Sunday, 30 December 2012

When realisation dawns

Is this the last Occupy London "General Assembly"?
Agenda

Proposal – Climate Siren Costs
CONSENSUS – Only 3 attendees consent, all others STAND ASIDE – £500 between 4 people.

Proposal – Obstruction Charges Indemnity
CONSENSUS – £500 indemnity granted.

Discussion – The future of GAs
This is wonderful; in a nutshell, four activists were convicted for buggering around outside of Buckingham Palace and another two are up in court for obstructing a police officer. Both events unrelated to Occupy. They now want Occupy to cover their court costs but only two of them could be arsed to turn up to make their case. In a fit of apathy, the proposals are let through.

So why the apathy? Well it's taken them a while but reading through the minutes they've finally realised that:

  • The professional activists, basically the inner circle and defacto leaders of Occupy London, like George Barda and Naomi Colvin fucked off long ago.
  • No one outside of the inner circle had any say in the major decisions or actions of Occupy London.
  • The homeless and even the named defendant for the St. Paul's camp Tammy Samede were "cynically used to further the cause."
  • Hypocrisy reigns.

And there you have it; Occupy London has fulfilled its purpose - furthering the careers and enhancing the profiles of the professional activists through media attention and anyone else can get to fuck.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The professionally offended

Some Scousers have reported a Scouser to the police for mocking Scousers and the Hillsborough disaster:
A MAN was arrested after launching a foul-mouthed tirade against Liverpool and making offensive remarks about the Hillsborough disaster in an online video. 
Merseyside Police said a 25-year-old man from the city centre was arrested yesterday after they were alerted to the video on their Twitter feed.
It is understood the video clip was posted on the man’s Facebook page and later uploaded on YouTube yesterday.
Although police refused to confirm the name of the man being held for questioning, his video was believed to contain rants about Scousers, calling them drug addicts and wishing them dead.
So fucking what? You've seen something you don't like on the internet but instead of just ignoring it you try and fuck up someone's life by reporting them to the police? And that's a logical and proportionate response? And the police have nothing better to do?

What the internet does is that it distances and depersonalises the perpetrator from the complainant. Put it this way, years ago when I did bar work, if one of the regulars had a few to drink and then started on a Nick Griffin-style rant about the "nig-nogs" then I'd tell them to shut up or get the fuck out. Problem dealt with, no police involved. Now imagine if that rant was a series of tweets...

Trying to understand the mentality, people are reporting this stuff to the police because they see the stories in the papers where action has been taken. It's also very easy to report such a "crime" when most police forces have Twitter and Facebook accounts and a complaint can be made with a quick tweet or wall post.

As for solutions, I still maintain that unless the police want to be swamped with complaints because someone is being a dick on the internet is to only deal with the most serious, sustained, and credible threats and harassment whilst at same time prosecuting those wasting police time in a high profile manner. Besides, if you can't handle someone being a dick on the internet without running to the police, you probably shouldn't be on the internet.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Merry fucking Christmas from the police

A notice of intended prosecution for speeding came through the door today - details posted here will be sparse for legal reasons. I don't expect any sympathy from readers either.

There's three things that piss me off about this - the timing is annoying given we've just spent a load of money over Christmas, the infraction was so minor and we're talking just over the speed limit here, but perhaps worst of all is the bluntness of the NIP; my reaction to it, like with any unexpected bill, was "fuck you". Now that isn't the attitude it should engender and does nothing for road safety whereas pulling someone over they believe to be speeding and giving them a bollocking before sending them on their way is likely to be far more effective at getting the message across. You win hearts and minds by reasoning with people, not by sending them an anonymous demand for £60. That this approach is taken means that it is all about revenue raising and not keeping the roads safe.

I'm fortunate that this is an irritant rather than a financial burden and since work is quiet I have some time to challenge it. So I'll be demanding the usual photographs, equipment calibration and operator training certificates, and anything else relevant to at the very least cost them money and waste their time but with a view to having the NIP rescinded. If an offence has taken place then we'll take the hit and the police can go ahead and bank 60 cheques for £1 with a big spunky cock and balls on the back of each one. Will this change anything? No. Is this the wrong attitude to take? Possibly. Is this stupid and immature? Yep. Will it make me feel better? Definitely. 

A compensation claim in the making

No let up in the festive cheer from me:
My husband's £35 Christmas lunch was a ready meal in a plastic bag: Wife's anger at pub's 'rubbish' dinner...
Yes, that's because you spent £35 per head at a chain pub you daft bint. Anything even half decent you're looking at £100 upwards and booking well in advance.
‘It looked like something I could pick up from Iceland for £1.99,’ said the mother of four.
And that's probably about what it cost the pub for the ingredients as most of your money will be going on keeping the pub open and paying the staff overtime for working on Christmas Day.
Mrs Chaplin said she felt ripped off after paying almost £400 for the meal for 11 at The Cricketers in Rainham, Kent.
For £400, Waitrose would have delivered everything to your door in a state where you could just bung it in the oven with no preparation. You'd get a fair amount of booze with that as well.
She had decided to take her family out for Christmas lunch as a treat for her father, Bob Lander, 62.
‘This time of year is always hard for my dad because my mum died at Christmas some 13 years ago, so we always try to make it extra special for him,’ said Mrs Chaplin, 41.
That's a nice thought, but hang on...
She said she was most disappointed for her father, who suffers from emphysema and had saved up his pension money to pay for his meal.
Takes her dad out for lunch and makes him pay for it - cheap cunt.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Hippies out

Finally:
Squatters, who have filled Friern Barnet library shelves with 8,000 books, handed six-week stay of execution before eviction
Now you can't say that they've been treated unfairly given they've been squatting for three months and allowed nearly half that on top to pack their things and bugger off.

When the Guardian ran the first story on this, it omitted some pretty important stuff which was rather damning to the squatters, and they're trying to mislead with this one:  
"This is a victory for the library campaigners," said squatter Pete Phoenix, a member of the Occupy movement. "The judge has recognised the right to protest in buildings closed down due to local authority cuts."
No - the judge has not recognised this at all and here's why; Phoenix used exactly the same defence as was used in the Occupy St. Paul's case in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, namely that removing the protestors from their place of protest would breach the their rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Occupy St. Paul's cases were thrown out in both courts and the judgements can be summed up in short as we recognise your right to protest but you can't do it here and whilst you may consider the reasons for your protest important, we can't take the political merit of them into account. The same applies in this case.
She [District judge Patricia Pearl] recognised the right of the protesters to freedom of expression and assembly and acknowledged that to remove the campaigners from the premises would infringe those human rights. However, Pearl added that it was necessary to remove them to allow the council to engage with a bidding process for the library's future. 
"Removal of the protesters only limits their right to protest in the building. It does not fetter their right to protest entirely," she said.
Yep, so the rights of the owners, the council, trump those of the squatters and the squatters can protest with whoever they want against whatever they like, just not in the former library building that doesn't belong to them.
Ugo Hayter of Leigh Day & Co solicitors said: "This is a significant case. It's very important that the judge recognised the community library campaigners' right to protest was protected."
It really isn't. We quite rightly allow protest in this country, and that this "protest" has been going on for over three months shows that we're remarkably tolerant of it.

