Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Gobblin' King is still a power-crazed fuckwit

The Goblin KingGordon Brown: "The fact that his clock shows 13 hours on it is merely symptomatic of his economic fucking illiteracy. The dreadful, one-eyed cock..."

Many people who loathe Blair still think that The Gobblin' King is the saviour of the world, a financial wizard and architect of the greatest economic Golden Age that Britain has ever known. After I've viciously beaten these fuckers around the head—screaming "no, he's not! He is an incompetent cunt with one eye and a ludicrous oral twitch that makes me want to slice his lips off!"—I calm down slightly and, sitting serenely beside the deluded, bloody fool, I like to explain that their faith is misplaced.

I like to mention the stupidity of selling the Bank of England's gold at a near-record low price (a low which he, himself, helped to create), the fact that unemployment figures are on the rise (even with the government attempting to massage them), the record bankruptcies, the decrease in social mobility and the increase in poverty (as measured by household expenditure).

But surely his biggest fuck-up has been the tax credits system. They are massively expensive to administer, wide open to fraud, put families from whom lump sum repayments are demanded (with menaces, naturally) and last year overpaid by £1.9 billion.

The good news is that this year the overpayment was only £1.8 billion, which I know makes me feel a lot better. Obviously the system is now well under control, even if it is not achieving the end for which it was designed, i.e. helping the poorest.

As Jackart points out, if you really want to help the working poor, there is a really simple way to do so.
I've an Idea, Brown, you fuck-wit: if you want to help the working poor DON'T FUCKING TAX THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.

It's such a basic concept, one wonders why our Cyclopean economic colossus has not simply raised the Personal Tax Allowance. But the answer is pretty bloody simple: power. If you make as many people in the country as possible clients of the state, then they are hardly going to vote for a party that promises to take away their unearned cash.
What's more I suspect - without proof - that this may be deliberate. Here is a nightmare vision of Brown's Britian: He is trying to force large numbers of people to be beholden to the state's will, and be dependent on the exchequer for their income. The Goblin King can then divide up his minions according to whatever is "PC" that week and reward one client group over another. Calls for justice and fairness descend in to endless lobbying for state handouts to special interest groups. Gordon becomes the arbiter of everyones' standard of living. It is power to interfere he wants. Not to help the poor.

Quite so but, amongst other things, he is essentially bribing the people of the country to vote for NuLabour; it is a cynical power play worthy of Machiavelli himself. So, let us bear that in mind as we turn our attention to The Grauniad article.
The number of families facing tax credit repayments has risen despite a fall in the total sum being claimed back by the government, the new figures showed.

So, despite the fact that the overpayment is less, the number of payments that they have cocked up has actually risen; now, I'm no statistician, but this would imply that the system is actually getting worse.
More than 1.9m claims were overpaid last year, up 120,000 from the previous year, when charities warned some families were being forced into poverty by the debt.

What! 120,000 cock-ups has risen to 1,900,000 wrong claims: the system has become nearly sixteen times more inefficient! Absolutely incredible.
Some £2.2bn was overpaid in 2003-04, resulting in £1bn of debt being written off by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

HMRC: alias the taxpayer. Coincidentally, £1 billion is about the level of NHS debt at the end of last year, which has led to the sackings of nurses, doctors and the severe rationing of frontline services. That would employ 50,000 nurses at £20,000 a year, just to put that colossal number into some perspective.
The government insisted today that people will not be forced to reimburse the state if the overpayment is the system's fault, rather than a change in people's circumstances, as it admitted further overpayments would continue in the future.

That's nice of them. What kind of trauma-inducing process will the families have to go through in order to get you to admit that it is your mistake? And you are expecting this tootal arse-up to continue?
Further overpayments are nevertheless set to continue, as a minister confirmed that the new measures being implemented will reduce overpayments in future years by just one third.

By a third? Quick, break out the fireworks and bunting!
The government says it wants to retain a "flexible and responsive" system, rather than fixed payments, so the level of credits matches families' changing needs.

Yes, but every single fucking month? Why not put it to every six months, at least? Or why not make tax far simpler, as I outlined here, so that people can just fill out their own forms?
The chief secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Timms, said overpayments have already fallen by more than a fifth since the first the year of the operation as he defended the system to help worse-off families.

Overpayments might have fallen, but misallocations and incorrect payments have risen by sixteen fucking times!
"The tax credit system has delivered three vital improvements: it has increased incentives to work, reduced the tax burden on low-to-middle-income families and helped to sharply reduce child poverty," he said.

To sharply reduce child poverty? Isn't it time, Tim, for you to boldly go to the P-G for some summary justice: it's hanging for a split infinitive, I believe.
"They have played a vital role in reducing child poverty, with 700,000 children lifted out of relative poverty since 1997." But the Liberal Democrats called on the paymaster general, Dawn Primarolo, to be sacked as they call for a whole-system reform.

The system has also been bedevilled by serious IT problems and targeted by organised criminal gangs using stolen identities to defraud the taxpayer.

Well, that is a surprise...
Lib Dem spokesman David Laws said: "It is surely now time to replace the paymaster general, who through oversight, incompetence, or complacency has presided over a broken system rife with incorrect payments and fraud."

Not to mention overseeing the sale of the Customs and Inland Revenue buildings to Mapely Steps Ltd, a company based in a tax haven, and then lying about it (Private Eye, passim ad nauseam). Primarolo must go.
The shadow paymaster general, Mark Francois, said: "This government is in meltdown and they have Gordon Brown to blame for it. He has created a system of tax credits which is far too complicated. Apart from failing the needy, the system is not fit for purpose."

"Gordon Brown needs to acknowledge whether the ongoing problems are a result of his obsession with fiddling and complexity or gross failure of his ministers and department to administer the payments effectively."

Brown is a fuckwit of grand stature; he is a manipulative, lying, piece of crap who—notwithstanding his low profile when scandal breaks—is, nonetheless, a terrible cunt.

Burn him now.

Good news from Iraq

Right For Scotland produces a nice little summary of the US DoD report entitled Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq.
This increased political stability backed by a growing armed security force has resulted in a strengthened fiscal position. Currency is steady, the debt is decreasing and income from oil exports remains reliable although there are still major problems in electricity generation.

This report clearly paints a very positive picture of the country despite interference from British, Iranian and Syrian jihadists. With a stable, well trained Army and police force accountable to a nationally representative elected government backed by an increasingly stable economy, the report clearly indicates that Iraqi people, thanks to the American, British and Australian armed forces, can look forward to a prosperous future of self-determination.

Now, I know that all you Lefties are going to say how it is all lies, that they are just telling Bush what he wants to hear, that, in fact, millions of Iraqis are attempting—for reasons known only to themselves—to plunge the country into civil war with all of the misery and disruption that goes with it and that the whole thing is still a fucking disaster; but those of us who are optimists—whose hearts were gladdened by the fact that 70% of the population hauled themselves, on foot for miles, to vote a year ago—see grounds for hope here.

Now, if Iran would just fuck off and stop providing personnel, money, weaponry and explosives, the whole process could carry on that bit faster...

Euston is a shitty place anyway

My eye was drawn to a post at Fisking Central about the Euston Manifesto. Yes, yes, I know, but bear with me as there are some points of amusement.
Matt and I have always wanted to sign the Euston Manifesto, but have been critical of certain areas where we weren’t entirely satisfied.

I can sympathise; as soon as I was born, the first coherent thought that entered my little round head was that I too must sign: it was my destiny.
[The audience] wanted specifics, plans and calls for action, as did we. This, unfortunately, caused some unease amongst the rest of the panel. Geras, to give one example, should have been able to speak for all when he said he opposed the extradition to torture, but did not feel entirely comfortable to do so.

After all, where will the Eustonites' gulags be built if they actively condemn torture, eh?
This is a shame - if the principles of the Manifesto are so self-evident why not be more definitive?

If the principles are "self-evident" then why do you need the Eustonites to describe them to you at all? Why, indeed, would the Eustonites need to articulate principles that are "self-evident"? And if one practice is self-evidently wrong, then surely it is torture: why were they unable to roundly condemn this practice?
The feminist question was also a good one – why not elaborate on the rather foggy concept of human rights, and apply it directly to social groups?

Eh? I don't know what the feminist question was: perhaps it's self-evident, but I've already written before that the concept of human rights is a load of horseshit. Only a being higher than ourselves can confer "rights" on the whole of humanity and, unless you believe in a god (which I don't), that is not going to happen any time soon.

I prefer to tak about freedom and liberty; I am free to do anything that I choose provided that it is within the constraints of the law; I neither need nor want laws to tell me what I can do. The whole human rights thing is absolute a stinking pile of dung. We can sit here bleating about humans rights all we like, but I don't see anyone doing fuck all about the deeply unpleasant things being inflicted, by governments on their people, the world over. It's just hot air, empty words.
I didn’t speak to anybody at the event who was not broadly a Labour supporter. I didn’t hear any policies that would contradict traditional Labour Party values.

Well, that is a surprise. Mind you, Labour Party "values" and Labour Party actions are pretty fucking unrelated to each other anyway. It's pretty difficult to espouse security of property whilst being in favour of wealth redistribution and still keep a straight face, I find.
Blair’s speech on UN reform is a start, but given the hole in the PLP, the impotency of the Lib Dems and the intellectual superficiality of Cameron, there is no-one to actually pressure him into matching his words with actions.

