Please note that unless I say otherwise I am only talking about British politics here, and where it matters, about English politics, not those of the wee pretendy parliament, and certainly not about the politics of the rebel colonies. I will also paint with a rather broad brush apart from when talking about my own personal views.
I've got into lots of political arguments recently, and I thought it would help if I were to write some long-form explanations of why I hold the positions that I do.
So, first, I'm a Liberal. This is merely a description of someone who wishes to maximise everyone's individual liberty and minimise government intervention in private life. I recognise that government is necessary: without it, we'd very briefly live in happy anarchy until someone (or rather, a few someones) became just a little bit stronger than their fellows, and abused that to achieve a position of dominance. Without government, we'd have tyranny and the vast majority would have their liberty severely curtailed. However, too much government also leads to tyranny, as it attracts the sort of people who like telling others what to do - and they just love being able to pull peoples' financial strings to turn them into their enforcers.
It's hard being a Liberal. Everyone else has easy answers. The Socialists (and I used to be one) want to give everyone the same opportunities (which is certainly a laudable aim) but the way they want to do it, by regulating and restricting and with high taxes, generally only helps the worst off a little bit, harms the vast majority a little bit or at least doesn't help them, and a very few benefit greatly from it. Their hearts are in the right place, even when it comes to most civil liberties, but what they actually do doesn't work, and the very regulations and restrictions that they try to help with end up restricting liberty, and that's before they get desperate about how everything they've done hasn't abolished poverty like Labour claimed they would do.
Conservatives want to give everyone the same economic opportunities by reducing regulation willy-nilly, by actively assisting large corporations (but only large corporations belonging to their petty tribe, of course, foreign corporations are BAD unless they can pay bribes, sorry, I mean donations to party finances), and hope that this will produce an economic boom that even the poorest will benefit from but which their rich chums will benefit the most from. Unfortunately, their un-nuanced approach, blindly slashing away "red tape" means that those who are worst off can be harmed in the short to medium term, even if in the very long term they might be better off. Thankfully, at least in the UK, they don't want to do away with all social safety nets, but in some other countries they try to get rid of all of them, even health care. The Conservatives also have a nasty authoritarian streak which is most visible in their treatment of foreigners but is also detectable in their treatment of just about any other small minority and (at least historically, but now to a very much smaller degree) of women.
Finally, there's the fringe movements. There's Libertarians, who want to abolish government entirely but don't believe that it would degenerate into tyranny. None of them have bothered to watch any news reports about what happens when there's no government. What happens is called "Somalia". Another sect of Libertarians, who call themselves Minarchists, want to abolish government entirely apart from its role in enforcing contracts. But to enforce contracts you need courts and some form of police, and some form of punishment for those in the wrong (because without that there's no point having the court and police in the first place) and all of those need funding. Either they get funded by user fees (which in practice means that the poor are frozen out of justice) or by taxes. So really they're just a radical form of Conservative, although of all these groups they're the closest to being Liberal. And then there's the Fascists. All of these groups merge into others at the edges, of course, including Liberals.
Anyway, let's ignore the fringe weirdos.
Socialists and Conservatives both have easy answers when asked "how will you fix this social ill?" - "regulate more" and "regulate less and be protectionist". Liberalism, on the other hand, is "the presumption in favour of the autonomy of natural persons in any given situation ... unless there is a [demonstrable] greater public interest in interfering with that autonomy" [source]. So while I agree with the Conservatives that we should regulate less, I am rather more discriminating than they are about which regulations are bad, and I also agree with the Socialists than some regulations are a good thing and that in some areas we could perhaps do with a few more.
As for why I am a Liberal - it's all about maximising my own individual liberty but tempered by the fact that I'm a nice guy. I could maximise my individual liberty by being an evil Fascist bastard (Mussolini had lots of liberty!) but I couldn't live with myself if I did that, and anyway, I doubt I'd be very good at it so if I were a Fascist I'd more likely end up helping someone else get to the top of the heap who would then oppress me - but even more likely, I'd fail and just be a bitter loser like every member of the BNP is. In fact, you can maximise your own liberty by becoming top dog in any of these political systems, provided that you can get to power and hold it. To maximise my own liberty (while not being a fascist bastard) I need to be surrounded by other liberated people: it's easy for the powerful to crush the liberties of a small number of people, but much harder to do that to everyone. I am being utterly selfish when I want you to have individual autonomy!
I shall write some more of these longer blog posts in the future. Topic I've got lined up, but which I want to spend some time thinking about so I can squeeze the concepts into words, include:
The position of companies
So, everything really :-)
Posted at 20:17
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
Durham Cathedral is (at least inside - the outside is grey and dreary like the rest of the north) a staggeringly beautiful building. And yet I hate it. I hate it because of the reasons it was built, what it has been used for, and how it is still being embellished.
The current building was started in 1093, replacing a previous building on roughly the same site. Most of the present structure either dates from that time or is at least built roughly to the 1093 design. The building was largely complete by 1135. The towers date from the 1200s, and since then various smaller changes have been made as well as substantial repairs, particularly in the 16th and 18th centuries.
In 1093, Durham was a tiny settlement. We don't know exactly how tiny, but the far more important city of London had only 15,000-ish inhabitants at the time, and the whole of northern England (including Durham) had only a few years before been subject to the Harrying of the North. This involved the utter destruction of many settlements, burning of granaries, stored food, and livestock, the salting of the land to prevent crops from growing for years, and the death of over 100,000 people. Some of the remaining population were reduced to cannibalism according to some chroniclers. All of that because a handful of lords rebelled - the vast majority of the peasant victims had done nothing wrong.
