Sunday, 7 December 2014

Food banks yet again

I've got my (rather sceptical) views on food banks, so it's disappointing to see the church demanding that the state goes a step further and starts providing food for those "starving" in the UK. The Trussell Trust can shout as much as it likes about hundreds of thousands of people using food banks but the reality is that no independent statistics exist on how many, who these people are, and why they are using one. If you want to fix a problem, which is what the church appears to want, you need to work out just how bad it is so you can apply the right solution. What we don't know is:

  • How many food parcels are going to the same people.
  • Why they are using a food bank - benefit delays and sanctions have been cited in Trussell Trust surveys as the most common reasons.
  • Could the reliance on the food bank have been avoided - perhaps people have got their spending priorities wrong?
  • Where are the users from?
That last one is interesting - from the article:
‘In one wealthy town in Berkshire, a food bank director discovered a woman in the advanced stages of pregnancy and her partner living in a child’s toy tent in winter.’
Given the safety net of the welfare state and the duty of local authorities to house you immediately if you are pregnant and homeless, the story is highly improbable. But if we accept it to be true then the most likely explanation is that the people in question were immigrants and not entitled to benefits. That's why it's important to know the full story before lobbying the government for money action.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Occutards are back

Occupy are back, this time trying to occupy Parliament Square. Being led by professional protesters, they knew full well that protesting there is banned, as is camping. They then acted surprised when they were carted off by the coppers for trying to set up another one of their squalid camps. Combined with the cries of police brutality, it was just a pathetic attempt to evoke sympathy, a tactic used by them heavily in the past. Nothing has changed there then; same people, same bat-shit insane ideas. 

What has changed though is that the media has mostly stayed away, something that has enraged them. There probably hasn't been an hour that has gone by this week without some "why are the BBC ignoring us" tweet or variation on that theme. Maybe this picture might help explain why:


Because a bunch of unemployable crustifarians sitting around on a tarpaulin isn't news. Really, take a step back and think why what is going on in this image would ever be considered newsworthy.

What is particularly fucking stupid is they have spent the week listening to speakers who are preaching to the converted and are now formulating a list of demands for "real democracy". We heard this shit three years ago, it came to nothing and they're still waiting for their revolution to happen just like that.

What may come as a disappointment to them is that in spite of what Russell Brand proclaims, there will be no revolution. And we do have democracy in this country; don't like the Tories, Labour, or the Lib-Dems? Vote Green or Ukip if that's your thing - both parties have elected representatives at a local, national, and European level. Still not fussed by any of these? Vote for an independent - Bristol voted elected an independent candidate for mayor a couple of years back. Still not happy? Then stand for election yourself; you have that right, nothing is stopping you. But then starts the policy formulation, fund raising, meetings, canvassing, and generally getting your name and what you stand for out there. That's what you need to do if you want to effect change. It's damn hard work of course, certainly a lot more effort than sitting around stoned out of your gourd for a week bating the police. It does speak volumes why they've chosen the latter route again...

Friday, 1 August 2014

UK Unfiled

The David Icke of taxation* Richard Murphy has a new research paper out on how abusing limited companies might contribute to the tax gap. It's probably all bollocks given Murphy's previous and that if you were trying to pull a tax dodge, you probably wouldn't want to put any of your details on a public register. That said, he's posted some interesting stats on company filings, or rather the lack of:
• An average of more than 300,000 companies are struck off the Register of Companies each year without a formal liquidation process taking place; 
• Each year, over 400,000 companies that could still owe tax are failing to file annual return forms with the Registrar of Companies, including those struck off; 
• More than 340,000 sets of accounts due to the Registrar of Companies from companies that could still owe tax were not filed in 2012-13, including those due by companies struck off.
So what's my point? Well UK Uncut's company that was set up to challenge HMRC over a Goldman Sachs tax settlement has just failed to file its accounts on time. That's the same UK Uncut who bang on endlessly about the tax gap, people and companies not paying their "fair share", and lack of transparency from Big Evil Shadowy Corporations, yet can't/won't themselves comply with the fundamentals of company law - exactly what Murphy is moaning about here.

As to what this means for my favourite leftards, it's a £150 penalty for late filing and it's a criminal offence...naughty, naughty.
















