Freedom, system thinking, politics, science, education, economics, pirates

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Marr & Brown

on the am show this moring, Andew Marr is advising Brown to stand down for the sake of the Labour party. Brown's response "No, I'm working on the economy" Marr even used the words: pearl handeled revolver!

Queen not at D-Day - Brown said to ask the Palace.

I joined the Libertarian Party today

I met Chris of the Devil's Kitchen yesterday and had a good chat about political parties and he convinced me to join LPUK. Henry North London was there too and he had a very persuasive T-Shirt on.

Political Compass

Craig Murray says Right WIng Libertarians aren't possible.

I beg to differ.

He also thinks being right wing means you are nasty. I think left wingers mistake controlling people for helping them.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Drinking in Westminster

Thanks to Steve Green of Daily Refereundum I attended today's Conservative Bloggers' piss-up. I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon meeting bloggers and realising they are real people too! And a damn fine bunch they are. Those I met include:

Steve, of course.
North Briton Hunter (token leftie!)
Boiled frog
Martin Coxall

plus a few more whose names/blogs I didn't catch or can't remember due to the amount of Badger beer flowing, sorry - let me know who you are.

Most of their blogs are on my blogroll already and a few were new to me, so I've added them where I can.

Update: Simon Emmett and Tory Totty were there too, so I've added them to the blogroll too.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Allowances, not expenses

I'm getting really bored with the "expenses"saga. The Telegraph is taking out MPs at random based on who has the funniest claims. Meanwhile the biggest troughers are escaping (Hoon, Balls?)

The scandal is not who has claimed for a duck house, a trouser press, an extension for her brother to sleep in, staying in a sisterly spare bedroom, dry rot, calling a mum's house a second home, etc..

As explained by Nad Dorries, the expenses claimed are an allowance, to be taken in lieu of pay rises not awarded over the years.

They aren't taking duck houses or mortages(real or imagined) they are taking cash, money, income: Tax. Free. Income. The money taken is fungible, the schemes and scams and receipts for trouser presses and servants' quarters are just bits of paper to satisfy a weakly written rule requiring some receipts for Addiditonal Costs arising from their public service. But they knew, the press knew, and now we know that they see it as their money, an entitlement to be claimed up to the max. Aided and abbetted by the fees office, whose job is not to deny payment for costs that aren't realistic, but to help ensure MPs get their full whack.

The scandal is the lie.

The lie is that MPs are underpaid and have limited their pay rises over the years in deference to the financial circumstances of the voters. The other income they get, whether ACA, Gold plated pensions, office costs, employing relatives, etc. are hidden ways for them to make the big bcks they feel they deserve, but without letting on.

Flipping? Just a method to extract what is due and plough it into property development, like plenty of highly paid people do with their income. Double dipping? Just a method for a couple to make sure they each get their full pay and aren't penalised for being a couple. All within the rules, because the rules are designed to provide extra income; under the radar.

For me what is important are not the particulars of claims. Moran's dry rot vs. Cameron's mortgage interest - it's all cold, hard, fungible cash. If Moran hadn't claimed for dry rot, she could have paid a mortgage instead and that would have been OK. But in cash, our money; dry rot & mortgage interest is the same.

Was it Blair who took out a mortgage on a property he already owned so he could claim the interest on ACA? Why did he do that? Because he was taking the income he felt he was due for the job he was doing. He just used a hidden method to hide his real salary from voters.

There seem to be a few MP's who have not done this, who read the green book and took it at face value, like we did, as being for claims against costs of a second home for parliamentary work. People like John Redwood, Kate Hoey and Kerry McCarthy have not taken all they can and seem to see ACA as expenses to be minimised and to make no personal gains from. I bet the other MPs thought they were muppets.

The first scandal is that they lied about what they are paid. Used "expenses" as a cover to make it look like they are paid less than they actually are.

The second scandal is the Blears & Hoon method of avoiding CGT. If you buy a property with an allowance called ADDITIONAL costs allowance, that seems like a definition of a second home to me. That is fraud, pure and simple whatever rules say (Parliament or HMRC ones) As the Gorgon said "Unnacceptable". This second scandal should be fixed by plod.

The third scandal is the targetting of some as guilty because of the flavour of their claims, while others esacpe scott free because they or their claim is less interesting, or they have friends in the right places.

So what to do?
1) publish all claims, to take power away from the Telegraph.
2) Bin the whole expenses system.
3) Make employees salaried on HoC payroll.
4) Pay a fixed up-front allowance for housing & travel based on distance from constituency to Parliament.
5) Pay a fixed up-front allowance to run an office.
6) Call a general election and throw the bums out, but allow some time for a deselection process to run first.