So the cathedral was built to be far bigger than was needed at the time - these days, when it is filled with chairs and there are fire regulations, it can comfortably seat 3000 - and is also far bigger than any reasonable contemporary projection of population growth would make necessary. Cathedrals and churches are, of course, utterly unproductive, being mere consumers of wealth produced by others. To build the cathedral was very expensive, and that money could only come from the local population, who paid taxes to the "prince bishops" and tithes to their parishes. That money was used partly to buy skilled labour which would have otherwise been used more productively rebuilding towns and villages and mills and other useful things. And it was partly used to buy gold and silver and all kinds of other useless things that don't exist in the north so "had to" be imported to embellish the cathedral.
The cathedral was a staggering waste of resources at the time. It was built to, according to its own website, "testify to the power of Norman overlords establishing their authority in the land they had conquered". Sure, it does have a religious function too, but that function could just as easily be carried out by a far smaller, more humble building. One rather like the one that was destroyed to make room for the current monstrosity. Remember, in the 11th and 12th centuries, England was just like the poorest most backward parts of the third world are today (only colder). And when the rulers of places like Liberia or the Congo build massive monuments to their own egos, funding them through extortion and corruption, we condemn them. For the same reasons, we must condemn the rulers who built Durham cathedral and condemn the cathedral as being a monument to man's greed, his lust for power, and to brutal dictatorship.
And that pious waste of resources continues to this day. The north is still a poor area, especially now that its heavy industries have collapsed. And yet, instead of using their money to do good, some of those northerners who are well off and christian prefer to spend it on decorating the cathedral. It contains statues of recent bishops, despite a certain book saying quite clearly "you shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth", made out of marble. It even has a brand new stained glass window "celebrating" all those industries that are dead and gone. Although, given the context of the rest of the building it seems to me that it could equally be mocking all those thrown out of work, or be a warning from those rich enough to afford such windows that if the remaining workers get uppity, this is what will happen to them.
Nearly ten years after a small outbreak of an insignificant disease, the press are still telling lies about it. This story about some obscure disease of horses attempts to draw parallels with the foot and mouth disease outbreak in the UK in 2001: "The outbreak has disturbing echoes of the early stages of the 2001 Foot and Mouth epidemic, which claimed the lives of 10 million sheep and cattle and cost the country an estimated £8bn".
However, foot and mouth is rarely fatal. It's not foot and mouth that killed millions of animals in 2001, it was the human response to it. Not only were plenty of infected animals killed which would have otherwise survived, 80% of the animals culled were disease-free! While it is obviously a Good Thing to limit the spread of a painful disease, that spread could have been controlled by a programme of vaccination. This would have been far more humane, efficient, and cheaper in both the short- and the long-term than the indiscriminate slaughter that we instead witnessed. What the slaughter achieved was to publicise the infection and make it news-worthy, pander to the short-term interests of the highly-subsidised but economically insignificant agricultural export industry, and cause a great deal of harm to other rural businesses and to peoples' enjoyment of their beautiful countryside.
The argument against vaccination was that the presence of foot and mouth antibodies made meat unsaleable abroad. Fine, so sell the carcasses of vaccinated animals on the domestic market, without destroying rural businesses such as hotels - many of which lost huge numbers of customers because, after all, what's the point of visiting the countryside if all the footpaths are closed? It's not as if we're a nation of feeble vegetarians! Those carcasses would not have been harmful to human health. And when the disease spread to the Netherlands, it was dealt with by vaccination. In recognition of the abject failure of the old policy, the law was changed later to allow vaccination, just as everyone apart from the National Farmers' Union had been saying for ages.
I got home this evening to find a leaflet from the Conservative party waiting for me, urging me to vote for them in the local elections. It says, amongst many other things:
If as the polls suggest the Conservative Council is re-elected, we believe Thornton Heath would be best served by having Conservative councillors ... rather than opposition councillors who have no influence
So I've emailed them to ask:
This is remarkably similar to something that Simon Burns MP said in one of his election leaflets years ago when I lived in Chelmsford. Strangely, despite (according to him, and now you) voters being best served by a representative who is a member of the party in power, he didn't immediately resign his seat when he won in 1997 but the Tories lost over-all. Will you promise to do what he should have done, stick to your guns, and, in the interests of Thornton Heath, resign if the Tories don't get a majority on the council?
If not, why should I vote for you, seeing that you'd be effectively promising to represent me badly?
If they reply, I'll post their reply here. If they don't reply - well, you can interpret that however you like.
Overall, I find their promises for local government reasonable - at least those that they have any control over - although some of the headlines are predicated on a Tory win nationally as well. My biggest quibble is that they want to replace schools with "Academies". Why go to the extra expense instead of just fixing schools that aren't doing so well?
Posted at 19:47
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
This article by the Roman archbishop of New York makes one thing very clear:
You're familiar with the crescendo of recent stories on the sad and disturbing case of a German priest accused in 1979 of the vicious crime and sin of sexually abusing minor boys. When these hideous allegations came to the attention of this priest's archbishop, a man by the name of Joseph Ratzinger - who now happens to be the bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI - he rightly removed the priest and ordered him to report for residential assessment and therapy.
Mr. Ratzinger knew that someone was accused of sexual crimes against children, but far from doing the right thing, he merely "removed the priest [from his parish] and ordered him to report for residential assessment and therapy". The right thing to do would have been to get the proper authorities involved. The proper authorities being the police. Ratzinger knowingly covered up for a kiddy-fiddler. This isn't just a misguided policy on his part, it's action on his part. Ratzinger aided and abetted a paedophile.
This is why the German government should issue a Europe-wide arrest warrant for this vile criminal.
The British Humanist Association are getting all shirty about evolution not being in the primary schools curriculum. Primary schools are those for sprogs up to about age 11.
The BHA is dead wrong. There are plenty of far more important scientific concepts for primary schools - such as, for example, teaching the scientific method, what theories and hypotheses are, some experimental design, very basic statistics, precision vs accuracy .... And indeed more important non-scientific things they should be teaching, such as Latin, geometry and geography. Evolution is way down the list.
It isn't even "the most important idea underlying the life sciences today" like what they claim. That would be basic arithmetic, without which you can't do any science at all. You also need all the other scientific bits and bobs I mentioned above before you can sensibly talk about evolution.
