We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Jeremy Corbyn’s heart really is not in this Remain business, is it?

Jeremy Corbyn admits Britain cannot put a ceiling on immigration while in the EU

Asked on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show if there was any kind of upper limit to the numbers coming into Britain, he said: “I don’t think you can have one while you have a free movement of labour – and I think the free movement of labour means that you have to balance the economy so you have to improve living standards and conditions.

“And so that means the EU’s appalling treatment of Greece… that is a problem. If you deliberately lower living standards and increase poverty in certain countries in south-east or eastern Europe then you’re bound to have a flow of people looking for somewhere else to go.”

I do not know what “balance the economy” means and I doubt Mr Corbyn does either. But at least he is not a weasel like Cameron. In a TV appearance allegedly aimed at persuading us to vote to stay in the European Union he resignedly says that the main claim of the other side regarding the most hotly contested issue, immigration, is correct. Then he says that the EU’s treatment of one of its member states is “appalling” and deliberately aimed at lowering living standards. Why he wants to stay in a union that wants to impoverish people is a mystery… or it would be, if he did.

My sunken hopes rise a little, given added lift by the fact that the dear old Guardian had this story on the front page for about a minute and a half before someone realised. It now can only be found if you already know it is there. For its part the BBC has clipped the key words off the beginning of the relevant clip from its own programme. Mr Corbyn answered a straightforward question in a straightforward fashion. That media organizations in favour of Remain seek to hide this rather than boast of it speaks volumes.

Drug legalization is becoming an acceptable view among the elite

Amid the blanket news coverage of the EU referendum and the murder of Jo Cox, it went almost unnoticed that a major report from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) called for drug decriminalization in the UK.

The Times, still seen as the Voice of the Establishment, came out in support:

Breaking Good

Would it ever make sense to jail a chain-smoker for smoking or an alcoholic for touching drink? On the basis that the answer is no, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is urging the government to decriminalise the personal possession and use of all illegal drugs. This is radical advice, but also sound. Ministers should give it serious consideration.

Not that long ago Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, said it was time to legalize drugs. I hope this trend continues.

Jo Cox, RIP

This morning I was joking about how gloriously dotty yet reassuring yesterday’s “naval battle” between rival Leave and Remain flotillas on the Thames outside the Houses of Parliament was. This afternoon I learned that one of those on the Remain boat, Jo Cox, Labour MP for Batley and Spen, was murdered just outside her constituency surgery. She leaves behind a husband and two young children.

I am too depressed to make a post with links. There is no shortage of commentary and speculation on the internet. A man has been arrested and no other suspects are being sought.

May she rest in peace.

British aid money goes as a reward to a killer of children

This is no flight of rhetoric. It is literally true. British aid money also goes to reward the killer of a British woman. These payments aren’t incidental: their purpose is to reward the killers for the killing.

Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley North (undeclared on the Brexit issue, in case you’re interested) has written an article for Labour List about some of what Britain’s foreign aid is actually spent on.

British aid feeds 25 million under-fives. It supports midwives, nurses and doctors so 4.3 million babies can be born safely.
Our aid spending helped tackle Ebola in Africa. It feeds the starving, helps refugees and provides jobs.
It builds stronger economies around the world. It helps the poorest countries tackle the most desperate poverty.

It does all that and so much more. And we should be very proud of it.

But it also funds terrorists. And that obscures and undermines all the good work it does.

That’s why this week Parliament debated whether Britain should have an international aid budget at all. You might not be aware of it, since it was prompted by a petition in the Daily Mail, which is hardly the in-house reading of choice around these parts.

Like other Labour MPs, I’ll be speaking up in support of our aid budget, but I’ll also be calling for our money to be used to promote peace, not reward terrorism.

Last week four people were murdered when terrorists opened fire in a Tel Aviv cafe.

People in Britain will be horrified by the deliberate, indiscriminate murder of civilians. There can be no justification. But they will be appalled that the two murderers could now be eligible for government salaries – paid for by international aid money from Britain.

Mary Gardner, a Scottish visitor to Israel, died five years ago when terrorists bombed a bus stop. Hassin Qawasme, who led the attack, has been paid almost £14,000 since his arrest.

Amjad and Hakim Awad, killed Ehud and Ruth Fogel and their three children aged 11, four and just three months in 2011. Since then it’s estimated that Amjad alone has been paid up to £16,000 from PA funds.

Emphasis added. A Guardian article by Edwin Black from November 2013 has more about these payments:

When a Palestinian is convicted of an act of terror against the Israeli government or innocent civilians, such as a bombing or a murder, that convicted terrorist automatically receives a generous salary from the Palestinian Authority.