Ah, I see; Blair has to be forced into matching his rhetoric with actions and the only reason that he hasn't saved the world is because the Lib Dems are crap and the Tories are facile. Gosh! I was really starting to wonder about that.
Both Matt and I signed the Euston Manifesto this morning. We look forward to getting more involved.

And we'll look forward to you reports with the greatest hilarity interest.
Just to make this entirely clear, I couldn't give a shit about the World Cup. I suppose that I'll be supporting England in as much as I'll support anyone, but I won't be going out of my way to be watching any of the games.

This has been a service announcement.
Via the guy that Laban Tall dubbed "probably the only man crosser than the Devil's Kitchen", this nauseating tale. I am going to stay very calm and just say the following: this shit should not happen in our country. Zena's family should have been arrested, tried, imprisoned and then deported. Oh, yes, and preferably publically flogged too.

But the worst bit of it is this:
Jack and Zena searched in vain for sanctuary. One by one the agencies that could — and should — have helped them let them down. The police, social security, victim support. The couple ran from Huddersfield to Cleethorpes to Grimsby to Lincoln to the Isle of Wight to Portsmouth and on.

It reads like a list of Britain's dingiest shitholes; all it's missing is Croydon. Imagine being on the run and always ending up in a town ever shittier than the one you just left; it's just adding insult to injury death threats really, isn't it...?

If... The BBC Discovers Economics...

Flicking through the channels to avoid doing any work this evening, I happened to catch part of the BBC's extremely stupid "docu-drama" called If... The Oil Runs Out. It was quite the silliest thing that I have ever seen and I watched the film of Charlie's Angels, so I know.
Combining expert interviews with a fictional story line, the drama-documentary examines how our lives will change as the price of fuel starts to spiral out of control.

We will not just be paying a lot more - £2.35 per litre or $5.88 per US gallon - to fill up our cars, we will be charged much higher prices for food, heating and light.

At one point, one of the "experts" said something along the lines of, "we won't be able to just turn up the thermostat: people will have to start wearing warm clothes indoors." Fuck me, what a fucking hardship! I spent the first two years in my flat without any central heating: do you know what I did? That's right, I put on warm clothes ( I heartily recommend waistcoats, by the way). I was hardly torturing myself to death on the rack, for fuck's sake. When you aren't on a cosy BBC salary, you can't always afford to put the heating on either. That happens now, you idiot.

As for the wailing cleaning woman moaning that she couldn't afford food and heat for her five children, well... I'll admit that my first thought was, well, you should have kept your legs shut, lass, if you couldn't afford them. But I realised that this was deeply uncharitable and merely pointed out, in a tone only a few decibels above raised, that maybe the she should just do what the "expert" said and buy them some warm, fucking clothes. Instead the little bitch decided that she would just start taking them around to her employer's house and start racking up his energy bill whilst he was out at work. And, unbelievably, when he caught her, he didn't sack her on the spot: he made her a cup of bloody tea! And then let her and her brood move into the flat. Simply incredible.

My other problem was that the programme—whilst spewing out figures left, right and centre—seemed to have no grasp of economics. Much of it seemed to assume that, whilst oil and the cost of shopping would rise, that no one would actually, you know, stop using so much power because it had become so expensive. The protagonists were still flying about in planes at the slightest provocation and naturally they all drove humvees.
As the story unfolds, expert interviewees - including Paul Domjan, Former Energy Security Adviser at the US Dept of Defence, oil analyst Matt Simmons and the legendary former Saudi Arabian Minister of Oil, Sheikh Yamani - explain how the crisis will have an effect on every part of our lives.

And believe me, the Saudi man could hardly contain his glee as he told of all the disasters that would befall the West; I thought, at one point, that he was actually going to start laughing with delight.
As one of the experts concludes: "It is very important for us to think today about what we can do to move away from the oil age, to build a more environmentally sustainable economy without all the political and environmental problems that come with oil.

"And hopefully we'll develop a policy to move away from oil today, rather than waiting until a story like this in 2016 forces us to give up oil."

Yes, we are, believe it or not, working on it: not something that the BBC chose to dwell on in its sensationalist piece of shit.

Seriously, I can't believe that they saw fit to broadcast this shoddy, tawdry, schmaltzy, amateurish load of old horseshit.

Oh give it up, won't you?

Via Right For Scotland. Slightly alarmed at the way that the ungrateful citizenry appear to be turning upon their pet project, the corrupt bastards at the rotten head of the EU are desperately casting around for a lifeline, an income stream that will allow them to keep their sinecures even if every single country in the EU decides to leave (or cut their donations). As such, they have been desperately casting around for a way to make money without having to go cap in hand to the donor countries; they seemed to have decided that a direct tax on the people is the best way to achieve this. First they proposed an EU tax, and now they are trying something a little more subtle: a tax on information.
Consumers, businesses and even government departments could pay a special tax on emails and mobile phone text messages under a scheme floated by a centre-right French MEP to finance the EU.

Oh, of course; he would be a fucking little Frenchman, wouldn't he...
Alain Lamassoure, rapporteur of the European Parliament's budget committee, has suggested to all 25 EU national parliaments and governments that users pay a "tiny" tax of €0.15 (10p) on SMS text messages and €0.00001 on every email.

Well, he has no rapport with me, I'll tell you that for starters. And a "tiny" tax? Text messages come in at around 10p a text (less if you buy in bulk on a monthly contract) so he is essentially proposing a 100% tax; he is proposing doubling the cost of a text message. I would almost like to see his try, and watch every one of the massive telecomms companies drag the EU through the courts. It would be fucking hilarious.
"I have discussed this with national parliaments in Luxembourg, Portugal, Finland, Germany and France with varying responses," he said.

Yes, the responses varied from, "piss off, you dirty little Frog" to "fuck off, cunt".
"I have not met my UK counterparts so far but I had a written response from the House of Lords saying the idea was very interesting - and the House of Commons Treasury committee wrote back, saying: 'It is none of your business nor ours,'" he added with a laugh.

Bloody hell! The Commons Treasury committee have got a spine, how wonderful! Mind you, I bet that's given The Gobblin' King ideas for the next Budget.
Mr Lamassoure, a member of President Jacques Chirac's UMP party, has called a meeting with MPs and MEPs from all 25 member countries for June 21 when he hopes to persuade Laszlo Kovacs, the EU budget commissioner, of the merits of his concept.

Translation: "Our own money! Freedom!"
Calling it an element of "a fiscal system for the 21st century", he said: "Our idea is not to be revolutionary but to create a new system of our own resources without imposing new burdens on national budgets."

Translation: "We asked for more money and the member states told us to piss off in no uncertain terms and now Chirac won't stop shouting at me."
The French MEP said the explosion in electronic traffic, including cross-border trade, was a huge source of wealth and "perhaps it would be technically easy and even politically possible to impose a very tiny tax on these millions and billions of operations - like the proposed Tobin tax [a levy on sterling transactions that would be used to fight global poverty].

"Just one, tiny, waffer-thin tax, you understand, Monsieur..."
"This could start in, say, 2015 or 2020. Say I send a text from Paris to Marseille, then the tax revenue would go to the French budget but if I sent a SMS from Brussels to London at least some of it would go to the EU. And messages sent outside the EU, to the US or Russia, say, could be used to help finance overseas development, ease hunger and poverty."

Translation: "If you oppose my tax, you—the people—are personally responsible for every poor, little, fly-blown child that dies and is eaten by maggots. And, in the meantime, we'd rather that the Doha round trade talks failed than discuss reforming the CAP which is, let's face it, what the whole fucking thing is about anyway. You know, us—especially France—illegally dumping huge amounts of sugar beet on countries whose economies rely on the price of sugarbeet, for instance. Or putting tariffs on their goods as they come into the EU in order to line our fat pension pots. Yes, you may call me a maggot but I cannot be: if I was, I would be in the Sudan, eating that child—that you killed by opposing this teeny, tiny tax—from the inside out."
He insisted that the proposed levies would be fiscally neutral. "It's a slightly utopian idea, I know, but we need a more modern system as the current one doesn't function any more - and we would guarantee the taxpayer that this new tax would be met by reductions in charges elsewhere."

And you think that we would be stupid enough to believe you, do you? Fat, fucking chance. Sod off and die, you greasy little turd.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New Statesman New Media Awards

Well done to all those nominated for The New Statesman New Media Awards; unfortunately, there seems to have been a mistake: The Devil's Kitchen is not nominated for one single award, an omission that I find personally shattering.

The categories—and how I should surely fit into them—are as follows:
  1. Accessibility—I have made my site and its comment boxes available to all. I have discriminated against neither raspberries nor fruitloops as long as their comments are sensible, i.e. accord with my thinking.

  2. Advocacy—well, I mean, this is surely one that I should win! I have advocated hangings, cancer, beatings, shootings, beheadings, more beatings and cancer (again) as suitable punishments for our NuLabour masters (and their mouthpieces). How much more advocacy do you want?

