Monday, 30 January 2012

State of the Nation

I am getting a little tired of listening to people complaining of government ‘cuts’.

The UK state is unnecessarily and unaffordably bloated and unwieldy.

It is that way, largely because too many people reflexively expect it to control so much more of every aspect of our lives than it has any real right or honest need to. So much so that even our ownership of our own bodies is threatened. it is that way because Authoritarian Stateists want it to be. It is that way because of empire building.

One suspects many of the places cuts fall are exaggerated or are made worse by the self serving politically motivated spin and subterfuge of some Local Government.

Ed Milliband (leader of the opposition) is now shifting his basically dishonest and untenable position on cuts slightly. Labour's latest line is that it opposes some spending cuts, on the basis they slow recovery. At least now he admits he would not necessarily reverse them. Many in the LibDem party, Partners in the coalition seem unable to move even that far towards actual coffee smelling.

Presumably Vince cable and Nick Clegg have had their noses sufficiently rubbed in economic reality to be ahead of the average member of the so-called “Liberal” Democrat pack.

OK, so let’s look at the actual figures (as seen in the Guardian).

What do they show?

They show that after inheriting a nice black balance sheet Gordon Brown, first as Chancellor and then as Prime Minister spent money hand over fist that he just didn’t have.

He was running the UK deeper and deeper into debt over the whole period he held office.

He also sold off half the UK's gold reserves when gold was at an all time low and plundered pension schemes helping to create the current pensions "Black Hole", and promised "No more Boom and bust", he got plenty of mileage out of that, but what's all that between friends, eh?

Don’t forget the graph only shows each year’s borrowing, not the total amount the UK actually owes. That is horrendous and still going up literally by the minute, check out the TPA clock on this site (top left). God help us if we loose our triple A rating and have to pay higher interest rates on it.

Look at the last two years of the graph. Those are the years of so-called coalition cuts that Labour and the Lib-Dems have bleated so much about and blocked at every turn.

Those cuts have not been enough reduce the debt. No – those last two years figures just show that the actual speed that we are sinking into the financial doo-doo under the Coalition has finally actually slowed a little.

If the majority of the electorate had the feeblest grasp of simple maths… perhaps enough to avoid being short changed… and if Milliband, or Balls, had any shred of honesty, or were capable of the least embarrassment, they would cringe and hide themselves in a deep cave somewhere from the honest light of day.

Meanwhile the UK economy continues to be crippled by so-called green taxes, an unwieldy unaffordable social security system and wasted billions pumped into our EU membership.

Should we pay out yet more to rescue the Euro? In an ideal world no. The Euro is probably not capable of surviving in anything like it’s present form without much of Europe being disenfranchised and a severe loss of sovereignty for most nations in it.

But the Euro needs to be supported into a landingsoft enough the world can walk away from in one piece, so reluctantly we have to at least to some extent.

Foreign aid? Again used properly it saves us from having to fight wars, and we no longer have the military capability we had a decade ago, thanks to a maintained level of government dishonesty, waste and incompetence over the last decade or more.. As the civil service has got bigger and more unwieldy the armed forces have been cut back and back... so again in our own interests we need to keep up foreign aid.

What can we do about it all, if anything?

Take responsibility and PAY ATTENTION!! for a start, don’t let the politicians distract you with pretty lights and spin.

Make sure you really know the facts and arm yourself with them. Actually think. Is what a politician says really true? Does it fit with the facts? Politicians are careful about the words they choose. Are they true, but still fool you into misunderstanding what they actually mean.

When they talk about inflation going down what they really mean is that it is going up more slowly than it was. It is still going up it is just the rate that has decreased.

What is their track record? Did they deliver on what they promised to get elected? If not, why not - and why should you believe anything else they say?

Ask yourself what might happen down the line if they bring in some new policy, or law and do you really need it?

Check their sums are honest and make sense. Remember there are lies, damned lies - and worst of all statistics. Check your pockets after you hear a politician speak.

Vote. Not like some zombie for whoever your ancestors did, but for what you think makes sense and is best. Watch what they are up to – ALL THE TIME. Don’t take your eye off the ball.

Email your MP if you don’t like something It only takes a few minutes. If you don’t like his answer, or it tries to wriggle off the hook then email them again and tell them so.