I forget exactly when I first heard in school about evolution. Probably during GCSE biology when I was 15 or so. I don't think it was specifically taught either, I think it just arose out of a discussion about the mechanisms of meiosis and mitosis and how mutations can be introduced.
Posted at 11:18
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
Right up until I listened this morning in my bed to Yesterday In Parliament, I didn't think the Speaker of the House of Commons should go - it would set a bad constitutional precedent. But his use of pettifogging procedural rules to prevent members from debating whether Mr. Speaker should go is the proof needed that Mr. Speaker should go.
My learned friend Mr. Geeklawyer says that while it would set a precedent, it would not be a bad one. I disagree. The constitution that we have, muddled and confusing though it is, has served us well, and should be fiddled with only after the most grave deliberation. There has been no deliberation at all, whether grave or no. There has simply been outcry, and a quick search for a convenient scalp.
But back to why his refusal to permit the debate indicates his unsuitability for his position.
In other arenas, motions of confidence in the Chair take precedence over everything else, for the simple reason that the Chair can use his position to direct all other debates. It is therefore absolutely vital that the Chair have the confidence of all sides. Mr. Martin obviously doesn't, so should *at minimum* permit them to debate whether he should stay.
Mind you, it now seems that he has, belatedly, done what he should have done all along as soon as the motion of no confidence had more than a mere handful of supporters. He has resigned, for which I applaud him. He resigned too late, and his resignation is not with immediate effect, so he only gets a "C, could do better" on his report card, but that's still just about a passing grade.
Of course, we probably won't ever know just how much (or indeed if) his arm was twisted. No doubt he'll be translated to the upper house, which I think would be a very bad idea. There shouldn't be anyone there who only gets a C grade.
Posted at 23:00
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
Having reflected further on the problem of MPs over-claiming for their legitimate (well, sometimes legitimate) expenses and paying them back, I have come up with a solution. I do hope that some Honourable Member will take up this modest proposal.
The problem is that many members, having accidentally claimed for things that they have indeed spent money on but should not have been able to claim for, do not have the money available to pay back what they owe. I propose that they raise this money by selling favours. I am sure that, for example, there is some MP who has the necessary influence with his party that he can get someone a seat in the upper house. I would be prepared to make a donation of £10,000 to such a member, allowing him to clear his debts and his name, and turn his full attention back to his job of representing his constituents in parliament.
This is not only in the best interests of the member, but of parliament, whose reputation is unfortunately somewhat besmirched at present, and also of the member's constituents who are currently not properly represented.
Posted at 20:10
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
Well, I suppose I had to write about this, everyone else is.
The electorate disgust me. When confronted with the waging of aggressive war, deliberate attacks on civilians, support for brutally murderous regimes, and torture - nothing. But piss an insignificant amount of money away on dodgy expenses and there's a slim chance that the government might fall. By comparison with my disgust for my fellow citizens, that which I feel for the dirty thieves in parliament is but a shadow.
And at least the MPs are being funny about it. Some of them are paying back what they stole from me and all the other taxpayers! And we all know that if you steal something but give it back when you get caught, that makes it all OK! Ha ha ha!
Trouble is, the voters are so fucking stupid that it will probably work. Oh sure, a few of the most egregious cases will get thrown to the wolves by their local party selection committees come the general election, but most won't, and people will just "vote for Labour" or "vote for the Conservatives" as usual.
Never mind that in this country we don't vote for parties but for individuals. Arsehats. It's time for another revolution. Let's see if we can make it third time lucky.
Posted at 21:16
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
The Filth currently have an incredibly stupid poster campaign going on, encouraging people to waste police time and money by phoning their "anti-terrorist hotline" about nothing at all. Of course, the real objective is to keep the sheople scared so that the state can use the excuse of TERRRRRRRRRRRR to trample even more on our civil liberties.
Here's my remix ...
And if you want the much bigger Photoshop version (which contains all the font info) so you can play this fun game, it's here (5MB). Do please post links to your versions in the comments, and I'll grab 'em and put them here as well.
Our freedoms are in danger not from bearded chaps with dark skin, but from our own government who are slowly but surely stripping away our liberties under the guise of protecting us from evil-doers. Please buy a copy of this poster and display it prominently.
Posted at 20:44
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
Some people are whining "where were the snow ploughs?" and "why weren't the roads gritted" because of the current SNOWAGEDDON. Of course, grit doesn't do any good either on top of or below 8 inches of snow. And in the last paragraph of this article a chap from Westminster City Council makes the obvious point that snow ploughs are only any use if there's somewhere to plough the snow to.
The chap from Camden is a bit silly though. Speed bumps are irrelevant. Why? Because if he had spent money on purchasing, storing and maintaining machinery that is only useful for maybe a day or two every twenty years and whose only purpose is the relieving of irritation (I could understand if it was life-saving, such as an obscure fire-fighting tool, but people not being able to drive to work easily is only an irritant) then he would have quite rightly been lynched by the tax payers for wasting their money.
We can wish anyway. Of course he wouldn't have been lynched, the British sheople prefer to register their dis-satisfaction by writing ungrammatical letters to the local press (circulation: 15,000; readership: none) but still voting for the same useless cunts every few years.
And I predict that in a few months time, quite a few completely useless snow ploughs will have been purchased by the various London boroughs, only to be stored away, not properly maintained after the first few years of inactivity, and sold at a loss to northerners in about 2015.
update: Norman Baker, Lib Dem transport spokesman, reckons it's an absolute disgrace that things go a bit pear-shaped when we have such unusual weather. He compares us to Sweden. As everyone knows, Sweden is an equatorial country where it only ever snows once every seven hundred years, so it's very much worth their while investing in the means to cope with it. I wonder where Mr. Baker thinks the money should come from to buy, store and maintain all the equipment needed for us to cope with unusual weather without the slightest interruption. And I don't just mean unusual snow. He would, of course, spout the same drivel about unusual heat, unusually heavy rain, and presumably freak tsunamis.