  3. Contribution to civic society—I have surely contributed more than anyone else in the sheer volume of swearwords, cursing, sweeping generalisations and spitting rage (but only because I write more posts than Noreen and BallBag).

  4. Education—I have educated many in the ways of righteousness, and not a few in the ways of self-righteousness. I am amazing. I rest my case.

  5. Elected representative—alright, not this one. Yet. Unless you count my election as UN Delegate of Blogtopia, of course.

  6. Independent information—well, this is easy: the way in which I so rarely quote my sources surely shows that I have independent sources of information, outside the ken of mortal man.

  7. Innovation—I have taken bile-filled swearing to new highs, and taste in jokes to new lows. I have a wonderfully innovative logo, and I've inaugurated an award specifically for fiskings accompanied by gratuitous insults. What more do you want?

  8. Modernising government—I've planned how to modernise government: a few snipers, a well-placed bomb and me as Benign Dictator for Life. That'd shake up the wet, floppy-eared liberals.

How I'm not winning in every one these categories, frankly, I'll never know...

Let's fund Polly through the arts budget!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for our usual dose of you know who! Much, like a powerful medicine, she's bitter to the taste but, more like drinking drain-cleaner, she makes you feel worse rather than better: yes, please welcome, ladies and gentlemen, here, live, on Is she a liar or is she a moron?, it's.... Polly Toynbee!

On a more serious note, Polly is indeed here and all of our hope is gone; with this one, she has clearly defeated the Conservative campaign even before it has started. Cameron may as well give up now, frankly.
The arts of the state could yet prove a political weapon

Although not, presumably, as powerful as Gordon's weapon but—hist!—we shall save that for another time...
The Guardian Hay festival is in full, glorious swing. Arts festivals are sprouting and multiplying. Literary festivals are fast filling part of the nation's democratic deficit as the hot new debating arenas, politics-heavy and almost politician-free. (More people now take part in the arts each year than vote.)

Says who, Pol? I know an awful lot of people who work professionally in the arts and it seems to me like it is the same people travelling from festival to festival. But, of course, I must be wrong...
The Brighton festival, which I chair...

Which would explain why you were, only a week or so ago, urging us all to stop being howwid to you and go to the Brighton Festival; ah, now I understand. That got declared as advertising in kind, did it?
... ended its three exuberant weeks on Sunday, celebrating a 40th anniversary as England's biggest arts festival, (second in Britain only to Edinburgh).

Do you remember that old Bill Hicks joke about the sizes of armies? You know, about how, between the third and fourth largest armies in the world there was a reeeeeaaaal big drop off...? Which Edinburgh Festival are you talking about anyway Polly? The Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Film Festival, the Edinburgh Book Festival, the Edinburgh Music Festival or the Edinburgh Festival Fringe? Or are you just lumping them all together into the one big festival? Who knows?
Half a million people came to see performances from the highest to the lowest art...

Half a million? Or quarter of a million turning up twice? Or what?
... opening with a parade of 70 primary schools, all the children dressed as food.

Although not, obviously, junk food. They were are dressed as carrots or broccoli. Or, given the problems about child obesity, maybe they manifested as a marching line of broad beans and turnips.
Was the high spot the Groupe F pyrotechnics arts performance, with 70,000 people out in Preston Park, or was it Dawn Upshaw singing in the Brighton Dome with the Australian Chamber Orchestra?

Well, for heaven's sake, woman! How should I know? Weren't you there?
These things bursting out up and down the land are as good a measure of wellbeing as any.

Really? How? These things are usually organised by a few exptremely dedicated people who are usually motivated by the idea of being able to make some money from them. These aren't the proles organising spontaneous street parties, Polly; and believe me, the people who run these festivals are pretty far away from "well-being" for most of the time that they're involved. Believe me.
But they all cost money.

Well, yes, Polly, they do; but let me explain the principles of purchasing to you, Polly. When I want to go to a film or I want to buy a CD, I go out and spend my money buying those products. I don't expect everyone to be taxed more so that the people concerned can give it to me for free.

Do you see?
David Cameron is unlikely to pledge extra arts funding in pursuit of happiness: his one firm promise is that his tax-and-spend will be "dramatically different after five years".

Polly, my dear, arts funding isn't all it's cracked up to be (unless you are both a boot-licking NuLabour apparachik and run a festival). Have you not been following the Scottish Arts Council's woes, or the ludicrous criteria for choosing the lucky winning companes?
Labour has a good enough story to tell on the arts - up 64% in cash and more in impact. Chris Smith is one of the few politicians to retire knowing he has done something brilliant - restoring free entry to museums and galleries, swelling attendances by 50%. But politics and art rub along like a fingernail on a blackboard: ministers too rarely sing its praises.

What I want to know is: has anyone told Polly about the existence of Factchecking Pollyanna?
Charges affected fewer than 30% of museum visits back when the charges were scrapped in 2001. Since then, there has been a 67% increase in visits to museums which used to charge (69% in the first year, so actually a fall after the first year boost). Museums which were always free saw a 2% increase. Overall visits increased 21%.

And not 50%.

Or, indeed, The Vented Spleen (who provides some soft-porn entertainment)?
This is a classic piece of leftie spin and she’s swallowed quicker than if Gordon undid his trousers for her… Labour didn’t do some glorious revolution and “restore free entry to museums” they just ordered all the museums that they could to stop charging entry. They didn’t give them any more money, they justy pulled the fees. Collections such as the Royal Armouries, Imperial War Museum etc, are now losing out to private collectors and employing bottom rate people without an ounce of history knowledge like never before.

To add to this rant… what use to the museum is 50% more visitors if they can’t charge them? It’s no fecking use at all.

Blogs—3 : Polly—0

Anyway, back to her worship.
As part of the Brighton festival, John Carey debated his latest book, What Good Are the Arts? With witty iconoclasm he demolished any claim for their moral virtue. Forget any idea they make us "better" people: Nazi leaders played Beethoven and even Bach as they fed people into gas chambers. Hitler was a knowledgeable art lover. His Strength Through Joy organisation brought art to the masses "to raise them above the petty cares of the moment". The humanities don't necessarily humanise.

Once more to The Spleen, dear friends!
So the arts will not make society or us better… so I now don’t see the reason to state fund them.. do you?

Er, no.
On the contrary, exaggerated worship of art can make human beings expendable - a view prevalent among many art connoisseurs if asked to debate that old chestnut: "If a man were trapped under St Paul's, would you pull it down to save him?" Watch New York donors stepping over the welfareless poor to attend a $10,000 ballet fundraiser to doubt art lovers have refined sensibilities. No, art won't do as a substitute religion.

Riiiight. So art doesn't humanise us and can, in fact, be seen as actively bad. So this is an example of "wellbeing" is it? This is something beneficial to society, yes? Or no? I can't make out what she's saying...
But Carey's take-no-prisoners argument forces us to examine the case again. There is at least a vitamin argument: when no one could identify vitamins, it was only discovered how essential they were by the diseases caused by deficiency. You can argue about what art is and struggle to prove what good the arts do, but you know that a society deficient in them is pitifully impoverished.

And before state funding of the arts there was... What? No art?
Arts Council England is approaching the next tight spending round with trepidation. Britain is already a low state funder of the arts, paying only £50 a head while Italy spends nearly three times as much, France four times and Austria almost five times more. Yet we squeeze out good value, outstripping them in cultural exports.

Well, that's partly because we speak English, the lingua franca of the world. But what you are essentially saying, Pol, is that the arts actually works well on a low budget because the government is only a funder of the arts and not a provider.

So, you'd support this approach for the NHS and education I would imagine. No? polly, you disappoint me—whilst utterly failing to surprise me.
The theatre alone brings £2.6bn into the economy.

And how much does it cost? Is that a profit figure or total turnover?
That may be a sadly utilitarian measurement, but like everything else the arts must tick boxes even when it's easy to hit a target but miss the point. Like many of Labour's best programmes, the arts feel a crushing weight of trying to prove in numbers what is blindingly obvious to any passerby.

That actors are all a bunch of poofs in leotards?
Children sitting entranced by a performance, those who have never seen anything live before, are gaining something anyone can see in that moment of enchantment. But what box does that tick?

The Social Inclusion box, Polly, if I remember correctly from my funding forms. Also the Revenue Source box, which is pretty crucial as well. Oh, and you get extra funding if it is for children; you can tick the Educationl box then as well, you see. There may be others, but I haven't done one of them for a while.
The 2 million people who now gather to see live operas from Covent Garden relayed on gigantic screens in Hull, Manchester, Rotherham or Leeds are gaining something immeasurable. But yes, alas, it is immeasurable.

Well, at present. But it does become measurable when you put a price on it; how much is each individuals willing to pay to see an opera? You can then measure what they get out of it in terms of pounds and pence then. It's a useful mechanism that you may wish to engage in sometime, Pol: we call it the market.
The Sultan's Elephant, that miraculous, memorable-for-a-lifetime happening in central London cost a million, and a million people saw it progressing through the streets. Yet such street art isn't allowed to be counted in the Arts Council's figures for public participation, Peter Hewitt, ACE's chief executive says ruefully. (So if you want to know what art is, it's best to ask the Treasury.)

