Thursday, 29 September 2011

It will all be OK

I have been very worried about what will happen when Greece defaults, the EU crumbles, the markets dissolve our savings, society breaks down and the lights go out whenever the wind drops.

But thank (insert name of favourite deity) it will all be OK! Dave is on the job and has decreed that he will reduce the number of plastic bags. Not only that, he will allow us to express an opinion over who takes the regional police leadership, and that nice transport bloke will even let us drive a whole 10 miles an hour faster without getting a fine.

It’s just so reassuring to know that our leaders are so completely and absolutely in full command of all the serious problems we face and that they are doing such an amazing job to protect us and our way of life. What a wonderful set of political leaders we have, we should be so pleased.

And a final touch, Pickles now says we will all get weekly rubbish collections again! Wow, isn't that great, that's all the problems solved for definite. Bring on the future.

Some things our politicians will not suggest to get the country moving again.

I decided to write a list of issues I would like to hear action on from our politicians to stimulate the economy and improve the state of our society. I’m not an economist so haven't worked details, but the exact figures and levels are irrelevant anyhow. It’s the principles I think we should discuss. So here are 12 ideas, in no particular order. Might be a tad controversial though!

1          An amendment to the human rights act to the effect that anyone deliberately breaching the rights of another individual, or society in general, via crime, terrorism, or anti-social behaviour should have their rights automatically considered as subservient to those of the victim(s). Abuse your rights and you lose them.

2          A qualification period for immigration of 10 year’s legal residence or 5 years paying tax before any benefits or health treatment beyond emergency and lifesaving treatment can be claimed from the state. There could be an alternative of a social security ‘buy-in’ for people taking up jobs, rather like France. The ‘buy-in” would need to be set at approximately equivalent to 5 year’s tax at average salary.

3          Drastically reduce the cost of energy as fast as possible. It’s the biggest issue for growth and manufacturing. If the politicians can’t bear to admit their AGW folly let’s at least have a 10 year moratorium on all carbon taxes, credits, subsidies, permits and tariffs. Forget about “green energy”, get resources such as shale gas online as quickly as possible, and let the market find the best value for electricity generation. Apart from being a completely pointless nonsense the existing carbon controls are hideously bureaucratic, expensive and inefficient even were there a CO2 problem to answer. Petrol and transport costs also need to be significantly reduced, shale gas could help there too.

4          A complete moratorium on absolutely all non-essential spending and vanity projects. Overseas aid should be for emergencies only, Euro bailouts should not be our problem and we don’t need an expensive high speed rail line to Birmingham (we need cheap reliable transport nationally). Neither do we need diversity co-ordiators and minority rights officials paid for from local taxes, we need just front line council workers and a few people to co-ordinate them. We most certainly should not be bankrolling pressure groups and fake charities.

5          The complete abolition of National Insurance and job taxes, get rid of all the infrastructure and bureaucracy and load the same ‘tax-take’ onto ordinary income tax (less the savings of course).

6          How about the abolition of almost all employment regulations and employee social obligations loaded on employers. Make employment contracts obligatory and legally binding on employers so people know what they are signing up for and keep basic Health and Safety rules so employers cannot risk staff’s safety or exploit workers beyond their contract, but remove all the rest. That includes maternity pay, redundancy payouts and all minimum wage regulations – the idea is to get people hiring. Bad employers will soon run out of willing workers.

7          I know IDS is trying to sort benefits but I think I’m rather harsher than him. In return for less employment security I would suggest a citizen’s income for everyone over the age of 20 to replace all other benefits and state pensions, scrap them all, everything from free meals, through housing allowances and unemployment benefit along with all the departments and infrastructure that administer them. If a pensioner is expected to exist on less than £8000 a year anyone else should be able to. A small concession to allow, say, £2000 extra each per year for up to two (but no more) underage dependents, more for the disabled who genuinely cannot work, and a tapered fall off for people earning small amounts so they keep much of it, but otherwise that’s it. Anyone caught out by point 6 can immediately claim, no prying into people’s co-habiting arrangements, so it’s a universal safety net. Freely given but deliberately not a comfortable safety net, especially for a single person household, that’s part of the point. Single parents or single old people would need to get into a stable partnership or house share and this would also ease the housing shortage (see 10).