Surprisingly, it's someone from the Local Government Association, which represents a band of prize pillocks, who is making the most sense, saying "if we had hundreds of gritters on stand-by for a day like this, a day which happens once in every 18 years, we'd have to divert resources from somewhere else". Fuck me, I do believe we've found a public servant who can actually perform basic arithmetic!
Which bit of "zero tolerance" don't you understand?
The Scottish Government's zero-tolerance policy towards medical staff who don't wash their hands is a strange beast. A bit like the Haggis, which has three legs, two long ones on the downhill side and one short one on the up-hill side.
Because it doesn't appear to be zero-tolerance at all, as people will be warned several times that they're being naughty before being "disciplined". Ooh, nurse, discipline please! In any case, the policy appears to be largely unnecessary. The previous target was easily met significantly ahead of schedule, demonstrating that there wasn't a major problem in the first place. So it was just an excuse to piss more taxpayers' money up the wall on promotional materials, monitoring staff, managers for the monitors, and so on, and to make the Scottish Government look good in the press.
The government has this wonderful new wheeze that people who've been drawing state benefits for more than two years should be made to work for them. Of course, it's been tried before and quietly dropped, at least twice, but let's ignore that. Let's look at why this is a Really Bad Idea.
Obviously they're not intending that this work should be done in the private sector - because then they'd be earning a wage instead of drawing benefits. So they're expecting them to work in the public sector, or the voluntary sector. Now, if I run a charity, I'm not going to take those people. I've already got volunteers who actually want to do the work, so I'm not going to use labourers who don't want to do the work and so will do the minimum possible, slacking off and drinking my tea and eating my biscuits at every opportunity, all the while imposing costs on me for things like insurance, training, heating, lighting, and keeping an eye on them to make sure they don't steal shit.
So they're obviously going to be working in the public sector. The amount of money they'll be paid for their not-a-jobs will in the vast majority of cases be less than the minimum wage, thus depressing wages for menial work such as street sweepers, and (remember, they'd rather not be doing this) depressing the quality of the work. So the street sweepers end up on the dole. Of course, you'll also need a layer of management. Probably more than one. Hell, probably more than two - this is the government, after all - to supervise the non-free workerslabourers and correlate work done badly with benefits payments. Thus increasing costs (and taxes, or government borrowing, which equates to taxes anyway, just a bit later), getting a worse job done, putting more people on benefits - all round, a really bad idea. Incidentally, this is the same reason that I'm opposed to prison labour. By all means have the prisoners do their own cooking and laundry, but making products like screws and stuff for sale outside the prison has just the same bad effects.
And there's two other bad effects too.
Firstly, some of these people do actually want to work, they just haven't been able to find any. Any time they spend slaving away in these degrading non-jobs takes away time that they could otherwise use to look for work, and because the jobs will quite likely be manual labour, they will be knackered in what free time they have left, and so too tired to use the less time they have available in an effective manner. Second, some of them, while claiming benefits, are in fact working, doing jobs that the NHS and social services want to do but can't. An awful lot of people who work bloody hard caring for sick or elderly relatives are going to be fucked over (that's a technical term) by this.
It's just a stupid idea all round. Thankfully, just like the last time this was mooted, it almost certainly won't happen beyond a short trial in some grotty irrelevant northern town.
For fuck's sake, I'm beginning to sound like a Tory. So, in for a penny in for a pound. If you really want to stop people claiming benefits, stop paying them. Of course, you don't want to see families starving to death (they're worthless people, so you obviously don't care about them, but dead bodies are ugly, and cause disease which might spread from the slums into areas where real people live), so we'd need some kind of special institution for them to live in where, perhaps, they could be helped (at low cost, using poor quality tools) to work to produce the bare necessities of life like food and basic clothing. We could euphemistically call these places "work houses" :-)
The real solution is, of course, to stop fucking the economy over by pouring money down the drain of failed businesses (for the love of god don't bail out the car companies!), and instead to invest in useful infrastructure that will promote economic growth. How about starting with a proper high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Scotland. That would need plenty of unskilled labourers and the resulting prosperity in the blighted north would bring a fuckload of well-paying jobs, thus getting people off the dole in the long term.
A headline in one of the right-wing stupidsheets this morning read "Humanzee fear after MPs vote", above a story about how MPs voted in favour of scientific research and against Dark Ages superstition in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
Why would one fear our humanzee brothers? I for one refuse to discriminate merely on the grounds that a person has recent African ancestors.
This is why talking to the police is a really bad idea, and why I won't do it except to report a crime committed against me or someone very close to me. Even if the gentleman in question had his hardware replaced, he won't have got his data back - and without the data, his computer is useless. He can't even restore from backups, as you can bet they stole those too.
And he also now has jackbooted thugs trawling through all his personal information - his email, his online purchases, his porn, everything. These are the same idiots who he already knows sell private information on ebay. Joy!
OK, so this almost certainly didn't happen, because it originated in The Sun, but it's so believable and the principle of never talking to the police holds.
Posted at 10:17
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
There are apparently not going to be any more hand-outs of public money for the 2012 Olympics. Well, none from central government anyway. Who knows how much Londoners will be forced to pay through our local taxes?
But that's not what I wanted to write about. The interesting bit is what the new mayor said:
"This was a project, an Olympic Games, that was won, secured, commissioned at a time of economic plenty.
"We're being asked to deliver it in a credit crunch and with what people say is a recession looming. The International Olympic Committee understands that."
Boris ain't exactly the sharpest tool in the box, but he seems to be saying that the budget has increased because it's now harder to secure credit (that is, interbank loans and large commercial loans cost maybe 2% more per year). So that 2% a year equates to 5.325 billion pounds. Or an extra 133%. Even if they were counting on borrowing every single penny of the original 4 billion, there's no way in hell that an extra 2% a year would cost 5.325 billion quid. For that to be the case it would have to be a roughly fifteen year loan. No-one in their right mind would give such a loan to a company that will spend money for five years like it's going out of fashion, then really coin it for a year, and then never have any income ever again. At most the loan would be for six years. So if the "credit crunch" is to blame, then the crunch would have to have put interest rates up by 5%. Which it hasn't.
