Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image


The secret to successful negotiation is for both sides to come away satisfied, feeling that they got what they wanted.

Take the Iran nuclear deal, Obama and Kerry wanted a deal, any deal, and the Iranians wanted to carry on developing nuclear weapons with minimum interference. If the Iranians could get away with making the American government look like sycophantic lickspittles, well, so much the better.

See, each side did get what they wanted. We have satisfaction all round and a thoroughly successful negotiation.

Dark green jackets and black buttons – liberty and voluntary service can defeat Collectivist tyranny.

This day of evil is finally drawing to a close. The leftists in Paris may well have (as they do every year) slaughtered a pig – as part of their celebration of the treacherous betrayal (“come out – we promise you and your men safe conduct”) and savage murder of the Governor of an old fortress in Paris – a fortress in which there were seven (7) prisoners, none of whom were there for their political opinions.

Thus the left celebrate the principles of the left. Treachery, robbery (for the real goal of the operation was to steal weapons and other goods) and murder.

Soon all of France was to be convulsed in mass robbery (of the Church – and of many ordinary people who were far from “aristocratic”) and the murder of hundreds of thousands of people (see the works of William Doyle and others). And Europe was to be convulsed by the designs of the French Revolutionaries to bring the collectivist doctrines of Rousseau to power everywhere. His idea that the Law Giver knows the “General Will”, better than the individual persons themselves, so (in Marxist fashion) people have to be “forced to be free” against their false consciousness. If need be robbed and slaughtered – for their own good. And with their own consent – as their cries of protest (and screams of pain) are but mental confusion, not what they “really” believe.

The French Revolution does not show the danger of taking liberty too far – because it was not about liberty, it was about power. The Revolutionaries talked of liberty – but they lied, as followers of Rousseau tend to do (using their words as a mist to blind the unwary).

Paper money (forced on people on the pain of death), theft of property, the murder of the innocent (of all levels of society) – these were and are the principles of the French Revolution. Its criminal lust for unlimited power (not just in France – but over the world) under the mask of “liberty”, which destroyed the rule-of-law and the security of persons and possessions.

People who cried for religious tolerance (in fact granted by Louis XVI years before), and practiced religious persecution – of the most savage kind.

People who cried for the end of serfdom (largely unknown in France for centuries), and an end to torture (“putting the question” had actually already been abolished in French Roman Law), but actually introduced serfdom to the state, and reintroduced torture (in all its forms).

These were the French Revolutionaries – if one judges them by their deeds, or even looks carefully at the meaning of their words (rather than the nice sound the words make).

But let us leave the Rousseau evil of the Revolutionaries aside – and turn to more hopeful things, dark green jackets and black buttons…….

Sir William Stewart (Colonel Stewart) in 1799 (some ten years after the Revolution started – and after its forces had overwhelmed most of Europe with vast slaughter) published his thoughts on “light infantry”.

People who fought as individuals and in small groups – but could (if worked with correctly) help defeat vast enemy forces.

Colonel Stewart studied the Croats who had resisted (for the Hapsburgs) the invasions of the Ottomans – for centuries. Helping hold back the forces of despotism (that recognised no rule-of-law, no protection of property rights from the state) that might otherwise have destroyed Europe.

He also studied the mountain people of the Tyrol – famous for both their individualism and their loyal service (there is no contradiction – the people of Eastern Tennessee are much the same in these aspects, Southerners who supported human freedom over tribalism in the 1860s and have supported the elephant over the donkey ever since ).

The great revolt of Andreas Hofer – the innkeeper turned leader of the “Reactionary” forces of the Tyrol was yet to come (but the spirit had been known for centuries).

Hofer opposed the takeover of the Tyrol by Bavaria – not the relatively conservative place we know today, but then an ally of Revolutionary France and ruled by the bureaucrat (and rumoured ally of the illuminated ones) M. Von Montegelas – a man who made a great show of “abolishing serfdom” (actually just a few old rituals by this time in Bavaria) whilst actually introducing serfdom – both for children (via his system of compulsory state brainwashing of the young) and adults (via mass conscription). Nothing (not Church property, or even other countries, if they were small and weak – he was not a man of great courage ) was safe from Montegelas, a sort of “mini me” Napoleon. And Bavaria was backed by the vast forces of France.