For the second time in history, a surgical operation with a 300% mortality rate

Robert Liston was a nineteenth century Scottish surgeon known as “the fastest knife in the West End … at a time when speed was essential to reduce pain and improve the odds of survival of a patient; he is said to have been able to perform the removal of a limb in an amputation in 28 seconds.” A man of strong character and ethics, who did not hesitate to help render his own rare skill obsolete by performing the first operation under anaesthesia in Europe, over his entire career he saved many lives. But sometimes things didn’t work out so well. As recorded by the deadpan Richard Gordon in Great Medical Disasters:

Amputated the leg in under 2 1⁄2 minutes (the patient died afterwards in the ward from hospital gangrene; they usually did in those pre-Listerian days). He amputated in addition the fingers of his young assistant (who died afterwards in the ward from hospital gangrene). He also slashed through the coat tails of a distinguished surgical spectator, who was so terrified that the knife had pierced his vitals he dropped dead from fright. That was the only operation in history with a 300 percent mortality.

Now to our own times. Whatever the result of the EU referendum, George Osborne has in one swift operation destroyed his own career, made the split in his own Conservative party irrevocable, and stuck a knife in the vitals of the Labour party and left it there for anyone to twist.

One down:

Osborne warns of Brexit budget cuts

George Osborne says he will have to slash public spending and increase taxes in an emergency Budget to tackle a £30bn “black hole” if the UK votes to leave the European Union.
The chancellor will say this could include raising income and inheritance taxes and cutting the NHS budget.

Two down:

Tory MPs threaten to block Osborne’s post-Brexit budget

George Osborne is facing an extraordinary challenge to his authority as chancellor from 57 Conservative MPs, who are threatening to block his emergency budget of tax rises and spending cuts if Britain votes to leave the EU.

Three down:

The Labour Party, officially for Remain, will be asked to state whether it will support or oppose George Osbourne’s proposed austerity-plus budget. How will it answer?

Over his entire career Liston did far more good than harm. Desperate people camped out in his waiting room because however great the danger of going under his knife it was safer than going under anyone else’s. I wonder what will be said of Osbourne.

*

Update: According to Guido, Corbyn will oppose Osbourne’s proposed post-Brexit austerity budget. Labour has kept its anti-austerity credibility at the cost of effectively making a public statement that Brexit wouldn’t be so bad. With opposition from Labour plus the 57 Tory MPs plus those in other parties who would also oppose, Osborne’s budget is stillborn. As you were, folks. Which for both parties means bitterly divided. To have made a threat and have it shown to be empty within hours will not help the Remain campaign – or the Conservative Party.

Gross distortions about EU funding

There have been objections made to the claim made by the Leave campaign that “we send the EU £350 million a week”. Apparently, depending on how one makes the calculation, the net sum we actually send the European Union each week is £248m or even as little as £136m. So that’s all right then.

Even I, a Leave supporter, agree that the claim is deceptive and unjustified. We may send that amount to the EU but you have to allow that the EU sends some of it back. Gross is different from net.

But isn’t that the same lie told by every one of those thousands of compulsory European Union “gratitude” plaques?

null

Project Part-Financed by the European Union
European Regional Development Fund
Which since Britain is a Net Contributor to the EU
Actually Means Financed by You

An odd argument for Remain

In order not to miss Record Review, essential Saturday morning listening for me, I have BBC Radio Three on as soon as I wake up on Saturday morning. BBC Radio Three interrupts itself from time to time with news bulletins, and on the most recent of these, at 8 am, I just heard a very strange argument from the Remainders.

Sir James Dyson, the vacuum cleaner maker, has just announced that he favours Brexit, the BBC news revealed. (The above link from another source confirms this announcement.) Brexit, Dyson says, would mean more jobs for Brits, or something along those lines. The “Remain Campaign”, I think that was the phrase, by which was meant the “Official” Remainder campaign, responded to Dyson’s announcement by saying that Dyson was wrong to back Brexit, and that he was wrong when, some years ago (I think the number was six but I don’t recall it exactly (LATER: sorry, SIXTEEN), he was … in favour of Britain joining the Euro. Which apparently Dyson was.

So, according to the logic of this particular Remainder argument, if you were once upon a time wrong in favouring Britain joining the Euro, you must now be wrong in your opinion about whether Britain should Leave or Remain in the EU as a whole, now.

