Friday, 20 May 2011

The coalition

By working together, we can be the Conservative party

Seems that the lib-dems sold everything they cared about for a chance at a referendum on AV -- a system that's shite, but shite in a way that might favour lib dem more than the current shite system does.

I voted lib dem, and then i voted AV, in the hopes that voting lib-dem next time would actually get them elected and get us a single transferable vote system; not my preference, but a functionally democratic system.

Now I -- undoubtedly like the lib-dem party -- am feeling a bit narked.

They've sold a lot, and got nothing in return.

The best way forward IMO is for the lib-dems to use the threat of re-allying with Labour to get some things -- any things -- in order to present themselves as a Relevent Party that Does Things at the next election, and hopefully win.

I'm interested in how it'll turn out for them: if it doesn't work they run the risk of appearing to be an irrelevent party that'll sell everything it believes in for a grand total of Nothing.

In other news: what happened to wikileaks? It's made another leak (the Guantanamo files) but it's not been mentioned in the news anywhere near as much as it was at it's peak...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


Also known as thieving bastards

Lets say a pint costs £3 (so £3 logically costs 1 pint), there's only £9 in existence, and I've just set up a bank.

Andrew puts £3 in the bank. I know money's not a good store of value, so I buy a pint and put that in the vaults.

Ben puts £3 in the bank.

Charlie asks to borrow enough for a pint, so I give Ben's £3 to Charlie.

Dan is wize to my shenanigans, so keeps his £3 in his pocket.

Ella, Francis and Gerry all want to borrow £3 to get a pint each. I don't have it, but I'm a bank so I just credit their accounts with £3 each, creating £9.

Whoops! I've just doubled the amount of money in existence. Simple market forces: if the supply doubles but the demand remains the same, the cost of money will half. So, £3 no longer costs a pint, it costs half a pint; or, a pint now costs £6.

Lets look at what happens:

Andrew wants his money back. I sell half his pint and give him his £3 back.

I go to Charlie and demand my £6 back. I explain that as I lent him enough to buy a pint (£3 in yesterdays prices), he now has to pay me enough to buy a pint (i.e., £6 in todays prices). I can summon a police officer to use the threat of Reasonable Force to the face if he disagrees, so he gives me £6.

Actually, he gives me £6.50 (£3, adjusted for inflation + interest).

Ben comes along. I give him his £3 back. Actually, I chuck Ben and Andrew 20p extra each (interest).

I now have half a pint and £3.10. Because I know money's quite shit, I spend £3 on another half-a-pint, giving me a pint and 10p (£6.10, in todays money).

Ella, Francis and Gerry each owe me £6 (plus interest), and Dan's pissed off that, despite having nothing to do with me, he's suddenly only got enough for half a pint.

In numbers:

Andrew and Ben each gave me £3, and I gave them both £3.20 back.
Charlie borrowed £3 and had to pay back £6.50; likewize with Ella, Francis and Gerry
Dan had, and still has, £3
I have total assets (money + a pint + debt) worth £25.60 (10p + 1 pint (£6) + 3 * £6.50 debt (£19.50) )

In terms of wealth:

Andrew and Ben each gave me enough for a pint. I gave them back just over half-a-pint's worth of wealth.
Charlie borrowed enough to buy a pint. He payed back just over enough to buy a pint. likewize with Ella, Francis and Gerry.
Dan had enough for a pint, and now only has enough for a half.
I have a pint, plus am owed enough to buy over 3 pints

wealth is going from everyone (even dan, who has nothing to do with me) to me.

Specifically, notice how much 'money' there is knocking about:

Andrew: £3.20
Ben: £3.20
Dan: £3
me: 10p

For a total of £9.50; more than actually exists! Generally, if I fuck up and there isn't actually enough money to cover my scheme the government will simply print me some more money.

It gets worse tho.

Andrew: £3.20
Ben: £3.20
Charlie: £0
Dan: £3
me: 10p + £25.50 assets

That's a total of £9.50 (actual money), or £35 (total money, including in assets).

Lucky assets != money. However, if I can somehow blur the line between money and assets (by, perhaps, trading in debt as if it was cash), then we've gone from £9 (9 of which existed) to £9.50 (9.50 of which exist) to possibly £35 (9.50 of which exist).

If we actually print off extra cash so that £35 exists, a pint will now cost approximately £12 and Dan'll be absolutely furious, to the point where he might be ruined or simply decide not to trade in money. So we can't actually do this , which begs the question:

If Ella and Gerry can't pay their collective debts of £13 back for some reason, and I've been trading in their debts with other banks etc. as if they were money; iow if £13 of the £35 is backed on Ella and Gerry, and they can't pay their debts, so suddenly over a 1/3 of the 'money' is worthless, what happens?


So, why's this allowed? Well, the banks and the government regulate the banking system.

The banks lend the government money.
The banks complain about lack of money that actually exists.
The government say 'we've checked, and that's not your fault'.
The government print money and give it to the banks, paying back their debts.
The banking system checks, and says 'the government aren't "just" printing money to pay their debts, they're printing money to cover non-existing money'.

So, iow they back each other up. The government are allowed to print money, the banks are allowed to create money, and they both say the other's not being irresponsible.

I've also noticed that, in a recession, small businesses tend to go bust whilst large businesses tend to expand; recessions unfairly favor large businesses over small. In return, large businesses not only give the political parties cash, but also are more compliant: wanna introduce an ID-fucking-everybody policy? Betcha every Tesco's will comply, but only half the smaller offies and corner-shops will.

Big business: government-compliant, government-funding
Government: pro-big-business, manipulate the economy to allow big-business expansion; allow banking scheme
Banks: facilitate government influence of economy; government-compliant; allow government to print money
Small business: gets suppressed
Small people: get fucked.

Friday, 15 October 2010

innefficient money laundering

Schools (hospitals, police, etc) all have liability insurance, so if they get sued the insurance company picks up the costs.

This seems incredibly dumb for two reasons:

1/ it ruins the deterrent effect -- it replaces 'if you do anything illegally dangerous or you'll have a hefty fine; if you don't, you wont' with 'if you do anything illegally dangerous you'll have a slight insurance cost; if you don't, you'll have a slight insurance cost'.
2/ the government are responsible for the costs of each school/hospital/etc. when looked at from their pov, it'd make more financial sense to centrally manage the liability costs, effectively doing the same as the insurance companies but without making any profit (i.e., slightly less costly for the tax payer).

iow, the government pass liability laws which are effectively neutered by the insurance companies, who, btw, cost more than if the government simply payed the liability (tho admittedly they make sense for each individual department, when viewed as a whole the gov' is loosing out).

Betcha the liability insurance companies pay the Labour party money. thus, tens of millions* of our tax-pounds go to liability insurance companies who pass on hundereds of thousands* to the Labour party.

Government inefficiecy, eh? it even extends to money laundering...

* NOTE: figures are wild assumptions; must check at some point.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Internet Censorship: Good Because It Blocks Child Porn

Bad Because REDACTED

The UK has a 'voluntary' internet-censorship thingumyjogger going on.

The Internet Watch Foundation maintains a list of naughty websites that you shouldn't look at, you naughty pedo you, whilst 'CleanFeed' blocks any attempts to access these sites (unless trivial measures* are taken to circumvent it, in which case it turns out it's a bit crap and doesn't really work).

5% of ISPs have opted not to have anything to do with this, probably 'cos it's expensive and a bit crap; In response, the gov' have been discussing laws to force the ISPs to use CleanFeed (so... it's voluntary as long as you choose to do it, otherwize we'll force you?).

Australia is one step ahead of us in this matter, being in the process of legislating compulsory web-filtering using the same CleanFeed technology, so it might be good to look to them for what might happen next in the UK.

