Monthly Archives: June 2016

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Brexit – Why I am voting to leave the EU

Despite the relentless smears and insults hurled at me (and millions of others) over the past few months I am neither a xenophobe nor a Little Englander. I have travelled widely, most of my friends are not British, I choose to live abroad, and (as anyone who has ever spoken to me will testify) I am not even English. I have never voted for UKIP and never will. Nevertheless, my vote in tomorrow’s referendum is for Brexit. I would like you to vote the same way, so here is my final appeal for you to end this misguided and destructive experiment.

This is 2016, not 1945

The EU was founded to put an end to the wars that had wracked Europe since at least the Celtic confederation in the late Bronze Age, and probably earlier. The idea was that if European nations could be bound together into a single organisation they would stop fighting each other. It was a noble idea, born of a sincere wish to end war – but note that, from the very beginning, it was a political project and not an economic one.

When Jean Monnet and others set out to found what became the EU, they were not trying to create a free trade area. They were trying to create a single federal state, with the former nations of Europe as its county councils. We know this, because they admitted it quite openly. Their successors still do. Listen to politicians from anywhere in Europe, and in the EU itself, and they are perfectly clear about the EU’s goal: To turn itself into a state. The only people who deny this are the project’s British supporters – and even there the mask occasionally slips.

Clarke

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course preventing war is a good idea; the consequences of armed conflict are horrific, as I have personally seen many times. But we already have a perfectly good way of preventing war among Europe’s nations and it isn’t the EU. It’s NATO. Anyone attacking a NATO member state faces immediate and overwhelming retaliation from the combined power of the alliance. Then there’s the fact that, of the EU member states, only Britain and France have enough military power left to fight a war anyway. War, at least within the EU’s leaky borders, is a 20th century problem. The 21st century poses different problems – and the EU is spectacularly inept at handling them.

The EU is anti-democratic

Not undemocratic; actually anti-democratic. The institutions of the EU were set up to avoid the inconvenient problem of what people want being different to what the EU wants to give them. This is why the power to create new laws is held, unlike in every democratic government in the world, by unelected Commissioners instead of elected MPs. It is why the European Parliament is set up to let small nations outvote larger ones – Luxembourg has an MEP for every 76,000 people, while the UK has one for every 850,000. It is why national vetoes – the ability of a government to protect its own country from harmful EU laws – have been relentlessly whittled away.

Parliamentary democracy is not perfect, but it’s far better than rule by unelected technocrats. Remainers will bleat, “But the EU is elected governments!” No it isn’t. What happened to the elected governments of Greece, Spain and Italy when they dared to challenge the EU? They were swept aside and replaced by Brussels appointees. Our government is no longer sovereign. It can’t even abolish tax on tampons without begging permission from its unelected masters in the EU.

The status quo is not on offer

One of the most common Remain arguments is “Nobody can tell us what a post-Brexit UK would be like”. This is transparent rubbish. Even if we ignore the fact that for all but 43 years of this nation’s long history we were outside the EU, there’s no mystery at all about what a non-EU country is like. The world, after all, is full of them.

Of course you won’t hear that from the Remain crowd, who insist that if we leave we have to be like Norway, Switzerland or – bizarrely – North Korea, but it’s true. A small fraction of the world’s nations are in the EU; joining the majority is nothing to fear.

The same cannot be said for remaining an EU member. The In side talk about the referendum as if it’s a choice between stability and a wild leap into the dark. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we leave we know how that works; we’ll just be another independent country, albeit one with a large economy and a degree of global influence that has few rivals. If we don’t leave, however, what will we be facing?

Remain don’t know. Neither do I. What we do know is that it is not stability. It is not the status quo. And it definitely isn’t a reformed EU. Reform is not an option that anyone in Brussels is considering, and indeed Jean-Claude Juncker has just explicitly ruled it out. There will be no more renegotiations, he told the British people today. Reform is not going to happen.

Instead the EU is determined to carry on down the same path that’s brought us to where we are now – more integration; more centralisation; more power for the EU at the expense of elected governments. It’s no secret that the EU has put a lot of activity on hold until after tomorrow because they’re worried it will affect the outcome of the referendum. Why might it affect the outcome of the referendum? Because we’re going to hate it, they know we’re going to hate it and they don’t care.

Thanks to leaks and whistleblowers we do know some of what’s coming. There will be a new, Europe-wide tax ID number. This has only one possible use: To make it easier to collect a future, EU-wide tax. Don’t we pay enough tax already?

