Health Ministry of Truth

Combining theThe War against Terror with The War Against the National Health Service, the UK Home Secretary is about to propose that doctors be co-opted into the TWAT, by reporting on potential terrorists amongst their patients.

Doctors and other health professionals will be asked to identify people who are “vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism” as part of the government’s redrawn counter-terrorism programme to be detailed on Tuesday. (from The Guardian)

In a departure from recent government style, it seems that, for once, the Lib-Dems aren’t even being used as a human shield for this particular mad idea. Theresa May is putting it forward herself.

Theresa May and her advisers didn’t grow up in Fairyland, so they may have had occasion to visit a doctor. In which case, they should have noticed that, although doctors ask patients some very personal questions indeed, they don’t normally ask about plans to carry out suicide bomb attacks.

Doctors are indeed often too busy to ask where we stand on the single transferable vote or the extension of the eurozone. How wonderfully relaxed must some surgeries be, if doctors can take the time to engage their patients on a wide range of political topics and rank their answers on an extremism scale?

Temporarily ignore the monstrousness of treating medical confidentiality as a disposable luxury. This plan doesn’t even make sense in pragmatic terms. Potential terrorists can avoid getting caught by it by the simple expedient of not discussing their views with doctors. Can this be beyond the wit of even the stupidest terrorist?

Do we really have an Oxford-educated Home Secretary who believes that a terrorist will walk into his local surgery and says “I’ve got a bit of a sore throat but I’m planning an explosive attack on a plane this week and I’d hate to miss it”?

Machines of Loving Grace

Another work of genius by Adam Curtis was on BBC last night. In the UK, Episode 1 will be on the BBC’s i-player, In any case, it will probably be repeated a few times before the next episode (Monday, 30th. )

Amazingly thought-provoking. It fills your mind with images and ideas. I would certainly disagree with some of his arguments. (I can’t believe that Ayn Rand was really a major influence on the development of Silicon Valley individualism, no matter how many techy people called their kids Rand, for example. ) The programme is so engaging that I found myself arguing political/social/ecological points with the tv screen.

Curtis presents masterly transparent propaganda. Propaganda in the purest sense – spreading ideas, trying to make people change their minds. Transparent because he is explicit about what he is saying and communicates in a form that makes it explicit that he is spreading ideas. With blinding creative skill. He wants to make the viewer think creatively and recognise and question other propoganda.

Even if you’re not in the UK, you can read an interview with Adam Curtis and watch an intro clip on the Register.

The Register interview actually makes his point of view a lot clearer than the first episode. (But watching the programme is a pure joy. The interview is no substitute)

Challenging Utopian theories about the web:

I was suspicious of it because I hadn’t noticed power had disappeared. The real bastions of power are as they were, and are more concentrated. So I decided to trace those ideas back to their source. It leads you back to an absolutely fascinating area, which you can loosely call cybernetics, and also information theory.(from the Register)

He has a blog on the BBC. This is a source of major treats, such as “A is for Atom” which has an old documentary he made which dealt with the design of reactor at Fukushima Daiich. Or Rupert Murdoch – a portrait of Satan

On message

The UK Security Minister Baroness Neville-Jones has resigned her job.
Why so, you say?

“She will take up a new role working with businesses to boost their cyber security.” (a/c to the BBC)

…straight from government into a related private sector role.. how charmingly secure is that?…. (And, don’t worry, serfs, another Baroness is taking over.)

The BBC story implies that government ministers are engaged in some sort of SEO exercise to own the key phrase “essential rebalancing of security and liberty” on Google. (No, I don’t know why anyone would want to either, but the evidence is overwhelming.)

“I have also been able to contribute to the essential rebalancing of security and liberty in the review of counter-terrorism powers, the replacement of mistaken multiculturalism by an integration strategy which I hope will embed itself as a central feature of the ‘Big Society’, and to the redirection of the Prevent strategy which is nearing completion.”

Home Secretary Theresa May thanked Baroness Neville-Jones “for her hard work, both in opposition and in government, contributing to the rebalancing of security and liberty as well as participating in the work of the National Security Council”.

