Thursday, November 28, 2019

Moonbat still loony

It's always delightful to dip into George Moonbat's nutty articles...
We cannot rely on market forces and corporate goodwill to defend us from catastrophe. We should vote for parties – in this case Green or Labour – that allow us to make collective decisions about our common interests, leading to democratic intervention. No one has the right to choose whether or not to destroy our lives.
You are quite right, George—no one does have that right. Including the fucking government.

So stop urging people to vote for people that absolutely do believe that they have "the right to choose whether or not to destroy our lives", you tit.*

* Yes, every political party believes that they have this right, it's true. There are no viable classical liberal options in this election, nor any that I have been able to vote in. But Labour and the Watermelons are the very worst of the lot.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Own Jones telling...

Via Timmy, I see that Owen Jones keeps writing articles...
Why I am campaigning for Labour in this seismic election
Presumably it's because you're an evil Jew-hating Communist, Owen.

Apologies for the tautologies.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Hmmmm

Blog mascot Steve Baker discusses corruption in our voting system...
Most law-abiding citizens in the Wycombe constituency would be shocked if they knew the extent of corrupt election practices and voter fraud which happen each time there is an election.

I know of people who register to vote at different addresses in the town and then vote in the same election more than once in person and by postal vote.

I have heard accounts of candidates visiting electors’ homes and demanding postal votes are completed in front of them and then taken away.

I have testimony of one young woman’s unmarked postal vote being taken off her under duress by a relative and handed to a candidate.

There are instances of people impersonating others and voting at polling stations in their place.

It seems the price of a vote in some parts of Wycombe is £10, a free taxi ride or a free pizza. This simply cannot go on.
Agreed. Although I cannot resist a slightly flippant comment in respect of this...
I appreciate not everyone has a passport or driving licence and I agree with the Government’s proposal these electors should be able to obtain a free document proving their identity.
Oh? Like... Some sort of ID Card, perhaps...?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Did Boris Johnson and Vote Leave lie about the £350m per week?

Short answer: no.

Slightly longer answer: Vote Leave did play fast and loose with the actual definitions—hey! it's marketing. And in a political campaign at that—but still no. The ONS "Total Debit" figures that they were using at the time were perfectly valid.

Much longer answer follows below...

The generally acknowledged authority on statistics in the UK is the Office for National Statistics (ONS) (the clue, you see, is in the name). Every year, they release a general digest of the UK's trading position, etc., known as the Pink Book. It's quite interesting if you like that sort of thing (which your humble Devil does, from time to time), but the tables of data are usually rather more illuminating—after all, even the ONS is not above a bit of spin (political or otherwise).

Some spiv named Marcus J. Ball has decided specifically to summons Boris Johnson for "misconduct in a public office": the spiv claims that Johnson knowingly lied about the UK paying the EU £350m per week.
Boris Johnson has been summoned to court to face accusations of misconduct in public office over claims that he lied by saying Britain gave £350m a week to the European Union.

The ruling follows a crowdfunded move to launch a private prosecution of the MP, who is the frontrunner in the Tory leadership contest.

Johnson lied and engaged in criminal conduct when he repeatedly claimed during the 2016 EU referendum campaign that the UK handed over the sum to Brussels, Westminster magistrates court was told last week by lawyers for a 29-year-old campaigner who has launched the prosecution bid.
Why the spiv has cited Boris rather than the Vote Leave team (or even Dominic Cummings) who actually came up with the slogan, I shall leave to speculation (clue: it's a publicity stunt because Boris is running for Tory leader).

Regardless, what we want to know is this: did the Vote Leave team knowingly lie about the UK paying £350m per week to the EU? Or could we prove that they lied? Hmmm.

Bear with me here, whilst I look up a definition of "debit"...
debit (noun): (a record of) money taken out of a bank account
Any normal person would, I think, define "debit" as money leaving a bank account. Because that is what the definition is, yes?

Let us now turn to the data tables for the ONS Pink Book for 2016, and turn immediately to Table 9.9: UK official transactions with institutions of the EU.

