Thursday, 25 February 2016

EU, Eeeeww!!

I had this email sent to me by an avid Conservative Party Europhile, where she made some points about why we must stay in the EU. Rather than just reply her directly and have to repeat myself over and over again, I've listed each one of them here. Her words in red, mine in blue, naturally. 

I haven't provided hyperlinks like I usually do, but I'm a bit busy right now. I've used bits from a post I did a few years ago. For now please have a read and let me know what you think, I'll hyperlink it soon...

"What did the EU ever do for us? Not much, apart from: 

Providing 57% of our trade;
Duh! - they're our immediate neighbours. It's plain geography. Countries in the European mainland have always been our main trade partners. This has nothing to do with being in or out of the EU. Countries of the EU don't buy from us because we're in an exclusive club with them. Only a deluded fool would think France will buy ships from us instead of South Korea because we're in the EU and they're not. Besides, we're one of the top markets for German cars and French wine. I call this the let's-join-a-trade-cartel-argument, which goes against the very idea of free trade. European countries will continue to provide trade opportunities for UK businesses, with or without trade restrictions the EU might place on us out of irrational spite. The EU didn't grant us a favoured trading status, economics and geography did.

Structural funding to areas hit by industrial decline;
Ah yes, the old, European Funding argument. Funding that comes out of a pot to which we contribute significantly more than we receive. Please check your facts. We paid for it. The EU didn't do this for us. We tax our enterprising citizens the way the EU wants us to tax our enterprising citizens. We can't even abolish taxes on tampons, despite it being the most ridiculous tax ever, because of the EU. We can't help our steel industry, not because we're unable, but because in part to EU regulations. There's a reason Kazakistan and China can make steel cheaper than the UK and the rest of Europe: The EU.

Clean beaches and rivers; Cleaner air; Lead free petrol; Restrictions on landfill dumping; A recycling culture; 
Our rivers, our beaches. The EU didn't clean them up, we did. Same with landfill dumping. One country's priorities are not the same as another's. Landfills are a highly localised issue - if landfill sites and incinerators are opposed locally, and research supports their protestations, they will NOT go ahead. That's why we have MPs and Councillors, and a parliament. That's why we have democracy. Tell me why a politician in Bulgaria knows anything about or cares for the wishes of people living in rural Devon? 

You would think that Britain is a barbaric outback, completely unable to formulate any policies to look after its citizens. What people seem to forget that most consumer protection legislation, were by some measure, brought about in Britain by Britain. Many international standards find their origin in BSI. We're capable of keeping our beaches clean and can label our food by ourselves, thank you very much. In any case, there are international protocols we're bound to (Kyoto, et al). There is no need for an extra bureaucratic machine, duplicating everything. The EU didn't do this for us.

Cheaper mobile charges; Cheaper air travel;
Nothing to do with the EU, but everything to do with free trade and private enterprise. Roaming charges are pure profit for mobile phone operators who ALREADY have the infrastructure and capacity to provide mobile communications and data all over the world; they're encumbered ONLY by LOCAL taxes and levies, not operational costs. That the EU gives back what it takes in the first place is not magnanimous in any way. The EU didn't do this for us, the private cellular communications operators did.

Improved consumer protection and food labelling; A ban on growth hormones and other harmful food additives; Better product safety; 
The UK is fully capable of consumer protection. Caveat emptor is actually a thing. People decide, not civil servants on £150,000-a-year packages, gleaned from the meagre wages of waiters and care workers, and shopworkers. "The customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so" has been and continues to be the bedrock of all businesses everywhere in the world. The EU didn't do this for us, business seeking to attract and retain customers did.

Single market competition bringing quality improvements and better industrial performance; 
Read: Single market homogenisation. Overbearing regulations that favour only large corporations with deep pockets to be able to implement them, in leiu of tax loopholes that only they can use. A supermarket chain can afford an army of lawyers and accountants to find ways around the spirit of the law, a little operation with 12 employees can't. The EU didn't do this for us. They did it against us.