Firstly, like us, they're justifying this expensive invasion into our civil liberties as being a good way to counter paedophillia; and, therefore, the only opponents of the idea are child-molesters:

At the Media Connect conference of Australian technology journalists in 2008 McMenamin addressed the conference stating that "she did not understand the technical side of the filter" but that "she supported it anyway". After weathering criticism from the attending journalists she stated that only child molesters could protest against the filter - something that mortally offended everyone attending, especially the parents in the room. Her response to the subsequent backlash was, "won't someone please think of the children"

But, of course, you put stuffy ol' fuddy-duddies in charge of the list and they start banning all porn:

Elsewhere, the board has come under fire for refusing classification to pictures of women with small breasts on the grounds they look like children - something that has outraged women's groups for stigmatising women who don't have large breasts. Also videos featuring the natural act of female ejaculation on the (erroneous) grounds that it is in fact an obscene "golden shower" have also been classified RC.

(RC = Refused Classification, btw).

Then the censorship mechanism that was put in place 'to protect children' will be used to censor political discourse before the law has even been passed:

We claim to welcome robust political debate, allowing anti-abortion protesters to carry placards through the streets; yet Senator Conroy's ACMA censors the same images on websites, then serves takedown notices on online discussions of the censorship.

And, this, really, is the problem with censorship. See, with the majority of the blocklist already consisting of non-pornographic material , we've reached the point where it's quite clear that if the CleanFeed technology was already in place, all the argument and political discourse on the internet as to whether to accept CleanFeed or not would itself be banned, probably on the grounds of 'promoting paedophillia' or something.

For example, the Australian government's response to WikiLeaks for publishing the fact that most the blocklist wasn't pornographic was to add WikiLeaks to the blocklist.

No doubt thinking of the children, the Australian government bravely censored that political dissent. And unlike paedos with child porn, Australians interested in reading arguments for/against CleanFeed don't necessarily know that this content is out there, waiting for them to bypass the filters to access it*.

Speaking of which, all of this has one sickening backdrop:

It's not even clear that censoring child-porn actually helps children.

In fact, it might harm them; which I'll blog about later...

* For the curious: SSL (a common feature on many websites), regular domain-hopping, renaming the webpage, using a foreign proxy, using tor, using p2p, IM, email, or any internet protocol which is too dissimilar to HTTP (including HTTPS, remember), using private/closed-membership sites, using a website that just hasn't been added to the blacklist yet, whatever tricks PirateBay and WikiLeaks use to avoid blocking, and adding a question-mark to the end of the URL. So, you know, CleanFeed will work perfectly as long as the paedos don't make any attempts to circumvent it at all ever. Or if people don't know the content exists in the first place...

Monday, 2 August 2010

Offensive on Cheap Booze Begins

Day before I predicted it... heh

Had I researched my last theory (rather than trying to predict the future), I'd have found that the offensive on cheap booze had already begun.

So... I correctly predicted what would happen the day before I made the prediction...

Oh well, at least it means I was right, and I think it'll be interesting seeing what happens in the media: the propaganda campaign that I predicted, or not?

from the Forcing the Population to Comply Office:

  • we will ban the sale of alcohol below cost price

  • we will review alcohol taxation and pricing[...]

Thursday, 29 July 2010

How to Evade Tax and Get Away With It

courtesy of Tescos

Cheap booze! Gotta love it, because it's booze and it's cheap.

However, there is something wrong with cheap booze; no, it's not the gangs of feral youths, pissed off their head from half a shandy who will undoubtably rape your mum given half the chance, or the £3b/year cost to the NHS.

No, it's worse: it's tax evasion, on a rampant scale, being aided-and-abetted by Tescos (and other supermarkets), those cheeky bastards!

How much is £1 worth?

See, most people would answer the above 'a quid'. And thats why most of us are poor.

Rich people would say 'it depends': on how much it costs to get that quid, how many quids you already have, how many pounds you need, when you're going to get the pound, and various other factors, one of which is how much tax you're going to have to pay on it.

For an example, lets change the tax rate to something less confusing than 17.5%: lets say that everything has a VAT of 10%, except booze, which has a duty of 50% instead.

Now, you earn £1 on bread, or clothes, or newspapers or bogroll or anything other than booze, and (ignoring production costs etc) that £1 is worth 90p to you, as 10% of it is tax actually, something that cost 90p before tax and that then takes a 10% tax would come to 99p, and to cost £1 after tax it's original value would have had to have been 91ish-pence, but fuck it I'm going to ignore that for the sake of simplicity

But, you earn £1 on booze, and it's only worth 50p to you, 'cos that's how much you get to keep after tax.

Obviously, then, a quid made on bread is worth more to you than a quid made on booze; it's less efficient to earn money on booze...

E.g., imagine you spend £3 on cider, and £3 on bog roll (cos cider gives me the squits): thats £1.50 Tesco keeps on cider, and £2.70 it keeps on bog roll, for a total of £6 received and an after-tax net income of £4.20.

"Bingo!" say the execs at Tescos, "we'll lower the price of booze and subsideze it with an increase across the board on other products".

So this is what happens: you're pleasantly suprized to find that you only have to spend £1 on the cider, then slightly miffed to have to spend £5.70 on bog roll, but you can't be arsed to buy your cider from one supermarket and your loo-roll from another, and anyway the total bill is still £6, so fuck it.

Tesco gets to keep 50p of that money spent on cider (after 50% duty) and £4.43 from the bogroll (after 10% VAT) for a total after-tax net income of £4.93, which is more than £4.20, so a win for Tescos by effectively transferring pounds from products where they would have to pay 50% tax to other products where they only have to pay 10% tax.

Those clever gits!

In fact, if you spread the increase thinly across products no-one will really notice that they're a bit more expensive, especially if Tescos shares some of this goodness with it's customers: e.g., for every pound lost due to cheapening the alcohol (that pound was only worth 50p to Tescos, remember), only 70p extra will be made on other goods (that's worth 63p to Tescos after 10% VAT), resulting in us customers paying 70p more on other goods for every £1 less spent on booze, for a net saving to us of 30p for every pound we would have spent on booze whilst Tescos make 13p more per pound-we-would-have-spent-on-booze.


OK, the end result is cheaper overall prices for us customers, and higher net income for Tescos, with the added benifit that they can attract customers with the promise of lower booze. Everybody wins!

Except the government; because this scheme works by avoiding (or, you could say, evading) the duty (also known as tax) on alcohol, the government misses out on some tax revenue at a time when it reeeeeeeally needs money and probably isn't in a mood to tolerate what amounts to large-scale tax-evasion being co-ordinated by the supermarkets.

No, counter-intuitively enough, you DON'T like cheap booze (this statement sanctioned by the government)

Of course, this is a sticky situation for the government. Times are tough, and we want to save money and quite like the option of getting pissed every now and again with our mates on the cheap. The government are being blamed for times being tough and don't want to piss us off. Yet, the government effectively has to tell us that either taxes are going up to compensate for this new, exciting, world in which Tescos helps us evade tax, or we're going to have to lose our only-recently-aquired cheap booze. "Boo!" either way.

So, here's what I think is going to happen.

The government are going to approach newspapers and say that they will grant interviews with high-level figures, invite the reporters to all their meetings, and give them sound-bites from the PM, BUT only if they tow the 'cheap booze is bad' line. Any newspapers caught trying to point out that 'mostly drunk teens don't rape peoples mothers' or 'if you increase the price of booze beyond the point where youths can afford, some of them might get jobs ohwaittheyarentallowedto they might start nicking stuff to buy booze' won't get invited to the press conferences or granted interviews with Officer Highup, and therefore will have a harder time actually writing articles.

