Sunday, November 29, 2015

Espousing libertarianism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Teaching Gruber

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

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

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

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

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

Otherwise, I have a spare somewhere...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wind power is too expensive at any price, you fool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Quote of the Day...

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

Labour's fixed that for you

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

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

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

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

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

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

George & Co. must be delighted.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bee calm

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

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trading lies

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

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

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

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

BRAAAIIINS!

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

Monday, June 22, 2015

BBC armageddon bollocks

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

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

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

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

Cheers.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Actually, the poor did cause it

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

The Treasury,
1 Horseguards Road,
London.

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

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

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

Thank you in advance—you are a true philanthropist.

Regards,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad show—better luck next time, old girl.

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

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

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

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

Lindsey Stirling: Take Flight

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

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep...?

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

No, they don't.

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

Sunday, June 14, 2015

On the other hand...

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

The SNP: timely as ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with good reason...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

FFA or and bust

Following their remarkable win, the SNP is now pushing for Full Fiscal Autonomy (FFA) for Scotland. Broadly speaking, this means that Scotland runs its own economy—being able to spend cash and raise money as they please.

The supposed driver for this is that Scotland is a "more socialist" country, willing to pay more tax in order to stave off the tyranny of austerity. This narrative is, of course, bollocks: were it not, the SNP (also the dominant party in Holyrood) would already have used the tax-raising powers that the Parliament has—up to 3p in the pound extra in income tax, if I recall correctly.

Instead, when these powers were granted at devolution, the proposal to use them was attacked as "a Tartan tax". Indeed it may be but one that, if the SNP and other Scottish commentators are to be believed, one that would be welcomed by the austerity-loathing Scottish people.

The fact that the extra tax has not, actually, ever been levied leads one to re-examine that old economics truth of "revealed preferences", i.e. watch what people do, not what they say.

Of course, raising income tax by an extra 3% probably would do little to help the Scottish budget—the projected deficit under FFA is nearly £8 billion (around 10% of Scotland's GDP). In fact, most commentators think that Scotland's Full Fiscal Autonomy would be as disastrous as HP's adoption of Autonomy (yeah—that was a tech world joke (if an old one)).

So, why on earth are the SNP lobbying for FFA—a policy that will, as Alex Massie points out, surely lead to cuts in Scottish public spending that make "austerity" look like the most extravagant fiscal splurges of the more insane Roman emperors?

A clue to what the SNP might be thinking comes from SNP MP George Kerevan, in an article for The National [Emphasis mine—DK].
It is now inconceivable that David Cameron can reject Scottish demands for greater home rule, given that all three mainstream Westminster parties – Tory, Labour and Lib Dem alike – have minimal legitimate authority in Scotland in the wake of May 7. The general election was not a mandate for a second referendum – a point reiterated time after time by Nicola Sturgeon, whatever contrary hares are set running by the battered and bruised Westminster establishment. Nevertheless, the SNP’s electoral success is undoubtedly a mandate for going far beyond the hastily conceived ragbag of new powers contained in the Smith Commission documents.
The SNP maintains that the Smith Commission does not actually give Scotland enough powers (although many English people might argue that the Smith Commission gives the Scottish Parliament a great many powers, with very little responsibility). The Grauniad has summed up the main points, which I reproduce below.
  • The Scottish parliament will have complete power to set income tax rates and bands.
  • Holyrood will receive a proportion of the VAT raised in Scotland, amounting to the first 10 percentage points of the standard rate (ie with the current standard VAT rate of 20%, Scotland will 50% of the receipts), but cannot influence the UK’s overall UK rate.
  • It will have increased borrowing powers, to be agreed with the UK government, to support capital investment and ensure budgetary stability.
  • UK legislation will state that the Scottish parliament and Scottish government are permanent institutions. The parliament will also be given powers over how it is elected and run.
  • Holyrood will have power to extend the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds, allowing them to vote in the 2016 Scottish parliamentary election.
  • It will have control over a number of benefits including disability living allowance, the personal independence payment, winter fuel payments and the housing elements of universal credit, including the under-occupancy charge (bedroom tax).
  • The Scottish parliament will also have new powers to make discretionary payments in any area of welfare without the need to obtain prior permission from department for work and pensions.
  • It will have all powers of support for unemployed people through employment programmes, mainly delivered at present through the Work Programme.
  • It will have control over air passenger duty charged on people flying from Scottish airports.
  • Responsibility for the management of the crown estate’s economic assets in Scotland, including the crown estates’s seabed and mineral and fishing rights, and the revenue generated from these assets, will be transferred to the Scottish parliament.
  • The licensing of onshore oil and gas extraction underlying Scotland will be devolved to the Scottish parliament.
  • The Scottish government will have power to allow public sector operators to bid for rail franchises funded and specified by Scottish ministers.
  • The block grant from the UK government to Scotland will continue to be determined via the operation of the Barnett formula. New rules to define how it will be adjusted at the point when powers are transferred and thereafter will be agreed by the Scottish and UK governments and put in place prior to the powers coming into force. These rules will ensure that neither the Scottish nor UK governments will lose or gain financially from the act of transferring a power.
  • MPs representing constituencies across the whole of the UK will continue to decide the UK’s budget, including income tax.
  • The Scottish and UK governments will draw up and agree a memorandum of understanding to ensure that devolution is not detrimental to UK-wide critical national infrastructure in relation to matters such as defence and security, oil and gas and energy.
Your humble Devil submits that this is very close to FFA, whilst admitting that there are some constraints on how the Scottish Parliament may act. One might argue that a great many of these constraints are there to stop the Scottish Parliament bankrupting its country. Your mileage may vary.

