It had to happen sooner or later, living in East London, or anywhere in the UK for that matter.
I was jumped by about 8 'hoodies' on the way home this evening, who brandished a knife, smashed both my bottles of wine and made off with a £10 mobile phone and £20 in cash. And who have condemned me to spending the next couple of weeks without bank cards etc etc*.
I felt a tad guilty at the UKIP conference when I joined in the knee-jerk applause when Gerard Batten announced that a UKIP government would double the number of prison places, right now, I'm wishing I'd clapped a damn' sight harder and shouted "Treble! Treble!".
* Having cancelled the whole f***ing lot in the space of 20 minutes once I got home.
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
It had to happen sooner or later, living in East London, or anywhere in the UK for that matter.
As a rabid libertarian, and parent of two young children in the catchment area of a truly shit state primary school, I am of course a big fan of vouchers for education. To be redeemable at any school you like, whether it is selective by sex, intelligence, religion*, sporting ability or race. Or not selective at all, for that matter. With no restriction on schools being able to charge top-up fees.
So far so good.
Now, the Lefties always say that private schools get better results because they are more likely to be selective than State schools. This is probably true in the case of secondary schools.
But, we are now sending both kids to private NON-selective primary schools (the fees are roughly the same as spending per State pupil) and the difference is absolutely staggering. So that dispels the myth that private schools only do better because they are selective.
* In theory, one would like to keep an eye on all the Madrassahs that will open up, but what's the point? You just get a load of grief when you shut them down, and they will then just re-open it once the dust has settled.
In a speech later today, The Goblin King is to announce that:
"Minimum standards in schools will be raised over the next five years, with all schools needing 30% of their pupils achieving five high grade GCSEs by 2012-13."
Note the use of the word "will". Nulab have had ten years to prove, beyond doubt, that they can spend more per State pupil than the best-value private schools and still turn out crap. So how the f*** is he going to achieve this? What new fantastic trick has he thought up now?
What a piece of shit that man is.
Tuesday, 30 October 2007
Vindico lays in to Trade Union-twat Barber, here.
Actually, BB's summary of the reasons for runaway boardrooom pay is pretty accurate:
"institutional shareholders should remember that they are looking after the savings of millions of ordinary employees, not setting the pay of their city chums".
This is easily fixed. End tax breaks for pensions, pension funds, unit trusts and other 'institutional investors' and/or reduce taxes on direct shareholdings (higher rate tax, Stamp Duty, Capital Gains Tax)*. That will lead to there being more small, private shareholders, who are far less likely to nod through** these fairly outrageous pay rises for crap directors.
There, no extra rules and regulations required, in fact no extra rules at all, it's more a question of getting rid of all the rules that gave rise to these 'institutional investors' in the first place. The fewer rules the better.
* Preferably both, of course.
** s318 Companies Act 1985, directors' service contracts have to be open to inspection by members. s303, members can sack a director by simple majority, regardless of his contract of employment. Most quoted plc's actually have a vote on the directors' total remuneration package, but this does not appear to be in the Act. Perhaps it's a Stock Exchange requirement?
Another fine Arnie quote in The Metro:
'What would you rather have? A politician taking stuff and not saying, but making the best decisions and improving things? Or a politician who names all the drugs he or she has taken but makes lousy decisions?'
He seems to be becoming more libertarian by the day!
But then he spoils it all by naming Tony Blair as one of the greatest leaders in history, who definitely falls into the second category. Ah well.
"The SNP has already pledged to match the UK's growth rate by 2011 by cutting business rates and channelling investment in enterprise, transport and education more effectively", it says here.
Wrong on two counts.
If you cut business rates, landlords just put the rent up and/or your premises go up in value. Our governments have tried this several times, and that is exactly what happens.
As to 'channelling investment', that sounds like 'subsidising' to me. Which is always a bad idea.
Monday, 29 October 2007
I am happy to say that this 'blog passed a milestone today, with 5,000 visits in the two months since I turned on Sitemeter.
The real fun part of Sitemeter* is the referrals bit, where you sometimes find yourself coming number 1 where you wouldn't expect it.
As ever, thanks to everybody who visits and everybody who has left a comment.
* No doubt there are other similar services that do it even better, but hey.
I have finally caved in and acquired a mobile phone.
The contract* effectively costs me 2p a month: I had broadband and land line for £29.98 anyway, and now I'm on the "3-for£30" deal.
The 'phone itself cost me £9.99: I just bought the cheapest one in the shop and they knocked off a fiver because I had my own SIM card.
* 300 minutes and 300 texts.
John Trenchard has compiled a summary of our Cabinet's pre-politics business/real life experience.
In brief, one of them was once a shelf-stacker and a postman.
So it's hardly surprising that they find it difficult* to get proper jobs once they lose their seats.
* Via The Remittance Man.
In brief, the 'Environmental Audit Committee', not content with having a 'cross-government Office of Climate Change', wants there to be a 'Climate Change and Energy secretariat' as well.
I'm sure that once the Chinese and the USA hear about this, they will promptly shut all their coal-fired power stations and stop driving 4-by-4's.
Sunday, 28 October 2007
The lady in the 'buffet-car' sold me a cup of coffee and started putting the cardboard cup with lid into a bag.
"I don't need a bag thanks" said I, being an environmentally sound sort of chap.
"I have to put it in a bag. It's Elfin Safety" replied the lady, stuffing the cup into a bag, "You are in a moving vehicle."
I personally don't believe in elves, and even if they do exist, I doubt whether they spend much of their time on the Virgin Pendolino from London Euston-to-Birmingham New Street. And even if they do exist and love riding on trains, I fail to see how putting cups of coffee into bags makes them more safe.
I got my own back by stealthily replacing the carefully folded bag on the pile while she wasn't looking.
How did the rally organised by 'Iwantareferendum' in Trafalgar Square go yesterday, 27 October 2007?
There's nothing on the BBC website or on the organiser's website.
News blackout or no-show?
Saturday, 27 October 2007
I am off to Wales today.
So I won't be at the Pro-referendum march. Ah well, I hope the weather's nice and that plenty of people show up. And that you get a bit of TV coverage. Unlike the 200,000 who protested in Lisbon recently, while they were signing everything away.
Friday, 26 October 2007
No wonder our housing market is such a mess, when all the parties involved are so wrapped up in their own prejudices. This article gives a flavour.
The Nulab government thinks that building 3 million more homes will help. Funnily enough, there is plenty of evidence to show that it won't. They also think that bunging small amounts of money at councils will help. And they have this frankly stupid idea about subsidies for bringing empty homes into use.
The quango NHPAU point out, correctly, that the price/earnings ratio is now 7, and they have obviously stuck a ruler on a chart and extrapolated it up to a multiple of 9.5 by 2026. So they clearly haven't bothered to look at long term charts that show that property prices go in roughly 18-year cycles, with a multiple of 3 or less in the troughs and peaks at around 5 or 6 (7 is highly unusual).
The NIMBY pressure group CPRE wade in with "This could have horrendous consequences in terms of environment, landscape and also quality of life - traffic congestion, pollution and the like. There are also issues like access to water supply for these homes and the likelihood of them being built in flood-risk areas"
Er, it's people that use up water and cause traffic congestion and pollution, not houses! Or is she suggesting a cull of human beings, that would reduce traffic congestion and water use enormously! And who says that new houses have to be built on flood plains? As to quality of life, wouldn't it vastly improve our quality of life if we had bigger homes with bigger gardens, a bit like other countries?