Then there’s the EU army which Remainers are so quick to assure us will never happen. The truth is it’s already happening, as the Dutch military is steadily absorbed into the Bundeswehr  and other countries consider the same option. We might hate the idea of an EU army, because our own military is still (just) capable of fighting independently, but to many EU members it’s a very attractive idea. It means they can slash defence spending even further while still having a vaguely credible force to call on. The EU has been working busily on plans for a joint military for the last 18 months and detailed proposals will be presented this summer. This is not “fantasy”, as Remain campaigners airily dismiss it; it’s what the EU wants to happen, and if they can get 16 supporting votes it’s what’s going to happen.

Not worried about defence but care about the NHS? That’s at risk too. Even if the TTIP doesn’t tear it apart the EU itself wants to take control of healthcare – they believe it’s best organised at a European level.

If you vote for Brexit you know what you’re going to get – the same independence, freedom and opportunity as Australia, Canada, Japan or any other wealthy democratic country has. But if you vote Remain you’re staring into an abyss with an undemocratic federal state at the bottom. Don’t take that risk.

It’s not about trade

Will leaving the EU harm our trade? No. Absolutely not. The EU isn’t going to impose punitive tariffs on us, because that would make no sense. We buy a lot more from them than they do from us, and Brexit would already cost them more money than they can afford to lose. There is no way they would make it worse by harming the economies of the EU’s three remaining big exporters – Germany, France and Italy. Public opinion in those countries is already swinging against Brussels, so why risk angry demonstrations by sacked German car workers? The worst case scenario is a reversion to World Trade Organisation rules. Despite the horror stories spread by Remainers those are actually fine; the WTO’s aim is, after all, to support free trade. Following WTO rules certainly doesn’t seem to harm China, Japan or the USA, who all sell masses of stuff to the EU.

The blunt truth is the EU is rubbish at trade. A condition of membership is that a nation can no longer negotiate its own trade deals with the rest of the world; the EU jealously guards that power. Sadly the EU is very, very bad at negotiating trade deals. That’s inevitable of course, because any EU-level deal has to satisfy too many competing interests. The deal that’s right for a services-based economy like Britain is not right for a high-value goods exporter like Germany. It’s even less right for a relatively poor country like Greece that imports most of its manufactured goods.

Imagine you’re at a party with 28 other people and some of you are feeling hungry. One of the guests, a sullen bore who gets paid lots despite having spectacularly failed in his last real job, announces that the solution to people feeling hungry is a Common Pizza Policy. All the guests are to agree on the ideal pizza and the bore will order 29 of them. Everybody will then eat their pizza whether they like it or not.

Now, how’s that going to go? Not very well, I should imagine. The earnest student Liberal Democrat activist insists the ideal pizza must be vegetarian on ethical grounds, but Hans wants a Salami Special with extra salami. Nathalie wants the main cheese to be Camembert and punches the student for suggesting almond milk cheddar. Luigi says he’s not eating any piece of shit that isn’t made with proper mozzarella. Nicodemos can’t afford a pizza and nobody will lend him money; Stanislaw isn’t hungry, and you want cod and chips. The Common Pizza Policy is, very obviously, a stupid idea.

So why is a common EU trade policy any better? The short answer is that it’s not. It’s because of the EU’s ridiculous one-size-fits-none approach to trade deals that we have so few of them with the rest of the world. And let’s bear in mind that the rest of the world, i.e. those countries that are not in the EU, has 83% of the money. We want to make it easier for them to buy our stuff. Independent countries can do this much more easily:

trade

The EU, with more than 500 million people, has trade deals worth barely a fifth of those negotiated by tiny Switzerland. As an argument for staying in, trade policy is truly pathetic. Collective EU negotiation is a weakness, not a strength. Let’s take Canada as an example. The EU and Canada have written a trade deal. It’s 1,600 pages long. And it cannot be signed. Why not? Because Romania is having a tantrum.

Romania refuses to sign the agreement until Canada gives visa-free access to all Romanian citizens. Canada does not want to do this. So Romania is using an agreement that would benefit over half a billion people as a political weapon. In this situation the sensible thing for David Cameron to do would be to phone Canada and say, “Look, let’s just edit this a bit and sign it as a UK-Canada treaty.” But he can’t do that, because the EU will not let him.

We are a trading nation, and this is a ridiculous situation to be in.