8          Clear the compete income tax muddle by removing all allowances, exceptions and special cases, just a £10,000 (or better) personal allowance and a single rate above it, the rate would probably end up between 30% and 40%, but if set for a similar tax take to current tax+NI should leave an average working family about the same. Remove tax on savings and pension schemes, they should be encouraged.

9          Make all bonus payments for all salaried government/public funded posts illegal. Bonuses are in effect a bribe to make people do their jobs, which they should be doing to the best of their ability anyhow in return for their contracted salary. Bribes are illegal, so bonus payments should be illegal too. Private companies can do what they like as long as bonuses are geared to profitability and worker profit sharing schemes should be strongly encouraged. Council, civil service and NHS salaries should also be capped at about 4 times the regional or council area mean wage.

10        Change the rules on private partnerships (gay marriage) to completely remove all sexual connotations and obligations. Why should we care, or have any right to know, whether people are gay or straight or whether or not they sleep together or have sex? We should allow any 2 adults to create a legal partnership giving them the social, financial and inheritance rights of a household. It doesn’t matter whether the two people are a couple with a sexual relationship or are simply two friends or are, for example, two elderly siblings wanting share a house and take responsibility for helping look after one another in their twilight years. Members of any households, however constituted, should be able to register for exactly the same social and financial rights.

11        Remove the now extensive powers to levy fixed penalty charges (fines) or costs on people for minor misdemeanours and anti social behaviour. There are now thousands of jobsworths, from beach wardens to bouncers through to parking attendants, traffic patrols and council employees who can hand out fixed penalty notices. Most of us have no idea what half the regulations are and have even less of a clue whether the charge (or fine) is being legally and fairly levied by a properly licensed individual. It’s a scammer’s charter. Only the police should have such powers (if anyone should) and even then there should be a clear honest appeals process.

12        Find a simple cost effective solution to old age sheltered accommodation. It is quite absurd that it can cost more to stay in a basic care home than it costs to stay in a luxury hotel or go on a package holiday. Where do the fees go, is it profits or excessive taxes and overregulation creating huge background costs? Maybe charity or co-operative solutions are possible but an affordable solution must be found.

All the above of course assumes that we will have any sort of economy or stable society after the Greek default.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Reasons to be cheerful

Apart from still being here and not yet cooked by solar flares or Elenin's flypast there aren't many of those at the moment but this may turn out to be one.

Having demonised tobacco, alcohol, salt, sugar, fats and just about everything else that makes food pleasurable this snippet is at least a shot across the bows for the next phase. Of course it only investigated women, and the BBC are clearly not happy about the findings because these counter the perceived wisdom of the if-in-doubt-ban-it-all movement, but even a glow worm at the end of tunnel is something.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Some thoughts on Euro Scepticism

Eurosceptic is unfortunately a horribly negative appellation; it is much more difficult to get people behind a negative concept than a positive idea. Most movements and pressure groups know this and choose positive names for their organisations or movement. Thus anti-abortionists call themselves pro-lifers, even anti-tobacco don’t call themselves by a negative label, they are Action on Smoking and Health, doing something positive about health sounds so much nicer and cuddlier than anti-tobacco doesn’t it, no matter what lies beneath the name? The American Taxed Enough Already movement don’t call themselves tax (or big government) sceptics, they gave themselves a nice cuddly acronym. Who can object to a harmless hot beverage indulging get together, with the added tang of a reminding nod towards a key defining point in American independence.

But for us it’s too late now, we are stuck with being called Eurosceptic, and in any case I can’t suggest what else could be used as most alternatives have negative connotations of separatists or little Englanders. We have sadly allowed ourselves to be stuck with this negative label, more redolent of an elderly relative who gazes at the modern world with a faintly disapproving whine of “It’ll never catch on you know”, than a rallying call against a political disaster and the indulgent and self serving anti democratic bureaucracy who sustain it.