This table shows that "Total Debits" (to be clear: their phraseology, not mine) to the EU, in 2015, were £19,593,000,000 = £376m per week.

Given our definition of debit, is it reasonable to assume that this money was, in fact, sent to Brussels? Is it reasonable to assume that this money was sent to the EU, and then some given back? Yes, I would say so.

The sin of omission, of course, is the credits. The same table shows that "Total credits" were £9,240,000,000, resulting in a negative "Balance" of £10,353,000,000, i.e. that the net payment to the EU is a paltry £199.1m per week (so I, for one, feel much better).

In any case, as per standard business accounting, that full amount—the £350m per week—is a liability that needs to be accrued for within that financial year and, even if the money does not actually go into an EU bank account, it cannot be spent by the government until the end of the financial period (when all of the accruals are reconciled).

Why? Well, I think that this is illustrated by the Pink Book of 2018—which records wildly different figures for 2015. The "Total debits" are much lower, but so are the "Total credits"—giving a net figure that is actually larger than that recorded in the 2016 Pink Book: £10,553,000,000 (only £202.94m per week, net). The point here being that the figures were not finalised even in 2016—we know this because the 2018 balance is different—and so must be accrued for.

A pertinent question to ask though, is why the figures are so different between the ONS Pink Book 2016 and ONS Pink Book 2018?

Well, you might remember the ONS publishing a clarification about the UK's contribution to the EU, with figures that were wildly different (and lower) than those contained within the Pink Book of 2016. WTF?

As it turns out, before the clarification was published in October 2017, the ONS decided to change the way in which it accounted for the famous rebate—which is in both sets of figures as the "Fontainebleau abatement" line item. Up until 2016, the Fontainebleau abatement appears as a positive credit in the data tables; after
the referendum the ONS's sudden revelation in 2017, the Fontainebleau abatement appears as a negative debit.

Although the overall balance remains (broadly) the same, the Total Debits for 2015 has now dropped: from £19.593bn (in the 2016 edition) to £14.804bn (in the 2018 edition). And, in fact, according to the ONS statement, a "similar presentational change had also been previously introduced within the Public Sector Finances published in September 2016". The timing of which is a lovely coincidence, I think you'll agree.

Anyway, in conclusion, what do we think of this court case? Your humble Devil concludes as follows:

  • including the rebate, from the ONS's own figures and phrasing, the Total Debits amounted to £19,593,000,000 = £376m per week;
  • a normal person would understand a debit as money leaving a bank account—in this case, leaving the UK's bank account to land in the EU's;
  • even if this actual transaction did not happen, basic accrual accounting ensures that the full amount of money liable could not be spent by the government: as such, which actual bank account the money was residing in was not important in terms of, say, wanting to further fund the NHS;
  • the clarification from the ONS that such immediate bank-to-banks transfers did not happen was not published until October 2017—around 16 months after the referendum;
  • the ONS changed the way that it accounted for the rebate—but not until September 2017;
  • is it thus reasonable to believe that the Total Debit of £376m per week was "sent to Brussels"?
  • I guess we'll find out, but I would say "yes".

In the view of your humble Devil, however, this court case is a frivolous waste of time and money—and actively dangerous in terms of our democracy.

But—hey!—that's Remainers all over: they don't care what systems they fuck up, as long as they get their own way.

P.S. In case it comes up (and it will) most payments from the EU to the UK (credits) are irrelevant, really. If someone said to you, "give me £20; I'll give you £10 back—plus you have to skip around, from this day forth, whilst whistling the Chicken Song" you wouldn't do it, would you?

Monday, March 04, 2019

Reforming politics (1): the state of play

Whilst all of politics seems to be devoted to Brexit at the moment, your humble Devil has stated repeatedly (both before and after the vote) that the political and economic landscape of the UK needs massive structural reform.

If, as many assert, the vote to leave the European Union was inspired not by the EU itself, but by the many and varied issues facing the country—issues that go way beyond the vaunted “austerity” measures—then, regardless of the outcome of the current (pathetic) negotiations (and regardless of how you voted), it is very much worth looking at what might be done to fix them.