So what now?
The council may not see the back of the protesters for a while because they hope to have the judgment revoked at the court of appeal.
Which it won't be because of the judgement in the Court of Appeal on the Occupy St. Paul's case:
62 Of course, each case turns on its facts, and where Convention rights are engaged, case law indicates that the court must examine the facts under a particularly sharp focus. Nonetheless, in future cases of this nature (where the facts involve a demonstration which involves not merely occupying public land, but doing so for more than a short period and in a way which not only is in breach of statute but substantially interferes with the rights of others), it should be possible for the hearing to be disposed of at first instance more quickly than in the present case or in Hall [2010] EWHC 1613.
64 We recognise, of course, that it is one thing for the Court of Appeal to make that sort of observation about a hypothetical future claim, and that it can be quite another thing for a trial judge, faced with a difficult actual claim, to comply with it. Nonetheless, with the benefit of the guidance given in two first instance judgments and two judgments of the Court of Appeal (and the Strasbourg and domestic decisions referred to above), it is not unreasonable to hope that future cases of this sort will be capable of being disposed of more expeditiously.
65 Not least for that reason, this judgment, like that in Hall [2011] 1 WLR 504, may be cited as an authority, notwithstanding that it is a decision refusing permission to appeal.
tl;dr version: Refer to this judgement when hippies try similar shit in future.

On a final note, given that the council shut the library due to "Evil Tory Cuts", what possible sense does it make to waste even more of the council's funds on a legal case that will fail because of a precedent that Occupy, of which Phoenix is a member, in part set?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Tax-dodging activists

Oh no, Prince Charles is apparently dodging tax!:
HMRC has been asked to investigate alleged tax avoidance by Prince Charles's £700m hereditary estate.
That's asked by an anti-monarchy group to investigate alleged tax avoidance by the way. But I don't care about that, here's what I'm interested in:
This argument presents three problems for Charles, [Richard] Murphy said. It is not true that only companies pay corporation tax – HMRC's tax rules say "unincorporated associations" and "groups of individuals carrying on a business that is not a partnership" are among the categories of organisations that must pay the tax.
My bold. Given that UK Uncut are neither a charity or incorporated, nor appear to have any formal constitution they will be an "unincorporated association". So where's their corporation tax payment then?

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Goat burning in Sweden

One of those weird and wonderful Christmas traditions from around the world is that of the Gävle goat. For those unaware, it is 3.6 tonne, 13m tall goat built from straw in time for the start of advent in the Swedish city of Gävle. You can view it from a webcam and it looks something like this:


Unfortunately, this year's incarnation met a fiery death due to arson and now looks something like this:


That isn't unusual as it tends to get burnt down every other year and I have to admit that some of the attraction is to see if it actually lasts the Christmas season or gets torched. Over the years, it has been set alight using a flaming arrow and in 2009, the webcams were knocked out by a DoS attack so the arsonists could burn it without being filmed. There are some pretty dedicated and resourceful goat-burners out there...

Today though, I read an interview with the Chairman of the Goat Committee (yep, really!) and this part stood out:
It's one of Sweden's most famous trademarks all over the world ... I think last year it was burned down after five days, and we had about 100 visitors. The year before that we had 225,000 visitors from over 125 countries. It's very famous all over the world. What's going to happen with some of the visitors this year, I don't know yet.
In 2010 it didn't burn down so assuming those figures are correct, an unburnt goat clearly brings in a lot of  business to the city. The goat is funded by local traders and it used to have a security guard and a back-up goat in case the original was burnt down. Those are no longer affordable, and even less so if the tourists don't turn up and spend money. That's the serious side of this - the hit that the traders take in lost business because of a burnt goat is no doubt substantial.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Interesting stats from the recent by-elections

The success of UKIP and the failure of the Lib-Dems in the by-elections on Thursday has been done to death so I've taken a different look at it. Here's some stats from the lower end of the voting results:
Rotherham
Marlene Guest (BNP) 1,804 (8.46%, -1.96%)
Ralph Dyson (TUSC) 261 (1.22%)
Middlesbrough
Peter Foreman (BNP) 328 (1.94%, -3.90%)
John Malcolm (TUSC) 277 (1.64%)
Croydon North
Richard Edmonds (National Front) 161 (0.66%)
Ben Stevenson (Communist) 119 (0.48%, +0.17%)
Now I've picked these deliberately as, at least in terms of managing the economy, you couldn't get fag paper between them - nationalisation, protectionism, up the workers, tax the rich, tax the banks, etc. What it does show is that if you're a party with socialist/communist economic policies, then you'll get more votes if you combine it with a "wogs out" policy. Judging by the low number of votes for this lot, I'd suggest that the country wants neither.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Jewish Lizard Bilderbergers

Not quite, but we're pretty close in conspiracy terms:
A campaign to radically reform and open up the secretive workings of the powerful local authority governing the City of London has been launched by a diverse group whose supporters include activists from the Occupy movement, clerics and the Tory MP David Davis.
Now I'm all for transparency but there really isn't a lot to see here. As I've said previously on this blog, the Corporation of the City of London is a local authority with a few ancient traditions and fancy titles. It doesn't control how banks operate or are regulated, people and businesses are subject to the same laws there as the rest of the country, and whilst it may well lobby for the financial services industry, I would expect any local authority to do the same for businesses within their boundaries. That it has special secret powers and privileges is quite frankly bollocks.

Now the other argument is that it is undemocratic and that businesses can outvote residents on matters; well 7,000 residents v. 300,000+ workers suggests that it overwhelmingly commercial and therefore unique for any local authority in the UK. Therefore to not let the businesses within have a say in how it is run would be undemocratic. And on that subject and somewhat ironically, the group behind all of this, City Reform, are a bunch of outsiders attempting to impose their wishes on the residents and businesses of the City of London, whether they like it or not.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Wrong priorities

Now here's something that boils my piss:
Nicola Probert and Tony Hodge, 28 and 30, live in Bristol with their two sons, Finlay, four and Bobby, seven months.
I try to buy fresh food but costs are going up so much that our fortnightly shop – which costs about £80 – is getting smaller, almost every time. I make big sacrifices to buy Bobby the fresh peppers he likes so much but we simply can't afford to eat fresh stuff every day. Too often, it's frozen chips and processed chicken. The problem is that when you start buying less fresh food, you stop wanting it. My little boy tends not to go for it so, if I buy it, it tends to be wasted.
I sympathise about the cost of things increasing as I don't think that anyone keeping an eye on their spending could not have failed to notice their food bill going up. But I have two problems with this story; the first is the claim that child won't eat fresh food. From my experience as a parent, and I'm far from perfect in this regard, children soon learn to eat their fruit and veg if the other option is to go hungry. The key is persistence and not giving in, I'm the boss not them. The second is this:
We have the most basic Sky TV deal – £24 a month. I would get rid of that entirely if I had to but Tony would have a problem with that, because the sport is important to him. Getting rid of Sky would create problems in our relationship, and that's the last thing we need.
Tough shit. There are four Aldis in Bristol who do a weekly selection of fruit and veg for 39p/69p an item. Eggs are £1.35 a dozen, milk is £1 for four pints, a box of cereal is less than £1 as is 1kg of carrots. If you want meat then 1kg of frozen chicken breasts is £3.99 and a big pack of beef mince is around £2.50. You need to get rid of Sky so that you can feed your children properly.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

An "oversight" I'm sure

Whoops - looks like UK Uncut Legal Action are late in filing their annual return:


Which is a bit naughty because:
Failure to file accounts or annual returns is a criminal offence which can result in directors being fined personally in the criminal courts. The registrar may also take steps to strike the company off the public record.
Tsk, tsk.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

UK Uncut Legal Action are alive!