However, the SNP is arguing for Full Fiscal Autonomy. That means that Scotland is entirely responsible for its own economy, right?

Well, you might think that: and now we'll return to George Kerevan's comment [Emphasis mine, again—DK]...
The constitutional ball is well and truly in David Cameron’s end of the field. Cameron’s opening gambit may well be to offer Scotland fiscal autonomy, in return for termination of the Barnett Formula (a mechanism that matches per capita spending changes across the UK constituent nations). We all know that in present UK economic circumstances a fiscally autonomous Scotland would face a significant budget deficit.

For Scotland to accept fiscal autonomy without inbuilt UK-wide fiscal balancing would be tantamount to economic suicide. However, all federal systems have mechanisms for cross subsidising regions in economic need by regions in surplus. To deny that to Scotland suggests a disingenuous Mr Cameron is hoping to derail any move to Scottish Hole Rule within the UK.
Wow. Yes, that's right: George Kerevan—and, we must assume, he is a proxy for the SNP—is seriously suggesting that Scotland be given Full Fiscal Autonomy except when it doesn't have the money to afford it.

Just sit back and admire the chutzpah—George is saying that the Scottish Parliament should be given free rein to run things as it likes. Except that when the Scots overspend, rack up debts, or just go batshit wild with the cheque book, the rest of England should have to bail them out. Kerevan is proposing that English taxpayers chuck another £7 billion a year at the Scots before they've even started turning on the spending taps (because who, genuinely, thinks that they won't?).

What the SNP are holding up—as an expectation—is a total lack of any responsibility. Kerevan is proposing is that no matter how much the Scottish government screws up—no matter how fecklessly Holyrood runs the national finances, or shamelessly its parties bribe their voters—the people of England should be expected to bail out the Scottish nation regardless.

There really is only one answer to this, and its very simple: fuck off.

David Cameron, in concert with Miliband and Clegg, has already betrayed England by his shameless capitulation—a.ka. "the promise"—to the Scots after the Independence Referendum: it is entirely possible that this spineless Buttered New Potato will sell us down the river by agreeing to this shit too.

If he does, we might finally see the anger of the English people burn hot enough to march down Whitehall—parading Cameron's massive, shiny head on a fucking stick.

And not before time, frankly.

UPDATE: have the SNP been monitoring the Kitchen for suggestions...?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

No—I'm Squander Two!

Squander Two has penned a superb post outlining the reticence (or, rather, politeness) of many non-Lefties on Facebook. Often in the face of considerable provocation from the Lefty "echo chamber".
Some of my friends agree with me about lots of things, and we can have a good old eye-roll together about how people genuinely thought Ed Miliband was Prime Minister material. (No, really, they did.) Some of them agree with me about almost nothing but are perfectly happy to have a good-natured argument with no hurt feelings. And some live in the Lefty Echo Chamber, in which case I do the sensible thing and don't talk about politics, because disagreement confuses and upsets them, and — and this is the crucial bit — they're my friends. I don't particularly want to confuse and upset my friends. As the old proverb says, better to offer another slice of cake than to laugh about Ed Balls. (Though I understand Yvette does both.)
Facebook, Squander Two maintains, should be treated like your living room. However, many people are unable to do so.
But even most of my friends who are willing to have an argument still have one foot in the Lefty Echo Chamber. What else could explain their reaction to the election result? Not just disappointment or upset but sheer uncomprehending bafflement. They have almost no experience of the existence of Tories, yet it turns out loads of people voted for them. Who are these people?

These people are the ones nodding and smiling. You know lots of them — statistically, unless you're in Scotland, it is highly likely that around half your friends voted Tory. Hey, some of your friends probably voted UKIP. Yes, even though you've been calling them "evil stupid Nazis" for years, to their faces. They still did it. They just didn't tell you. Because they knew, with absolute certainty, that you'd be an arsehole about it.
Yes—we know at least one young lady who might fit that bill, eh?

Anyway, the whole thing is long and so damn right. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you read the whole thing...

Coddling Cosslett

The election result threw up an awful lot of self-righteous fury from the Left. But even those angry, war memorial-defacing arseholes are preferable to the kind of whiney, tedious bollocks spouted by Rhiannon Lucy Cosset [who she?—Ed] in a Grauniad article entitled "Why it's OK to cry about this election".

It's not just that what she says is so pig-ignorant—although it is. Let's take this gem, for instance...
I keep remembering and then forgetting; a welcome pleasant thought will be interrupted by the terrifying reminder of what they are going to do to the Human Rights Act.
The Human Rights Act is not human rights, Rhiannon. In this country, we've been quite good at human rights. For hundreds of years, in fact. And restoring the power of British courts as the final arbiters of our laws does not mean that we are going to suddenly abolish human rights.

But I digress. The real kicker is this particular section [Emphasis mine—DK]...
I finally broke down properly at around 6pm on Friday, when I allowed myself, finally, to think about my little brother, who is severely disabled, and what might happen to him. Whether I should grab him and run for the hills so that we could camp down together under warm, soft blankets and not come down again until the bad people have gone.
Well, that's not going to happen, is it, Rhiannon? Because that would mean that you would have to take care of your "severely disabled" little brother.