The only bits that are worth taking seriously are the point that there are up to 1 million empty homes, that the CPRE, correctly, say should be brought back into use. I might add that it would help if single people in large houses swapped with large families in small houses. But they won't do this out of the goodness of their own hearts, will they?
Oh ... I know what would sort all this out, without having to build many new houses at all ... yup, it's my old favourite Land Value Tax.
That chap General Sir Mike Jackson was on The Beeb yesterday, and I distinctly heard him calling for a reconciliation between Sonny and Cher.
Wot? They split up in 1974 and Bono died in a skiing accident in 1998.
Oops ... now I think about it, did he perhaps mean "Sunni and Shia"? Christ, that bloke has a plummy accent.
On Question Time, some shithead (probably George Galloway, might have been 'Lord' Falconer) trotted out the tired old line, "Do you want to be part of Europe or the 51st state of the USA?". The victim of this particularly pathetic and predictable gambit (probably François Maude) fumbled the pass.
The answer is quite simple...
"I do not want England to be the 51st State of the United State of America any more than I want it to be the 27th State of the United States of Europe or the 4th State of the United Kingdom. I want England* to be England."
* Obviously, the Welsh are welcome to tag along.
Thursday, 25 October 2007
I watched this, expecting to be able to revel in sixty minutes of house-price-crash-porn.
It was actually far more thoughtful than that. In summary, the way the property market in the UK has worked since the mid-nineties is to transfer wealth from young, asset-poor, hard-working people to older, asset-rich people, in particular landlords(1) and retired people(2).
And of course, now that prices have started falling again, it will fuck things up for everybody(3).
Given that there are really only three kinds of taxes - sin taxes; income/turnover/profit taxes; and property value taxes - it strikes me that we in the UK have got the balance wrong(4).
Couldn't we, er, try reducing taxes on income/turnover/profits and increase them a little on property values, to ensure some sort of equity between generations? Aren't we all young and poor and energetic when we start off, maybe with young children?
(1) Including Your Truly, of course, but that's another story.
(2) State pensions are paid for out of taxes on the working population, private pensions are funded out of dividends that ultimately are derived from the efforts of the working population, above and beyond the investment risk that shareholders bear. And many of those will have bought their homes for a few thousand pounds at low-points of the 18-year property price cycle in the mid 1960s or early 1980s.
(3) Because the flip-side of the house-price bubble is of course the credit bubble. Those who have banked their ill-gotten property gains and put the money into cash or shares, now have to worry about whether there'll be a run on their bank or whether the companies they've invested in get caught in the credit-squeeze. Including Yours Truly, of course.
(4) Yes, government spending and taxes are far too high, yawn, probably by about £100 billion per annum, that's a whole 'nother topic.
Not content with State spending accounting for 70.5% of regional income, they have come up with a "£10bn a year economic plan", which works out at over £150,000 per job, just in case anybody was wondering.
Drivel like this effort by The Goblin King is hardly going to have the Junta in Burma quaking in their boots, is it?
The One-Eyed Wonder solemnly quotes Aung San Suu Kyi at the end "It's no use standing there wringing your hands and saying my goodness, my goodness, this is terrible. You must try to do what you can."
I then went back and read the whole article again. The Chief Brownie helpfully comes up with whole lists of things that might happen on an 'it-would-be-nice-if' basis, but nowhere does he actually say what he, as leader of a fairly big country, is going to DO which will speed up the demise of the Junta.
Whoops, sorry chaps.
Put away your rifles with night sights, your cooking pots and your shaving kits. And your wattle and daub. There's not going to be a cull after all.
No reason not to gas this bastard though.
Wednesday, 24 October 2007
Paul Miner of the Campaign to Protect Rural England states that "green belt designations are hardly a 'chafing collar' as more than three square miles of green belt land have been lost to development each year in England since 1995" (Letters, October 22).
As England has a surface area of some 50,000 square miles, barely 10 per cent of which has been "lost to development" over the centuries, does this statistic not prove exactly the opposite?"
As some wit once said "Don't see this as a Middle Eastern crisis; see it as Middle Eastern culture."
Tuesday, 23 October 2007
It is not clear to me whether the MPs who 'grilled' him today thought that he had gone too far, or that he had not gone far enough.
Let us never forget that that the Crown Prosecution Service called off the investigation, on 20 July 2007, just one week before Tony Blair The Vampire Slayer finally handed over the keys to Number 10 to The Goblin King, having already formally announced that he was going to resign as an MP.
To think that that f***ing piece of devious shit Tony Blair is in the running to be the first EU President.
Nobody likes it, that I hope is pretty much beyond contention.
The Lefties don't like the fact that Big Oil, Rupert Murdoch or whoever can blackmail or bribe governments to follow a certain line.
Similarly, right-wingers don't like the fact that Big Government, in relative or absolute terms, tends to be corrupt: the bigger the trough, the more important it is to get your snout in it.
As a small-government, free-market, rabid libertarian, I find both forms of corruption equally abhorrent.
This is a huge topic, I could probably devote the rest of my life to this cause without achieving much.
Maybe the easiest way to look at this is to divide between:
a) People who work hard, add something of value to society, obey the law, pay their taxes and want to be left in peace; and
b) Those people who don't want to work hard, who want subsidies, tax-breaks or handouts, who want constantly to change the law, who don't want to pay their fair share, who want to constantly meddle in other people's lives, and whose political influence goes way beyond what they actually contribute to society as a whole*.
F*** it, I am not sure where to start. All ideas welcome!
* For example, Quangista, people with fat EU pensions, Trade Union leaders, hedge fund managers, French farmers, Devon Pensioners, City lawyers, auditors, HIP-providers, the nuclear industry, Brussels lobbyists, the race relations industry, any body with 'regional' or 'partnership' in its name, agricultural landowners, the military-industrial bloc, manufacturers of bendy buses or windscreen wipers for tractors, state-funded charities, African kleptocrats, asbestos-removal companies, administrators of means-tested benefits, anybody in receipt of EU or Third World aid, state-subsidised banks, the United Nations, the Confederation of Registered Gas Installers, Al Gore, pension fund trustees, the BBC, Channel 4, Galileo, NASA, speed camera installers, insurance companies, the British Potato Council, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Scottish MPs in the UK cabinet, 70 per cent of people in Northern Ireland, 5-a-day advisers, the people who built Wembley Stadium or The Millennium Dome aka The O2, managers in the NHS, Local Education Authorities, churches, the English National Opera, Northern Rock, the Financial Services Authority, oh f*** it , I give up.
If farmers really reckon that culling badgers will help reduce TB in cattle, then so be it. The argument has been rumbling for years and I suppose the only way forward is to give it a try and see what happens.
But don't forget to do this one as well.
Monday, 22 October 2007
From today's FT:
“Hillary Clinton talked about healthcare reform in the early 1990s but the nation wasn’t ready for it, nor did she do it the right way because she suggested government-run programmes. You can’t have government run anything, because it’s disastrous.”
There was a fine article in this morning's Metro (no link) about a girl whose parents drag all the way from Kent to Sheffield once a week to train for the Olympics diving competition, her local pool having been closed because 'asbestos was found in the roof'.
Point 1 is that her parents ought to be done for child cruelty.
Point 2 is that this is almost certainly white asbestos, which is nigh harmless, especially if it's encased in something else, as Christopher Booker has been pointing out for years. As opposed to blue or brown asbestos, which are real killers.
But, as we know, the EU is in fact 31,000 bureaucrats who churn out directives at the behest of industry lobby groups, which is pretty much mirrored in the machinations at UK level. So, in this instance, a totally artifical market has been created in 'asbestos removal', all in the name of Elfin Safety.
