Monday, 30 April 2012

Breaking the Ministerial Code

No 10. = Four doors down from Patrick McGoohan in a surreal cut-off English village where the rest of the country is ignored, misunderstood and shut out

Upper house = the big room along the corridor helping keep old folks out of the cold weather

Lower house = the big room at the other end of the corridor where the school prefects hang out with their fags *

Bill = Act of parliament designed to reduce the freedom of a group of people

Election = Piece of street theatre designed to provide an illusion of choice. Whoever is voted for a politician is always elected.

Transparency = Allowing enough information out to disguise how much is being hidden

Justice = Making sure what we want to happen does happen

Manifesto = Work of fiction intended to make the punters vote for you

We are all in it together = you are all in it together, me and my mates are doing very well thanks

Referendum = Semi-mythical rite which must not be used for anything people actually care about

Expenses = tax free salary top-up

We will fight = A theatrical show of token resistance before caving in

Immigration = the necessary enlargement of working age population so enough tax can be collected after the baby-boomers retire

Lords reform = Method of increasing the hold of the parties over the upper house

Elected Mayors = Method of increasing the hold of the parties over local politics

Elected Police Chiefs = Method of increasing the hold of the parties over the police

Sustainable development = Blight that never goes away but costs vast sums of money to keep sustained

Oh! It’s not that sort of ‘code’?

*used in the sense of skivvies to the elder pupils of course

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

So what do Google know?

I use iGoogle as a home page. I know it's childish but I like to be able to personalise it with useful little widgets like newsfeeds, stock market tracker, translator and suchlike.

One such widget is the currency converter, which I set by default to show the Euro rate and leave £1 in the box so it always shows the real time conversion..

It generally looks like this (but in Euros):
Yesterday it looked like this:
So what do Google know? Unsupported currency indeed!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Draft Manifesto, for discussion

Confidential. Please send comments to the party office.

We at the Other Party believe that the main parties have distorted democracy and become detached from the wishes of the voters of this country. We therefore present our manifesto and look forward to your support in the forthcoming local and regional elections.

Immigration: We are very much in favour of multiculturalism and completely open borders. A flood of people will put pressure on housing, which will be translated into higher house values and hence support the wealth of middle class house owners which is so vital for the economy and will enable them to survive when future state pensions are reduced. In terms of skills we particularly need to attract those who can’t and won’t work, we don’t want the advantages of higher property values diluted by a shortage of jobs, which would happen if immigrants were skilled and self-reliant and filled them all.

Defence: We believe in strong armed forces, but accept there are divisions and funding dissensions between the services which can cause inefficiencies. For that reason we will build new aircraft carriers for the Navy but avoid inter-service rivalry by not putting any aircraft on them.  The air force will get state of the art fighters but no troop carriers because the Army might be tempted to try and use them.  This will do much to reduce inter-service squabbles. In the interests of the environment all ordinance will be designed to be bio-degradable, there is no reason why the forces should not do their bit for the planet.

Europe: We believe in being controlled by Europe but not part of Europe. We will continue, as the larger parties have, to absorb, ‘gold plate’ and pass into law all EU legislation. Although there are deniers, a panel of 50 top economists and politicians all agree in their report that the bureaucrats in Brussels are much better paid than those in the UK, and must therefore be much more clever. This has already caused a 2% rise in global intelligence. Science lead policy therefore leaves us no choice but follow the Brussels diktats. There may be  some issues which your neighbours might take unfair advantage of, like cross border shopping to save duty, relaxations of vehicle MOT obligations and various other tax and administrative burdens that afflict only the UK. These opt-in-deepers will be kept because it’s vital to demonstrate the moral superiority of our nation over the rabble across the channel.

Foreign aid and charities: It’s quite obvious that charitable giving causes untold problems of envy and tax avoidance and some charities are of doubtful efficacy. We will therefore prohibit all private charitable donations and government will distribute an appropriate sum of money in a fair and even handed manner. Only government have a clear and accurate idea of where charity help is needed and which charities deserve support. This will also get rid of those annoying people with tins who molest shoppers on our high streets. As part of our foreign aid initiative we will increase finance to Indian call centres that will be tasked with calling every UK household at least once a day to pretend they are Microsoft and sell them dodgy anti-virus software. Support for people needing to get large sums of money quickly from Nigerian banks will be similarly increased.

Individual privacy: This is a very important issue. People get upset when their secrets are made public. To overcome this we will comprehensively ban all secrets. We will make it mandatory for everyone to keep a diary of all their activity directly on a government server or have their system mirrored on one. We will then arrange for the files to be liberally distributed via lost pen drives, lost disks and hacking opportunities to ensure everything done by everyone is completely open, transparent and above board.

Tax:  We believe in fair taxation. Therefore we will discontinue the current practice of holding a budget in advance of the tax year and refrain from publishing tax rates, allowances or tax accountancy rules. Under our revolutionary plan these decisions will not be made until after the end of each tax year. At that time we will assess accurately how much the government has spent on your behalf over the year, how much tax is therefore needed, and we will make up tax rates and rules retrospectively to cover that expenditure. 