And the reason that you are worried about what this government might do to changes in state provision for the disabled is because you want the state to take care of him—because you don't want to.

(Although, of course, you will happily use his condition as an token anecdote to shore up your credibility in a woefully fact-free opinion piece for a national media outlet.)

And if you don't want to take care of him within the rather opulent confines of this society, with all of its attendant services, you certainly are not going to do so up on a poxy hill with a few mouldy, old blankets for protection from the elements, are you?

So, Rhiannon, let me just clarify what I'm saying here: I am pointing out that you are a massive hypocrite, and your hypocrisy is the entire basis of your argument.

Now, why don't you go and have a cry about that?

In the meantime, just let the rest of us get on with our lives without having to risk stumbling across your self-serving, shroud-waving drivel.

Monday, June 01, 2015

They're all centrists now: and we are but piggy-banks

Stephen Pollard's article in the Daily Mail is not the first to sound the death knell for the Labour Party—but it is one of the more scary ones for those of us who are libertarians.
One by one, Labour's leadership candidates are rapidly disowning every element of Miliband's manifesto, and pretending that they never really had anything to do with it. 
They realise – and you'd have to be spectacularly blinkered not to see it – that Labour's programme was comprehensively trounced on May 7.
True enough—and good news for those of us who despise socialism as a mechanism of destruction, powered by spite. But are the alternatives better?
It was, after all, the new deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, Robert Halfon, who suggested immediately after the Election that his party's name should be changed to the Workers' Party. The suggestion was entirely serious and shows Labour's fundamental problem. 
With the Queen's Speech promoting a series of measures designed to help people who work hard – such as removing tax for anyone working 30 hours a week on the minimum wage, and doubling childcare – and David Cameron talking all the time about working people and One Nation Conservatism, it's clear the Tories are fully focused on keeping control of that space. 
It's the Tories who speak for Mr and Ms Average Brit, who know what they want and offer it to them.
And what are these centrist parties offering? They are offering to increase the size of the state, to take more money from those people who are not part of their favoured cliques, and to continue the expansion of welfare for "hard-working families".

And what of those of us who are not "families"—merely hardworking? What of those of us who don't believe that the state is the answer to every question?

The answer is clear: we are to knuckle down, to submit, and to fucking well thank the centrist parties for the opportunity to fund their ambitions.

In other words, the Conservative Party has simply reinforced the idea that only those whom they favour—whether that be economically or socially—should be rewarded. Those of us who do not subscribe to their ideology should be ignored and brutalised—our dreams treated as nothing, our work nothing more than an income stream, and our aspirations to be harnessed to the ambitions of their voters.

Fuck me, but the Labour Party were a terrible bunch of bastards—but what are we now left with?
  • Conservatives—believe in increasing state power by rewarding "better" behaviour;
  • Labour—believe in increasing state power by rewarding "better" behaviour;
  • LibDems—believe in increasing state power by rewarding "better" behaviour;
  • UKIP—believe in increasing state power by rewarding "better" behaviour;
  • Greens—believe in increasing state power by rewarding "better" behaviour.
Not one of these parties believes that people should be able to live their lives as they themselves wish; and not one of them really believes that people should have to stand by their own decisions.

This is why, for instance, small business-people are so turned off by their politics. Those of us who run businesses are responsible for our mistakes—because our mistakes might lead to penury for others.

Politicians have no such qualms—their mistakes punish people they don't know and, fundamentally, don't care about. If they need more money, they need only pass another law.

Truly, we are faced with a stark choice, my libertarian friends. We cannot now pretend that any mainstream party—despite the proliferation in recent years—might represent our views.

We are now nothing more than milch cows for our political and social masters. Despite, in many cases, being the brightest thinkers and the most profitable risk-takers in society, our voice does not matter anymore.

And libertarians? We are piggy-banks to pay for mistakes that are not our own.

The battle-lines are drawn: it is libertarians vs. everyone else. And I fear that we have lost even before we have begun.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The great charity scandal

