Thursday, 29 September 2011

Christian Pastor Receives Death Sentence

Cranmer has raised a campaign which I think warrants considerable attention: a Christian pastor in Iran has been sentenced to death for apostasy, despite this being in breach of Iran's own constitution, and its obligations under international law.

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani
 
Pastor Nadarkhani is under threat of the death penalty unless he publicly recants his Christianity and re-affirms his Islamic faith. This kind of sentencing hasn't been seen in Europe since the Spanish Inquisition.

Predictably, however, because Pastor Nadarkhani is a Christian, nobody gives a shit. Twitter came alive last week when the US executed Troy Davis, a convicted murderer, but when Iran moves to execute a Christian simply for expressing his own faith in a Muslim country, nobody bats an eyelid.

I have e-mailed the Iranian Embassy to urge the Iranian Government to intervene in this case, acquit Nadarkhani of all charges and release him immediately. I ask everyone who reads this to do the same by clicking here. Nobody, regardless of who they are, should be persecuted for their religious beliefs.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

I Just Got a Mention by Norman Tebbit

I just got a mention by Norman Tebbit.

Thought I'd just share that with you all!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Science is a Theory

It has been widely reported that (subject to confirmation), researchers at CERN have managed to propel neutrinos (sub-atomic particles) faster than the speed of light. This is monumentally important, as Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, one of the fundamental cornerstones of the modern science, states that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. If Einstein were to be proven wrong, then a new, more accurate model of our understanding of the Universe is required.

Now, this makes me laugh. Does it ridicule the scientific establishment? Certainly not. Scientists continue to do what they have always done: postulate theories, and test them to destruction, before coming up with something better. No, this makes me laugh as it highlights a massive flaw in the arguments of some militant atheists.

Militant atheism contends that organised religion (particularly Christianity, because nobody complains about that) and its doctrines are fundamentally wrong. We are descended from apes. Evolution proves it. The Earth was not created by God. Relativity proves it. When I have pointed out that science is often not fact, simply a collection of theories that fit most of the facts, I have been derided as a creationist, a zealot and most ridiculously, a child abuser for putting my children into a Christian school.

And now, science has delightfully proven my point. One of the most fundamental theories of science appears to have been proven as incorrect. And therefore, not fact. If it is not fact, then it is opinion, or belief, backed up by empirical evidence, but belief nonetheless.

Clever chap, this one. And if he can't get it right, why should I believe some anti-Christian moron?

Is it therefore possible, with that inherent uncertainty that science presents, that science cannot explain everything? And that, in the gap that it cannot explain, there is a space for faith?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Capital Punishment

The Twitterverse came alive last night in protest about Troy Davis, convicted of murder and executed by lethal injection. The US was roundly condemned as barbaric for permitting the execution, with Davis's conviction largely based on eyewitness accounts, many of which have since been recanted. However, the decision was upheld unanimously by the 9 Justices of the US Supreme Court.

Now, I'm not going to weigh in on the merits of Davis's case, or indeed on the merits of the death penalty. My opinion on the death penalty is that I personally disagree with it. In the case of a miscarriage of justice, a fined man can be recompensed; a jailed man can be freed. A dead man cannot be resurrected. However, I am a democrat, and if a country has a democratic will that a death penalty is an appropriate form of punishment, then I will accept that.

However, I do find it vaguely ridiculous that the US has been singled out as particularly barbaric in this case. At the risk of coming across as a bit of a statist, the following table shows the 23 countries which Amnesty International have obtained information on executions from, the number of executions undertaken, the populations of the respective countries and the rate of execution. The table has been ordered according to this rate.


Country No. of Executions Population Rate of Execution
Equatorial Guinea 4 676,273 0.0005914771%
Iran 252 72,903,921 0.0003456604%
Libya 18 6,419,925 0.0002803771%
North Korea 60 23,906,070 0.0002509823%
Yemen 53 23,580,220 0.0002247647%
China 2000 1,331,460,000 0.0001502110%
Bahrain 1 791,473 0.0001263467%
Palestinian Authority 5 4,403,218 0.0001135533%
Saudi Arabia 27 25,391,100 0.0001063365%
Somalia 8 9,133,124 0.0000875932%
Syria 17 21,092,262 0.0000805983%
Botswana 1 1,949,780 0.0000512878%
Belarus 2 9,663,000 0.0000206975%
Singapore 1 4,987,600 0.0000200497%
Taiwan 4 23,071,779 0.0000173372%
US 46 307,006,550 0.0000149834%
Sudan 6 42,272,435 0.0000141936%
Bangladesh 9 162,220,760 0.0000055480%
Egypt 4 82,999,393 0.0000048193%
Malaysia 1 27,467,837 0.0000036406%
Iraq 1 31,494,287 0.0000031752%
Japan 2 127,560,000 0.0000015679%
Vietnam 1 87,279,754 0.0000011457%