Sign single issue petitions you support, email your MP about issues you feel strongly about.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Merry and Happy Christmas One and All

It’s Christmas!! As Noddy Holder’s "pension plan" announces to us every year from the end of November to the New Year.

And it is Christmas, so despite the world not necessarily being the way we would like it to be and practically all of us not being what we should be, and that ramps up by a factor of 10 when talking politicians and fanatics.

Despite that, even for the secular, Christmas reminds us that we have the potential to be better than we are. Rousseau’s perfectibility of man if you like. That we could be better if we would.

For Christians it is a chance to remember, celebrate and give thanks that God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

So for a moment let’s turn our attention away from how spectacularly well politicians and people in general are getting it wrong and think on how they sometimes get it right and that it could actually be worse. And how it might be made better. It’s a wonderful life.

It is an interesting thought that the big, huge stuff.. constitutions, political systems, Yes we need to get those right. But if we get the small things right that builds the big picture. Jimmy Stuart’s George Bailey: “I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that.”

A little like comparing a top down command economy to the market. The market isn’t an entity. It is countless small actions adding up.

Imagine for a moment if we all just made a little effort to be a tiny bit more polite and considerate, a little more forgiving, slower to anger and irritation – every day. What might that add up to in the long run?.

For those of you who love individualism liberty think of it as charitable giving that costs no cash. For the coercive and authoritarian think of it as a tax on the freedom to be an ass likely to fall more heavily on everyone else - and that you can benefit from by promoting..

Any system we live by should ideally naturally reward such behaviour and discourage the opposite, preferably gently but persistently.

Merry Christmas One and All.

Friday, 16 December 2011

In Memorium Christopher Hitchens

Here is what is intended to be a small - and gently humorous - tribute to Christopher Hitchens, author and journalist, who has died of cancer.

He was a fan of Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson, so had two good points at least.

An avowed an antitheist Right now he is either not saying "I told you so!", but would if he could , or being "I told you so!"'d by St Peter and thinking to himself.. "You win some. You lose some.".

Buddy, peut vous épargner un sou?

EU political machinations against the UK clearly continue apace. Christian Noyer the French equivalent of the governor of the bank of England has evidently been wound up by his political masters, such as his organ grinder the French prime minister Francois Fillon, cherleading, or Mario Draghi Italian governor of the ECB, or Sarko himself, all part of the elite European rulership - and then pointed at the UK.

There is little need to link to it, as even the tabloids have noticed and have commented.

A country’s credit rating is based on its, well - credit worthiness. The worse it is the higher the interest rates it has to pay to borrow, a bit like people really. One of the reasons Greece and Italy are in such difficulties just now.

Put bluntly it’s ability to pay its debts. How safe it is to lend them cash. The world can be in little doubt that whatever else the UK is, unlike Greece, Italy, or even France for various reasons as an examples, about as safe a haven as it is possible to find in the current world economic climate.

The only real threat to the UK’s ability to pay its bills is probably the EU and the Euro crisis.

No one would really take such comments seriously, except this particular individual happens to be the governor of the Banque de France. A bank that is effectively, in turn, the glove puppet of the European Central Bank (ECB). It's main reason for existence these days being simply to implement the interest rate policy of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB).

Clearly M. Noyer is not fit for purpose as the figurehead of even a hollow shell of a bank and in a rational country would be removed from office.

Clearly we would also be foolish to expect anything other than , not necessarily entirely justified reflexive overweening pride and slightly irrational Franco centric behaviour from France.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Ken's got to pick a pocket or two

So much to post on so little time.

With a smorgasbord of ‘delights’ available I decided to focus, for this post, on a fairly "local" matter but it perfectly illustrates the left’s thinking on personal property and the private contracts we enter into with each other voluntarily.

Dear old cuddly newt loving - amphibian type not republican politician type - ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone, for those of you who don’t know, Is an ex mayor of London England, not to be confused with the Lord Mayor of London of - No I have not been hanging round in dubious clubs – “puss in boots” fame, I am talking - as seen in Shreck.

Having been thrown out of office Ken wants to get back in to city hall out of the cold. Having brilliantly worked out that rents (property prices, transport and just about everything) are a bit high in London he had decided if he can offer tenants a discount paid for by someone else’s money they might vote for him, despite his record.