So, Mr. Johnson, where has the 133% cost increase really come from? Were the original bidders innumerate? Or did they simply lie? Those are the only two possibilities. Yes, I can understand some cost over-runs. But that much simply can't happen accidentally.
We all know that one of the pre-requisites for joining the police is that you are indescribably stupid (the others being that you are a violent thug, have right-wing politics, and are over 5'10" tall). However, this is even more stupid than normal. The dribbling idiots even showed the board game to the press as part of a "weapons stash".
Mind you, the resulting publicity has made so many people interested in buying a copy of the game that the makers' website has melted into a puddle of goo, so it's not all bad.
I will, of course, update this post listing any police officers who are not indescribably stupid if they can show me that they objected to the confiscation of a harmless board game and attempted to prevent their less intelligent colleagues from doing so. Until then, however, you may assume that all the Kent filth are thick as pigshit - and less useful as you can't make fuel from them.
Fuck me. Some people really are too stupid to be allowed to live. I refer, of course, to the parents who called their unfortunate offspring "Danika", "Pepita", and "Travers". And to everyone who didn't use a credit card. At them Oi have to larf.
Here's Dave's Rule Of Protecting Yourself From Business Failures: unless the goods are delivered right there on the spot, use a credit card. If your credit rating sucks and no reputable company will issue you one, get one from the corner-shop that you can load up with cash, effectively using it as a debit card. This will both protect you from this sort of fuckup and help your credit rating.
This does, however, raise a serious point.
All the customers who will now lose out are "unsecured creditors". That means that when it comes to determining who gets paid how much, they come third (and last) in line after the taxman and "secured creditors". I don't give a shit about the ordinary run-of-the-mill unsecured creditor. However, I do give a shit about employees. All of the company's employees are unsecured creditors too. They might be lucky if the company went bust immediately after transferring their pay to their bank accounts, but even so, they'll still be owed holiday pay, some will be on maternity leave, their pensions will be unpaid, and so on. It's not uncommon for an employee to end up several thousand pounds out of pocket. Employees can't protect themselves by using a credit card, or by somehow making themselves into secured creditors (ie, mortgage holders), but they're the ones who have actually tried to make the company work, far more so than the tax man or any thieving suit in a bank. So they should be moved to the front of the queue and get paid first. Before the tax man (who will get his pound of flesh from them anyway, not that it matters because his take from any failed company is a trifling amount to him), before secured creditors, and before all the customers.
Did you know that "fuel poverty" is defined as having to spend more than 10% of your income to heat a room to 21°C, or 70°F? Those people would be less poor if they turned the fucking thermostat down and put on a jumper.
And then the normally respectable Joseph Rowntree Foundation has said that the minimum acceptable standard of living costs £13,400 for a single person. Apparently the "essentials" that that will get you include booze, chocolate, a DVD player, CD player and a TV. If you have two children, then it is essential to spend £225 on a birthday present for each of them.
Delving into the details, apparently some people think that croissants are essential, that they need takeaway pizza, and that a suit is both essential and would cost only £40. Mind you, they only expect that shit suit to last two years before having to be thrown away.
Of those, the only one that is even arguable is a CD player if you have children, on the grounds that good music is educational.
As many of you will know, I'm a member of the Liberal Democratic party. That means that I get occasional emails from them. Today's says:
" With your help we can still ensure that Brian Paddick is the next Mayor of London... More people are coming to the same conclusion that we have: Brian Paddick is the only serious candidate for London Mayor and the only candidate deserving of a first preference vote.
" This race is far from over and we can win it with your help. "
Yeah right. Not only does he have no chance of winning, even if he did have a chance I'd not vote for him. Whoever wrote that really is sadly deluded.
Why? Because the only real power the mayor has is over transport. Ken Livingstone has an excellent record in this area, whereas Paddick has spouted a load of rubbish. He has said in the past that he wants women-only carriages on tube trains; that he would fund free wi-fi across London by slashing London Transport's communications budget (you know, the one that they use for informing people about things like tube lines being closed for maintenance, and about bus diversions; and the wi-fi would only be for the inner boroughs but you can bet that people like me in the outer boroughs wouldn't get a discount on our taxes); he has horribly illiberal ideas about increasing use of ANPR (although he rather stupidly wants to link it to "GPS technology" to identify cars entering London); he has delusions of grandeur and thinks that the mayor will have even a tiny bit of influence over building a new rail link to, errm, Scotland.
But worse than all that - he's ex-filth. He spent thirty years in the Metropolitan Police "Service". An organisation that he had to know was riddled with corruption and still is. I don't recall ever reading a single press article about him arresting officers for corruption and for wasting police time. That means that he tacitly approved.
Now, it's true, if you read his manifesto, there's a lot of good stuff in there. But read it sceptically. Make sure you ignore any part of it that promises things that have already been put underway by Mr. Livingstone, and any part of it that's not within the mayor's power. What you'll be left with is a lot of silliness, lots of very vague promises, and maybe just one or two good ideas. Sorry, but one or two good ideas ain't enough to defeat someone with a proven track record.
So, I'm going to vote for Livingstone. Johnson will be my second choice. My votes for the ineffectual members of the ineffectual London Assembly will be for Lib Dem candidates. Voting Lib Dem there can't do any harm. Won't do any good either, of course, apart from to piss the Supreme Leader off.
update: predictably, Paddick came a very distant third
I'm not sure which side to laugh at in this story. Are the hippies Sticking It To The Man, or did the hippies just forget to put their brains in gear that morning?