So, furnished with Official Figures given to them in interviews with Important People, we get articles like the one I linked to earlier, bemoaning the cost of alcohol to the NHS whilst carefully avoiding mentioning that the £3 billion/year cost is easily off-set by the in excess of £7 billion/year claimed in alcohol duty so that the government will keep talking to them and giving them a hand writing their articles

(btw, that source: download the XL spreadsheet, and it's in tab A2, 7.278 UOM in the period 04-05 from alcohol where UOM = Units Of Mystery, which are only refered to as being 'in real terms'; from tab A1b, which is measured in £millions, a quick addition confirms a total from-alcohol-duty income of somewhat in excess of £7billion)

So, my prediction is:

  • an increase in newspaper articles mentioning:

    • The total cost of alcohol to the NHS and thus taxpayer, and how this could be avoided if only alcohol cost less, thus discouraging 'binge drinking'

    • emotive examples of a small number of crimes committed by people who had binge-drunk, followed by figures of total number and/or cost of alcohol-related crimes, subtly implying that all alcohol-related crimes were committed by people pissed out of their heads because they'd binge-drunk cheap booze from Tescos

    • shocking stories, with emotive details, or how Johhny Teen raped someones cat 'because he was pissed', probably with Wild Speculation as to how many feral youths might rape our cats if they can afford a bottle of scrumpy (answer: ALL OF THEM!)

    • Expert Opinion from Experts in the Alcohol Business (i.e., landlords) who's completely unbiased opinion which they're offering for free as a service to society is that Tescos selling cheap booze is a Bad Thing

  • whilst religiously avoiding mentioning

    • the fact that, according to the government, alcohol duty is more than alcohol's cost to society, effectively admitting that duty isn't an exercise in internalization so that we don't blithely overspend, but rather an exercise in taxing us a lot on our hobbies because we won't exactly stop doing it and therefore because they can, the cunts

    • suggesting that if someone goes out and gets pissed and beats someone up, they're probably just an arsehole who likes both beating people up and getting pissed, and if he couldn't afford to drink he'd probably just beat someone up, steal their money, buy booze, and then beat someone else up for fun

    • finishing the stories that a nice police representative helped you write by answering all your questions with 'but then he got pissed in a pub, not off of cheap supermarket booze, so it's kind of irrelevent', or with anything other than 'therefore cheap booze is bad boo!'

    • mentioning inconvenient facts about the crime stats, such as 'the person who binge-drinks 27 pints and is still capable of beating someone up is an exception, not a representative example of people who commit crime whilst drunk

    • suggesting that some, let alone most, underage drinkers don't commit crimes (except underage drinking)'

    • sarcastically focusing on 'unintended consequences', such as people who are too young to legally work stealing to buy expensive alcohol, or a likely increase in illegally imported booze in response to it's rise in price

    • pointing out that the landlords probably are biased by a cheap stay-at-home-where-you-can-smoke competitor

    • relatedly: interviewing the brewers to see what they think

  • Culminating in a Sun/Express 'campaign' to 'save us from the horrors of cheap booze'

  • A compliant government, democratically bowing to our demands and passing minimum-price laws

  • but not on spirits, that's what they drink

tl; dr?

So, in summary, the government will manipulate the media into manufacturing a demand for less cheap booze, and then pass minimum-price laws so that they can carry on taxing us for something that they know we won't give up. The bastards.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Alternative Votes

Would you like us to ignore you like this, or like that?

The basic idea behind alternative voting is that if a party doesn't get enough votes to get elected, then their voters will be able to have their votes transfered to an 'alternative' preference; in other words, you can now try to vote lib-dem, and when that doesn't work, you can have your vote transfered to another party.

Sounds cool, no?


See, the parties that drop out first are the smaller ones. So, you can vote for the green party, or the BNP, or the Monster Raving Loony party, and you can even vote "green OR IF THEY DON'T GET IN monster raving loony OR FAILING THAT I'D LIKE MY VOTE TO BE TRANSFERRED TO ukip" or whatever... but these small parties, catering, democratically enough, to what some people want, will always be 'knocked out' and silenced, and your vote will be transferred elsewhere, bouncing around from party-that-isn't-going-to-be-given-any-power to party-that-isn't-going-to-be-given-any-power.

Until it reaches one of the big three, in which case it'll 'get stuck there' as those parties -- Lib Dem, Lab, and Con -- are too big to be knocked out. If they are, it'll be right at the end so your vote will ONLY be transferred to another big party or ignored.

Rather than wasting your vote, AV steals it; unless you don't vote for one of the big 3 at all, in which case AV will waste your vote anyway.

An example:

Lets say you vote like this, with your choices ranked in order of preference:

1 green party
2 yellow party
3 red party
4 lib dem
5 monster raving loony party
6 conservative

Now, lets say the results of the vote are like this:

26% Labour
25% Conservative
24% Lib-Dem
10% monster raving loony
5% yellow
3% green <-- your vote is here
2% BNP
1% red
0% ignored

OK, what happens first is that the red party, having lost, gets knocked out and it's votes redistributed. for the sake of example, lets assume that every single red voter wanted yellow as their second choice.

26% Labour
25% Conservative
24% Lib-Dem
10% monster raving loony
6% yellow +1%
3% green <-- your vote is here
2% BNP
0% red -1%
0% ignored

Now the BNP get knocked out. lets say half the BNP had UKIP as their second choice, whilst the others had conservatives down as number 2.

26% Labour
26% Conservative +1%
24% Lib-Dem
10% monster raving loony
6% yellow
5% UKIP +1%
3% green <-- your vote is here
0% BNP -2%
0% red
0% ignored

Now... aww, nuts. it's your number 1 choice, the green party that gets knocked out... not to worry, your vote is transferred, right?

Your vote is transferred to your number 2 choice, the yellow party. And, lets say for simplicity that every other green voter also wanted yellow as their second choice:

26% Labour
26% Conservative
24% Lib-Dem
10% monster raving loony
9% yellow +3% <-- your vote is here
0% green -3%
0% BNP
0% red
0% ignored

Horray, my vote wasn't wasted! Now UKIP go out. lets just say that their voters didn't have a second preference, so their votes are now dropped:

26% Labour
26% Conservative
24% Lib-Dem
10% monster raving loony
9% yellow <-- your vote is here
0% UKIP -5%
0% green
0% BNP
0% red
5% ignored +5%

Aww... your second choice goes out now. Your vote now would go to your third choice, red, but they're out of the running. So, instead, it goes to your 4th choice, Lib Dem. lets say there's quite a lot of variety amongst the yellow voters as to who is next best:

28% Labour +2%
28% Conservative +2%
26% Lib-Dem +2% <-- your vote is here
12% monster raving loony +2%
0% yellow -9%
0% green
0% BNP
0% red
6% ignored +1%

Hmm... that 'quite a lot of variety' has rendered down into 'four parties' 'cos the others have been knocked out; apart from 1% of the voters, who are now, therefore, not having their votes counted.

Now MRLP goes bye-byes, and also has a variety of next choices:

32% Labour +4%
32% Conservative +4%
30% Lib-Dem +4% <-- your vote is here
0% monster raving loony -12%
0% yellow
0% green
0% BNP
0% red
6% ignored

Note that the big three are collecting all the votes (even tho there are a variety of next choices, they -- being big -- are the only ones left not knocked out)

Now it's lib-dem getting knocked out, and your vote being transfered again; 2/3rds of the lib-dem voters prefer conservative over labour, 1/6th prefer labour over con, and the other 1/6 don't like either and so will be ignored. Note that 'prefer conservative over labour' might mean that they have many inbetween preferences, but they're being ignored as all the other parties have been knocked out:

37% Labour +5%
52% Conservative +20% <-- your vote is here
0% Lib-Dem -30%
0% monster raving loony
0% yellow
0% green
0% BNP
0% red
11% ignored +5%

And the conservatives win!