The problems come in two interlinked flavours:

  • politically, the UK is hugely centralised—more so in some ways, it has been asserted, than the Soviet Union. This leads to people feeling that their voice is not heard, and to a degradation of democracy;
  • economically—outside of London and the South East (and a few scattered cities), the UK economy is moribund at best, and near non-existent at worst.

Combine a massive population of people who believe that they have very little with a demos that feels it has no power, and history tells us that you will always have an irruption of protest, at best; bloody revolution at worst. (It is why democracy is said to be the "least worst” political option that we have found—because people believe that they have power, even when that power is hugely diluted.)

The Leave vote is at the less harmful end of that protest scale—for which we should be grateful. Our tin-eared politicians are, of course, working diligently to prove to population that the UK’s democracy is a sham and that their power is utterly illusory—but let us assume that our lords and masters locate their testicles, and extract us from the EU properly.

And then what?

The internal settlement


What our trade and foreign policy should be (free trade, obviously) is out of the scope of this post: let us focus, instead, on our internal political settlement.

Although I do not necessarily agree with all of the details of the Harrogate Agenda, your humble Devil does agree with many of the principles outlined in it—and including Pete North’s assertions that we need to radically decentralise our political structures.

But, in the spirit of Chesterton’s Fence, let us look at:

  • how our governance is currently conducted;
  • where we want to get to, and;
  • why we might have got to where we are.

Our current government structure


Most cursory students of government will understand our current structures rather similar to this diagram:


In the current model:

  • people pay the bulk of their taxes to central government;
  • central government is lobbied by think-tanks and quasi-automonous non-governmental organisations (QUANGOs) and Non-governmental organisations (NGOs—many of whom are, in fact, fake charities or, if you prefer, sock-puppets);
  • central government departments administer some of the policies centrally;
  • central government actually offloads the vast bulk of the administration of these centrally dictated policies to local authorities;
  • most of the time, policies that the government thinks are going to be hugely unpopular are handed off to QUANGOs;
  • which, in turn, offload the administration of these policies to local authorities;
  • crucially, local authorities have very little policy-making and minuscule tax-raising power;
  • and local authorities must then spend their money on enforcers to ensure that cigarettes are suitably hidden behind shutters rather than doing what voters expect them to do, i.e. collect the bins once a week;

This whole structure is, frankly, crap. Some of the reasons that it doesn’t work:

  • central government makes homogenous policies with little to no consideration of operations (or prices) at a local level;
  • with central government often divorced from local pressures, government becomes even crappier than it might be;
  • local authorities have almost no power: which means that local people do not engage with local politics. One side-effect of this is that those elected tend to be even more shit than national politicians but, most importantly, people feel disenfranchised from politics entirely;
  • central politicians generally like this, as political disengagement means that the electorate are disinterested in examining the myriad ways in which politicians line their own pockets and, frankly, fuck things up through their sheer incompetence;
  • civil servants love it, because no one knows or cares just how much they, too, are filling their boots and avoiding scrutiny;
  • crucially, with central government making most policy decisions, there is almost no scope for competition—except, of course, between countries (and this is being constrained, as we will see);

In short, this is a recipe for unbelievably rubbish politics in the short term, and political disaster in the longer term. But, of course, it just gets worse…

Everything is a remix (of sockpuppetry)


The corruption of local politics was a central reason for the ever-increasing centralisation of government—especially under the Conservatives in the ‘80s. Further, for Thatcher’s government—fighting wars on multiple fronts e.g. the unions) whilst requiring swift, radical change (to bring the economy back from ruin)—centralising power meant that reforms could be made faster and with less local oversight (but I repeat myself).

However, for governments with an internationalist agenda, these reforms also proved fortuitous in other ways.

