Monday, March 31, 2008

So much booze, so little time...

As Guido points out, there are a couple of think-tank barneys this evening.
Not sure what the booze situation is tonight in Westminster for the Centre for Policy Studies seminar on Politics, Policy and the Internet, the invitation doesn't say. George Osborne is a big Politics 2.0 advocate of the power of the web and he is headlining it along with Tom Steinberg.

At exactly the same time over at Bloomberg's offices in the City, Jeremy Hunt, the DCMS Shadow, is talking about the New Media Politics Revolution. Booze is clearly highlighted on the invite.

Like Guido, your humble Devil normally enjoys the piss-ups at the ASI (I shall be there tomorrow night, as it happens), but it's always good to investigate fresh watering holes.

In this case, I have my invite and shall be attending the latter do...

UPDATE: OK, I am now going to take a lot more notice of Reform. The venue was stunning, the speeches were short (and actually relatively interesting) and, most importantly, the free booze was both varied and plentiful. Yes, it is that easy to get my attention—although buying my approval is another matter...

NHS Blog Doctor: setting out his stall against "fascist hyenas"

There is something of a spat developing between NHS Blog Doctor and the Taxpayer's Alliance. Last week, the TPA published their Town Hall Rich List, and the good Dr Crippen took exception to this; the TPA have now responded. The TPA are big boys and more than capable of defending their ethos and working practices, but I must take exception to one of Crippen's lines.
That is it. No exemptions. No explanation. No penumbra. No analysis other than that in which the conclusions have been pre-defined. Tax is a bad thing. Surprising they have not joined up with the Libertarian Party amongst whose avowed aims is the abolition of income tax. Come to think of it, maybe they have.

No, Crippen, they haven't; and believe me, much of the rest of the post seems to be based on a similar lack of evidence. For the record, employees of the TPA are specifically forbidden from being members of political parties and, as such, there is absolutely no affiliation with the Libertarian Party at all.

It may come as a surprise to Dr Crippen, but there are, believe it or not, people outside of the TPA who also think that taxes are too high and who are more than capable of coming up with their own policies.

For the good Doctor to link LPUK in with the TPA and then go on to say that the TPA "only attract fascist hyenas" displays a severe ignorance of what fascism is, and is also deeply insulting to the TPA and, by the baseless extension that Crippen has drawn, to the Libertarian Party.

As someone who is a member of both of these organisations, I consider myself vaguely insulted: apparently your humble Devil is, in fact, a "fascist hyena" and not someone who feels that his liberties—both financial and civil (for they are inextricably linked*)—are being eroded on a daily basis.

Well, thanks a bundle, Crippen.

On Friday, the good Doctor decided to attack the Libertarian Party's Health Policy. As you can see for yourselves, the policy is little more than a placeholder at present. There is a simple reason for this: health is a very difficult subject and, before committing ourselves to any specific policy, we want to spend the time researching the other available systems.
It is early days for the Libertarian Party. Funding healthcare is the single biggest problem facing the western world and so the party must be allowed time to formulate detailed policies. But the portends are not good. Already they make some fundamental errors.

And what might these be? I can't wait to hear them...
You cannot apply market economics to the provision of universal health care. Universal health care is not an economic proposition. It is an indulgence. An expensive indulgence which has to be funded by taxpayers.

Really? So, it has to be funded by taxpayers through government, or could it be, in fact, that it could be funded by taxpayers through insurance (the question of whether you make this insurance compulsory or not is one of those questions which we are discussing).

Almost everything else in this country is delivered via the market. Essential items such as bread, or milk, or tax services or... well... anything is delivered via the mechanism of the market. So, what makes health provision so very special?

What makes healthcare provision special in his country is the fact that it is an effective monopoly. The government takes the money to pay for it (or you go to prison), it then decides how much of that money is spent on health. Then it pays that money to government-sponsored QUANGOs (the Primary Care Trusts) who then disburse that money to government-run hospitals, in which the staff are paid by the government (in National Pay Deals that kill patients).

If there is one thing that even most on the Left agree on, it is that monopolies are a bad thing; where those of us on the Right disagree with the Left is that we believe that government monopolies are just as bad (or, actually, worse) than private monopolies.

Healthcare in this country is, effectively, a state near-monopoly. And so much faith does Dr Crippen, an NHS GP, have in the NHS, that he has opted out by buying private health insurance (as has your humble Devil: it costs less than £50 per month currently).
You can make a profit by selling sophisticated health care to the rich but you can only make a loss by providing the same health care for the poor. Successful entrepreneurs are driven by the profit motive.

This is perfectly true, but also extraordinarily disingenuous. There are always companies who can find a way to make their services affordable; one that springs to mind is Direct Line Insurance. They decided to offer cheaper car insurance. They were able to do this by cutting the cost of delivery (making ample use of the internet) and by taking a smaller profit on each policy but getting more people on board.

There was a report a few months ago, on supermarket ready food lines. Essentially, the ready meals came in two different lines: the low priced "value" and the high-priced "luxury". However, they were both the same product, except with different packaging.

The rich bought the "luxury" product and the poor bought the "value" product. The supermarkets make a profit on both products but the rich effectively subsidised the poor. Surely, this should appeal to Crippen's egalitarian mindset?

Why should the same not apply to medicine. The treatment would be exactly the same, but the rich might get silk sheets on their beds whilst the poor make do with linen. In this way, the rich—feeling that they are getting a better service (although the actual procedure is exactly the same)—will be willing to pay more and thus subsidise the treatment of the poor.

If you believed people like Doctor Crippen, the picture that you might have of the time before the NHS is of the poor dying like flies for the want of a quid. But charities took up much of the slack.

These days we are used to pointless charities like Greenpeace, which we are forced to fund through their massive government subsidies. But, before the Welfare State, charities fulfilled a rather more practical function: the care of those who could not (or would not) care for themselves.

Sure, these days we have lost the art of charitable giving but, when you are already losing 45% of your income, it makes one somewhat disinclined to give more. It is no accident that charitable giving in (relatively) low-taxed America dwarves that of high-tax Europe.

But, in the Victorian era, big businessmen tended to give large amounts of money to charity. Many of them did so out of what was ultimately a profit motive—those entrepreneurs who built housing for their workers in order to maintain a tied workforce, for instance, or just for the pleasure of seeing a plaque above a ward that they had built—but is there any quintessential reason why should this not happen again?

Just think of all those colossal City bonuses being put to use to built and run new hospitals (many individuals could do this many times over). And whilst some people will sneer and say that that will never happen, well, to you I say, "it did in the past. Has the nature of man fundamentally changed from that time?" The answer, of course, is not that man has changed, but that the state has changed the attitude that men have to their fellow man.

In this way, the state has allowed people to be insulated from their fellow man. Now when we see poverty we don't ask what we might do to alleviate it: we say, "why isn't the government doing anything about this?" Far from uniting us with our less fortunate fellows, the state has allowed us to isolate ourselves; it is no longer our problem, you see, but that of the state.

There were many mechanisms that allowed the poor access to medical care, such as the Friendly Societies, private philanthropists and charities.

Would I prefer to return to such a system, one that does not need coercion? Yes. Am I naive enough to believe that it would happen overnight? No. But, we do wish to have an orderly transition and this is why we need to think very carefully about how that might be brought about.
An independent “not-for-profit” organisation will not survive unless it is government subsidised and thus insulated from the realities of the market. And if it is so insulated, no private company can compete against it.

