Monday, December 15, 2014

That evil Benefits Cap

Driving to the train station this morning, I listened to the denunciation of the Benefits Cap on the Today programme. Typical for the metro-socialist tendency of al-Beeb.

Key amongst the points made was that, against a climate of rising Housing Benefit, the saving from the Benefits Cap was neglible.

This, of course, missed the point. The Benefits Cap was not, fundamentally, introduced to provide significant savings to the Exchequer. It was introduced because it was felt that it was wrong, improper, or even immoral, that some people were earning more in benefits than the average earnings - hence the £26000 figure. Barring some people with significant disability costs (such as live-in carers, which almost certainly could be dealt with outwith the benefits system, or even just excluded from the Cap - which, of course, they currently are), it does take a particularly statist mindset to see this as unreasonable (albeit that the London-centric media will quibble about the specific level being unfit to keep a family in Fairtrade organic quinoa.)

However, specifically, there was a note that most of the families hit by the cap had seen a reduction in Housing Benefit by over £100 per week. This was interesting - I don't live in a tiny house, nor in a particularly cheap housing area, although I don't live anywhere near London. £100 per week, £440 per month, is just under half of my mortgage (and the mortgage was for pretty much the entire purchase price, since I hadn't sold the previous property at the time, and had been subsequently extended for a central heating replacement.)

So the _cut_ in Housing Benefit, not the full amount they had previously been getting, would have paid half the mortgage on a mid-Victorian farmhouse.

Is it any wonder normal working people found this appalling?

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The "rule of law" should be suspended for people we dislike


Responding to the ruling NSPCC Wales head of service Des Mannion said: "It is extremely frightening that a child rapist described as 'very dangerous' and unrepentant has been released back in to the community due to what seems like a legal technicality surrounding the timing of the offence."

This is increasingly common, not least amongst the Richard Murphy tendency.


As a starter, in my opinion, it is bad enough that the law is as complex as it is. The average punter has nothing expect the increasingly vague moral framework we inherit from our environment (and, of course, mandatory testing on the Road Traffic Act) to determine what is actually legal. Professionally, I have corrected senior counsel on their interpretation of the law (albeit it in a field of professional and personal interest) - and I have had fewer law lectures than I have had stats ones. And, to their credit, they admitted (after lunch) that I was correct.

If we require people to obey the law as it might be framed in the future?

This has nothing to do with whether the appropriate sentence for a specific (or any) rapist should be less than the statutory maximum - which is life.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Is this a made up name?

From here, talking about organised, paid, pro-Putin trolling:

"Kristina Potupchik is probably kicking herself right now," he adds, referring to the blogger, now seemingly retired, who for years led trolling efforts by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi. "In her day, of course, there wasn't nearly the budget for Internet pollution as they have now."

Whatever. But Kristina "Pop Up Chick"? Seriously?

Thursday, September 04, 2014

I'm puzzled.


In Reprieve's eyes, BT was therefore partly responsible for deaths dealt from Djibouti drones, and should be answerable for it.

So I had a look at the OECD document that Reprieve are complaining BT are in breach of. One of the first things I see is

They provide non-binding principles and standards for responsible business conduct in a global context consistent with applicable laws and internationally recognised standards.

So, actually, the guidelines are completely irrelevant. What is relevant and what BT should be accountable for is any breach of applicable law.

Of course, if Reprieve win, it will effectively signal joint-supplier liability for any multinational from providing any products or services to any military or paramilitary organisation anywhere. Even in their home-base country. Which, frankly, ain't going to happen.

Oh, and, if BT can crack the encryption that the Yanks will have put on the carrier circuit, then they better not tell the NSA.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


(Ed notes: I drafted this on the train in to work this morning and had pretty much a day of end-to-end meeting hell. Although I now know that a [coughs] "long-term" ceasefire has now been agreed, I don't think it changes the sentiment of what I had written.)

The population of Gaza is some 1.8 million people, crammed in to an area of 139 square miles. Not quite Macau, or even Hong Kong (which I had thought was the most crowded 'country') but certainly quite cramped.

Over the last seven weeks, the planes, tanks, attack helicopters and infantry of the Israeli Defence Forces have, according to Hamas figures, killed some 2200 of them. Roughly 0.1%.

In contrast, the Rwandan genocide, conducted with machetes and fire, saw the slaughter of some 70%* of the Tutsi population.

What can we judge from this?

Either that there was (Ed note: I originally wrote 'is') no attempt to commit genocide in Gaza or that the IDF are simply not very good at it. In fact, very bad at it.

* 'Fact' from Wikipedia. YMMV.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Yes, the USA is different ...

We know the Yanks do things in different ways. From playing the World Series*, to which the world is not invited, to ignoring almost everything they do to alleviate poverty in calculating their poverty statistics ... The USA is different.

