Scrap the Benefit System!

Well, quite:

Nor has the scheme made work pay. Nearly 1.7 million Britons — double the number in 1997 — now have a marginal tax rate of 70 per cent: for every extra pound they make, Mr Brown takes 70 pence. As they make more money, they lose more benefits, so it is barely worth their while to work — exactly the opposite of what the Prime Minister was trying to achieve.

The solution seems simple. Scrap many of these benefits and increase personal income tax allowance. This would take millions out of income tax altogether, easing the burden on those hard-pressed tax and benefits men. There will, of course, be winners and losers, and the genuinely poor will have to be protected, but it would save us all a vast amount of money in administration costs and help prevent further such disasters — whether one-off or systemic.

The idea that the poor should even be in the income tax system is absurd. Which is why sensible people, like the Adam Smith Institute, suggest that the allowances be raised to £14,000. There\’s even a sensible political party, UKIP, which has made a similar thought (similar, although not exactly the same amount) part of their proposals.

Yes, yes, I know, there are those who would deny that those two groups are "sensible", but this specific proposal clearly is.

More More Data!

Can someone technicaly literate explain this to me?

The child benefits records scandal could have been avoided if Customs officials had spent £5,000 on removing bank account details from the computer discs that later went missing, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Emails showed that HMRC officials were concerned about paying to remove unnecessary information such as account details from the discs before they were sent to London.

Cutting the files would have cost as little £5,000, experts said yesterday, compared to the £200m cost that could result from the scandal, even if no fraud is committed.

It\’s a long long time since I used a database application so I\’m a little in the dark here. When you download a database you tell it which parts you want to download, don\’t you? You can set the filters to download it all, or this bit, or that bit. So why would it cost £5,000 to download only part of it rather than all of it?

I ask because I can see a defence being prepared here. Instead of setting that £ 5k against the huge costs incurred, they\’re going to set the multiples of £5 k, the cost of filtering the data every time they\’re asked for it, against the damage done by the failure. And they\’d be right to do so, of couse.

But only if it does in fact cost that £ 5 k each time. So, can anyone tell me? I\’m assuming that the cost difference between downloading the whole database and a partial one is in fact zero. Am I correct in that assumption?


Glory, glory!

This fresh off the wires: the government\’s controversial Home Information Packs – lovingly known as HIPs – will be imposed on all properties from December 14, the Department of Communities and Local Government has announced. At the moment it\’s only 3 beds and above that are covered.

Just what we need imposed as the housing market is stuttering, eh? More sand in the gears.

Football and Non-Dom

Errm, how does this work then?

So why do overseas players now dominate? As the supposedly economically competent Gordon Brown would understand, it\’s because they enjoy a huge and unfair competitive advantage over British players. Tax rules allow foreign players to claim \’non-domicile\’ status and, with the help of clever lawyers, pay 40 per cent less tax than their British rivals on much of their income.

Non-doms only pay less tax than doms on that portion of their income which is earned abroad. Playing in the Premiership is prety clearly working in the UK. So in thei competition with English players playing in the Premiership the non-dom foreign players don\’t actually have a tax advantage, do they?

The Great Blogging Divide

Is it just me?

Or are there very few leftie blogs commenting upon the data screw up?

It could of course be my own bias, that I\’m not noting people who are commenting upon it. Or it could be that it\’s the anti-Statist glee of the right that makes them comment more noticably.

But scrolling through my RSS this morning, there doesn\’t seem to be all that much from the left commenting.

Update. Well, there\’s this by Unity.

Rather overtaken by events in that it wasn\’t some junior idiot breaching protocols. It was a junior following protocols and having his actions signed off by more senior management. That is, it was the protocols at fault.

Mr. Clewley Speaks Out!

Somebody needs to tell the complete and utter fucking lobotomised morons that somehow came to be running this country that sheer breathtakingly reckless incompetence is only funny if it\’s done in a charming black and white film, nobody actually gets hurt and, and it\’s by people who are only pretending to be that stupid. And I don\’t care if Brown and Darling\’s methadone scrips were in the same package as the lost CDs

Great Climate Change News!

I admit that I sometimes come across as someone who simply says do nothing about climate change. However, the reality is a little more nuanced than that. Doing the things which clearly and obviously make the world better should clearly and obviously be done. It\’s in hte definitions of "better" that we usually find the problems. However, here\’s a clear example of something which does indeed make it better.

After a three-year effort and untold quantities of water, Chinese firefighters have extinguished a fire that had been burning underground in a coalmine for more than 50 years.

The blaze had consumed as much as 12.5 million tonnes of coal as it raged unchecked beneath the surface and spewed out more than 70,000 tonnes of toxic gases annually since the 1950s.

Firefighters finally beat the fire by boring into the coal seam and flooding it with water and slurry. They then capped the mine shafts to starve the flames of oxygen. As well as staving off further environmental damage, they have saved more than 651 million tonnes of coal, which will be mined to fuel the Chinese economic and industrial juggernaut.

We can argue about whether the coal being used to fuel the economy is a good idea or not but for it to be burning, spewing out CO2 without fueling the economy is clearly wasteful. Very much so in fact:

Thousands of underground coalmine fires are believed to cover an area of 720sq km (280sq miles) in China. They consume as much as 20 million tonnes of high-quality coal and another 200 million tonnes of coal storage each year.

Damage to the environment is as troubling as the economic losses. Scientists believe that the underground fires may produce as much carbon dioxide as about 1 per cent of the total burnt as fossil fuels, although estimates vary.