This is, of course, absolute crap. A "not-for-profit" organisation is allowed to make a profit (see almost all private schools and the vast majority of charities) but that profit is not allowed to be disbursed to the directors (above and beyond their agreed renumeration). The profit must be ploughed back into the organisation. This absolutely does not mean that every "not-for-profit" organisation has to be government-funded.

However, it is true that government-funding does provide a barrier to private enterprise.
An insurance based system merely substitutes a private, profit driven company for a government run organisation.

This is a particularly flippant line; yes, a private health insurance system replaces the government one, that is the entire point.

Now, Dr Crippen who has, as I have mentioned before, private health insurance for himself and his family, obviously believes that he gains from that insurance. He gains a better service than that which he himself works for.

So, why is he slamming a private insurance system that he himself is taking advantage of? Two-tier health-system? We already have it, John; and you have happily ensconced yourself in the upper tier of that system.

I don't blame you for doing so, at all. However, it is rather hypocritical of you to criticise a particular system when you believe that that system is going to provide you and your family with a better standard of healthcare and then deny access to that system for everyone else.
Doctrinally motivated health care economists will argue for one or the other, but there is no moral, or economic, absolute.

Well, I quite agree. What we should look for is the way that best delivers care to the customers who require it, as we do in any other area. A national monopoly doesn't do that.

It doesn't even terribly matter as to whether or not our spending as a proportion of GDP rises as long as there is a commensurate return in terms of productivity. What has been so irritating about the money poured into the NHS is that productivity has dropped.

But no system is perfect so what we want is a proliferation of many systems and a state monopoly does not help that at all.
Take a look at this article in Fortune magazine which describes the anomalies thrown up by a private insurance based system.

Indeed it does. But what that article also makes clear is how much government interference in free markets has led to the less than satisfactory state of the US healthcare industry. It is, for instance, the fault of the government that most healthcare plans are tied, not to individuals, but to jobs. Here's a taster:
McCain's main pillar is the elimination of a tax break that employees receive if their employer provides their health care. That may not sound like a shocker, but it is. The exclusion dates from World War II, when the federal government imposed controls on wages, but allowed companies to compete for workers by offering tax-free health benefits in lieu of pay. The law is largely responsible for the nightmarish patchwork of corporate-provided medical plans we enjoy so much today. Employees and their unions demanded richer and richer packages, and employers complied, since they could buy far more benefits for their employees than workers could buy with after-tax dollars on their own. Americans have paid a steep price, however, by sacrificing their raises as corporate insurance bills exploded, never more so than now.

Inevitably, this has also cut the choice of insurers and the flexibility of the consumer. Not an ideal situation and certainly not one that LPUK would endorse. But, let us return to the good Dr Crippen's piece...
We need a fresh start, free of doctrinal absolutes.

Well, OK. And your suggestion is...? Oh, you don't have one. Fine.

What, in any case, are "doctrinal absolutes"? Do i believe that the free market works best because that is my doctrine? Or, do I believe that free markets work best because all of the evidence that is available shows that they do?

In my case, it is the latter. Free markets are not perfect, but they are the best option. We have tried most combinations of the other options and they simply do not work anywhere near as well.

I have never really understood the UK medical profession's hostility to trying another system; after all, they as much as anyone, are shafted by the government's monopoly.

Nurses in London are substantially worse of than nurses in the middle of Yorkshire, for instance.

Junior doctors are churned out of medical schools only to find that, due to the state's incompetence, there are no training places or jobs for them.

The state's inability to plan has meant that we have been forced actively to import foreign agency prfessionals; and this not only denudes poor countries of much-needed trained staff, but linguistic misunderstandings lead to an overall diminshing of the reputation of all medical staff in the country.
Above all, we need to admit the fact that no country can afford to provide the full range of modern health care for all its citizens. Health care has to be rationed. We need a front end charge, appropriately safety netted, to stop the worst of the abuse.

Well, OK. But who is going to abuse the system the most: those who get it for free or those who pay for it?
We need to find a politically acceptable way to explain to the citizens that they can no longer have it all “for free”. Free health care was always an illusion, buttressed by the NHS with its ludicrous "free at the point of entry" mantra. The illusion has had dire consequences. It has fuelled the demand for health care to unsustainable levels.

Well, yes, Doc; that's fine. And the relevance to the LPUK policy is...? We would abolish the NHS; that is no secret. Do we think that we should look into feasible alternatives? Yes. That is why we decided to develop policy in our forums. Amongst other things, we have a few medical doctors and medical managers in there who can give us their opinion from the front lines.

You are welcome to join in and contribute, my dear Crippen; you do not have to sell us your soul, nor even join the party in order to join in the discussion: we will happily accept advice from anyone.
The choice is simple. Acknowledge the inevitable and take control or bury your head in the sand, pretending all is well, as stealth rationing and the surreptitious erosion of health care standards allow the NHS to lapse into a two tier system in which only the rich can access good medical care.

Now, this is a slightly bizarre finishing paragraph; the good Doctor appears to be contradicting everything that he has said previously.

Crippen has acknowledged that we need to ration healthcare, and that we need to charge for it. Presumably, he would also not object if people paid for additional treatments. But surely this would "allow the NHS to lapse into a two tier system in which only the rich can access good medical care".

What is "good medical care"? Presumably, we want everyone to access adequate medical care; as I outlined above, if the rich are happy to pay more for silk sheets, thus allowing the hospitals to subsidise the care for the poor, is this not a god thing?

But the main point is that if people are actively paying for their health insurance, then they are going to take more care of themselves. As Crippen correctly points out, the "free at the point of use mantra" is completely stupid because it makes people think that it is, in fact, free.

Of course, for those who don't work and will never work, the health system is free. For the rest of us, however, it is very expensive.

Is it right that someone who has paid 11% of their salary for the last thirty years should get the same treatment as someone who has paid absolutely fuck all for the same time? Of course it isn't. We wouldn't think that was fair with any other system, so why with health.

At the same time, is it right to leave people dying in the streets because they have never paid a penny towards any medical facilities? No.

And that is the difficult tightrope that one has to walk and, as far as I am personally concerned, the solution is private charity. Let those who care about our fellow man (and, yes, I would give money voluntarily were I not losing vast amounts in tax, just as I have given to various bloggers who have appealed for cash (and other bloggers have shown the same courtesy to me, at times)).

Because I believe that all of this rubbish that Cameron comes out with, about the "broken society", has been caused by the state, and the state cannot fix it. Take away that monolith that has allowed us all to retreat from our fellow man and I think that you will find people to be unexpectedly generous.

* This is a theme that I have amplified before. However, the gist of it is that the reason that the government feels that it can dictate what we eat, smoke, drink or otherwise put into our bodies is because the state "pays" for our wanton lifestyles through the NHS.

Actually, it is we taxpayers who pay for the NHS and that applies even if you have private insurance. I have private health insurance, but I am still not allowed to opt out of the NHS completely, so the state still feels that it can tell me what to do.

In this way, the financial lever that the government holds also leads to their hold over the civil liberties lever too.

Gordon Brown is a fucking liar

Here is Gordon Brown, at PMQs on the 19th March 2008, quite blatantly lying his fucking face off and not being called on it. [Emphasis mine.]
Mr Cameron congratulated Mr Brown for taking "exactly the right decision" on meeting the Dalai Lama and for not delaying it. Mr Brown responded that "We make the right decisions at all times".

Really? I think that I might just disagree with you slightly there, Mr Brown.

Balls to "unParliamentary language": someone should have stood up and called the Gobblin' King "a fucking liar". Let's face it, it wouldn't be difficult to prove that this statement is a total fucking fabrication.

