Saturday, December 22, 2007
Alex on the Herald has produced an obviously well informed piece on why construction costs are so outrageous. It should be compulsory reading for anybody in politics.
There are a few reasons why UK construction projects cost such a ridiculously high amount.
First of all, there is the universally charged Day-Works scam, charged by every single major construction firm in the UK, which essentially doubles costs. Don't like it? Try finding a contractor who will work without it...Interestingly, it is unheard of in Japan, where I once witnessed an entire motorway built in a week.
Second of all, there is the ridiculous Health and Safety industry. Initially a decent idea as the UK had the highest rate of deaths in construction of any developed nation - now simply an industry in itself. It leads to horrendously over-engineered solutions, overspending on materials and design and huge delays in completion times. Complain about it and you're seen as someone who wants construction workers to be mangled by any piece of passing machinery. Health and Safety employs 200,000+ people in the UK. In France, it employs no-one, and they're not slow to adopt restrictive working practices.
Third of all, there is our horrifically labyrinthine planning process, brought about by there being simply too many politicians. In terms of population Greater Glasgow and Manhattan are pretty similar. Manhattan has 10 councillors; Glasgow has 328.
Fourthly, there is the cost of land in the UK. Progressive land release policies, such as the Greens' Land Tax, designed to prevent speculative land banking by housebuilders, supermarkets etc are actually a good idea, which would prevent property prices from artificially inflating - I don't generally have a lot of time for the Greens, but this is a good policy, and one that works well elsewhere.
Fifthly - there are very few skilled construction professionals in the UK, and those that are employed in the industry generally suffer from low wages, poor working conditions and often poor training. I do laugh when I hear of contractors trying to tempt school leavers to take on a career with them - abusive, one-sided contracts, no rights and short-termism are rife. Consequently, sub-contracting is everywhere.
So the next time you wonder why our major projects cost so much - simply think of the five reasons given above.
I disagree that landbanking is the problem - I think it is a symptom of the fact that the planning system prevents so much land getting planning permission which makes land with permission unnaturally expensive. However whichever is the primary fault it does mean building land is unnecessarily expensive, with costs running right through the process.
This demonstrates the strength of the net. There is absolutely no way that print journalists would ever, even if they already know all this as i am sure 1 or 2 do, could ever be allowed to break ranks & publish an article like Alex's.
Saturday Scotsman letter
Saturday Scotsman news item
OurScotland discussion board
On the one hand, since it has no legislative power over the UK Parliament it was a lot of political posturing as the Telegraph points out
There was one of those daft debates at Holyrood yesterday on an issue over which the Scottish Parliament has no power and in which it has - at least on the evidence of the sparse attendance - very little interest.
The issue was Europe, and specifically, that the SNP believes that the UK Government should hold a referendum on the EU reform treaty....
In the end, the "unholy alliance" of SNP and Tories - plus the Greens - comfortably carried the day, thanks to a mass abstention by Labour and, for the record, the Scottish Parliament believes that there should be a referendum on the treaty.
On the other hand it is within the power of Holyrood to hold a consultative referendum within Scotland & enthusiastic or not there would clearly be a majority for it. So lets have one. A little democracy is better than none.
Guardian article subheaded "The coming UN vote for a universal moratorium on the death penalty could mark another turning point for civilisation"
True though Ms Bonino clearly does not understand the English language enough to know that turning point means a point at which one turns. The prime duty of government is to protect the citizen. That means that when the citizen is threatened or actually subject to murder it is government's DUTY, not pleasure or choice, to act decisively to discourage such acts. If we accept that the death penalty tends to discourage those who, in the full knowledge of what they do, commit murder then it is the DUTY of government to execute them.
This would indeed be a "turning point" on a road which has previously led up from barbarism to civilisation.
The statistical evidence is that execution does deter (very much more strongly that passive smoking kills & pretty much on a par with whether active smoking does). It is also intuitively obvious & anybody who says otherwise either has to be able to explain why murderers are deterred by the chance of imprisonment but not by execution or to explain why they aren't personally on record as saying murderers shouldn't get anything worse than probation.
It is a fake by politicians who haven't the guts to do their plain duty & expect plaudits for it. In fact the overwhelming majority of our leaders DO believe in the death penalty - we just disagree on whom to use it against. I believe in the execution of particularly vicious murderers & they believe & indeed practice the execution of pregnant innocent Serbian women. I trust nobody will suggest that there is any true moral equivalence between the toughest supporter of hanging & ANY of the genocidal scum MPs who support the latter proposition.