But I am pretty sure that the overwhelming majority of those Brits who favoured the Euro in the past, are Remainders now. Dyson’s combination of positions is a very rare and anomalous one. He has changed his mind. He must have, because Britain can’t join the Euro and leave the EU. (Can it?) Much more common is the combination of views of having once upon a time favoured Britain joining the Euro (and perhaps still now favouring this), and of now favouring Britain remaining in the EU. The Euro is, after all, the core idea of the EU, around which all other EU policies circulate like mere planets around the sun.

So, if the Official Remainders now concede that Britain joining the Euro would have been a mistake, they must now concede that many of their now most prominent supporters were wrong about the Euro, and therefore wrong now, about Remaining.

LATER: Here is the BBC version of the story.

Britain Stronger in Europe said: “James Dyson wanted the UK to join the euro. He was wrong then and he is wrong now.”

This report goes into all the disappointments Dyson has had with EUro-law. See also some of the comments below.

Samizdata quote of the day

A long list of foreign leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have said they wanted Britain to stay in the bloc, but Gove dismissed those interventions, saying those leaders would never cede sovereignty in the way required of EU members.

“Don’t pay attention to what they say, pay attention to what they do,” he told the audience.

Gove also attacked U.S. banks Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, which have donated funds to the “Remain” campaign, saying they were doing very well out of the European Union and portraying them as part of an elite that cared little for ordinary people.

“Banks like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs said that Greece could enter the euro and they knew that that was wrong. Banks like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs spend millions lobbying the European Union in order to rig a market in their favour.”

Michael Gove

It’s a cold day in June

Incoming from the Adam Smith Institute:

Tax Freedom Day is four days later this year than last year, and the latest it has been for fifteen years.

For more of the grizzly details, go here.

We Brits now face choosing between a government that is raising taxes really quite fast, and an alternative government that would raise them a hell of a lot faster. Stagnation, or ruination. More about Tax Freedom Day here, and here.

The weather today, here in London where I sit, is really cold and grim and gloomy. Would that Tax Freedom Day, which is today, was now moving backwards towards some time like February, instead of us having to wait until June 3rd, which only feels like February.

Tunnel Vision – Switzerland vs the United Kingdom

If tunnel building were an Olympic support, I suspect that Switzerland would bestride the top step of the podium and its virtually unknown national anthem would blare out to the cheering crowd, thrilled by the culmination of a 20-year slog of building the Gotthard base tunnel, the world’s longest rail tunnel, which opens today, co-incidentally the anniversary of a British naval triumph against the French, the Glorious First of June (with those rebellious colonists being involved tangentially).

This twin-bore tunnel opened on time and within budget, and it runs level and almost straight through the varying geology of 35 miles of Swiss mountain, a fantastic achievement, but with sadly 9 deaths, but that seems very low over 20 years and 35 miles. If it can be traversed, per reports, in 17 minutes, that’s an average speed of over 120mph. The idea is to get lorries crossing the Alps through Switzerland off the Swiss roads. Switzerland is, of course, (along with Liechtenstein) surrounded by the European Union but outside it.

And meanwhile, as the Swiss literally give geology both barrels, in England, we have our glorious Channel Tunnel and the Channel Ports (as the Sage of Kettering relayed to me once ‘The problem with the Channel Tunnel is that it has a government at both ends.‘). Well, today a House of Commons committee has come up with a rather skeptical report about a new plan to cope with cross-Channel traffic. For those who do not drive in the South-East of England, there is a standing plan in place to cope with the vagaries of the joys of free movement of goods in the glorious European Union whenever the Channel Tunnel runs into a problem (e.g. when the French start horsing around, burning sheep etc.), called ‘Operation Stack’, where the Kent police close an entire motorway, the M20, and park lorries bound for the Continent on it pending the cessation of hostilities, typically a period of 5 days of so, when a major motorway becomes a lorry park, and to Hell with the locals.

part of the M20 was used 32 times last summer by queuing lorries – a process known as Operation Stack.

The British answer to this problem is, of course, to shell Calais and demand its return to English control (er, no), it is to build a 65 hectare lorry park at a cost of £250,000,000. This would be as big as Disneyland (the one in California) and bigger than the Vatican (a mere 44 hectares) and with the added bonus of no Pope. It will allow 4,000 lorries to be parked whilst the benighted lorry drivers await the restoration of normality. One might ask why each lorry space would cost £62,500 (c.$90,000 US)?

Do we see here cultural differences between the UK and Switzerland? The acceptance of failure and its normalisation, a tendency towards inflated cost and an attitude of weary resignation, against a positive can-do attitude that bulldozes through problems.

So why can’t we be like Switzerland?