We are in an abusive marriage

Many Remain supporters are bullies. They are openly threatening to hurt the UK if we decide to leave. Much of this has taken the form of overblown, often ludicrous, threats. If we leave the EU the refugee camps in Calais will move to Dover. Except no they won’t, because the Le Touquet Agreement on border control is a bilateral UK-France one and has nothing to do with the EU. The same goes for the border between the UK and Ireland. That’s regulated by the Common Travel Area, which again has nothing to do with the EU – in fact it came into force in 1925. “But after Brexit that will be the EU border!!!” shriek the Remainiacs. Yes. So what? There isn’t a big fence between Sweden and (non-EU) Norway, is there?

Most of the scaremongering has been laughable, but in the past few days it’s taken a darker turn. From silly stories it has drifted into the realm of a protection racketeer saying, “Nice place you have here. It would be a shame if anything was to happen to it.” Here’s an example from yesterday’s Guardian, warning how the Pound could crash after Brexit:

Soros

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Soros knows all about money, right? Yes he does. He also knows all about crashing the Pound. In this menacing piece the fanatically pro-EU speculator says Brexit could lead to a “Black Friday”, calling up memories of 1992’s “Black Wednesday” that smashed the Pound out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism. And who caused Black Wednesday? That would be George Soros, who deliberately dumped huge quantities of sterling to force interest rates to economy-wrecking levels.

And then there’s this:

PIRA

 

 

 

Nobody wants to risk losing the Good Friday Agreement (which of course had nothing to do with the EU…) because that might reignite the decades-long PIRA terrorist campaign run by… oh yes, Martin McGuinness.

This is despicable. Pro-Remain thugs like Soros and McGuinness are basically implying that, if we don’t vote the way they want, they will hurt us – as they’ve done before. But let’s not forget how that worked out. Soros’s currency machinations in 1992 actually led to a boom for the UK, as we cut loose from the restrictive and idiotic ERM (an EU system, remember) and regained control over the Pound’s value. McGuinness and his fellow killers signed the Good Friday Agreement because PIRA was militarily defeated – starved of funds, riddled with security forces agents, and with its top assassins locked up or dead in SAS ambushes. We have seen off these people before, and we can do it again.

There’s a big world out there

For centuries the UK has been a global player. It’s not all been the sort of thing you wake up feeling proud of, but in general we have been a force for good in the world. We absolutely do not need to be kept in line by a collection of unelected bureaucrats who are mostly notable for having failed in real governments.

Above, I have outlined some arguments for voting Leave. There are many more. Apart from a dislike of Michael Gove and Nigel Farage it’s hard to think of any for voting Remain, and as odious as you may think they are, I don’t believe that annoying them is worth the price we will pay if we stay in the EU.

The referendum tomorrow is a unique, once in a lifetime chance to put the government of the UK back where it belongs – in the hands of the British people. Take it.


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How to lie with Twitter polls

Category : rants

Twitter has a polling feature. It’s not hard to use, but for some reason many people don’t like using it. Maybe they access Twitter through an app that doesn’t support polls, or maybe they just aren’t very good at clicking the right buttons; it doesn’t matter. Instead of using the simple poll-creating tool they go with an alternative method that uses standard Twitter functions. In its way this is even simpler; you just ask a question in this format:

“What’s your favourite drink? Retweet for organic raw kale smoothies; favourite for beer.”

This sort of poll is pointless, and people need to stop doing it.

I’m actually astonished that I need to explain why it’s pointless, but apparently I do, so here’s a worked example. We are going to ask the question I posed in the first paragraph, and see how many people prefer kale smoothies to beer. To do this we’ll make some assumptions, just to keep the numbers tidy, but you’ll be able to see how it works in reality. Here are the assumptions:

1. The average person has ten followers on Twitter

2. For every nine sensible people who prefer beer, there’s  one sandal-wearing loon who prefers kale smoothies

3.  People who follow weirdo kale drinkers are three times as likely to be weirdo kale drinkers themselves

4. The average dumb question will be retweeted ten times before it dies of its own stupidity

So, based on these assumptions, let’s run the poll and see how it goes.

Stage 1

The genius who thought this was a sensible question to ask tweets it to his ten followers. Nine of them, not being insane, favourite the tweet. The other one, peering at the screen through a choking cloud of lentil farts, retweets it.

So far the score is as follows:

Beer: 9 votes

Unappetising green slime: 1 vote

So beer has a 90% rating so far.

Stage 2

Because some maniac retweeted it, another 10 people receive the poll. They all follow grass munchers so are three times as likely to be grass munchers themselves. Seven of them think, “Beer, of course,” and favourite it. The other three think “Yummy, liquidised weeds” and retweet. Let’s look at the running total:

Beer: 16 votes

Compost in a glass: 4 votes

Despite beer being as superior to blended garden waste as ever, its rating has suddenly dropped to 80%.