Cameron’s response is a paraphrase that manages to avoid the ugly “rebalancing” word while still hitting the jackpot.:

“You have helped to ensure that security and liberty are more appropriately balanced and dramatically strengthened the government’s strategy to prevent young minds being poisoned and radicalised,”

Credible as the others’ efforts are, however, the Baroness has achieved a full Tory key phrase home run :

“the replacement of mistaken multiculturalism by an integration strategy which I hope will embed itself as a central feature of the ‘Big Society‘”

You will have already spotted that none of these phrases have any meaning. they are the verbal equivalent of fog.

It all seems a bit odd. As the Baroness is leaving the government, why does she feel so compelled to continue to kiss linguistic ass? What on earth does a knee-jerk-right-wing-pleasing swipe at “multiculturalism” have to do with national security, anyway? And, surely, even the PM must be finding the “Big Society” catchphrase something of an embarrassment by now?

Anyway, enough rebalancing of blog silence and blog production for me. I’m off to embed myself.

“Christian” conflict manufacture

A UK court has sensibly ruled that a couple of self-styled “traditional Christians” can’t be foster carers because of their views on gay people.
Has the High Court suddenly taken to ruling on foster carers’ acceptability on a case by case basis?

At the High Court, they asked judges to rule that their faith should not be a bar to them becoming carers, and the law should protect their Christian values.(from the BBC)

Ah. So it was the couple who took the case to the High Court, then. Generally not the most cost-effective action. In fact, a High Court case usually costs thousands of pounds. You might think that, as “traditional Christians”, they maybe could have given all the money that this cost to the poor, instead. However, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount words, in the lost Gospel of Perrymason, clearly stated that “whosoever will take legal action in the name of prejudice shall inherit the earth”
The BBC reported that the

.. Christian Legal Centre reacted to the ruling with dismay and warned that “fostering by Christians is now in doubt”.

It’s our old friends, the Christian Legal Centre, who are – of course – neither the paralegal wing of the Anglican Church nor a crack tactical team of solicitors operating out of the Vatican.
I’d hate to be represented by them, given their cavalier treatment of the facts (so it’s a good job that I’m not a fundamentalist Christian with a legal problem.) The judges in the case explicitly said that this ruling didn’t imply that religious belief was a bar to adoption and fostering, only that laws protecting people from discrimination must take precedence.
So, “fostering by Christians is now in doubt” can best be put in the ever-expanding category of “lying for Jesus”.
The headline for this story on their site is:

“Breaking News: High Court Judgment suggests Christian beliefs harmful to children. Fostering by Christians now in doubt.”

I would refer them to the words of the judges in the case:

“No one is asserting that Christians – or, for that matter, Jews or Muslims – are not fit and proper persons to foster or adopt. No-one is contending for a blanket ban.”

Sorry, m’luds, that just wasn’t clear enough for the Christian Legal Centre’s lawyers to understand.
However, you have to assume that they did understand perfectly but don’t want anyone else to. The true purpose of the Christian Legal Centre seems to be to get free media exposure – witness their media page – by acting as rent-a-quotes always happy to misrepresent their strange ideas as the “Christian” view whenever media researchers are stuck for a soundbite.
(The couple with a bed and breakfast hotel who got prosecuted for refusing a room to a gay couple were their last major media success story a few weeks ago)
Ok, you have to take off your hat to the skillful marketing and you even have to feel a bit sorry for the low-level big*ts who are their cannon fodder.
But all the same, it seriously pisses me off that they are winning every skirmish in their campaign to convince the average Daily Mail/Express/Telegraph and Star reading idiot in the UK that “Christians” are under threat .

Threatening teachers

Lord Hill (the Schools Minister, do keep up at the back there) has written to the heads of schools wanting to become academies to threaten them that they can’t become academies if they reach agreement with the NAS/UWT union.

Lord Hill has threatened headteachers that their bid for academy status is in jeopardy if they enter into any agreement with the NASUWT to maintain national pay and conditions of service.(from the NAS/UWT site)

Here’s the offending document. I can’t work out how to link to it so I’ve copied and pasted it here, with apologies to the NAS.UWT.
LORD HILL LETTER TO ACADEMIES JAN 2011.pdf

Lord Hill says in his first paragraph that “We consider the freedom to set the pay and conditions of staff to be one of the key freedoms of Academy status.”