As it can clearly be seen, the US is well down the list. You are far less likely to receive a death sentence in the US than in Iran, Libya (although given that those executions were sanctioned under the rule of the deposed Gaddafi regime, it could be argued that they should be given the benefit of the doubt), North Korea etc. But I don't hear the Twitterverse endlessly protesting the brutality of other countries. The facts show that, compared to other countries with the death penalty, America is not particularly barbaric. China has an execution rate ten times higher than the US, as does the poster-boy of new statehood, the Palestinian Authority. I also find it quite interesting that some of the people who were protesting about Troy Davis were the same people who are campaigning for Palestinian independence.

I don't support the death penalty, and I wish that Troy Davis had been spared. But I also don't support rank hypocrisy levelled at anyone that doesn't deserve it. If you're going to criticise the US for being barbaric, don't single them out - speak out against the other regimes throughout the world which are considerably worse than they are.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Equality My Arse

I wish to pass comment on another bout of complete stupidity and total bollocks ejected from the maw of the Beast Politic. In this instance, the mouthpiece is Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister for the Coalition Government, who has stated that she blames men for the 'mess the world is in'.

Verbatim:

'In terms of decision making I have always gone out and advocated to women you must get your hands on levers, you must get hold of power, you must be where decisions are made... Because otherwise if you leave it to - I'm going to say men in this case because that's the way the world has worked - you get terrible decisions. Look at the mess the world is in, and look who has been in charge. I leave it there.'

I have no problem with equality. I have no problem with equal pay, equal rights, feminism, all the rest of it. Equality is something that we all deserve. And because of that, I despise discrimination, in all its forms, especially when people dress it up as something else. It smacks of rank hypocrisy, and misandry (man-hating) dressed up as feminism is one of the most insidious examples of it.

To people who conform to such views, such a statement is completely obvious, and totally acceptable. Of course men are to blame. Those evil, misogynistic pigs. They're all bastards. Cut their balls off. Or if that doesn't work, just make them fucking manicure themselves, emasculate them totally, convert them into walking, talking Ken dolls.

But of course, it is totally improper for me to say that women can't be trusted to run things. That they're better off in the kitchen. That the only things they're good for is cooking and fucking - they'd screw anything more complicated than that up. Such comments are unacceptable.

So why is it OK to piss on men, but not on women?

Allow me to highlight it another way, by changing only two words in Featherstone's contemptuous statement:

'In terms of decision making I have always gone out and advocated to Germans you must get your hands on levers, you must get hold of power, you must be where decisions are made... Because otherwise if you leave it to - I'm going to say Jews in this case because that's the way the world has worked - you get terrible decisions. Look at the mess the world is in, and look who has been in charge. I leave it there.'

Ah, yes. All of a sudden, the despicable prejudice becomes apparent, doesn't it?

Gives real feminists a bad name.

So, Lynne Featherstone, take your fucking penis-envy, man-hating, fascist agenda, and choke on it. Preferably after boiling your head in the foetid bottom-juice which has just spewed from the hole in your face.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A Jew-Free Palestine

Guido and Prodicus broke the news before me, but I'm more one for passing comment rather than breaking news.

Within days, the Palestinian Authority will present its case for statehood to the UN General Assembly. This move is being opposed by Israel, the US and the UK (unsurprisingly).

Personally, I have no objection to the formation of a Palestinian state, provided that it is recognises that legitimacy, independence and sovereignty of Israel, and that it conforms with international law. And, of course, Israel should extend the same courtesy.

Now, Israel is far from perfect. It has a tendency to over-react in military responses, is effectively engaged in an illegal occupation of the West Bank, and manipulates its lobbying partners to overtly influence US foreign policy in its favour. However, for all its faults, it is a Western-style, liberal democracy, which guarantees the same rights to all of its citizens. It is therefore not helpful when brain-dead, racist fucks like Maen Areikat, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's Ambassador to the United States, suggests that such a Palestinian state should be free of Jews.

Yes, you are, you ring-piece sucking, cum-felching sack of monkey shite.
Note, that is not free of Israelis, but free of Jews. Israel proclaims to be a Jewish state, but it does not attempt to be free of Muslims - there are many Israeli Arabs, and they have the same rights as Israeli Jews. The UK is effectively a Christian state (although you'd sometimes struggle to believe that), with an Established Church, but it does not attempt to be free of Muslims, Jews, Hindus or any other religion.