But... wait... your vote ended up at your last choice. In fact, conservative could easily be most voters last choice. And if you didn't like either Lab or Con, your vote would have been ignored!

What's happening is that, by knocking out the smaller parties first, you almost guarantee that everyones' vote will end up with labour, conservative, lib-dem, or ignored.

Short Version

This is another way of forcing us to 'choose' one of the big parties,

The only good things about it? There's a fractional chance that one of the non-big-three will actually win (fat chance, but slightly better than under FPTP); and Lib-Dem might actually win and therefore give us the Single Transferable Vote system (much better)

Tho why we can't just say that, in the above example, labour get 26% of the vote, cons get 25, etc. etc. and your party (green) get 3% of the vote -- i.e., why can't we have a directly proportional system -- is beyond me.

Completely wrong

As an example of how it can go completely wrong, imagine everyone had put the red party as it's second choice: they'd be clearly the best choice to be in charge, but -- having so few 1st preferences -- they'd have been knocked out in the first round and end up with 0% of the votes.

Also imagine if most people would like any party other than the big three, but can't agree which one. That's right: rather than the AV system determining which one gets power, it will instead steal any votes that it can and transfer them to Lab, Con, or Lib-Dem, or if the voter refuses to co-operate and doesn't rank Lab, Lib-Dem or Con, it'll ignore their vote.



Thursday, 18 February 2010

Freedom of Choice*

(*offer is limited to one free choice per customer per election. Other terms and conditions apply)

Ok, so last time I waffled about Simpsons Paradox, and how it can result in skew-if results. However, there's another significant implication of the whole dividing-and-counting-per-constituency malarkey that we've got going on, and that's wasted votes.

The way it works is like this: basically, either Labour or Conservative are going to get elected, and that's that: the chances of a hung parliament are slim enough to more-or-less ignore.

The result? Well, lets imagine a hypothetical situation in which someone dislikes Labour, and really wants to kick them out. Their preference would be for -- I dunno -- lets say Lib-Dem for the sake of example.

The person has TWO parts to their vote:

  1. Do not want Labour
  2. Do want Lib-Dem

Now, both parts would seemingly be satisfied by voting for Lib-Dem, but for the fact that Lib-Dem won't get elected, will they? So, in actual fact, because Lib-Dem have an appalling votes --> power conversion rate, and because the electoral system tends to grant a majority to either Labour or Conservatives thus rendering any power that the Lib-Dems actually get rather moot (Labour don't need to ally/co-operate with any other party, so the non-Labour MPs at the moment are collectively powerless), Lib-Dem's votes tend to be wasted and so voting for them strangely enough isn't actually a very good idea if you hold the above two objectives.

However, there is one -- and and only one -- alternative, and that is to treat a vote for the Conservative party as a vote for 'not Labour'. This is actually your only option if you hold the above objectives, as it at least accurately gets across the 'not Labour' part of your desires.

The system we have, therefore, limits our choices:

  • We can choose to be ruled by Labour or Conservative, but we can't choose any other party
  • We can choose on the issues that Labour and Conservative disagree on (right now, for example, electoral reform) but NOT on anything they agree on (they both want tax to stay the same? Then tax stays the same, and we have no say in the matter)
  • We can choose on one of the issues they disagree on: like Labour's environmental policies but the Conservatives' policy on crime? Tough, choose one and only one issue; choose Labour or Conservatives
  • We can choose between city and country: do you vote in your Labour MP who you think will do good for your city, or the Conservative MP that will help the Conservatives gain control of the country?

These issues all have something to do with the whole 'splitting country up into constituencies' thing: were it not for that, there'd be no wasted votes; no party would likely get a majority, forcing them to form alliances and thus making the votes/power of the parties that came in 3rd, 4th etc place still important and possibly the extra x% of the vote that an alliance need to form a majority; given this, there'd actually be the freedom to form and vote for new parties, thus allowing us a greater freedom of choice when it comes to who will represent us, and thus greater freedom to vote on a wider range of issues.

Or, in other words, there's no reason why someone couldn't start a party with Labour's environmental policies and the Conservatives' policies on crime, and then there'd be no reason not to vote for this party; if they don't 'win', that's ok, they can team up with Labour on environmental issues and the Conservatives on issues of law and order, so the fact they only got 5% of the national vote doesn't result in those votes being 'wasted'. At the moment, by making it all-or-nothing, any party that tries that will find no-one voting for them 'cos they don't want their votes to be wasted on a party that doesn't get elected (which of course will be because no-one votes for them... because they don't want their votes wasted on a party that won't get in because no-one's going to vote for them... etc.).

tl; dr?

The disproportionality of the electoral system results in 'wasted votes', and the 'fear' of wasting your vote stops you from voting for a party that's not likely to win, amplifying the disinclination of our electoral system to elect any party other than Lab' or Con'.

This drastically limits our choice, i.e. to Labour or Conservative; and in the issues that Lab' and Con' agree on, our choice is effectively non-existent. Which is hardly democratic.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Simpsons Paradox

Electoral Systems 102: Divide and miscount

Another problem with our electoral system is Simpsons' Paradox.

In a nutshell, Simpsons Paradox is where you can divide a set of results into chunks, assess each chunk, and then combine the results of each assessment to draw a conclusion about the whole which disagrees with a direct assessment of the whole.

Or, in less confusing terms, it is how someone can come second in each leg of the tour-de-france yet still come 1st overall: as long as no-one consistantly comes 1st in each leg, the best overall cyclist may well be the one who was always 2nd. Yet, the fact that he came 2nd in each leg makes it appear as if he'd be overall 2nd...

It can occur in more confusing ways, too.

Lets devise an experiment to figure out who is harder: Charlie Chaplin or Mike Tyson?

The experiment can be that we will pit each of them against two opponents — Bruce Lee and a 10-year-old girl — and see who wins most.

Stupid? Yes, but the results are:

vs. 10-year-old girl:

Charlie does suprisingly poorly against the 10-year-old girl, who manages to win nearly half her bouts against him; Mike, tho, predictably wins all of his bouts against the girl. The results are so obvious that not many fights are neccesary to establish that Mike Tyson is harder than a 10-year-old girl:

Charlie Chaplin: 50/90
Mike Tyson: 10/10
WINNER: Tyson, with 100% victory vs. 10-year-old girl, against Charlie's 55%

Against Bruce Lee, Tyson manages to win some, but nonetheless Bruce Lee proves the stronger; Chaplin, again, gets his ass handed to him, but at least this time it's not by a 10-year-old girl:

Charlie Chaplin: 0/10
Mike Tyson: 35/90
WINNER: Tyson, with a 38% success rate vs. Lee, against Chaplin's 0%.



Well, overall they both fought 100 fights: Chaplin won 50 of these, whilst Tyson won only 45, meaning that Chaplin wins more bouts, grabs the trophy and has proven himself in trial to be harder than Tyson, until Tyson decks him, grabs the trophy, and runs off shouting 'bloody Simpsons Paradox!'

Ok, that was all daft, but that's the essence of Simpsons Paradox. In this case, breaking the data down and assessing in chunks gives the correct interpretation (Tyson does best against a girl + Tyson does best against Lee = Tyson is better fighter), whilst in other times it can be the overall view that is correct whilst breaking it into chunks gives a false view.

A really quick example: this time, it's two fighters vs. Frank Bruno:

Trial one:

A: 65/100
B: 7/10
WINNER: B (70%, vs. A's 65%)

Trial two:

A: 4/10
B: 53/100
WINNER: B(53% vs. A's 40%)

OVERALL WINNER: A (69/110 vs. B's 60/110)

Unlike the first example, here the correct interpretation is the overall view, with the breaking-into-chunks-then-combining-results giving a false view.