Actually, I bet there's a more prosaic answer - some third party decided to profit from the rush of hippies wanting to buy Tibetan flags, and just added that design to their usual large order of cheap flags that they buy from their Chinese supplier, without thinking.
A recent comment in Bruce Schneier's excellent blog prompted me to realise that - yes, the current mushrooming of surveillance in the UK isn't a plot to make people used to a police state so that one can be easily introduced later. It's a plot to smoke out those subversive elements who would dare to talk about any march towards a police state by pointing out how the populace are being acculturated to a police state.
Such people are not only paranoid and delusional, they're quite clearly WRONG.
According to some terribly earnest do-gooder on the TV (I apologise - I wouldn't normally watch, but the local PropagandaNews was on just before the rugby), "ten years ago one in four prostitutes was a foreigner, now it's the other way round". That is, she's claiming that one in four foreigners is a prostitute. Given that London (I assume she means in London!) has over two million foreigners living in it, that comes to over half a million hookers.
It was on the telly so it must be true.
My copy of the A-Z has 120 pages of indexes, with approx 500 streets per page. That's 60,000 streets, or roughly ten hookers per street. Assuming they each work 40 hours a week, there should be, on average, 2.3 hookers on every street at any time.
This is, of course, a Good Thing, as it means that there's Competition, which will drive prices down and quality up.
Here are a few facts about foot and mouth disease, and about farming in the UK:
The disease is only rarely fatal in animals.
Animals that have recovered can go on to be just as productive as if they were never infected.
It is almost impossible for humans to catch it.
Vaccines are available.
That clearly demonstrates that the response last time was totally unnecessary and out of all proportion to the "problem" it tried to solve.
The 2001 outbreak cost the UK £8 billion, plus a great deal of aggravation for normal people who were restricted from doing normal things like going for a walk in the countryside.
The whole of the agriculture industry in the UK, including the arable sector, is worth only £9 billion. Livestock farming is just 45% of that.
So, the cost of the unnecessary response to the last outbreak was equivalent to twice the yearly output of the entire livestock industry. If we assume that 10% of livestock farms were affected (which I am sure is a huge overestimate) then each one cost the nation 20 years worth of their contribution to society. No industry is worth that level of subsidy.
This story makes it clear why the US objected so strongly to the Serious Farce Office being told to drop its investigation into Saudi corruption in relation to an arms deal. Oh dear. If you're going to try to be devious and maneuvre your owners' competitors out of the way, then it's good manners to at least be a bit less transparent about it.
Is it any surprise that southerners generally hold much of the north in disdain? The people who live there seem to delight in building their homes on flood plains, not bothering to buy insurance, and then relying on government hand-outs (ie, southerners' money) to bail them out.
The moment the floods started last month in the north, there they were whinging to the press about how they had no insurance and that I should foot the bill. Compare with this weekend's flooding in the south, where people seem to have put up, shut up, and got on with clearing up.
This clear difference in culture makes a persuasive argument for English regional devolution and not just the answering of the West Lothian Question but also of the Why Does The South Subsidise The North question.
Small cider producers are exempt from paying duty on their booze, something which is vital to the survival of many of our hundreds of small cider producers. Moves are afoot to re-examine this exemption, and possibly scrap it. If this happens, it will mean the end for many small-scale producers and the consequent loss of many unique brews. There is a petition on the PM's webshite, asking him to ensure that they can continue brewing. I strongly urge all of my UK readers to sign up.
There is a humourous website called Conservapedia, which, much like Uncyclopedia is a parody of Wikipedia. Or at least, Conservapedia appears to be a parody, but it isn't. Plenty of far-right nut-jobs, mostly Americans (well duh, that's where most of the far-right nut-jobs live), seem to take it terribly seriously. At the time of writing, Conservapedia's front page includes this. I've highlighted Conservapedia's editor's comment in bold text:
Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has a message for Muslim extremists: "It's not just your methods that are wrong, your ideas are absurd. Nobody is oppressing you. Your sense of grievance isn't justified." But who said terrorists are grieving?
Note the confusion of grief and grievance. So, my advice for conservatives is to learn to speak English.
And incidentally, while I approve of the tone of the Dear Ex-Leader's supposed comments, he is wrong. Lots of Moslems are oppressed. They're oppressed by governments throughout the middle east and north Africa.
I'm very pleased to see this story about Moslem women learning martial arts. It's something I've been advocating for a longtime (in the second piece, search for 'defence', it's about half way down the page. My comments are in green).
The cynic in me wonders how many times this story will pop up again in various guises, seeded in the media by the police and government to further their agenda of ever more surveillance and interference in peoples' private lives BECAUSE OF THE CHIIIILDREN, all the while carefully not mentioning that most kiddy-fiddlers are either family members or very close family friends.
They've already managed to terrify people enough that you can't even take a cricket umpiring course without that surveillance and interference, even if all you want to do is make better decisions while umpiring for your pub team. Because obviously, someone umpiring a cricket match out in the open on a village green is so much more of a threat to a child than its own parents are in the privacy of their isolated farm.
As far as I can tell, this policy means that the umpire must be responsible for interrupting play every so often to remind all the parents watching the match to slather sun screen on their brats. At least, that's the only "child protection" angle that I can come up with.
This ever-increasing surveillance and interference is going to have dire effects on civil society. Many ordinary, decent people are offended by the notion that they should submit to pointless checks on whether they're a kiddy-fiddler (and really, if the CRB knows I'm a kiddy-fiddler why the hell aren't I in jail where I can't umpire a cricket match anyway?) and so won't submit to them. So expect far less childrens' sports. And it doesn't just fuck sports up either. All kinds of volunteers have to undergo these checks now. I believe that my father has to because he delivers library books to housebound old people. Never mind that he's been married for thirty plus years and is in his sixties. Never mind that he's been doing his library round for years and volunteering to drive a bus for the oldsters for years either, all without even the slightest hint of a complaint. None of that matters. And he told me that if he was required to submit to CRB vetting, he would very seriously consider not continuing, so bang go vital services for old people as well.