This time, it is the BBC banging on about the environment:
Beef cattle need 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than pork, poultry, eggs or dairy.

The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Well, yes. Almost everybody else allows beef cattle to graze and then supplies them with fodder over the winter. Famously not, of course, Kobe beef cattle nor the vast amount of US beef cattle which are grain fed.

The statistic may be true for the US, but the watermelons are already out denouncing the wholly different European method of beef farming.

* Yes, I know it is claimed that even Yanks aren't this parochial and the competition is named after the "New York World" newspaper but, it probably wasn't. From Snopes: "The New York World never had anything to do with the World Series, however, other than being one of the many newspapers to report the results."

Friday, June 27, 2014

"Utter Humiliation" says the Millitwerp

Apparently, Jean-Claude Juncker becoming President of the EU Commission will be

"a total failure to deliver and an utter humiliation" for David Cameron
according to Ed Milliband.

Clearly, of course, it is a failure to deliver - against a rather impressively stacked system signed up to by well, a Labour Prime Minister. So, yes, obviously a "did not achieve". But a "humiliation"?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bet you Nigel wishes he'd had this vote-booster before Thursday

The least popular man in Britain speaks out:
UKIP has "no solutions to the problems of the 21st Century", former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said. ... Mr Blair said it must also "confront and expose" parties like UKIP. "You look underneath that UKIP facade and you see something pretty nasty and unpleasant," he told BBC Radio 4.
I wonder how many more votes UKIP would have got with that enthusiastic anti-backing from the Middle East Peace Envoy?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

EU election results widget

It's not going to work until Sunday but ...

Priorities: You've Got Them Wrong, Russia

Whether Prince Charles was correct or appropriate in what he said, it is clear he had a defensible point.

Hitler's annexations of the Sudentenland and Austria were ostensibly to protect native Germans from provocations that were largely engineered by the Nazis themselves.

Putin's annexation of Crimea was ostensibly to protect native Russians from provocations that were largely engineered by the previous, corrupt Russophilic regime.

However, an lets be clear on this, if HRH's comments "risk triggering an international scandal", what exactly is the result of Russia's illegal invasion and occupation of Crimea and interference in Eastern Ukraine? Mild shivers?

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Modern Lefties and their Incentives Problem.

Lefties care. They care very, very much. They're always telling us so. (As well as telling us that "the far right", "neo-liberals" or whoever simply don't care.)

Thinking about a piece of Tim's over on Forbes, I realised that, if you are a sufficiently intelligent lefty to abhor state (as opposed to common or collective, actual state) ownership, which has proven to work so well in the USSR, East Germany and even China, and is still ruining the economies of Cuba and Venezuela (I'm not sure that the DPRK actually counts as having an 'economy' as such), then you have a serious problem.

1. Making poor people better off is, by and large (and not necessarily in cash terms) what you are trying to do.

2. All the good ways we have seen of making really poor people directly better off actually make rich people even better off faster (that would be the capitalist globalism of the post-WW2 era.)

3. Redistribution only works up to a point (Laffer.) And doesn't really affect the seriously rich, especially as long as we have such complex tax laws.

4. Wealth taxes trash long and even medium term economic development. While Piketty thinks this is insufficient to denounce wealth taxes, he, as a well-salaried French public servant, "would say that, wouldn't he."


This is petty to the point of imbecility.

While I'm not quite in the "get out the piano wire" mode of Mr Worstall, this case (Telegraph, Mirror) makes me cringe through its abject stupidity.

Kim Walmsley, 49, said her 23-year marriage was declared illegal and she was forced to return from Australia after she could not renew her passport.

Her troubles began when the registrar wrongly recorded her as a male after she was born in February 1965.

Okay, so there are two totally separate issues here - the bureaucracy and the church. Now, nobody expects sense out of any bureaucracy and nobody expects sense from the Church of England on matters that could be considered, from even a hypothetically reductio ad absurdum conservative point of view, to have anything to do with sex.

But ...

As far as the bureaucracy is concerned, a transsexual would be entitled to a "certificate of gender recognition". Mrs Walmsley should be entitled to a "certificate of sex and gender recognition". Or just "sex recognition". So that's settled.

As far as the Church is concerned, their error is far more egregious. It should not be worried about matters of bureaucratic incompetence or, in fact, bureaucratic recognition. Given that the Church's current position is that marriage is between a man and a woman - Section B, Canon 30, paragraph 1:

The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord's teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

And Kim is clearly a woman (she's given birth to five children) and, Jack is a man, then the marriage is clearly canonical, regardless of the failings of the English Registry system.

Edited to add: reading elsewhere, Kim clearly has a case for an amendment to the register under s29(3) of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953:
An error of fact or substance in any such register may be corrected by entry in the margin (without any alteration of the original entry) by the officer having the custody of the register, and upon production to him by that person of a statutory declaration setting forth the nature of the error and the true facts of the case made by two qualified informants of the birth or death with reference to which the error has been made, or in default of two qualified informants then either by two credible persons having knowledge of the truth of the case or, where it applies, in accordance with section 29A of this Act. 