So our country is divided into constituencies. The votes are tallied per constituency, and then these results are combined to give the national result. This is the situation that you need for Simpsons Paradox to arise, and is how the Labour party managed to 'win' the last election with 55% of the power (i.e., majority control) with only 35% of the vote[1]; hell, on two occasions the 'winner' actually had less votes than the party that came second[2] (on one of those occasions, the winner had enough for a majority control, i.e. they were in charge), and also explains the huge disparity between how many votes Lib Dem get and how much power they end up with:

That first result is appauling: just over a quarter of the vote translating to just over a thirtieth of the power...

In fact, Gerrymandering (see previous post) is essentially an attempt to force Simpsons Paradox in order to grant yourself even more disproportionate power.

Tl; dr?

Dividing the country up into constituencies is the fundamental cause for the disproportionality of our voting system: it's what causes some parties to get more power than their vote-share indicates they deserve, whilst others get less; it's one of the main reasons why our electoral system is not fit-for-purpose.

One of the repercussions of this is that gerrymandering is possible (see last post); the other is 'wasted votes' and the repercussions of wasted votes (see next post?)


BBC News election scoreboard
356 seats for Labour = 356/646*100 = 55.1%

Wikipedia: Jan '10 election results
Wikipedia: Feb '74 election results

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Electoral Systems 101

The illusion of control

I had a post on the proposed Alternative Voting System, but it was too gargantuan for me to bother fact-checking, so I'm breaking it up into parts.


Gerrymandering is the act of changing constituency borders in order to change the result.

Simply illustrated, take the following group of people, geographically distributed with one blob of Conservative voters up north, and a blob of Labour voters down south:


Now lets see where the constituency boundaries are:

CCCCC 1 Conservative MP
----------- constituency boundary
CCLCC 1 Conservative MP
----------- constituency boundary
LLCLL 1 Labour MP

1 Labour
2 Conservative

"That's no good", think Labour, who happen to be in power; "lets change the boundaries":

CCCCC 1 Conservative MP
----------- constituency boundary
LLCCL 1 Labour MP
----------- constituency boundary
LLLLL 1 Labour MP

2 Labour
1 Conservative

Or simply:

CCCCC 1 Conservative MP
----------- constituency boundary
LLCLL 1 Labour MP

1 Labour
1 Conservative

Note that in neither case did the actual votes change, just the boundaries (and, thus, the number of MPs elected for each party).

It was apparently used a lot Northern Ireland, in an attempt to stifle separatist parties, and in the UK we have an allegedly indipendant boundaries commission to set the boundaries, supposedly to prevent gerrymandering.

Nonetheless, if you want people to assume they've got control and live in a democracy whilst still maintaining power yourself, gerrymandering should be in your vocabulary.

Monday, 1 February 2010

It's ok to mention WikiLeaks

BBC/ITC don't care

I said: Hell, it sounds like it forbids mentioning WikiLeaks on the telly, as that explains how to break the censorship laws


WikiLeaks mentioned on the Culture Show on BBC-2.

At the very least for now, it's OK to mention WikiLeaks on the telly.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Criminomics 103


From here

A few examples of 'organized crime as a branch of the secret service':

The fact that organized crime and the United States government have had some common enemies (Mussolini in Italy, and Castro in Cuba) has sometimes led to cooperation between them. In Italy local Mafiosi were active in the underground and provided the Allies with intelligence for the invasion of Sicily. As the Allies then moved on to the Italian mainland, anti-Fascist Mafia were appointed to important positions in many towns and villages. The French liner Normandie was burned in New York, just before it was to become an Allied troop ship. Following this incident, the government sought the aid of mob-controlled longshoremen, truckers and guards as help against waterfront sabotage and infiltration during World War II. 7 Help was received from Joe (Socks) Lanza on the East Side and Lucky Luciano on the West Side. Just what the government offered in return is less clear, although Luciano’s cooperation won him, at the least, a transfer to more comfortable prison quarters near Albany (Talese, 1972: 206).

Recent reports of connections between the CIA and the underworld may simply be the continuation of an old American tradition. The CIA with its “executive action program” designed to “eliminate the effectiveness of foreign leaders” also delegated some of its dirty work (such as assassination efforts directed against Castro and Lumumba) to underworld figures. In Castro’s case organized crime figures were thought to have “expertise and contacts not available to law-abiding citizens.” They also had a motive which it was thought would take attention away from sponsorship of the U.S. government. According to one estimate (Schlesinger, 1978), Castro’s coming to power cost organized crime $100 million a year. Outsiders were used by the CIA to avoid having “an Agency person or government person get caught” (Select Committee, 1975: 74).

A former bank robber and forger involved in the unsuccessful plot to assassinate Lumumba was given plastic surgery and a toupee by the CIA before being sent to the Congo. This man was recommended by the Chief of the CIA’s Africa Division as a “field operative” because “if he is given an assignment which may be morally wrong in the eyes of the world, but necessary because his case officer ordered him to carry it out, then it is right, and he will dutifully undertake appropriate action for its execution without pangs of conscience. In a word, he can rationalize all actions” (Select Committee, 1975: 46). It appears that in extreme cases one crucial element which agents of social control may obtain in such exchange relationships is a psychopathic personality not inhibited by conventional moral restraints

Lucky there's all that organized crime about the place, eh? I wonder if anyone in power's ever thought that it's in their best interests to sustain global organized crime *coff* war on drugs *coff*

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Free speech*

*Some terms and conditions apply.

This is weird. I don't like the BNP, racist fuckwits that they are, but I was under the impression that 'valid political parties' had gotten themselves excempt from laws such as this, on the grounds that suppressing or controlling political groups is tantamount to censorship: you can't form a group to politically discuss X.

A common argument against censorship is that what starts off to, say, prevent child-porn, will then be 'expanded' to prevent bestiality and other 'obscenities' before then being expanded further to suppress terrorism, then racism, then glorification of crime.

Sounds natural, until you realize just how much that covers: according to the people who censor the telly, glorification of crime, for example, includes anything that condones or glamorises violent, dangerous, seriously antisocial behaviour, or crime; anything explaining how to commit a crime[1].

The problem there is that as 'crime' includes, say, refusal to pay tax, attempting to overthrow the gov', organized civil disobedience (smoking in pubs, maybe), and so on, then the law essentially is that you can't use the telly to suggest/co-ordinate civil resistance to the government: the government is in charge, challenging that is illegal, and thus it is illegal to publicly discuss ways to challenge it (excepting via the non-functional Electoral System). Hell, it sounds like it forbids mentioning WikiLeaks on the telly, as that explains how to break the censorship laws.

Or broadcast child porn, which is the reason touted out whenever the TV censors need justification.

Anyway, in order to safeguard at least themselves against totalitarianism, I was under the impression that political parties were excempt from certain laws, such as censorship and racism. After all, if the political parties of the 60's were subject to public decency or corruption of minors (e.g., 17-year-old's) acts, then they wouldn't have been able to discuss the decriminalization of homosexuality.

So it's odd seeing the BNP, who, for all that they're assholes, are a political party, being held to the race-relations laws, given that that would kinda destroy them.

You may form a political party for the decriminalization of gays, but, by jove, you can't do so in such a way that condones homosexuality for that is illegal.

You may form a racist political party, but, by jove, you may not do so in a racist way.

Hmm... I wonder if you could get "you may form a political party to actually give power to the people, but, if our broken electoral system doesn't work, you may not suggest that people take power, for that is illegal. By jove."?

(Oh look, apparently you can: for all their genuine political complaints, and for all the political cheating by the UK government, for a while some separatist Irish political parties were censored within the UK.)