I have added a new petition to my 'online petitions' section, which calls for:
"legislation requiring all Members of the Houses of Parliament to declare in the Register of Members' interests whether they are in receipt of any pension or other benefits or emoluments payable by the European Union..."
It is rather frightening that such backhanders do not need to be disclosed.
I hope that everybody signs up!
Er, why the f*** is it any of their business?
Sunday, 21 October 2007
I cheerfully admit that I might have a gene missing or something, but I just could not care less about 'sport', as defined. I am vaguely pleased when an English team wins something, but that's about it.
That means I am just as cheerful (or at least no more miserable) today as I was a week-and-a-bit ago. Sure, Russian football fans, South African rugby fans and Finnish Formula 1 fans might be a lot happier than they otherwise would have been, but how does this compare to the total disappointment of fans all the other countries, teams and drivers who didn't win?
Sport is a negative sum game, and reduces the sum total of human happiness, is all.
Screams the headline in The Independent, continuing breathlessly,
"Some areas have suffered a tenfold increase in people mentally ill from using the drug. Nationally, skunk smokers are ending up ill in hospital in record numbers, with admissions soaring 73 per cent."
Shock! Horror! Dismay! Anguish! It then continues on a more sobre note:
"The number of adults recorded as suffering mental illness as a result of cannabis use has risen sharply from 430 in 1996 to 743 in 2006."
Wot? 743? Out of an estimated two million regular users?
That means that about one-in-three thousand regular cannabis users goes mad each year, considerably better odds than I guesstimated here, using pessimistic assumptions. The link between cannabis and mental illness is fairly tenuous anyway, see Leslie Iverson's summary halfway down this.
Further, are they distinguishing between 'cannabis' and 'skunk'? Not clear to me. Maybe all these admission are due to people smoking skunk, in which case cannabis is totally harmless.
Priceless, read the summary at The Sunday Telegraph.
Andrew Marr kicked off by asking him, quite reasonably:
"Now we all understand why the Conservative Party doesn't like this treaty and why you want a referendum. What we don't understand is what you're going to do if this goes through Parliament and becomes law, and you're returned to power. Are you then going to pull Britain out of this treaty that you regard with such distaste?"
I watched the original interview, and I have read the transcript on the BBC website* and I struggle in vain to find anything like a "Yes", a "Perhaps", a "We'd have a retrospective referendum, like in 1975" or a "Don't know", let alone a straight "No".
* Apparently I have to 'credit The Andrew Marr Show' for using this excerpt. Fair enough, I just did.
Saturday, 20 October 2007
I found out something new today.
You can get from East London to North Wales and back to East London by train in 11 hours (including Tube delays) for £47 return, with just enough time at the other end for the person you were supposed to meet to tell you they meant next Saturday.
Update - a warm welcome to everyone here via the Adam Smith Institute blog review. This post makes more sense if you read it in conjunction with the previous one.
I am on the road 'til Sunday evening, so won't be posting over the weekend.
Unless they have Internet Cafés in North Wales, of course.
Friday, 19 October 2007
John Lennon was shot in New York in 1980, Peter Tosh was shot in Jamaica in 1987.
Musical greats, a shock to us all, a loss to music. Well, that goes for Peter Tosh at least. I could never stand The Beatles.
Then some rapper we've never heard of gets shot in South Africa, the most murderous country in the world, with about 20,000 murders every year against a population of just under 50 million, which makes it only marginally less dangerous than Iraq, where about 20,000 people get killed by their Brother Arabs (or Iranians, Al Qaeda, whatever) each year, against a population of just under 27 million.
So not really a shock then, eh?
Empires come and go, like tides. And like tides, or indeed bathwater, they leave a line of scum and flotsam and jetsam at the high water mark.
Apparently, we have to be in the EU because 50% of our trade is with them. I didn't get round to doing a post on the stupidity of this logic, but Annabelle Fuller has summed up my thoughts very nicely, so I'll just cut and paste:
"Were were told 50% of our trade is with the EU. Again. And? That means 50% isn't, and we manage to keep that going without being in some ludicrous political union with people who think that working more than 35 hours in a week is a bad thing".
This government is so f***ing stupid, it beggars belief.
House prices are at a dangerous all time high, and for most people, unaffordable. 83% of us are NIMBYs who don't want any more houses to be built. However, there are anything up to one million vacant homes in the UK. The government has come up with all sorts of tax breaks and wizard wheezes to try and persuade owners to bring them back into use, see here for a fascinating overview.
Tax breaks cost money; that means, all things being equal, people who don't own a vacant property (i.e. most of us) have to pay slightly more tax. Seems pretty f***ing unfair.
How about introducing Land Value Tax*, payable irrespective of whether property is in use or not? The tax stick would bring more properties back into use than the tax break carrot. And, all things being equal, the vast majority who don't own a vacant property would be paying a bit less tax.
Doesn't this seem a lot fairer?
* Click 'Land Value Tax' label for suggestions as to how it might work in practice and which taxes would be replaced.
... back with a bang!
Well, obviously not.
Let me strip this down to its bare essentials...
1. It is up to MPs whether We, The People, have a referendum on the Constitution. If not, they have to ratify it of their own accord.
2. Most (all?) MPs who are against having a referendum are in favour of the constitution. Sod them.
3. Some MPs (for example Keith Vaz, the fat corrupt shit) are in favour of a referendum, but have clearly stated they would campaign for a 'Yes' vote. Honest in their dishonesty. Sod them as well.
4. Some MPs, for example the Lib Dems have pushed the boat out even further, and want to try and call people's bluff by calling for a straight ''In' or 'Out' referendum. Which I would welcome and I'd cheerfully go leafletting for "Out", but I suspect that the public is not ready for this yet. So sod them as well as well.
5. Only 30 MPs have so far signed up for EDM 1584, calling for a referendum. I suspect that the bulk of these would campaign for a 'No' vote in a referendum.
6. But, of the MPs who haven't signed up to EDM 1584, e.g. David Davies, who was on Question Time this evening, yapping on about 'trust' and about 'it was in Labour's manifesto' and stating he was in favour of a referendum, how many of these f***s, who have said that they are in favour of a referendum, how many of them have said that they would then campaign for a 'no' vote?
7. And, just to round things off, how many MPs have openly said that if there is no referendum, that they would vote against ratifying the Constitution?
That's not a rhetorical question, BTW, I'd like to know.
Thursday, 18 October 2007
I decided it was time to jazz up my pretty bland* template and add 'Recent comments' and scroll bars to stuff in the right hand panel, like Longrider (who only uses them right at the bottom) and Neil H.
Does this make it better organised? Vindico said they looked messy. Good, bad, indifferent?
I used 'Tips for new bloggers' (the link is under 'Statistics and stuff'), as advised by Neil H.
* This is partly intentional. I am pretty predictable and middle-of-the-road.
According to Steve Sinnott of the NUT in today's Metro (no link) "... Gordon Brown's commitment to raising spending on state schools to private school levels must be realised".
Right, over the last ten years, spending per state pupil has increased considerably, but schools are shitter than ever. Nulab have tested this 'throwing good money after bad' to destruction. But let's assume it were a worthy aim, how could we achieve this at the lowest cost to the taxpayer?
Quick stat summary ... spending per state pupil is £5,270 p.a. and average fees for private day schools are just under £10,000 p.a. There are about 9.5 million children in state education, so call it £50 billion total cost, and 0.5 million privately educated.