If the reader is under any illusion that these “key freedoms” include “paying staff over the national rate”, he threatens that any school that reaches an agreement to keep to the national rate will not get Academy status.

Maybe my English Comprehension skills just aren’t up to the appropriate standard but this threat seems pretty clear. I never studied Fundamentals of English/European Law but the legality of this seems at least doubtful.

The NAS/UWT seem to be of the same opinion:

The letter also offers advice on academy conversion that, if followed, would place schools in breach of their statutory obligations, leaving them vulnerable to legal action.
Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary,said:
“Quite frankly, I am astonished that a Minister would commit to writing such threats and deeply flawed advice.
“For a peer and a Minister to encourage the flouting of the law is, I believe, unprecedented.

“Academies” aren’t exactly covered in glory, as it is, even before they are entered in an unseemly rush for the cheapest teachers.

On 12 January Sky News reported that

Around a quarter of the worst performing secondary schools in England are academies, according to the latest set of league tables.”

Quite how bad are these academies going to be when they only employ teachers on lower pay and conditions?

Teasmade or Toaster Britain

Spare a thought for the home workers and shift workers whose workday doesn’t require them to respond to an alarm clock (and for those chirpy “morning people” people who don’t need an alarm.) Nick Clegg clearly doesn’t see them as Heroes.

I quote (sneeringly):

HARD-WORKING Brits are the backbone of the country, the people who will drag us out of recession, says deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, writing in the Sun.

(https://i1.wp.com/planetsmilies.net/vomit-smiley-9529.gif?w=584)

Ordinary, willing folk – dubbed Alarm Clock Britain because they snub the benefits culture and get up early to go to work – will be given Government support.

Surely, waking up when your alarm clock goes off is is setting the “Hero” bar a bit low? But, I’m personally a bit relieved. I’d never get a “Hero” award in the traditional ways: saving my comrades’ lives under fire; diving into frozen rivers to rescue drowning dogs; dragging unconscious children from burning buildings…

But I sure as hell can wake up. (Eventually. Long after the infernal machine has been blaring out a radio station that I chose precisely because it’s too vile to sleep through)

So, you can call me a “Heroine”. I was really hoping for some sort of gallantry award, but I would always welcome some government help in getting up in the morning.

Help such as a new toaster that didn’t set off the fire alarm on a regular basis. (Yes, the fire alarm is good as an alarm clock but you have to be awake to put toast in the machine first.)

What about the traditional Teasmade? It’s a machine that wakes you up with a pot of tea. I recently saw a 1950s catalogue offering an ancient model. Here’s a new one. It’s not as cute, in fact, it looks even more retro, than the original did but I’ll welcome one from the coalition as the most effective way it could help me as representative of Alarm Clock Britain.

Ironically, toasters and alarm clocks are all made in China, now. Like pretty well everything.

Huge numbers of people in the UK are out of work or under threat of losing their jobs. This situation is about to get much worse, thanks to the cut of about a third of public sector jobs.

So, to be honest, Nick, the best way you could help British “alarm clock heroes” would be to make sure that they had jobs to get up for or at least not throw millions more out of work.

Catch a Fire

It’s a shock to find out how batshit the god of abraham is, in the minds of some of his believers. A Pharyngula post pointed me to the catch the fire ministries site.

I’ll temporarily ignore the callous insult to suffering Australians. (I’m also ignoring my mental image of an old Bob Marley “Catch a fire” album packaged in an openable cardboard zippo lighter shape.)

This catch-the-fire site thinks believes that their god is ravaging Australia in order to send a message to the USA (!) Even stranger, the message is that what has offended their god to the point of major smiting was the mere suggestion of sending nuclear weapons inspectors into Israel.

No, really, I m not making this up. From their very web page:

“.. I was reminded of Kevin Rudd speaking against Israel in Israel on 14th December 2010. It is very interesting that Kevin Rudd is from QLD. Is God trying to get our attention? Yes, I believe so.
……..
Mr Rudd not only called on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but said it should open all its nuclear facilities to UN inspectors.

God is apparently enraged at the mere suggestion that his chosen people might have some limits placed on their possession of WMD? At the same time, the creator of the universe is so lacking in his vaunted omnipotence that he can’t even express that apparently simple message in any other way than by visiting mass destruction on a continent half a world away from Israel or the USA.