A gentleman named David Craig has written a new book, called The Great Charity Scandal, which he summarises in an article over at the Daily Mail.
The figures are astonishing. There are more than 195,289 registered charities in the UK that raise and spend close to £80 billion a year. Together, they employ more than a million staff – more than our car, aerospace and chemical sectors – and make 13 billion ‘asks’ for money every year, the equivalent of 200 for each of us in the UK.
Indeed.
In England and Wales there are 1,939 active charities focused on children; 581 charities trying to find a cure for cancer; 354 charities for birds; 255 charities for animals, 81 charities for people with alcohol problems and 69 charities fighting leukaemia. 
All have their own executives, administrators, fundraisers, communications experts and offices, but few will admit they are doing exactly the same thing as other charities. Take the case of Ethiopia. Two decades ago there were 70 international charities operating there, today the figure is close to 5,000. 
A 2013 parliamentary inquiry into the charity sector found there were so many charities that the Charity Commission for England and Wales was struggling to ensure that most registered charities were genuine, rather than tax avoidance schemes or political campaigning groups.
Yes: it's a colossal industry.
Many other charities have also been tempted away from their main focus, into campaigning. 
Charities such as Forum for the Future, Friends of the Earth and Green Alliance have been very successful in influencing government policy. Their greatest success was probably in 2008 when the Climate Change Act was passed into law, which by the Government’s own estimate will cost £760 per household every year for four decades. 
But many of these charities are funded predominantly by the taxpayer, rather than public donations. Indeed, a number of commentators have identified that many do little in the way of good works, but are actually campaigning organisations or ‘fake charities’.
Yay! As I have said before, this phrase—indeed, this concept of "fake charities"—is my only meaningful contribution to the political conversation (other than coarsening it!).
About 27,000 British charities are dependent on the Government for three quarters or more of their funding. Without Government cash, many would collapse. Nevertheless they spend much of their time and money lobbying the Government rather than doing what most people would consider ‘charitable work’.
Indeed. And, ultimately, whose fault is this disgusting state of affairs? Yes—it's the fault of Saint Tony and his monocular Scottish idiot sidekick, the Gobblin' King.
Britain’s charities haven’t always been so politically active. Until 2004, any form of political lobbying by a charity could only be ‘incidental or ancillary to its charitable purpose’ and could not be a charity’s ‘dominant’ activity.
But it suited the NuLabour government to ensure that its place-men and women were in  position to lobby the executive to pass new and ever more draconian laws. Because people might rebel against the idea of government interfering in their private lives.

But—ah!—if charities (who, after all, only exist to do good, eh?) insist that such legislation is required, to save the people from themselves, then it must be a public good. And therefore the laws must be right.

And the charities got their reward—cash. And fuck-tons of it...
Oxfam, for example picked up almost £137 million from taxpayers in Britain and abroad during the last year – 37 per cent of its revenue. Save the Children also got close to £137 million from taxpayers and Christian Aid was given about £39 million – 41 per cent of its funds. 
Some charities refer to this money as ‘voluntary income’, though it’s not clear taxpayers would be so generous with donations if they knew how much of their money the charity was already receiving.
It is pretty clear—both from the reaction that Fake Charities got at the time, and in my conversations with people since—that people most certainly would not be so generous. In fact, they would be scandalised.

It's time that it stopped.

Women pay

Here's another one to file under "No shit, Sherlock"...
In Chile, a law requires employers to provide working mothers with child care. One result? Women are paid less.

In Spain, a policy to give parents of young children the right to work part-time has led to a decline in full-time, stable jobs available to all women — even those who are not mothers.

Elsewhere in Europe, generous maternity leaves have meant that women are much less likely than men to become managers or achieve other high-powered positions at work.

Family-friendly policies can help parents balance jobs and responsibilities at home, and go a long way toward making it possible for women with children to remain in the work force. But these policies often have unintended consequences.
Really. Well, that is a surprise.

Who'da thunk it, eh?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Universities are not the fucking police (pun intended)

Apparently, universities are not keeping records of "sexual" crimes.
Fewer than half of elite universities in Britain are monitoring the extent of sexual violence against students.
And why should they?

Universities are not the police, and we do not insist that they should keep statistics about any crimes.

As far as I am concerned, it isn't a crime until it has been reported to the police. That's certainly the attitude that insurance companies take.

And any allegation of a crime—sexual or otherwise—against a anyone (including other students) is, as far as I am concerned, a libel unless the accuser takes it to court.

If the accuser is not prepared to take their allegation to court then it is simply an accusation: and until the accuser is prepared to substantiate that allegation in court and the substance is proven beyond all reasonable doubt, in court, it is a libel.

And if the accuser continues to repeat the allegation, without doing any of those things, it is a libel. And in that case, the accused should be able to sue their accuser until the cows come home.

And since universities are not courts, I don't see why they should be keeping any records of such allegations.

We have a justice system. So, o students, if you are too much of a precious little flower to use the channels of justice that exist, then that's just tough.

UPDATE: Timmy says something similar.

Friday, May 22, 2015

From the Archives: the lobbyists fight back (2009)

Although the Filthy Smoker has moved onwards and upwards, he is responsible for some of your humble Devil's favourite posts. This little sample, from a 2009 post in which he discusses the tactics of fake charities, shows why...
The government funds these groups because they help it create a fake compromise while bypassing public opinion. Here's how it works:
  1. The government feels like giving you a good kick in the bollocks.
  2. You don't want to be kicked in the bollocks. You just want to be left alone.
  3. A fake charity turns up wielding some bogus study and demands that you be kicked in the bollocks and pelted with turds.
  4. The government conducts a bullshit consultation with some other fake charities and, in the spirit of compromise, concludes that you will be kicked in the bollocks but not pelted with turds.
Result: you get kicked in the bollocks. The government wins.

And if the charity is very good at its job, this will be quickly followed by the fake loophole:
  1. The fake charity produces a study showing that being pelted with turds is not as bad as taking one in the Jacob's. They say that the government is being inconsistent by allowing people to kick you in the plums but not pelt you with turds.
  2. The government agrees and, having set a precedent, it can't be seen to allow one and not the other.
Result: you get kicked in the bollocks and pelted with turds. Democracy has prevailed.
Although the fake charities site is no longer up (I know—I keep meaning to sort that out) nothing has fundamentally changed in the tactics employed by these organisations.

For more on these insidious lobbyists, why not have a look at Chris Snowdon's excellent (and free) IEA monographs on the subject:
As I always say, the phrase—and highlighting of—"fake charities" has been your humble Devil's sole effective contribution to public discourse—other than making it coarser...