Postscript: Eric’s comment indicates that the Swiss may not have been above a bit of creative accounting in completing the tunnel on time and in budget, for which I am grateful, I may have been misled by the BBC (which in Cyrillic was the acronym for the Soviet Army Airborne Forces, what a co-incidence).

VAT-ever next?

The Leave campaign have helpfully reminded the good people of the UK that if the UK were to leave the EU, it would be possible to eliminate VAT on domestic heating. This is one of many ills of the monstrous regime of Value Added Tax, which bring with it a gruesomely complex web of regulations and case law, quietly throttling economic activity throughout the EU.

In fact, if we left the EU, we would not need to have VAT at all. There would of course be an even bigger hole in the public finances without VAT revenue, but it would be an opportunity to simplify taxation, reduce rates and make an improvement to most people’s standard of living.

VAT was a modest 8% when Mrs Thatcher came to power, having promised not to double VAT, she allowed her Chancellor, Sir Geoffrey Howe, to hike VAT to 15%, which had been the plan all along.

The Conservatives secretly agreed plans for a “massive” increase in value-added tax from 8 to 15 per cent almost a year before the 1979 general election, party papers from the period, seen by the Independent, show.
The charge that the Tories would double VAT on taking office was levelled during the election campaign by the Prime Minister, James Callaghan, and other leading Labour figures. It was denied both by Margaret Thatcher, the leader of the Opposition, and byGeoffrey Howe, the shadow Chancellor, in a campaign in which the impact on prices of the Conservative’s declared plans to switch from direct to indirect taxation played a significant part.

Sir Geoffrey (now Lord Howe) declared: “We have absolutely no intention of doubling VAT.” The allegation was depicted as one of Labour’s “dirty dozen” lies in a Conservative press release.

But papers marked “secret” and circulated in numbered copies only show that proposals for a “massive” hike in VAT to 15 per cent or even 17.5 were canvassed in February 1978 by Lord Cockfield, a member of Sir Geoffrey’s economic team.

I recall reading musings in the press in the 1980s to the effect that moving from direct to indirect taxation was an improvement in terms of liberty. Now at least there is talk of removing some things from VAT.

Even in the dying days of the last Labour government, there was a backhanded acknowledgment that reducing taxes is good, when the rate of VAT was lowered from 17.5% to 15% for a year, (with howls of indignation from the Conservatives and Lib Dems) before it was hiked again to its current (Standard) rate of 20%. For some reason, as part of the ‘Single Market’, VAT has to be levied on goods and services in line with EU law at rates that seem to be between 17 and 27%. Quite how this helps free trade is, frankly, opaque.

However, as a rule of thumb, the crappier the government, the higher the VAT.

Brexit – the argument from confusion

A common complaint made by Remainers is that Brexiteers constantly say wrong things about what the EU actually does and actually demands. I recall an entire round of the TV quiz show QI, presided over by the lordly Stephen Fry, devoted to exposing such fabrications. Bendy bananas, rules about rubbish disposal, that kind of thing. I can’t recall what all the alleged EU meddlings – there were about half a dozen of them – were. But I do clearly recall the QI verdict that came at the end of the round. Which of these claims is true, and which false?, asked Fry, with a tremendous air of impartiality. All, he subsequently announced, were false. The Brexiteers just do not get their facts right. They are wrong about bendy bananas, etc. etc. Therefore, the clear implication followed, the Brexiteers are wrong about everything, and Britain should Remain, in the EU.

I don’t trust QI about things like this. At the very least, I suspect that several of these situations were more complicated than Fry said, but that is not my central point here. Even supposing that QI had got all its facts right, I assert that this sort of confusion, rampant on both sides of this argument rather than just on the one side, is a major fault of the EU itself, at least as much as it is a fault of those who criticise, or for that matter who praise, the EU. Such confusion is built into the very way that the EU operates.

Someone proposes some new EU rule or regulation. If it is vehemently objected to, the proposers pull back, often claiming as they retreat that they “never intended” what they intended and will have another go at doing later when the fuss has died down. If, on the other hand – as is much more usual – nobody objects, the rule or regulation goes through, with no discussion. No wonder nobody knows what the hell all these rules consist of. They consist of mostly of those rules that have never been objected to by anyone, and hence never even talked about by anyone, except those who proposed the rules and who will profit from them in some way.

The Remainers say that us Brexiteers should become better acquainted with all these rules, that have never been discussed.

I say that all this confusion, inherent in the nature of the EU and ineradicable, is yet another reason for Britain to (Br)exit.

Discuss. And while discussing, note that any disagreements concerning the facts of what the EU does will only serve to confirm how right I am.