Break up of monopolies;
Which ones? Name some, don't just say it, prove it. All EU legislation does is protect larger players and crushes the little shop round the corner. The EU didn't do this for us. They did it for big business.

Europe-wide patent and copyright protection; No paperwork or customs for exports throughout the single market;
Examples? The World Intellectual Property Organization and international copyright protection is adequate. The EU cannot claim credit for this. The world is bigger than the EU. Free trade has nothing to do with the EU, it has everything to do with countries that are open. Some are, some aren't. Some choose to be, some don't. Free trade is all we signed up for. The EU has nothing to do with free trade and everything to do with a protectionist trade bloc and and eventual political union under a socialist ideology. The EU certainly didn't do this for us. Any guesses who they did this for?

Price transparency and removal of commission on currency exchanges across the eurozone;
Again, it is in the interests of banks, travel agents, and currency exchange operators to keep prices down. Legalise the Hawala system and watch charges drop to near zero. Money needs to flow freely, and it will, one way or another. The EU can't claim credit for this. The EU didn't do this for us.

Freedom to travel, live and work across Europe; 
Any European passport already allows that. It pretty much did before the idea of United States of Europe was born. If you have a job, and/or means to support yourself in the country you choose to live and work in, this was never a hindrance in past and it is not a hindrance anywhere in the world now. The EU didn't do this for us. This young lady gets it: "We can have someone unskilled, within Europe, coming in without any questions, but a really talented doctor from India has to go through a intensive process. It doesn't make sense!" See video below...

Funded opportunities for young people to undertake study or work placements abroad; 
Funded by whom? Think hard about this before you say another word. The EU didn't do this for us. Mind.

Access to European health services;
Easily covered by health insurance, which is cheap and accessible. Nothing to do with the EU. The EU didn't do this for us, it was already in place. It is in place pretty much everywhere.

Labour protection and enhanced social welfare; 
Oh of course. As if the UK does not have a unionised labour movement at all. As if labour protection and enhanced social welfare policies aren't part and parcel of ANY UK political parties' policies. The EU didn't do this for us. Marx happens to be buried here, not in Brussels...

Smoke-free workplaces; 
Again, a local issue. Smoke-free environments are highly desirable, and local communities with local representation should be able to decide. Smoking is a choice. Smoke-filled workplaces are a choice. They stink like a dogs arse, but they are a choice. What does the EU have anything to do with my local? Those that don't mind won't mind; those that do, won't go. In the end it's the establishment that benefits from attracting or loses out from alienating customers.

Equal pay legislation;
Most civilised countries ALREADY have equal pay legislation, as do we. Before the EU, without the EU, despite the EU. The EU didn't do this for us. And really, how come National Minimum Wages differ from country to country within the EU? What equal pay legislation?

Holiday entitlement; The right not to work more than a 48-hour week without overtime; 
We have the strongest union-led movement in the world. In fact the second most popular political party in the UK is sponsored by unions. Workers rights in the UK are and have ALWAYS been better than anywhere else in the world. Fact. Why lament the fact that someone WILL choose to do what you will not? For less than you would? How can that even translate into law? The EU didn't do this for us. They did us in. They made it illegal for us to sell our labour at a price WE are happy with, rendering us unable to compete. The EU didn't do this for us. They did it to feel good and appear good. More on this here.

Strongest wildlife protection in the world;
Ah yes, from the country that produced David Attenborough, do tell me about Britain's or indeed, all of Europe's wildlife. We don't really have any, mainly because we didn't have much to begin with, and we reserve our moral right to tell other countries how to manage their own. That's rich. The EU didn't do this for us. They did this to show India and Africa that we're all white and moral, and superior. And we're soooo sorry for colonising you. And we regret all those Coldpay/Beyonce videos... we're ashamed of our opposition to dowry and bride burning and FGM, and female infanticide. Wildlife is so precious, innit? The EU didn't do this for us, we're laden with enough white-guilt as it is.