Won't even one person call this hideous government to account?

The truth writ large...

Via Timmy, this marvellous picture comes from Fat Lazy Male Nurse (and appears to be genuine).

Now, has anyone got one with Gordon Brown standing in front of a poster that appears to say, "Fucking incompetent monocular bastard"?

In the meantime, I am ploughing through all of the items of interest in my Dock, and so expect a splurge of light and fluffy comment before I get to the big fiskings...

Porritt: twit

Jonathon Porritt: flavours his cock by shoving organic pot pourri under his foreskin. Probably.

I have frequently pointed out that Eton actually has some very rigourous entrance exams. However, these exams have become far harder over the last few decades for, as more and more people have become able to afford the fees, there has been ever-greater demand.

This idea is backed up by the fact that some decades ago, Jonathon Porritt was able to gain entrance to the Old Coll, depite the fact that he is a clueless wanker of the very first water.
The surreal sight of Boris on the TV castigating Ken for his “lack of environmental vision” was almost too much to cope with. So I just hope all the environmental NGOs can rally the troops in London in a pro-Ken campaign, even if they can’t come out and explicitly endorse him.

Absolutely; the Green NGOs cannot support Ken, or anyone else, because that would be political campaigning and therefore illegal. At the same time, I would really love the NGOs to do precisely that.

Then we can have the Charities Commission shut them down, the evil little bastards.

But, as Timmy points out, Porritt's next assertion is just a load of pig-ignorant crap and the fucker should be beaten through the streets of London until he has acknowledged this.
Wouldn’t it be great, just once, to hear a senior Labour Politician (other than Ken) enthusing in similar terms about the hundreds of thousands of real jobs that would be created were we ever to get serious about energy efficiency?

Wouldn’t it be great, just once, to hear a senior Greenie admitting that the "creation" of hundreds of thousands of jobs is a cost, not a benefit of such schemes?

Or is such basic economics beyond their fevered imaginations?

Of course it is: if one thing characterises the Green movement, it is a total lack of understanding of basic economics (another trait is a tendency towards authoritarianism, but then that's hardly surprising).

Jonathon Porritt is an utter fuckwit, who should be beaten to death with an organic aubergine (the most evil of all vegetables) and a copy of The Wealth of Nations.

And I'm not concerned about which instrument deals the killing blow: what I do know is that Porritt's demise would be a public good.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I hurt

As regular readers will know, your humble Devil does not, as a rule, get hangovers. This is generally a good thing, and is a state preserved by my avoidance of those drinks that I know induce hangovers, i.e. ruby port (but not white or tawny) and lager (especially Stella).

However, I was at a friend's birthday party last night and the night was themed around port and cheese. And, alas, tawny port seems to be difficult to get hold of these days. And so...

Fucking hell! Hangovers really hurt. I have not had a hangover for about six or seven years and I had forgotten this salient fact.

I have now been reminded of the fact that hangovers are not pleasant; seriously, if I got this every time that I drank, my resolve would be the easiest thing in the world to stick to.

As it is, I have finally got home (from Hackney) and now I need to wander over to St Stephen's Tavern for the LPUK meet-up...

Friday, March 28, 2008

What caused the financial crisis?

We are being told, of course, that it was all of those greedy banks lending to people who couldn't afford the mortgage repayments.

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper.

Via Samizdata, here is an article that echoes something that I saw a couple of months before Christmas; the basic summary is: oh look, the politicians fucked up yet again by passing legislation that created perverse incentives and other unintended consequences.

Well, who would'a fucking thunk it, eh?

Here is the article, reproduced in full.
[Samizdata's Dale Amon:] I received and read a copy of this article from DC Downsizers early this month but have only today been given a go ahead for republication. I think you will find it an interesting and refreshing account of just who is responsible for the whole subprime mortgage problem.

You can watch hours and hours of news, or read columns of print in most newspapers, and come away no wiser about the causes and prospects for the current financial turmoil.

Most journalists and TV talking heads do not really understand the subject, and those that do speak and write using so much jargon that the average person must feel he or she is trying to follow a conversation in ancient Hebrew.

We are going to try to cut through the jargon, and explain the situation as best we can, in plain English. If you find our explanation of value, please forward it to others.

The current housing crisis, and all that flows from it, comes from two main sources, both deriving from Washington.

First, Congress passed something called the "Community Reinvestment Act" in 1977, resulting in the creation of bureaucratic regulations designed to encourage, or even compel, financial institutions to make loans to people with lower incomes. These regulations were then amended in 1995 and 2005 to create different rules for institutions of different sizes, so that various kinds of institutions would be better able to meet the government's goals for fostering home ownership in lower income communities.

Second, the Federal Reserve starting making loans available to the banking system at extremely low interest rates.

Third, steps one and two combined to make cheap housing loans available to people who could not have afforded or qualified for them before. This caused an increased demand for housing that sent home prices spiraling upward.

Fourth, mortgage lenders managed the risk involved in making these loans by selling their mortgages to other companies, which in turn thought that they were managing their own risk because they had a wide variety of mortgages, from many different types of borrowers, in their portfolio.

Fifth, these decisions about how to manage the increased risk created by the "Community Reinvestment Act" were all in error, because the Fed's policy of easy money had falsely inflated the value of ALL homes. This meant that good mortgages could not be used to manage the risk involved in questionable mortgages, because the value of ALL homes was falsely inflated.

Sixth, as with all inflationary booms, increases in home prices finally absorbed the increased purchasing power provided by the Fed, leading to a slow-down in home purchases. When this moment arrived everyone realized that the homes they had purchased weren't really worth what they had paid for them. The defaults and foreclosures then began, along with the collapse of the financial institutions that owned these unsound mortgages.

Now, the complicated, multi-part scenario described above has been simplified in popular reporting to just two words: sub-prime loans. These two words, combined with the idea that lenders took advantage of poor unsuspecting customers, are supposed to explain everything. But this explanation is both simple and simply insufficient.

A study by the Mortgage Bankers Association tells the true story. In the third quarter of last year fixed rate mortgages accounted for 45% of foreclosures, while sub-prime ARMs accounted for only 43%. (See Cato)

It's not hard to understand why. Who wants to be on the hook for a mortgage that is tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars higher than the property is really worth? Rather than bear this burden, many borrowers are choosing to default, and walk away from their properties. This is especially happening with speculators who bought houses in order to "flip" them. To cope with these foreclosures . . .

Banks have offered their bad mortgages as collateral to borrow money from the Federal Reserve. The money the Fed lends through this process is created out of thin air. This has two shocking consequences. First, the Fed is coming to effectively own an increasing portion of America's stock of housing, and two, these Federal Reserve loans are inflating the money supply, causing prices to rise all through the economy.

As the Fed creates more and more new dollars, the value of all the previously existing dollars declines. This forces people to seek ways to protect their accumulated wealth against the devaluing effects of monetary inflation. Thus . . .

People buy other currencies, causing the exchange value of the dollar to fall They buy gold, pushing the price up above $1,000 an ounce And they buy oil futures, driving up those prices too

But it gets worse . . .

Monetary inflation is making foreign investors reluctant to buy U.S. Treasury bonds. Who wants to hold bonds denominated in dollars when the Federal Reserve is reducing the value of the dollar?

The "London Telegraph" reports that foreign participation at a recent auction of U.S. Treasury bonds fell from 25% to less than 6%. (See Telegraph)

Sadly, there is every reason to expect this phenomenon to continue. This will leave the Federal government with only two options for funding its ever growing deficits. The government must either pay much more interest on its bonds, to compensate lenders for the monetary inflation, or it must sell its bonds to the Federal Reserve System, which will buy the bonds with yet more money created out of thin air, adding still more fuel to the inflationary fire.