Hang on, Polly: are you saying that the government isn't very good at telling what art is? You are, you are! You're saying that the government doesn't know what art is! And if it doesn't know, how can it possibly be the best to administer funding for it? Eh?
Some arts do have (almost) proven use. Creative Partnerships was set up in just 36 deprived areas to bring artists of all kinds to work in 1,100 of the poorest schools. Perhaps a group of disruptive 16-year-old boys is preventing everyone studying for their GCSEs. They take them out and teach them to dance for a term, bringing them back in to make a transformation in the whole year group. Or it's the primary children with such poor vocabularies that they can't sit still and listen. For more than a year two actors help them write a play, stretching for new words, concentrating for two hours a session, fascinated by how words build up into a story. It reached parts of their attention a ponderous literacy hour never did.

Artists working with teachers works. It costs £32,000 per school, but head-teachers say they get far more value from it than they would from an extra teacher: Ofsted is expected to give the scheme a glowing report. In an independent survey of 650 headteachers by the British Market Research Bureau, 70% said it improved behaviour, 79% said it improved attainment and 92% said it improved pupil communication. Of course that's not wholly conclusive, but nothing ever will be.

Oh, I don't know, Polly; I would say that it is pretty conclusive that the Earth does indeed orbit the Sun. Still, there's two points of interest here: firstly, give head teachers more control over their budgets and then they will be able to spend more on these useful schemes.

The second is that the student theatre that I still work with has run a similar sort of thing, albeit at the weekend, for the last 8 years. For free, every week during term time. Despite the fact that all participants have full disclosures done (as they have to by law; the theatre pays for them. Call it giving something to the community), we find it almost impossible to get the schools to engage at all; most do not even put the posters up that we send them. Perhaps Polly would like to bring this miraculous enthusiasm north of the border because, at present, the Children's Project will probably shut down fairly soon unless schools actually make an effort. This would be a pity, since the children who do turn up love it.

Anyway, back to Polly.
The scheme's director, Paul Collard, says five times as many deprived schools need a Creative Partnership. It works, it's not expensive but it needs political will. Yet there is no plan to expand it and funding is uncertain. It's a symptom of too many pilot Labour initiatives: ministers move or lose interest, the press never reports it and brilliant programmes fade away, along with all the invaluable learning about what works. (Yes, keep sending me more examples.)

Well, yes, Pol, this is all very well but why are you discussing this in relation to the arts? If it is so beneficial, then why is it not paid for out of the education budget? You aren't really talking about public art here: this is a restricted "teaching performance" not a publically accessible exhibition.

In Scotland, a third of the school budget is pinched by the LEAs in order to pay for "administration". Are you advocating that we free up schools to manage their own budgets? For sure, I think that is, generally, a good idea (and not only because the schools—rather than a bunch of useless, waster pen-pushers—would get an extra third on top of their existing monies) but it does rather go against your managerialist tendencies, doesn't it? But if that is what you are advocating, that is great: the schools would easily be able to pay for the Creative Partnerships (CPs).

But the point is here that the schools would only pay for the CPs if they worked, so the CPs would have an incentive to actually do some good. If they were automatically funded, they would have no such motivation. They would become like every other government department: lazy, apathetic and corrupt. You see, it's this thing called the market again, Pol; it creates incentives (and maintains those incentives). More importantly, it allows each individual school to judge whether the CPs are an effective use of their resources or whether those resources would be better spent elsewhere. It's called "choice", Pol. But whatever your approach, this example is not a public arts issue; it is an education issue. have you no better example?
It's hard to know if Cameron's "happiness" was a one-day wonder or if it will be the stuff of real politics. If so, Labour should be able to knock him into nowhere with stories from the arts - whether it's art for art's sake, arts for regeneration and education or arts for illumination and exhilaration.

Wait a minute, Polly. You've just showed us an example of an arts endeavour that you consider to be good, and then told us that there is "no plan to expand it and funding is uncertain" under this government; that it's "a symptom of too many pilot Labour initiatives". And funding, for instance, for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been repeatedly cut over the last few years. So exactly what stories is NuLabour going to use to extol the virtues of their arts funding policy?
Take all those high scorers in the felicific calculus, raise the stakes and challenge Cameron to tell us how he will offer all this extra happiness on his "dramatically different" tax and spend.

Erm, by giving people their money back? And over to The Spleen again.
I imagine that low crime, better healthcare and education might just swing it for us.. sadly Polly won’t be happy until there are more dissected sharks in Trafalgar Square.

Polly Toynbee's writing is art in itself, wouldn't you agree? Perhaps we should get the Arts Council to fund her. Not.

Anyway, I have accused Polly of being either a liar or a moron; given that she has managed to contradict herself at least twice in this article, and used the usual spurious figures, I'm afraid that I am going to come down on the latter today.

That's right: tonight, ladies and gentlemen, Polly Toynbee is a fucking moron.

UPDATE: some good points from my angry colleague-in-fisking, Mr Eugenides: here's some edited highlights.
As it happens, I am going to diverge slightly from the line taken by my co-fiskers DK and Vented Spleen. I believe that there is a place for some state funding of the arts. I agree with Polly that a vibrant artistic scene - be it opera, art galleries, open-air theatre or a lone woman on a street corner playing the Etruscan fanny-pipes – is, if not as valuable a measure of a nation’s worth as, say, GNP, still something devoutly to be wished for.

Although, I must point out that I agree with this up to a point, it is the extent to which the organisations are funded that is moot. The making of a profit should always be attempted, otherwise the players will become merely lazy.
Now we come to it. Labour equals thriving culture and happy populace: the Tories would raze your local theatre to the ground, plough salt into the ashes, and then get British-American Tobacco in to build a death camp on the derelict site. Well actually, Polly, I spent a fair portion of my university years wandering through the art galleries of Glasgow absolutely free of charge – and with a nasty Tory government in power too!

It’s almost beyond parody. This is the left-wing view of public spending as an a priori good – turn on the taps and challenge the Tories to match your profligacy. More money good; less money bad. But remember; whatever Polly may think, this is not government money. It is yours and mine. Now, if we want to spend it on Shakespeare in the park, all well and good; as I said, there are worse abscesses lurking on the public purse. But I will not have my money leeched from me to fund Gordon’s late night games of political poker.

Actually, you know what? Sod funding the arts. Here's an idea; take the £32,000 you were going to spend on showing kids fingerpainting and use it to train a police officer to catch some fucking criminals. And - even better - it might be worth some votes for Labour, you scabby old bat.

The whole thing is a joy to read: do so, I command thee...
This fisking from Bookdrunk is just pure poetry...
Rebecca Front in The Guardian mounts a stellar defence of alternative remedies with an article sub-titled "Several doctors have criticised alternative therapies, but sometimes maybe they do work". Sometimes maybe? Wow.
Please, Rebecca, stop writing these articles: you are holding back the advance of the species.

Oh, I forgot to add - "Placebo effect, or not"? WTF? Because even though there's absolutely no evidence for "or not" journalists can still pick up a cheque by writing "science" articles about it? Is there anything else without any explanation beyond existing science that The Guardian would like to respectfully offer column space to? How's the man in the moon these days?

Wonderful! Go and read the whole thing...

Using tax to destroy undesirables

Also in The Times, Jamie Whyte lays, oh-so-gently, into that lunatic Zak Goldsmith, a man who—considering he attended my old alma mater—seems to display a staggering degree of stupidity and a stupendously stultifying ignorance of economics. Still, what do you expect from the multi-millionaire playboy editor of the tree-hugging hippy's favourite rag? Still, Mr Whyte's pertinent point for today is this:
[Goldsmith] wants to tax the over-consumption of energy in the hope that people will stop over-consuming energy. But even someone who knows nothing of tax theory will noticed one little snag. If this tax had its intended consequence, and people stopped over-consuming energy, they would also stop paying the tax. Then how would Goldsmith’s Tory government or Ming’s Liberals fund their billions of spending commitments?

This, of course, was always the flaw in the Edinburgh tram system. If the proposed Congestion Charge was brought in, the revenue was going to pay for the trams. Unfortunately, the City of Edinburgh Council had not considered what would happen if their tax worked, and everyone took the bus or train instead. This is because they are fuckwits; all of the best councillors (and I use the word best in its loosest possible, comparative sense) went to be MSPs, and the Coucil was left with the dross. Or, rather, the dross of the dross.

Luckily, the people of Edinburgh voted against the congestion charge, the tram costs rose massively (to a vaguely realistic figure) and the Council found their plans up the fucking spout. Unfortunately, the City of Edinburgh Council have responded by doing their level best to completely fuck up the entirety of the city, and thus cause more congestion.

Expect another referendum in a year or so...

Smoking: post #1250

The Briff has a nice little article up at The Times today. Apparently, you can go to a site and pick from 42 disgusting images of what smoking will do to you, and the "best" 14 will soon be appearing a cigarette pack near you.
Some cynics might scoff that it’s a bit rich coming from a Government that is considering implementing “shooting galleries” where heroin addicts can shoot up at the taxpayers expense.

Yes, it is rather.
But that’s new Labour for you.

Ain't it just...
Clearly, the idea that we are all adults capable of making decisions for ourselves is one quite alien to the powers-that-be.