Improved animal welfare in food production;
Don't make me laugh. We still condone the slow, deliberate slitting of the jugular while the animal writhes and flails in desperation, fully aware that it is going to bleed to death. I'm not sure what that is an improvement from... The EU didn't do this for us. They did it to pander to their double standards - and their vote banks. I'd have more respect for the EU if it banned the practice of halal and kosher altogether.

EU-funded research and industrial collaboration; 
One: Funded by whom? Britain pays £8 billion a year more than it receives into the EU project. Two: Acted on by whom? Three: Resulting in what? Examples, please!

Airbus is often cited as an example; research some and you'll find it has nothing to do with the EU. The EU didn't do this for us. Airbus operates as a private business with the clout of a private business largely unencumbered by the state. Read into this some before you try and refute it. Boeing makes better planes anyway.

EU representation in international forums; Bloc EEA negotiation at the WTO;
Bloc EEA negotiation. EEA. Not EU. Don't confuse the two. We signed up for one of them, and were conned into the other. The EU is perfect example of when when the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Besides, bloc negotiations representing 28 wildly varied economies (and societies) is the worst idea ever. We're nothing like France or Greece or Poland, and they're nothing like us. Why would the EU do anything for us, after all, Britain forms 16% of the the EU population and yet have less than 4% representation and voting power. 

"... diplomatic efforts to uphold the nuclear non-proliferation treaty'; 
Oh yes, of course. But guess what? Most countries that sought to acquire nuclear weapons despite what you call the 'non-proliferation treaty' have already done so. Those who haven't, will acquire them in time. There is nothing the EU could do anything about India, Pakistan and North Korea, and there's nothing they can do about Iran and ISIS. The EU-Blob is deluded if it thinks it can influence the arms race, when it is in part funded by it and quite frankly, profits from it. Hypocrites.

European arrest warrant; Cross border policing to combat human trafficking, arms and drug smuggling; counter terrorism intelligence; 
Yeah sure. The United Nations, INTERPOL and UNHCR, mean nothing. The West's intelligence works together anyway. Meanwhile, Assange is still at large. Qatada took years to extradite, Several Ex-Guantanamo Bay inmates (Ex because of the EU's stance) promptly left for Syria on release. Pound shop thieves the EU can combat, big ticket offenders, it can't - or won't. The EU didn't do this for us.

European civil and military co-operation in post-conflict zones in Europe and Africa; support for democracy and human rights across Europe and beyond; The EU has for 60 years been the foundation of peace between European neighbours after centuries of bloodshed. 
Nope. It was the United Nations, NATO, thousands of American troops stationed in what used to be West Germany and billions of US dollars that ensured the little European nations behaved themselves. That and sheer exhaustion from two bloody world wars. As for Africa, the EU is impotent against the forces that drive those nations. You failed to mention the Middle-East, too sticky a subject perhaps? Another time perhaps. 

Investment across Europe contributing to better living standards and educational, social and cultural capital.
Examples, please. Social and cultural capital follows freedom and opportunity - and acceptance, not law. The EU has nothing to do with this, individuals in individual nations do.

It furthermore assisted the extraordinary political, social and economic transformation of 13 former dictatorships, now EU members, since 1980.
Yep, the EU drained the former Soviet countries of their best talent, their youngest, sexiest, bravest, hardiest working age groups to help build their ageing economies and jaded populations. Some of them learned and went back home to contribute to their countries, and some of them stayed behind to contribute to ours. The EU allowed this brain-drain to happen, I'll admit - and so would have the UK, with its history of immigrant contribution. What the EU DID do, is turn sections of the UK population against immigration for reasons more than just xenophobia. It's just economics baby.