I am reminded here of Ben Franklin’s comment that “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”

Ken is proclaiming that “rents rose by 12% on average in the capital last year - with no sign of improvement in the quality of the housing provided.”

October’s official National RI rate is 5.0347% inflation. That figure is derived over the whole country, London is, as we noted, more expensive and this does not take into account of the disproportionate impact of some commodity rises, 12% is probably not unreasonable. Some London business rates (property tax) were up by 23% in 2011 for instance.

He is quoted as saying; “no one should pay more than a third of their income on rent” and in the London Evening Standard saying;“I would cap the rents. We want to have rent control.

He has also been quoted as having said he would "actually intervene" in the private sector rent controls?

So Given his prefernce he would definitely cap rents. So not just taking from all London’s council tax contributers, but specifically something extra directly from the pockets of private landlords.

He would presumably impose a maximum that a landlord could charge. I am not sure how that would dovetail with ensuring no tennent paid more than a third of their wages in rent I find it difficult to imagine landlords would be forced to rent expensive properties at knock off prices to pecunious tenants, but who knows.

Virtually any cap would involve the local government forcing landlords to let properties below the market level. In other words the state treating private property as it’s own, and possibly intervening/restraining in private commerce and contracts.

It is open to question how long any landlord who owned decent properties would actually be willing to rent them at all under those circumstances. They would shortly find it to their advantage to sell to private owners who could afford it, thus reducing rented stock and reinforcing the effect still further..

Instead of picking private landlords pockets it would be possible to achieve virtually the same aim by introducing some sort of housing tax rebate, based on earning bands or tax levels might be more equitable and less damaging, but far less ideologically pleasing to Ken.

Boris Johnson (the current Mayor) pay attention here - you could steal a march on Ken here, feel free to pinch this idea, gratis. Though if you need further advice I am available for weddings, bah mitzvahs and helping govern London J

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Economics 101 - and a half

This seems to be doing the rounds at the moment and someone emailed it to me. It made me chuckle and is reproduced below, for your enlightenment and edification. I notice there is no mention of haircuts. Hat Tip to Pam.

Understanding Economics:
The Eurozone Bailout

It is a slow day in a little Greek Village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the €100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer.

The pig farmer takes the €100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the Farmer’s Co-Op.

The guy at the Farmers' Co-op takes the €100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the Taverna.

The Taverna owner slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him "services" on credit.

The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the €100 note.

The hotel proprietor then places the €100 note back on the counter so the rich traveller will not suspect anything. At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the €100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.

No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how the bailout package works.

Warning: Creeping Stateism is bad for your Liberties.

A “>report has been published in the British Journal of Cancer. It concerns the possible causes of various, predictably enough, cancers. Fair enough and all well and good so far.

It is based on medical researchers doing correlations and statistical analysis rather than any clinical tests, that is always prone to possible mis-interpretation, but it is not unreasonable to take the findings at face value.

It finds that lifestyle choices influence your likelihood of getting certain forms of cancer. That smoking is the main cause of lung cancer and second but far behind is a lack of fruit and vegetables in the diet possibly responsible for oesophageal or gullet cancer, half of the risk comes from eating too little fruit and veg. too much salt in the diet a possible cause of Stomach cancer. Way down there under 5% is drinking too much alcohol and being overweight.

Useful information if taken sensibly, along with other studies that show moderate levels of alcohol seem to be actually beneficial.

So what is apparently the knee jerk reaction of the Royal College of Physicians? True to form a demand for authoritarian legislation. Their president, Sir Richard Thompson, claimed the findings were a “wake-up call to the government” to take stronger action on public health.

He stated that rising incidence of preventable cancers showed that the 'carrot' approach of voluntary agreements with industry is not enough to prompt healthy behaviours, and needs to be replaced by the 'stick' approach of legislative solutions,"

Maybe Sir Richard Thompson’s intentions are good, but his instincts seem to be to order, to force and that is not.

Diane Abbott, Longstanding New Labour luminary and current Shadow Public Health Minister, said: "The government is failing on all the main public health issues.”
So let’s leave aside ideas of punitive taxation of burgers and sweets, making it illegal to smoke anywhere else or legislating illegal anti competitive minimum prices for alcohol for a moment. Lets rewind.

That reflexive authoritarian statist demand that the government get involved, do more.