Hey ... how about offering education vouchers worth £4,000 p.a.?
Let's assume that 4.5 million children claim vouchers and move into privately* run education. That'd cost £18 billion, leaving £32 billion to spend on the remaining five million state pupils, increasing spend-per-pupil to £6,400 each.
Whereas the extra 4.5 million children whose parents go for vouchers clearly won't be the wealthiest households, so let's assume they can't afford to top up the vouchers with more than £50 per week per child on average, so the amount spent on each of those 4.5 million children will be £6,500 p.a, dragging the average spend per private pupil to something closer to £7,000 p.a.**
And then let's see what happens to relative standards in the state-run and the privately run, state-subsidised sectors!
C'mon Steve Sinnott ... are you up for it?
* 'Private' in this context does not mean evil capitalists. It includes private profit making companies, of course, but also parents' associations, churches, charities etc etc.
** Assuming that existing private schools keep spending per pupil at £10,000 and knock £4,000 off their fees, there again they might keep the top-up-fees at £10,000 and spend £14,000 on average, who knows? Who cares, frankly?
Something to think about is this: The EU Constitution can be ratified by a referendum*, which I am mildly hopeful would be a 'No', OR it can be ratified by Parliament (without a referendum).
Does anybody have any ideas how MPs would vote if asked to ratify it without a referendum?
All I know is that MPs voted by a 215 majority in early 2005 that there should be a referendum on the EU Constitution. But, of course, being in favour of having a referendum does not mean that an MP would vote 'No' to adopting the Constitution.
* Which is not legally binding on Parliament, who'd still have to nod it through afterwards, that's a minor point.
Little Fat Bastard got a bit hot and bothered about this post on CiF*
shagnasty October 11, 2007 1:28 PM:
No. There should be absolutely no referendum on the EU. On this issue the British people are complete idiots and cannot be trusted to arrive at a decision that is in their interests, since they understand close to nothing about it. The bewildered herd need to be led to a brighter future by men and women who DO understand what's at stake.
I reckon that this must have been ironic/sarcastic/tongue in cheek. LFB_UK wasn't so sure.
What do you think?
* The new name for JiF. Having read the full comment by Shagnasty, I am not sure whether he is not perhaps an Islamist who maybe welcomes public hangings at football matches etc, a bit like in that Islamic paradise Iran, y'know, that country to which the oppressed Muslim minority in the UK is desperately trying to return...
Wednesday, 17 October 2007
From Fulham Reactionary, via The Sage King.
I am no scientist, I have no idea how much of this is true, but what hacks me off here, is that there seems to be no shame in saying that Chinese* or Hindu children do better at school than 'White British'**, and nobody has ever been pilloried for perpetuating the general perception that Afro-Caribbeans do really well at athletics, basketball and boxing***. So if it is OK to generalise and say that certain non-White groups are better at certain things, is it so terrible to suggest that certain non-White groups are perhaps worse at certain things?
* In my narrow experience, the Chinese are really clever and really funny. But they have very small hands and short legs. I am not impressed with Hindus' intelligence but they are nice enough. As against Sikhs who are clever and nice.
** Scum of the earth, obviously.
*** Can't find a link. Sod it.
This chap wants to "Make the local authorities bigger [and] allocate the basic rate of tax to the new authorities and give them the power to vary it. Leave the national mechanisms in place to collect the tax. Just add a tag to the PAYE code. Take Council Tax away from the local authorities and make it a national property tax, easier to administer; easier to administer more fairly. Cap the property tax by reference to income, to solve the problem of the asset rich, income poor households".
He's thinking about the right things but ends up getting it wrong, wrong, wrong.
We should replace Council Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax, Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and the TV licence fee with a Progressive Property Tax of around 1% of property values and dish that out to local councils on a per capita basis.
Then we should phase out the worst taxes (VAT* and Employer's National Insurance**) and reduce central grants to local councils in tandem. Local councils can then charge local precepts on the PPT if they want, if you don't want to pay it, vote for local councillors who care a bit more about value for money.
As to the 'asset rich, income poor' (i.e. pensioners) just allow them to roll up unpaid PPT until they die or the property is sold.
* Having left the EU, of course.
** Which I believe UKIP are going to propose.
More body fascism and power grabbing from HM Government:
'Individuals can no longer be held responsible for obesity so government must act to stop Britain "sleepwalking" into a crisis, a report has concluded.'
If people are 'too' fat or 'too' thin, I think that is very much their business and within their control, you power-crazed f***wits. So don't try turning this into an excuse for "daily, regimented exercise" and inventing new taxes on tasty snacks.
Tim W has ripped into another article on the gender pay gap and reminds us that the real gap is between working mothers (tend to work shorter hours and miss a few years etc) and everybody else.
This is easily fixed. Take all Child Benefit, Child Trust Fund and Child Tax Credits and roll it into an flat-rate, non-means tested, non-taxable Child Benefit of £35-ish per week (or whatever is roughly fiscally neutral), payable directly to the mother (unless she's not looking after them, of course). As a further tweak, we could limit this to (say) the first three children in each family.
An average working Mum with two kids would thus get an extra £3,500 tax-free per year, which is equivalent to an extra gross salary of £5,000, which in turn would make her net income much the same as everybody else's.
As things stand, the savagely means-tested Child Tax Credits system discourages mothers from working and/or cohabiting, which is another reason for doing this.
Too f***ing right!
Tuesday, 16 October 2007
I seem to have cornered the market in Google searches and scurrilous gossip on Kate McCann's tits.
I am pleased to see that she has finally plucked up the courage to respond to this sort of cheap insubstantiated innuendo and rumour-mongering (Real or fake? Perky or just plain flat?). Her parents are putting the story out that Kate reckons "If I weighed another two stone, had a bigger bosom and looked more maternal, people would be more sympathetic". See The Liverpool Echo or The Metro.
No love, your tits are fine the way they are!
PS. There was a super profile shot in this afternoon's London Lite, but I can't find it on line. Pink blouse with white dots, in front of the Renault Megane Scenic.
PPS. Anonymous confirms here "They are not false believe me. I know someone who had the good fortune to see them in all their glory in her college days and he says they look about the same size as they were then." So that proves it then!
PPPS. This is what I call excellent news management - start insulting fat people.
I posted recently on the different levels of government spending in the UK's constituent countries - in Northern Ireland it's a staggering 70.5% of regional income. The Sun had an article saying that per capita spending in Northern Ireland was £4,000 more than per capita taxes paid.
Here are a couple of examples of what they are spending the money on.
Excellent value for English taxpayers' money, don't you agree?
From Jock Coats (himself a Lib Dem)
'I hope [Chris Huhne*] will stand again, as has seemed likely ever since the "discussion" about Ming's leadership began, ooh, sometime after 4th March 2006 I think it was'.
* Jock Coats and I are both 'Georgists', we favour land value taxation over taxes on income and profits, and a 'Citizen's Income' flat-rate universal cash benefit scheme over the mess of a welfare state that we have. Chris Huhne is vaguely in favour of Land Value Tax, altho', having once shared a platform with him, he spent most of his speech yapping on about 'green taxes' and 'climate change' so I'm not holding my breath.
"Hazardous drinking - consuming between 22 and 50 units per week** - was highest in the Surrey area of Runnymede and lowest in the London borough of Newham", according to this report.
What a f***ing surprise. According to the 2001 Census...
1) "Newham has the second highest proportion of Asian population in England and Wales, with the second largest proportion of Bangladeshis in England and Wales (Tower Hamlets leads in both these statistics)".