Lucky that some prophetic wingnuts were on hand to pick up and transmit his message in human speech. And, pray for forgiveness on behalf of the Australians, who have accidentally fostered the very man who forced god to carry out this devastating action.

Around 8pm on Friday night the 7th of January we had a strong prompting by the Holy Spirit to repent on behalf of Australia. As we started doing so, I was reminded that every time America went against Israel, there was disaster in the land and this has been documented over the years.

(Given the US’s track record in standing against Israel, it looks as if the US should be close to totally disaster-free by now.) It must be a great comfort to the Australians to know that random Americans are apologising for them.)

Who would ever dream up a god who was certifiably insane? And then decide to worship them?

Weather news

Here at Whydontyou towers we’re saddened to find that this blog has been updated so rarely in the recent past* that its reign over the realm of Whydontyou has been challenged by an alien blog called ydontyou (which I am buggered if I’m going to post a link to.) It feels like the identity theft that we are all meant to worry ourselves sick over.

In case you’ve ever visited it and think we’ve changed completely, that site has nothing to do with the one true whydontyou blog. (Which – to be fair – has nothing to do with the ancient kid’s tv programme that we stole our name from. Oh bugger, pot -kettle, I fear.) However, I see that the evil usurper is trying to be a blog of random posts by anyone who cares to blog. Which:

a) tempts me to post anonymous posts there (but I won’t because the spacetime continuum could be disrupted by the paradox and some strange singularity would occur.)

b) puts me in mind of the income-challenged real media which seems to be getting ever more desperate keen to replace paid journalistic copy with opinions and photos from anyone who cares to send in free content. (Almost by definition, normally lunatics.)

It was bad enough when the media, overwhelmed by the volume of wikileaks material, asked people to submit their own findings from the mass of data. How lazy can you get? How mean, also, to replace professional researchers with free labour? Even unpaid “intern” researchers hope to make contacts and have something to put on application forms. Public content-providers don’t even get that carrot.

But now it’s the winter. It is strange enough that snow in Southern England has occupied the main headlines on the BBC and Guardian websites for days.

You might expect the media might report the existence of snow on the weather pages and traffic delays on the traffic delay pages and leave news pages to focus on people at risk of death from cold – the homeless, the poor, the very old and very young.

Instead, you get calls for “Your stories and your pictures of the snow” – always for unpaid submissions.

Snow is beautiful in reality and can look beautiful in a picture. Snow is cold.

However, snow as a major citizen journalism project is completely uninteresting. Other people’s snow stories and photos are pretty much like other people telling you their dreams.

You’d be forgiven for thinking nothing serious was happening in the world….

Ffs, surely Cheryl Cole has got a new hairstyle or gained or lost a few pounds. And surely the about-to-be-wed prince-and-princess’s old school and university pals haven’t run out of amusing anecdotes yet? By toutatis, I’ll soon have to google if I need to find out to find out who won Strictly Come Dancing/ the Apprentice/X-Factor/Britain’s Got Talent (insert name of standard tv-celeb news items. Sorry I’m struggling here because my brain fails to distinguish any of these programmes)

Shape up, mass media.

* Even spammers see us as not worth the bother. A desultory spam turns up every week or so. Gone are the glory days of a couple of hundred a day.

Christians trying to do some good

Sorry Yanks. Our Baptists and Methodists are much better than yours. (Well, there had to be at least one thing we could crow about.)

While American baptists include people like Pat Robertson. some of OUR baptists seem to be more sane – wise and admirable, even.

The baptists, methodist and united reformed churches in the UK haven’t just got together to speak out against the condem government’s massive cuts in public spending and welfare, they’ve even had the grace to challenge the made-up statistics that the condem government is using to support the cuts:

The Methodist and United Reformed Churches, and the Baptist Union, said the £5bn figure Mr Osborne quoted in his spending review speech wrongly depicted the poorest and most vulnerable in society as thieves.
President of the Methodist Conference, Alison Tomlin, said it was a question of fairness.
“Exaggerating benefit fraud points the finger of blame at the poor” she said. “Let us be clear this recession was not caused by the poor, those on benefits, or even benefit cheats.” (from the BBC)

The Moderator of the United Reformed Church has described her organisation as “concerned” about the cuts. Although. they actually put it a bit more strongly than “concern”.