Some scientists say that the fires could release as much as 360 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — as much as all the cars and light lorries in the United States.

Now let\’s believe those figures for a moment. Let\’s also assume that we\’re trying to design some form of carbon tax or cap and trade system to reuce Co2 emissions. We\’ve got one source here, underground coal fires in China (often a natural process in fact) which is 1% of total fossil fuel emissions. That makes it, I think, something like 0.2 to 0.25 % of all emissions. Clearly, such a large source, we\’d like to bring it into our scheme.

Umm, but how?

There\’s no one we can tax for allowing it to happen. There\’s no one we can tax for failing to stop it happening. There\’s no one we can insist gets a permit for allowing it to happen. And if we allow people to issue permits for having stopped it then what\’s to say that someone won\’t start another to be able to issue more permits?



But that has been the story of post-colonial Africa and, although this week\’s obituaries will largely dismiss Smith as a colonial caricature, a novelty politician from another age, if you were to go to Harare today and ask ordinary black Zimbabweans who they would rather have as their leader – Smith or Mugabe – the answer would be almost unanimous. And it would not be Mugabe.

Who could argue with that?

50 Day Detention

Here\’s another cart where the wheels appear to be coming off: The Director of Public Prosecutions.

Sir Ken said: \’\’We are satisfied with the position as its stands at the moment."

He pointed out that charges could be brought against suspects on the grounds of \’\’reasonable suspicion" of involvement in a terrorist act.

If such a benchmark could not be achieved after almost one month of questioning and inquiry, a court was unlikely to allow the period of detention to continue.

Once a suspect was held for more than 14 days, a High Court judge must be persuaded to let the detention continue. This becomes increasingly difficult the longer he is held without charge.

So longer is no necessary. Can we now return the conversation to where i ought to be, making that period shorter?


Yet More Data!

So it wasn\’t in fact some junior civil servant solely to blame:

As the scandal over the loss of 25 million personal records escalated, the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, was accused of misleading parliament by saying a "junior official" at HM Revenue and Customs was to blame for the loss of the data, whereas email evidence shows he was told two senior managers had authorised the procedure.

And the bank account information should never have been sent either:

It has since emerged that the National Audit Office, which had asked for the CDs, had specifically requested that bank details and other sensitive data be removed from them when it asked for other copies of the Child Benefit database in March, but a senior manager refused to do so on cost grounds.

This really is turning out to be a fest, a feast even, for connoisseurs of bureacratic incompetence.

Yet the staff member was following procedures laid down in March by senior HMRC managers when a similar request for data was made by the National Audit Office.

!!! The procedures were to send it, unencrypted, through the post! Why were the bank accounts included?

In a briefing paper sent to the Chancellor by Sir John Bourn, comptroller and auditor general, Mr Darling was told that a "senior business manager" sent an email to the NAO, which was copied to an HMRC Assistant Director, saying the information would not be "desensitised" because "it would require an extra payment to the data services provider EDS".


An almost identical breach of security involving CDs happened in September 2005, when the names, addresses, dates of birth and bank details of UBS customers were lost in the post after being posted by HMRC.

At the time, HMRC admitted that it was "not sure it is the best way to receive information" but that it was "urgently reviewing procedures to make sure this type of incident does not happen again".

Urgently reviewing? Two years is urgent?

In July this year Mr Thomas warned that data protection breaches in Government departments were "frankly horrifying".

Turning to the latest breach, he said: "It is a shocking case. I am at a loss to find out what happened in this situation.

"This goes beyond legal compliance. Any aggregated system for collecting information must be proof against criminals, it must be proof against idiots, it must be proof against those who don\’t follow the ordinary rules of procedure."

It would appear that you can in fact make a computer system idiot proof, but not bureaucrat proof.

One lesson to be drawn from this: as they cannot in fact do the simple things correctly why on earth does anyone task them with doing the complex things?

Dear, Dear, Darling

Piss ups and breweries come to mind somehow:

A series of high street banks denied asking the Chancellor to hold off before telling Parliament of the lost child benefit records.

Mr Darling insisted again yesterday that the banks had asked for more time before the announcement to get ready for inquiries from thousands of customers.

That followed his statement to MPs on Monday, in which he claimed that the banks were "adamant" that they wanted "as much time as possible".

The British Banking Association said: "The BBA did not ask for any more time. As soon as we were made aware of the security breach, banks put in place security measures to secure customer accounts.

"None of our members asked for any extra time. Clearly, everyone involved would have liked as much time as possible but banks unanimously agreed to go ahead without delay."

Now given that Darling made that statement about time being asked for to the Commons, and it now appears not to be the unvarnished truth, does that mean he\’s lied to the House and thus must go? There\’s also this:

It also emerged that the banks and Government officials have fallen out over who will compensate any defrauded customers.

The Treasury wants the banks to pay. The banks are happy to do this as long as there are guarantees that they will be refunded.

That they haven\’t, even when it was their own error, made such a guarantee is amazing.

Richard Murphy Explained!

Look, I think the man has had the odd thing sensible to say, Well, I had:

But the reality is that those who want radical social change that will destroy the concept of walfare(welfare, sic) want to exploit this as an opprtunity to destroy society as we know it.

And I oppose the far Right perception of society. There’s a simple reason. It’s evil. And these comments seem to promote that evil.

"It\’s evil"

So I won\’t talk about it.

Still think of yourself as a liberal?