In we take account of structures outside of the UK, the world works rather more like this:


In this model:
  • supranational organisations—such as the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Health Organisation (WHO), and others—make worldwide policies, which are passed down to national governments or other supra-national organisations (such as the EU);
  • these supra-national organisations are paid for by national governments, which often lobby these same supra-national organisations to “force” national governments to do things which their populations do not want. As an example, the UK is the biggest funder of the WHO (£168m in 2017) and of their Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (3.5m in 2017) and has advocated some of the strictest anti-smoking measures within those fora—the policies of which filtered down into the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (which, amongst other things, introduced stricter advertising, banned the sale of ten packs and, shortly, menthol cigarettes). The plain packaging was, of course, our own government taking its cue from Australia’s failed experiment. If you don’t remember voting for any of this, you’d be right—you didn’t. And if you asked the government… well… it’s out of their hands, innit;
  • at the behest of member states, supra-national organisations aim to “harmonise” as much of life as possible (state-speak for “remove choice from common people”): if you have got the impression that there is essentially no difference between the political parties, this is why. And you wouldn’t be alone—witness the election results favouring “populist parties” (state-speak for “parties representing the concerns of the ignorant, dirty common people”), in the last few years, in USA, Italy, Brazil, etc.;
  • so, supra-national organisations hand down (lobbied for) policies to national governments, who pass some legislation (“terribly sorry, old chap: you may not have voted for it, but it’s out of our hands.” [snigger]), and then (usually) pass enforcement down to the local authorities;
  • local authorities must then spend their money on enforcers to ensure that cigarettes are suitably hidden behind shutters rather than doing what voters expect them to do, i.e. collect the bins once a week;
  • finally, do remember that all of the funding for these supra-national organisations comes, ultimately, from member states’ taxpayers. If you thought that the UK’s central government was unresponsive to people’s local needs, just how responsive do you think the rarified policy-makers of the Geneva-based WHO are, eh?

I want to break free


In (attempting to) leave the European Union, we are getting rid of one level of supra-national government—and one of the worst. For whilst the policies of the WTO, WHO, etc. depend on countries agreeing to abide by them—and countries can, to an extent, opt out of certain policies—the EU tends to enact those same policies into legal instruments that member states must legally abide by.

And one must acknowledge that these supra-national organisations do have their uses: the WTO tries to standardise rules for trade, and push for more free trade by lowering both tariff and non-tariff barriers.

But the problem is that, sooner or later, such bodies always become corrupted. The WHO, for instance, has moved from its drive to eliminate real diseases such as smallpox (which it was successful in), to attempting to “eliminate non-communicable diseases by 2030” (state-speak for ”anything that might kill you that isn’t a disease” or, in this case, ”eliminating death”!): this latter mission means regulating the day-to-day lifestyles of ordinary people which is, and I cannot emphasise this strongly enough, )not the proper business of government.

Central dictatorship


These organisations love a centralised government because it makes it far easier for them to implement their increasingly deranged policies—with a centralised modern government there is, as it were, one throat to throttle.

And in the UK, central government essentially has all of the power—local people do not really have any representation at all, except for a sham General Election every five years or so. They do not even have the kind of multi-tiered representative structure of states in the USA.

This needs to change—and change soon. My next blog post will examine, at high level, what this change should look like and the systemic implications of doing so.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A paucity of vision

Via Guido, I find this (for some reason) much lauded video of Attorney General Geoffrey Cox making the case for May's subsequently doomed Withdrawal Deal.

It is an extraordinary piece. For, around 25 seconds in, the silly sod says this:
I believe the opportunity for this House [of Commons] to hold the pen on forty percent of our laws—from environment to agriculture and fishing—should excite us.
Really.

Uh huh.

A whole forty fucking percent?

You think that being able to control a whole forty fucking percent of our laws should excite us, you fat fuck?

This...? This is your vision of an exciting Brexit?

For fuck's sake, no wonder our negotiators have done such a fucking shit job—after all, our Attorney General sounds like he would have got a semi at 5%.

Fuck you, you terrible, visionless twat. Fuck you right in your fat face.

Moonbat still loony

It's always delightful to dip into George Moonbat's nutty articles ... We cannot rely on market forces and corporate goodwill to de...