Sleight of hand

It’s not really made the news here, but yesterday, on 11th September, someone tried to blow himself up in Copenhagen.

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What struck me was the response of the Danish Prime Minister:

"Regardless of the background for the bomb detonation, it is important that we don’t allow ourselves to be guided by fear or change the way we live,"

These are fine sounding words in the “Keep calm and carry on” tradition. We heard much the same sentiment from the cunt Blair after 7/7/2005.

But actually, he should be telling that not to the public, but to the politicians.

Because, on account of the overblown threat of Islamist terrorism, governments across the western world have imposed profound changes to the way we live, and they have done so by promulgating a culture of fear and suspicion.

Basically, I’d rather live with the remote risk of being blown apart by a nutter, than live with the certainty that my daily life will be hemmed in by all sorts of bullying, state intrusion and compulsion as a sop to ‘security’. But I don’t get to have that choice.

Am I alone in that? Are the majority so invested in the idea that not only must “this never be allowed to happen again”, but that it is the job of the state to bring about this bubble-wrapped utopia?

It comes down to power and control. Again.

Accordingly, my nomination for cunt of the day is not the latest dickhead who couldn’t organise an explosion in a gunpowder factory, but Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen

AJ

Has a bigger shit ever walked the earth?

I speak, of course, about arrogant shitbag extraordinaire, Dave Hartnett, top tax civil servant at HMRC.

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The HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Permanent Secretary responsible for tax denied there had been any errors, and that there was no “need to apologise”.

He said HMRC was justified in asking people who owed more than £2,000 to repay it more quickly, saying they were likely to be the highest earners.

Hmmm… reminds me of something.

YouOweWhatYouOwe

This guy is such a joke that even senior Tories have been able to accuse him of arrogance while keeping a straight face,

AJ

In case you had forgotten about HMRC data (in)competence

From 2007:

Two computer discs holding the personal details of all families in the UK with a child under 16 have gone missing.

The Child Benefit data on them includes name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number and, where relevant, bank details of 25 million people.

25 million people.

Shall we paraphrase for the future?

From 2012:

Two computer discs holding the personal details of all PAYE taxpayers in the UK have gone missing.

The data on them includes name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number and, where relevant, employers, salaries and bank details of 25 million people.

The important additional element is, of course, that you’ll be able to download a file from the internet (or query a search engine), to get details of how much EVERYONE earns and where they earn it.

Your can find out the salary of your ex, your kids, your parents, the people next door, your boss, your next date, the guy who’s selling you a car, that lazy sod who has the same job title as you but does half the work.

Are you comfortable with that? That your ex, your kids, your parents, the people next door, your boss, your next date, the guy who’s selling you a car, that lazy sod who has the same job title as you, will all know precisely how much you earn?

Unlucky enough to end up in the papers? if it’s in the public domain, however that maybe, the information will be reported by someone, whether it’s a blogger or journalist.

Take comfort though, because back in 2007,

The Conservatives described the incident as a "catastrophic" failure.

So I think we’re safe. Oh yes. No doubt in my mind.

AJ

Oh no. No you fucking don’t…

I did read something about this earlier in the year, but I didn’t take it terribly serious as it sounds completely unworkable. In light of recent monumental fuck ups by HMRC, however, the horror of this idea couldn’t be clearer:

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Instead of employers deducting income tax then paying gross salaries to employees, the gross monthly payment would go to an HMRC-run tax “calculator”, which would then pass the net salary to the worker.

The reform would mean the end of traditional monthly payslips, because employers would no longer be able to tell workers how much tax they had paid each month.

Errr.. no. No way.

If you really need me to explain how many ways that could possibly go wrong, you should probably go and read a blog about babies or kittens or football instead. Baaaa.

AJ

IPSA-daisy

.. and still I’m loving every minute of it.

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The details of “bullying” and “intimidating” behaviour towards IPSA workers and volunteers, published by the watchdog in response to Freedom of Information requests, are likely to heighten fears that many MPs have still not accepted the changes made to their expenses system since its widespread abuse was disclosed by The Daily Telegraph more than a year ago.

One thing is for sure. Every time any new legislation is proposed, it’ll be measured by the IPSA yardstick, to see if we’re going to be treated in the way they themselves so despise.

Given how completely indistinct this new bunch are from the old bunch, it’s only a matter of time.

At least the message seems to have sunk in with tired old has-been Tom Harris.

IPSA was born out of panic. It is proof positive that whatever the failings of a headless chicken, it can at least piece together legislation when it’s joined by 649 other headless chickens.

The worst possible time to legislate is in the middle of a crisis; the worst people to draft that legislation are the very same individuals whose behaviour has caused that crisis in the first place.

MPs do not deserve any sympathy for the mess in which we now find ourselves. Nor will we receive it. The mess is entirely of our own making and it is up to us to sort it out. IPSA was an expensive and unnecessary mistake. You should not compound your own mistakes by repeating them or by refusing to admit it was a mistake in the first place.

I wonder when it’ll dawn on the rest of them, if ever.

AJ

Wilful ignorance

The recent call for drugs to be decriminalised, in order to reduce health risks and crime has, predictably enough, been batted away by the government, using the same old tired bag of conflation, misdirection and causal fallacy.