Well, yes, of course it is; we are merely the untermensch, the fucking proles who must be guided through life with every faltering step. Still, it might help if not quite so many members of the great British public behaved like total fucking morons 90% of the time.

It might also help if quite so many of them didn't seem more than happy for the government to lead them up the garden path; far too many people behave as though making—and taking responsibility for—their own decisions is a terrifyingly difficult burden. Too many people really are dreadfully ovine.

But, then that's 60 years of the Welfare State for you; can we please abolish the Welfare State now?
Believing that we the public are complete idiots who need the benefit of their infinite wisdom is, I suspect, the only thing that keeps them going.

That, and tracking our every move whilst living the high life, on our money, and sticking their cocktail sausages in every cunt that passes by.
So why don’t they just go ahead, and make the whole wretched practice illegal?

Well, the cash has to be one thing. Now, I will try to find a link to this, but the last figures that I remember were from, I think, 2004; the cost to the NHS of all smoking-related diseases was about £7.5 billion, whilst the revenue from tobacco was £16.8 billion. I'd call that a profit. Also, of course, the government that banned it outright would languish in the political wilderness for years; there are an awful lot of smokers, and a great proportion of them are proles, i.e. natural Labour voters.
After all, either smoking is so bad for us that it should be banned outright, or it should be accepted as an expression of personal choice and cigarette manufacturers ought to be allowed to advertise them as attractively and as favourably as any other product.

Well, quite. As long as people are made aware of the undoubted dangers of smoking so that they can make an informed choice. I find it difficult to believe that anyone isn't aware of the dangers of smoking these days. I mean, I keep seeing these people sueing tobacco companies because the "victims" claim that they were not made aware of the harmful effects of smoking, and I keep thinking, "you liars".
Instead, we get this mealy-mouthed process of semi-persecution. No other products get treated like this. Burger cartons don’t come equipped with photos of ultrabuttocked civilians waddling down the street, cracking the pavements. Neither are condom packets plastered with pictures of Rock Hudson on his death bed.

It's only a matter of time, my boy. And in Whitehall, lightbulbs have appeared above the heads of hundreds of policy-makers and advisors. It's only a matter of time before some grossly obese people (the models no doubt drawn from the half of LA who aren't anorexic) start appearing on Big Mac wrappers, and huge vinyls depicting run-over kids appear on the sides of cars.

In the meantime, I'm off to buy a cigarette case, and invest in the shares of those that manufacture them...
Via Right For Scotland, The Tenement Tory: another working class Glaswegian Right-winger joins the blogging circuit.

He's looking good: should be fun.
Trolling through my archives (I'm using Blogrolls to assign categories), I came across this little post, from early July when I started blogging seriously, which I still think reads rather well.
In conclusion, although I have never been to Africa, many friends who have have spoken of the friendliness, energy and enthusiasm of many of its people. The real way to help Africa is to help the people to help themselves, and the most effective way to do that is to reform or remove the corrupt governments that are holding them back, to improve the security of property and life and the rule of law. It is not to increase aid, which merely helps to prop up the murderous—or simply incompetant—regimes which are holding the African peoples back.

Though I do seem to have avoided swearing a lot back then...

Why are we part of this again?

Via Mr FM, more idiocy from our EU partners.
French Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau has ruled out changes to the European Union's system of farm subsidies, saying he would prefer that the Doha trade talks fail instead.

"I would prefer that the negotiations fail rather than negotiations that would raise questions about the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and its future," he told reporters in Austria on Monday.

What a wonderful attitude from our EU partners; let's face it we could easily just distill this report into something like the following:
"Fuck developing countries. Fuck their economies. Fuck their people. We are going to protect our industries at the expense of everybody else, so fuck you."

Remind me, why are we in a partnership with these fuckers again? Come on now, all together...


I'm going to fucking bottle you, you fucks!

Via Mr Eugenides (whose entire piece is well worth reading), this latest piece of "policy" is really going to piss me right off.
The campaigns to combat the effects of ‘passive smoking’ are widely credited for Europe’s growing number of smoking bans. Now alcohol is in the sights of the public health lobbyists, and they have invented the concept of ‘passive drinking’ as their killer argument.

The public health lobbyists are all, to a sanctimonious man and interfering woman, a bunch of fuck-witted, facist cunt. Actually, I'm not sure that fascist is the right word: what to use instead? Authoritiarian? Dictatorial? Piece of shit nosy cunts with too much fucking time on their hands? Why don't they go and drink themselves to death and do us all a favour, eh?
I have seen a leaked draft report for the European Commission, which is due to be published some time in June. It makes claims about the high environmental or social toll of alcohol, the ‘harm done by someone else’s drinking’. The report is likely to inform proposals for a European Union alcohol strategy later this year.

Ah, and how soon before we have the report into "the harm done by someone else's driving", "the ahrm done by someone eslse's technological advances" and "the harm done to my blood pressure by these pissy, tree-hugging cunts"? Dear god, what the fuck is happening to our society. And why the fuck haven't we left the fucking stupid, murderous, isolationist conglomeration of national failures that comprises the EU?
Dr Peter Anderson, the report’s lead author, who has a background in the World Health Organisation (WHO) and plays a leading role in Tobacco Free Initiative Europe...

Oh, great; the man is a practised health fascist. That's fan-fucking-tastic. My contempt for this turd knows no bounds.
... tells me that the concept of social harm takes the alcohol debate beyond the traditional limits of individual choice and addiction. ‘You can make the argument that what an individual drinks is up to them, provided they understand what they are doing and bearing in mind that alcohol is a dependency-producing drug…

So, apparently, is having the power to interfere in other people's lives and getting paid for it. You hideous, piss-stained fuck.
But when you talk about harm to others then that is a societal concern and justification for doing something about it. I think that is an important argument. If there was not harm to others then the argument gets a little less powerful’

Oh, piss off, Peter Andreson. Go and heal your patients and stop being such a authoritarian cunt.
The draft report doesn’t mince its words when it comes to estimating the social harms of alcohol. ‘The total tangible cost of alcohol to EU society in 2003 was estimated to be €125bn (€79bn-€220bn), equivalent to 1.3 per cent GDP, and which is roughly the same value as that found recently for tobacco.’ (2) The report further highlights the broader social cost of drinking, with the proviso that ‘these estimates are subject to a wide margin of error, [and] they are likely to be an underestimate of the true gross social cost of alcohol’.

Yeah. And. So. What?
‘The intangible costs show the value people place on pain, suffering and lost life that occurs due to the criminal, social and health harms caused by alcohol’, says the report. ‘In 2003 these were estimated to be €270bn, with other ways of valuing the same harms producing estimates between €150bn and €760bn.’

Right, so essentially you are just plucking figures out of the air inorder to support your horrible, fucking fascism. And what are the "intangible" benefits of the pleasure brought by alcohol? Did you measure them, you tedious little fucker?
As Anderson indicates, emphasising the alleged social rather than individual consequences of alcohol will be key to the new campaign. The theme of ‘passive drinking’ was flagged up early on. A Commission working group on alcohol health met in Luxembourg on 9 June 2004 to discuss, among other things, early progress on Anderson’s report. Draft minutes note that the participants, EU and national officials and various experts, were on the hunt for ‘main reasons why there is a need to reduce alcohol-related harm’.

Oh, fuck off, fuck off, fuck off!
The report claims that as alcohol consumption, or ‘other people’s’ drinking, increases, so too does social harm. ‘Harms done by someone else’s drinking range from social nuisances such as being kept awake at night through more serious consequences such as marital harm, child abuse, crime, violence and homicide. Generally the higher the level of alcohol consumption, the more serious is the crime or injury.’

Really? I might quote Mr E here:
I have never beaten my girlfriend whilst drunk (nor, for the avoidance of doubt, whilst sober). I do not have any children and do not abuse any. I have never got into a fight in a pub. I have never committed a crime drunk. I have never, at the time of writing, killed anyone, drunk, sober, or stoned. Kept neighbours awake? Well, maybe once or twice in my salad days. Fuck them, they were disagreeable old bats.

The idea that this behaviour of mine needs to be regulated for my own sake and the sake of society is absolutely wrong.

This insanity is being driven by the European Commission's chosen author for this report, the Institute of Alcohol Studies, which belies its splendid name, as it is closely associated with Alliance House, a temperance organisation of long standing.

What is it about doctors, eh? Why can't they just stick to doing their fucking jobs? Only last year we were being bothered by a head-up-his-arse-which-he-needed-a-map-to-find, sanctimonious fuckwit surgeon who proposed that everyone should be limited to three pints a day. My response to Dr Anderson is much the same as it was to Mr John Smith:
Surgeons are here to patch people up, OK? They are not here to make politics, so why don't you take your drinking limit and shove it up your arse? And then you can FUCK OFF! The last thing that we need is interfering busybodies like you giving this bunch of fascist wankscum ideas. I bet some fucking lightbulbs went off in the Labour policy unit when you came up with that idea, John.

Except that, apparently, it wasn't in Labour Party HQ that the lightbulbs went off, but in that bastion of democracy and accountability known as the European Union.
Fuck you, Smith, and the fucking horse that you rode in on. Fuck off and heal the sick, and leave the rest of us alone you shit-for-brains monkey-masturbator.