Andreas Hofer eventually lost and was killed – famously giving the order to fire at his own execution. But the idea of light infantry is sound – it just can not win major wars on its own.

Nor should the experience of the North American wars, against the French and some Indian tribes, and against the American colonists, be forgotten. The “King’s Rifles” had already been born – although still in red jackets….

Sir William Stewart was supported by Colonel Manningham (Equerry to the King) and in 1800 the Rifle Corps (the 95 regiment of foot) was born.

It was the first British infantry regiment since the Civil War to have green uniforms – I recently went to a Civil War re enactment, and whilst everybody raves over the red uniforms of the New Model Army (red because the dye was cheap), but there is something about dark green uniforms against the green fields and woods (and not just of England). Yes it is camouflage – but it is more than that, but I lack the gift of words to explain what I mean.

People will be familiar with the exploits of “the Rifles” from such things as the “Sharpe” novels – but the basic message is historically accurate and simple to state.

By out fighting French skirmishers (not so well trained, or so well TRUSTED, and armed with muskets not Baker rifles) British skirmishers – fighting as individuals and in small groups, were able to help change battles (and thereby help change wars). Negate some of the advantage of the enemy in numbers – and cause confusion and chaos among French (and other) armies that were organised as vast masses of conscripts.

The forces “equality and fraternity” could be defeated by the forces of liberty. Skill, creative thought, and voluntary service.

Those men in dark green jackets with black buttons have (under various names of regiment) fought in many wars since then – surprising people who assume that the British army is a force of robots who do not fight as individuals and in small groups, and who can not think without detailed orders.

Their story is little known – and the reader should look it up for themselves.

Cartoon of the Week.

Matt cartoon, July 11

Learning to pickpocket grandma


That reminds me… my parents don’t have to have a licence because they’re over 70. Don’t know why; presumably even the government realises pensioners would balk at £150 a year for Dickinson’s Real Deal and reruns of Murder, She Wrote. Anyway, I’ll bet they won’t get let off the TV component of the Council Tax.

@Sam Duncan

Not for much longer Sam, it appears that the BBC are about to take lessons from OXFAM in terms of screwing money from the elderly:

The BBC is to urge pensioners to voluntarily give up their free licence fee to save the corporation and protect their favourite programmes.

The BBC is to ask the over-75s to opt out of their entitlement to free licence fees, hinting that it will help secure the future of television or radio programmes.

A senior executive at the corporation said the elderly will be invited to pay at least £145.50 each year to the “cost of the BBC’s services” after it takes over responsibility for funding free licence fees in the years to come.

James Heath, director of policy at the BBC, said: “We will give those eligible households an opportunity to voluntarily pay for a TV licence and so make a contribution to the cost of the BBC’s services.”

BBC urges pensioners to voluntarily give up free licence fee

Various “charities” have no qualms extracting cash from those with dementia. An Oxfam spokesman said:

“Our agencies have clear, regulated policies that help strike the appropriate balance between enabling people with dementia to live as full a life as possible, including supporting their favourite charity, and protecting them from the vulnerability caused by dementia.”

Charities hounding people on official ‘no-call’ list

The argument put forward by the “charities” being that the telephone chuggers are trained to support callers with dementia and not exploit them for commission.

Yeah. Right.

Three cheers for Jeremy Corbyn

Comrade Jeremy Corbyn

There are four people vying to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader following the party’s worst election result for almost 30 years.

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary is seen as the frontrunner followed by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper. Liz Kendall, seen as the Blairite candidate, has struggled to build support.

But Mr Corbyn, who only got on the ballot paper after a campaign to ‘widen the debate’ is now seen to be building a head of steam with his call for a sharp move to the left.

His policies include the introduction of a Soviet-style ‘planned economy’, unilateral nuclear disarmament, open door immigration and the creation of a united Ireland.

Mr Corbyn has secured the backing of the powerful Unite union, which bankrolls Labour, and is second in the latest league table of constituency Labour Party branches.

Some 28 constituencies are backing Mr Corbyn not far behind Mr Burnham on 33.

But his success has stunned senior Labour figures who fear a repeat of the 1983 election when Michael Foot led the party into an electoral disaster.

Jeremy Corbyn leaps into second place in race for Labour leadership supporters

They say you shouldn’t interrupt an enemy when he’s making a mistake, but a term under the unelectable Corbyn might just be enough to tip Labour over the edge into the political abyss.

