“Sit on my face…”

Charlotte Rose

The Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) is the not so new UK regulator (quango) for on-demand programming and the reason for its existence can be traced back to how the UK.gov decided to implement the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive. As always if there is an easy way to do something and a hard way, UK.gov will take the latter approach and thus ATVOD was born.

Although it initially set its sights on the MSM, in particular the pockets and the websites of dead tree press, ATVOD has found much easier prey in the form of online adult entertainment and restricting access to it in the name of protecting the children. HighLowlights including pushing for bans on payments to non-UK-based websites and lobbying for laws to increase the age-checking carried out by UK-based providers.

In a Statutory Instrument laid before parliament on November 6th 2014 and which came in to effect on December 1st, the Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey proposed that the content of UK-based video on demand (VOD) services should be held to the same standard as physical media as set down in the Video Recordings Act of 1984 (a response to the moral panic about so-called video nasties in the early 1980s).

Myles Jackman addresses the assembled crowd

In practice this means that only content that would be passed for an R18 certificate can be sold legally by VOD producers in the UK with some of the practices that this excludes being:

  • Fisting
  • Facesitting
  • Watersports (if another person is involved)
  • Heavy bondage
  • Discipline beyond a mild spanking

Many UK-based producers of adult content (which include Dominatrixes who film and sell video clips of their sessions) are, understandably, rather miffed at this change as it is likely to lead to the closure or relocation of those studios which produce the non-mainstream content that it is now illegal to sell.

One of them, Charlotte Rose, organised a protest (including facesitting) for yesterday in Old Palace Yard, across the road from the Palace of Westminster and I, as someone who is an occasional consumer of video material covered by this change in the law, went along to it (and took some photographs – including the ones you see here).

Face Sitting VI

The protest took a while to get going with things not formally getting under way until almost 30 mins after the advertised start time. As well as Charlotte, speakers included obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman and Jerry Barnett of Sex and Censorship. The main point made by both Jerry and Myles was that this is not just about porn but rather the ever tightening restrictions in the UK on the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression – of which clamping down on pornography is but one strand. The recent attempts within the UK to impose the ‘Swedish Model’ (successful only in NI so far) of banning the purchasing of sexual services are another and I have no doubt that UK readers of this blog can call to mind other things.

Charlotte says that she wants this to be just the start. Time will tell if that is anything other than wishful thinking.

What Matt Taylor should have said

I’m here to say that I’m sorry.

Sorry for being the lead scientist in charge as the Rosetta mission reached its goal.

Sorry for having the temerity to think that a one-of-a-kind item of clothing made by a talented friend (who, by the way, just happens to be female) was suitable to celebrate this auspicious day.

Sorry that a scientist turned journalist is less interested in humanity landing a probe on a comet after a journey time of 10 years, 8 months and 13 days and a project which can trace its origins back to the questions raised by the bypass of Halley’s Comet in 1986 than in what I wore.

Sorry that the time and effort that thousands of talented men and women put in to making this moment happen has been overshadowed by someone complaining about a piece of cloth.

Sorry that rather celebrate what we have achieved here someone felt the need destroy the jubilation surrounding this historic achievement by focusing on something so insignificant.

For all of that I apologise.

Thank you.

At the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

Poppies

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

In the last 12 months the following have died in the service of their country:

  • Thomas, Oliver
  • Walters, James
  • ulkner, Spencer
  • Chauhan, Rakesh
  • Clarke, Thomas
  • Moralee, Adam
  • Holloway, Richard
Image taken from Clear Inner Vision

List of British military deaths in Afghanistan since 2013-11-11 courtesy of the BBC

National Minimum Wage v’s Living Wage (2015 Edition)

So the Living Wage folks yesterday told us that for 2015 the Living Wage (outside of London) is £7.85/hour.

Running the numbers and comparing them to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) of £6.50/hour we get the following:

NMW LW
Gross Pay (£) 12,675.00 15,307.50
Income Tax (£) 535.00 1,061.50
Employee’s National Insurance (£) 566.28 882.18
Employer’s National Insurance (£) 651.22 1014.51
Nett Pay (£) 11,573.72 13,363.82

The difference between the Nett LW and the Gross NMW is £688.82 per annum. Over a year (52 x 37.5 hour weeks = 1950 hours) that is an extra 35p per hour – or £1 less than the LW.

Raise the NMW wage to £6.85/hour, the starting rates of Income Tax and National Insurance to £12,675 and, hey presto, we have the so-called Living Wage.

Simples.

Bill Oddie the Statist

British families should be “contained” to stop them having too many children, Bill Oddie has said.

The Springwatch presenter claimed the answer to over-population was not curbing immigration, but restricting the size of families.

Bill Oddie has three children. I wonder if he thinks he would have been allowed the second, let alone the third, under such a policy?

The Causes of the Cost of Living Crisis

MG shall be in attendance at this debate organised by Libertarian Home:

Date: 23rd October
Time: 1900 – 2200
Location: The Drama Studio, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL

The left has sought to make the Cost of Living a part of its intellectual territory. Market liberals have thus far failed to claim it, but not for the want of trying.

While it is the lower and middle classes that feel the pinch of inflation and stagnant wages, all classes have to pay prices for essentials that sometimes seem unjustifiable. What makes the Cost of Living so high in the first place?

Libertarian Home is assembling a balanced panel of speakers who will consider each of several causes in turn. Expert witnesses will bring their perspectives and answer questions from the panel and the audience.

Is the Cost of Living rightfully and exclusively an issue for the left? Do free market reformers really care? Who is to blame and what can be done about it?

