SUNDAY EVENSONG SERMON: Should we submit to incompetence?

mevicarIn the pundit pulpit tonight, the Very Irreverent John Slog-Collar, patronising saint of The Little Person, Archdeacon of the Universal Kirk of Enterprise, and tormentor of the Barbarian Beelzebub, Convict 88044352177 Turdoch

My fellow sceptics, tonight’s sermon is taken from the Book of Proverbs 27, Verse 2:

What if a ruler, the one to whom we are to submit, is an oppressive person? What if he is just incompetent or stupid, and we know better how to do the job that he is supposed to be doing? What if the person is sexually immoral or financially greedy? Abomination that is it, those in authority often do evil. They might have serious character flaws that catch their victims in the effects of their flaws. What is so maddening is that they justify their ways—seeing them as good—and they will turn around and blame the innocent for the evils that occur.’

Scrolling down, up, along and across the internet today, I was struck by two things: either the people and organisations in the news were incompetent – or they’d used PR to suggest otherwise, when I know them from long experience to be complete plonkers.

The best one by far was the arselicking piece in the Telegraph in relation to the HMRC, which it now seems has ‘a task force of 350 people’ using ‘complex and sophisticated data systems’ to ‘drill down into the detail of your affairs’. Given that database mining is a mere forty years old, this really is very cutting edge of the Revenue and Customs: but I’d like to suggest with as little deference as possible that we could collect over £4billion of evaded tax and duties by doing much simpler things – for example, reading multinational balance sheets, employing better forensics, arresting several members of the Cabinet and so forth.

On and on gushed the Telegraph (anagram – the pr gale) laying before us spurious graphs showing how just under £400m of extra dosh has been ‘raked in’ since 2010. Or put another way, £80m a year. Very quietly towards the end, it emerged that the investment necessary so far to achieve this sum has been £800m – ten times the take. Also blithely ignored by writer Kate Palmer (who looks about 14) was the sheer amount of smashed laws, above-the-law privacy invasions and broken tax precedents the HMRC had to commit just to raise that pathetic amount….and if you think that unkind, let me put it into perspective: the cost of renewing Trident will be – today’s official figures suggest – £167bn.

Still, you have to be impressed by the ability to detect evasion that the complex data systems have given The Untouchables: read this and weep or laugh according to your wont:

‘Low-earners, for example, living in luxury properties, would set warning lights flashing in Whitehall’.

No shit, Sherlock? Unbelievable. Another case history showed how the Task Force had ended self-employed Perth carpet cleaner Kevin Brown’s life of industrial scale cheating and wild Champagne parties by refusing to believe his claim for £250,000 of cleaning supplies as business expenses. Sounds a bit dodgey to me too – a conclusion not reached by drilling down into 400 psychographic sub-groups, but rather from dividing 300 working days a year into 250,000 notes…and then checking his turnover. Another one still concerned Lawrence Conway, a chartered surveyor from London, caught for claiming a retired racehorse, “Thunder Cat”, as a business expense. Now whooda thought that wuz owtofoda?

There is, however, a big clue in the piece [my italics] unwittingly given away by the hack: ‘The tax grab means HMRC can defend an £800m cash injection awarded in the last Budget to tackle evasion and improve voluntary compliance’. It tells anyone awake exactly what they need to know: this is a piece of carefully-placed Treasury pr from a Mandarin about to face a Budget Committee….or similar.

But the bloomer in that extract is this: the cash was awarded in the last Budget – after over 90% of the expensive legwork had already been done. Investment after the event, in fact. A new word is born perhaps: inventestment.

Here’s my point – which I shall expand upon in the rest of this sermon: the emotion you should take from this story is not necessarily anger, but one of perception: you are looking at a prime case of quite incredible multi-tiered incompetence.

The Telegraph management is so incompetent, it can’t even get the placement of a bit of Corporate State bollocks into the business section without publishing something risible.The Barclay Brothers made their money in ways mysterious for they are Gods and this is what Gods do: but everything they know about great journalism is contained in their experience of reading Superman comics about cub reporter Clarke Kent.

And the HMRC is so incompetent, it cannot grasp that I left England as a resident in February 2013, and have spent no more than 11 days there since.

The world lacks so many vital things today, but one of the biggest is competence.