Interrupting an enemy is one thing, but how about a bit of political sabotage?

Harriet Harman: voters can pay £3 to help choose next Labour leader

Vote Comrade Corbyn to ensure a Labour wipe-out in 2020!

The icing on the gay wedding cake

Bake My Damned Cake

I was born 56 days after homosexuality was legalised in the UK for consenting men over the age of 21 behind the privacy of closed doors, but while growing up, was painfully aware that although being gay might be legal, it was barely tolerated by much of society.

Those of my friends that were “outed” (mostly after being caught in flagrante delicto), faced such a difficult time that they left home soon after, mostly for the more liberal city lights of London or Manchester.

I don’t recall ANY of the experiences being positive with shame, paternal anger and maternal disappointment being commonplace.

Then there was AIDS, so basically, not only were gays barely tolerated in law, they were also demonised by the intolerance of the reactionary right as not only sodomites, but corrupters of youth and spreaders of disease.

The British Social Attitudes Survey of 1987 showed that 75% of people considered homosexuality “mostly or always wrong” and only 11% of people considered homosexuality “not wrong at all” (a 6% decrease since 1983)

Into this heady mix, the Tory government under St. Margaret of Thatcher introduced Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, stating that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

The effect of this was to close down a lot of very small scale LGBT support groups run mostly by 10 Inner London Councils and make councillors and council staff very wary about formal dealings with the LGBT community.

The law itself was never used, but it set a moralistic tone that made it clear that although legally tolerated, homosexuality was to be disapproved of.

Under the circumstances you can see why I preferred to remain so far in the closet that I could see Narnia. :-)

The point of all of this is that it created an atmosphere in which homosexuals felt they were being persecuted and were forced to take action before yet more draconian legislation was enacted, thus gay rights and gay pride gradually became a thing and the pendulum began to swing the other way.

The problem is that it has gone too far.

Lets look at civil partnerships and “gay marriage” for example.

The original argument for civil partnerships was that married heterosexuals had benefits and legal protections that homosexual couples could not obtain (inheritance was a big issue) and civil partnerships were created to deal with that apparent ‘injustice’.

Personally I would have thought changing tax and inheritance laws to be neutral on the matter would have been preferable, or better still, the government getting out of the marriage business altogether, but that’s probably why I’m in IT rather than a constituency MP.

The fact that civil partnerships were purely for homosexual couples and marriage was purely for heterosexual couples just exaggerated the differences, especially since liberal faiths such as the Quakers were open to the idea of “marrying” homosexual couples, but were barred in law from doing so.

So to achieve the goal of enabling gay marriage the politicians have created a bunch of new laws and alternately alienated the religious right and the gay left.

Then we have the whole “gay cake” fiasco which gradually drags its way through the courts and will probably end up in the UK Supreme Court before too long. Although I sympathize with those suffering genuine discrimination a refusal to make a cake with a politicised message on it isn’t discrimination, at most it is the right of a business to refuse service.

The case shares similarities with the Christian B&B owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull who were happy to have a gay couple as guests, but not to share the same room. While their views might be outdated and moralistic, I have no problem with them holding and expressing them. I wouldn’t use their B&B though either and people refusing them custom because of their views is a far more powerful and appropriate sanction than going to court.

The pendulum of public opinion has swung in favour of homosexuals being given equal treatment, but they are still only a minority of 1-to-3% of the population and if LGBT activists persist in silencing dissenters and using legislation to force those who do not share their viewpoint to propagandise it then the pendulum of public opinion will swing against them once more.

Maurice Mcleod

 This is discrimination…(against Paddy, Winston and Saffie)

Bert and Ernie Gay Cake

Refusing to produce this cake was not discrimination…


Sowell’s Columns Based on a Trick

Commenter TacitusX observes Sowell’s chicanery:

I’ve decided that Thomas Sowell’s columns are just based on a trick. If you use reason, logic, empirical evidence, and common sense, of course your arguments are going to sound stronger than your opponent’s.

The Greek Tragedy – of “This Is What Democracy Looks Like”.