They're not 'Asians' FFS. They are Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Who are Muslims. Who tend not to drink alcohol.
2) "The proportion of the population under the age of 19 has increased by 23 per cent in this period, with a decrease of 11 percent in those aged 55 and over. Newham has a very young age structure, with the highest proportion of children under the age of one in the country ...".
Again, I think you'll find that very young children don't drink much alcohol.
* The headline itself is nonsense of course. There is a separate category for 50+ units called "harmful drinking", the areas most affected are the usual suspects: Manchester, Liverpool, Salford etc.
** Half a pint of beer or a teeny tiny glass of wine = 1 unit. So 22 units = one-and-a-half pints a day or two normal sized glasses of wine a day. And 50 units = three-and-a-half pints a day or just over a bottle of wine a day. So just enough to get a buzz on in the evening but hardly excessive.
Monday, 15 October 2007
I wasted a quarter of an hour answering the first fifteen questions of the Oxford PPE entrance exam, as unearthed by Simon Clarke, which asks you inter alia to spot the underlying assumption in an argument and say whether it is logically flawed or not*.
Once you have sharpened your wits on that, I invite you to turn your attention to a practical, real life issue that affects millions of perfectly honest, hard working young (and not so young) people in this country - the 'priced out' generation.
The FT's article of today is a bonfire of hypocrisy. Go and revel in it in full if you have time! If not, let me highlight two findings ...
"A YouGov survey, conducted on behalf of the New Homes Marketing Board last week, indicated that 89 per cent of respondents thought that the cost of housing was a problem for first-time buyers...[but]...According to the Saint UK Index, an annual measure of attitude towards development, 83 per cent of people in the UK oppose any kind of local development".
To sum up: "We feel a bit sorry for you. But we're all right. So go f*** yourselves"
* and scored 13 out of 15.
"Sir Menzies Campbell has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats with immediate effect".
I have absolutely no f***ing sympathy with the man whatsoever. As previously posted, the economically clued-up wing of the Lib Dems argues for Land Value Taxation. The populist wing argues for replacing Council Tax with a 'local income tax'. Ming the F***face clearly belonged to the latter wing. He also showed himself up as a deluded and/or lying shit vis-à-vis the EU Constitution/Reform. And he's best mates with our Sub-Prime Minister.
He was yellow, he has mellowed, he has been flushed down.
"Bunch of wankers miss the point", really.
If e.g. Saudi Arabia or Russia or some other evil foreign country buys up a shed load of 'vital US assets', which country is then more dependent on the co-operation and friendship of the other?
If said evil foreign country declares war or something*, all the Americans have to do is to expropriate their US-based assets, ergo, this sort of thing makes it less likely that an evil foreign country will declare war on the USA.
So from the American point of view, this is a win-win. There's money coming in and American influence on other countries' foreign policy is strengthened**.
* Whether military, political or economic warfare.
** See also Venezuala. They have expropriated foreign owned oil interests, without provocation. Why should the USA or the UK now give a shit what happens down there? All they have to do is wait until Chavez has completely fucked things up and he gets replaced by somebody more sensible, then Big Oil can buy the stuff back for cheap in exchange for getting the oil industry back on its feet. Seeing as Big Oil plan decades ahead, I suppose this is just a minor inconvenience for them.
Sunday, 14 October 2007
The EU would like us all to do a Blog Action Day* post on The Environment today**.
Here's my ha'penny worth...
Waste incineration reduces landfill*** and is a cheap and efficient way of generating electricity.
For example, the proposed waste incinerator at Belvedere, East London, will be able to burn over 500,000 tons of waste a year (the waste generated by about 400,000 households in a year) and generate 66 megawatt-hours of electricity per year****, or enough for 66,000 homes.
They seem to have realised the elegance of this up in Scotland as well.
For sure, households should recycle their rubbish first, and sort out the bottles, cans, newspapers and bio-degradable stuff*****, what's left is plastic, cardboard, polystyrene, babies' nappies, broken toys etc, all stuff that doesn't bio-degrade very well but has a killer calorific value, as it consists largely of petro-carbons.
* Acronym 'BAD'
** I'm jumping the gun here by a few minutes.
*** This paranoia about landfill is overrated. Low value agricultural land in the UK goes for £3,000 per acre, but the Landfill Tax you'd have to pay to use it for land fill is nearly £1,000,000 per acre.
**** The company blurb that I linked to says "66 megawatts" but I assume they mean "66 megawatt-hours".
***** Which can be used to creaste compost, or even better, used in methane capture plants, CH4 is a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2.
According to The Sunday Telegraph,
"A hardcore of around 40 Labour MPs are ready to challenge Gordon Brown directly over his refusal to hold a referendum on the EU treaty. The number is enough to cancel the Government's 69-seat Commons majority and condemn Mr Brown to a humiliating defeat in any parliamentary vote ... The total number of Labour MPs who privately want a referendum could be as high as 120, but only a proportion would consider voting against their own government"
Unfortunately, some of those 'rebels' would subsequently campaign for a 'Yes' vote, like the two faced shit Keith Vaz, but hey. It would be interesting to see what the Lib Dems and Tories do. MPs voted by a majority of 215 to hold a referendum on the constitution when it was still called that.
The Goblin King knows that a large part of economic growth over the last ten years was fuelled by the house price & credit bubbles, so he is now in a bit of a panic over signs that the bubble has reached the top of the eighteen-year cycle and is now starting to deflate.
This is the Goblin King's fourth desperate throw of the dice in shoring up property prices:-
1) The idea that your pension fund can have buy-to-let properties (an idea which was strangled at birth).
2) Introducing REITs to funnel money into commercial property. Didn't work, REITs shares are down by "20% to 30%" this year.
3) Restricting supply by introducing HIPs.
4) Encouraging buy-to-letters to hang on until next April 2008 before selling - if they sell now they'll have to pay up to 40% CGT, if they wait six months, they'll only pay 18%.
But it won't work. Look at the USA, Ireland, Spain and the residential and commercial property markets in the UK. And heaven knows where else.
Goblin King, you one-eyed lying bastard, this thing is far bigger and more powerful than you! There is nothing you can do to stop it! It will crush you!
The other bit was this legend that private equity chaps don't pay enough tax, which is bollocks actually, as I have explained here.
And so The Goblin King and The Badger came up with this idea of harmonising CGT at a flat rate of 18%. Of course the losers in this are people who expected to pay 10% on the sale of their businesses, who are now whining that their CGT bill will increase by 80%, which is mathematically correct.
Two more things that are mathematically correct are:
1) An entrepreneurs after tax proceeds wil fall by 8.9% (they'll keep £82 for every £100 gross gain, rather than £90).
2) When The Goblin King took over, CGT was a flat 40%, although there was something called retirement relief for older people who sold their businesses.
* As it happen, if it were up to me I'd scrap CGT completely, as part of a wide ranging reform and simplification of the tax and welfare system. That is a whole 'nother topic.
Saturday, 13 October 2007
Via Sanbikinorian, HM Govt is doing some twatty survey on "drugs" for you to fill in online. Here are my answers, for what it's worth. You can either guess the totally dumbass questions or go online and fill in the damn' thing yourselves:
Q1. Tell [young people] that heroin is harmless if it is clean and pure and prescribed by a doctor. Remind them not to share needles. Tell them not to drive a car while drunk, stoned etc. Remind them to drink lots of water if they take E's. Tell them to buy in lots of snacks before smoking dope. Tell them not to mix alcohol and dope, it just makes you spew up. Tell them never to take LSD when you are on your own in case you flip out. Tell them that taking cocaine or crack just turns you into an insufferable arsehole and makes your nose bleed. And other practical sort of stuff that makes the whole drugs experience pleasant and enjoyable.