On the other hand, given that their proposed change is to omit the whites-only requirement but have a requirement that every member "bona fide supports and agrees with each of the Principles of the Party", I'm not sure how that'll work:

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Criminomics 102

Or: how to maintain a secret-service branch on the cheap

Put yourself in the position of a secret-service high-up.

You've been given a big task: you're to create an organization that can achieve 'things' within the UK. These things will be 'ground-work': the actual 'doing stuff' leg-work that exerts small-scale, local influence which, if carefully applied (to, e.g., politicians, police-chiefs, etc) could have useful larger-scale effects. Your organization will work with other departments (psyops/propaganda, political, economical, military, etc) in order to exert influence within the UK.

The exact specifications are:

Must be capable of 'getting stuff done', mainly the illegal stuff: espionage, entrapment/framing, bribery, forgery of documents, theft, breaking-and-bugging, kidnap, torture, blackmail, coercion, assassination, provoking riots, anything else that might need doing.

Must be capable of logistics to facilitate the above: importing, exporting, transporting, storing, manufacturing stuff; finances (movement of cash); identification and appropriation of skilled operatives; etc.

Size and spread: must be present in every city and ideally infiltrate the power structure (police officers, magistrates, civil-service, etc.), and be large enough to bear a large workload if necessary.

Must do all the above in a deniable way (not traceable back to us) and be as cheap as possible.

Now, the 'cheap as possible' requirement kind of rules-out many potential approaches: armies of operatives spread thickly throughout the UK would cost a bomb and, anyway, it would kind of risk the 'deniable' requirement.

A much better idea is to pass 'stupid' laws.

See, illegalizing cannabis, for example, contributes to the profitability (and thus sustainability/maintenance) of the UK criminal infrastructure. It funds illegal transportation networks, and criminal gangs. Cocaine does likewize, and also makes it financially viable for 'organized crime' to maintain some (at least small and basic) chemical manufacturing plants. All drugs contribute to the profitability of crime, and thus facilitates criminals bribing police officers for information.

Patent laws lead to forgery, which includes stuff like, e.g., televisions: make a sub-par TV that just-about works, slap a 'sony' label on it, and sell it above what it's worth, and you get 'organized crime' maintaining electronic-equipment factories and the skilled electronics and machining experts who are required to set up the factories.

Obviously, chuck thieves and thugs, forgers and whores in there too, as they're all illegal. And, for every law that pushes more 'economics' into the hands of the organized criminals, and -- given that even the 'victimless criminals' such as prostitutes can't really go to the police -- there's more and more demand (and more and more money available) for organized crime's 'police' -- People Who Go Have Words With People, People Who Break Other People's Legs, People Who Kill People...

Mostly staffed by People Who Do Things For Money, and administrated by People Who Know People...

Lets look at the requirements of our organization again:

Must be capable of 'getting stuff done', mainly the illegal stuff:

espionage; breaking-and-bugging: Pay the more-skilled thieves to break and enter, and plant bugs (the bugs can be manufactured by the patent infringers in bulk, or the people who design their factories in small numbers, or by the gov. and then smuggled in by the drug smugglers); use the police/etc contacts for internal information.

entrapment/framing/blackmail: whores and drug-dealers would be good for this. 'Got caught snorting coke off of two whores breasts' makes an awful headline, don't'cha think... as does anything relating to whores or drugs, tbh.

bribery: of officials? drug-dealers, crime-lords, etc, already do so for early-warning of raids and 'accidentally' losing evidence. Of other people, you just need the money and someone to go make the offer.

Forgery of documents: forgers

theft: theives

kidnap, torture, coercion, assassination, provoking riots, anything else that might need doing: organized crime is quite versatile enough to get all of these things done, given sufficient money, and half of those things are done by their 'police'.

Must be capable of logistics to facilitate the above: importing, exporting, transporting, storing, (drug smugglers mainly) manufacturing stuff (patent infringers; drug-makers for chemical stuff); finances (have their own trust-based money-moving systems, and money-laundering too); identification and appropriation of skilled operatives (the 'leaders'); etc.

Size and spread: must be present in every city and ideally infiltrate the power structure (police officers, magistrates, civil-service, etc.), and be large enough to bear a large workload if necessary (umm... yes).

Must do all the above in a deniable way (not tracable back to us, criminals take the blame) and be as cheap as possible (no maintenance costs, simply pay on an as-needed basis).

Bloody cheap way of doing it. You just need to make sure that the criminal infrastructure remains strong. That's easy, just illegalize enough that they have a crapload of stuff to do and make money off of, and ignore all arguments based on 'makes organized crime more powerful' and police badly ('zero tolerance' policing, for example, leads to more and more people not being able to go to the police == more power for organized crime; underfunding would work too).

Now you have a branch of the secret service that can do the 'ground-work' cheaply. No one who matters will get hurt.

On the down-side you'll have to constantly fend off 'hippy liberals' who want to decriminalize stuff, and you'll have to play silly-buggers with the organized criminals so that they don't get too powerful (maybe arrest the leaders who try to unite the gangs, and leave the more conflicty bosses in charge to keep the society less cohesive?), not to mention that others could, in theory, use this system against you; but on the plus it's a method that can be applied to other countries as well, as long as you can put enough influence on them to pass organized-crime-friendly laws and have enough money to be 'the highest bidder' when it matters.

tl; dr?

If we assume that the secret service desires a large, deniable network of people who can get local-scale dodgy stuff done in order to exert control, with its own supporting infrastructure (e.g., logistics) and all on the cheap, then organized crime doesn't half fit that need well...

Also, it works to exert influence on foreign countries as well, as long as you can influence them enough to get an organized-crime friendly set of laws passed.

Therefore, our arguably stupid approach to law and order (especially conceptual crimes) may well not be so stupid, if you assume they're supposed to promote, rather than suppress, crime (especially organized crime).

Friday, 22 January 2010

Crimonomics 101

Really obvious stuff about economics and the black-market

Lets take John Smith. John likes drinking beer. So, John has several problems:

  • He needs beer
  • He needs a nice place to drink the beer
  • He needs to get to and from the place where he drinks beer (as he'll be drunk, the normal solution -- driving his car -- might not be appropriate)

Now, people have sprung up to solve John's problems: brewers make beer, land-lords store beer and maintain a nice drinking environment, and taxi drivers will ferry you to and from the pub. They'll do all this under the assumption that you'll give them money. Pretty much economics 101.

Now lets take Druggy McCokehead. Druggy likes snorting coke. So, Druggy has several problems, pretty similar to John's: for a start, he needs cocaine.

Again, people will have sprung up to solve Druggy's problems. A taxi-driver might ferry him to and from his local drug-dealer, who stocks cocaine for him.

If you have a problem, and are willing to sacrifice money to get it fixed, there will be people available to fix your problem, whatever it is. Economics 101.

Similarly, there's infrastructure for other problem-solvers. Take the person who solves John's beer-problem: he'll need a way of getting the beer from the brewers to his pub, hence there's a transportation infrastructure. Some of these transporters might address clients/goods with special requirements: maybe those goods are perishable and thus require cooling/freezing whilst being transported, or maybe the goods need to be hidden and transported covertly because armies of big men with sticks are out to find and confiscate the goods. Either way, there will be people willing to solve your transportation needs... for money.

Similarly, John's land-lord might, in his quest to provide an enjoyable drinking environment, encounter the problem of violent drunks; if he can't, or doesn't want to, solve this on his own, there are bouncers who will solve his crowd-control problems for him. For money.

And, in the worst case, if the problem can be summed up as 'so-and-so is being a problem for me and the people who's problems I solve', there's always lawyers and/or the police (or bouncers).