Freeman by name; ignorant, illiberal prick by nature

George Freeman MP—who is, apparently, some kind of minister for the life sciences in this exciting new Tory government—has been spouting some ignorant bullshit at the Hay Festival.
Mr Freeman told an audience at the Hay Festival that it was clear that sugary drinks and snacks were behind the worsening obesity epidemic in Britain. “I don’t think heavy-handed legislation is the way to go,” he said.
Well, that's very kind of you, Mr Freeman. It's a great pity that the "obesity epidemic" is, by and large, a load of old bollocks—with researchers predicting some kind of lard-arse armageddon that has, consistently, failed to materialise (a bit like climate change, really).

But George thinks that it is a crisis and—perhaps whilst he was obtaining his degree in Geography—it looks like he once heard someone explain Pigou taxes.
“But I think that where there is a commercial product which confers costs on all of us as a society, as in sugar, and where we can clearly show that the use of that leads to huge pressures on social costs, then we could be looking at recouping some of that through taxation. 
“Companies should know that if you insist on selling those products, we will tax them.”
George's trouble is, of course, that we cannot "clearly show that the use of [sugar] leads to huge pressures on social costs".

What we can show, in fact, is that calorie consumption has fallen rapidly throughout the century—to the point that the average adult's intake is now below the recommended intake during war-time rationing.

The human body, as an energy machine is pretty simple: if you burn more calories through activity than you consume, then you will lose weight—and vice versa. And given what we know about these two factors (neatly summarised in this excellent IEA monograph by Chris Snowdon), there really can only be one conclusion:

  • All the evidence indicates that per capita consumption of sugar, salt, fat and calories has been falling in Britain for decades. Per capita sugar consumption has fallen by 16 per cent since 1992 and per capita calorie consumption has fallen by 21 per cent since 1974.
  • Since 2002, the average body weight of English adults has increased by two kilograms. This has coincided with a decline in calorie consumption of 4.1 per cent and a decline in sugar consumption of 7.4 per cent.
  • The rise in obesity has been primarily caused by a decline in physical activity at home and in the workplace, not an increase in sugar, fat or calorie consumption.

So, once more we are forced to wheel out the Polly conundrum: is George Freeman MP ignorant or lying?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Left: an utter failure of personal responsibility

Over at Forbes, Timmy has written an article about the difficult decision facing Greek PM, Alex Tsipras.
The general view is that the Greek endgame is coming ever closer.
...
The troika is insisting that Greece must not lower the pension age and also must liberalise some more the labour market. Syriza, seeing itself as the sort of left wing party that just doesn’t do those sorts of things is refusing: thus that red line argument. And it is fair to point out that Syriza are the democratically elected government and they were elected on a platform of not doing those sorts of things (or, in fact, those two specific things). 
But as I’ve pointed out before what you do with the money of the citizens who voted you in is one thing. Demanding to be allowed to do the same thing with money you’re borrowing from others is rather different. And if Greece is going to make the payments it needs to in the coming months then it needs that last tranche of that loan. But the troika refuses to hand it over while Syriza is threatening to do what it was elected to do.
Certainly, it's going to be interesting to see what happens—especially as the consensus seems to be that:
  • the Greeks do not want to submit to the troika's demands;
  • the Greeks can't pay their creditors unless they do submit to the troika's demands;
  • the Greeks want to remain within the Eurozone.
Or, to put it another way:
  1. the Greeks want all of the trappings and benefits of a massive, Leftist state that will allow them to sit about doing nothing much all day;
  2. the Greeks don't want to pay for it through their taxes and, indeed, will avoid them where at all possible;
  3. the Greeks want to remain within the Eurozone.
At least one of these things will have to change. Unless, of course, some miracle comes along (very unlikely). We live, as they say, in interesting times.

Anyway, the point that I really want to make is related to #2, above, i.e. the Greeks don't want to pay taxes and, indeed, will avoid them where at all possible. Now, many people will be outraged that I might suggest such a thing—except, perhaps, when I point out that a great many Greeks simply stopped paying tax at the end of last year in anticipation of a Syriza win.

Faced, as he is, with this tension between keeping his promises or keeping the Greek state solvent (for a little while), it would not be entirely unreasonable for Alex Tsipras to say:
"Look, chaps: I did my best to stand up for the interests of the Greek people. But the trouble is that, at the first possible moment, the Greek people simply didn't bother paying tax. 
"Because of this, we have no other options: either we give in to the demands of the troika, or we exit the Euro (which won't solve much, but will get the Germans off our backs)."
He could then hold a referendum—but I doubt that the Greek state can afford it.

Anyway, the point is that the Greeks want lots of stuff, without actually reaching into their pockets to pay for any of it.

Which is, as we saw after the recent General Election, very similar to the Left in this country.

My various feeds were full of idiots wailing and gnashing their teeth, talking about how all the poor people were going to be put down and fed to the myriad urban foxes. Or something.

A great many of them were complaining about how the poor were to be denied their benefits.

So to help out these poor souls—riven by grief and guilt about the poor—I decided to point out that they could help simply by reaching into their ample pockets. I helpfully pointed out that not only can they donate their time and money to charities, but they can actually donate money to the Treasury—and specify what budget they want their monies to go to!