Yep - just seen this posted to Facebook on 11th November, although they're not responding to tweets or emails:


Ignoring the court date update (and there will be a blog post on this on Saturday), it looks like Goldman Sachs have been up to no good (full article behind a stupid paywall):
GOLDMAN SACHS expects to receive a £13m tax rebate just months after a row blew up over a “sweetheart deal” between the bank and HM Revenue & Customs. Despite the bank’s multi-billion-pound profits, Goldman expects its British tax bill to shrink this year.
The tax credit is revealed in accounts filed recently by the bank’s ultimate holding company in Britain, Goldman Sachs Group Holdings (UK). The revelation comes amid an increased scrutiny of the taxes paid by big business. Global firms such as Google, Starbucks and Amazon have been left facing questions.
 Or is there in fact a completely innocent explanation for this?
The Sunday Times: Goldman Sachs due £13m tax credit after shares fall 
Goldman Sachs is expecting a £13m tax credit in the UK. Accounts show that the US banking giant had set aside the money to pay tax on staff share options. But Goldman's shares nearly halved in 2011, meaning the tax bill was less than expected, prompting the bank to book the £13m tax credit.
So this was tax that GS thought was due but actually wasn't. There's no story here.

John Lewis MD gets it

Andy Street, MD of John Lewis was on Sky News today:
Mr Street said: "If you actually improve your business by investing ... you have got less money to invest if you are giving 27% of your profits to the Exchequer than, clearly, if you are domiciled in a tax haven and you've got much more.
Ignoring that just because another country has a lower tax rate than us doesn't make it a tax haven, he has a point; too great a percentage of a companies profits end up in the pocket of the taxman compared to some of our buddies in the Single Market/EEA/EFTA. So when your next door neighbour offers all the benefits that you do (English-speaking skilled, educated workforce, stable(ish), credible currency, located in a time zone conducive to international business, decent infrastructure) but with a corporation tax rate of almost half of yours, where do you think that the multinational setting up a European HQ is going to put it?

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Dealing with corporate "tax dodging"

Rather amusingly, Margaret Hodge, Taxfinder General chair of the Public Accounts Committee and outspoken critic of big business paying little corporation tax in the UK, has been the subject of an article in the Telegraph revealing that she owns a chunk of her large family company that pays little corporation tax in the UK. This is in advance of the likes of Google, Amazon, Starbucks, eBay, and Facebook getting a grilling by the PAC on their tax arrangements.

The issue is not companies avoiding tax but the media, the public, and staggeringly, the people who make the tax laws not understanding the tax laws. I can forgive the first two to an extent but there's no excuse for MPs not to get to grips with the basics - I don't profess to be an expert on international taxation but I'm more than capable of reading up on something complex and distilling it into something more simple. With the aforementioned companies, their low or non-existent corporation tax liabilities can be explained by two things:

1. The European Single Market - this allows a company to set up in one country and trade with all other members without any barriers or restrictions. Any corporation tax liability will arise in country where the company is located, which is not necessarily where its customers are. Using Google as an example, Google Ireland Ltd, based in the Republic of Ireland, sells internet advertising to companies in other countries like the UK. Any profits will be taxed where the sales were made which in this case will be Ireland. Google UK Ltd doesn't sell to the public; it only sells services to Google Ireland Ltd and Google Inc.

2. Transfer Pricing - the Starbucks issue is down to transactions with other group companies and whether or not these have been conducted on an "arms length" basis, that is to say that the cost of the transaction would be comparable to that of one between unrelated parties. This is to stop profits being shifted to lower tax jurisdictions by using artificially inflated transactions. Starbucks in the UK has been paying royalty fees to cover use of the brand, new product development, and marketing as well as loan interest to its parent in the US. In addition it buys its coffee beans from a related company in Switzerland and then pays to have them roasted in the Netherlands, again to a related company. These payments, combined with operating costs like wages and rent, mean Starbucks in the UK is loss making and therefore doesn't pay any corporation tax. They have gone on record in stating that they were investigated on the issue of transfer pricing by HMRC and no further action was taken. There are guidelines on transfer pricing set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) agreed by the members, of which we are one, that HMRC would have referred to when investigating Starbucks.

Ultimately what we are seeing here is exactly what the laws and guidelines intended; no one is try to evade or even avoid tax. To haul a bunch of companies who invest a hell of a lot in this country in front of a committee to barrack them for complying with the law is not only ridiculous and ignorant, it's damaging to future investment.

If you want to change things then you are looking at an end to the Single Market, corporation tax harmonisation across the EU, and unpicking longstanding agreements with multiple countries. On the other hand, you could drop your corporation tax rate as because Ireland is well aware, 12.5% of lots is better than 24% of fuck all.

Update on 10/11/12 - Link to Telegraph article updated as they inexplicably changed it.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Good news on executive pay

We have this from the BBC:
Senior executives in the UK's biggest companies have seen their average earnings go up by more than a quarter in the past year.
New research suggests the bosses of top firms made an average of £4m a year.
*Awaits lefty rage*
But Incomes Data Services, which compiled the figures, says pay and bonuses have hardly risen at all.
Instead the increase is due to a rise in value of long term incentive plans which have replaced cash bonuses.
And that's how it should be; align the interests of the execs with those of the shareholders over the long term. The lefties should be happy as a substantial chunk of any payout will be winging its way in the form of tax to government coffers. Or perhaps not:

So basically they can't fucking win.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The silence of UK Uncut Legal Action

I'm still intrigued by the lack of what's going on with UK Uncut Legal Action and their case against HMRC that was due to be heard this month. To not provide any updates for a matter of months is very odd, and we are talking complete silence here, not even a "stay tuned" message. It's actually very disrespectful to those who have donated which all in all has added up to a significant sum of money. Even if there are legal reasons why they can't discuss details of the case, it doesn't preclude them from explaining the situation.

I've done some further digging on what they've been up to and there really isn't a lot apart from a couple of articles. First though, I've revisited their website and I think that it is important to highlight a few things on there:
It’s alleged that David Hartnett, the government’s top tax man, who loves to be wined and dined, met Goldman Sachs’ top brass in late 2010 and with a handshake agreed that the bank would be let off paying £10 million owed to the public purse in interest on an unpaid tax bill.
Compared to:
One of the most recent examples of this egregious practice occurred when Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs(HMRC) allegedly made a decision that allowed global banking giant Goldman Sachs to avoid paying up to £20 million in tax.
Two things here; the amounts are inconsistent and based on rumour rather than anything released officially, and to be clear, whatever the sum was related to interest on outstanding tax, not tax unpaid/avoided/whatever. There's also a bit of embellishment here as the National Audit Office in their report on settling large tax disputes states that three of the departments' top officials (unnamed) made the settlement decision, not Hartnett alone.
Our fantastic lawyers are taking on the case on a ‘no-win, no-fee’ basis, but if we lose we are likely to have to pay HMRC and Goldman Sach’s legal costs.
Well that's not actually true given that Goldman Sachs aren't a party to the court case.