Mrs Val Morrison, moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, warns about the long term effects of yesterday’s comprehensive spending review (CSR) on the UK’s infrastructure. She says: “I worry about the futures of communities across the UK – these cuts could undo years of constructive effort to build community cohesion and tolerance in the UK. And, on an individual level, the stark reality is that most households will be badly affected by the CSR and the ideological shift – from Big State to Big Society – that it represents.”…

…. Addressing the disproportionate impact that the cuts to welfare spending will have on the poor and vulnerable in the UK, Mr Simon Loveitt, public issues spokesperson for the URC, commented: ….. “As Christians we reject the rhetoric which seeks to revive a disciplinary approach to welfare, only concerned with controlling, rather than supporting, individuals; and sees poverty as an issue about personal behaviour and dependency, rather than economic inequality and justice.”

(What a great name that spokesperson has. Don’t you just, etc?)

In your faces, raptard baptists.

Turning away

Last night’s UK Channel 4 Dispatches was entitled Iraq’s Secret War Files.

I tried to watch it. A few minutes in, I had to switch off. There’s only so much harrowing you can take on a work night. And the few minutes I saw were too harrowing….. A crying child drenched in the blood of the two adults who had been shot in the front seat of a car with 5 children in the back.

The Dispatches web page for this programme starts with:

…exposes the full and unreported horror of the Iraqi conflict and its aftermath, revealing the true scale of civilian casualties; and allegations that after the scandal of Abu Ghraib, American soldiers continued to abuse prisoners; and that US forces did not systematically intervene in the torture and murder of detainees by the Iraqi security services. The programme also features previously unreported material of insurgents being killed while trying to surrender.

I can’t even begin to list the catalogue of horrors that follow on the rest of the page, let alone in the programme.

As I said, I had to turn away from the programme. (And watch the more relaxing repeat of Jim Al-Khalili’s Atom on BBC4.)

So, total respect to those people who don’t just turn away. Who don’t feel it’s like knocking your head repeatedly against concrete to keep speaking up about outrages. Because someone has to have the courage to keep on doing it

Like wikileaks. If ever there would be a well-earned Nobel prize, that would be one given to wikileaks and – even more so – to those people who put the good of humanity before their own fear of arrest and provided the information.

Another tribute

This blog is in danger of becoming a requiem machine but I am gutted to hear of Gregory Isaacs’ death. Wonderful voice.

Here’s a remix of Night Nurse with a Lady Saw voiceover. Not his very best (in my arrogant opinion, of course) but everyone’s heard this song, if only when it was inevitably filched for a Night Nurse advert – although sung by someone else who couldn’t hold a candle to him.

Some sort of tribute


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Benoit Mandelbrot died on 14th October.

(Non-breaking news from me. i.e. Probably 4 days after everyone else knows it. A good tribute on the BBC by the way but the images are poor.)

He was the main man for making maths beautiful, even to mathematically challenged people like me.. Fractal mathematics is the mathematics of life. In fact, for atheists, fractal maths is pretty much a direct route to what simpler people call looking at the face of “god” .

Here’s a beginner’s guide to what fractals are with links to some image galleries.

In the mid-nineties there were any number of graphics packages that let you play around with creating fractals, from a standing start, on a 486…. Especially the venerable and respected fractint.

I found a version that’s still online. version 20. It’s been updated to work on Windows 3.0…. Hmmm, even my PC isn’t quite that elderly.
(Wahay. I found a 2008 ftp site. Must try it out again.)

Here are a few fractal image links from tinterwebs.

* The classic Mandelbrot set.

I like the source that I got this image from. It points out that someone might see a visual representation of a Mandelbrot set as evidence for “Intelligent Design” and answers

But in fact, the Mandelbrot set is the product of a relatively simple mathematical equation.

That’s the non-divinely miraculous nature of fractal images. A few simple changes in start conditions and/or a slightly different equation and another infinite set of magical things appears.

* A fractal vegetable.

from wikipedia- image of a romanesco broccoli

Romanesco broccoli


Ok that’s cheating. Pretty much any living thing is “fractal.” The difference is that romanesco broccoli LOOKS like a generated fractal.