Every plug socket in my house today is either running an appliance or charging a piece of hitech. This morning, within 45 minutes of starting to hone this piece, I’d been given seven messages by the hardware manufacturer’s information centre, three ‘urgent’ updates required for email, media and peripheral driver software, two scans against viruses, and two panels from Epson about configuration updates. The Epson has been in action precisely three days, and during that time, I’ve been offered nine apps and seven updates.

As for the saga of the lost HP Notebook lead, don’t even go there. I am three weeks into the mission, and no further forward: in the end, I had to go to an online supplier unwilling to accept payment other than by Paypal, so I opened a PP account, since when I’ve had five PP emails telling me they’re here to help, welcome new account holder, sign into your new account and get started. But don’t reply to us at this address because we’re so here to help, we don’t let people reply.

Bear in mind, they sent me the emails. At the welcome page, I signed in with my email address….and the panel said ‘Incorrect email address’. So to be certain, I typed the address super-carefully; the panel said ‘this email address is not recognised’. So howTF did you just send to it then? But I can’t send that question to them, because they only do Noreply.

Eight hours ago, I went to the Free Upgrade to Windows 10 app. We’re here to help, find out how to download now, we’ll walk you through it, we’re here to help, find out how to download now, we’ll walk you through it,find out how to download now, we’ll walk you through it, we’re here to help. It was an infinite circle of repetition, so I hit the download button anyway, read the file, opened it, pressed administrator, and was a massive 5% into the installation 55 minutes later. That was before initialising, and then configuring. Ten hours later, we’ve done configuration, and now the Put into Service is at 12%. Thank God I got an extra hour’s sleep last night.

Before I go any further, let’s just tot up the aggregate incompetence here. One online charger supplier insisted the Notebook didn’t exist. HP themselves said the same…but then, they were the clowns who manufactured 11,500 variants of the Notebook. A further supplier mad enough to be the 100% payment prisoner of PayPal says it has the part, and its jailer – whom I have tried to join three times in five years – still can’t cope with an English bloke with a French email address…so both will lose the business. Meanwhile, one of the largest companies on the planet cannot even navigate an eager consumer to an update of its own operating system.

Of course, a lot of this is Sales organisations online who aren’t there to help, but rather to have and to hold – all of us in an ‘accept’ installation until we give in and accept. They’re not there to tell us something, but rather to sell us anything. They’re not there to configure our lives to a better mode, they’re there to bullshit you senseless until you can’t figure out why they’re in your life.

Now to some, this may seem smart. But it isn’t at all: it’s con-trick selling, a form of marketing loyalty antimatter. It is incompetence.

What, I asked my elder daughter last night, is the point of apps? So you can get to stuff with just one click on your phone, not two she replied. On a pc, however, you get to the app, but then it takes three clicks to get back to the search engine Window you were in. Remember windows? I mean, it is the brand name when all’s said and done. On a pc of any relatively fixed nature, apps have basically negated the entire concept of having lots of windows open. That you can see. At the same time. You know, like as in altogether at once, can you dig it FFS?

Microsoft has wasted three years selling an OS designed for mobile internet to fixed internet users.

Why, I asked her, does Windows 8.1 keep on jumping from one page to another? Because it’s really for androids where you use hands not a mouse, said No 1 Daughter. Which obviously explains why every new laptop for the last two years has had Windows 8 on it. They not being androids, and so on.

So then: not just three years wasted on marketing the wrong product to the wrong people on smartphones, but also on tablets. Excellent.

Fact: Fixed (horizontal) screens – smart TV, desktop, laptop – spend three times as long on the internet per day as ‘vertical’ – android, smartphone – screens. They have more money. They buy more stuff at greater unit sales prices. But all the industry seems to care about is how many people are now on mobile…which overtook fixed sales late in 2014.

We’re talking rank commercial and business straegic incompetence.

So now I’m upgrading to Windows 10 (without help, because help centres never help they just repeat) and believe me, it is going to revolutionise my life. No, really. It’s going to give me back the Start layout I had seven years ago, that worked and made sense. It isn’t going to leap about, allegedly. And after that, there will be no future higher numbers in the series: that’s it. This is now settled science and absolutely perfect,  a techie told me last Thursday.

You would have to be sensorially challenged not to have realised by now that the entire hitech industry is run, driven, designed and marketed by morons. We were going to have paperless offices and wireless homes, remember? MS Dos was going to be taught in every classroom by the year 2000, remember? Most of the Windows 8 problems were user error, remember? Energy was going to be so expensive, everything would automatically recharge using solar power, remember?

