Monthly Archives: September 2005

It isn’t just Tories like George Osborne and free-market fundies (pdf) who are interested in flat taxes. As Phil’s recent piece shows, liberal-minded types, including lefties like me, are also keen. Okay, it isn’t an egalitarian utopia, but once we all get over the visceral reaction that a non-progressive tax system must be “unfair”, the benefits are obvious. A high tax-free allowance can help correct the ludicrous situation we’re in now, where poor families are taxed a higher share of their income than the rich. And where low-income families face marginal tax rates of 91.5%, as recent DWP data revealed. Our tax system might be tagged “progressive”, but it’s in name only. A long-broken promise.
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I had my supicions, then noticed a bit more. Earlier today I
dug up a few more leads
. Then it came from the horse’s mouth. Charles Clarke’s speech to the European Parliament from this morning. The key quote:

“we argue that internationally consistent and coherent biometric data should be an automatic part of our visas, passports and identity cards where we have them – and would even suggest driving licences as well”

The government knows it can’t get this legislation through by conventional means. So they’re going to force it on us using the EU. In one swoop they bypass parliament, Gordon Brown’s financial objections, and can pass all blame onto Brussels when people start complaining.

Enter mode: rant. Read More

Few weeks in modern US history have been as momentous as this last one. It saw two events that are likely to have a huge impact on the way Americans see themselves and how they are governed.

First, there was Katrina. The whole country, the whole world, has watched in disbelief as a great American city seemed to go the way of Atlantis and the mightiest superpower appeared unable to do anything about it. Federal, state and local authorities were all found to be lacking, and the billions invested into homeland security since September 2001 seemed to have added little to the nation’s ability to cope with a predicatable and predicted disaster.

But for this post I want to concentrate on the second event of the week, one that will have repercussions for decades to come, in all likelihood long after the Gulf Coast has recovered from the ravages of Katrina.

I write of the death of the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, William Rehnquist, and of the subsequent nomination of John Roberts to be his successor.
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The scenes in New Orleans over the last week haven’t exactly been a great advertisement for government’s ability to fulfil the responsibilities it claims to undertake in return for the right to tax. But libertarianism’s also been having a hard time down there on the levees. When government broke, voluntarism and mutual aid didn’t step forward to fill the gap. Instead, gangs emerged to fill the power vacuum – a classic 4GW scenario, by the way. I’m sure there were innumerable acts of kindness and individual solidarity, but for the most part the “thousand points of light” turned out to be muzzle flashes. Read More

The breaking of the levees in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina has also unleashed the usual flood of stupid speculation as to the causes of the disaster from the ill-informed religious lunatic fringe. The same fringe claimed that the Sept 11 attacks were Divine revenge on America for its tolerance of abortion, homosexuality and feminism, and similar things were said of last year’s Boxing Day tsunami. This time, an outfit called Repent America, run by one Michael Marcavage and based in Philadelphia, PA, has issued a press release relating the destruction of New Orleans to an event called “Southern Decadence”, a gay celebration which was due to start this Wednesday.

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I signed the pledge to blog about Uzbekistan set up by the Disillusioned Kid in response to comments by former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray on this, Uzbek Independence Day. I freely admit to – before beginning this post – knowing little or nothing about the country or the region. Not many people do, let’s face it – and that’s the whole point of this exercise – to raise awareness. (Other posts are being compiled by the Disillusioned Kid here.)

It’s one of those places ending in “stan” which everyone always gets confused and no one can find on a map. It doesn’t even help much if you say it shares borders with Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, because most people will only really know anything about one of those. It may be helpful to have a quick overview of them all. Unsurprisingly, all are more or less fucked up:
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