Now the union faces major challenges brought on by neoliberal economic globalisation, and worsened by its own systemic weaknesses. It is taking measures to overcome these. We in the UK should reflect on whether our net contribution of £8bn out of total government expenditure of £695bn is good value. We must play a full part in enabling the union to be a force for good in a multi-polar global future.
No, neoliberal economic globalisation is not a challenge, it's the way of the world struggling to get along with each other in economic and social cooperation. Eventually common ground will be achieved - not by force, but by natural attrition and common economic interests and demand led resource allocation. The EU's challenges are not worsened by it's own systemic weaknesses, the EU's challenges are are simply the defence of its systemic weakness and its spurious, and meaningless existence.

And finally, this....

We are not now that strength
Which in old days moved earth and heaven
That which we are, we are
One equal temper of heroic hearts
Made weak by time and fate
But strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find
And not to yield.

What else have you got? Bring it on. Educate me.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Leave Google Alone!

Are you one of those getting all purple-faced over Google not paying what is rightfully your money? Corporation Tax? You know, the tax that corporations pay. You need to hear me out on this. Get to the end of this post before you begin shooting from your hip. Someone has to tell you.

So where was I? Ah yes, Corporation Tax. You know, the tax that Corporations pay. Nameless, faceless corporations - conspiracy theorists will have you believe in conjured images of a middle-aged white men, a la Mr Burns from the Simpsons. Those scheming, devious corporations, cornering every bit of the market, obliterating competition by unscrupulous practices, funding corrupt politicians into power so they can screw us poor vulnerable folk for every penny we earn.

While that imagery may be true for some organisations, it is NOT true for the vast number of businesses. Not the little taxi firm you buy a £16 ride from, not the little neighborhood mom-and-pop shop that sells you bread, eggs, milk, clothes, loo brushes and cheap toilet paper; not your local off-licence and cigarette shop; not the DJ that ekes out a living performing at your wedding, your birthday or your anniversary, or your precious kitty party, and nor is it the little company that offers life-changing careers' advice.

Thing is, we shouldn't be taxing companies in the first place. A company is simply a legal construct, composed of people – people who own it and people who work for it. Any tax or levy on their economic output is a tax on those people. Those people are usually someone like you. These are the people who bear the burden through lower wages, or through lower returns on the investments they make, and you, through higher prices.

Less corporation or no corporation tax means more income for the the business owners. That income is subject to personal taxes, at a much higher rate than corporation tax. That income is also subject to National Insurance contributions, and pretty much every Pound spent from what remains is subject to further denudation through VAT. Somehow in your rage at a service you choose to use, for free - you fail to see how baying at Google, and Facebook and Amazon and your misplaced campaigns hurt the little business owner being you did not have the guts to be.

You did not have the guts to be. Chew on that for a bit. If you'd known about what it takes to put your credibility, your life's savings, your social and personal life, and pretty much your entire being on the line for your enterprise - you will probably not wail so much. You don't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. You care for it, and you nurture it.

Going on about Google, YOU make Google what is it. The government doesn't. Aliens don't. Google are an American company offering a service we all want. For free. Think about that for a bit - FOR FREE. They cost nothing. They cost you nothing, the cost your neighbour nothing, and they cost your government nothing. They can operate in ANY country WITHOUT any government funded, sponsored or, subsidised patronage. 

They're online, they're everywhere and they pay taxes on their earnings wherever they choose to be headquartered. The law allows that. Common sense allows that. 

You could use Bing, or AltaVista, or Dogpile, or Yahoo. They're ALL free.

But, but, Google can only work and be successful because of the security and infrastructure provided by government! You know, telephone wires, satellite link ups, electricity, road networks, police...

Erm no. That's nonsense. You can get Google in Somalia. Somalia doesn't even have a functioning government.

None of these were built to serve Google. You pay for connectivity. You pay to be online, what you do with that is nobody's business. The government charged internet companies over £22 billion in license fees, despite the fact the airwaves cost the government nothing. Eventually of course it was you that bore the cost the internet companies had to pay to buy bandwidth. You can now get a superfast broadband connection for under the price of two pints and a packet of crisps.