They get everything – user friendliness, hits, digital ad measurements, invasive commercial practices, user manuals, help centres, user forums, navigation, the f**king future – you name it – wrong. The only reason the likes of Microsoft and associated software suppliers continue to do well is because (a) the demand globally remains seemingly unquenchable and (b) the earliest versions of their ideas were so deranged, the only way was up. The sole reason they retain their position is because they stuff the retail supply lines so full, nobody else gets a look-in. It’s an old trick and it never fails…but it doesn’t work forever. IBM found that out, as did VHS – and others will too. Apple have cornered a niche at the top end, but relatively few can afford it. Microsoft will be found out soon enough, because it is a culture based on production process and geeks, not long-term consumer needs and market segmentation.

The single word for the problem remains, however, incompetence.

We live in a world now where creative excellence emanating from experienced people has been replaced by complex sufficiency spewed out by novices. And the syndrome extends far, far beyond tax collection, journalism and hitech.

Electric lighting is another example: recessed spots are fine for sheer sleek design – but pointless in a kitchen, where they can’t be directionalised towards cooking appliances and chopping surfaces: moody is good, but not when you’re slicing butternut squash with a razor-sharp cleaver. Recessed ceiling lights in particular are almost impossible to replace without breaking the replacement….but once replaced, impossible to get out again.

Accountancy when applied beyond a certain level of seniority is dysfunctional, and at times positively dangerous. Kronenbourg over here has just relaunched the packaging of its bulk offering 4.2% bog standard lager. The pack is careful to say ‘recipe unchanged’, but what’s changed is that the cardboard is thinner. What better way to piss off your regular, heavy users than by ensuring that the pack handle breaks before they get to the car?

I was berated by one comment threader last month for suggesting that economist Liam Halligan was living in a bubble if he thought the average Brit now feels better-off. ‘He is an expert and knows far more than you’ he intoned gravely. But the simple truth is that economics is not a science, and very few of its ilk in positions of power have uttered so much as token opposition to neoliberal monetarism….let alone pointed out that it has been transmuted into globalist monopolism….or that a model based on growth via frequent repurchase cannot work if the repurchasers’ PDIs are falling.

It is nothing more than the triumph of fanciful faith over fact. Incompetence.

The man currently ‘in charge’ of the UK’s economic and fiscal strategy, George Osborne, is incompetent. Neither economics nor money supply appear anywhere in his cv: he is the son of a niche upmarket draper who has never had a proper job in his life: what else would he ever be as Chancellor of the Exchequer but incompetent?

The Chinese politburo has changed econo-fiscal strategy five times in the last thirteen months. It is crammed with squabbling incompetents. To restore her personal and sovereign image, Angela Merkel played to the gallery on ‘refugees’; most of the EU and the liberal press did the same. Now we find ourselves saddled with a crisis that threatens the Union itself…and Merkel’s solution is to bribe one of the architects of the mess. Yes, it’s sociopathy….but mainly, incompetence – a hopeless failure to see what’s coming down the road.

The US Fed misread the data, believed its own publicity, and thus stuck its brass neck out to hint about borrowing rate rises. As a result, South American economies have spiralled into deep recession. The Head of the ECB Mario Draghi over-hyped ClubMed recovery, and then looked like an idiot for having to use QE to prop it up. He hyped that too, as a result of which last Thursday he had to hype the second stage of that same QE. David Cameron sprayed made-up, back-of-envelope BS about the ‘potential’ for HS2 – a rail update nobody wants but him, and the planned route for which is planned to miss out two of the four compass points northern English business leaders want. Now the project is spiralling out of control, and he too is left wondering how to quietly dump it….alongside his Big Society of four years ago.

All of them hucksters of the worst kind: but above all, unqualified for the task….aka, incompetent.

For the likes of tiny minority commentators like me, I can assure you this blindingly obvious triumph of the maladroits brings no pleasure to me whatsoever: truth to tell, it instills in me a profound fear. For these people know not what they are about. To be maybe a little florid in this concluding bit, let me give you the OECD definition of that which is maladroit:

bungling, awkward, inept, clumsy, bumbling, incompetent, unskilful, heavy-handed, ungainly, inelegant, inexpert, graceless, ungraceful, gauche, unhandy, uncoordinated, gawky, cloddish, clodhopping, all fingers and thumbs, flat-footed, lumbering

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

And now, please join me in singing Hymn Number 666, Adrift on the Waters of Mammon, omitting verse 31.

Yesterday at The Slog: Netanyahu close to aligning himself with David Irving