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The Home Office has restated its position on drugs, after the outgoing president of the Royal College of Physicians called for a review of the law.

Speaking to the BBC, Sir Ian Gilmore said that the ‘the present policy of prohibition is not a success’.

Drugs cause misery

Wait. Let me stop you there. Drugs bring me, and other I know, A GREAT DEAL OF JOY.

And perhaps that’s the real problem here.

Responding to Sir Ian’s comments, a Home Office spokesperson said: ‘Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis are extremely harmful and can cause misery to communities across the country.

Okay. Stop right there. How is cannabis even in the same sentence as cocaine and heroin?

What harm did cannabis ever do a user? Sure we can exercise arguments about incidence of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, which we can bat away by pointing out the post hoc ergo proper hoc fallacy, and that correlation does not imply causation.

And we can argue about the supposed prevalence of gangs, who grow weed and use weapons and violence to protect their production line. We bat this away by pointing out that if those who wished to consume cannabis could grow their own, for personal use, these violent gangs would suffer a collapsing market. Completely decriminalise pot and they’ve no market at all, unless they go legit and supply to licensed outlets.

On heroin, well, so long as it is pharmaceutically pure and of a known strength, i.e. if it were decriminalised and suppliers were legit, it doesn’t have to be a treadmill to OD and death. It’ll keep Senokot in business though.

Coke? Well, again, the argument revolves around a reliable, unadulterated supply and cutting the hoodlums out of the loop.

Even accepting that heroin and cocaine, can even if pure and controlled, be very dangerous indeed if abused, there remains no justification for cannabis being mentioned in the same breath. There are no recorded fatalities.

But then, it’s a common trick. On the ‘Your Freedom’ repeal bill consultation, Nick Clegg batted away the idea of bringing back hanging and revising the smoking ban in the same breath.

Next, ‘communities’. As it happens John Demetriou has written a good post on this pernicious concept, which spares me the trouble.

Back to the ignorant fascists:

‘The government does not believe that decriminalisation is the right approach. Our priorities are clear; we want to reduce drug use, crack down on drug related crime and disorder and help addicts come off drugs for good.’

And in other news, the government proposes that as of 1 January 2012, the Sun will rise in the west and set in the north. In the event that they are unable to achieve the effect by the conventional socialist approach of realigning the heavens, they will use the social democrat contingency of passing a law to rearrange the points of the compass.

I despair. Same old ignorant, bigoted, narrow-minded authoritarian bullshit.

As it goes, A Very British Dude has done a much better and more thorough job than I on the matter of decriminalisation. See here, here and here.

AJ

Chaos Theory

This post-election period has been a sublime frottathon for game theorists.

For my own part, two statements I’ve made over the last few days:

Friday:

The pressure will be on, though, for something to be in place before the markets open on Monday morning. The Pound is down against the Euro(!) and things aren’t going to be pretty if we still don’t know by Monday morning.

I was wrong about that. The rescue deal for the Euro pulled off last night gave rise to a rally of markets worldwide.

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Tomorrow, though, is another day. As Brown made this evening’s announcement, the Pound took a hit.

17:41 "A Lib-Lab coalition would be a big negative for sterling," Ian Stannard at BNP Paribas says. "The Government will be unstable and not have the ability to drive through the cuts required."

17:30 Pound is now at $1.4866 against the dollar, compared to $1.5056 earlier in the afternoon. Still falling too.

17:23 Euro has risen by more than half a cent against the pound following Brown’s statement. Markets really spooked by prospect of more uncertainty.

17:14 Reaction to Brown’s statement and subsequent fall in pound from Jeremy Cook, chief economist at World First:

It’s pretty clear that the market wants certainty and that the news that Clegg is dilly-dallying between Labour and the Conservatives have not gone down well. I’m surprised that the markets haven’t hit sterling hard today, the EU plan has taken a bullet for us. As soon as that become old news however sterling is once again in the firing line.

Now, something I said yesterday:

This leads us to a nightmare scenario – albeit a remote one. But we are in uncharted waters, with some of the most calculating and devious bastards in history squabbling for the helm of the vessel.

Others have written that a Lib/Lab coalition with Brown, or A N Other unelected leader, would so enrage the electorate that they could never win a referendum on voting reform and would thereafter be savaged at the next general election.

So, suppose the Lib Dems went into a coalition with Labour, Postman Pat installed at the helm.

They all want PR. Once they have it, their ‘progressive consensus’ will be de-facto obtained.

If they don’t need a referendum, why on earth would they hold one? Remember the Lisbon treaty?

Okay, I was wide of the mark with PR – Brown appears to be offering AV without a referendum. But Brown going as part of the deal? Hmm. Suits me, sir.

I don’t know if it’s any comfort that Tom Harris says the Labour MPs won’t let that through the commons. It’s perhaps a mark of how little influence Tom has in his party that he makes this point, addressed directly to senior Lib Dems, on his blog. His frankness is refreshing nevertheless.

So on his way out, Brown has thrown a spanner in the works that will almost certainly have a negative impact on the markets.

I wonder if I’ll ever get another chance to use this:

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Just be gone, you psychotic, monocular luntatic.

AJ