Global warming: This is of course the biggest risk to mankind in human history. We will therefore introduce a ‘green scam’ deal whereby representatives of B&Q and Homebase will cold call every household at least once a day asking if they require double glazing, solar panels, cavity wall insulation, roof insulation, wind generators or draft excluders.  It will be a requirement that every household must accept one such offer each year and register their acceptance with their local council (fees yet to be decided). We will of course continue to tax carbon via a carbon trading scheme and this will be expanded. In particular pencils will be subject to a minimum price of 60pence per inch and HMRC will issue guidelines for cross border shopping allowance should people buy pencils abroad. (It is to be hoped that Wickes will also become partners in the green scam deal but currently their policy whereby ‘everything we make has our name on it’ breaches our advertising regulations).

Note – should we change the party name to liblabcon?

Friday, 13 April 2012

The fallacy of the best tariff

We are told that power companies will be forced to tell customers whether they are on thebest tariff and if they should change. Superficially this sounds good, Nick Clegg is on the consumer’s side. Except that it’s mostly useless rhetoric.  

My phone company used to do something similar, telling me at the end of the year how I could do better if I changed. But how does that help? The period of inefficient tariff has gone and the coming year may well not be the same. Life progresses and power needs and usage patterns change. People change routine, children are born into the household, start school, leave home. People change jobs, change working hours, retire, while winter may be mild one year and very cold the next. Each of these events will significantly affect the power use and hence the choice of best tariff for the household. All the scheme does is to ensure you are almost always on the wrong tariff. The one that would have been best last year!

To be in any way meaningful the scheme should force power companies to read the meter then charge at the lowest tariff for that past usage. 

But in any case it’s no more than window dressing and rearranging the deckchairs. Why? Because it does nothing to address the real problem and reduce the cost of the power, all it does is apportion that cost differently to individual households. The cost of power is set by power station costs, raw fuel costs and suchlike plus distribution. Add to that various taxes and the damnable ‘green levies’, the costs of the power companies, plus their profits as paid to shareholders and management bonus recipients.  That’s the cost of power. Messing with customer tariffs doesn’t change any of that.

Consider: If Peter is on a very efficient tariff he will be paying less per kilowatt than Paul who is on a very inefficient tariff. So Paul, along with all his mates also on expensive tariffs, realise this and they all move to a better tariff and they pay less for their power.  But hang on! The total amount of power still costs the same to produce and distribute. The Utility companies won’t be reducing their profits or bonuses to take up the loss. So costs and charges across the board must soon rise to compensate for the reduced income caused by more people on lower tariffs. Paul will not save quite as much as he expected and Peter will lose his advantage from his original clever choice because the companies will take the same overall total payment from their customers.

It’s not quite ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ because Peter was getting an unfairly good deal while Paul was unfairly being fleeced, but the principle is the same.  If all people get the best tariff then charges will be apportioned more fairly, which is perfectly reasonable, sensible and desirable and should help poorly served customers. But shuffling the costs around has no impact on the real cost of power or the cost to the country in economic terms of the money being taken from the rest of the economy.

The only way to really help consumers would be remove taxes and levies, allow the use of cheap power sources, like shale gas, and cap utility company profits and bonuses. Somehow I think they will continue to rearrange the deck chairs rather than do those things.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

So you voted Conservative in 2010. How is it working out for you?

Perhaps you expected a government that would make us part of Europe but not ruled by Europe? Maybe you were looking forward to the promised referendum on membership? If so then I’m afraid you were somewhat misled. In the last two years the conservatives have continued to adopt every EU regulation, recommendation and requirement offered. OK. I know there was one carefully stage managed theatrical ‘veto’ last year, but face it, that didn’t actually do anything. On the other hand the EU TEN-T transport initiative rolls on with its requirement for high speed rail 2 while the EU regional plans continue unabated having been hidden under the guise of Local Authority Leaders Boards  Every travel movement and use of energy is taxed in the name of EU carbon limits. All trading laws are mandated by the EU. Be honest with yourself - everything you thought might be resisted by the Conservatives has instead been welcomed by this government, even down to minor details like VAT on pasties

Maybe you knew and accepted that public finances would be problematic? Nobody expected it would be a picnic after spendthrift snot-gobbler Brown wrecked the piggy bank, sold all the family silver and maxed out every credit card. Yet I’m sure you hoped that the government might do as it promised and reduce the size and cost of the state. Sorry, you were misled again, taxes have gone up, costs have gone up, duties have gone up - and so has government spending. Despite cuts in many important services and areas that we value and need the government continue to haemorrhage money as loans, gifts and subsidies to banks, to corporates, to the EU, and on themselves, their ego-projects and their cronies.  

In view of the financial situation perhaps you hoped the government would follow the age-old adage that ‘charity begins at home’ and prioritise people in this country, possibly the less well off who are now spending, or have already spent their working lives, being responsible and valuable members of society. Sorry, this government doesn’t think like that. Better to give it to India for their space program or spend it on climate change propaganda programs in Africa. The sorts of so-called charity that I suspect most of us would dismiss as worthless self ego massaging.