Q2. See previous answer.
Q3. Yes, the police have these powers, but they do not exercise them because of political correctness. They'd rather be out fining motorists who exceed the speed limit by 1 mph.
Q4. Why on earth should drug users be given priority in housing or employment? There are plenty of other hard working people who deserve that housing or those job opportunities a lot more. "Drug free" is not the issue here, the issue is crime free. I don't care if people take drugs, I am more scared about being mugged by some junkie or shot by a drug dealer.
Q5. Legalise it, regulate it, tax it, like alcohol or nicotine. Problem solved.
Q6. Drugs are enormously good fun. Sure, they can kill you. Like climbing Mount Everest or crossing the road. Or dying of a broken heart. Dear Government, please stop trying to BAN EVERYTHING, show some liberal credentials every now and then.
Q7. This is all a complete lie. These "serious health effects" are vastly overhyped. If proper leaf cannabis were available in off licences like cigarettes or booze, there'd be no need for people to invent stronger stuff.
"Family wants plastic pen tops ban" after their teenage son choked to death on a plastic pen top.
That is a personal tragedy, but seeing as there must be hundreds of millions of plastic pen tops in this country, and this is the first time in ages that they have killed somebody, I think that we as a society will have to live with that risk.
Hey, 75 children are killed by their parents every year and a further 150 children are killed in car crashes/collisions.
Shall we ban parents and cars as well?
"Police chiefs are accusing parents of showing ignorance and complacency in the face of widespread cannabis use among teenage children" says the article ... blah blah ... yadda yadda ... ah, what's this ..."What is largely unseen are our psychiatric hospitals full of people whose illnesses have been triggered by cannabis"
Wot? Can't we just look at the f***ing facts, please? Pretty f***ing please?
1) According to the NHS, "The rate of detentions in NHS hospitals under the [Mental Health Act1983] (including detentions after admission) in 2005-06 in England was 87 per 100,000 population".
2) Around one-in-three teenagers smoke cannabis more than once a year. Let's take a wild guess and say that one-in-ten of overall population smokes cannabis regularly.
3) How many of those detentions from (1) were because of cannabis? No idea. Let's go with one-in-seven (see final quote below). So even among regular cannabis users, there is only a one-in-eight-hundred chance that it'll drive you mad. Seeing as there is a one per cent chance that you'll die in any year anyway, those aren't bad odds at all.
4) As to the link between smoking cannabis and mental illness, The Times claims that heavy use doubles risk of psychosis. This statistic is meaningless - for example, going out into your back garden increases the risk of being hit by a meteorite from outer space tenfold - the important question is, what is the risk of being hit by a meteorite, or in this case, becoming psychotic?
Further down, there's this ... "Leslie Iverson, of the University of Oxford, a member of the advisory council, said: “Despite a thorough review the authors admit that there is no conclusive evidence that cannabis use causes psychotic illness. Their prediction that 14 per cent of psychotic outcomes in young adults in the UK may be due to cannabis use is not supported by the fact that the incidence of schizophrenia has not shown any significant change in the past 30 years”
When I see the statistics on the level of government spending as a percentage of regional income in different parts of the UK (via Vindico), I can't help thinking what a wonderful thing English independence would be, as it would enable us to reduce taxes by at least 7%*
In summary ...
Northern Ireland 70.5%
United Kingdom (average) 44.1%
* 41% divided by 44.1% = 93%. The maths is trickier than that of course.
** To be fair to Scotland, the North East of England comes in higher, at 63%.
Friday, 12 October 2007
Good to see that my ideas are being taken seriously by HM Government: on the front page of today's FT I read this ...
Among the options in yesterday's consultation paper was an administration system for insolvent banks...The proposals would allow administrators to sort out problems more quickly ... An administrator could take over client accounts, with depositors given higher priority [than] creditors. "This new regime would mean depositors are insulated from a bank that has failed, greater compensation for them, and certainty their compensation can be paid out quickly," Mr Darling said.
You read it here first!
AVBD kindly linked to this site a day or two ago (for which, ta muchly!).
I would like to wish a warm welcome to everybody who drops in here (or indeed has dropped in here) via his blog.
So what, you may think - but guess what the friend died of ...
Thursday, 11 October 2007
This report by Oxfam suggests that we might as well scrap aid payments and send them weapons instead.
Rather bizarrely, I popped up third on this poor chap or chapess' search for when Ramadan actually ends. Maybe he or she shouldn't have included 'Google' in his or her search words?
Anyroad, having scratted round the internet it appears that Ramadan ends this evening in England, and Eid is on Saturday 13th October, it's got something to do with the first sighting of the new crescent moon, aka hilal - it took me twenty bloody minutes to find all this, they really do live in The Dark Ages. So in case they come back, I hope to have been of assistance. The debate is still raging over in the USA.
This post ends with the obligatory "... A DING DONG!"
Update - The Lad's local state primary is shut tomorrow, Friday 12th for "Eid al-Fitr". Wot? A day early? Is this crass laziness on part of the teachers, political correctness gone mad, or some sort of Islamist takeover of the UK? Endupdate.
Wonders will never cease!
First North Wales top cop Brundstrom acknowledges that it is the illegality of illegal drugs that causes most harm/crime rather than the drugs themselves (see previous post), and now, the pc-PC, the much maligned (and rightfully so) Sir Ian Blair, Metropolitan Police Commisioner calls for an end to red tape and a return to good old-fashioned bobbies on the beat!
"North Wales Police chief constable Richard Brunstrom has said he will be 'campaigning hard' for drugs such as heroin to be legalised".
Police Chief Constable Brunstrom, you rock!
Wednesday, 10 October 2007
It was all a damp squib. Under judicial review rules, judges can only say whether the government complied with its own rules; if the judge finds it didn't, the government just changes its own rules. As WOAR pointed out in the comments on my previous post.
Meanwhile, The Thought Police has been having a go. Apparently:
- This is "another attempt by the well organized and ruthless climate denial lobby". Wot? The 'climate denial lobby'? Nobody's disputing the existence of 'climate', for f***'s sake.
- By extension ... "A similar case could be made for issuing guidance on films about the Holocaust ...". Right. So because he doesn't like the tone of a pseudo-scientific film, he must be racist scum who deserves to die, a bit like Ahmad Inadinnerjacket, you piece-of-shit, Szamko*?
- Stewart Dimmock stood as a candidate for The New Party, whose Philosophy And Principles seem fair enough to me as they are writ.
- Ah, here we go, the chap is only a lorry driver ... so clearly his opinions count for nought against those of a cosseted son of a US Representative and Senator. As an aside, may I point out that at UKIP's conference, we passed a Branch Motion in favour of charging foreign lorries for using UK roads?
* CV: "Ex-student of history, now a refugee from the academy - trying to put those hard learned research skills to some practical use"
A few days ago, we were talking about important things, like whether we should have a referendum on the EU Constitution/Reform Treaty (as voted for by MPs in early 2005), a valuable first step towards the inevitable break-up of the EU, for which read, 31,000 corrupt, self-serving self-appointed civil servants* in Brussels trying to run every last facet of the lives of nearly five hundred million people, on behalf of various industry-funded lobby groups, with blatant disregard to The Law Of Unintended Consequences**.