Eurosceptic is also grossly misleading as a label. I’m not sceptical about Europe. It’s a great big lump of the world with billions of people that fills the space between Asia and the Atlantic and geographically includes us. We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist, or that it will magically evaporate into space at our request, or that a force field should be erected between our bit and the rest. Yet the name gives that impression. Just as climate change sceptics are side-tracked into constantly explaining that “yes, we understand climate does change, it’s the man induced bit we disbelieve” us eurosceptics are open to similar simplistic accusation that we believe that we can get along by erecting a wall around the UK and refusing to be part of the real world. Of course we can’t ignore the countries next door, whatever political system they choose to adopt. It’s the EU politicians, their self aggrandisement, their self serving and profligate schemes and their assumed micro-control of our lives to their own ends that are the problem. They are a dangerous, expensive and completely unwanted layer of political parasites feeding on the European people’s desires to be friendly and co-operative.  Nor I would venture are most of the ordinary people on the continent any sort of problem to us, many of them feel just as we do about this huge unwanted European political class trying to control us all and engorge themselves at our expense, they should be our natural allies against the EU structure, we should not dismiss the people of Europe in our desire to rid ourselves of the parasites.

This situation is all made much more of a PR home goal because not just the name is negative, so is the message. Of course we want out of this appalling undemocratic political construct, but we say precious little about what we actually do want. Sovereignty is the oft used concept, but we want anti monarchists in the cause too and it's a very wooly idea anyhow. I have been following Richard North’s ideas onReferism, and Wittering from Witney’s ideas on local democracy, both of which I like the sound of. We desperately need democracy back in the UK, and a return to that is a vital factor towards rebuilding our heritage and forcing our extrication from the EU political nightmare, but these do not directly address our longer term future as a country or our relationship with the rest of the world. They contain no direct rallying points for a strong independent country in the international sense.

Another problem is that personally I see quite a few objections to the EU that are potentially misdirected. This makes them easy for Europhiles to refute. The CO2 climate nonsense bandwagon for example did not originate with the EU. We have the UN to thank for this economically cancerous movement which is equally infecting countries like the USA and Australia. The EU elite, in wholly predictable manner, simply jumped onto and helped to drive the bandwagon. It allows a pan-European tax, based on a wholly new base concept of energy usage, rather than expenditure or income or wealth as per traditional taxes. A tax that can be levied by stealth using little understood banking mechanisms and bureaucratic permits on every European citizen, then used to directly fill the coffers of their central EU machine, it’s all their wet dreams rolled into one! Carbon taxes have a similar attraction to our UK political elite. It doesn’t require a conspiracy theory, or the assumption that our politicians are EU poodles (although they are that as well), to understand the attraction of carbon taxes to our own out of touch elitist and self-serving government. The fact that the pseudo-scientific dam has burst and carbon dioxide driven AGW is now a busted flush is irrelevant, the mechanism for carbon taxation by stealth has been put in place, Osbourne did it in his first budget. Gillard in Australia is demonstrating how desperate politicians are for this new all encompassing stealth tax stream, even to the point of her committing personal political suicide to force it through before reality imposes even further on her lies and pseudo-green misdirection.

Similarly we should not blame the EU for our benefits system that pays illegal immigrants more in benefits than UK taxpayers can expect, and which therefore makes us a target for immigration. That’s down to our government and our dreadful (non) justice system combined with our pay everyone for idleness benefits system and asylum rules. Even if the European Court stirs the pot by insisting we apply human rights laws the French and Germans don’t have the same level of human rights problem and benefit distortions. Again the problem is exacerbated by the EU but the essential underlying blame lies with our government for our laws and their gold plating of EU ones.

