell other people how to run their damn lives, nor treat them like bloody children, nor give my backing or blessing to joyless, interfering busybodies who mistake pointless bansturbation for statesmanship. If there’s anything more loathsome than the smell of stale cigarettes, it’s the stench of hypocrisy and cant.

And, taken with Timmy's fisking of this load of old crap by authoritarian medico and Tory MP, Dan Poulter—could there be a worse combination?—I find myself, once again, concluding that we could go a long way to removing said stench by preventing doctors from pontificating about anything at all.

Doctors tend to be a bunch of arrogant wankers with a god complex as it is: we certainly shouldn't be electing the fascist little shits into positions of power.

Quote of the day...

... comes from Timmy, writing at the ASI.
It is right and proper that there is open government for we most assuredly should know what it is that they are doing to us with our money. But they should know little to nothing about us and what we do for we're free people in a free land and therefore it's absolutely none of their damn business how we decide to spend our lives.
As a succinct summing up of what should be the case, I can think of few better paragraphs.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Some people get it

I have, for a long time, pointed out that MPs should not be social workers for their constituents: there are 650 people in this country who can initiate law, and that is what those people should be doing.

I am glad that a couple of people—most notably Gawain Towler (UKIP press officer) and the ever amusing James Delingpole—agree with me in this podcast.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Your government: making you poorer

Over at Bishop Hill's place, I find that Gordon Hughes has submitted a report on the economics of wind power [PDF] to our lords and masters (on behalf of the GWPF).
The subject is wind power. It makes for horrifying reading.
His Ecclesiastical Eminence is not wrong: consider, for instance, this little snippet... [Emphasis mine.]
Meeting the UK Government’s target for renewable generation in 2020 will require total wind capacity of 36 GW backed up by 21 GW of open cycle gas plants plus large complementary investments in transmission capacity. Allowing for the shorter life of wind turbines, the investment outlay for this Wind scenario will be about £124 billion. The same electricity demand could be met from 21.5 GW of combined cycle gas plants with a capital cost of £13 billion.
Yes, alright, you'll have noted the qualifier of "capital cost" in that last sentence: however, if the government would stop fucking about and give the explicit go-ahead for unlimited exploitation of our shale gas reserves, the running costs could be considerably cheaper than otherwise.

After all, in just four years, shale gas has halved the price of electricity in the US.

But we, of course, are wedded to our ludicrous climate change targets, which Highes also comments on. [Emphasis mine, again.]
Under the most favourable assumptions for wind power, the Wind scenario will reduce emissions of CO2 relative to the Gas scenario by 21 million metric tons in 2020 - 2.6% of the 1990 baseline at an average cost of about £415 per metric ton at 2009 prices. The average cost is far higher than the average price under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme or the floor carbon prices that have been proposed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. If this is typical of the cost of reducing carbon emissions to meet the UK’s 2020 target, then the total cost of meeting the target would be £120 billion in 2020, or about 6.8% of GDP.
This is utter insanity.

If the lights go out, as Nick Drew observes, the government goes out. The Coalition will be screwed, but they will not be as comprehensively buggered as our economy.

This isn't the 1970s: if the power goes, then so does our entire infrastructure. Banking grinds to a halt, the internet is unreachable (and half of it down anyway), the vast majority of people simply will not be able to work at all.

But even if we do not have to start a series of rolling black-outs, the price of power has been climbing steadily. And power is required for everything these days: as such, as power becomes more expensive then so does everything else.

This government—and its predecessor—have been quite deliberately following a set of policies designed to impoverish everyone in the country. And, throughout all of the other insanities of this time, they have continued to prosecute this war against their own people.

Their aim is simple: to reduce power consumption—whether because of climate change or in order to avoid difficult decisions about building power stations, I do not know (although I have my suspicions).

The government's own report—you know, the one that showed that power would not be more expensive overall—relied on the country using half the electricity that it does now by 2020.

Reducing power consumption may be a laudable aim but it is, frankly, unrealistic in that timescale without a significant down-grading of our current life-style.

But I bet our lords and masters are going to be just fine and dandy, thanks. Even now, they are probably buying up portable generators and investing in every temporary power supplier in the country.

