Friday, December 24, 2004
Conference notes that the G8 summit will be held in Scotland, in Gleneagles, in July 2005.
Conference believes that the G8 forum is unaccountable to the billions of people whose lives it effectively controls through its related international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the World Trade Organisation. [OF COURSE IT'S UNACCOUNTABLE TO NON-G8 NATIONS]
Conference rejects the positive statement made by the UK Government on the announcement of the Gleneagles summit as failing to recognise the many inherent problems with the G8 and the public opposition to it.
Conference calls on the UK Government to use the G8 summit in Gleneagles to push for:
The $18bn needed to cancel 100% of the remaining debt owed by the 41 most indebted poor countries to the IMF and the World Bank.
World trade negotiations to focus on issues such as reform of the agricultural subsidies, which would be of benefit to developing countries, rather than further trade liberalisation, of benefit only to multinational corporations.[THIS I ABSOLUTELY DISAGREE WITH - FREE TRADE IS WHAT MADE SINGAPORE, HONG KONG, TAIWAN & S. KOREA RICH & IS NOW MAKING CHINA & INDIA WEALTHY. TRADE BARRIERS KEPT CHINA & INDIA POOR & ARE KEEPING N.KOREA & AFRICA SO NOW. IT IS A CRUEL LIE TO PROMISE THE 3RD WORLD OTHERWISE & ONE UTTERLY OPPOSED TO THE TRADITIONS OF THE LIBERAL PARTY WHICH WAS FOUNDED ON FREE TRADE. EU TARIFF BARRIERS IMPOVERISH THOSE ON BOTH SIDES & WE SHOULD OPPOSE THEM VIGOROUSLY]
Water to be kept out of World Trade Organisation negotiations, to prevent more people in the developing world being denied access to clean drinking water and to support the UN's goal of halving the number without access by 2015.
The G8 nations to give 0.7% of their national income in annual aid, a commitment agreed to 30 years ago at the UN but still not achieved.[WE BROKE THIS PROMISE WHEN AID WAS A WAY OF KEEPING OUR DICTATORS IN FRIENDLY & ANTI COMMUNIST & IT WILL ALWAYS BE BROKEN]
Thursday, December 23, 2004
PENSIONERS and disabled people in Scotland will be entitled to free bus travel anywhere in the country at any time of the day from 2006.
Elderly and disabled people living on islands around the Scottish coast will also get two free return ferry trips a year under the scheme, which will cost £322 million over the first two years and be administered by the country’s new Transport Agency.
It will mean that a Scottish pensioner will be able to travel free on a bus from, for example, Glasgow to Inverness without buying different tickets for local schemes, and on the most straightforward route.
Nicol Stephen, Scotland’s Transport Minister, announcing details of the scheme in the Scottish Parliament, said that it represented a big step forward and had been made possible by an agreement between ministers and the bus operators.
“This is a groundbreaking agreement with the bus industry which will benefit both the industry and all passengers,” he said. “Concessionary travel has delivered real change in the lives of older people, opening up opportunities and providing greater access to vital health and leisure services.”
The bus operators will receive from the Executive a single payment rate of 73.6 per cent of the average adult single fare on any route. This will compensate them for the revenue that passengers would have paid in fares if there was no such scheme.
The total paid in any one year will, however, be capped at £159 million in 2006-07 and £163 million the following year.
Bah humbug. I do not intend to go all libertarian on this - The marginal cost of a pensioner taking a bus that is already going there is virtually nothing (this is common for all mass transport & explains almost all cheap fare scheme) & it is economically efficient for the state to repay such costs even though it shifts the burden of payment from the pensioner to the taxpayer. Thus I would generally support a sensible scheme to subsidise pensioners travel - not being stuck in your neighbourhood can be a significant & inexpensive way of improving people's lives.
But it only makes sense when we have a very low marginal cost. Thus if the bus is going that way empty it might as well have passengers. This only works for empty busses. The original proposal was that this scheme would only be available off-peak & Parliament loudly cheered the announcement that it would work even during rush hour. TANSTAAFL. The marginal cost of getting somebody extra on full busses is not zero.
Had they stuck to the original proposal & negotiated hard with each company separately they could probably have got it at a quarter of the cost - free transport only on First buses after 9AM would be almost as good a deal at 18% of normal cost ie 40 million a year.