And, no: that's not the alcohol talking, it's just me.

Dr Peter Anderson and Mr John Smith: two gentlemen who prove that, not only does having qualifications mean that you aren't as thick as fucking shit, but who also both illustrate the one of the clearest arguments possible for allowing me to condemn certain arseholes to death. What a couple of cunts.

UPDATE: As Anon points out in the comments, there is, of course, a
nugget of truth in the argument is that alcohol consumption does have external costs - the disturbance that others experience when a bunch of pissed-up Glaswegians reel down the road singing, the low-level vandalism caused by drunk people, "pavement pizzas" and so on.

Most of these costs are relatively small, though, and one should note that alcohol is already highly taxed. It seems rather likely that the tax on alcohol already exceeds those costs."

Yup, and if you are worried about the costs of this violence, then you increase the penalties for those who indulge in it, not restrict the freedoms of those who don't. We dole out extra penalties for those who have accidents whilst drink-driving; why not double the fines or sentences of those who are convicted of drunken assaults, for instance?

That way, you see, you punish the guilty without impingeing on the freedoms of the innocent.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Being bolshy

Our esteemed, but oh-so-negative, anti-NuLanour media stooge, Doctor Crippen points me towards the massively entertaining strapline at Silent Running.
If you are offended by strong Right Wing views and bad language, you should probably fuck off now and go hug a tree.

I'm thinking of barstardising it. How about:
If you are offended by strong free-market, libertarian, anti-socialist views and some of the worst language that you have ever read, you should probably fuck off and drown yourself in a bucket of new low-fat soya milk*. Or get cancer. Whatever.

What do you think: not strong enough...?

Oh, and I like this picture too.

* I've just seen an advert for this stuff. Low-fat soya milk? What the fuck is that shit?

It's time to stop being civil

Now, as you know, ladies and gentlemen, few rival me in their hatred and rage at the incompetence of our fascist rulers; especially Charles Clarke, upon who I've wished cancer, shooting, hanging and beating.

But today, your humble Devil would like to turn a baleful eye upon those who totally get away with facilitating rape, murder, robbery with violence, corruption and larceny on a grand scale, ID theft, collusion with organised criminals, apathy, spinelessness, uselessness, naked greed, pillaging, waste, sleaze, lies, avarice, power-broking, the arming of dictators, fraud, fascism and misery.

Civil servants.

No matter how we lambast our government for these vices, let us never forget the pieces of shit who actually make it happen. Can anyone tell me: apart from Charles Clarke who, precisely, has lost their job over the shambles at the Home Office? Who has lost their job over the overpayment of £2.2 billion in tax credits for the last two years and the hounding for repayment of those who can least afford it? Who has lost their job over the appalling balls-up over the sale of QuinetiQ? Who has lost their job over the lack of EU farm subsidy payouts? Who has lost their job over the ten times increase in cost of the Scottish Parliament Building?

Has even one civil servant lost their job over these, and many more, scandals? And I don't mean who has been moved sideways, leftwise, upwise or bumwise; I mean who has ceased involuntarily to work for the civil service because of these scandals?

Let us not forget, every time that we complain about MPs' pay rises, that their pay is pegged to that of the Civil Service; every time that MPs get an inflation busting pay rise, it is because the civil servants have voted one for themselves first. Every time that we criticise MPs for their grossly inflated pensions, let us not forget that civil servants also command these copper-bottomed pension plans.

As for the fucking Cabinet Secretary, one Gus O'Donnell (the man who did such a wonderful job in whitewashing the ghastly Tessa "fucking hell, my face is an odd shape" Jowell), this piece from Private Eye relates to (not, as usual, online (Hislop, what the fuck are you playing at? Stop poncing about on the washed-up, hackneyed piece of old shit that is Have I Got News For You and get up to speed with the modern world will you?)) Gus's appearance in front of the Commons Public Administration Committee:
O'Donnell's first mention of the Home Office was to remark that it was "a department that faces a large number of challenges". This may have been standard Whitehall euphemism for "the place is in a shambles" but it soon became clear O'Donnell actually believed the system was working well.

Well, obviously; this was, after all, the man who believed that Tessa Jowell could be unaware that her husband had accepted a $600,000 gift and who had missed the fact that she had no mortgage statements for four years.
Why had no official been sacked for the bungling which forced Charles Clarke out of office? O'Donnell went into a five-minute spiel of jargon-packed waffle, oblivious to the groans and sighs of the committee.

A few more minutes of chunter tested patience even further. [Committee Chairman, Tony] Wright said curtly that the Home Office was "seriously dysfunctional" and had "screwed up". He asked, "Who has carried the can for this apart from the Minister?" O'Donnell robotically told him that "there are a number of officials doing a wide range of jobs" and said that it was a "complex issue".

Paul Flynn (Lab) expressed despair of O'Donnell's "verbal ectoplasm" and his reluctance to say how many officials had been sacked. "Is the word that you are searching for 'none'?" asked Flynn. "Will you say 'yes' or 'no'?" O'Donnell would do no such thing.

Well, I think that we know the answer to that question, don't we? The answer is, I would imagine, that none have been sacked but a couple might have been moved "sideways" into other departments.

It is time to stop this farce; it is time to cut vast swathes from the civil service. People must be sacked, if only pour encourager les autres. It is time to run through this bunch of apathetic, self-satisfied, corrupt bastards with a fucking scythe, if not literally then at least metaphorically.

The centre of government is rotten and the politicians are led by example. Time for a cull.
The Vented Spleen points out that—by his own admission—John Reid has until Friday 1st September to sort the Home Office. If he hasn't, we get to kick shit out of him with steel toecaps and bits of 2 by 4.

I might have made up that last sentence.

I think that this record is scratched...

Neil Harding is incredibly worried by the idea of the Tories getting in after the next election. Yes, yes, nothing new under the sun, eh? This time he's turning his jaundiced and oh-so-precise eye on the NHS in particular, with nary a sweeping statement to be seen. OK, part of that sentence is a lie, I'll admit it.
So the Tories are ahead in the polls, but even more frightening is their lead on issues such as health, the environment and education. Issues they have no discernable policies on and an awful track record. This is a ridiculous situation. With David Cameron admitting he hasn't decided his policies, how the hell do the voters know what they are?

Oh, I don't know that their track record is that bad. Actually, they didn't do to badly in bringing down waiting times and, apparently, the internal market was such a good idea that—having dismantled it—NuLabour are now keenly setting it up again.
I suppose it is governments that lose elections, not oppositions that win them and who could argue that it's not open season on Labour at the moment (although this is always the case with our biased media).

I'm sorry, but this really cannot be let go. Neil, were you moaning and bitching about biased media when they were all supporting Blair and shitting on the Tories. Nope, didn't think so. It's also interesting to note that you seem to be one of the few people who thinks that our media are biased to the Right.
Anyway, here are some comments people made on this BBC website [And remember, chaps, that the Beeb is renowned for being biased towards the Tories, just like they are biased towards the Israelis, OK?—DK] last year just before the general election;

It's interesting that the people who actually work in the health service are the most positive about Labour's track record since taking power. Everyone else's opinion is just negative and media-influenced.

Yes, people like Dr Crippen (and all of his commentators) are not only immensely happy with the NHS, but they are part of a negative media bias. Fucking get a grip Crippen and tell it like it is, OK? Enough with your stories of people lying starving on the wards or coming out of hospital with brand-new sacral pressure sores, damn it! We want to hear more about how NuLabour's hitting all its targets; you're so fucking negative all the time. In the name of all that is unholy, Crippen, have you no shame? Patsy told me that the NHS has just had "its best year ever" and you had better start bloody well telling me some of the good shit, Crippen, or I'll get your children to dob you in to Big Toni. Oh, and we'll send the Mouth of NuLabour around to tell you how you've never had it so good, at inordinent length.

But, hist! Our BBC correspondant continues:
Beforehand, in each case, I priced private treatment. Frightening! I am afraid that very many people would have had to do without.

Yes, unless they had insurance to pay for it which, of course, is what NICs is. Except that you don't get to shop around to find either the best price or the best hospital. Hooray for government!
Our brave BBC comment writer is a nurse. Jolly good show, what!
I have been a nurse for 23 years... Under the Tories you could wait for two years for a coronary artery by-pass operation. In Manchester and throughout most of the UK there is no waiting list now. When you see the surgeon you basically book the date of your operation. Also under the Tories you could wait 18 months for an angiogram. The wait now for non-urgent cases is three months and improving.

I wonder if that is the good Dr Crippen's experience. From what I've read of his blog, i.e. all of it, this all seems to be pie-in-the-sky, frankly. But, naturally, the nurse would know.
I run a busy ward in a cardiac centre in London.

No doctors runnning it, you notice: no doubt they are all out playing golf. And those damn managers that we hear so much about: are they prepping the figures for Patsy?
Undoubtedly, I have many disagreements with Labour health policy, but remember well my first years in the NHS under a Tory government. Admittedly, I would have liked to have seen Blair reversing some of the disastrous Tory policies, but remember, they were Tory policies.