Stage 3

Thirty more people receive the poll; all of them follow bacon dodgers. Nevertheless 21 of them would rather have a glass of hoppy, refreshing bitter than a pint of revolting vegetable matter. They favourite the tweet. The other nine brush a handful of granola crumbs off their screen and retweet it. The scores continue to change:

Beer: 37 votes

Sheep vomit: 13 votes

Beer’s apparent popularity relative to semi-edible pond scum continues its decline, with a rating of 74%.

Stage 10

I won’t bore you with too much maths, so let’s skip to the tenth iteration, at which point the poll fizzles out. Here is the final score:

Beer: 68,896 votes. This is a lot of votes, because beer is good.

Ick. 29,524 votes. This is a lot fewer votes, because diluted mulch is revolting.

But let’s look at the percentages. Despite 90% of people actually preferring beer, gritty liquid fertiliser is now scoring 30% in the poll. In just ten generations it has trebled its apparent – but not its real – popularity. Why is that?

It’s fucking obvious, of course. Because of the way the poll is set up, people who favour one option will retweet it while those who favour the other option will not. And because we tend to follow people who have generally similar interests to ourselves, with every retweet the poll becomes more biased towards one answer. This is inevitable. There is nothing you can do about it. And these things can circulate on Twitter for days, becoming less accurate with every click.

Polls like this do not give accurate answers. They cannot give accurate answers. Stop creating them.


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Limitless RDA in zombie green

Limitless style – Zombie atomisers & laser cats

Vaping is a lot more than just a replacement for cigarettes. It has an incredible number of things going for it – it saves money, it’s much better for your health, it doesn’t scatter ash everywhere (if it does you’re doing it wrong) – and, maybe most of all, it offers an almost limitless amount of fun.

Probably the fun thing is why so many people have a problem with vaping; after all, quitting smoking isn’t supposed to be fun, is it? You’re supposed to be miserable and unsatisfied, because you’re giving up something you actually rather like. That’s why patches, gum and Nicorette inhalators are so boring.

Personally I’m just happy that most vape gear makers really don’t agree with this. They think life should be fun, and that shows up in their products. I’ve been vaping for the last three years now and I’ve tried out a lot of things that were enjoyable, from seriously unusual flavours to tech-laden mods that I could sit and play with all day.

Enter the Zombie

So a few days ago one of my friends showed me his latest toy.  It’s the Limitless RDA from the Limitless Mod Co, who I must confess I’d never heard of before. I haven’t actually used a dripper for a few months – I have a few sub-ohm tanks to choose from – but, as you do, I admired it anyway. Basically it looked like an RDA, which probably isn’t a surprise. A very nice RDA, with lots of air holes and an interesting (very) dark green colour scheme, but still an RDA.

And then he took a big puff on it.

Imagine my surprise when, in the space of a couple of seconds, the dripper swiftly turned a bright acidic green – drip tip and all. Once I picked myself up off the floor, and he’d stopped laughing, he explained: The outside of the atty is powder coated, and the pigment is heat sensitive. Leave it alone and it’s a subtle dark colour; apply heat and it rapidly turns a startling shade that should be familiar to any fans of zombie chic.

Laser Cat sleeve for Limitless mod

How awesome is this?

It turns out that Limitless make eight different versions of this RDA, three of them colour-changing – including the zombie green one I saw. They also make a hybrid-style mechanical mod that their dripper is designed to work safely on, and the mod is also available in multiple versions – six in fact. Four of them are copper, including three with different coatings, and there are brass and aluminium versions too. If that isn’t enough choice you can also buy a sleeve that fits over the body to customise the appearance. There are 41 sleeves to choose from, including options to match the atomisers. That’s right. Forty-one. One of them has a picture of a cat with lasers coming out of his eyes, which may just be the most awesome picture I’ve ever seen.

Limitless make high-end gear that’s going to appeal to hardcore cloud chasers and sub-ohm vapers; from what I’ve seen of it the quality and workmanship are outstanding. But what really hit me about it was how much fun they seemed to be having designing it. These devices aren’t some boring old gadget to get you through a quit attempt; they’re bright, outrageous, stylish and definitely for people who enjoy what they’re doing.

And that’s what vaping’s all about. It’s easy to switch, because vaping isn’t just cheaper and safer than smoking; it’s also better.  And if it tastes and smells better, why shouldn’t it look better too? So don’t be shy about expressing yourself through your gear, whether it’s picking up one of those lovely, shiny Limitless mods or slapping a My Little Pony sticker on your old iStick. We should be enjoying this, and making sure the world’s grouches know it.