So what could we do if we saved 120 million a year - 6p off income tax, business rates below England, 6% off corporation tax, 3 X what Scottish industry spends on machine tools, 120 miles of automated monorail & all at no real cost - choose your own hobbyhorse.
Good job Gordon Brown's there to shovel money at us. Long may it last.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
THE WIT & WISDOM OF McCONNELL BBC STYLE
To my amazement (well not really) she asked him about PPPs, hospitals, schools, "confidence building" (to be fair this led to a few platitudes about encouraging enterprise) & "affordable housing" (howcome nobody ever wants unaffordable housing & what idiot builds it). You will be pleased to know that Jack is in favour of all of these & has a duck billed platitude for them all. No questions on what is basically wrong with the economy of course.
Lesley is clearly the best the BBC has. She would undoubtedly be please to be described as "feisty". I hate feisty. If you ever read a blurb for a romance book (only in the line of business officer) odds on it will describe the heroine as feisty - which means she can be noisy & girly & a pain in the arse without being in any way dangerous. Vinny Jones, George Galloway, Osama bin Laden, Golda Meir & even Margaret Thatcher were not feisty.
On the other hand I may just be pissed because they never did any of my previous suggestions except that I never expected them to. The BBC is feisty in exactly the same way - they love interviewing people in the Paxman "have you stopped beating your wife" way which gives the appearance of toughness, & bear baiting makes good TV, but will never ask the serious questions.
PS Did you see the Paxman interview where Matthew Parris outed Mandy - Paxman's reaction to being given a serious answer was a scream.
Monday, December 20, 2004
OUTER SPACE MOTION
This is the wording of yet another motion I had put to conference, in 2002. The fact that it was rejected for debate with considerable amusement did not particularly surprise of distress me.
Though I had proposed it in a slightly tongue in cheek attention grabber it is a quite seriously useful proposal. The prize is 3 times that put up as the X-Prize for the first commercial space trip, of which nobody had heard then, but which has since produced Burt Rutan's successful Spaceship one.
The total cost of this would be a maximum of 20 million over 48 years.
The advantages, as I saw it, would have been
1) It would be valuable publicity - this is the sort of thing the media lap up though perhaps not totally seriously (the subsequent popular reaction to Beagle 2, even tho' it failed strongly suggests to me that it would have been popular)
2) It would have encouraged the satellite manufacturing industry ($1 billion a year & growing 20%) to locate in Scotland which is exactly the sort of hi-tech we need.
3) The next generation of space development (after we have got cheap launching) will involve the sort of technology that a small remotely handled probe going to the asteroid belt would make a test bed for.
4) Anything that could give us a claim to a hunk of millions of tons of heavy metals including several % gold & platinum would be likely to be cost effective.
5) If it doesn't succeed it wouldn't cost anything - somewhat unlike every other government programme.
6) I think space development is the most important human activity since, at least, the age of Columbus & I would like my country (Scot or UK) to be part of it. In 100 years time nobody will know what a Black Watch does but they may know who first landed on an asteroid.
7) If it was proposed & was not legislated into existence on the grounds the "space travel is utter bilge" the party (or individual heh heh) would later be able to say I told you so.
On a larger scale something similar would work for the UK.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
I don't entirely agree - I think many of the hobgoblins government gets bossy about are about 1/2 an inch tall - but they look bigger in a TV close up.
Al Quaeda once killed as many Americans as die on the roads every 2 months & have done nothing comparable since yet they are regularly referred to as a major threat to the survival of western civilization justifying imprisonment without trial, ID cards & various things once considered part of western civilization. Feeding the wprld's hungry (GM foods) because of purely imaginary threats. Global warming is, so far, imaginary in that it exists only in computer models which are increasingly failing to match real weather observations, yet Koyoto is allowing government regulation to diminish our wealth by literally many billions of $. Regular readers will know my opinion of the dangers of nuclear power. Freedom of speech is being ever more restricted on the grounds that if people hear something they don't like they will start rioting.
I have only recently found the Mencken page. He was a cynical old curmudgeon so politically incorrect as to nowadays be considered a right wing American by people who don't understand the historic problems of politics through the ages.
As a convinced atheist my favourite essay is Where is the Graveyard of Dead Gods