Exactly what business of the state is it if I want a glass of wine after dinner in the fist place?

OK so I am not as fit or as skinny as I used to be but I can see how it is my business, maybe my “significant other”, my tailor even, but the Government?

The only justification I can see is how much I might cost the state. Possibly in increased pension payments from a scheme that I am basically forced by law to pay into by the Government if, I live significantly longer due to good lifestyle choices. Or increased medical costs from a scheme that I am basically forced by law to pay into, use it or not, by the Government.

So the only real justification for the State to be involved, apart possibly from the odd public health warning, is how much I cost systems that they force me to participate in and thus cost er - well me.

Catch 22.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Face to face, with the man who sold the world

The British Prime Minister - Is he ours (the UK’s), or is he theirs (the EU’s)?

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” as the song says and to paraphrase, it’s beginning to look a lot like he is theirs.

Cameron happily says and promises almost anything to get into power – a referendum for instance.

But in practice - That is an entirely different thing. He will never willingly allow the British electorate a European issue related referendum. Not unless he can fix it to give the “right” result with a "Have you stopped beating your wife?, Yes or No” type question. He has already shown where he stands by suppressing a free vote on the subject. Unfortunately the so-called Loyal Opposition seem equally shy of the subject.

When you think about it is hardly surprising. The Conservatives basically picked him because he was a clone of Tony Bliar An acorn that fell a little too close to the tree it seems.

Interestingly the other “Boy from Brazil” his deputy Clegg looks suspiciously Blairish in the right light too. Clearly despite the misleading (all things to all people – how Bliar is that) title “Liberal” and “Democrat” it is questionable if he is either.

Clearly he feels he and the state have a far greater right to have a say as to what is done with private property than the rightful owners and the only way to ultimately enforce that way is - well force - So for all his spin that is pure authoritarian socialism. Cameron/Clegg birds of a feather.

So, the Euro, literally at least partly “jerry built” on foundations of the very best sand.

Now the North wind doth blow and it is in deep deep doo-doo. Rather than contemplate a soft landing the princes of Europe, the political elite, now seem hell bent on an all or nothing approach, metaphorically ready to shoot the first person to make a run for it.

To paraphrase Bowie, Oh no. Not us. We never lost control – Holding the threat of financial Armageddon over Europe to force, what would effectively be a political union, at least on the Euro-zone States. A Superstate in anybody honest’s book.

Ironically having attempted to dominate Europe and the world by hook individually it now looks as if France and Germany may be within a whisker of being shoehorned into dominating it collectively by crook, so to speak. Déjà vu, is a ironically a suitably continental expression for where we find ourselves.

The Greek and the Italian electorate have found out what this means, they essentially no longer have elected heads of state. They have Eurocrats, Commissars instead.

Rather like the EU in fact, although it has a “decorative parliament” it is effectively ruled by Commissioners who’s finances are so murky no hones accountant will sign off on an audit of them. It has a so-called president that no electorate voted for.

Its laws and justice system are essentially Statist, authoritarian, Napoleonic, more guilty until proven innocent. More “Do you have a permit to do that?” as opposed to “It’s not against the law”.. Continental oil to the English speaker’s water.

Surely a point, if ever there were one, for the UK to stop and think to it’s self. “Hang on a mo!” Is this really what I signed up for when I joined what I was promised was just a friendly trade association the Common Market”?

Back when we were so eager we dumped so many of our existing profitable trade partners and markets to do it too.

The Common Market looked quite sexy and cute back then didn’t it, wearing a beret, a sexy pencil skirt, smoking a cool Gauloises and quoting beat poetry, you had so much in common. That was then, this is now.

Now she wants different things, she looks sort of shifty, a little scary like her mother and suspiciously like she spent the savings and wants to claim your life insurance money. They are mushrooms in the stroganoff aren’t they? Oh and the door seems to be locked.

So a perfect time to have a referendum then, you might think. A vitally necessary time. Dave Cameron clearly does not. And one has to question his fitness to hold the office he does because of that. Is he really fit for purpose? Is he representing our interests at all. There is a word for someone like that.

So, a not unreasonable interpretation of the question:

Do you want to be assimilated by the Borg or not?” :-)

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Care about Democracy? Be afraid. Be very afraid

The Euro crisis. Unless you have been on a simulated mission to Mars, or heard goats in a village in Africa it can hardly escaped your attention that the Euro is in difficulties.