Now, the UK political class*** has diverted attention to the relatively trivial question of whether the Inheritance Tax nil rate band should be £1 million per individual estate or £600,000 per couple's estate****; and whether non-dom's should pay a flat £25,000 or a flat £30,000 per year in tax.
Can we, er, get back to what we were talking about before you started calling each other phoney, you devious, conniving shits?
* Plus ten times as many funded by their largesse in the 'Member States'. £1.9 million for 'Chalk and Cheese' in the South West? The words 'fuck' and 'off' spring to mind, in exactly that order.
** Hat tip, The Purple Scorpion
*** You can tell them apart by their matching dark-blue suits, white shirts, pale-blue ties, parting on the left and chopping hand gestures.
**** Neither. Inheritance Tax should be scrapped completely and rolled into Land Value Tax.
Via The Sage King.
Don't forget, when you are down, there's plenty of Pat's stuff on YouTube and so on.
Via Christina Speight:
"Dear C, On the BBC radio News at one they reported Brown making a sneering reference to something like only 20 odd signatures to a petition calling for an election, but later in the programme added that the number had increased to over 200. I just looked it up, petitions.pm.gov.uk/Election-year (may not have got it quite right but it worked for me) and I added my name. Total now over 600. T"
C'mon chaps, this has got to be worth a punt!
According to this, they are going to spend £250 million more on 'targeted learning'.
Seeing as nobody knows what 'targeted learning' is and how much they were spending on it beforehand, that is a really stupid headline.
More interesting is this, total education spending is going to be £75 billion this year, divide that by the number of children aged 5 to 18, you get about about £7,300 per child per annum. The average annual cost of sending a child to private school was £9,627, about £50 a week more*.
Having experienced the difference between the local state primary and local private primary schools, all I can ask is "When can we have vouchers for education please?"**
* After dividing by 52 weeks, I am not looking at cost per school-week, I am looking at how much parents have to put aside per week over the whole year.
** As suggested on page 7 of this.
Update - Jock Coats in the comments reckons that the average spend in state sector and average tuition fees in private sector are both in region of £6,000, which strengthens my case.
Tuesday, 9 October 2007
Pretty cunning counter-move by The piece-of-shit Badger; allow married couples/civil partners to pool their IHT nil-rate bands, which is something that you can do now, but it involves all sort of legal expenses to set up, trusts and stuff.
How the f*** will they enforce it? What about widower who is thinking of marrying a widow, will they be able to double up yet again to arrive at a £1.2 million nil rate band? Or will they only keep the £600,000 each if they don't get married? What about Islamists with four wives, will they get a £1.5 million nil rate band - it'd be pretty un-PC no to? And what about couples who can't or won't get married for innocuous reasons? What about a Catholic who doesn't want to get legally divorced from a spouse, but wants to leave everything to his or her new partner?
Well, it's all grist to the tax-planning mill, I suppose.
If you can't be bothered reading the whole article in today's FT, here's a summary:
a) 3.3% fall in house prices, year 2007 to date.
b) 10% fall in land values (period not specified), and
c) 1.4% contraction in economy in second quarter 2007.
It'll be us next! Things in the USA are this bad already, Spain is heading the same way. Anybody who says otherwise is deluding themselves. Northern Rock? You ain't seen nothin' yet.
The IHT-thing was inspired, hats off to him on that.
But Gideon has now reverted to usual public schoolboy, EU-philiac mediocrity with this in today's FT, when he said "... he preferred to shift taxes from personal and corporate income to consumption and pollution"
Taxes on pollution, fair enoughski, but Gideon, you poorly educated and/or lying shithead, taxes on consumption are much the same as taxes on income ... but worse. One man's consumption is another man's income. At least with taxes on business profits, the producer can deduct his expenses, but with a tax on consumption, i.e. VAT which is a flat turnover tax*, there is no deduction for expenses so this puts businesses, well, out of business.
Hmm ... so why do we have VAT? Because of the EU! That's why no politician dares talk about reducing taxes on consumption. Because we can't! Well, not much anyway, from 17.5% to 15% is allowed by the Bureaucrats In Brussels.
* Any f***ing smartarse who says it isn't, because you can reclaim input VAT is a f***wit with knobs on. If the business has already paid the input VAT to his supplier, why should he pay it again to the taxman, bearing in mind that his supplier in turn has to paid over that VAT to the taxman. That's why they never did the obvious thing and exempt business-to-business supplies - it would make it bloody obvious that it is a turnover tax, even to the most uneconomically minded businessman.
I shan't hold my breath on IHT changes, but the f***ing piece-of-shit Badger has trotted out more "plans to target private equity bosses' tax loopholes".
Putting Employer's NI to one side (a totally evil tax that ought to be phased out - which only UKIP say they would do) these chaps don't get any tax loopholes!!!
If UK employee makes gain of (say) £100,000 from unapproved share options in a UK company, £40,000 income tax is due. If the employing company complies with the rules in Schedule 23 FA 2003 (which are relatively straightforward), it can claim an equal and opposite corporation tax deduction of 30% of £100,000 = £30,000.
HM Treasury nets £40,000 minus £30,000 = £10,000.
If wicked private equity guy* organises things so that he only pays £10,000 capital gains tax on his £100,000 gain, then the target company (e.g. Boots) gets no tax relief.
HM Treasury nets £10,000.
I struggle to see any fundamental difference between £10,000 and £10,000!
UPDATE - The piece-of-shit Badger has just replaced the 10% rate of CGT with a flat rate 18% on all capital gains In future expect people voluntarily to pay the 40% rate on share gains in unquoted trading companies (i.e. most of those owned by private equity funds - in this case there's no Employer's National Insurance) in order to enable the target 'employer' company to get the 30% rate.
* Sure, if WPEG is offshore, HM Treasury doesn't even get the £10,000 - but lots of UK source income is exempt from UK tax - that is a different topic and easily fixed.
In an outbreak of commonsense, the Parliamentary Ombudsman has described the way that Tax Credits are recovered as "harsh" and "unfair".
And the way in which they are calculated (leading to an effective 70%-plus tax rate for most claimants), which discourages work.
And the way in which they encourage single parenthood over couples.
And the way in which HMRC demand that claimants report every trivial change in circumstances. Surveillance society. CCTV. Road pricing. Etcetera.
May I suggest we replace the entire welfare system with a Citizen's Income type scheme?
Monday, 8 October 2007
According to an article in the Weekend FT, the values of commercial property fell by 2 to 3 percent in September, that is a serious drop!
I have been predicting this for far too long, I wasn't sure whether the slight fall in residential property prices in August was a blip or the beginning of the house price crash, but I'm surer than ever now that it's all over.
My question - why the f*** didn't Diana wear a seatbelt?
Sunday, 7 October 2007
... always argue (see comments here) that votes for UKIP might cost the Tories seats at the next general election, thus making a referendum on the EU Constitution, Reform Treaty or whatever it's called this week less likely.
A good way to start an argument is to look at THE FACTS. Let's assume that the final arbiters on whether we get a referendum or not are MPs.
Back in February 2005, when Nulabour had a majority of 167, MPs voted by a majority of 215 that we should have a referendum.
Nulabour's majority fell from 167 to 66 in May 2005.
So, even if votes for UKIP cause 50-plus Tory MPs to lose their seats to Nulabour (thus reinstating Nulabour's majority of approx. 167), what reason is there to assume that MPs would not, by a significant majority, vote again that there should be a referendum?
One of the things that might speed up the dissolution of the EU is when the tensions and frictions between the Northern and Southern Euro-zone countries becomes too great and half of them leave in a huff.