So what now?
UK Uncut will review the National Audit Office’s report Settling large tax disputes that was published on 14 June to determine if it should revise its case. It has 28 days from then to serve amended grounds on HMRC; and HMRC has until 14 September to respond. A full hearing will follow subsequently.
I wasn't aware of this but it is important, especially given that:
In relation to remedies, Simon J. indicated that there was no prospect of an order unravelling the settlement agreement.
As I've mentioned previously and UK Uncut Legal Action know full well, the dispute has been settled and Goldman Sachs will not be paying the interest that was waived. The best case that they can hope for is that the deal is declared unlawful in the court. However in the New Statesman, Tim Street, one of UK Uncut Legal Action's directors makes this statement:
Our aim now is to have the High Court declare that the agreement reached by HMRC with Goldman Sachs was unlawful. We also want the court to order HMRC to take steps to reopen the agreement it reached with Goldman Sachs about the interest owed and seek to recover that money.
Either he's being dishonest, stupid, or a bit of both - the judge refused permission for a case to quash the deal so it isn't going to happen. To not mention this whilst soliciting donations on the basis that there's a chance to get some money out of Goldman Sachs is borderline fraudulent. This is also very naughty:


So we have no idea when the court case is, if UK Uncut Legal Action changed their case in light of the NAO report, and if so, what HMRC's response was. Even if the court case does go ahead and the case is declared unlawful then so fucking what? Apart from lumbering HMRC (read: the taxpayer) with costs, nothing changes. My money is on UK Uncut Legal Action being wound up on the quiet prior to any accounts being filed.  If they wish to refute anything that I've said on this blog, elaborate on points already made, or answer questions raised, then right of reply is in the comments below.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Where has the money gone?

Remember UK Uncut Legal Action? They were challenging a tax settlement made by HMRC in favour of Goldman Sachs. However just a day after the judge granted permission for a judicial review, HMRC released details of how the settlement was reached. Things have gone a bit quiet since then with no updates to their website and no tweets for over two months now. Given that the judicial review was meant to take place in October, there's not a hell of a lot of time left. In the absence of any update from them, and I did tweet and ask, I thought I'd throw the following out there - here's a extract from UK Uncut Legal Action's amended model articles that I got from Companies House:

What that allows UK Uncut Legal Action to do is to wind up and distribute the money to a similar organisation, the Objects of UK Uncut Legal action being:

So that would be UK Uncut then. Given that UK Uncut is not registered as a charity or company, has no constitution, and will claim everything is done by consensus therefore having no leaders, it's a financial black hole; perfect then for funneling away £17k raised for a court case that appears to have gone away. So prove me wrong UK Uncut Legal Action - let's see you in court and your accounts filed.

The hypocrisy of the Left...

Now as I understand it, Occupy are viciously anti tax avoidance and evasion, so you'd expect them to be transparent and squeaky clean with their finances. Not so it seems:


This is interesting:
I am requesting money for the camera which can be bought and imported from the US for £310 - (the UK price is £500). The £16.99 strap will attach to any bike helmet and by purchasing 2 MicroSD cards, there will be an opportunity to continue recording if one memory card is full.
That's clear then; by importing the equipment from the US to get it at a significant discount, they're evading customs duty and import VAT. Completely illegal. Just wait for the usual excuses to come out - "corporations/banks/banksters are doing worse", "the protest is important enough to justify it", and so on. Fucking tax dodging hypocrites.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

eBollocks

Since it has become trendy to display zero knowledge, even at a remedial level, of basic accounting and tax concepts and do a hatchet job of how little a multinational company supposedly pays in tax, now eBay is in the sights of some ignorant hack:
US auction site eBay has paid only £1.2m in tax in the UK, according to an investigation by the Sunday Times.
The newspaper said that its tax bill in 2010 comes despite eBay's UK subsidiaries generating sales of £800m.
Oh fuck, not this one again. A company's revenue has no bearing on corporation tax that it may or may not pay.
According to the Sunday Times, eBay had sales of £789m during 2010 in the UK at its four British subsidiaries. Using its worldwide profit margin of 23%, it would have made a profit in the UK of £181m, leading to corporation tax owed of £51m.
Instead, it paid £1.2m, the report said.
The 23% figure will be an average but it is meaningless in this context as the eBay subsidiaries in the UK don't trade with the public; they provide services to their Swiss parent company eBay International AG:

eBay (UK) Limited - "Recommends market penetration and advertising strategies for the UK internet market place to eBay International AG"

eBay KTA (UK) Limited - Holds 99.9% of the shares of Korean company Gmarket Inc. - it doesn't trade and is also loss-making.

Shopping.com UK Limited - "The principle activities of the company during the year were the provision of sales support and marketing services to Shopping ePinions International Limited." ePinions is an Irish company by the way.

eBay Promotions (UK) Limited - "The principle activity of the company in the year under review was that of online internet advertising and promotions." And once again, these services are provided to eBay International AG. The company is also in the process of liquidation.

So like Facebook, Google, and Amazon the actual company that trades with the UK is a foreign one, in this case Swiss by virtue of Switzerland being a member of the European Free Trade Association. Mystery solved - really, there is nothing illegal, dodgy, or even slightly suspect here.

Update on 8/12/12 - My mistake, it is eBay in Luxembourg that trades with the UK and can do so as part of the European Single Market.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Wanker jailed

I'm a bit surprised that Trenton Oldfield, Australian boat race saboteur, has been jailed for six months. It seems a bit harsh and pointless when we could have got a couple of hundred hours of community service out of him, preferably cleaning Oxford and Cambridge student digs. However I'm reminded of his (now defunct) entry on the list of RSA fellows:
Trenton is also working on debates within inter-disciplinary urbanism around notions of 'Darwinistic individual selfishness'.
I'm just wondering if he came across as much of an insufferable wanker in the court as he did above. Might have had some bearing to the sentence handed down...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Killing off the debate

An article in student rag the Independent has convinced me that any sensible debate about personal and company taxation is over:
Facebook was accused last night of "disingenuous and immoral" tax avoidance after a new analysis of its UK business suggested the social networking giant paid just £238,000 in corporation tax in Britain last year.
Sound familiar? Well here we go again...
Although industry experts estimate the company made £175m in revenue from its UK businesses last year, Facebook is able to avoid paying millions in corporation tax by diverting most of its sales via Ireland.
Annual accounts published yesterday at Companies House showed Facebook UK Limited declared turnover of £20.4m using the entirely legal scheme. Yet Enders Analysis, an independent research firm, has estimated Facebook's likely UK sales at £175m last year as the world's biggest social networking website has continued to attract advertisers.
So here we have the EU Single Market in action, you know, free movement of goods, people, capital and services. It isn't a scheme, it isn't tax avoidance, the company is complying with tax law exactly as the UK and EU parliaments intended.
Labour MP John Mann, who sits on the Treasury Committee, criticised the willingness of web based companies to avoid paying UK tax. "It's disingenuous and immoral for these hugely profitable companies not to be paying tax in the countries where they are based and make a profit," he said. 
Now Mann really is a fucking idiot and this would be funny if he wasn't in a position of power and influence. Facebook's Europe HQ is based in Ireland as is Google's. Amazon's is based in Luxembourg. That is where the sales are made, where the majority of profits will be, and where they will pay the majority of their corporation tax assuming that any is due.
Mr Mann has suggested implementing a "traffic fee" which would charge companies that are predominantly internet based from being able to use and profit from British infrastructure.
 Mann clearly doesn't understand the internet either, the bellend.

What's killed off the debate then? Well tax can be pretty dry but scandal generally isn't, indeed it makes good story so a headline of "Corporate giant dodges £6B tax" sells more papers than "Long running tax dispute settled favourably to the taxpayer". Hence we now see fairly frequent articles like the one above, not just in the left-leaning papers but in the Telegraph and Mail too. You can lay the blame for this with the UK Uncuts and Richard Murphys of this world propagating the myths that the richest people and big business don't pay the tax they believe due and that there is a tax gap roughly equaling the deficit of around £125B that HMRC have been slack in collecting. That companies are now being attacked for complying with the law and not even trying to bend it is their fault. HMRC have recently tried to explain away tax settlements, their calculation of the tax gap, and taxation on multinational companies but as mentioned above, it's not news and few are listening. Until that changes then expect more articles like the one in the Indy today and worse, the likes of John Mann basing policy decisions on this misinformation, as starting from an incorrect position will probably mean you end up with the wrong result...