Exactly the same exists within the black market. As a support-service for out-sourcing the problems that you encounter whilst trying to solve other people's problems, there are available:

  • People who move things from A to B
  • People who store things
  • People who get things
  • People who make things
  • People who stop other people from being a problem

The latter one consists of:

People who stand there looking intimidating (bouncers, police, 'heavies')
People who physically remove someone from the premises (bouncers, police, 'heavies')
People who go and have a word with people (police, lawyers, 'heavies')
People who go and have a stern word with people (police, lawyers, people who break legs for money)
People who remove other people from the equasion. (police & prison service, hit-men)

All for the same fundamental reason: if someone else has a problem, and you will solve it, there's money in it for you. OK, granted, police are done socialistically via tax, but whatever, I'm mainly focusing on the black-market equivalent here.

Both legal and illegal economies also have people who know what's going on and wander round organising stuff, whether they're called managers or crime-lords.

And there's much, much more to the criminal infrastructure. Coke-dealers, for example, quite often give discounts and are friendly to any of their customers who happen to be taxi-drivers or police, because taxi-drivers tend to go everywhere (so make passable 'spies' and relatively inconspicuous traffickers) and pigs have inside information on 'the enemy', for example; a successful coke dealer often moonlights as an information broker.

My point? Just that problems beg solutions, and that if you have both problems and money, you will have people solving the former for the latter. Laws create crimes not only in the strait-forward 'this is illegal now so everone who does it is a criminal' sense, and not only in the 'criminalising coke creates coke-dealers as well as coke-takers' sense, but also in the 'each law contributes to the existence and financing of the organized criminal infrastructure' sense.

Now... this is all relatively obvious. And the main point of this blog is to force me to write stuff down, and thus check it (in fact, I'm relatively sure I don't have any readers, but whatever). So, the next part of this avenue of thought will come later, when I've checked some (relatively mundane) facts.

tl; dr?

  • Criminals are people who do things.
  • They do all sorts of things, including boring logistical stuff like moving shit and killing people.
  • They do this for money.
  • Obviously.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Nice weather for it

Random observation:

When the UK introduced the smoking ban, I honestly expected lots of people to just simply disregard it. Yet they did not, at least not in the pubs that I drink in (which aren't ruff as shit, but aren't exactly upper-class or anything).

It might have something to do with when the ban was introduced, which was July.

A few facts about July[1]:

It's one of the hottest months, as are August and September.
It gets dark later than most months, as do August and September.
It's drier than most months, as are August and September.

June is also a nice month weather-wize, but not as hot, gets darker a bit earlier, and is wetter.

Had the government introduced the law in, say, November, I'm sure that more people would have smoked inside: new law, pissing it down, bugger that lets just smoke inside, fuck off pigs, etc.

A semi-detailed assessment of this plan is quite interesting:

Strait-off the bat, lots of people would have resisted: you have three months to allow them to rack-up enough warnings to justify a 'final warning', and during these three months most people won't resist as they don't mind going outside too much in nice weather.

Three months later, you've got a new set of rebels as the weather has turned bad, BUT these people cannot rely on the support of the original (instantly-rebellious) people, as their landlords have earned their 'final warning'. This is less draconian than actually legislating that a land-lord will instantly lose his licence on his first offence, but acts the same for a large number of land-lords when it counts, i.e. they've reached that point when the weather turns bad and lots of other land-lords are considering rebelling.

Hence, you get a smaller group resisting when the weather turns bad. You've now got a few months before it starts snowing to ensure that this group is also 'fairly' given a few warnings, so that, come the snow, the number of pubs that say 'bollocks to that, it's snowing, just smoke inside' is much smaller than you'd expect.

In other words, it divides and conquers the pubs by allowing land-lords to resist, and get to the draconian 'do it and you'll have your licence (i.e., livelyhood) revoked' point, in spurts rather than all at once.

By giving the land lords a few warnings (when the gov' can afford to be light-handed, i.e. before the next group of people start resisting) the gov' appear fair and less heavy-handed, even tho forcing compliance by threatening -- at the right time -- to take away their licence if they disobey even one (more) time is an integral part of the plan: when it matters -- when their resistance would have an effect because they'd be resisting with many other people -- they can't, because doing so would result in an insta-ban. But, if called on it, the gov' can say 'we gave them numerous warnings' and seem fair...

Now, had they spent about 5 months obeying, but trying to whip up support against the ban, then all resisted at once in December, maybe people wouldn't have accepted the law just because it had been 'unchallenged' for 5 months, and there'd have been a lot more people resisting at once...

Or, y'know, if the government had tried to pass this law in November... which is probably why they didn't.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Some guys from Wikileaks have given a talk which I think is relatively interesting as it gives an insight into how the media works, tho it's over an hour long. Also, Wikileaks itself is quite interesting, and worth checking-out.

Wikileaks (site currently more-or-less down) is a website that acts as a 'clearing house' and secure drop-off point for leaks, ranging from internal business documents to suppressed newspaper articles to documents protected by the Official Secrets Act, and they're currently trying to create an 'information safe-haven' in order to forcibly bring transparency to the governments and power-groups of the world. They also ultimately want some kind of open-source/wiki approach to fact-checking, verification, etc., presumably to deal with the massive over-head of analyzing all of the data.

Some interesting bits from the talk:

They mention a company (Trafigura) 'allegedly' dumping toxic waste off of the ivory coast: a fact which made the front-page of the Guardian, thus earning them a Secret Gagging Order; the BBC, the Times, the London Independent, also had to remove stories about the incident.

If you're wondering why you haven't heard about any of this... well, it's because it's been censored, so it hasn't been on the news: a Secret Gag Order is essentially 'meta-censorship', where you're not only forbidden from reporting on a certain topic, but you're also forbidden from reporting the fact that you've been gagged... the UK apparently has 2-300 of these currently in effect. We can't tell if they're justified or not, as we don't know what they're about (this is why meta-censorship is bad), but New York recently passed legislation basically saying that a UK libel order cannot be upheld in New York, and similar USA-wide legislature is partway through being passed; that's how bad the UK is on 'thou-cannot-say' laws (the worst liberal democracy, as the Wikileaks guys call us)...

Anyway, at the height of the censorship, an MP had to actually stand up in the House of Commons and read out the URL of the Wikileaks page with the censored stories on it -- colons and slashes and all -- to get the word out about it, which I thought was kinda cool.

What else... they mentioned their 911 pager messages: released in 'delayed real-time', they are 'an objective snapshot of communication of the time, including NYPD, doctors, secret service, etc.'. Or an attention-grabbing stunt, depending on how cynical you want to be. Still, it's interesting that there was, for some reason, a wide-spread intercepting and logging of pagers (including that of civvies).

They also host leaks from the European Union Institute for Security Studies; according to the Wikileaks guys, the EUISS is a think-tank on security, well-listened to by the EU, who suggest, basically, that 20% of the world are 'globalizers' (1st world countries, trans-national corportations, etc), whilst the other 80% are 'localizers', i.e. 'poor'; and that said 80% are unhappy (probably at being so poor), and are 'limiting the 20%'s wealth', which -- according to the EUISS -- neccesitates an EU military, so that they can extract global resources (e.g., rainforests) from their owners who otherwize might not let the 20% use them; an approach which is apparently tantamount to declaring war on the poor. The report where they suggest all this is available on Wikileaks.

Another leak is a high-level US special-ops hand-book: amongst others pieces of advice, the International Monetary Fund is described as 'a financial weapon' to be used to exert America's will on foreign countries. It's just as interesting that this hasn't been reported despite being leaked and there for the reading -- this (potentially juicy and newspaper-selling) leak was not picked up on by the press, presumably because the report is 200-odd pages long, written for above-averagly intelligent people, and full of military acronyms: hence journalists didn't bother reading and reporting on it.

The Icelandic loan book was also leaked, showing who was withdrawing all their money from the Icelandic Bank before it went bust.