My comment to John Redwood today

at John Redwood's blog

"John, you are a funny man, a very funny man: Germany, looking after Germans, to the detriment of non-Germans, in teh EU?

How can this happen?

Surely the rules apply equally to all EU mmeber states. Its not like the EU was created just so the Germans and French could create a system to support their wealth creating agri-industrial complex. Hang on….

….have we been had?"

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Balls & Cooper or Kirkbride & MacKay ? How is the Telegraph choosing its targets?

Are they holding back the big one for Ed & Yvie, or are they mates with the right people.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


IIRC after 18 years in the wilderness, Labour were promising electoral reform in 1997; until they won a landslide. Then: nothing, not a suasage, nada. Now when it looks like they will lose the next election they are saying what a good idea PR is. (Alan Johnson is, anyway)

Liberals go on about PR all the time, because it is their only chance of getting more power.

So Davey boy, looking at a whopping majority (as long as we don't all vote BNP because we don't like duck houses) is anti-PR and pro FPTP.

Please, someone call me if:
a) a politician is talking about changing to Proportional Representation if they have a big majority under the current FPTP system.

b) a party looking at losing the next election says PR is undemocratic.

Until then - Yawn.

FWIW, I'd go with Frank on the French system, but really, really; it's not a priority right now.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Blog rankings

Now, I'm not blogging to get a wide influence or large readership. I don't obsessivly monitor page hits and all that. However, ill & ancient has published this ranking based on technorati reactions and I'm on the list. I'm also higher in the list than a few blogs I read regularly and would consider to be much better than mine.

So, thanks to all my readers.

Sadly the blog that has influenced me most, Anti-Citizen One, is not on the list; then he doesn't post often, but when he does - wow!

Saturday, 23 May 2009


Steve Green is organising a piss-up. Are you coming? Be great to see you!


OH on the beeb

I don't think Old Holborn would describe it as a "flashmob"

well done!

Friday, 22 May 2009

MP's expenses

By Paul Stott today, the best summing up of MPs expenses I have read.

Unmentionalble advantage

Sadly, it doesn't apply so much at the micro level; *sigh*

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Question time

Looks like a good question time tonight, William Hague is on. I Shall be following it on Twitter on #bbcqt.  Note it is at 9pm, so don't miss it. 

HT: Mrs Daile

Monday, 18 May 2009

Michael Martin - Klinging On

As heard on Radio 5 Live tonight.

Update: klung on no more

Support the wimp

The boy Dave could have pushed the govt a step nearer an election by supporting Carswell today;he wimped out, of course. Now he is calling for a petition for an election.

Oh well, might as well sign it, here it is:  Petition for an election

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Spot the difference

No, neither can I.  


Over at the Beeb, there has been a have your say on house prices. Nice to see the people of Britain get it, given that our leaders don't.

Thursday, 14 May 2009


For the irst time, I'm following Question time with Twitter using the "#bbcqt" hashtag. It gives a bigger view of what people are thinking.  I recommend you try it.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

One MP emerges with credit

Kate Hoey talks about her run-in with Speaker Martin. I have a feeling she may be signing Doug Carswell's confidence motion

Quote of the day

Posted by Anonymous on Iain Dale's blog on La Chipmunk's refund cheque.

"Well done to Hazel Blears!

Repaying the CGT she owes the country is a truly magnanimous gesture. It is easy to criticise the politicians who work tirelessly to make our dreams and aspirations a reality, even in the face of a disgustingly cynical media and a minority of disruptive nay saying MPs in the commons. By taking a stand against "the system" of expenses, tyrannically imposed by our structurally violent British history, she once more affirms our faith in democracy and the rule of law! "

Monday, 11 May 2009

Caught in their own trap

I love a bit of irony, me...

This is not what Jack Straw had in mind at all, oh no. The Freedom of information legislation was supposed to be used to embarass wealthy Tory donors and so cripple the Tory party's finances. It was not supposed to be used to find out what MPs were up to. 

We can be sure that the disc theTelegruph got its mitts on would not have existed, but for the FoI act.  Also well done to Heather Brook; as she said on R4 today: "this feels like victory"

Friday, 8 May 2009

Easily distracted

Today's news is dominated by expenses. All the papers, radio & TV news are talking about Gordon's cleaner and Prescott toilet seats.

Is it too much to ask for some sense of priority and proportion?

Four soldiers were killed today in Afghanistan.  Shall we bury them under a pile of receipts?

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Seddon on gumint waste

From John Seddon's newletter today:

"Alistair Darling’s £15bn

I am beside myself with fury. In the budget, Darling announced £15bn of further savings in the public sector through more IT-led change, back offices, sharing etc – more factories. The authors of the Treasury report actually declare that their evidence-base amounts to “proxies, assumptions and estimates” – they don’t let their lack of evidence to get in the way of their prejudices. Yet we have firm evidence on the unintended costs being created by factory designs (Advice UK report – see past newsletters).