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Living Wage - Dead

A bit more on the living wage at the Labour party conference from Bristol Mayoral candidate and NHS diversity manager Marvin Rees:
In Manchester, he said: "My opponents have attacked me for saying I want a living wage for Bristol. It says more about them than it does about the living wage.
"They haven't got a clue about the hardships faced by thousands of families.
"They are out of touch with the people living on my street. They don't speak for them. We will."
When I last wrote about this, Rees hadn't explained how he was going to fund giving council staff a raise to £7.20 an hour if they earn less than that. It transpired that he is planning on cutting an unspecified number of "consultants" to cover the approximate £1M cost per year of doing this. Now you should only be bringing consultants on board for a specific, time-bound piece of work (i.e. a project) or to cover a short-term skills gap, so assuming that the council is managing its resources effectively, these people will be going when their contract is up. After that time, their cost won't be in a budget so it isn't a saving. If he gets rid of them during their contract, then what projects or services won't be delivered? This is probably all academic anyway as there is a problem:
Bristol City Council is facing budget cuts of £15m more than had been expected, the BBC has learned. 
The city's new mayor, due to be elected in November, will be asked to sign off cuts of £25m from next year's budget - a 7% cut from the current £366m budget.
Previously a sum of £10m had been agreed.  
A number of reasons are believed to be behind the proposed cuts, including less money due to come in from central government and more staff redundancy payments at the Liberal Democrat-led authority.
These cuts are in the context of a 2.5% increase in council tax. Now when Rees stated that his opponents attacked him for wanting a living wage, what they actually said was along the lines of "we want to look at what we can do for the lowest paid council workers but there's no way that we can promise anything". That's fair enough and was sensible given the further budget cuts that have since emerged. That leaves Rees, the favourite to win the election, with an undeliverable and, given the council tax increase, redundancies, and extra cuts, a rather unpalatable manifesto pledge.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Tax as a punishment

I take the blunt and simple view that the only consideration when setting tax rates should be to keep them as low as possible to raise the revenue required in order to provide the services we expect from the government - whatever those rates are and what we want the government to provide is for another blog post however - I'm interested in what other people think about this. On Thursday night, Steve Coogan stated on Question Time that he was in favour of a mansion tax even if it raised no revenue as it was demonstrating to the public that the government was making the wealthy pay (especially if they were Tories). So if it isn't going to raise any revenue, and that will be down to the cost of implementation, collection, behavioural changes, avoidance, and evasion, then it's simply a punishment for being in possession of valuable asset. Fuckwit.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Demanding crusties

A press release from UK Uncut:
UK Uncut demand government reject Lord Fink’s call for UK to become a tax haven and take urgent steps to prevent billions being lost through tax avoidance
This is in response to the following quote:
Fink, who is a director of three firms which have subsidiaries or a parent company in the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg and Guernsey, said: "I don't see why the UK should not compete for jobs that at present are going to the Cayman Islands. I lobbied George Osborne when the Tories were in opposition. I have long felt that the British government loses jobs to tax havens by allowing the Revenue to have these rather archaic rules.
Usual lefty anger to be filed under "meh" then. There's a few interesting claims in there as well that we can take apart:
An investigation by the Times this week found that more than 2,000 Britons in Monaco are costing the UK economy £1billion a year in lost tax revenue.
Covered that one yesterday.
UK Uncut spokesperson Anna Walker said “Tax avoidance costs the UK £25billion a year..."
Not according to HMRC though:
The tax gap – the difference between what is owed and what is collected – is about £35 billion, which is eight per cent of the total amount of tax due. Tax avoidance accounts for 14 per cent of this gap – around £5 billion or one per cent of the tax due.
 And UK Uncut enemy number one gets a mention:
Despite vetting by HMRC, the government has still seen fit to award several tax exiles with honours. These include the billionaire Sir Phillip Green- who avoided £285million in capital gains tax in 2005.
Now you would think that after two years in existence, UK Uncut would have grasped some rudimentary tax knowledge and got its facts straight. This relates to the famous Arcadia dividend that was paid to the ultimate owner Christina Green, wife of Sir Philip. Now if you know of a way to extract UK tax from a South African, living in Monaco, who was paid a dividend seven years ago from a Jersey-based company, then HMRC would like to hear from you. And dividends are income, not capital gains you imbeciles.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Tax dodging in forrin land

More than 2,000 Britons who live in the tax haven of Monaco are costing the UK economy £1billion a year in lost revenue, it was claimed last night
Ex-pats living in the principality are free to get honours, fund political parties and run businesses while escaping the taxes that apply to other citizens.
To live in Monaco there are rules set by HM Revenue and Customs that Britons have to meet, including an ability to prove they have made a ‘definite break’ with Britain.
So they don't pay UK tax because they live abroad and don't have taxable income/gains/etc. in the UK. Well I don't pay tax in Spain because I live in the UK and don't have taxable income/gains/etc. in Spain. Funny that.

(And as far as I'm aware, it's Philip Green's wife who lives in Monaco...)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Swampy gets a job

As a librarian:
On Tuesday the squatters, who describe themselves as caretakers, are opening for business, lending books for the first time since the council closed the library. While they don't have the knowledge and expertise of trained librarians they have plenty of enthusiasm. They have set up a rota of volunteer librarians so that the library can open four days a week.
Cool, so we've got books, music, internet, free wireless, daily newspapers, photocopying and printing facilities, and all the other things we expect from a library these days?  Perhaps not:
A few dog-eared copies of novels by Joanna Trollope and Wilbur Smith sit on the otherwise bare shelves of Friern Barnet library alongside banners urging "peace", "occupy" and "revolution".
So what we have here, as someone commented in the Guardian today, is not so much a library but a room with some books in it. It is about as much a library as me cooking up a few sausages on a disposable barbecue on the village green and calling it a restaurant.

Of course the usual boilerplate squatting excuses come out - "reopening community facilities" and "welcomed by residents". That isn't quite the true picture though:
THE organisers of a campaign to reopen Friern Barnet Library say they will not be joining the group of protesters currently occupying the building.

Friern Barnet Library closed on April 5 after a long campaign by local residents, including the Save Friern Barnet Library group, opposed to plans to merge the library with North Finchley library to create a landmark arts library at artsdepot in Tally Ho Corner. On that day 16 members of the public staged a sit-in in protest to the closure.

Since then the community have held several pop-up libraries outside the library's former home.
But Maureen Ivens of the Save Friern Barnet Library group said the group had decided to refuse the invitation.

She said: “We have been invited by the new occupants to join them in running a community library in the building but have decided not to trespass there but continue to run our protest libraries from the adjacent village green.
Seems like the community has been fine doing their own thing for the past five months. Funny how the squatters turned up just after squatting in residential properties was made illegal.

The BBC has also run an article on this that makes something very clear that the Guardian only hinted at:
A week ago a small group began living in Friern Barnet library, north London, and operating a community-run service.
Occupy London, which is is staying on site, said it received an eviction notice on Thursday morning.
Now interestingly, the council has offered them an alternative site to run a community library from but it's the Friern Barnet site or nothing apparently. Perhaps the most damning part of this is:
Pete Phoenix, of Occupy London, said the building's occupation was a direct result of changes to the law which allowed police to raid residential properties on suspicion they were being occupied by squatters and remove them.
So it isn't about reinstating community facilities. No, it's a pathetic front for freeloading. No one in Barnet will hear from them again when they're finally evicted.