* The coastline of Norway
Space view of the coast of Norway

The coast of Norway looks like a generated fractal too. But, then, any coast is fractal. Zoom in and it breaks up into infinitely recursive self-similar patterns.

In fact, everything is pretty much fractal. Incredibly simple and endlessly complex. And we can see this mainly thanks to teh work of Mandelbrot.

Bonfire night

Today’s strong contender for the coveted WhyDontYou Cup for Extraordinary Governmental Effort in the Service of Irony* has been spotted by the Guardian

Government’s ‘bonfire of the quangos’ plan will cost as much as it saves
Exclusive: Private papers reveal multi-billion pound bill to close up to 180 quangos – and savings might not be felt for 10 year
….. private papers reveal that in several cases the liabilities from pensions, redundancies and rental contracts could outweigh any of the savings being claimed for up to 10 years.

This would be funny if it wasn’t also tragic. Don’t they teach Remedial Maths at Eton?

The quango bonfire is just the overture before the main cuts action.

The statement came as more details of the job cuts within Whitehall emerged, with departments told to make up to a third of their employees redundant. The education department is understood to be looking for a 30% reduction in staff.

The same mathematics will apply. Massive cuts and no net savings.

There is a little ironic satisfaction in that the Tories’ natural supporters are going to get hammered. And not only in a “we’re all in this together so we’ve got to accept a few minor inconveniences like the loss of our child benefit” way.

What is closer to Middle England’s heart than the belief there is somehow a natural right to get ever richer through the ever-increasing value of houses?

But even the threat of public sector is already having an impact on the housing market. The headlines are:

Housing market crash feared after average house prices take record plunge
Halifax tries to allay fears that prices are poised to nosedive amid impending cuts to public sector jobs

Reality check for Mail readers: The more people are unemployed – whether ex-nurses or ex-teachers or even ex-estate agents – the more tax anyone who still has a wage will have to pay. Where is the money going to come from for the next round of big bank bailouts?

“And so it begins….”, as they used to say on Babylon 5.
—————————
* A new award that we’re working on.
It’s going to be hard to choose a winner, in such a strong field. The smart money would normally be on Boris except that he’s only in local government. A tough act to follow but his crowning ironic achievement** seems amateurish in comparison to the efforts of his Bullingdon Club chums.

** (Londoners elected a man on the basis that they recognised him from his appearances as a rightwing buffoon on a Have I got News for You,)

Fail (epic, even)

“ineptness.” I don’t know if it’s a real word but – if it is – look up its meaning in a Picture Dictionary and you should see a photo of George Osborne.*

The welfare “reforms” that he presented today don’t make sense in any terms. But, specifically, as far as I can see, they make no sense in the “saving money” terms in which they are presented.

The Chancellor has announced a few unthought out welfare policies: cutting child benefit benefit to higher earners and capping welfare benefits paid to the sick and unemployed.

The child benefit cut is likely to be a smokescreen to distract attention from the latter and to present an image of us all being “in this together” – both rich and poor apparently having to put their hands in their pockets to pay for rescuing the banks. So far, so predictable.

But it’s the consequences of these half-arsed plans that are the most bizarre.

The media has already identified the clearest ones. A Channel 4 news blog points out that a couple each earning £40k will still get child benefit while a single earner on £45k will lose it. At the margin, a few pounds wage increase might cost someone thousands a year. On a BBC blog, it was pointed out that poor families with several children could be much harder hit by the benefit cap than those with few children.

But no one seems to have yet spotted that the whole reform nonsense runs directly against its supposed main purpose of saving money.

Universal benefits, such as family allowance, are actually much better at reaching the poorest people than are means-tested benefits. (Take up is close to 100%. Small sums are worth proportionately more to the poorest recipients so are of more benefit to them than to the better off. ) The fact that the very richest people also got child benefit was a small price to pay for this. It is dishonest for the defenders of this plan to spin it as making money available for the poor by taking it from the greedy middle classes.**

Alongside this, the admin costs of a universal benefit are minimal for both recipients and the state. To process a child benefit claim involved looking at a birth certificate and setting up 16 or so years of payments. That’s pretty well all the admin that a universal benefit needs.