The more the Federal government has to pay in interest, the larger the deficits will grow, or, the more it borrows from the Federal Reserve, the more it will have to pay in interest to private lenders. It's a vicious bind.

There is one thing the Federal government could do immediately to lessen this bind. It could cut spending to balance its budget, thereby reducing inflationary pressures. Please use our "Unfunded Liabilities" campaign to ask Congress to do exactly that.

Use your personal comments to tell Congress that you know foreign participation in U.S. bond auctions is declining. Tell them you do not want them to sell their bonds to the Federal Reserve, thereby driving up the money supply. CONGRESS MUST BALANCE THE BUDGET NOW. You can send your message here, at

Then, do one thing more. Send Congress a second message asking them to pass Ron Paul's "Honest Money" bills. Use your personal comments to tell Congress that you're aware that the current crisis was caused by a combination of the "Community Reinvestment Act" and the Federal Reserve's easy credit policy. Tell them you want Ron Paul's "Honest Money" bills to curb the ability of the Fed to inflate the money supply. You can send that message here, at

No, markets are not absolutely perfect; however, one can pretty much guarantee that when there is a truly colossal fuck-up, it is always a bunch of who are politicians, ultimately, behind it.

It's true: we are

Over at the Business, young Timmy has dug out a (rather poor) rendition of a Flanders and Swann classic to illustrate to the Gobblin' King what Britishness might mean.

It is a very fine song—incorporating, as it does, the immortal chorus, "the English, the English, the English are best; I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest!"—and it's called A Song Of Patriotic Prejudice.

However, in their recent series, Armstrong and Miller parodied Flanders and Swann with rather more aplomb in the form of Brabbins and Fyffe. And here is a song that is very much in the same vein as A Song Of Patriotic Prejudice, but with a little more... er... spice.

What I mean, of course, is that it concentrates on bashing Johnny Foreigner without actually rousing itself in praise of the English. Still, we all know what to do with them, eh?

Kill them...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Banned! update

Put Darling behind bars! Or in the windows of bars. Whatever.

The campaign to ban Darling from pubs seems to be gathering momentum. It has been mentioned on the BBC now: Matt Wardman has the audio snippet.

Do go and listen: I particularly love the reporter's tone of absolute seriousness. It made me laugh.

I believe that The Sun might also be looking at doing a wee feature on it, and the lovely Trixy has been running around delivering posters to bars in Westminster.

This one could run and run.

UPDATE: the BBC has a story on it and... my artwork! On the Beeb website! I'm so thrilled...

Cameron also mentioned the campaign at PMQs today; I shall try to get a clip of that.

UPDATE 2: my impecunious Athenian chum notes that the pub trade magazine, the Morning Advertiser, and The Grauniad also carry the story; The Telegraph does too, and notes that I have, somewhat embarrassingly, spelt Alistair wrong (I used Alastair) and I have now corrected that (I knew I should have checked).

UPDATE 3: for those of you not on Facebook, here are a few pictures that are currently gracing the Group page.

Nigel Farage, keen pub-goer, obviously supports the campaign!

The Lewes Arms

Dom Bescoby does sterling work in Lincoln!

Darling, being the tedious turd that he is, probably doesn't actually go to pubs. But, as Mr E says...
I guess the lesson is this: in the age of the internet, you don't need to climb onto the roof of the Palace of Westminster or stand outside Downing Street with a loudhailer to tell your politicians what you think of them. All you need is a free blogging platform and a bit of time. Et voila! Alistair Darling is left in no doubt; everyone thinks he's a dick.

... which is, after all, the entire point of the exercise!

Oh, and I hope that the landlord of the Utopia bar gets lots of business out of it; after all, he's given us hours of entertainment.

What would be truly amusing, of course, if this off-the-cuff and whimsical campaign were the incident that really got blogs noticed...

UPDATE 4: the Morning Advertiser reports that the campaign has spread to Brussels (see the Farage picture, above), and they claim credit for starting the whole thing off. Hmmm...
The campaign to ban Alistair Darling from every pub has spread to Brussels.

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage (pictured) spotted the poster at O'Farrells in Brussels – a favourite haunt of MEPs.

The campaign, which originated on the MA forum and spread to social networking group Facebook, now has 410 members.

It's at almost 500 now. Obviously this has captured the public's imagination...

UPDATE 5: sorry for the lack of "serious" blogging; I have been stupidly busy over the last few days and have barely had time to sit down and catch up with everything.

However, The Sun has now covered this campaign.
FURIOUS pub landlords have set about barring Alistair Darling from every boozer in Britain.

Two hundred have put up posters warning the Chancellor to keep out since he slapped 4p on a pint in this month’s Budget.

The rapidly-spreading protest — which even includes a Brussels watering hole popular with MEPs — comes as it was revealed a UK pub shuts every six hours.

The Facebook Group now has nearly 1,100 members. The whole thing has gone a wee bit insane...

UPDATE 6: here's the clip of Cameron referencing the campaign at PMQs yesterday.

And that's the great thing: making sure that Darling knows about it!

UPDATE 7: Sky News report.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What will you do today?

Apparently, the Gobblin' King is going to launch the local polling campaign. Needless to say, The Nameless One isn't impressed.
The world waits with baited breath for the man who can make failed terrorist attacks seem boring to announce how he is going to fight an election that won’t really change anything at all. I’d love to be at the launch but unfortunately I have something more interesting and fun to do. I’m going to sit in the corner and hit myself repeatedly in the face. With a tyre iron.

Like TNO, I have better and more worthwhile to do. I shall sat sit, naked, on a freezing metal chair on my balcony, shivering in the icy wind, and repeatedly wallop myself in the nuts with a piece of two by four.
It is telling that the BBC can’t make this news exciting. All we have is the same phrase repeated over and over again—basically that Brown would like a better showing in these elections than what happened last May. No, really? A politician wants to do well in an election? Crazy stuff.

Colour me bored.

Train driving

When I was a little devil, I wanted either to be a train driver or a knight in shining armour (maidens not included). Alas, the latter of these ambitions has fallen by the wayside but I might resurrect the former, if only for financial reasons.

Whilst plotting the best route to Pater Devil's place yesterday, I had a look at the website for South West Trains. It seems that they are having a spot of bother.
ASLEF drivers' union has announced that its South West Trains' driver members are planning to strike on four dates—March 31, April 1, 2 and 3.

ASLEF have announced the strike dates—which will run from 0001 on 31 March to 2359 on 3 April—over a pay dispute.

Oh, dear. Are the drivers getting really piss-poor pay?
We met with ASLEF on Thursday 20 March for informal talks in an effort to avoid strike action, and another meeting is planned for next week. They have been offered a pay increase of 4.5% which would give a driver working in the London area a basic salary before overtime of £40,447 for a 37-hour, 4.4-day week.

Forty fucking grand for a 37 hour week doesn't sound too fucking shabby to me, frankly. In fact, for doing little more than staying awake and pulling a lever, it sounds absolutely fucking amazing.

And a 4.5% pay rise is very nice, when the public sector (and much of the rest of the private sector) is getting 2%, if that.

So, where do I sign up? Oh, and while we're about it, ASLEF can shove their shitty union dues right up their big, fat, sweaty arseholes.

Black (eyebrow) listed

Get Darling Alastair banned from every pub in Britain! Click the image for an A4 poster for printing.