Monday, 10 September 2012

This is what democracy looks like

It's been a while since I've written about Occupy London as all that's left appears to be a rag-tag bunch of around ten people, in varying degrees of sobriety with a manky tent and a PA system, ranting about police oppression and "banksters". One member of the group has kindly taken the time to video the proceedings and post them on Bambuser for the world to see.  One of these rants general assemblies has come to my attention* and features none other than the named defendant for the entire St. Paul's protest and general Occupy poster girl Tammy Samede. Watching around the 1:06:33 mark, we hear her say:
For what it's worth guys I agree with you...and I think it could be easily solved with a few well placed molotov cocktails in certain directions, might go down really well.
 Rather fiery and violent this peaceful protesting; perhaps there's a reason for it:


Ah, taken out of context. I guess it's only fair to watch what preceded her remarks then. At 1:03:45:
So what do we do then? Let's just fucking get it off 'em. Let's do it, right now. Let's go to their big fancy houses, break in, smash 'em up, take their gold, take their bearer bonds, take their shares, let's do it. Let's fucking do it man.
This is followed by another chap who appears rather intoxicated at 1:05:08 with this to say:
I think we need to focus on things more like PC Simon Harwood who lives in [gives out Harwood's address]. I think we should petrol bomb the cunt's house 'cause he killed Ian Tomlinson, and I think that's wrong; he battered Ian Tomlinson...why can these cunts get away with attacking people and they think that we won't bring the fight to them? They're fucking wrong, 'cause me and my fucking revolutionary army are fucking going to bring the fight to them, fucking bring them down with any force that needs be. Thank you, big up yo!
It seems pretty clear to me then that theft, firebombing, vandalism, and vigilantism is what Occupy London believes that democracy looks like.

* Hat-tip to Fat Councillor for finding this gem.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Predistribution

Ed Miliband's comeback is based on one horrendous made-up word - "predistribution". In a nutshell, this is stopping people from having stuff in the first place rather than letting them have it and then redistributing through taxation as benefits. Examples of this would be increasing wages at the bottom (see living wage) to save on tax credits and rent controls to reduce spending on housing benefit. Now I'm not in favour of benefit dependency so this should be a good thing right? Nope, this still distorts the market but at a different point in the process, and also adds another level of government control, something typical and beloved of Labour.

In my ideal world, there wouldn't be all this minimum wage, housing benefit, and tax credit nonsense, we'd let the market decide what a job or house was worth. The government sticking its oar in has fucked all this up and is now difficult to reverse. But predistribution isn't just about wages and rents; it can be about regulation and control over anything - want a banking license? We're going to tell you who to lend to so the money goes to the "right" people. Landlord? This is how much you can charge your tenants, oh and we've limited the number of properties that you're allowed to buy to let. Company director on a big salary? We're capping that at ten times the wage of your lowest paid worker. So by letting the government control things like this, at what point would it leave you alone to get on with things? The answer to this is that it wouldn't. This is only the top of a slippery slope where things are controlled, restricted, or banned in the name of equality or because they know what's best for you. Be careful what you wish for...

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Fuck off hippies

Good news - squatting is now a criminal offence:
Squatting in a residential building in England and Wales becomes a criminal offence on Saturday, meaning squatters would face jail or a fine.  
Ministers said it would offer better protection for homeowners and "slam shut the door on squatters once and for all". 
The maximum penalty will be six months in jail, a £5,000 fine, or both.
But not everyone is happy:
Catherine Brogan, from the campaign group Squatters' Action for Secure Housing, told the BBC: "What we need is to tackle the housing crisis and not criminalise some of the most vulnerable people in our society."
That's the Squatters' Action for Secure Housing or Squash. They claim that:
The legislation will have impacts on the most vulnerable people in society, will empower unscrupulous landlords and will burden the justice system, police and charities.
Oh really? From the only story in the "Squatter Stories" section of their website:
I got into squatting through Occupy London. After camping in a tent I moved into the publicly repossessed UBS Bank complex ‘Bank of Ideas’ near Liverpool Street. It was there that I really came to appreciate the political potency of reclaimed urban space in a city centre devoured by private property, security, CCTV and Police helicopters.
When I used to rent I often got bored and isolated. These days, no two days of my life are the same. The large network of people that make up the London squatting movement are some of the brightest threads in the fabric of London’s activist and artistic community. There are dedicated professionals of all different kinds contributing essential services to the city, united by an inability or unwillingness to pay London rates of rent.
Then all becomes clear - the new law threatens their lifestyle choice which is parasitical and ideological, taking from others and giving nothing back in return. So fuck off hippies, it's time to pay your way like the rest of us.

Update on 14/9/2012 - The Squatter Stories section of their website has mysteriously vanished! Strange that...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The problems with taxing wealth

The beast is hungry:

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Mr Clegg appeared to highlight differences over fiscal policy, by suggesting the government could go beyond his own Liberal Democrats' current policy for a "mansion tax" on properties of a high value.

He said: "In addition to our standing policy on things like the mansion tax, is there a time-limited contribution you can ask in some way or another from people of considerable wealth so they feel they are making a contribution to the national effort?" he said.

Whilst it is a big Lefty wank fantasy to be able steal a chunk of what someone has accumulated during their lifetime, the reality is wrought with problems:

1. Liquidity - my wealth, if you can call it that, consists of the shares I own in my business, my pension fund, and housing equity. I don't have any cash - really, I'm virtually penniless but I have assets. The problem is with these assets are that they are illiquid and I'm not going to be able to realise cash from them in a hurry to pay a wealth tax. People don't tend to have large amounts of cash sitting around because it could be generating a better return elsewhere, be it in property, classic cars, yachts, fine art, shares, gold, business ventures, or whatever.

2. Wealth creates income - the shares in my business (hopefully) give me an income in the form of dividends. My pension fund will also give me an income when I retire. So taking away some of this wealth now reduces my income now and in the future and with it, any tax that would be due on it. 

3. Stability - arbitrary tax grabs to pay for gross government profligacy are a massive disincentive for investment in this country. If the government does it once then they will undoubtedly do it again and again. No one is going to want to set up shop here if they believe they'll end up as a piggy bank for the government to raid at will.

In short, you're going to struggle to generate significant amounts of tax revenue from wealth without hitting future revenues and investment. This is short-termism at its worst. Fuck off Clegg.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Magic money tree found in Bristol?

The living wage is rearing its ugly head again:

LABOUR'S mayoral candidate Marvin Rees has promised to introduce a living wage in Bristol if he gets elected to the figurehead post in November.

He has pledged to bring in a rate of not less than £7.20 an hour for all council employees and hopes it will be extended across all firms and organisations throughout the city.


But it gets better:

He said: "Every council employee who currently earns less than £7.20 per hour will be raised to the living wage with immediate effect.

"Following that, as every council contract is re-tendered each company providing services for Bristol must include paying a living wage of at least £7.20 per hour for any person working on those services."