So, if you are a Lefty scared of what will happen to the poor, simply send your cheque to:
The Treasury
1 Horse Guards Road
London
Just convince all of your left-wing friends to do the same—this surely won't be difficult—and you can help out those causes that you care about. And, best of all, you won't be using the threat of imprisonment to force other people to pay towards these causes.

As an extra bonus, everyone can check online to see who has generously donated this cash to these good causes, so that we can praise you for your generosity and civic decency.

Or, of course, call you a bunch of fucking liars when you say that you'd "happily pay more tax".

This is the very definition, I think, of the phrase "put up or shut up."

Of course, many people will say that your humble Devil is being a little aggressive about this.

"Come on, DK," they might say. "You're a politics nerd—you cannot expect everybody to know about this voluntary tax thing."

To which I reply, "well, these people think that they are qualified to elect a government—shouldn't they know how that government works? They are prepared to use the law to force people to pay money to the Treasury on behalf of certain interest groups—shouldn't they show willing first?"

But, apparently, that's the thing with Lefties: they're very happy to reach into other people's pockets, and very reluctant to dig deep into their own.

Who knew, eh?

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Incentives matter

This really shouldn't need to be said, honestly, but incentives really do matter.
Pizza shop worker Devin Jeran was excited about the raise that was coming his way thanks to Seattle’s new $15 an hour minimum wage law. Or at least he was until he found out that it would cost him his job. 
Jeran will only see a bigger paycheck until August when his boss has to shut down her Z Pizza location, putting him and his 11 co-workers out of work, Q13 Fox reported.
Well, isn't this a fucking surprise...?

Not.

Darren, or whatever his fucking name is, is a fucking arse. He thought he could get a massive pay hike with no consequences.

Darren, or whatever his fucking name is, is a dick.

Although not as much of a fucking dick as the politicos who brought in the law. But what the fuck do they care?—their salary is guaranteed by law and enticed through theft.

The stupid cunts.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Perverting the language

Star Trek's Mr Sulu, George Takei, has written an article for MSNBC [Emphasis mine—DK]...
The so-called “Religious Freedom Bill” would have allowed proprietors of establishments open to the public to refuse to serve customers if doing so would violate the “sincerely held” religious beliefs of the owner. 
On the surface, the proposed law seemed like a neutral way to protect the First Amendment rights of business owners.
But beneath that surface lurked a dangerous and divisive effect, granting hotels, bars and restaurants the right to refuse to serve LGBT persons and couples such as Brad and me, simply because our love did not comport with the religious views of the owners.

But thanks to pressures upon the governor’s office in days before she was set to sign the law, and in the face of a boycott of the state by tourists and the NFL, which threatened to move the Super Bowl to Pasadena, Gov. Jan Brewer ultimately decided to veto the law. Tolerance and equality won out that day.
Hmmm.

So, "tolerance" for LGBTQ means intolerance—enacted with force—towards people who would like to choose who they do business with?

Whilst I don't support a religious position, this definition of "tolerance" does rather illustrate how our language has become utterly perverted.

To be honest, my attitude is pretty much espoused by Tim Cook, i.e. that serving everyone equally is good business.

Or, as I put it after the heated feminism debate at this weekend's Liberty League Freedom Forum...
I am an individualist. I discriminate on whether or not you are a cunt, not whether or not you have one.
That pretty sums up my attitude to all identity politics, frankly.

The bastards are still stealing from us

Another day, another tale of ordinary thieving folk...
Forty six MPs have claimed expenses for London rent or hotels despite owning a property in the capital, a Channel 4 News investigation has found.
...
Our investigation found many of the MPs bought their London properties with the help of the taxpayer when the previous expenses system allowed them to claim back mortgage payments.
But when those claims were banned following the expenses scandal they switched to letting out their properties, in some cases for up to £3,000 a month. They then started claiming expenses for rent and hotels in the capital.
The only thing that MPs learned from the expenses scandal was how to line their pockets, at our expense, in new and exciting ways.

Clarkson again...

And so Spiked! weighs in again on Clarkson, pointing out that this so-called offensive, racist oaf helped to propel Top Gear to be the most watched factual programme in the entire world.
When Clarkson’s suspension was announced, one of the first to express sadness was his Farsi voiceover, Mozaffar Shafeie, who helps to translate Top Gear for the benefit of the show’s multitude of viewers in Iran. As much as it might grate on the tender sensibilities of Clarkson’s detractors in the UK, his oafish, crass manner is actually fundamental to his popularity in the Islamic Republic. ‘His humour is so inappropriate and not at all what you hear on state TV’, said the BBC’s Darius Bazargan, who made a documentary in 2008 about motor racing in Tehran, before adding, ‘that must account for some of [Top Gear’s] appeal’.
Oddly enough*, that's pretty much why I enjoyed Top Gear too.
This jolly, life-affirming show about risk-taking and camaraderie, one only superficially devoted to automobiles, has done more than any other TV show to spread happiness and bring people together on a global scale.
Quite.

* I don't, of course, mean "oddly": I am drawing a direct comparison between the legal and religious authoritarianism of the disgusting Iranian regime, and the social fascism of the bien pensant media classes in this country—and the tacit support given to them by our cowardly politicos.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Boycott!

So, the BBC has finally sacked Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear.

Given how much money the programme makes for the Beeb, I would say that decision might be described as "courageous".

However...