So, Mr Areikat, take your fucking despicable anti-Semitism, turn it sideways and lodge it up your fucking dark one. People have fought and fucking died in the most brutal wars in humanity's history to stop the world from being ruled by unmitigated fucks such as you. And try to remember that if you want a Palestinian state, it should observe international law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights would be a pretty fucking good place to start, and a gentle reminder of what the last nation to adopt such a measure was.

I seriously hope that the opinions of this pus-soaked phlegm glob are not representative of wider Palestinian sentiment.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Word on the Economy from the Fund Managers

Today, I met several investment fund managers at a work conference, and was given a useful opportunity to quiz them on several issues regarding the economy. They gave some quite interesting answers.

Q: How do you view the UK economy compared to the rest of the world?
A: There's no doubt that the spending cuts and tax rises have slowed growth in the economy; however, given the circumstances the public finances were in, this is an unavoidable consequence. On the up-side, UK gilt yields are very low, some index-linked gilts are now being issued with negative yields. The markets feel confident that the UK's spending cuts are a necessary retrenchment, and are happy that they are progressing. Any change of course would likely be severely punished, with gilt yields rising, making borrowing considerably more expensive for the Government.

The UK is ahead of the curve with regard to its deficit reduction programme, and as such, is regarded in better light than some of its Western counterparts who have only just started fiscal retrenchment. There is no real doubt that remaining outside the Euro has given the UK considerable flexibility in its recovery, by being able to devalue its currency and allow exports to become competitive. Exports of manufactured goods are leading the UK economic recovery.

Q: What about America and their recent downgrade by Standard & Poors?
A: Standard & Poors, quite frankly, made a mistake. Since the downgrade, US treasury yields have fallen, and prices have risen, indicating strengthening, not weakening, confidence. The markets were concerned when the Democrats and Republicans were playing 'political chicken' with regard to raising the debt ceiling, but now that an agreement is in place, the US public finances are regarded as improving. The Fitch ratings agency has re-affirmed its own rating of US sovereign debt, as have the Chinese ratings agencies, which is significant as China owns roughly 40% of US treasuries. A climbdown by Standard & Poors in the not-too-distant future wouldn't come as a surprise.



Q: How do you view the situation in Europe?
A: There are three potential outcomes:
  1. Break-up of the Eurozone, and all the member states reverting to their own currencies. This would probably be the least desirable option, certainly in the short term, as the disruption it would cause to global markets would be highly significant;
  2. Establishing a Euro bond market. This would entail the EU taking responsibility for issuing debt instead of member nations. The borrowing costs for peripheral economies would drop, but would likely increase for France and Germany, as they would effectively be agreeing to subsidise other economies on a permanent basis. On a markets basis, this would probably be the preferred outcome, as it offers the lowest level of disruption, but it is unclear whether there is the political will to see such a unification through;
  3. Partial break-up of the Eurozone. This would result in Germany (and possibly France) effectively leaving the Eurozone and forming a separate currency, or the deliberate expulsion of some peripheral economies such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Although not ideal, this is the solution the markets regard as most likely - effectively a compromise between options 1 and 2.
Whichever option finally comes to fruition, it is clear that the current dogma of bail-outs is not working, and as long as it continues, the markets will be uncertain about Europe.


So, the conclusions:
  1. The spending cuts are affecting economic growth, contrary to the Tory position on this. However, the consequences of not undergoing this fiscal retrenchment would be significantly worse, and increased borrowing would not be viewed favourably by the markets. Indeed, the UK is seen to be poised for a faster recovery than other Western nations, because of the quick and decisive action the Government has taken, and because of its decision to stay out of the Euro;
  2. The stimulus approach taken by the US is credible, when taken into account with the spending cuts secured by the Republicans. The downgrading by Standard & Poors is widely regarded as premature, with confidence in the US economy improving gradually;
  3. The situation in Europe is problematic. It is not yet regarded as verging on another credit crunch, but it does offer cause for concern, which needs resolving before it gets any worse. The best solution for the markets would be fiscal union, but it is not clear whether there is the political will to bring it about. Failing that, an ordered, partial break-up of the Eurozone, with a partition between the core and periphery economies, is probably the next best, and most likely, option.

Rather refreshing to get a real idea on the economic direction without petty party-political point-scoring or media scare-mongering getting in the way. Of course, they're only fund managers. What do they know?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

New Address!