My erstwhile Edinburgh colleagues have been keeping up to date in the campaign to ban Alastair Darling from every pub in the land. The Reactionary Snob has a swift update of some pubs...
Utopia, Easter Road, Leith
The Plough Inn at Finstock, Oxfordshire
The Gardener's, Lewes
Two as yet unspecified pubs in Lewes other than The Gardener's.
The Queen Anne, Bolton

Any others?

Well, as I reported, we have Patch's Bar in Devon and apparently there are three pubs in Denbighshire, and I have reliable reports of a few pubs in Lincoln too. Could we get names, please, and, even better, some pictures.
Apparently, the Facebook site has 115 members already.*

It has also made the City Diary of the Times, one of the campaign has been in contact with Al Murray to try and get him on board, Westbourne UKIP** are onside and Alex Johnstone MSP is in favour.

If anyone has a link to The Times story, that would be wonderful.

Meanwhile, my poverty-stricken Peloponnesian pal reports that the Edinburgh Evening News have picked up the story, and that several posters are doing the rounds.
AN internet campaign to get Alistair Darling banned from every pub in the UK has been inspired by a bar in the Capital.
Last week, the News revealed that Utopia on Leith Walk had put up a poster barring the Chancellor after his 4p per pint tax increase in the Budget.

The report prompted an Edinburgh-based blog, Musings of a Reactionary Snob, to call for the ban to be made nationwide.

The campaign has 110 supporters on its Facebook site, and pubs in Bolton, Lewes and Oxfordshire have followed Utopia.

Several posters have been designed—including one depicting the Edinburgh South MP as a Simpson's character in Moe's Tavern. The text says: "Finally Alistair Darling finds a pub he is not barred from."

Naturally, one should point out that this is not, as such, a "ban"; we are not using any legislation to ensure that Darling Alastair cannot get a pint in a pub. All we are doing is encouraging landlords voluntarily to bar Darling for fucking up their trade.

The Gardener's Arms, Lewes.

Mind you, we should probably do Gordon cocking Brown too.

* Now at 120.
** Technically, West Bournemouth UKIP.

Unintended consequences

Well, whadda you know? When the state passes laws, they often have unintended consequences; who would'a thunk it?
Ministers intend to take steps to counter a threat by property developers to leave buildings unfinished in an attempt to dodge an impending increase in business rates.

The measures, which are due to be announced this week, pit the Government against increasingly angry commercial developers - as the Treasury tries to raise an additional £1 billion in business rates from buildings that are unoccupied.

John Healey, the Local Government Minister, will ask local councils to make better use of existing powers, including forcing developers to speed up the completion of building works so that they cannot dodge taxes by leaving buildings incomplete.

Owners of unoccupied commercial property currently pay little or no business rates but the Government is planning to cut the existing reliefs from next month. That prospect prompted Ian Coull, the chief executive of Segro, to threaten to leave the roof off new unlet developments to avoid the rates bill.

Fuck, but we are ruled by fucking morons. Bloody hell, this cunting government just make me feel so fucking weary.

I can't be arsed to expand on this subject: why don't you wander over to The Englishman's Castle to learn how Brown and his moronic cronies have failed to learn the lessons of history...?

Driven to distraction

My, look at all those files that you absolutely cannot share with the Western Digital 1TB My Book World Edition.
(Click the image for a larger look at all those files that you absolutely cannot share with the Western Digital 1TB My Book World Edition.)

I have seen an advert for PC World tonight, in which they promote Wi-Fi networking. One of the products that they are advertising is the Western Digital 1 Terabyte My Book World Edition.

I feel that I should remind you all that Western Digital has crippled this drive so that it will not share certain types of files.

Here, as supplied by The Register, is the list of files that it will not share. You will note that the 35 file formats not supported include MP3, MP4, AAC, AIFF, AVI, DivX, WMV, WMA, OGG, and QuickTime.

Unless you don't want to share... well... any files that an ordinary person might want to share, do not buy this drive.

This has been a public service announcement from your humble Devil.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Vista still a triumph!

A little while ago, I read the following on Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler.
MicroShaft™ is due to release Vista Service Pack 1 on Tuesday, and shortly thereafter, the final Service Pack for XP.

But here is the caveat:

Aparently, there are some computers currently running Vista that have certain drivers on them that cannot be upgraded with the new Service Pack. Last week there was an automatic upgrade that went out that caused those machines with the drivers to fail in the middle of the upload, causing the machine to do the continuous reboot routine.

So MicroShaft™ is going to block those machines from getting the SP1 upgrade.

They refuse to let people know what the drivers are, or what hardware those drivers are for. If you go to the Windows Update site, you just won’t be offered the option to upgrade to SP1.

In other words, they intend to just let you stick with the heavily patched, original version of Vista — you’ve come as far as you can go.

This creates a really complicated problem.

MicroShaft™ is NOT going to create a separate Vista stream for Automatic Updates. Any security patches that come after the SP1 upgrade will only be applied to those computers with SP1.

Sure, you might be able to downgrade to WinXP. but if you bought your machine right when Vista was released, chances are you have some hardware in it was designed for Vista and will not work in XP.

Additionally, MicroShaft™ slated to stop selling XP at the end of June.

Surely not? Not even Microsoft would be this incompetent? So, I thought that I'd leave it for a little while and see if any more details emerged. After all, to be fair to Microsoft, they do have to support a lot of drivers and if it just peripheral drivers, well, such is life. And, of course, it could just be that those peripheral manufacturers weren't supporting Vista properly.

But now we have a confirmation of that story, and it's not peripheral drivers that aren't being supported.
PCs from Hewlett-Packard, Gateway, Lenovo, and other major computer makers that contain a widely used Intel chipset can't be upgraded to Windows Vista Service Pack 1 if they're running certain drivers.

Microsoft has said that Vista SP1 won't work with "a small number of device drivers." The list, however, includes drivers for an Intel chipset that's found in thousands of PCs and laptops.

The affected chipset is Intel's 945G Express series, which is used in computers from virtually all major system vendors. It's also found on standalone motherboards sold by Asus. The 945G Express chipset driver versions between numbers and won't work with Vista SP1, according to Microsoft.

Chipsets provide a connection point for all key subsystems within a PC.

The 945G Express chipset includes Intel's GMA 950 graphics core, which also won't work with Vista SP1 if those drivers are used.

Microsoft is urging Vista users to update all of their hardware to the latest drivers before even attempting to install SP1.

The service pack also won't work with computers that use certain, widely-deployed audio drivers from Realtek and certain drivers for security devices manufactured by Symantec. Microsoft has published a full list of drivers that are incompatible with the service pack.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is continuing to receive reports from computer users who say Vista SP1 is wreaking havoc on their systems.

Seriously, Vista is a complete fucking disaster, isn't it? I mean, naturally I have to suppress a belly-laugh (well, I don't normally suppress it, to be honest) every time that I see another Vista fuck-up story, but this is incompetence on a grand scale.

Fucking hellski...

Not even Remotely Mac

Via a Twitter acquaintance, I found this article on how to control your Mac remotely with Twitter. Essentially, you set up various Automator tasks and then use it through Mail.
Have you ever been in a meeting and realized that you had forgotten to bring the latest version of a file with you, been out on the town when you remembered you’d left your computer on and the power bill has just been unbearable lately, or forgotten when your mother-in-laws birthday was and needed to know fast?

Never fear, Now you can use Twitter to have your mac send you the important file, turn off your computer to keep your power bill low, and send your phone the date of your Mother in Law’s birthday.