* Nicked from one of the commenters on the Graun, credit where it's due.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Joined up thinking here

An interesting admission from Vodafone:
Vodafone, one of the world's largest mobile phone groups, has revealed the existence of secret wires that allow government agencies to listen to all conversations on its networks, saying they are widely used in some of the 29 countries in which it operates in Europe and beyond. 
The company has broken its silence on government surveillance in order to push back against the increasingly widespread use of phone and broadband networks to spy on citizens, and will publish its first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report on Friday. At 40,000 words, it is the most comprehensive survey yet of how governments monitor the conversations and whereabouts of their people.
There probably isn't anything there that people didn't already suspect and this just confirms it. Perhaps more interesting though is the reaction below the line. Here's a selection:
Private Eye reporting they'd not only dodged paying tax, but had just landed themselves with a tax-refund from HMRC. 
Heaven forbid they might even pay some tax next! 
So Vodaclone don't pay normal taxes... erm sorry I mean.... pay their taxes according to law and they provide access to our communications to the rich and powerful.. 
Would this be the same Vodafone let off a £6 billion tax bill by HMRC under Dave"thanks for the hospitality"Hartnett? 
Vodaphone, probably the worlds biggest Tax Dodger... 
etc.
So the same people outraged by state surveillance are outraged that a company isn't paying taxes that fund state surveillance. Idiots.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Criticism will not be tolerated

It was interesting to note that the following comment from the Russell Brand article was removed from The People's Assembly website:
ghost whistler commented 2014-05-04 12:56:17 +0100 
Is this a fucking joke? 
A year ago you had your assembly meeting in London. A year ago you sat on your hands and held a talking shop for privileged media interests and political parasites. A year ago you did FUCK ALL to help those of us desperate to believe an alternative to this austerity wasteland being forced on us. While people begged you to get off your fat fucking arses, as spokespeople, to do SOMETHING, all you did was pledge to have…another fucking meeting. 
What good are you? What’s the point of you? I don’t enjoy criticism and I don’t want to sow division but while Owen fucking Jones talks – again – or while Mark Steele cracks the same joke – again – or while some token Labour cunt who won’t reject the party he’s a member of despite their continued betrayal of socialism and society, you DO nothing.  
You sit and have your fucking workshops, you encourage good people to participate and you piss their hope and enthusiasm down the fucking toilet. Each. And. Every. Time.
You sit there with representatives from the capitalist friendly ‘dont rock the boat too much’ unions who say they stand with the poor and the disenfranchised. The likes of Mark fucking Serwotka who oversees a union who’s members are ACTIVELY engaged in the forced destitution and deprivation of the sick, the poor and the mentally unwell.  
These people do not deserve support. They deserve to be forced to make a choice: either you walk the walk, or we want no part of you. If the PCS, for example, will not strike over conditions that affect them as they do the precariat forced to attend their DWP gulags then show them THE FUCKING DOOR!  
Either you fight, or you forget it. I am not remotely interested in millionaire tossers like Russel Brand who have no conception of the reality of the lives of the poor in this country and who treat everything as a fucking joke. Let him do his comedy turn at JOngleurs. What answers does he have? None. What has he actually done on behalf of the unemployed facing IDS’s pogroms? What has he done for DPAC or the disabled or carers or against the Bedroom Tax? Nothing. Why are you tolerating this fucking vacuous piece of shit who’s worldview is a confused superficial mess of pop pyschology and student level mystical woo woo, who panders to the ideology of racist conspiracy idiots like David fucking Icke?  
FIGHT! Get on the streets and fucking FIGHT! Don’t just parade around providing a photo op for Milibland. Fight to take back what is ours.  
It’s either that or we lose everything.
Thank you Google cache.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Some questions on the Left

This was spurred on by a recent posting from The People's Assembly who are bigging up multi-millionaire 1%er Russell Brand as their new poster boy. Nearly a year on and they are planning another march and festival as well as a fund-raising comedy gig. What I'm trying to work out is what exactly they think they will achieve by doing this. It's all very well threatening to bring down the government and demanding an alternative to austerity but meandering down the street with a samba band probably isn't going help you meet your objectives.

This got me thinking; why is it that groups like People's Assembly and Occupy never get beyond waving a few placards and sitting in endless meetings? And not only that, they do this over and over again and then wonder why nothing has changed. What is it about the mentality of these groups that stops them moving from talking about stuff to actually doing stuff?

Sunday, 16 February 2014

On what will kill Wikipedia

I think that the principle of Wikipedia, collaborative editing of articles that anyone can contribute to, is great. In practice though, it's fatally flawed. Here's why...