Somehow, Bristol City Council found a spare million for a one-off payment for the low paid recently but this is a permanent increase with the additional pension and social security costs that go with it, and yet no corresponding increase in productivity or other benefit for council tax payers. Not only that, there is the double whammy of making contracted services like cleaning even more expensive for the council as the costs get passed on to the customer. This is a council like many others that has been forced to make long overdue cuts and is still trying to recover several million that it invested in Icelandic banks, so where is the money coming from? Well Rees hasn't costed it so either he'll have to find some more things to cut or put up council tax, although I suspect that he will end up shaking the branches of Labour's magic money tree borrowing to "invest". A classic example of a Labour politician trying to buy votes with no regard to those who will ultimately have to pay for his profligacy.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Social/Economic Cleansing

A good idea from Policy Exchange:

Selling expensive social housing as it becomes vacant could create the largest social house building programme since the 1970s. The sales would raise £4.5 billion annually which could be used to build 80,000-170,000 new social homes a year and reduce the housing waiting list by between 250,000 to 600,000 households in five years.

Sell the expensive property to fund additional, cheaper ones - more housing that we apparently need and creates jobs building them. Someone has actually bothered to come up with a costed plan that helps with unemployment and gets people on low incomes off a waiting list and into acceptable accommodation. Who would argue against that?

   
Oh dear, the left have gone fucknuts over this with the likes of John Prescott claiming it to be "social cleansing" and there's 900 or so comments like the one above in the Guardian article. Two things are important here; the plan is to sell off vacant properties, you know, those without anyone living in them, and second, it is an idea from a think tank, not Tory or coalition policy.

What we're seeing here is pure tribalism; that Policy Exchange is conservative and right-leaning is enough for the left to instantly shut down the debate regardless of the merit of any of its studies. Expect the Thursday Polly Toynbee article in the Graun to cover this with references to apartheid, cleansing, ghettoisation, and comparisons with the forced-repatriation policies of the far-right.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

38 Degrees Fuckwittery

Here's my response to online activists 38 Degrees and their petition to get Google to pay its "fair share" of tax, a reaction to a flawed and discredited article in the Telegraph recently. They say:
By sending money offshore Google’s revenue and profit here in the UK falls. That seems to be part of the reason Google recorded a loss in the UK last year.
I say:

Your petition was based on the Google UK Ltd results. Google UK provide marketing and R&D services to Google Ireland Ltd and Google Inc., that is to say that their only two customers are other Google group companies. The value of these services, or what the company turned over was £395,757,534. To provide these services, Google UK incurred the following expenses in 2011:

Advertising and promotional expense - £105,474,648
Professional services - £9,815,144
Auditor's remuneration - £55,000
Stock based compensation expense - £51,457,135
Depreciation and amortisation expense - £5,748,424
Employee benefit expense - £190,644,447
Other administrative expenses - £53,667,487

Total - £416,862,285

Quite simply, the company made a loss because its expenses were greater than its income. Substantial expenses relate to employee costs (employee benefit and stock compensation), which is probably a good thing, keeping people gainfully employed. There is no suggestion that Google UK is sending money offshore, quite the opposite in fact noting that its revenues (i.e. the flow of income into the UK) come from Ireland and the US.

I was also amused at the the following on the petition page - "Originally this petition was published using mistaken information from The Telegraph." Kind of invalidates the whole thing really.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Revenue v. profit for dummies*

Dave is the sole director and owner of 100% of the shares of Dave's Widgets Limited which employs him and two other people. In 2010, he sold £100,000 of widgets. That was his revenue (also known as sales or turnover). Now there are costs involved with making widgets. For 2010, these were:

Raw materials - £20,000
Rent - £5,000
Utilities (power, water, etc.) - £2,000
Sales/marketing - £3,000
Staff salaries - £30,000
Dave's salary - £20,000
Total - £80,000

Deducting the above from the revenue figure gives you £20,000. That's Dave's operating profit or earnings before interest and tax (EBIT). Since this is simple example, we'll forget about interest and look at tax. In the UK, corporation tax would be due at a rate of 20% on this £20,000, so £4,000. Take that away from the £20,000 leaves £16,000, the net profit.

Fast forward to 2011 and there's a shortage of raw materials, the landlord is being an arsehole, gas and electricity have gone up yet again, and a campaign to bring in more sales didn't work and revenue remains static at £100,000. Overall costs are now as follows:

Raw materials - £30,000
Rent - £10,000
Utilities (power, water, etc.) - £4,000
Sales/marketing - £6,000
Staff salaries - £30,000
Dave's salary - £20,000
Total - £100,000

Now Dave has no operating profit and therefore nothing to tax. Corporation tax due is zero. So what's my point? Well the examples above demonstrate the difference between revenue and profit and that a company's revenue has no bearing on corporation tax that it may or may not pay.

This blog post is in response to an article in the Telegraph today with its failings covered nicely by FCA Blog. There's also a still incorrect but slightly less mangled version of the article here.

* UK Uncut, Occupy, and Matt Warman.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Voluntary work experience not slavery shocker

From the BBC today:
A graduate has lost her legal challenge to a government scheme which she says forces people to work without pay.
Cait Reilly, a University of Birmingham geology graduate, had argued that making her work unpaid at a Poundland store for two weeks or risk losing her benefits was a breach of human rights.
Lawyers representing the pair were trying to get their back-to-work schemes declared unlawful under article four of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits both forced labour and slavery.
I remember this case from when the Guardian gave her an article back in January. Ms. Reilly was incorrectly told that the back to work programme was mandatory by the Job Centre. Having arranged her own placement, which you are entitled to do and still claim job seekers allowance, surely the sensible course of action would have been to go through the complaints procedure to resolve the conflict?  Perhaps her MP could have got involved if the complaint fell on deaf ears? Nope, she went on a crusade and got the human rights lawyers involved rather than trying to deal with a minor fuck up. It was clear that she was after a fight and wanted to make a political point rather than trying to sort things out. If she wonders why she is struggling to find work, perhaps it's because she seeks conflict and is unwilling and/or unable to deal with a problem calmly and rationally. Who the fuck would want to take on someone like that as an employee?

Friday, 3 August 2012

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Wasting police time...and a solution

So, some people have said nasty things on Twitter this week that got in the news:
Police said the teenager was given a harassment warning before being bailed pending an investigation into other communications on his Twitter account.
Shortly after missing out on a medal on Monday, Daley retweeted the message from the boy which said: "You let your dad down i hope you know that."
He then responded to the tweet by posting: "After giving it my all...you get idiot's sending me this..."
That's obviously not a nice thing to say given that Tom Daley lost his father to cancer not so long ago, but given that the sender is likely after a reaction, why retweet it to nearly a million followers? To defend Tom, I suspect that it was a heat of the moment thing and besides, it wasn't him who complained to the police, somebody else was offended on his behalf...

The case that I found more interesting was that of Kirstie Allsopp:
Kirstie Allsopp, the television presenter, has reported two teenage girls to the police after they sent her abusive online messages telling her to “squat on a Christmas tree”.
The two 15-year-old schoolgirls directed a further string of aggressive and bullying taunts to the Location, Location, Location host including instructions on how to kill herself. They also told Miss Allsopp she was “like a mince pie – bland and crumbly”.
Let's see the build up to this and how Miss Allsopp handled the situation:


Ah, so instead of blocking the users after the first abusive tweet, she put a shout out to her 235k follows to try and track them down.


Two days later and she's still out for revenge!


But it could have been dealt with without bothering the police Kirstie.  You could have stopped all of this quickly and quietly by blocking the pair and perhaps reporting them to Twitter for good measure. But no.