Imagine what enormous admin costs will be involved in the projected scheme. Everybody who gets child benefit or lives with a child benefit recipient will also have to provide proofs of income for each of the 16 or so years.

People whose incomes vary dramatically from one month to the next or one year to the next will have to keep constantly updating the child benefit office with evidence. In particular, the self-employed and employees who change jobs frequently will spend lots of time collecting and submitting evidence and appealing decisions. Couples who separate or form new partnerships will have to keep updating the authorities.

This will require a bureaucratic army.

There are currently no mechanisms to collate income information with child benefits. A whole new adminstrative structure will need to be set up and maintained permanently.

(Civil servants facing job losses because of the coming cuts might find this quite cheering.)

Is it remotely likely that enough savings can be made by cutting the child benefit of a few parents to cover the costs of setting up a whole new bureaucratic infrastructure that serves no other purpose?

(Rhetorical question. The answer is “obviously not”)

The other plan – cutting back welfare benefits to the level of “average family income of 26k” – is equally ludicrous, although it will play better with the condem’s core constituency, whose newspapers tell them every day that people on benefits are better off than the average worker.

I am already confused. Is this £26k before or after tax? What is the “average” “family”? What is a “family” on benefits?

There must be a tiny number of people who get more than £26k a year in benefits. To achieve this £500 a week, benefit recipients would have to be mentally or physically disabled, have a fair few disabled children and maybe a seriously ill elderly relative or two – and probably live in a rented home in the south east. (If you doubt this, try looking at normal benefit rates.)

Could this money be saved by making disabled people or people with disabled kids homeless – refusing to pay for their housing? Hardly. Then the state really would have to kick in, assuming that we still have some claim to be a first world country. Which would be very much more expensive.

Laughing in the face of all the Tories’ “broken society”/”family” rhetoric, what would the adults in any 2 parent home that gets more than £26K a year in benefits do, when they face a cut back in their joint family benefits? Split up their household, obviously. One parent would move out, take a property and collect their own income. Which would be capped at 26k. Another £26K

So, it would be much better financially for reasonably well-paid parents to cut the amount of work they do, so that they don’t risk their earnings going over the cut-off point. It would be much better for the handful of people who get more-than-derisory welfare benefits to keep two homes at the taxpayer’s expense than one.

The Tories claim that they are going to cut public money, discourage idleness and strengthen the “family.”

The likely outcomes seem to be the exact opposite. Aren’t these “welfare reforms” going to involve paying out public money to reward idleness in the rich and to split up poor families?

————————————————————
* There are many other words that could be defined by a picture of George Osborne’s face. I am feeling too polite to list them. Plus, several of them might stop you being able to read this blog in work.
**If that was the real objective, surprisingly, it turns out that there is already a mechanism for redistribution. It’s called direct taxation.

Not paying enough attention

I only registered the existence of a new UK ID promotion centre after a comment here from Grumpy Bob led me to his blog. I must start paying attention. Just when you think that the ID nonsense is dead, it pops up again, Whack-a-mole style.

Here’s the Guardian version of the story.

This organisation – which claims to represent a non-zero number of scientists – is organising a UK tour featuring Michael Behe. (or “Prof Mike Behe, Professor of Chemistry at Lehigh University, USA,” as they chummily put it.)

There are huge numbers of comments on the Guardian piece, most of which make excellent points. Yet again.

On the Guardian blog page, you can’t miss the shot of the smiling avuncular Dr Alistair Noble, who has plenty of form in this area. You may however overlook this:

The small print of the website says the centre’s activity “is organised under a charitable trust governed by the laws of Guernsey, Channel Islands.
The centre receives funding from individuals and organisations who support its aims… “. (From the Guardian)

Channel Islands. Odd choice of a banking institution for a Scottish lay preacher. Must make it quite a trek to pay in the pennies contributed by enthusiastic individuals…

…Noble denies that the centre is a British branch of Discovery: “We are friends with Discovery and we talk to them, but we are not formally linked. We would be interested in developing links with Europe. We don’t get money from America – it is funded from Britain.” (From the Guardian)

Well, we wouldn’t know about that, would we? What with the trust being set up in the Channel Islands?