Savage mobs celebrating the wild “Social Justice” victory of the “will of the people” over the greedy Jewish “banksters” (whether it is in National Socialist Germany, or the Argentina of President Peron, or modern Greece) are not the only face of democracy – it can have a non “Occupy” face (a democracy that REJECTS the politics of “help the poor” by bankruptcy – the politics of the Black Flag, “Golden Dawn” as well as the Red Flag socialists of Greece), the face of a conservative Swiss Canton or a conservative New Hampshire township is also a face of democracy – a face that REJECTS the Black Flag and the Red Flag of “Occupy” types.

However, too often, democracy is about politicians (such as President Peron or Mr Hitler) promising the people easy solutions – “you can have everything you want – if you support ME”, no need to pay for anything, “the rich” and “big business” will pay.

This has been the destruction of democracy since the time of Pericles (the real destroyer of Ancient Athens) – all too often voters have opted for the easy path, the path of “Social Justice” of government “help the poor” and blame everything on “the rich” – particularly if “the rich” are “aliens”.

The “libertarian left” can play no games this time. They can not blame “war” (Greece has not been at war for more than 60 years), and they can not blame “high interest rates” – indeed artificially LOW interest rates have kept this farce going for many years longer than a hard money (not “gold standard” – but real gold-as-money) free market world would have tolerated.

The government spending and public services promised by Greek governments for many years are impossible – the out of control Welfare State ends up eating itself (eating the people – even as they cheer).

But it is no different in Puerto Rico, or Chicago, or California or…….

I often disagree with the late “Sage of Baltimore”, he was often wrong – but he was also often right.

And he was telling the truth when he said……

“Democracy is the system by which people get to ask for what they want, and they deserve to get it – GOOD AND HARD”.

The Greek people have voted for the wild spending (that has led to their 340 billion Euro debt) to continue – they have voted for their own destruction, and the minority must (sadly) suffer along with the majority And if they think they have suffered already – they have a terrible shock coming.

But Americans also opted for the easy path – in 1936 and 1964 they rejected any retreat from the path to destruction.

Ronald Reagan promised cuts in “waste and corruption” – utterly missing the point.

As long as democracy means “free stuff for the voters” (it need NOT mean that – if people are more like John Adams than Pericles, thrift, hard work and self denial, rather than lovely speeches and wild promises) then not just Greece is doomed.

We are all doomed.

Democracy and Racism Explained


An illegal immigrant kid asks his mother, “Mama, what’s Democracy and what’s Racism?”

“Well, son, Democracy is when the UK tax payers work every day so that we can get all of the benefits that we do, you know like free housing, free health care, more welfare payments than UK pensioners, and on and on, you know …. lots of things like that, that’s what they call Democracy”.

“But mama, don’t the UK tax payers get pissed off about that?”

“Sure they do, but that’s called Racism!”

–Found on the Internet, originator unknown.

Happy July 4th.

And I mean Happy – in spite of all that follows, as such things as the Declaration of Independence (or parts of it) and, especially, the Bill of Rights deserve to be honoured. The world stands of falls by the fate of the American Bill of Rights – that really is the truth.

The first American Independence Day that sticks in my memory was that of 1976 – the 200 anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Millions of people were being murdered by the Communists in Indo China (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam), but at least “the war was over” as far as the United States was concerned (for the Boat People and so on it was rather different). No conscription any more – and no wild inflation either (unlike Britain), sit back in 1976 and watch all those television shows set in California – which, in those days, was part of the United States (rather than Mexico and the rest of the Third World), although California was already in decline – Governor Moonbeam was busy unionising government work. By way Governor Moonbeam is back as Governor again. Now he is as bald as I am, but he clings to the ideas of his youth – as I suppose (in a very different way) I do also.

Richard Nixon was out of the Whitehouse (although he had done nothing that the media had not winked at when Johnson, Kennedy and Roosevelt did it) and the bumbling, but decent, Gerald Ford was President. America was at peace – overseas, and (to some extent) with itself (although violent crime in the cities, such as New York, was out of control – an evil fruit of 1960s “liberalism”).

And segregation was finally over in the South – the final holdouts, big spending Democrat populists Lester Maddox in Georgia and Governor Wallace in Alabama having gone or given way. Not that the Democratic party had given up racial groups politics – it had just gone over to promising stuff to black people because they were black, rather than to white people because they were white. As that charming man President Johnson said about his welfare schemes and “civil rights” laws – “now the niggers will vote for us for a hundred years”.