What a bunch of arseholes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Libertarians and Drugs

Please note: I am not the Devil

Over at the Orphans of Conservatism Liberty we have a post entitled “Fantastic news for the drug-addled Libertarian!” Any such title was always going to get my attention, and this was merely compounded by the fact that the contents of the article appear to advocate the failed war on drugs – a somewhat bizarre position for a website nominally devoted to the maximization of liberty (or at the very least lamenting the ongoing incursions on our freedom).

But now is not the time to get lost again in the wider debates around the war on drugs and surrounding issues such as legalisation of narcotics for adults. Rather, I wanted to dwell on this paragraph:
And now I must prepare to be verbally flayed by those who just know that they can handle it, and whose philosophy is atomised freedom: the solitary individual, totally disconnected from all others, making his choices in a moral and cultural vacuum and unaffected by his physiology or subconscious compulsions.
Ignoring the pathetic opening that appears to acknowledge the controversy that this sort of post was always going to provoke in a sort of “pity poor me” kind of way, this paragraph seems to create an image of the libertarian that I cannot recognise – despite being a libertarian myself. Firstly, liberalisation of drug laws (including legalisation of narcotics) is not simply a hedonistic objective; it isn’t about what I – or anyone else – can handle. Not least because it would be a very naïve (or stupid, if you will) person who believes that they can handle repeated toots on the old crack pipe. Rather, the issue is one of freedom – of giving adults the right to choose for themselves what they put into their own bodies. And I have to say that any sort of liberal approach to this issue is going to favour less regulation rather than more – and will always turn its back on any rhetorical war on inanimate substances.

However it is the notion of “atomised freedom” and the subsequent portrait of someone with a liberal approach to drug use and regulation that bothers me the most. Here, the author of the post not only misses the point, but misses that point as it sails right in front of their eyes while singing “hello! Hello! I’m the point! Look at me!” Indeed, I am tempted to use this paragraph as the very definition of a straw man argument when I am next teaching first year undergraduates on how not to write a shit essay.

Put simply, I have never come across anyone who is “totally disconnected from all others” and existing in some sort of solipsistic vacuum. Not even those tedious Rand devotees completely remove themselves from engagement with others – even if that engagement is simply trying to best others. Nor have I come across anyone who truly believes that they are unaffected by their “physiology or subconscious compulsions”. Indeed, it is difficult to identify anyone other than a young child who might reflect this sort of description. Sure, this sort of straw man caricature may aid the author’s argument by painting the advocate of drug liberalisation as a sort of amoral creature centred only on the self, but in creating this tangibly false caricature the author severally damages their own argument.

Because you do not have to be an extreme individualist to oppose the war on drugs. Nor do you have to be terminally naïve about your own physical and mental limitations. Indeed, it is perfectly possible to look at the society around you and observe that, well, the war on drugs has not worked and has not achieved any of its objectives, really – and therefore some sort of alternative approach makes sense if one can step away from the “grrr drugs are evil” mindset for a couple of minutes. It is also perfectly possible to think that if cocaine was legal then I, as an individual, might be tempted to take more of it despite the effect it has on me physically* – and then choose not to do so for precisely this reason.

And that is at the very core of the argument for the legalisation of drugs – it is about giving individuals the choice about what they consume and how they act. It allows individuals to factor in a whole host of different interests and concerns, and then decide based on those concerns – which include those around them, wider society, and their own mental and physical limitations – what they choose to consume. It is basically giving adults the choice to decide on what they want to do; in short, treating adults like adults.

In the comments section of the same post the author makes this rather telling point:
And the challenge is with us, of course. But when temptation increases, so does the number of falls.
Absolutely; the challenge does lie with us. That’s the point; to paraphrase a cliché, the more power we have, the more responsibility we have. Some people will be responsible, others less so, and some will fail outright. But that is what liberty inherently brings; the freedom to succeed, and the freedom to fail, based on what you choose as an individual. It is, of course, possible to make the case that some things are too much for the individual to cope with, and therefore they need to be restricted. However to make that case is not to advance the cause of liberty; rather, it is to fall into the trap of the sort of statist paternalism that has changed vast swathes of our population into bovine, infantile, thoughtless cretins who cannot make their own choices without the rubber stamp of the state verifying that their choices are a-ok.

*Personally I can’t stand cocaine – it makes tedious people even more tedious, but in a sort of manically tedious way. Besides, in my experience a lot of people take it to prevent themselves from getting wasted when drinking. Whereas I tend to drink precisely so I can get hammered.