So, in the example they use, you could text a couple of keywords to Twitter, which will then relay them to Mail—either by email or by RSS. This will then activate a Mail Rule that will launch an application and run a script. In this case Photobooth launches, takes a photo and then attaches that photo to an email and sends it to your work address, or whatever.
Now that your Mac is setup to receive instructions from Twitter you should be ready to send your first instruction. Either from or if you’ve already setup your cell phone with Twitter, send a message that includes the following text, “Twitter Take Picture”.

Once the message is sent through twitter you will receive an email that should trigger the rule we created and cause your Mac to take a picture using Photo Booth. If you setup the rule with RSS feed you may need to manually update the feed for it to get the new instruction.

If all has gone well, you will have an email with a picture of you looking amazed at the power of your Mac and the convenience using Twitter may bring to your life.

Is that cool, or what?

Better, through subscribing to Macinverse, I found another article that provides me with the means to do something I've been looking around for for some time.

Through the power of persuasion and deep enthusiasm, I have now converted my entire family to Macs; my father, my mother, both my brothers and my step-sister all have MacBooks. But just occasionally (very occasionally in the case of my brothers) they have a problem (usually it's Pater Devil who has forgotten how to change a certain setting for recording his LPs onto MP3).

The lastest version of the Mac OS comes with Screen Sharing built in, which is easy to do over a local network. However, what I really want to be able to do is to be able to control my family's Macs over the internet, but without having to pay $100 for Apple's .Mac service. However, I am not a programmer or network expert, and I couldn't find easy ways of setting up a VPN.

However, this Lifehacker article, Get Back To Your Mac Without Paying For It, takes you step-by-step how to achieve just that.
Once you've completed the setup I'm detailing below, you'll be able to remotely control your home computer like you're sitting directly in front of it (if you're familiar with VNC, that's all it is), access any of the files on your computer's hard drive just like you would if you were on the same network (or sitting at that computer), and pretty much anything else (provided it's not too graphic-intensive). The main draw is this: When you're done, you should be able to do virtually anything remotely that you could do sitting in front of that computer.

This is precisely what I need to be able to do. Not only will it be very useful for sorting out my family's computers but there have been many times when I have been out and about and stymied for the lack of a particular file.

I have done all of the setup, but haven't been able to test it yet. However, I shall be over at my father's house for lunch tomorrow and will get a chance to see if I have got the setup correct, by accessing my Mac Pro through my MacBook and my father's iMac. I have double-checked my settings and I am hoping that everything should go fairly smoothly.

In the meantime, this is what happens when you use Screen Sharing on one machine to open Screen Sharing on another machine and link back into the original machine.

Infinite screens!

UPDATE: it worked! it fucking worked without a glitch! VPN'ed into my machine from my father's network and am now back at home and have VPN'ed into his machine.

I am unreasonably excited by this, I hope you realise...

DISCLAIMER: I own Apple shares, which finally look to be back on the up.

The obligatory five years on...

I haven't bothered taking part in the whole Iraq War blogswarm, and Shuggy articulates precisely why.
There are a dozen different reasons why I'm not doing a Johann Hari. I might explain some of them in due course but here's just one: Johann describes himself as having been a 'cheerleader' for the invasion of Iraq and now he feels terribly guilty about it. Fair enough in as far as this goes because I think cheerleading is a fairly accurate description of what he did. But don't invite us all to do likewise because some of us didn't do this in the first place. Some of us were more circumspect. Some of us backed the war even though we knew the outcome wasn't certain. Some of us had misgivings about the whole enterprise from the outset and so felt less need to acquire them after the fact. Some of us were there for the first one and made all the clever anti-war arguments at that time. Then came over a decade of 'containment' over which time we came to the conclusion we'd been wrong. So when it came around a second time, we could do no other but lend our reluctant support. This forms part of the reason why some of us aren't repenting today.

The only difference was that I felt that the First Gulf War was justified: Saddam had invaded a sovereign country and we had a clear mandate to take action. However, the dithering over that war—do we topple Saddam, don't we topple Saddam, how far into the country can we invade, etc.—set an entirely predictable precedent for this one, i.e. a chronic lack of planning and absence of cohesive strategy as to what we'd do once we'd actually "won".

For what it's worth, though, I still think that my posts on why the war occurred and what the likely course was are still relevant.
The first and obvious thing to ask is why Iraq and Afghanistan were attacked in the first place; and here, I am afraid, I am going to have to extrapolate some of the thinking in the White House. When 9/11 happened, Bush and his advisors not only had to find out who did it for security reasons, but also to appease the people who wanted a scapegoat. Much of what happens in the terrorist world is known by security services around the world, notably by Mossad who are—as it were—on the doorstep. The White House were aware of the training camps in Afghanistan (they had, after all, essentially set them up themselves) and, given the weakness economically and lack of popular support for the Taliban—both within and without the country—it seemed an easy, and effective, target. And so, within reason, it proved.

Why was Iraq chosen? Some people have pointed to a motive of postively psychotic, and thus pretty unlikely, pietas; others pointed to the oil. The fact is that the US itself produces the vast majority of the oil that it uses, and most of the rest comes from Venezuela and other South American countries. Sure, they may want to gain control of oil supplies; but would they really go to war, with all the expense—both in terms of money and in the possible loss of American lives (and votes)—that that could entail? As Saudi Arabia, the country with the most reserves, was still more than happy to deal oil to the them, it would seem to be foolish to pursue a course which could, in fact, turn Saudi—and its oil reserves—against the US. In fact, the oil companies specifically lobbied Bush not to attack Iraq. I think there was another reason.

I think that both Afghanistan and Iraq were chosen because they were not Iran.

You will have to forgive the style; they were both written very early on in my blogging career, in January and July 2005. Still, it is worth bearing in mind the attitude of Islamists in Iraq too (unfortunately, the link to The Herald article is now broken, and I can't find anything on their site earlier than January 2007). Here is the quote, and you'll just have to take my word for it that I am not making it up (this was the tenth post I ever wrote, by the way).
Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the terror chief, warned Iraqis yesterday he would wage a "bitter war" against next Sunday's election... "We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it," a speaker identified as al Zarqawi said on an Islamist website. "Those who vote . . . are infidels. And with God as my witness, I have informed them (of our intentions)."

That was written a couple of days before the democratic elections in Iraq, when al Zarqawi (and others) were threatening to attack and bomb any Iraqis taking part in the elections. This wasn't any noble insurgency against evil invaders: it was an insurgency against "the principle of democracy".

Of course, things have changed considerably in the intervening three years: fuck knows what any of us are fighting for now.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Economic illiteracy

Commander Makara, the baddie in Star Fleet.

Wow! I mean, seriously, wow! I have read some incredible loads of old shit over the last few years (and I've written a few), but I think that this Conservative Home article by Tony "Commander" Makara might actually be the single most stupid piece of crap that I have ever read.
Well, for a start we in Britain should stop importing goods that we can produce for ourselves. Why are we importing microwave ovens from Russia, radios from China? We can make such items here, the production of such items would create jobs, that would mean the people rotting away on benefit would no longer be on benefit, they would be working and actually contributing to the nation through tax rather than taking from the nation by being on benefit. They would also be earning money which they would spend to buy other British made goods and the wealth generated would stay in Britain rather than flowing out of the country to benefit another nation.

Already we can see that producing for our domestic market, that is having a home-market economic policy, has many advantages. The cheap Chinese radio may no longer be available but in its place we have people working, people no longer on benefit, people spending money that stays in Britain, money that British producers can use to re-invest.