So what is the answer? I’m not sure. But I do feel we need to clearly identify what problems are caused by the EU and which are down to our own domestic self obsessed and self serving political elite following the euro gravy train with such slobbering abandon. We then need to identify what sort of relationship we do want with Europe and the rest of the world and turn as many issues as possible into positive aspirations and rallying cries rather than adopting a negative sniping attitude which is easier for the opposition to dismiss. I don’t want that to sound like the ‘europlastic’ agenda, it’s no such thing, I want out, completely, but to get more support we need clear positive ideas of where we want to be. A plan to attract people rather than euro alarmism.

Personally I would suggest free trade is important, freedom to travel, whether on holiday or for work, or to live is good, mutual respect and friendship, exchange emergency health cover. These are things I want, not just in Europe but across the world. The EU has severely damaged our ability to trade and travel outside the EU. Especially for us given that we had a huge commonwealth and significant US links before we mixed in with the EU. In fact I see plenty of benefits from remaining good friends with our European neighbours to help one another out and enjoy one another’s company, but I don’t want to be part of the neighbour’s household, share their grocery budget or have them arrange my furniture and domestic arrangements. How to put that independence in a positive light is the problem.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

What has happened to us?

In many parts of the world people have taken to the streets in protest. Disorganised or hastily co-ordinated on the net and by phone from Spain right through the Arab world and into Israel, they on the streets protesting about government cuts, austerity and lack of democracy and governments are falling.

Here in the UK we have to wait for the conference season so that just one portion of society can get organised to protest. So OK I don’t agree with the public sector unions, it’s blatant self interest on their part and doesn’t address any problems, but I am amused, and somewhat depressed, by the English approach when compared to everywhere else. Is it something in the water or are we just so ground down we don’t even care any more?

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Conspiracy theories

Something to worry about?

I am generally turned off by extreme conspiracy theories. Although most misdeeds are carried out by groups of people, and I suppose any organised private group can be labelled a conspiracy, most usually I can explain much of the political and social nonsense to my own satisfaction on the basis of hidden agendas, greed, industrial quantities of stupidity, stupendous arrogance and rampant political corruption.

For that reason I have kept off the 9/11 topic. I can't see building 7's collapse as being anything else but a controlled demolition, why else would it fall that way? But equally I don't want to believe a government agency would kill that many people to make a political point and even if they had anti gravity flying spheres (and they well might for all I know) it seems a bit unlikely they would fly one over New York where so many people could see it.

But  sometimes you have to wonder, Is this guy genuine? I don’t pretend to follow the maths but I can understand the words and pictures? It’s worth reading what he thinksof HAARP.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The corrosive effect of fear

Behind my house is the corner of a field. Sometimes it has cows on it, which nowadays worries me a bit after reading Mark Wadsworth’s blog but this year was quite safe, it had a cereal crop and I have yet to be attacked by a rogue cornflake. A couple of weeks ago the crop was cut and the machine chuntered round eating up the straw and pooping big square bales out the back, which were then collected on a trailer and hauled off like a crazy mobile haystack. All except one bale near the corner which fell apart, so it couldn’t be lifted by the machine and was left behind.

Some days later I was working in the garden when all this shouting and noise erupted from the field. My instant thought, what the hell is going on, who are they, why are people messing around just behind my fence, what trouble are they up to?

I discreetly peeked over the fence to see a small group of kids who were playing on the discarded bale, and I immediately realised they were doing nothing wrong at all. They were not causing any damage, they were not causing any problems, they were not shooting people via their Playstations or trying to buy underage booze or hold a riot. They were doing exactly what kids should do, getting outside on a warm summer evening playing and getting healthy exercise and excitement by using their imagination! No adult to tell them what they should be doing, no fears of adults trying to do anything to them, just kids enjoying themselves, very much as I was fortunate to be able to do in easier times half a century ago when children were allowed and expected to be children.

I discreetly went back to my gardening and left them undisturbed, but I was disturbed. What has happened to me and to the world that my first reaction to hearing a healthy normal situation should be to expect trouble?