And that is relevent how? Blair did reverse the major policy: that of the internal market. He tore it down and restored peace and tranquility to the NHS. Indeed, so fucking stupid was the internal market, that Blair—having realised that his return to central diktat was an ever bigger and more expensive failure than the previous system—has decided to bring it back. But in a limited form, you understand; you know, you get all of the penpushing without the same range of choice. Internal-market-lite, if you like.

But let us return to our ever-beloved and rational Neil, fount of socialist wisdom.
I know there has been cutbacks in some areas of the NHS (even job losses) but do the Tories really deserve to be ahead on an issue they have no policies for and where they have such an awful record?

I don't know, Neil; did NuLabour deserved to be elected when they had such an appalling record on the economy? You now, devaluation of the pound in 1967, borrowing £3.6 billion from the IMF in 1976 (because they were bankrupt) and fucking up the entire country (because they were still bankrupt and were unable to stand up to their paymasters, the unions). Did NuLabour deserve to get in on that record? (Actually, it was those things that kept them out for so long; so, they had to bring in nice middle-class Mr Blair to spin and lie to reassure the voters who remembered the total fuck-up that Labour made in the 70s.)
By 1995 the Tory Govt were spending over £100m per year on management consultants and this practise was rapidly expanding as internal markets and PFIs took hold.

A trend which NuLabour has, thankfully, reversed. Erm...
Some of the recent press headlines are a scandalous misrepresentation of the facts as some of these scandals date from 1984, 1987 and 1994. The Tories were allowing foreign rapists and murderers to stay in the country and putting private agencies in charge of prisons who were then letting prisoners escape.

Oh dear god, it's like listening to an automated NuLabour answer-machine, ain't it just?
Just as privatisation started under Callagham [sic] and was expanded under Thatcher/Major, the management culture started under Thatcher, expanded under Major and has unfortunately accelerated under Blair (though as a percentage of total spend it hasn't).

Well, that's because the total spend is considerably higher now than it was under the Tories and is now standing at 43% of GDP. Or, as I like to call it, a fucking insane and unsustainable level; the kind of spending that would only be supported by an economic idiot and embittered political moron.
I tend to think that competence levels between Labour and Tory are similar.

So your beef with the Tories is...?
If anything Labour are slightly better.

Well, what a surprise that is...
People might think 'time for a change'. And a change is what they will get under the Tories, but it won't be the change we all want.

Who the hell is "we"? The majority of the blogosphere think that NuLabour are a bunch of useless, fascist nutjobs who are about as fit to govern as a fucking lobotomised duck; 78% of the people who were eligible to vote in this country also didn't want them in at the last general election. Oh, sorry, that's just negative media bias. D'oh, why didn't I spot that?
The Tories will cut frontline services before they touch the management consultants and bureaucracy (if they touch them at all). The Tories past record is poor.

But certainly no poorer than NuLabour's, actually. Or, indeed, your use of apostrophes (DISCLAIMER: obligatory cheap shot).
Every government wants to improve competence and efficiency and if it was easy the present government would be doing it.

Unless, of course, they are a bunch of fuck-witted cunts who lack the ability to thing about anything but centrist control. Those of us on the right know how to improve government services: stop them being government services. Open them up to market forces: I think that my plan was pretty sound. If you don't think so, well, you are just a bunch of biased media types deliberately spreading negativity. And spreading negativity is just, like, so uncoooool, maaan.
Just remember it is the spin of Cameron (he is Thatcherite underneath that thin veneer), the control freakery of his A-lists, and just look at the sort of people Cameron chooses. Are the voters expected to trust people like this? Don't do it.

Yeah, the trouble with that argument is that—whilst the Tories may be a bunch of untrustworthy, control freaks—NuLabour have proven that they are, and only a weasel fuckhead with some kind of psychotic monomania would try to urge anyone to continue voting for the fucking cunts.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Considered Comment

Good Lord! A good review at First Foot!
At first I was slightly put off by all the vernacularisms, and I labelled TDK as a bit of a thug, to be honest. A thug with his heart firmly in the right place, albeit. But reading through the whole blog, I very much like this man. Intelligence, wit, scathing contempt for socialism/Nu-Labour, and yes, a degree of self-deprecating humility too, in places. I would buy this f*****g c*** a pint!

Which leads me neatly into what I was originally going to say: I am aware that, for some, the swearing is a bit strong. I also know that many enjoy it. This blog is written very much in character—the character of someone who is really fucked off—and, as such, it allows me to let off steam. I also suspect that many of my readers come here because they enjoy the ranting and raving: it is, if you like, my selling point.

The Devil's Kitchen has featured in both The Guardian and The Telegraph, but each time featuring words written by somebody else. Alas, my sweary style is far too indelicate to be published. Given the imminent release of Nightcap Syndication and Scooptwords plus, of course, Timmy's success in this field, it has occurred to me that doing the odd article that is fit to be put in a family paper might—just might—bring in a little cash. Even if it should not do so, attempting to hone my writing will be a good exercise in and of itself.

And, just occasionally, I am moved to write articles that are a little more serious—more philosophical—and they tend to get lost amidst the maestrom of rage.

To this end, I have started up a new blog, Devil's Kitchen Comment: the first new article to appear on there is an edited version of my Britain Should Be Great post. Having had a very interesting (and wildly off-topic) discussion with some people over at Comment Is Free, I also now have some interesting research papers on electricity generation on the moon—which should segue nicely into the book review that I am currently doing for the Liftport Group—so I would imagine that the next article or two will be something to do with space and power.

So, in future, when I write more considered pieces, they will be posted over on DK Comment, and a notification placed here.
John Gruber on Microsoft.
It seems almost beyond dispute that there’s a deep malaise surrounding Windows Vista, Microsoft’s biggest and most important upcoming product. Microsoft has been late with major new operating systems before — in fact, to my memory, major new versions of Windows have always arrived a year or two later than they were originally promised. The biggest problem with Vista isn’t that it’s late, but that people don’t really seem to care that it’s late, because there doesn’t seem to be much in Vista that Windows users are dying for.

Microsoft's problem is that it has no rivals: go read the whole thing.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Polly and Gordon go at it hammer and tongs

On a rather depressing, rainy Friday, there is a ray of light in my life: yes, there is another Polly Toynbee article to lay into. What fun! As a matter of fact, I now have her CiF page in my RSS Reader that I may not miss a single word of wisdom from the very best that The Grauniad has to offer (which I think shows what a total rag it is).

Yesterday, in response to the Doc (and not, I assure you, apropos of nothing, for that would lead to highly pertinent and, indeed, justified questions about my sanity)I speculated that Polly probably does not wear any knickers so that she may be ready and waiting should she ever manage to get The Gobblin' King alone; today's paeon to the Cyclopean bastard does nothing to dispel such speculation. I mean, look at the headline:
David is stealing Tony's clothes - and it's working. It's time for Gordon

Nothing would please me more, since The Grauniad's own poll shows less support for Gordo than for Toni. This is because, as I have said before, Gordo is an old-fashioned Labour tax-and-waste Chancellor; Toni is the acceptable, middle-class face of Labour—which is the reason that he has lasted so long. Without Toni's veneer of moderation, the spectre of 1979 and the winter of discontent (or, as Neil put it, the "high water mark of equality") will once more be present in the minds of everyone who remembers it as a time of absolute misery.
Wherever Labour people are huddled together these days, a groan of despair is audible. Even on-message ministers, surprisingly, are now heard saying: "Enough is enough." You have to pinch yourself twice at some now declaring that the bunker must surrender: Blair must go soon, before it's all too late.

But, oh! Who will replace Blair? Who has the charisma, skill and political nous to possibly lead the Labour Party into the next election? Who?
Watching the polls with glee, the Tories kept this education bill alive to keep Blair in situ a while longer.

Why would they want to with those poll results, eh? Except that, of course, as Blair sickens and dies, so Gordo's failures will become ever more obvious.
In public interviews ultra-loyal ministers give a little whistle, in best Hazel Blears Jiminy Cricket style. "The election is three years away still! Cameron will implode. It's just a blip and we'll get the Home Office and NHS sorted. Remember, our economic fundamentals are solid!" All that is plausible.

Only if you are foolish enough to think that the economy won't be in a parlous state by the time of the next general election, and Gordo's increasing eagerness to take the premiership suggests that he knows exactly how bad things are...
After this week's grim Guardian/ICM poll, Labour are looking across at the opposition benches and imagining themselves back there before long.

And not a moment too soon, frankly.
Senior figures are saying that if this goes on beyond another six months, the position will be "irrecoverable", whoever is leader.

Yes, they're right, tee hee hee. Of course, the total fuck up that Gordo has made of our economy will really kick in in a year or so's time, and then they are really screwed. Might you, so are we, but it might serve as a reminder to people like Heil Harding of exactly what redistribution leads to.
If Labour really has lost the high ground on its core issues - the NHS and education - that will be hard to win back, however good the figures on waiting lists or exam results.

Anyone expecting those to be good? Well, actually, of course we are expecting those results to be good but the rather more pertinent point is: will anyone believe them?
The prospect of opposition concentrates minds. What will be left? Nothing but a broken shell of a party, with virtually no councillors and no party members, bereft of ideas and idealism, intellectually running on brain-empty.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahaha! I really, really cannot wait!
Watching Tories pushing on with Tony Blair's own reform policies...