Timmy explains why at The Globalisation Institute.
Now indeed, it is true that if we were to reduce significantly imports we could both reduce unemployment and increase home production. At first, that is. But if we were to do so then we would also start to get second order effects: like fewer foreigners buying our own products and thus raising unemployment again, this happening simply because we are sending fewer pounds out there into the global economy for them to buy such products with. It also seems perilously close to the idea that production is the reason and justification for production, which it isn't. As Adam Smith pointed out, the argument in favour of all production is consumption. The unavaibility of that Chinese radio and its replacement by a more expensive British one does indeed raise home production, but it lowers consumption, which isn't the point of the process at all.

Two more points, the first historical. It was precisely this line of thinking which created the trade crisis of the 1930s, when nation after nation placed tit for tat punishing tariffs on the exports of other countries. Now Makara's plan would require the UK to place heavy such tariffs upon imports, for the individual consumer would rationally be looking to buy the cheaper, foreign made goods. This would invite retaliation (however silly it would be) and make the entire world poorer. I would hope that no one puts forward the 1930s as an economic model to emulate, rather than the correct usage of that history, as one to avoid?

The second is by analogy. Again, as Adam Smith put it, as goes household economy, so that of the nation. It makes sense for the household to purchase those things from outside it that are cheaper than they can be produced within the household. My favourite example is wheat: we all have at least a windowbox, if not a lawn. We could grow some, if not all of our own wheat, thresh it, mill it and then bake our own bread or make our own pasta (for those on the healthier diets). But even to state it in these terms is to show how ridiculous the idea is: we all know that it is vastly cheaper to pay the supermarket a pound or two for bread each day than it is to go through that year long backbreaking labour, even if we do have the half acre of lawn that can be ploughed to feed the household. To pay for our imports from the supermarket we export from the household, almost all of us our labour.

And yes, we could have all of the children throwing stones at the rats, mother could be occupied with the spinning wheel all day and long into the evening to clothe the family: we could indeed make certain that not a moment of household time is not used in labour to support that household. Yet it's usually taken as a sign of civilisation, of our wealth, that we don't in fact have to do that, that we import such things into the household from outside it.

If we accept this line of reasoning about the household (and I agree that there are certain deep green types who don't actually accept this line of thought at all: they're the ones clothed in knitted tofu and chowing down on home made yurts), that it is the imports which make us rich, then we must also accept it for the nation.

For once you've accepted the idea of voluntary exchange (and the consequent beneficial effects of the division and specialisation of labour) then the only thing left to do is to define the extent of the market. And there's absolutely nothing, nothing at all, which says that the limit should be the household, town, county, tribe, nation, region or continent.

As Timmy points out, our only current natural trading limit is the entire globe. As transport costs have become cheaper and more available, we have traded more and more across thousands of miles. We call this process globalisation and it is steadily making us all richer.

And what is "Commander" Makara's response to Worstall? [Emphasis mine.]
Tim Worstall, you know perfectly well that the economic conditions of the 1930s were a unique phenomena and bear no relation to today. Furthermore the economic strategy I advocate would benefit all nations. Self-sufficency is a good thing and leads to greater economic security. You have to understand that the era of globalization is about to end. Many in the United States are now openly questioning the globalist ideology and this sentiment can only grow.

That's right, chaps; despite the fact that travel has become cheaper and easier than ever before, despite the fact that communications are more integrated and comprehensive than ever before, "the era of globalisation is about to end".

Tony Makara: you are a fucking moron.

The only thing that is likely to end the "era of globalisation" is if we deliberately attempt to do so through ridiculous and pointless caps on carbon emissions. That would fuck us up pretty badly but we are, in this case, our own worst enemy.

The only people in the US who have doubts about globalisation are those who, like Tony Makara, still inhabit a deeply-outdated mercantilist mind-set. That there are total fucking morons inhabiting the US as well as Conservative Home doesn't mean that we have to give them a platform.

Apart from anything else, Makara argues that benefits cost us money. Well, yes, social security payments cost some £120 billion every year. But our GDP—which is value added to our economy—is over a trillion pounds a year.

Essentially, Tony Makara is advocating that we wind our entire economic system back to the fucking Dark Ages in order to suit the least productive in our society. That's unbelievably stupid.

Is this a wind up? Sadly not.

In The Telegaph, Christopher Booker lays out a stark contrast between wind power and nuclear.
The director of renewable generation for Centrica, our largest windfarm developer, last week revealed that the cost of this plan to create 33,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity has doubled in three years, from £40 billion to £80 billion.

But since, thanks to fluctuations in the wind, offshore turbines generate on average only 27.5 per cent of capacity, the actual power produced by these turbines would be only 9,000MW, putting its price at £8.8 million per MW.

The latest nuclear power station being built in Finland at a cost of £2.7 billion will produce 1600MW, 24 hours a day, representing £1.7 million per MW. In other words, six nuclear power stations could produce more electricity than all those windfarms for only a fifth of the price.

If Centrica really wants to help Britain keep its lights on, it could, for £80 billion, build 30 "carbon-free" nuclear power stations to generate 48,000MW of electricity, more than the average 47,000MW now produced by all Britain's power plants.

But since this would not count towards meeting our EU renewables target, to do anything so sensible would put us in serious breach of EU law.

Stand by for those lights to go out.

Quite so. Timmy points out the obvious.
But if [if the figures are correct] then it’s rather an indictment of the idea of letting politicians pick and choose amongst technologies, isn’t it?

Indeed it is. In fact, your humble Devil has examined the viability of wind power—or, rather, it's lack of viability—on a number of occasions, most recently in January when I concluded thusly:
So, have you got that? To provide the electricity that we need, we would have to build £40 billion worth of turbines and then we would have to build conventional powerstations to underwrite 90% of the power that those turbines are supposed to generate!

Does anyone think that wind power is still a good idea? Apart from the fuckwits in the government, of course.

As Booker says, stand by for the lights to go out.

What will be interesting is whether the government of the day does actually blame the EU for this failure or whether they will desperately attempt to conceal that organisation's involvement (as all parties have been doing over the Post Office and rubbish-collection furores)...

Stop Boris: peddling lies

Via Question That, I find this (supposedly) non-partisan Stop Boris website. They have a lot of rubbish on there (and some that might not be, according to your personal prejudices), but the thing that I'd like to concentrate on is their fifth Stop Boris poster, which brings up the subject of Boris's involvement with Darius Guppy and Stuart Collier.

First, I would like to draw your attention to the picture in this poster. It quite obviously purports to show a picture of Collier after he has been beaten up, the implication being that this was done by Guppy's thugs (rather than with Photoshop).

Collier was never beaten up by Guppy agents (that isn't meant to be sophistry: I just don't know if Collier has actually ever been beaten up by anyone else).

Next up, is (being kind) a clear and undisputed factual... er... error.
... but the transcript of the call, as reported by the Mail on Sunday, can be read online.

The call was not recorded by the Mail On Sunday. In fact, the linked article clearly states, [emphasis mine],
The tape recording was made by Peter Risdon, the man hired by Guppy and his partner Ben Marsh to help them fake a jewellery ‘robbery’ in the Halloran House Hotel, New York, in February 1990.

So, how seriously should we take the other information on this site when they clearly haven't bothered to read their own source material?

Further, the whole incident has been given an entirely false spin by opponents of Boris; I have dealt with it twice before, when Polly raised it and then when Neil Harding attempted to push it forward.