We have been building public-service factories for a few years now. Isn’t it odd that we don’t have any data from these experiments? We know one county council is kicking out its private-sector ‘partner’, we know many who are discovering that their new factories, developed with their ‘partners’, are experiencing rising costs, we know of one council where an extraordinary spend has resulted in higher costs and worse service. Why doesn’t government publish data?

If you have any data and/or experiences with ‘new factory management’ in the public sector, please let me know. We need to start totting up the waste of public funds used for building factories.

I am so mad about all this I decided to make my next visit to Hull University Business School a Master Class on why Darling’s initiative will lead to higher costs and how services ought to be designed for massive improvement. It is free. You can register at:"

Joanna Lumley ties Gordon up in fragranced thread

Joanna Lumley met Gordon Brown today to discuss the Gurkhas. 

Foolishly Brown let Lumley out to the press and give her a head start on the spin.

She was effusive in her praise for Gordon Brown today afer he apparently promised her he'd sort out the Gurkhas. After her praise for him and statement of trust, if he doesn't "do the right thing" and sort the Gurkhas out, he's in trouble. Of course Godo could not do the right thing if his life depended on it.

Well done Joanna.

The fragranced thread comment was by John Pienaar on Radio 4 today.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Life before Margaret

Bloggers like Dizzy are failing to recall Maggie's election n 1979, because they are too young. Sadly, I can remember; I was 15 at the time, revising for 'O' Levels.

I can clearly remember the 70's; three day week with Dad at home more, power cuts with the house lit by candles and old car headlamps running on car batteries. Blue Peter carried how-to segments on making candles from unusual things, like a block of margarine. Going up to the public library to check the information poster telling us when our street would get its power cut. I remember it being really exciting, we had a coal fire and a bunker full of coal, so we cooked on it when necessary - it was like being on a camping holiday. 

Right now we don't have power cuts or petrol rationing, queues for bread and candles. But I don't remember any anxiety, I don't recall the feeling that my dad would lose his job and we'd be on the street.  I don't know if he wasn't worried or if he hid it well.

This time, I am worried about my job and my kids are worried too and it's getting them down. Why is it so different? 

How many Rhode Islands in a Wales?

Interesting article here:

"One Antarctic ice shelf has completely disappeared and another has lost a chunk three times the size of Rhode Island" 

In a UK report it would be related to the size either of  Wales or the Isle of Wight. So here's a handy reckoner for you:

Rhode Island = 1,045 sq. miles
Wales = 8,019 sq.miles
Wight = 147 sq.miles

So there are 7.67 Rhode Islands in a Wales and 7,10 Wights in a Rhode Island

Hope that helps.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Von Mises quote

Excellent quote from Division of Labour:

“Scarcely anyone interests himself in social problems without being led to do so by the desire to see reforms enacted. In almost all cases, before anyone begins to study the science, he has already decided on definite reforms that e wants to put through. Only a few have the strength to accept the knowledge that these reforms are impracticable and to draw all the inferences from it. Most men endure the sacrifice of the intellect more easily than the sacrifice of their daydreams. They cannot bear that their utopias should run aground on the unalterable necessities of human existence. What they yearn for is another reality different from the one given in this world. They long for the ‘leap of humanity out of the realm of necessity and into the realm of freedom.’ They wish to be free of a universe of whose order they do not approve.”

Mises, Socialism, p. 214

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Been a but quiet

Not posted since wednesday, I must have been busy. Went to a wedding Saturday and Watford today (we beat Derby 3-1) having wtched my son's team win 5-0 and he scored one of the goals.

So what has got my ire in the last few days?

MPs Expenses - not possible to be surprised or shocked anymore, tehy all seem to be in it up to their necks and completely shameless. The latest, some Lady Lord has an empty flat purchased on expenses, while she lives in a housing association house.

50% tax - what about the 85% withdrawal rates for ordinary, low paid people? I'm much more annoyed about that - bring on the citizen's income.

Land whale has triplets - the poor girl is the creation of the state, I don't like to see her vilified or laughed at. It is a pitiful tale and she is a vicitm.

MP's second jobs (by Frank Skinner) if being an MP is a full-tme job, then how can they be ministers? Surely Brown's constituents can't get the same access as I can get to my non-minister MP? If there is time to be a minister, there's time to be a non-exec director. If there were fewer MPs, and if ministers were not MPs, then I wouldn't want them having 2nd jobs.

Laming wants to put more kids in care. Having proven that putting a child on the at=risk register doesn't actually protect them, maybe he's right. But te question is: what to do about these people - less a case ofnot  taking away children as not locking up peodophiles.