I don't believe for one minute that Miss Allsopp is either stupid, naive, or a delicate flower that needs her sensibilities protected, so the only reason for her actions is attention seeking. What is particularly telling is the following in the Telegraph article published on 1st August:
Neither Merseyside Police nor the Metropolitan Police have yet to receive Miss Allsopp’s report.
As Twitter is a fairly new phenomenon, I reckon that the police need a bit of direction in dealing with these sort of complaints.  Here's my slant on it:

1. If you don't block the user for the first tweet that you find offensive, there's no case.
2. If you don't report the user to Twitter for abuse then there's no case.
3. If you retweet the offending tweet or otherwise incite your followers to take any sort of action against the abusive user then there's no case.
4. If the abuse is not directed at you (and this unfortunately requires a change in the law as someone can be offended on someone else's behalf and it can still be a crime) then there's no case.

If you ignore points 1 to 4 then you're nicked for wasting police time. A few cases of this given high profile in the papers would stop all of this shit from the likes of attention seeking Allsopp and the professionally offended. You're adults - fucking deal with it. The police have far better things to do.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Sounding off

Second day of the #PornTrial and after fisting, the court has been introduced to urethral sounding; in layman's terms, that's sticking stuff, mainly metal rods or sounds, down your japs eye for pleasure. Like fisting, this is a completely legal act but has landed Mr. Walsh up in court for having a picture of this on an email that was sent to him unsolicited. Let me run that by you again - a man is in court because someone sent him a picture of a legal sex act.

Thinking about sounding for a minute, perhaps an interesting comparison is with the Prince Albert piercing, a piece of metal jewellery is inserted down the urethra and out of a hole pierced at the bottom of the glans. One of the reasons cited for getting the piercing is for sexual pleasure. If Mr. Walsh is convicted of possessing extreme pornography, that would likely make the pictures on the Prince Albert Wikipedia page that I linked to illegal...

Background on the case can be found at the ObscenityLawyer blog and on his Twitter feed.

Monday, 30 July 2012

The long fist of the law

An interesting case has come to court today:
Today the Crown Prosecution Service will attempt to persuade a jury that images of fisting should be classified as “extreme pornography” with the risk to the defendant of three years in custody, inclusion on the sex offenders' register and damage to his personal and professional standing.
Simon Walsh, has been charged with being in possession of extreme pornographic images under section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008: so the Prosecution must prove that the act of fisting is “likely to result in serious injury to a person’s anus”.
More information on the case can be found at the ObscenityLawyer blog and on his Twitter feed.

Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 states that:
(6) An “extreme image” is an image which—

(a) falls within subsection (7), and
(b) is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character.

(7) An image falls within this subsection if it portrays, in an explicit and realistic way, any of the following—

(a) an act which threatens a person's life,
(b) an act which results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals,
(c) an act which involves sexual interference with a human corpse, or
(d) a person performing an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive),

and a reasonable person looking at the image would think that any such person or animal was real.
It's a bloody awful law that came about after the murder of Jane Longhurst.  Because it is so subjective, it has to be tested in the courts to set precedents for future cases. This has led to ridiculous cases like the chap who was up before a judge for possessing a clip of someone having sex with a tiger. It was hastily dropped after it was discovered to be a very obvious fake.

Fisting, which I suspect is a minority pursuit, is a completely legal act and therefore seems odd that it would be criminal to possess an image or film of an act of it. I also suspect that injury is unlikely to occur simply because those who partake in it will have worked themselves up to it over time - you cannot simply just stick a hand up an arse. If there is a conviction for this, what then of other large insertions on film? When is a dildo too big? What about the "larger" gentleman performing or those stretchy ladies who can accommodate more than one man in the same place at the same time? Just these examples show what a nonsense that trying to get a conviction on images of fisting is. I can only wish Mr. Walsh and his legal team the best of luck with this and hope that the case is thrown out.

Friday, 27 July 2012

We are the 1.5%

The Guardian has been ever so excited that Bryn Phillips, occupier and convicted criminal (violent disorder and burglary during the riots last year), put himself down as a candidate for the Farringdon Within by-election in the City of London:

Bryn Phillips, a 32-year-old writer and community organiser in east London, is to contest a byelection for the City of London Corporation, the Square Mile's local authority, and critics have accused it of using its statutory position to lobby for the financial services industry.

I would fully expect any local authority to stick up for the businesses within its boundaries and take on their concerns - that is a good thing.

"I'm convinced that democratic reform of the City of London is the best way to start addressing the problems we face in our banking system," said Phillips, who hopes anger over the Libor scandal will boost his chances of election on 26 July.

The City of London Corporation is a local authority with a few ancient traditions and fancy titles.  It doesn't control how banks operate or are regulated.  Farringdon Within is equivalent to Dibley parish council.

There is of course the obligatory CiF opinion piece and follow up article:

"We want to renew the balance of power in the City and then the country at large," he said. "There will be full elections on 13 February next year and Occupy will be fielding a full slate of candidates at that point. We hope today will be just the starting point."

Here's my prediction - you won't.

The by-election was held on 26th July. Turnout was 172 out of a possible 1,525, just over 11%.  Of this, Phillips got 23 votes which is equal to 13.5% of votes cast or 1.5% of the electorate, rather far away from the 99% who he and Occupy purport to represent. Now where can I find the results and reaction in the Guardian? Hmmm...

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

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Sunday, 15 July 2012

Well that didn't last long...

The latest lefty protest group out to scam a few quid from the gullible appears to have been strangled at birth:


This has only just come to my attention as Pay Up! blocked me on Twitter. I can't see anything on their website why their planned protests were cancelled:

Due to circumstances beyond our control - we've had to hold off on the weekend of action. There are developments. More info soon.

Well they've had a week and a bit now and no further info on this. What is highly probable is that Unite and Sainsbury's staff told them to fuck off because as mentioned previously, their actions would undermine the efforts of the union to negotiate a better deal for staff. Epic protest fail.

Libraries and the Cuts

There's a standard "evil Tories shutting down schools, hospitals, and libraries" line that is forever trotted by the Left that I reckon needs challenging. The story of the closure of Kensall Rise Library got my interest as the campaign against the closure got some fairly high profile backing. There has to be more to it then just ideological Tory cuts surely? Well of course there is - I dug out the consultation responses and replies to those from Brent council and the background and reasons for the closure can be summed up as follows:
  • It costs £186,100 to run the library (staffing and premises costs) and in 2009/10 45,755 people visited (came through the door). This equates to £4.00 per visit to the library.
  • By contrast Willesden Green Library costs just £0.90 per visit. 
  • In 2009/10, compared with other libraries, both attendance and book issues were low.
  • Kensal Rise is the least used library in the borough, the most expensive to run and it is also very close to Kilburn Library on Salusbury Road [just over a mile if you walk it].
  • Kensal Rise is also the library most in need of repair and the estimated costs of that over the next twenty years come to nearly half a million pounds.
  • Only 9% of our budget is spent on books because we are delivering services from poorly used buildings, which are expensive to run.
It should also be noted that the building is owned by All Souls College Oxford and provided rent free to the council.

The Kensal Rise close is one of several as part of Brent's Libraries Transformation Project. The point of it, apart from to save money, is to bring the remaining libraries up to scratch getting new books and facilities in as well as fixing up the buildings. Without knowing the overall cuts that Brent were making and the decision process behind them, it is difficult to put the library closures into context. What is does reveal is that the same services are being provided at Willesden Green just over a mile away at less than a quarter of the cost per visit, and even sharing staff with Kilburn and no rent to pay, facing an average annual cost of £25k for building maintenance, there doesn't appear to be a way of making it more efficiently run. The justification for closing Kensal Rise looks sound but why cut libraries? Context is important here as it would be interesting to know what was saved over what was cut. For that, Labour-controlled Brent council will have the answers.