The idea of not appealing to people on the basis of rich-versus-poor or black-versus-white being alien to the Democrats. The central observation of Classical Liberalism, that the long term interests of “rich” and “poor” (or of people in different racial groups) are THE SAME, escaping the modern Democrats. Although President Grover Cleveland seems to have understood – although he neglected to impress his Southern colleagues with this point. Hard though it may be believe now – but in the 19th century the New York State Democratic Party (not the Democratic Party as a whole) was the more free market of the two major parties.

Although there was a major reduction in the size of government under President Grant, Grant did not campaign on that basis – his was more of a “vote for me – I am General Grant” campaign (rather like Ike in 1952 and 1956), indeed the first Republican to campaign and win on the basis of reducing the size and scope of government was Warren Harding in 1920 (and he did it – Harding is perhaps the most unfairly attacked President in American history, in reality he was a sincere anti big government man and a sincere defender of black people against lynching and other persecution).

In 1876 (not 1976) the Republicans were the party of tariffs (although not the “Liberal Republicans” , “liberal” meaning almost the reverse of what it does now, who were free traders). This was the time of President Grant and the “Gilded Age”.

An age that is rightly denounced for its corruption – but the good side of the hundredth anniversary of American independence is often forgotten.

Taxation was low (no income tax or corporation tax) and so was government spending – sorry “libertarian left” but “Corporate Welfare” is a lot less expensive that welfare-for-all (which does NOT make “Corporate Welfare” right). The Welfare State (created in two stages – 1930s [some of the 1930s stuff was actually repealed in the late 1940s - the glorious "Do Nothing Congress" elected in 1946] and 1960s and then left to grow and grow) was not in existence.

Also blacks were not subject to the full force of “Jim Crow” law in 1876 – but soon the United States army was to be withdrawn from the South and the KKK and the “Redshirts” (and other Democrat armed terror groups) were to take back power in the South. Take back by power by threats and by murder – both of black people and of white people who opposed the terror groups.

Not only was (not “was not”) the Civil War about slavery – especially its expansion (the Charles Beard, Woodrow Wilson, Murray Rothbard “economic class conflict” historical theory is wrong). But the war did not really end in 1865 – the Southern “Bourbon” Democrats (who looked down on the KKK and the Redshirts – but did little to stop their activities) may have had some regard for private property rights (of white people) but leftist Democrats such as Governor Bilbo of Miss combined vicious racism (and anti Semitism) with a hatred of “big business” and a fanatically faith in government (in his own wise hands of course) to do good for “the poor”, “the little guy”, “the workers” (the ancient lie that goes back all the way to Pericles).

Almost needless to say the real causes of Southern poverty – the corrupt and arbitrary nature of power (government and armed private groups) that discouraged private investment and capital accumulation (the “capital” of the old South had been largely human) were not taught – then or now. Any more than many Southern Democrats being IN FAVOUR of “gun control” is taught – I hope the reader can work out which people these Democrats wanted not to be allowed to own firearms.

Even as late as the 1960s the father of Condi Rice had to drive off a Klan attack on his home with a rifle – and the local Church was bombed by the Klan (and some childhood friends of Condi were killed) – the modern South of such people as Senator Tim Scott was, as yet, far in the future even in 1976.

In the future – or in the past, as there had been black United States Senators and Governors before (in the brief period that came to an end in 1876). But the time was not right – and, to be blunt, people were often not really either. Although white politicians were often just as wild spending as black ones – in the post Civil War chaos.

Eastern Tennessee has remained constant since the 1860s – Republican (and the right sort of Republican), rejecting both racial politics and class (“rich versus poor” politics).

And the Bill of Rights? If you need me to tell you why they are important (to the world – not just the United State), you will have to wait for another time (this means – work it out for yourself, they are the essence of limited government, of universal principles not dependent on time or place).

I am tired. It is not 1976 – I am old. For individual people grow old – and die. Only principles live on.

The man is mad

“Having thought about this a great deal, and for more years than I care to remember, it seems to me that if we are to achieve different outcomes to the ones toward which we are presently headed, then we will absolutely need a different kind of economy to get there,” he said.

