Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Will Osborne's Tax Credit changes be his Poll Tax?

Cameron has broken his clear election promise  that Child Tax Credit would not be cut.
Working Tax Credits (WTC)  are to be cut in April 2016.

WTC is a benefit with a 30 year history, beginning in 1986 as Family Credit, then Working Family Tax credit (1999). It is a popular benefit, enabling people to feed their family even though they are in in low skill, low pay jobs. Tax Credits are associated with the Basic Income idea. 

Here is a useful summary of what Osborne wants to do.

Osborne faces opposition on WTC from within his own party, not least from Boris Johnson. David Davis asks whether it will prove to be Cameron's Poll Tax. Even the Sun on Sunday is against him.

In an ideal world, all jobs would pay enough to live on. I have heard socialists criticise Green Wage Subsidy (GWS) on these grounds, and ironically, Osborne is using the same argument, claiming that WTC will be replaced by his so-called National Living Wage. The fact is that we do not live in an ideal world. Another fact is that about 10% of workers will lose significant amounts of income by moving from WTC to Osborne's Living Wage.

Meanwhile the execrable Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, claims that loss of welfare will help bring about what he wants to see - the British working as hard as the Chinese. Yes, the Chinese do work hard. They also have one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Being driven to work hard is one of the factors in that statistic. Hunt has form in driving people unreasonably hard, and his present attack on junior doctors is coming from the same personality defect.

As ever, the Tories' claim that their campaign to reduce welfare will make people get to work, and as ever they ignore the fact that there is no work for people to do. So 5% of working age people are given JSA, grudgingly, on condition that they continually go through the motions of a futile search for work, when instead a change in the law could allow them to take their JSA into good, constructive work with them. This is what GWS is all about. Given added advantages to the green sector of the economy, we could create a better, cleaner healthier society with full employment.

Instead we have Osborne in charge, stamping the poor ever further down into the mud, until they lose patience and turn to rioting.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

11 instances where Nuclear Deterrence nearly led to Nuclear War

Trident - actual photo
The nuclear weapons debate is starting up again. We had it in the 1950s, in the 1970s and again now.
It will be confused, confusing, and deeply polarised.

In essence, though, the debate hinges on two questions:
1) Can the present human civilisation survive a nuclear war?
2) Is deterrence infallible?

The answers to these questions are No, and No.

For (1), go to Mills et al., summarised here.

For (2), this post is a summary of some of the nuclear near-misses that we have survived.
(Or, you can read this book  - Command and Control by Eric Schlosser)

He are the instances where we have come close to ending it all:

  1. 1960 5 October: attack readiness as computer mistakes rising moon for incoming missiles.
  2. 1961 24 November: High alert as communications are lost with 3 NORAD  stations. Found to be an electrical fault in a common pathway.
  3. Cuban Missile crisis. 1962: Soviets plan to install nuclear missiles in Cuba. After a very tense situation, during which Castro, the Cuban leader suggested that the Russians should launch a nuclear attack on the USA, negotiations managed to reach a peaceful conclusion.
  4. During (3), in 1962 Oct 27, a US U2 spy plane accidentally breaches Soviet airspace. US fighter planes carrying nuclear tipped missiles are sent to protect the U2.
  5. 1962 Oct 27, a Soviet B59 submarine was depth charged by a US ship. The sub captain ordered his nuclear missile to be fired, His second in command Vasily Arkhipov, dissuaded him.

    Either (4) or  (5) happening at the same time as (3) could have caused a war. Luckily the US President, Kennedy, was intelligent. If it had been Reagan, George W Bush of Donald Trump in charge, the outcome might have been different.
  6. 1979 during Arab-Israeli war, a technician accidentally sets off an alarm at Kinchloe, USA. Nuclear bombers are readied for take-off.
  7. 1979, 9 November, NORAD early warning computers signalled an incoming missile attack from the Soviets. Interceptor fighter jets, and the President's war plane, were scrambled. It was found to be a false alarm due to a technician running a practice program.
  8. 1980, 3 June, a failing computer chip warned of 2000 incoming Soviet missiles. US nuclear systems went on high alert until it was realised that radar gave no confirmation.
  9. 1983 Sept 26 Stanislav Petrov, duty officer in a nuclear war early warning centre found his system warning of five US missiles being launched. He judged that it was a false alarm, and it was later found that it was due to sunlight on clouds. Stanislav Petrov is a total hero.
  10. 1983 November a highly realistic war game exercise called  Able Archer 83 was carried out in Europe. The Soviets put their nuclear defences on high alert during the exercise, unsure if it was real or not.
  11. 1995 25 January, Soviet defences detected a rocket identical to a Trident missile coming from Norway. Boris Yeltsin called for his nuclear button to be made available. Watchers realised that it was not on course for the USSR. It turned out to be a NASA rocket to study the Aurora Borealis. Warning had been given to the Soviets, but it had not been passed up the chain of command quickly enough.