Iceland is so small that everyone was effected by the banking crisis. The leaking of the book allowed them to look at which insiders took all their money and ran before the country went bust; i.e., who knew that the ship was sinking; who 'sold them into debt-slavery'.

5 minutes before Iceland's equivalent of the BBC went on-air to report this, they got an injunction: so, as they went on-air, they simply posted up a picture of Wikileaks, hint-hint nudge-nudge.

And this is why Wikileaks is trying to persuade Iceland to become an Offshore Publication Centre.

For those not familiar with the dodgier side of economics, an Offshore Finance Centre is a small island without any large source of income that agrees to pass a very convenient set of laws -- no money-transfer logging, no money-seizure, no public records, low(ish) tax, etc. -- in order to allow them to be a nice hidey-hole for rich people who don't want to follow laws, or pay too much tax.

An Offshore Publication Centre would essentially be the same, but for information: Sweden's source-protection laws, Belgium's journalist-protection laws, the US's 1st amendment (protection of free speach), etc. In return, Iceland could pick up some well-needed cash from the hosting/server fees.

Iceland, btw, has recently undergone some political upheaval, with riots on the streets and the government resigning and an early election putting a new party in power, all over the financial crisis. (Iceland had the worlds highest Human Development index, and now... well, now it does not. Iceland feels shafted by the bad guys, and bullied by the IMF and the UK (we're using their desired entry into the EU as a hostage to try to get them to pay us four times their GDP, which they apparently owe us, and using anti-terror laws to seize the Icelandic Bank's assets (hardly diplomatic...)), so the country has been somewhat 'radicalized' by the perception that they are the first 1st-world country to be a victim to globalization, with a bill nearly passing (tho the Wikileaks guys didn't say where... EU?) allowing for the military seizure of Icelandic assets in leu of payment (as usually happens to 3rd world countries)...

They also mention that it's not uncommon for Journalists to have quid-pro-quo deals with secret services/intelligence agencies: I'll report this for you, if you tell me such-and-such insider information...

An interesting watch, all-in-all.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Weak and shit

A thought occurs to me about the expenses scandal:

From a lecture about the economics of crack-cocaine dealing as revealed by talking to the crime-lords during the American Crack-Wars (at about 20:30):

One thing we observed in the data is that it looked like [...] the gang leader always got paid [...] — no matter how bad it was economically he always got himself paid — so we had some theories related to cash flow, and lack of access to capital markets, and things like that, but then we asked the gang [leader]: "why is it you always get paid, and your workers don't always get payed"; and his response is: "you got all these niggers below you who want your job, you dig? If you start taking losses, they see you [as] weak and shit.". [...] And I thought about it, and I said: "CEOs often pay themselves million-dollar bonuses even when companies are losing a lot of money, and it never really occurred to economists that this idea of 'weak and shit' could be important, but maybe 'weak and shit' is an important hypothesis?".

Maybe it is: the expenses scandal — along with bank CEOs giving themselves million-pound bonuses — came at a time when the economy, the banking system, and the Labour Party were weak. Nothing, really, happened to any of them — a few MPs stepped down, there were some apologies, and allegedly there's going to have to be some money paid back — but not what you'd expect for gross embezzlement: no-one got fired, impeached, or imprisoned, and Gordon Brown and the Labour Party are still in charge.

Maybe they didn't want to appear 'weak and shit', so they gave us a demonstration that they are still strong enough to take the piss and, at worst, suffer only minor repercussions, to stop us niggers going after their jobs, you dig?

Friday, 11 December 2009

Power Companies

Climate change has been in the news a bit this week, with 56 newspapers around the globe printing the same editorial asking the G20 summit to actually do something to sort out the environmental problems we are causing.

Hundreds of millions have been dedicated towards 'green' projects in the pre-budget report

And it was also mentioned in this weeks PrimeMinister's Questions, with projects to increase wind-farms being briefly discussed.

But, the problem we have here is that energy = power: wether we're talking about the petrol that makes our transport network run, the gas that heats our homes and cooks our food, or the electricity that make our factories and communication network run (and lets us see in the dark), energy is one of the biggest forms of power, with energy companies featuring amongst the richest entities in the world.

The fact that we are reliant on companies to provide us with petrol, gas, and electricity also means that, should, say, an area of the UK break away and rebel, the government can simply order the aptly-named power companies to disconnect the area, throwing it back into the dark-ages...

So... with such powerful companies not likely wanting to give up their riches, and with it being such a juicy last-resort means of control, with the government considering wind-farms, and hydroelectric, and hydrogen power for cars, and anything else that leaves energy centralized and in the control of a small number of rich companies, I wonder if they'll also actually push solar-panels and small (on your roof?) wind-turbines, whilst decentralizing the power grid?

In other words, will they place power into our hands?

I notice that the pre-budget report mentions and average of £900 tax-free per year for solar-equipped households that over-produce electricity and give some back to the grid, which should go some way to making them more economically viable; a very nice, non-authoritarian move by the government, if it's as-seems...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

ID cards

IMO = In My Opinion; IANAL = I Am Not A Lawyer; tl;dr: = too long; didn't read (i.e., what follows is a summary)

A little insight into how the government seems to work:

ID cards aren't exactly the most popular idea the government's ever come up with: whether the complaints are cost, over-authoritarianism, or the government's track-record for looking after our data, the idea seems quite unpopular.

Yet, it's being rolled outcurrently[1] on a 'voluntary' basis.

A few tricks the government is using to 'encourage' us to adopt ID cards:

Divide and conquer

Of course, no-one likes immigrants, and so no-one complained when they were given compulsory ID cards.

I'm sure no-one will complain when other 'jews of today' are forced to adopt ID cards:
All of which could result in a gradual 'creep' of compulsory ID cards, at no point provoking the resilience of too-large a number of the people.

Opt-out tax

Thinking of going to Spain for your holidays, but need to renew your passport?

Well, maybe the government could interest you in a cheaper alternative? Why pay £77.50 on a new passport when £30 will get you an ID card, which will allow you to travel to EU countries?

Given that the government could surcharge or subsidize either of these government-issued licences as much as they want, the fact that the one the gov' want you to have is cheaper than the one they don't is not a coincidense.

Compulsory volunteering

Far more sneakily IMO: the alternative to voluntarily carrying ID is choosing to go without ID — and alcohol and fags.

At the same time as the ID cards were being slyly implimented:
With something similar happening with tobacco sales to under-aged people, the end result is pressure on several adults (in theory, all 18-25 year olds who smoke or drink) to carry ID, at least some of the time. Another step in the government's step-by-step introduction of compulsory ID cards; in fact, 'ease of buying alcohol' is already being used as a reason to 'voluntarily' get an ID card.

Note that, in a few years, this will result in several young adults who have had a few years' experience carrying ID, and who may object less to the idea of it being made compulsory.

I suppose the next logical step — other than making challenge 21 (25? 30?) outright compulsory — would be to 'fix' the 'oversight' of a previous (less authoritarian) government, by making it obligatory to carry driving licences whilst driving (currently, the police may issue you with an order to produce it at a station within 7 days), meaning that there's one more thing that you can 'volunteer' to go without if you wish to decline the 'voluntary' ID card scheme.

And that seems to be how the government are sneakily implementing ID cards, bit-by-bit.

(By-the-way: there's a difference between 'an ID card' and 'the ID cards' of the government's ID-card scheme: the latter involves a national database of data, including biometric data; I'm just thinking that getting in the habbit of carrying normal ID-cards would be a step towards the acceptance of the national ID-card scheme).

I'm curious as to the exact reasons why (presumably) it wouldn't work to simply refuse, en mass, to co-operate... but that's enough for today.


[1]; part 4 and section 7, or ctrl+F and search for 'compulsory'.