Now, as a lesson in non-financial economics, although the idea of a single currency is superficially attractive, the simple facts are ...
1. There was a global single currency for a couple of millennia. It was gold.
2. Over the past couple of centuries, most countries use their own paper currencies, backed only by future government tax receipts. Sure, there was a transitional period, where currencies were linked to a gold-standard, and subsequently the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates, but this gradually fell apart.
3. There have been dozens of currency unions over the years, most of them have fallen apart again, for good or bad reasons.
4. If currency unions were such a good idea, they would never have fallen apart, and progressively more countries would have signed up, and we would expect to see a few large blocs, let's say one or two currencies per continent.
Ergo, tensions between the members of the Euro-zone will flare up sooner or later (my guess is in six months to three years) and a lot of them will leave. Of course, the Euro-zone is only a subset of the EU, and membership of the latter does not really require membership of the former, but this will lead to even greater frictions at EU level.
Especially if Germany tells France to stop pissing about with trying political pressure on the ECB to keep interest rates down. The Germans have a powerful collective aversion to devaluation and hyperinflation as a result of what happened in the 1920's. If Germany forces France out the Euro-zone for bad behaviour*, then the EU's days are pretty much numbered as well.
* When Germany forced the UK out of the ERM, there wasn't even any malice involved. The Germans had to double their interest rates to prevent inflation taking off as a result of Helmut Kohl's rather reckless promise to convert East German to West German Marks one-for-one, when the real exchange rate was actually about ten-for one. But we know what the Frogs are like for going off in a huff**.
** See also the cheese-eating surrender monkeys leaving NATO and, forty years later, considering rejoining.
"A BBC investigation has found sub-prime mortgage lenders who give loans to people with bad credit records account for more than 70% of all repossessions"...whereas ... "In the US, sub-prime loans account for just 55% of foreclosures, which are the equivalent of repossession hearings".
I have seldom seem a more cretinous use of statistics.
There could be a number of reasons for this; perhaps 'sub-prime' is defined differently in the UK and the USA (with hindsight, anybody who defaults was by definition sub-prime!); perhaps there are just far more non-sub prime borrowers having their homes repossessed in the USA; perhaps there are fewer sub-prime borrowers in the US; it is only absolute figures that matter anyway; if there were 10 repossessions in the UK, 7 of whom were sub-prime (AKA 'self-certified'?) then this is not much to worry about, however if there were 1 million repossessions in the USA, of whom were 450,000 were mainstream borrowers, then it's time to panic. And so on.
They've woken up to their senses in Kensington & Chelsea and decided to get rid of a load of traffic lights.
The intro paragraph shows just what we're up against here: "This might be a motorist's* dream - but health and safety officers** don't agree. Who will win the fight***?"
* It's not just a motorist's dream is it? What about people on buses? Traffic lights are just as infuriating for people on buses as for motorists.
** Elfin Safety officers, as a general rule, are talking crap.
*** It's not a fight is it? It's an experiment! Let's turn off the traffic lights, and see what happens. If all hell breaks loose (which it won't at most junctions), then leave it for a week and if it doesn't settle itself down, then turn 'em back on again, by all means.
Disclaimer - I do not own a car, I use public transport and occasionally mini-cabs. I was tipped off to this seismic event by anti-traffic light activist Martin Cassini, who cycles around London.
Saturday, 6 October 2007
The Ottoman Empire
The Austro-Hungarian Empire
The League of Nations
The Axis empires
The British, French, Belgian and Dutch empires.
The USSR/Warsaw pact
Even within smaller units, there will always be tensions:
The United Nations
... The European Union?
The phrase "Gordon Brown-Trousers" is already doing the rounds, I would prefer see the whole episode go down in history as "The Brown Bottle"*, **.
*Obviously, I will look daft if the One-Eyed Wonder does a double- or treble-shimmy and calls an election after all, but if he doesn't, let me be the first to say I Told You So.
** The Sage King nearly beat me to it with the post "Brown Bottles It" of three hours ago.
Friday, 5 October 2007
I'm not sure why the BBC singled out this one from a long list of equally fair and sensible policies that were announced at the conference today, but this is good coverage nonetheless.
That said, I'd be perfectly happy to scrap IHT and SDLT in their entirety and make up the shortfall with a few extra Council Tax bands, no reason why we shouldn't go all the way to Band Z for £1 million-plus homes.
If we're cutting taxes, then the priorities have to be 1) Double the personal allowance, 2) Scrap higher rate tax, 3) Phase out Employer's National Insurance, and 4) Reduce and simplify VAT.
The ministers responsible for fishing from England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland are meeting up for a chat later today.
Well, whoopie-f***ing-doo, as ever.
Isn't this, er, all regulated from Brussels nowadays?
Hardly headline news is it?
They have to talk now - there wouldn't be much point trying to communicate by letter.
Thursday, 4 October 2007
I watched a bit more of his speech last night, and frankly I was appalled.
The phrase "we will give people more power over their own lives" makes me sick. The f***ing government shouldn't have taken it away in the first place. Why do these weasels have so much power over us in the first place?
I'm waiting for a politician to stand up and reel of a long list of laws that he or she will repeal. Starting off with smoking ban, hunting ban, EC Act 1972, Human Rights Act 1998 and so on. And whatever laws there are that make drugs or certain aspects of prostitution illegal. And suggesting some modifications to the Highway Code, like scrapping traffic lights and scrapping speed limit on motorways, while bringing it down to 20mph for residential areas*.
A politician who ain't prepared to do all this is not one who wants to give us "power over our own lives".
* Apart from violent crime and theft and so on, the only thing that ought to be illegal is people playing loud music in their homes or in their cars. I bloody hate that.
There are a load of great children's books out there, but why-oh-why do so many of them have the text above the pictures?
Parents usually have to point to the words while the small child reads (so that they do not lose their place etc). If you are pointing to words at the top of the page then the small child can't see the pictures, which defeats the whole object of the exercise.
Not an event of earth-shattering significance, but probably vaguely more interesting than a list of my top ten films or albums.
Wednesday, 3 October 2007
According to this evening's London Lite, the Tories are going to allow non-working spouses to transfer their personal allowance to working spouse to save up to £1,000 tax a year.
It was the Tories who got rid of joint taxation about twenty years ago, that was a terrible thing to do. So they can start off by apologising for that.
And, as I have gone to great lengths to explain, as a result of the way our tax/welfare/tax credits system works, a couple with children can boost its benefits income by £9,000 or £11,000 a year by pretending to live apart.
Further, an unemployed single woman improves her net weekly income after housing costs by £67 for the first baby and another £49 for the second. This compares with an extra £20 and an extra £4 for a single-earner couple, where the working partner is on an average wage.
So this is a nice gesture, but absolutely meaningless in the grander scheme of things*.
The only thing that will sort this out is a Citizen's Income/flat tax system (for political reasons I'd give people a choice between claiming the Citizen's income or having a much higher personal allowance, but that's just fine-tuning). If we moved to that system (which is broadly fiscally neutral), a single-earner couple with one partner on an average salary and two children would be about £6,000 a year better off.
* Even more ironic, this will have to be paid for by increasing taxes elsewhere. But as single, unemployed parents, the real villains of the piece, don't pay tax, the people who will have to pay for this are single working parents and people without children, so this is totally unfair and misses the point.
** It's on the BBC website now. I like the idea of front-loading child benefit - did they lift this from my Bow Group report, Proposal 6? The other suggestions are pretty crap though.