It’s possible you had some expectations that a shiny new Conservative government in 2010 would cut down on the nannying and authoritarian control freakery of their predecessor, maybe even unwind some controls as promised, like the hunting ban? Once again, it hasn’t happened has it? They still throw truckloads of money at quangoes and fake charities like ASH, Alcohol Concern, Weight Concern, Stonewall and uncountable numbers of organisations concerned with Global warming fear-mongering. All these orgaisations then spend most of it on public propaganda and government lobbying to control your freedoms to live your life as you wish. That’s not charity! 

To add insult to injury this government, more than any previous one, is very keen to take legal and regulatory action to not just suggest, or even nudge, but force you to behave as they deem correct. Tobacco taxes and bans, Alcohol pricing, salt control, sugar content control, NHS overweight treatment bans, plans to prohibit your desired home improvements unless you carry out their mandated ones, avoiding wearing a cross necklace. There are armies of top salaried people, forests worth of paper, and more regulation by the day to force you to behave and think in approved ways. How much more do you want?

But being Conservatives they would at least reduce red tape and give business a chance. Well, even that hasn’t worked very well. They have removed a few completely irrelevant statutes, one ancient one about dog walking caught my eye, that affected nobody, while at the same time loading business with rafts of new regulations on pensions, workers rights, transport management, carbon footprints and the like.  Last year (during 2011) the coalition enacted 4,116 pieces of legislation (and here) all designed to control your life or someone’s business. Is that what you expected from Conservatism?

At  least the Conservatives believed in personal liberty and would roll back the state intrusion and spying into our lives. After all they objected to Labour’s ID card scheme, DNA database and original Internet scrutiny scheme so could surely be trusted on this issue. Well, that doesn’t look so good either. They were one of the first EU members to sign up to ACTA, a law that even Estonia and Slovakia objected to. (Remember ACTA, that is the internet spying arrangement to prevent piracy but now somewhat overshadowed by their plans to record every single aspect of your online activity anyhow). They also promised to reduce the 266 powers under which people could legally break into your house, that didn’t really work out as hoped either. As for ID cards we now have a system where anyone looking under25 needs ID to gain their rights as an adult, meanwhile the soon to be introduced new mandatory EU compatible picture driving licence looks just like an ID card – what a surprise. The ID card is dead, long live the ID card!

Thank goodness the Conservatives have been up to scratch on transparency. Apart that is from the secret children’s courts ripping families apart with dodgy expert witnesses and no outside scrutiny (10,000 children removed in the past yearand the little matter of plans to hold private courts for any issues where there is security sensitivity. Some information is apparently so dangerous that the accused won’t even be told what they are accused of, will not be allowed to speak to a lawyer and nobody will be told they have been arrested. That doesn’t sound like justice to me I’m afraid, nor even the actions of a democratic government. Then there is the quiet reintroduction of MPs on-the-nod expenses, the desire to emasculate the Freedom of Information rules. It’s all becoming very depressing for the committed Conservative voter.

We have an energy policy driven by dodgy science that makes our energy security dependent on ridiculously expensive, unreliable, countryside destroying windmills, more windmills in the sea than any other country but which are already falling downthrough faulty design, and nuclear firms who have given up on the job of building new nuclear stations. Even if you you believe the AGW scam it’s still a bit of a mess isn’t it? No wonder they are in a panic and trying to force everyone’s power usage down, there won’t be enough!

I could go on all day with different policy areas but it doesn’t matter where you look it gets no better. We still have Labour’s idea of law and order that sees victims arrested and perpetrators given ‘community’ punishments that they ignore and then re-offend. We now have aircraft carriers with no planes to defend our country.  We have terrorists we can’t kick out. We have teenagers with no moral compass or basic skills for the job market. Our policemen are so demoralised by the justice system, cutbacks and poor management that even the decent ones can’t do a decent job. 

If you are voting in the next round of elections PLEASE PLEASE think hard about where you place your cross. The Conservative party is not your friend, they are the admin department of the EU and Bankers elitist gravy train movement, and they are not even good at that. If you voted for them before please don't do it again!

Labour is useless and equally dangerous. Once they had a real role as supporters of the then downtrodden working man, but they sold out to Marxist progressives years back and now are only interested in spending our money buying votes so they can control us better. The lib Dems are mostly principle free and will say and promise anything to get your support. 

If there is any viable alternative candidate to the main parties then vote for them! There are a few free thinking politicians, particularly in local elections, but don’t vote for a main party or one of their stooges. UKIP look to be the obvious protest vote so I would go there, but in truth it doesn’t matter who fills Westminster as long as it isn’t those arrogant, elitist, lying, self-serving scum who are in control now. Even the Monster Raving Loonies have more integrity and honesty, and probably more common sense and basic intelligence, than the current incumbents. 

It is desperately important to puncture the arrogance, stupidity and self entitlement of the established political parties, don't vote for any of them!