Our Glorious Leaders are considering reducing the drink-drive limit. These would be the same glorious leaders who, over the past decade and more, have replaced police traffic patrols with automatic cameras, in the interests of making a pot of cash out of people who break the speed limit. Trouble is, those things are good at spotting fast driving but not at spotting dangerous driving. And they will continue to be just as bad as they are right now at spotting drivers who've had half a pint too much beer.
Who wants to come and see Taking Liberties, a film documenting just how nasty New Labour really is, at the Curzon on Shaftesbury Avenue?
Leave a comment, filling in your email address, and I'll try to herd the cats. My own preference is for the Thursday evening showing, at 9pm.
Update: Geeklawyer and I are indeed going to the 9pm showing on Thursday the 14th. We're meeting for pre-cinema drinks at the Crown and Two Chairmen on Dean St. We will graciously permit you to join us.
Tory Bliar has been blathering on about how great his interventionist foreign policy has been. Apparently Africa is "close to [his] heart" and top of his foreign policy agenda. He went on to slate the governments who did nothing to prevent the Rwandan genocide.
The fucking hypocrite! Whose government is it that has done precisely nothing about the ongoing catastrophes in Zimbabwe and Sudan? Yup, it's his.
Apparently, vendors of services needed by the 2012 Olympic games organisers will only be considered if they pay to be "major sponsors" of the games. Derek Wyatt MP let slip that "because neither of these companies was a 'major sponsor' of the Olympics their technology could not be used".
If this were anything other than the Olympics, that "sponsorship" would be spelt B-R-I-B-E-R-Y.
This comes shortly after the UK government decided to stop investigating alleged bribes paid by British Aerospace to the Saudi government. It's nice to know that corruption is taken seriously in this wonderful country.
So Iran has detained some British sailors. The British government is screaming as loud as it can to anyone who'll listen that the sailors weren't in Iranian waters at the time and so what happened was very naughty. Of course, they weren't in British waters either but it seems that we're allowed to dick around in other peoples' countries with impunity.
The entirety of the press, and a great many individuals, all of whom should know better, seem to be taking the British government's statements at face value.
The current British government (and its Yankee master) has a well-documented history of lieing to parliament, to the electorate, to the press, and to civil servants about all kinds of things, and not just about which bunch of darkies they're going to kill for whose fun and profit. Therefore whatever they say must be treated with suspicion. Plenty of civil servants and other government employees have a well-documented history of not telling the truth either - sometimes because the government has misled them, sometimes because they know the truth but have been asked to hide it. Therefore whatever they say should be treated with suspicion too. And then there's what the military are saying. Never mind the above, they have good reason to lie to cover up incompetence if they really were in the wrong. So, we can see that there is no reliable published evidence from those trumpeting British innocence.
And then there's the issue that no-one at all is mentioning, that Iran and Iraq don't have an agreed maritime boundary. If the British sailors were going by what our Iraqi puppets claim, then it's obvious that near the edges they will stray into areas claimed by Iran. It's really hard to condemn Iran for detaining a bunch of armed men who were stopping and searching shipping in what they claim to be their territory without permission.
That isn't to say that I believe the Iranians. Their politicians are just as much a bunch of fabulists as ours are. I can't really believe either side.
Posted at 19:45
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
Sherpa Shitty, famous for being a piece of plastic
Apparently there is a television programme called "Big Brother", one of the requirements for appearing on which is being exceedingly stupid. There's a furore because one of the stupid people is supposed to have made some nasty racist comments about another of the stupid people. Not entirely unexpected, when you consider that the programme has the same requirements as being a racist does. Anyway, the victim is pictured here. I hope you don't think I'm racist for pointing out that she looks like a plastic doll.
Apparently some company called Farepak has gone bust. It looks like a dodgy scheme whereby people give money to this company every month and then get some vouchers at the end of the year, the aim being to spread the cost of their otherwise-unaffordable cheap and tacky christmas splurge across the whole year. According to unnamed MPs quoted by the BBC, Farepak's failure is a "national tragedy and emergency".
The only thing that's "tragic" here is that these people were stupid enough to invest their savings in a shady scheme with no guarantees instead of putting their money into a proper savings account. If they had done the latter and their bank had gone bust (which is pretty fucking unlikely) then they would have been protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
A bunch of hippies have come up with a publicity stunt where they will try to raise money from unthinking sheople and spend it to "save a whale's life" by bribing Icelandic whalers to not hunt it.
I'm in favour. If stupid people want to give away their money and have it go to the whalers who they believe to be the Great Satan, I'm going to sit on the sidelines and laugh.
But this does raise an interesting point. The hippies aim to support Iceland's whalers by paying them money. I'd like to do the same. However, I won't need £95,000. I'll need just £311. That's £105 for a return ticket to Reykjavik, £166 for a hotel, and £40 for a plate of nice tasty whale in a restaurant. Any surplus will be donated to Icelandic charities.
Posted at 14:46
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
The recent palaver about the full-face veil worn by some Moslem women (and it should be noted that the politician who raised the issue is somewhat deaf and to a large degree only understands what people are saying by lip-reading) prompted me to think (again) about why the veil exists. If the full veil really were a reaction to uncontrollable male lust, then surely us uncontrolled lustful males would just rip the damned things off so we could get at the gloriously rapeable wenches* hiding underneath. In which case, the best response to the presence of those uncontrollable male beasts would be for the Moslem community to arm its women and send them to self-defence classes.
I note a distinct lack of veil-ripping, and also of Moslem women at self-defence classes. Which, to be perfectly blunt, demonstrates that all that prattle about lust is somewhat terminologically inexact.
* I like that phrase so much that I'll say it again. "Gloriously rapeable wenches". Lovely.