Christ, I hope not. One rather hopes that the Tories will have their own policie to implement, not Princess Toni's failed tinkerings and illiberal, fascist joke-laws.
... their opposition would be paralysed now that so many ideological dividing lines between the parties are blurred.

Ah, well, we shall see, shan't we. Mind you, given all of this, Polly, my knickerless darling, no doubt you will be happy to see the Tories in if they are going to carry on Blair's good works, surely? Or will you be donning the extra-strength nosepegs and still voting Labour?
Remembering the 1980s, the shattered remnants would have to start all over again, reinventing Labour from first principles.

Ha! I'm thinking that it's more likely to be '79 that they'll be remembering, Pol.
How long would that take? Another 12 or 18 years?

God willing, yes. Or, hopefully, longer.
Just as Thatcher left her party hollowed out, so Blair risks doing the same. If he is still there next May then both the Scottish parliament and the Welsh assembly will be lost, along with much more of England.

I wouldn't, unfortunately, be so sure about that but—hey!—you never know...
But hang on, before sinking into morbid gloom, why wait to renew and refresh until all is lost? What's wrong with now, before it's all over?

Wait! Who could possibly save NuLabour at this juncture? Who has the skills? Who can this superman be?
Time for Brown: if he's a disaster then Labour is a dead duck anyway.

Yes! I knew it. Although it's not dead duck I smell on your writing, Pollyanna' it's fish...
Since I wrote about Labour's lost local elections, distraught emails have poured in from around the country.

What, to you, Pol? I had no idea that you doubled up as an aginy aunt to the socialist fools in this country; what a busy life you do lead, my dear.
Here is the latest, from Wyre borough council in Lancashire. This Tory council has warped its spending towards wealthy Tory wards, ignoring solid Labour Fleetwood.

Ah, yes, we all know how all Tories want, secretly, to starve and kill the poor so that they may cease to plague us further. Perhaps the council just got tird of the unemployed and unemployable thugs smashing up every facility that the council provided. That's pure speculation on my part, of course, but then so is Polly's sentence.
Last Thursday, two weeks after the main local elections, there was a byelection in Park Ward, the poorest in Lancashire and the second-safest Labour seat in the county; activists piled in to support a good local candidate.

Ah, good stuff.
But they were shocked to lose, with a staggering 27% swing to the Tories in a seat that was never Tory before.

So even the poor think that they will be better off under the Tories; that rather implies that SuperGordo's attempts to eradicate poverty simply hasn't worked, eh? Either that, or these people are just ungrateful bastards.
The chair of Lancaster Labour party writes: "We've seen support from our regional office dry up (except when they need to bully) and membership has lapsed to its lowest ever.

Oh, diddums.
We're alone, isolated and fed up.

It's time to put yourself and some bricks into a sack and just into the river, sonny.
So on Wednesday night we passed a resolution calling on Tony Blair to resign before the annual conference." They are not by nature that kind of local party.

Well, they weren't whilst they were winning, no. Now that they have lost, they are looking for someone to blame; after all, that is the culture that NuLabour have instilled. It is never your fault that something has gone wrong, someone else is always to blame, you just have to find them. A bit like when you, Polly dearest, blamed the anonymity of the internet, rather than people's righteous rage at your execrable writings, for the abuse that you receive.
What is to be done?

Why not get Gorgeous George to assassinate Princess Toni?1 That'd solve your problems.
It is no good ministers fuming over Cameron's outrageous selling of Conservatism in fake Labour bottles. Even if his homeopathic politics are devoid of a molecule of content, they are having a strong placebo effect on the voters. Take family-friendly working life, putting wellbeing before GDP. Refusing any tricky obligation to make employers do it - Cameron voted against every measure on parental leave and flexible work - his call for a work-life balance "culture change" stole one of Labour's best patents, rebranding it as his own.

Hang on, what is that phrase about getting a dose of your own medicine? I imagine that it is something about which you are starting to learn a wee bit, eh Pol?
He only succeeds because Blair wastes energy fighting over institutional change that most people neither know nor care about, instead of building on Labour's own best achievements.

And what are they, exactly, Polly? Apart from keeping you in a job writing this drivel.

Because Blair is aware that on everything that he promised, he has been an utter failure.
  • The NHS?—still in crisis and costing twice as much.

  • Education?—still appalling, with 1 in 5 children in England leaving school functionally illiterate and universities having to run remedial courses for those with As.

  • Crime?—well, we being treated to a fresh scandal at the Home Office on an almost daily basis.

  • Foreign policy?—Iraq. Need we say more? Oh, yes, his failed Presidency of the EU and the ludicrously bad deal that he got us when he was unable to close the deal on the budget.

  • Sleaze?—well, The Little Red Book... is already out of date.

It's not an impressive record—not exactly a catalogue of success—and Blair knows it.
Because Blair is deeply conflicted about admitting Labour has done anything radical for fear of being anti-business.

Well, he shouldn't have put Brown in charge of the Treasury then. Because "business" has been less than keen on NuLabour for some time.
David Halpern, a bright thinker in Blair's own strategy unit, was the first to offer powerful policy ideas about wellbeing, but Blair wouldn't touch either the policy or the language. So while he preferred tough stuff about business-linked trust schools (of which there will be precious few anyway), Cameron stole one of his crown jewels. If people want wellbeing, how well Labour could talk up its plans for universal, wrap-around nurseries and childcare. Labour is already delivering more babies: the ONS suggests a rise in the birth rate is partly due to mothers getting more help.

Well, apart from the fact that this is a typical Toynbee lie, what if it were true? All it means is that more people who cannot afford to have babies are having babies that must continue to be paid for by the rest of us: I don't think that the fact that NuLabour policy is slapping yet more financial burdens upon us is something to be celebrated, do you?
But Cameron keeps stealing Labour fire. He was the one to tell business to know its place, but why didn't Labour take that chance to go further and challenge boardroom greed?

Because it is none of the state's business what private companies pay their bosses, or any other employees for that matter. We are living in a totalitarian state (yet).
Cameron goes green, but it will be painless, he says. Blair could earn more trust by telling the hard truth everyone knows - that reversing climate change means consuming less.

Or, of course, innovating more. Besides, it is highly unlikely that the climate change that is happening can be reversed, and the studies that have been done are, in any case, deeply flawed.
Cameron has even purloined social mobility.

Well, that is because social mobility has declined under Labour, partly because of extremely high marginal tax rates and the mania for means-testing. It is not difficult for Cameron to promise to do better than making the situation worse.
So far the voters are buying Mr Placebo's herbal remedies and not Labour's genuine prescriptions.

The mind absolutely boggles when one reads a sentence like this. Are you living in the same country as us, Polly? Do you have any concept of what is happening in economics or politics? Are you mad or stupid?
Why does Tony Blair stay on? Ask his henchmen...

Ah, Blair has "henchmen"; well, he must be about as evil as Skeletor (with whom I always associate the word).
... and they point to yesterday's pensions policy as a good reason: Brown would never have relinked state pensions to earnings. Ahead, they say, there is so much Blair still wants to do: nuclear energy, Northern Ireland peace and repairing the damage in the EU once Chirac departs next year. "He knows he can't afford a year of drift."

He's fucked. So are NuLabour. And, unfortunately, they've fucked us too. Although, one imagines that your considerable earnings will ensure that you're alright, Jack. Sorry, Polly.
So when, then? "Well, he does know he can't stay until autumn 2008, as he planned. But when Gordon takes over voters will demand an election soon after, so it can't be too soon either." Autumn 2007? "No, no, that's just when Cameron launches all his new policies, a disaster!" It would be a disaster too, they keep saying, if the party ever publicly defenestrated their leader.

They're screwed, wahey!
But what if things go on getting worse?

Well, they've continued to do so over the last nine years: there seems no reason why ZanuLabour shouldn't continue on their downward spiral...
The chances of Tony Blair pulling out of his nosedive look slim.

I know: isn't it fantastic?
"He needs to wait for a time of quiet, not under pressure, to decide for himself." What if there is no more quiet? Alan Milburn and Stephen Byers are pledged to be the ones to tell him if the time ever comes when the party needs him to go. But frankly, it doesn't sound as if the messengers intend to pay that call any time soon. As for the message from Wyre, it has not got past the guards outside No 10 - yet.

The "achievements" of Nulabour don't seem to have got past your guards yet either, Polly. There is only one man who can do that, of course; only Gordo's purple-headed love-warrior can get past the guards of your labia majora and minora in order to plunge his meaty message home.

And when he has delivered his burden into your womb, then the message will be spread about and diluted by the churnings of your internal fluids; the sugared coating of his sperm creating dangerous infighting—much like the Labour Party—with the acidity of your vaginal juices. It is unlikely that the information will reach that part of you that it needs to and, even if it does, it is unlikely that it will take hold.

I just hope that it is not an event that Robert Winston feels like filming...

1. Some excellent stuff on this from Mr Eugenides.
The back arrow will take you up to the original place in the text.
Thanks, by the way, go to Daring Fireball, for the idea of how to implement these footnotes.

NHS Fail Wail

I think that we can all agree that the UK's response to coronavirus has been somewhat lacking. In fact, many people asserted that our de...