You see, one of the interesting things about this whole incident is that said Peter Risdon is, in fact, a blogger and he decided to set the record straight some time ago. [Emphasis mine.]
As I mentioned in an earlier post, when I suspected Guppy might have framed me for a robbery in New York, I tapped his telephone - or more accurately, caused it to be tapped - and I released one of the tapes to the press. I know something of the background to this plot. I did at the time. I knew the heavies Guppy had commissioned to carry out the beating. They had a simple plan: take a 50% payment up front, then never do anything further. This is obvious when you listen to the tape, in fact. "The other chap's a bit impatient," explains the contact. "A bit of cash would calm him down". It's quite funny.

Less funny is the possibility that this episode could unjustly affect Johnson's candidacy for Mayor of London. I don't especially support Johnson, though I loathe Livingstone, but I'd like to see a fair contest. So let me just explain Johnson's role, as far as I can make it out from the tapes I made at the time.

He didn't know the heavies were planning to rip Guppy off. It must have seemed a serious plot. Guppy made it clear that he could try other means of finding the journalist's address. Johnson assured him he didn't have to - and did absolutely nothing at all to find it himself. I actually had that confirmed by Clive Goodman, the now disgraced formed News of the World royal correspondent who listened to the tape. Johnson said he would approach a specific third party. He specifically didn't. The only conclusion I can draw is that he was trying to make sure Guppy didn't manage to have the man attacked. Rather, he was stalling, waiting for Guppy's attention span to expire - a safe bet for those who knew him well.

I have to admit, grudgingly, that it is to Johnson's credit that he stood by his friend during his subsequent trial and conviction. I'd have prefered it otherwise, for personal reasons, but Johnson didn't abandon his childhood friend when it would have been convenient. I'm not aware he subsequently had much to do with him, but he wouldn't join in the pecking party.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say Johnson took the approach "never explain, never apologise". The full quote is: "Boldness has genius, power and magic in it... Never contradict. Never explain. Never apologise".

When I quoted this last time, Neil attempted to gainsay this evidence, which, I'll remind you, comes from the man who was involved in the whole thing and made the damn tape in the first place, and imply that I was spinning for Boris (like Peter Risdon, I am not (and never have been) a Conservative: I am a libertarian).

Peter replied very clearly to this comment.
If Guppy had found some willing thugs, and Johnson had not behaved as he did, the Screws journalist would have been beaten up. Johnson went to some lengths to stop Guppy trying other means of finding the address. He undertook to speak to two specific people in News International, where he had worked (at that time he was in Brussels working for the Telegraph). Clive Goodman made enquiries several months later and established that Johnson never approached these people.

It is, as DK might say, pretty fucking clear cut. The tapes have been in the public domain for years and there's no point my trying to distort this.

I don't think that you can actually get clearer than this, really. That the Stop Boris lot are attempting to wheel this out, whilst clearly implying that Collier was beaten up, borders on the libellous.

Of course, first one would have to find out who is behind the site, because they have gone to some lengths to hide their identities. The domain is registered through a proxy company in the US, and the Q & A section reveals only this:
  1. Who are you then?

    Boris has a lot of big money and powerful interests behind him. We don't. So we'd rather not say.

Well, that's all very well, except... Surely this site is trying to influence the outcome of a political election? As a result, should it not be registered with the Electoral Commission? Certainly, the identities of those behind it should be known, and certainly there should be a proper imprint on the posters.

Could anyone with a better knowledge of our electoral laws advise me here? Or should I just contact the Electoral Commission directly?

It's not that I hold a particular candle for Boris: I don't. But this site is attempting to influence the outcome of a democratic election and doing so by peddling lies, and I dislike that as much amongst "grassroots campaigners" as I do in politicians.

UPDATE: I've found this at the Electoral Commission website. [Emphasis mine.]
A third party is an organisation or individual who are not standing at an election, but who wish to campaign for or against a party or group of candidates. They have traditionally been subject to limits on the amount of money that they can occur opposing or supporting a specific candidate, but the limits introduced by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) were the first attempt at controlling national third party activity.

The pages in this section give information about:

The Stop Boris campaign quite clearly comes under the definition of a third party; so, are they on the register of third parties?

No, and they do not have to be. Third parties only need to register under the following conditions.
Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000, third parties that wish to spend more than £10,000 in England, or £5,000 in each of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland supporting or opposing a party or group of candidates must register with us as a recognised third party. Once registered as a recognised third party, a third party can spend more than these limits, but is required to manage its finances in accordance with the PPERA's regulatory regime.

Donations in kind to third parties must be declared.
When an organisation or individual is registered as a recognised third party, it is subject to controls on the donations that it can accept. These controls regulate any donations made to a recognised third party for the purpose of meeting controlled expenditure by or on behalf of it, and are similar to the controls binding on political parties.
Acceptance of donations
Recognised third parties are only legally allowed to accept donations of more than £200 from 'permissible donors'. Permissible donors are defined by the PPERA as:
  • an individual registered on a UK electoral register

  • a UK registered company

  • a UK registered trade union

  • a UK registered building society

  • a UK registered Limited Liability partnership

  • a UK registered friendly/building society

  • a UK based unincorporated association

Recognised third parties are prohibited from accepting donations of more than £200 other than from the above sources. Any donations of more than £200 from impermissible sources must be returned, and donations from unidentifiable sources cannot be accepted.

Types of donations
As for political parties, the PPERA gives a number of different examples of what counts as a donation. As well as straightforward cash gifts or bequests, the provision of non-cash support to help support controlled expenditure—such as providing free advertising space for a recognised third party to use to advertise—sponsorship must also be treated as a donation.

So, Stop Boris must only be registered as a third party if you can argue that the website and any other resources that they use amount to more than £10,000 (even if they were donations in kind, they'd have to be declared). Which I doubt.

Still, interesting stuff, eh? Just for your amusement, here are those that are registered as third parties.

The usual suspects then, but also some unusual names. Who on earth, for instance, is Mr Zaccheus Gilpin...?

UPDATE 2: Stop Boris responds and points out a few errors of mine.
The poster "quite obviously purports" to show Collier does it? Why would we, as John Trenchard has pointed out, have clearly credited the picture as being of Jon Snow then? The picture, like pretty much all the other poster pictures, are supposed to be representative, in a provocative way, of the kinds of things Boris stands for. Is the first of our posters 'obviously purporting to show' a statue of Bush in Parliament Square on the site of the Mandela statue because that is something Boris has built? I don't think so. The image of Jon Snow appearing to have suffered a beating represents the principle that Boris doesn't seem all that bothered by the idea of a journalist being beaten up - certainly not bothered enough to go to the trouble of, say, reporting Guppy's illegal intentions to the police.

You have also completely misread the first quote you have taken from the site and used your own misreading as an example of our factual error! It says the transcript of the call we have linked to is "as reported by the Mail on Sunday", not as *recorded* by the Mail on Sunday.

Nowhere has the site claimed anyone beat up the journalist. Indeed we even link to a video of Boris talking about it on Have I Got News For You, in which he clearly states that the journalist was not in the end beaten up.

You might want to read things more carefully in future before you make ridiculous accusations about factual errors and deliberate misrepresentations based on your own mistakes.

"So, how seriously should we take the other information on this site when they clearly haven't bothered to read their own source material?"

It seems the same could be said of your site!

Whoops! Mea culpa, and I apologise. I don't know my MSM journalists well enough it seems: I must watch more telly!

My substantial point stands, however; Boris did not assist Guppy and so to conclude that he "doesn't seem all that bothered by the idea of a journalist being beaten up" is mildly erroneous.

And what, precisely, would Boris have reported to the police? And with what evidence? Boris did not know that the phone call was being recorded.

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