It was always going to happen, given how it was set up. Sooner or later things would get more out of kilter and eventually something would trigger the systems falling apart.

But then that was avoided as a problem for another day by the European elite railroading the European state through over the wishes of what one suspects they see as an “unenlightened” electorate.

It is questionable if the Euro can function for any time as a currency without both political integration of the states using it and massive transfers of cash from the Northern states to the Club Med States.

But no matter. For many of the Europhile elite the Euro is a symbol of unity and it binds states and politicians more tightly into the developing European Super-state. None must be allowed to slip from the fold.

Now it seems they had seen a way to turn what for them was an unthinkable threat into an advantage… To further their goals.

When Greece began to wobble so badly the Prime Minister George Papandreou, faced with massive protests over crippling austerity measures the EU wished to impose, apparently decided the only way he could avoid massive civil unrest and maybe worse was to get the people onside.

He decided, not unreasonably, to hold a referendum on the measures. If they were accepted he had a solid mandate, if not it would be brutally clear to all, that without the banks taking, not so much a hair cut on Greek debt, but more like a hippy getting a crew cut it would be impossible for Greece to remain in the Euro and he might get a better deal from Europe.

Either that or Greece might default, re-instate the Drachma and become more competitive, at least as a tourist destination, by devaluing. It seems the Strength of the euro is harming the Greek tourist income as it haemorrhages to Turkey and other non Euro states.

The referendum might have been better for Greece and the democratic process, but it appears that those considerations are irrelevant in European politics.

The European patrician political elite have had unfortunate experiences with referenda. They can't be relied upon to produce the "right" result and have to be repeated again and again and again, with pressure applied, until they eventually do get the “right” result.

They moved speedily and effectively. One can only suppose offers were made that were simply put "impossible to refuse".

Suddenly the referendum was off the cards and Papandreou might as well have been declared taken ill at his dacha in the Crimea in time honoured fashion.

Presto-chango! The Greek PM was suddenly (blnik and you'll miss it) Lucas Papademos the entirely unelected ex head of the European Bank. His Foreign Minister? The now Ex EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas.

And the Greek parliament were all lining up behind him in a “Unity” government. No referendum, No election. No Democracy…

Turning our eyes west we find Italy. Half of it at least another Club Med Euro Economy. Their debt is becoming too expensive as markets worry and their economy is a bit too big to easily bail out. PM Silvio Berlusconi, one minute declaring he is fighting fit to lead, the next disappearing stage left with the aid of a hook on a long pole in true vaudeville stylie.

And who quietly shuffles on sideways to replace him (sans elections) hoping the average punter does not notice?

Non other than Mario Monti, Ex European Competition Commissioner (what a coincidence) and founder - president of the Bruegel European Economic think-tank. Also an arch critic of Burlusconi. Not a game character at all. :-)

So the new European solution to wobbly Club-Med economies? Let’s not bother with that old fashioned democracy stuff shall we?

“Hey! Let’s just make dem bozos an offer dey can’t refuse an put our own guys in”.

I expect it is not lost on them that if the natives cut up too rough the is always the shiny new EUROGENDFOR waiting quietly tucked out of sight, like a club with nails in held behind their back.

EUROGENDFOR or EGF standing for European Gendarmerie Force and modelled (Oh joy!) after the French Gendarmerie and the Italian Unità Specializzate Multinazionali (M.S.U.) of the Carabinieri . Staffed by nationals from (naturally) the French Gendarmerie, the Italian Carabinieri, the Spanish Civil Guard, Portuguese National Republican Guard, Romanian Gendarmerie and the Dutch Royal Marechaussee.

Mostly authentically “Napolionically European” traditions, several used to enforce the will of dictatorships in living memory.

To mix metaphors are we looking at the nativity of some sort of western “Warsaw Pact MK II” with :-) frilly covers to disguise the tanks?

Maybe more State Capitalism Technocracy “China Syndrome”?

Oh - and before anyone in the UK starts to feel too smug. Don’t forget David Cameron’s sudden volt face about a promised British referendum on Europe, or the fact that he (thuggishly in parliamentary terms) prevented a proper vote on the question recently after parliament was petitioned to debate it under a system he set up.