I've only ever edited a couple of Wikipedia articles. They had been neglected as most of the reference links were broken and the content was hopelessly out of date. No one had made any meaningful changes in a long time. Knowing something about the subjects in question, I got them bang up to date with everything properly referenced. Over the last couple of years, I've made a few updates to keep things current and so have other people; collaboration works! Although a bit obscure, the subjects of these articles have occasionally appeared in the mainstream media, and as is well known, the lazy journos first (and often only) port of call for research is Wikipedia, so accuracy and currency of the articles is important. A classic example of when it goes wrong being this.

Unfortunately, the articles got the attention of some rather more dedicated editors than me. On one occasion, someone added "x is a dick" to one of them. That's one of the downsides of allowing anyone to edit but those sort of changes can easily be reverted. Someone with admin rights decided that the page should be locked down because of this and so all changes required his/her approval before they were published. Mine and anybody else's were swiftly rejected for spurious reasons. In the meantime, the admin reverted the article back to an out of date version...

The other article is now useless. It fell victim to a Wikipedia policy pedant who appears to edit for a full time "job". When I say full time, I mean they spend 18 hours plus a day deleting content that does not conform to the letter of this huge list of policies and guidelines. Because of the actions of the Pedant-in-Chief, the content of the article no longer contains the reason for the subject's notability and so the whole thing might as well be deleted. I tried to engage with the editor and got a cryptic comment back citing some obscure policy and basically telling me to fuck off, so I gave up.

The biggest problem with Wikipedia is that the casual editor like me cannot compete with those who spend their entire lives on it. We simply cannot and do not want to have to invest huge amounts of time in reading, understanding, and applying hundreds of different rules in order to be able to post content. We also don't want to spend time trying to improve an article just for someone to come along and delete all of your changes and more. If that happens then I suspect that like me, subject matter experts will just give up and walk away. That then leaves the editor community comprising of the bureaucrats, the pedants, and those who like to play attrition warfare and you end up with a site full of articles that are dated or just wrong. But that's OK because all the rules have been followed, a perfect embodiment of "the operation was a success but the patient died".

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Fucking Google again

I guess that we're going to have the same stories published around about the same time each year aren't we?
Google yesterday announced record British earnings of £3.6billion last year, an increase of £600million on 2012. 
But the online search giant has yet to disclose how much corporation tax it will pay.
It will come under enormous pressure over the figure following fierce criticism over its tax affairs. For 2012, the US multinational paid just £11.6million of tax on an income of £3billion.
 
It was accused of leaving hard-pressed families and businesses to fund public services such as hospitals and schools.
I've covered Google in the past so I won't repeat myself, but let's have a look at that last sentence that I've quoted from the Mail. So if Google et al magically start paying corporation tax and fund the schoolsandhospitals, that will reduce the tax burden from a "hard-working family" like me and my lot? Will it fuck. The government of the day will just find something else to spunk it on, what with it being rather easy to be loose and fast with someone else's money.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

How to claim your free food

I always thought that you needed a referral from a GP, Job Centre, or social worker in order to be eligible for assistance from a food bank. Not so apparently:
The Bristol NW Foodbank voucher holders are care agencies, charities and other organisations who come into contact with vulnerable families or individuals in our local community, who may find themselves in crisis and in need of a food package from the Foodbank. This is intended as a short term help, until the agency is able to help their client resolve their situation.
If you are part of an organisation that is working with people in crisis who would benefit from this service and you would like to become a voucher holder, see the contacts page for contact details.
Agencies registered with us working across NW Bristol
  • 1625 Independent People
  • Addiction Recovery Agency (ARA)
  • Age UK Bristol
  • Big Issue
  • Bristol Black Carers
  • Bristol CC Tenancy Support Service
  • Bristol Central Job Centre
  • Bristol Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Bristol Crisi Prevention Fund Team
  • Bristol Debt Advice Service
  • Bristol Drugs Project
  • Bristol Early Intervention Team
  • Bristol Health Trainers
  • Bristol Home Start
  • Bristol Hospital Education Service
  • Bristol Intensive Team
  • Bristol Later Life
  • Bristol Mental Health Crisis Team
  • British Red Cross Fire and Emergency Support Service
  • Bristol Specialist Drug and Alcohol Service
etc.
These are only the first 20 organisations on the list. There are loads more including schools, a cafe (yes, really!), and unbelievably churches. Given that the Trussell Trust franchisees tend to be church-run, this is hardly an independent check for eligibility. Worse still, one of the big players in the poverty industry, the Child Poverty Action Group can issue vouchers. They wouldn't exist without so-called "child poverty" so it's obviously in their interest to perpetuate it. They can claim an increase in child poverty by an increase in food bank referrals, referrals that they make themselves.