    Most of these events are to be found here.
There may well be others, but these 11 instances should be enough to convince any reasonable person that all it takes is a for another clusterfuck  of technological gremlins to occur at a time of intense political tension for the holocaust order to be given by one nuclear armed leader. All the rest will follow.

Deterrence is not infallible.
It follows that we must rid the Earth of these WMDs.

This is possible, given the political will, and it is up to us, the people, to create that will, working with wise politicians to overcome the denial and intellectual laziness that operates in so many politicians and commentators.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Scandalous! Corbyn would not initiate or participate in a global nuclear holocaust.

Respect to Steve Bell http://www.theguardian.com/profile/stevebell

"I would not push the nuclear button" says Corbyn.

Murmurings ensue, from his own party, duly amplified by the Tory propaganda machine.

Let's unpack this nuclear weapons question.

There are two scenarios in which a British Prime Minister could fire our WMDs.

First, as a first strike on a state that has not already nuked us.
This would cause a retaliatory strike on us from that state and/or its allies. This would lead to further strikes from other nations, and we must assume that any nuclear strike would lead to all-out nuclear war, with firing of all of the 7,000 nukes which are primed to go immediately, followed by as many of the remaining 8,000 of the global nuclear stockpile launched as their owners could manage to deploy.

This would almost certainly put an end to the present phase of human civilisation. Don't believe it? Look at what 100 small nukes would do to the planet.

Second, a British PM could press the button in revenge for a nuclear attack on our soil.
This would lead to further attacks, again leading to the aforementioned all out global nuclear holocaust. This would only make recovery from the attack all the more difficult, because outside help would not be available.

Therefore in the actual situation, Corbyn's declaration is perfectly reasonable.
Hitting the button, either as a first or a second strike, only makes matters worse.

What about the cognitive aspect of the situation? Does Corbyn's reluctance to deploy weapons of mass destruction mean that the French or any other nuclear armed adversary could blackmail us?
"If you do not make your Prime Minister f*ck a pig in public, we will nuke you?"

Maybe. But our adversary cannot be 100% sure that in that situation, his Ministers will not in fact defenestrate Corbyn, and press the button themselves.

Nuclear games theory requires 100% certainty, which does not, of course, exist.

Since nuclear war would be infinitely destructive, and since there is a greater than zero chance of nuclear weapons leading to nuclear war, it follows that we must rid ourselves of these weapons. 

Even with Britain armed to the teeth with mega destructive capacity, deterrence is not safe.
All it takes is a geo-political clusterfuck for a global nuclear war to take place.

Therefore, Trident is militarily unusable. Its only use is as a symbol of the UK's pretensions to global power. The only reasonable use of that position is to lead the world to total nuclear disarmament.

This is not hippy stuff. .
Several major Cold Warriors, including Henry Kissinger, are calling for global abolition of nuclear weapons.

Deterrence is not safe.
We must abolish nuclear weapons.
Some country has to make the first move.
Why should that country not be Britain?

PS If you find this topic depressing, this will cheer you up:

PPS If you are pro-nuke, you have to answer two questions:
1) Does global nuclear war mean curtains for human civilisation?
2) Is nuclear deterrence incapable of failing? (if unsure, read this)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

God save our Jeremy from contemptible journalism

Problem: some Republicans (step forward, Jeremy Corbyn) dislike the words of the National Anthem.
Which leads to yet another outbreak of anti-Corbyn hysteria from mainstream media.

In fact, nobody in their right mind likes singing all the verses of the National Anthem

How often do we get to sing verse 2? 
Here it is:

O Lord our God arise,
Scatter our enemies,
And make them fall!
Confound their knavish tricks,
Confuse their politics,
On you our hopes we fix,
God save the Queen!

Also this segment rarely gets an airing nowadays, despite its topical relevance:

....May he sedition hush,
and like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the Queen.

Here is a solution: work out some alternative lyrics, that can be sung at the same time as the rest of the congregation is singing the received version.

"No more austerity
Give us equality
That's what we need.
Send banksters off to jail
To whimper, whine and wail
For their almighty fail,
Then we'll be free."

Hope this helps.
If any mainstream journalists get to read this, please note that your anti-Corbyn hysteria is contemptible. You are not journalists, but propagandists. Grow up.