Your humble Devil has sod all interest in cars*, but I did rather enjoy watching Top Gear. I think, basically, because it was three chaps—mercifully free from the aching right-on-ness of most people these days—arse-ing about in colossally brilliant machines built by very clever human beings.

It seems that the other May and Hammond—in a decent British show of solidarity with a mate—will probably not continue with the programme. Good for them.

So, the upshot is that I think that the BBC are totally wrong to sack Clarkson. Totally and utterly wrong.

Thank goodness that I can boycott their output, withhold my payments and cancel my contract. And that's why I am calling for a...

I'm sorry—what?

Prison? For not wanting to pay for a service that I not only don't want, but morally disagree with?

Oh.

FFS.

* I got banned some years ago, and have never bothered to apply for my licence back—despite the ban having expired two years ago (or more).


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Appropriate

One of my problems with the Thatcher governments is that they actually centralised a lot of local government. For someone who believes in localism, that is something of a problem.

However, when you see what local governments spend money on, that is entirely understandable.

As a very small example, let us take this pathetic story from the Daily Fail...
Staff at a council used payment cards to spend nearly £700,000 of public cash – including £170 on a pair of designer Ugg boots, £100 in a Ralph Lauren store in Barcelona and £44 in a tattoo parlour.
There just isn't any fucking excuse for this kind of spending.

Look, I work in a company and we have a company credit card: it is totally necessary because, these days, many services cannot be purchased without some kind of debit/credit card.

I can understand why some purchases might look weird to our shareholders. But I can justify every one of them (and I am a shareholder so I authorise most of them). Nevertheless, at our company, every single penny saved is worthwhile.

But this is not even about getting the best deal.

This is about what it is appropriate for state agencies to spend our fucking money on.

Let us be really fucking charitable and assume that the £44 spent in a tattoo parlour was for a "vulnerable" constituent who maintained that only permanent damage to their epidermis could allow them to feel accepted in their environment.

I am well aware that local councils feel obliged to pander to their customers (don't we all sometimes? After all, saying "no" to people is never nice).

But the correct answer is still, "fuck off".

And not just because the aresehole will probably sue the council, in a few years time, for the right to have said tattoo removed (at our expense).

No, the real reason to say "fuck off" is because even that £44 belongs to someone else.

Personally, I don't get tattoos: the idea of doing any kind of permanent damage to my body makes me feel slightly ill. But, again, that's not the fucking point.

A council, or a state, has the mandate to stop put a roof over people's head, and to prevent them from starving—and that's basically it.

So, many people will sit and say that £700,000 is not that much money. And, in the grand scheme of state spending, that's true.

But when councils hike taxes and, more gutlessly, campaign against central government funding cuts then this kind of shite needs to be highlighted.

Because that £44 was taken by force from some poor family somewhere in Bristol, and then spunked up the wall by some council employee who was unable to say "no".

This kind of petty fucking fraud needs to stop—and not because we need to "reduce the deficit". No, it needs to stop because these cunts are stealing your money, so that you can no longer afford things that you want.

And then they are taking that money, and then spending buying frivolous shite for people who have earned fuck all. Never forget—this is your money that they are spending.

So, what could you do with £700,000? And this sum was racked up on only one payment method, by only one council.

Not such a small amount now, is it...?

Monday, March 16, 2015

The BBC and Green's hypocrisy over 500 million deaths




**Please note I am not Devil's Kitchen**

Last Friday the 13th March, as aficionados of popular culture will attest, was Comic Relief and Red Nose Day. The feel-good factor cup ranneth over in raising money for charities not only at home, but very much abroad, especially Africa. Presenter Claudia Winkelman triumphantly said £78 million had been raised, pushing the final figure since the BBC began thirty years ago to over £1 billion. Delights usually include the cringe worthy actor trying to dance, the footballer trying to act, and the TV presenter trying to sing. Sometimes euthanasia might be kinder.

One of this years highlights was In The Loop's, foul mouthed Malcolm Tucker and Dr. Who's current incarnation Peter Capaldi slumming it in Malawi looking at the plight of malaria ravaged children. He implored us to donate for mosquito nets which prevents transmission of the disease.  I certainly do not want to make light of a child's death, but we were treated to scenes of five children and even more under a bed as hospitals are overwhelmed. One of the scenes was the distressing death of Thenbani aged 3 years and 8 months of malarial induced cardiac arrest.  The caption then reads "His death could have been prevented."

Too damn right. 

It is not the wicked west and tight-fisted Brits to blame, but the Green Movement and by implication its apologists at the BBC. Malaria was on the verge of being eradicated world-wide in the early 1960s. It is down to one very long word, and its marginalisation and banning:

Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane. 

DDT as we commonly know it, is sprayed on the swamps where the mosquitoes bred, it was highly effective. For example in Sri Lanka in 1948, had 2.8 million cases and by 1963, just 17. Zanzibar saw 70% of its population infected in 1958 dropping to 5% in 1964. After DDT spraying stopped, Sri Lanka returned to 2.5 million cases and Zanzibar 55% infection rates.  It was estimated at the time by the US Agency for International Development's Chief Malaria Officer that continued use of DDT would have eradicated 98% of the disease. DDT is estimated by Drs. Michael Arnold Glueck and Robert J. Cihak, to have saved 500 million lives.