Many on the left and others opposed to Bliar's foreign adventureism poodleism whinge that the ongoing slaughter in Iraq - more deaths in a month than in all 30 years of the "troubles" in Northern Ireland - is proof that we should never have gone there in the first place. Many of the same people argue that the slaughter by Israel of so many Lebanese (not quite as many in a month as in Iraq, but still an awful lot) is proof that we should intervene.
So what's it to be? Killing people == we shouldn't be there, or killing people == we should be there?
The correct answer, of course, is that we shouldn't have gone to Iraq because the reasons presented for so doing at the time were all lies, and because there was no idea as to what to do once there. The caualties since then are not the issue. If Bliar had said that Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator who needed to be removed, and if there had been any kind of plan for reconstruction and reconciliation afterwards - a de-Baathisation and a Marshall Plan for Iraq if you like - then I would probably have supported that. I'd still criticise him for not going on to overthrow the dictators in Zimbabwe, Burma and a million other places, but at least it would be a good start.
Posted at 08:33
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
The Israeli military are deliberately attacking ambulances in Lebanon, causing further injuries to patients, many of whom are already the victims of Israeli attacks. The situation is so bad that the Lebanese Red Cross drivers now ask permission from Israel before going to collect patients. This frankly evil behaviour from Israel was, of course, expected, as they have a history of denyingmedicaltreatment to Arab untermensch in Gaza and the West Bank.
It disgusts me that so many people can still be apologists for Israel. I'm with Cato - Israel delenda est! The state of Israel, as currently constituted, is not fit to exist. Of course, that applies to many of the other nasty little countries in the region too, but Israel would be a good place to start with some enforced reform because it causes far more damage than the others. Pity it'll never happen.
According to The Observer, MPs are surprised that "while a national road-charging scheme to charge motorists by the mile is being piloted, its aim is to cut congestion, not to discriminate between a higher-emissions Land Rover and an environmentally less damaging Toyota Prius".
You see, that's because road usage is not the best way of determining how much environmental damage a vehicle does. The total pollutant output is, over the lifetime of the vehicle, pretty much proportional to the amount of fuel put in to it. Consequently, while road charging may be a great way to ease congestion (as has been proven in London), if you want to reduce environmental damage, you need to encourage the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles instead. The way to do that is to charge more for fuel and perhaps to subsidise the purchase of efficient vehicles such as the Prius. It is an entirely different problem from congestion, and so is best solved in entirely different ways.
Following on from my post a few months ago on effective suicide bombing, here's what I would do if I wanted to cause widespread terror.
One quiet Sunday afternoon, a car blows up in an ordinary residential street like the one I live in. It would have been left there a week or more ago, and its presence wouldn't alarm anyone. Naturally, there would be no warning, and neither would there be a silly press release claiming responsibility. That, to my mind, puts a face on The Enemy, and a complete unknown is FAR more frightening.
A week later, the same happens again. It's even the same make, model and colour of car (stolen, naturally).
And again. At which point I've established a pattern, everyone's reporting their neighbour who doesn't drive very often, and I'll change patterns. If the aim of terrorism is to cause terror and to undermine social norms, this really does seem quite easy.
Please join in and play this fun what-if game in the comments.
Posted at 22:46
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
Some of the people being held in the US's holiday camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have managed to kill themselves. According to the officer in charge, a Rear Admiral Harry Harris (and I thought names like that only appeared in bad detective fiction), the suicides had committed "an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us".
Fire up the millennium because the cows are on the ceiling!
Why, this decision by their Supreme Court proves it! Hooray for the only democracy in the Middle East!
Now, what was that about nations which give up a little essential liberty - in this case merely the inconsequential liberties of Arab untermensch pseudo-citizens - in exchange for temporary security getting and deserving neither?
Posted at 15:36
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
Ken Livingstone has promised to increase the congestion charge again, to £10, if re-elected. Good for him! Contrary to the bleatings of his political opponents - including, sadly, some of my fellow Lib Dems - central London businesses are not harmed by the congestion charge. London has since long before the congestion charge had fuck-all parking available and so people have long relied on the clapped-out public transport infrastructure. When buying large items from central London shops, they have for ages arranged for the items to be delivered to them, or have used a cab to get home with them, simply because even if they could have driven to the shop for free, they'd have not been able to park anyway.
When the congestion charge was introduced, there was an immediate decrease in traffic, and an immediate improvement in the quality of service of buses. Cab journeys likewise became quicker and hence cheaper. It seems reasonable to suppose that another increase in the charge will lead to further improvements along these lines without, for the above reasons, doing noticeable harm to businesses.
Where I do not agree with Mr. Livingstone is his desire to increase the area covered by congestion charging. Yes, this will bring in more revenue which, as explained above, is a good thing. However, the area outside the original congestion charge zone did not - and still does not - suffer from as bad congestion, and just happens to have a lot more easy parking. Extending the area covered will indeed harm businesses there and I am not convinced that the benefits gained make up for this.
Four police-scum thought it would be a good idea to wake me up at a quarter to four this morning, looking for someone who doesn't exist. Is it too much to ask that they check the information they've been given and if it's dodgy they wait until a more civilised hour?
Posted at 04:06
by David Cantrell keywords: politics
A few days ago, someone was arrested for listening to the wrong sort of music. He wasn't listening to Skrewdriver, or to the Greatest Hits of the SS Brass Band or anything objectionable. He was arrested for listening to Led Zeppelin and The Clash. And he was arrested because a taxi driver didn't like the lyrics. I suppose in a way that I should be glad that the government's terror campaign (that is, their attempt to terrify everyone into being good little pod people by playing the terrorism card) leads to so much police time being wasted and so will ultimately be counter-productive. But it must suck for the polices' innocent victims like Mr. Mann.
Mr. Mann received neither compensation for his missed flight nor an apology. Which just goes to prove that the police are rude and inconsiderate (as well as being obviously stupid and racist) in Durham as well.
I might withdraw that last bit if the officers concerned are fired and then prosecuted for wasting police time, but until then I have to assume that their bosses think they did the right thing, and that such behaviour is encouraged.