After nearly two years of blogging, Blogger have finally seen fit to release the unused tangentreality.blogspot.com domain, which I have thus acquired. The omission of the last three letters in the domain name I had managed to secure was starting to bother me!

So, this is just a notice that the web address for my blog is now http://tangentreality.blogspot.com/. As it should be.

I've also updated the sharing gadget below, which you will note. It looks a little bit sexier, is all.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Thoughts on 50% Income Tax

There has been much coverage this morning about 'additional' rate of Income Tax - 50% charged on earnings over £150,000. Twenty economists have written to the Government, urging them to drop the tax. Typically, the argument has divided along Left-Right lines - Leftists saying that it would be unfair to cut a tax on the rich when poorer people are struggling, and the Right saying that it is manifestly unfair to take half of someone's income.

So, I'll throw a few of these myths out the window.

Firstly, the charge laid by the Right that it is unfair to take half of someone's income. That is true - it would be unfair. However, that is not how the 50% tax rate works. It only applies to earnings in excess of £150,000. Therefore, if you are earning £200,000, you pay £8,495 in Basic Rate Income Tax, plus £43,010 in Higher Rate Income Tax, plus £25,000 in Additional Rate Income Tax. So your total Income Tax bill is £76,505, which represents 38.25% of your income. Not half. Admittedly, this calculation does not include National Insurance.

Secondly, Leftists have argued that it isn't fair to cut a tax paid only by the rich when poorer people are struggling. That may be, but poorer people are always struggling. If you go by that logic all the time, taxes on the rich would never be cut, only increased to fund breaks for those less fortunate, and they would leave the country, leaving us with virtually no tax revenues at all. What is required is empirical thinking.

Let us consider a hypothetical situation - an organisation writes to you, and demands for no reason at all, that you give it over a third of your income, otherwise it will terrorise you, steal your property, and forcibly imprison you. You would no doubt be outraged at this attempt at extortion, and immediately contact your solicitor and probably the police to resolve the issue.

Unless, of course, that organisation was Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs. What makes HMRC different to any common blackmailer or extortionist? Well, they have legal authority, and the money is (supposedly) dispensed according to our democratic will. Apart from that, they are no different.

The Taxman, yesterday

So, therefore, as HMRC is an extortionist working at the Government's behest, revenue is effectively protection money extorted from people. Taxes are a means to raise this revenue. There is no such thing as a moral tax - taxes are inherently unfair. The only justification for a tax is that it raises revenue which can be used by the State to protect our society, and be dispensed in accordance with our democratic will.

If a tax does not raise revenue, it serves no purpose whatsoever, and should be dispensed with immediately. It is simply taking money off people for the sake of it. Let us be clear: the indications are that this tax actually costs the Exchequer money. This is an economic phenomenon that many people struggle to grasp: that it is perfectly possible to reduce the rate of tax, and the actual amount of money generated increases as a direct result, because people don't go out of their way to avoid it.

So my proposal? If this tax is costing the Exchequer money, it should be scrapped. And the extra money that scrapping it generates should be used to increase the Income Tax Personal Allowance. Therefore, everyone who should benefit, does benefit.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

NEWSFLASH: British People Are Lazy

After years of shrill screaming about immigrants and asylum seekers taking British jobs, the Daily Mail, in its infinite wisdom, has finally figured out why.

In this report, the Daily Fail advertised several fake jobs to see which responses they would get. Quelle surprise, most of the responses came from immigrants, thus confirming something that has been apparent to Libertarians for quite some time.

The reason British people are not interested in looking for jobs is because they are paid not to. Why go out to work to earn around £6.00 an hour, when you can sit at home on your arse and get paid a similar amount in benefits?

Immigrants are not coming to Britain to 'take British jobs'. They are coming here to do the jobs that British people don't want to do, because the omnipresent State pays them to stay at home.

If you want to encourage British jobs for British workers, the answer is quite simple. Limit all benefits claims to 80% of the minimum wage, and use the savings to increase the personal income tax allowance to £15,000. Once there is a sufficient difference in income between not working and being gainfully employed, you can bet your bottom dollar that everyone who can get a job, will get a job.

It also manages to represent a spectacular own goal for the good old Daily Fail - after years of vilifying immigrants, I'm sure it came as a tremendous shock to them when they realised it was the lazy-arsed Brits all along.

Well done, Fail. Good job.

[PS]

I've also updated the blogroll, to take off some people who sadly don't seem to be blogging anymore, or at least doing it so infrequently that I can't justify checking their site every day. Fortunately, there's plenty of intelligent comment out there, you just have to look for it. And some of them are even politicians.