Why was DDT banned? It was the publication of a book by Rachel Carson called "Silent Spring." DDT was accused of causing breast cancer, diabetes, killing birds and animals, the former by causing their egg shells to be too thin.  Almost certainly junk science, the mirage still appears among us, as former Vice President Al Gore said in 1994 “Because Carson’s work led to a ban on DDT, it may be that the human species...or at least countless human lives, will be saved because of the words she wrote.”

The BBC have not been shy in banging Carson’s drum. In 1999 it copied and pasted from the World Wide Fund for Nature’s press release that, “The chemical DDT is so dangerous that it should be banned everywhere..”

In 2003 it reported reduced infertility from DDT and “The chemical has already been linked to premature births and low birth weights.

The BBC on this 2014 copyrighted GCSE exam Bitesize, revision text says, “An example of bioaccumulation is the use of DDT as an insecticide in the 1950s and 1960s. Birds of prey were badly affected because it made the shells of their eggs very thin, causing them to break easily when the birds tried to incubate them.”
As recently as January 2014 they wrote that there maybe a link between DDT and Alzheimer’s disease.


DDT was banned in the USA in 1972 with Europe following soon after, despite egg shell thin evidence. If I can quote directly from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) report.

“Judge Edmund Sweeney concluded that ― ‘DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man... DDT is not a mutagenic or teratogenic hazard to man... the use of DDT under the regulations involved here does not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds or other wildlife..’”  

Administrator Ruckelshaus was not persuaded or perhaps wanted to make a name for himself saying he “was convinced that the continued massive use of DDT posed unacceptable risks to the environment and potential harm to human health. On June 14th 1972, Administrator Ruckelshaus cancelled nearly all of the remaining Federal registrations of DDT products.”

Empirical evidence seems redundant.

The United Nations Environment Programme of 2001 saw the passing of the Stockholm Convention calling for DDT's restriction and partial elimination and a legally binding treaty was signed on the 17th May 2004 by 173 countries. Although theoretically it could have limited deployment for “Vector Control,” a discouraged world padlocked the chemical shed. The EPA‘s reaction above no doubt set the standard of expecting everyone to comply with the Silent Spring being waved at them.

What evidence is there Carson's hypothesis holds water? None, it is junk science.

On breast cancer in 1997 and published in the New England Journal for Medicine, lead author Dr. David Hunter concluded "Our data do not support the hypothesis that exposure to 2,2-bis (p-chlorophenyl)-1,1,1-trichloroethane (DDT) and PCBs increases the risk of breast cancer."

In the UK the Wilson Report from 1969. "Review of organochlorine pesticides in Britain" found “no close correlation between the decline in population of predatory birds, particularly the peregrine falcon and the sparrow hawk, and the use of DDT."”

Ospreys in the USA thrived with 191 in 1946, to 288 in 1956, to 457 in 1967, and 630 in 1972.

On egg shells typical papers such as Dr. ML Scott's from 1975,  "Effects of PCBs, DDT, and mercury compounds upon egg production, hatchability and shell quality in chickens and Japanese quail,” concluded "Dietary polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT and related compounds, in well controlled experiments, produced no detrimental effects upon egg shell quality”"

Shortly before his death in 2004   Dr. Gordon Edwards, Professor Emeritus of Entomology at San Jose State University, savaged the agreement. “The ban on DDT, founded on erroneous or fraudulent reports and imposed by one powerful bureaucrat, has caused millions of deaths, while sapping the strength and productivity of countless human beings in underdeveloped countries. It is time for an honest appraisal and for immediate deployment of the best currently available means to control insect-borne diseases. This means DDT.”

Hope in 2006 seemed to re-emerge. At the World Health Organization (WHO), Japanese Dr. Arata Kochi was appointed to head up the anti-malaria programme.  Known for his abrasive, get things done style, he stated that DDT was the most effective means of eradicating malaria.  Ironically he found an ally in President George Bush and his head of the $1.2 billion malaria programme, Admiral Timothy Ziemer said "that (DDT) must be deployed as robustly and strategically as possible.”

Kochi also criticised the use and sale of drugs to combat malaria as it reduced resistance. Big Pharma was not happy.

However, many African countries are reluctant to return to DDT as Europe and the USA may block agricultural exports, in case the products become tainted with DDT. Malawi's biggest currency earner is tobacco making up 70% of foreign currency receipts. Arguing against the BBC/green scientific orthodoxy could be catastrophic. DDT’s pariah status remains unchanged.

So Africa and other parts of the world are condemned to have Sir Terry Wogan join Dermot O'Leary in the Floral Dance and the dreadful Russell Brand doing cheap and unfunny jokes at Jeremy Clarkson's expense, while the ravages of malaria are causing 98 million cases and an estimated 584 000 deaths, 90% are in Africa. It seems the orthodox of Groupthink on left/liberal science of malaria control has been all pervasive and has set a precedent for over 50 years. It seems that questioning DDT as a killer is still verboten. Analogies of challenging "man-made" global warming and the harm of second hand cigarette smoke, where many scientists have been cowered and bullied into silence are persuasive. 

The BBC complicit and collaborating with their cohorts in the Green Movement may have inflicted Biblical levels of pestilence on the world. If DDT saved 500 million when it was used, it could imply 500 million people may have been lost subsequently.

One could conclude that BBC mosquito nets are throwing dead babies out with the swamp water.