Confirmed Speakers
Kristian Niemietz – Institute of Economic Affairs
Yaron Brook – Ayn Rand Institute
James Bloodworth – Editor of Left Foot Forward
Christopher Snowdon – Institute of Economic Affairs
Chris Mounsey – Libertarian blogger and activist
Duncan Stott – Liberal Democrat and activist for Priced Out
Lee Rotherham – EU expert and TPA research fellow
Ben Etheridge – Assistant professor at the University of Essex

Brief profiles of all speakers are available at Libertarian Home.

Further details and tickets

Poe’s Law conundrums (Millipede Jr’s 2014 Conference Speech edition)

Is this a typical Gruniad sub-editing fail or have they just repeated the briefing notes verbatim:

The Labour leader’s big six goals are designed to restore a lost faith in the future. They are:

  • Ensuring as many school leavers go on to apprenticeships as go to university.
  • Help working families share fairly in the UK’s wealth.
  • Meet the demand for new homes by doubling the number of first-time buyers from the current 200,000 a year to 400,000.
  • Halve the number of low paid – defined as those earning two-thirds of median earnings – from 5 million to 2.5 million.
  • Create a million more hi-tech green jobs in a bid to overhaul the number of Germans and Japan.
  • Restore the NHS by integrating health and care services, ensuring joined up preventive care to keep the healthy out of hospital.

Whither Scotland

The campaigning is done, the pollsters have retired and the people of Scotland are voting. We shall know the outcome tomorrow.

Personally I think they should go for it. Accept that they will suffer some short-term pain whilst telling two levels of politicians to take a very long walk off a very short pier.

However, if we are to believe the opinion polls, the outcome is too close to call. Are they accurate though? We all know that people lie and/or change their mind and my gut feeling is that, in the end, they will opt for the devil they know rather than uncertainty.

Whatever the result, unless it is a resounding ‘no’, the UK is going to have to make some changes across the course of the 2015-2020 parliament – whether that is negotiating the break-up of the union or substantial changes to how the UK is run.

I don’t though trust politicians or civil servants to do either very well. If it is to be independence, I foresee 18 months of blazing rows between Westminster and Holyrood as each side argues over who gets the CD collection. If not then I expect them to fudge the issue of federalising the UK as much as possible to ensure that all power remains in the centre.

If they do fudge then all they will have done is kicked the can down the road – and I’m not sure the electorate will stand for it, not this time. English nationalism, a generally dormant thing, seems to be stirring and I suspect things could get ugly if it is felt that the politicians have got it wrong. That is not something I want to see.

What I would like to see (but realise won’t happen) is for one of the main parties to grit their teeth and vote for Christmas by promising in their 2015 election manifesto that pretty much everything bar foreign policy and defence will be devolved down to at least the city or regional/county level. Let the major population centres take control. Let county hall or the parish council be more than a glorified talking shop. Decentralise everything.

Sure, there will still be far too many politicians for my liking but it is a step on the road to each person being their own independent nation rather than citizens of an arbitrary set of lines on a map.

Whether the Scots vote for their freedom or not, change is coming. These are truly interesting times.

HMRC Direct Recovery Powers – sign the petition

You may have heard that there are proposals out from Government / HMRC to grant HMRC a so-called “direct recovery” power.

In essence this would allow HMRC to debit a tax payers bank account for any unpaid tax arrears, without oversight or prior notice. There would be a stipulation that the bank balance must remain at a minimum £5,000 after the debit so as not to dip into people’s business working capital or immediate household funds, but that’s more or less the only safeguard.

These proposals cover business and personal tax debts.

Many people are very worried about these proposals. HMRC already have powers to achieve the same end via the Courts, Direct Recovery cuts out that element of oversight and due process. It could be argued its “efficiency” for HMRC, or from an opposite perspective laziness.

The accounting profession has major concerns over HMRCs administrative capability – simply there are too many erroneous assessments, mistakes and misallocations – and the bottom line is many feel this is a step to far with HMRCs powers.

There is a longer article about some of the problems on the Taxation web site (you should be able to read this without a login) and a petition on the Government e-petitions web site.

Can I urge people to consider their response to this issue and

  1. Sign the petition
  2. Highlight the issue to colleagues, family and friends (feel free to share this post)
  3. Consider a letter of objection to your MP

This post first appeared at Whitefield Tax on August 21st.

A visit to the Cornershop

It wouldn’t be unfair to say that I am a cultural philistine. I can look at the works of the great artists such as Constanble, Turner et al and appreciate that they have something but they do nothing for me. On the other hand something like Tracey Emin’s unmade bed just makes me think WTF? In short I don’t bother going to art galleries because I’d be bored senseless and just want to leave very quickly.

As anyone who follows Mark Sparrow on twitter (or read this post by Anna – or any of the other publicity) will know by now, his daughter, Lucy, has, for the month of August, been manning a cornershop in East London stuffed full of things you might find in any other cornershop. But with one small difference: all the items on display are made of felt and put together by Lucy herself.

I first found about this when, having asked Mark if he’d like to meet for lunch on my way back from the West Country on August 1st, he blew me off having realised it co-incided with the grand opening. (No, Mark, I won’t tell Lucy you initially agreed and then had to back out once you’d remembered. :D )

My curisoity peaked, I finally found some time to walk over there after work one day nd have a nose around. As you do, I took some pictures as well.

All the news that is fit to felt

If you looked at the pictures, I expect you can realise that Lucy has certainly put in a lot of effort to produce this. Something like 6 months or so I believe and the end result is certainly a testiment to this. Philistine that I am, I can appreciate this even if I’m baffled as to why. :)