“Governments will have to set targets, signal the direction of travel and create the fiscal conditions necessary for attracting the right kind of finance towards the correct priorities. Those who run our financial systems and lead our companies will need to develop strategies and work together for successful implementation. And citizens across the world will need to understand why change is necessary,” he added.

Ok, so HRH the Prince of Wales has finally broken cover and revealed himself as full on fascist.

He is proposing a societal model, a relationship between the government, commerce and the people, which would have been familiar to and supported by his grand uncle, and, like him, should be offered the governorship of the Bahamas as the limit of his future advancement.

What is going on?

What is it with this defence of the symbols of the Confederacy?

It is unquestionable, at least, I hope, to the people who visit this site and others similar, that we know and understand history, and reject the determination shown by so much of the progressive left to impose their views on all of us. However, contrary to Gerald Warner writing on Breitbart the Confederate flag does not proclaim a glorious heritage.

Many men and women sacrificed and died for that flag, and the country and constitution for which it stood, but not one of them sacrificed in a glorious cause. It is argued that the Civil War was fought for the protection of States Rights, and this is true at a superficial level, but The Confederacy was established for the purpose of protecting and promoting the right of one man to own, purchase and sell other men, treating with and disposing of them as livestock. As such it was an enterprise entirely without merit and no measure of valour on the part of its supporters is deserving of celebration.

Instead of defending this symbol of mans contempt for other men, libertarians and conservatives should be demanding the Democrats explain their one hundred and sixty years of association with not just this flag, but everything it represents. We should demand they disassociate themselves from their entire race obsessed history.

Why aren’t we holding them to their own standards, and going Alinsky on their asses?

Instead, so many of those who claim to speak on our side are, yet again, giving them a free pass.

Get your ass to Mars

Phobos Base

“Mars is possible, and in a time horizon of interest,” Hoppy Price, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said May 20 during a presentation with the space agency’s Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group. “It could happen in our lifetime, and it wouldn’t take a trillion dollars to do it.”

This effort would require four launches of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket, which is currently in development and is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2018.

The first Phobos-oriented SLS launch, in 2029, would loft a space tug and two chemical-propulsion payloads — a Phobos Transfer Stage and a Trans-Earth Injection Stage. The tug would use solar-electric propulsion (SEP) to haul the two payloads to Mars orbit in just less than four years. (The team’s concept requires no big breakthroughs in propulsion technology or other areas, Price said.)

A second SLS liftoff would carry another SEP tug and the Phobos base, which could support a crew of four. The tug would take the base to Phobos and deposit it on the moon’s surface, then stay with the habitat to provide power and move it to different locations on Phobos if desired.

The third SLS launch, around 2032, would carry a deep-space habitat (with the same basic design as the Phobos base) and a Mars Orbit Insertion Stage to Earth orbit. Another SLS liftoff would then send NASA’s Orion capsule and a crew of four up to meet this preplaced gear, which would help take the astronauts to Mars orbit in a journey lasting 200 to 250 days.

A Manned Mission to Mars: How NASA Could Do It

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of a landing on Mars and indeed human colonisation thereof (if it’s worth colonising), but I suspect that NASA’s bureaucrat heavy costing model and desire for ‘big new kit’ is essentially the problem here.

If we put the entrepreneurs in charge instead of the bureaucrats I suspect we could get a mission to Phobos by 2025 and landing on Mars soon thereafter.

We already have a marshalling yard and habitation module in orbit in the form of the ISS. Simply build the interplanetary components of the cargo and habitation units on earth in a modular form and powered by electric motors and boost them into space using the SpaceX Falcon Heavy alongside the ISS with a limited final assembly in orbit alongside the ISS.

At next opposition (when Mars and Earth are closest) fire them to Phobos so that food, water and habitation are ready and waiting for astronauts upon their arrival and we can test and monitor equipment remotely. Do the same with the Phobos-Mars descent/ascent vehicle.

The speed of the journey here is not critical so it doesn’t matter if it takes 18-months to get there as long as they are operational before the astronauts depart the ISS.

Then do the same for the ISS/Phobos shuttle with the crew module and powered by a multi-megawatt Vasimr engine capable of reaching Mars at opposition in 40/50 days.

The ISS/Phobos shuttle would be completely reusable as none of the components would be subject to damage by atmospheric re-entry albeit a chemical powered Phobos descent/ascent module would probably be necessary.