Asking Google and the likes of Amazon to pay taxes in the UK over and above what is legally required of them is akin to DEMANDING an artisan exporting handcrafted stonework in Agra or model Mallards from Tennessee or brass Hindu Goddesses from Muradabad to be taxed in UK, even after their own countries have battered them with their own taxes. Despite it meaning it might render their businesses unsustainable or the fact that in the end YOU'RE the one who'll pay through raised prices.

I mean, do we want free trade or not? Who the hell are we supposed to protect: those who can, or those who won't? Surely, we can't protect those who can't, if we don't empower those who can to help pay for it. How about we try and encourage them instead of trying to strangle them?

What we need to do, is level the playing field. Google shouldn't be paying the same rate of corporation tax as everyone else. Google shouldn't be paying a penny. And neither should anyone else.

People invest in business because they expect returns. Returns that they will pay tax on. Why do we need to kill the corner shop because we want to take a swipe at a business that costs us nothing and one we CHOOSE to use?

What will really bake your noodle is that fact that substantial chunks of most large companies' shares are held by pension funds. Yep, your pension fund. You know when the tell you things can go up as well down. Hounding the likes of Google is doing the down. 
Another substantial chunk of shares in most companies are owned by millions and millions of little people.

Corporation Tax is wrong and it must go.

While we're at it, we should chuck out inheritance tax too. It is the single most immoral levy I can think of. It's like vultures descending on your corpse, to pry out your gold teeth, your rings, your wallet, your belt buckle and anything that could hold a monetary value, like the home you want to leave your children, - that little piece of property you spent your entire life paying for -AFTER you have paid your taxes and your enforced debt to society.

Your moral high ground is a fraud, and as you read this, you know it to be true...

Monday, 1 February 2016

'Cause I Gotta Have Faith

This is a post lifted directly from Batsby's Blog.

There was a time when – like the adherents of mohammed – most people, even the intelligent ones, believed in a god. How else to explain the rising of the sun and the bounty of the earth? But there is something in the human psyche that demands their god be so insecure in his omnipotence that he insists on an exclusivity clause – thou shalt have no other god before me – and brings down a righteous smiting on all who demur. Naturally, being aloof sort of characters and somewhat reclusive, all gods seem to need the hand of man to do their smiting, but as long as one puts such small details out of mind, sustaining belief isn’t so hard for the not so bright.

But then, as society evolved and we became better at survival without strife, overcoming the vagaries of nature and freeing some from grubbing for subsistence, our big, busy brains began fizzing with enquiring thoughts and doubt. Science showed us that in the absence of proof the existence of anything is not a matter of fact but a matter of faith and in time the continued absence of proof has worn away at faith; in the developed world the bishops no longer have the power to control by edict and divine threat.

But Voltaire said “If god did not exist it would be necessary to invent him.” And he had a point. What is filling the void left by the church? Science may have done for god in Europe, but science if anything is a harder master to follow than god. Science demands reason and reason demands education. It seems we are demonstrating that you can’t have an easy freedom from religion without the intellect to exist in the world beyond it. In the twentieth century it looked as if secularism was getting somewhere as education freed the masses from unthinking faith (apart from the USA, but that is a work in progress).

So what went wrong? By now we should be a free society of intelligent people, grateful for our liberty and running our lives at a profit, not by a prophet. We should be settling our disputes by reason and coming to consensus, not fracturing into ever smaller, selfish, special interest groups. And we should be absolutely resisting the encroachment of medievalism in the form of men in dresses and women in sacks. And yet the latest OECD report has British teenagers among the thickest in the world; barely able to tie their shoelaces by some accounts

God is in the detail...

Six billion years of evolution?
Maybe Voltaire was right; in the absence of intellect gods will have to do, but do we really want the old gods back, with all that smiting and human sacrifice? No, we need to invent a new god and a proper one at that – reality TV won’t do - and money has had variable results. No, we need a proper, inclusive, omnipotent, unprovable deity again and a congregation without the wit to challenge ‘him’. 

The OECD report shows the way; if we can’t make everybody clever, let’s make everybody stupid again – so that they can accept the lord and be saved.