Noting that s29A does not apply in this case (it is restricted to mis-identification of the father), then two qualified informants (in accordance with s1(2) of the same Act). Her parents would do, if they are still alive (and she's 49, so it wouldn't be abnormal) or two credible persons. I would suggest any of the obstetricians or midwives who oversaw any of her pregnancies or births or any gynecologist would do.

Now, this would not alter the initial in-correct registration but it would correct it and allow her issue of an accurate birth certificate and, providing the Church wasn't insanely stupid (I'm not offering odds here) belated re-recognition of the validity of her original marriage.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Hmm, I think you may have some trouble ...

Turkish PM fails to consider US First Amendment:

Turkey is to start extradition proceedings against US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said. Mr Gulen, a former ally of the prime minister, has been accused by Mr Erdogan of using his supporters to try to topple him. The cleric denies mounting a campaign against him. Turkey's government has faced a string of corruption scandals and rights groups accuse it of authoritarianism. Speaking at parliament after meeting with deputies from his Justice and Development Party (AKP) party on Tuesday, Mr Erdogan confirmed the extradition process "will begin", reports say.
Given that the Turks have "cancelled his passport" (Reuters), it is going to see how they construct a set of charges that won't simply be laughed out of any US court.

Russian re-writes of history.

Russian Foreign Minister, 2014:

This is a revival of a system created in 1949 when Western countries essentially lowered an 'Iron Curtain', cutting off supplies of hi-tech goods to the USSR and other countries.

Winston Churchill's "Sinews of Peace" speech, 1946:

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone - Greece with its immortal glories - is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place. The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy.

I wonder, exactly which nation was behind the "Iron Curtain". You may have some difficulty deciding this, so was it the "USA", as alleged by our rabid Putinist above, or, just possibly, the USSR? Emphasis added to the second quote for the congenitally hard of understanding.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

I just like this quote

Comment on Tim's blog:

So reading the Guardian for science reporting is like looking for zionist understanding in Mein Kampf.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

And a Minister said ...

Let them use the £ sterling.

Of course there would be a currency union," the minister told the Guardian in remarks that will serve as a major boost to the Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond, who accused the UK's three main political parties of "bluff, bluster and bullying" after they all rejected a currency union.

The minister, who would play a central role in the negotiations over the breakup of the UK if there were a yes vote, added: "There would be a highly complex set of negotiations after a yes vote, with many moving pieces. The UK wants to keep Trident nuclear weapons at Faslane and the Scottish government wants a currency union – you can see the outlines of a deal.

Firstly, I'd like to point out that this was the plot of a "not-just-rather-Nat-friendly but actually several feet up Wee Eck's colon" play on Radio 4 a few weeks ago.

Secondly, I'd like to point out that there is no way that an independent Scotland is not going to start off using the pound. No way are they going to be allowed in to the Euro and there isn't enough time (based on my experience of Euro conversion in the late 90s) for all the work necessary for an independent central bank and independent currency. Even if any of the Scottish banks had any money to spend on the IT project. So the question isn't "£ or no £", it is "currency union or no currency union".

Which rather leaves us at a bit of an imp-arse*.

Every party with the vaguest chance of being in power in r-Westminster has officially rejected currency union. The SNP have rejected the Montenegro (€) / Panama ($US) solution (use the currency without any portion of control or even representation at the Bank of England. Ed notes: And with the relative size of the economies, any Scottish representation or voting rights would be the rough equivalent of the SNP's representation in Westminster - they might tip the balance if everybody else was hopelessly confused.)

Which actually means that his Eckness (and the rest of his hordes, including the rabid e-ones) are going to have to be a wee bit adult about this. Which is, given that they can't stop whining about how unfair it all is, is going to be rather unlikely. Ho hum.

* © Sgt F Colon, Esq.


Or not, as the case may be.

From that home of all things illiberal in the British lefty, the Guardian:

Under current recommendations, 150ml of freshly squeezed orange juice (sugar 13g), 30g dried figs (sugar 14g), 200ml of a smoothie made with fruit and fruit juice (sugar 23g) and 80g of canned fruit salad in fruit juice (sugar 10g) all count as the five portions of the 'five a day' and contain a total of some 60g of refined sugars," he* writes. "This is more than the sugar in a 500ml bottle of cola.
So, let's get this panic entirely straight, then. A fairly heftly sugared way of making up your five-per-day (not, of course, that the entirely invented "five a day" is sufficient, oh no!) makes up the same amount of sugar as what is basically a pint of Coke.

These peeps really need to let go of nanny's apron strings and live a bit.

* Simon Capewell, professor of public health and policy at Liverpool University

Monday, March 24, 2014