All of the technology to do this is available today (albeit both the  Vasimr engine and Phobos-Mars descent/ascent vehicle require more work, this could be undertaken during the preparation phase for the Phobos habitation module.

All of the above could be achieved for a fraction of the current NASA proposals for MARS and in less than half the time. The ISS/Phobos shuttle could be reused to support a genuine space base on Phobos (transiting at every opposition) and the ISS would have a genuine purpose.

P.S. – Currently reading Andy Weir’s The Martian. :-)


Lord Hall’s Dirty Little Secret

Council Tax bill 2013/2014 for property dwelling band F with 25% discount for sole adult resident

Hat tip to the TV Licensing blog

Speaking on BBC1′s the Andrew Marr Show, Lord Hall also said a “household tax” – as proposed by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee – is a “very interesting idea”.

He added there is broad agreement for the licence fee to be reformed to ensure “everyone is paying equally for it and I would go along with that”.

BBC boss Tony Hall says TV licence fee will last another 10 years

Some will find Lord Hall’s admission that there is no long-term future for the UK’s antiquated “Telly Tax” a refreshing volte-face from the BBC Chief, but the reality is that he needs to protect BBC revenues as well as addressing growing criticism of how TV Licensing operates, specifically:

  • The regressive nature of the TV License which, at an annual cost of £145.50 ($230 USD, $300 AUD) disproportionately affects the poor as it relates to households rather than income.
  • For non-compliant households (both scoff-laws and “TV Refuseniks” who genuinely don’t require a license), sending out threatening letters and visits by Capita goons generates endless bad PR.
  • Those jailed for non-payment of court imposed fines for TV License evasion are primarily poor women (a staggering 73% of all TV License related convictions)

So it is for these reasons, as well as a desire to silence those proposing a mixed public-service/subscription only model, that Lord Hall is suddenly open and honest about the need for change. In fact I suspect that “revenue neutrality” will be the foundation stone, but that will be revenue neutral from the BBC’s perspective – not the “hard-working families” who have to pay for the BBC’s largess.

The model that Lord Hall is proposing is a “Household Tax” and he is suggesting that it be simply added as a line item on Council Tax bills across the nation. Councils would then remit the money to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – which then sends the bulk of that money directly to the BBC (less some smaller scale payments to other media companies for their public service commitments)

On the face of it, since the “Telly Tax” is essentially a household tax anyway (save for those ½ million-or-so “TV Refuseniks”), so bundling it as a £145.50 line item within the Council Tax would mean:

  • All costs associated with TV License collection would be eliminated (about £100 million per annum) along with the bad PR associated with threatening letters, visiting Capita goons and those poor women jailed for non-payment of court imposed fines for TV License evasion.
  • Collection would revert to local councils, so any refusal to pay would be classified as Council Tax rather than TV License related evasion.
  • The ½ million or so “TV Refuseniks” would be forced to pay regardless as I suspect ”not watching TV as it is broadcast” would cease to be a valid reason to refuse payment. This is a growing problem for the BBC and would “Send the right message” (as in “Fuck you – pay me.”)

However, the one thing which this approach would not deal with (or at least not on the surface), is the accusation that “a fixed fee of £145.50 disproportionately affects the poor”. Here I expect that the provisions covering Council Tax Reduction (previously known as Council Tax Benefit), will be extended to include the TV License component.

So if those in receipt of a Council Tax Reduction are no longer actually paying the cost of their TV License then who will? If your answer to that particular rhetorical question was “Muggins ‘ere”, then I suspect you are correct. :-)

Given a “Revenue Neutral” approach (from the BBC’s perspective), any shortfall would have to be made up from an increase in either general taxation (income tax, etc.) or Council Tax.

Given that the OECD classifies the TV License as “a hypothecated tax for the purpose of funding public broadcasting“, neither approach would increase the overall tax versus GDP (one of Chancellor George “Gideon” Osborne favourite metrics), but I expect the new legislation preventing increases in general taxation to be used to add it onto the Council Tax bill.

Thus those eponymous “hard working families” who actually pay their Council Tax bills in full will be paying a hidden and unknown  element to cover those who can’t pay / won’t pay.

Now you can see why Lord “Marxist” Hall is in favour of a “Household Tax” as it has the potential to solve all his current problems…Except BBC profligacy and left-wing bias obviously.

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