A 2nd post on that thread was deleted by them. It read
"Googling Ms Bonino <the author of the article against the death penalty>it turns out that she not only supported the genocidal war to murder pregnant Serbian women but was on the list to be gauletier of the genocidal Nazi regime we established there.
I trust nobody will ever suggest that either that obscene genocidal child raping Nazi whore, nor anybody who shares her platform & fails to denounce her, can ever, under any circumstances, claim any form of moral equivalence to those on the traditional side. On such hypocrisy so much of modern government is built."
Ashdown to Afghanistan http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/daniel_korski/2007/12/from_bosnia_to_afghanistan.html Guardian article
Nazi Ashdown http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/daniel_korski/2007/12/from_bosnia_to_afghanistan.html Guardian article
Martin Bell http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/martin_bell/2007/12/return_of_the_censor.html Guardian article
And in the best tradition of when one door closes another opens - my being censored by the Scotsman seems to have been ended. They have just done a revamp of the site (& I agree with David Farrer of Freedom & Whisky that it is distinctly not an improvement) & presumably this means a fresh start - or it may merely be that, having published a letter of mine on which I was then deemed unworthy to comment did look rather silly.
Friday, December 21, 2007
"We are told a new Forth bridge will cost between £3.2 and £4.2 billion (your report, 20 December). Back when the estimate was £2.5 billion (in June) I thought it was high. The previous road bridge cost £19.5 million, which converts today to £314 million. Why have costs, after inflation, gone up ten to 13 times? It would seem amazing if this was purely government regulations, but the alternative would seem more sinister.
A third crossing was initially sold on the threat that the current bridge was about to fall down because the cables were ageing. However, it seems ever more likely that it can be reroped at a cost of about £10 million. This is, after all, what the rest of the world does. Anybody want to bet on whether, as soon as all the expensive contracts have been signed, we will be told that reroping can proceed apace?
This was a short letter & greatly understates the problem since the real way to provide a crossing is by a tunnel, which, if we did it at the same cost as Norway manages, would set us back about £40 million - 1% of what we are being charged for this.
Here is a reply I put up on the Herald online expanding on this & refering to previous articles I have done on the subject.
I have discussed this on my blog & my articles contain further links to various costings so I will refer you to
Costings of previous bridges & Norwegian tunnels
My FoI enquiry into how the tunnel was costed
Herald discussion yesterday ending with a Scot living in Norway calling our costings "criminal"
Proposal for a Scottish tunnel Project across Scotland similar to Norway's, which should cost far less than this one bridge
9% Growth Party Press release yesterday
Thursday, December 20, 2007
This account has had its posting rights withdrawn. This may be because of a breach of our talk policy, or because you picked an unsuitable username. If you have any questions please contact firstname.lastname@example.orgI did but they aren't replying.
I have now been barred by Channel 4 (twice) the Scotsman & the Guardian.
Clearly we have a trend here & the common factor is not hard to find. The British media are actively opposed to the truth. In not one of these cases has the party doing the banning ever come up with a single case where any criticism I made was not entirely factual. In all 3 cases I had shortly previously been discusing the Yugolsav wars so this seems to be the absloute no-go area for the truth in the British media. In the Guardian's case it may be because I said that Paddy Ashdown had perjured himself at the Milosevic "trial" a matter on which the evidence is literally rock solid or that his adminstration in B&H had fired somebody for objecting to child sex slavery being allowed by that administration. Both of which, though censored by most of our media (hats off to the Telegraph) are matters of public record.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
The Scottish government have decided to build a new Forth Bridge.
"A new bridge is to be built across the Firth of Forth, just west of the existing suspension road crossing.
The cable stayed-style bridge is due to open in about 2016 and will cost between £3.2bn and 4.2bn.
Finance Secretary John Swinney told Parliament that concerns over the future viability of the existing bridge meant the government had to act now.
Ruling out a tunnel, he said the chosen option would deliver the crossing in the quickest possible timescale.....
He went on: "It will be an iconic structure. It will maintain a fundamental link across the River Forth. It will create a new and better connection to our transport infrastructure in west and east central Scotland.
"And it will be delivered through effective and comprehensive care for our natural environment"....
The five-and-a-half year construction project is expected to get under way in 2011, with a competition to find a constructor due to be launched the year before."
Back when the cost was a mere £2.5 billion (June this year) I asked why it was so high. The previous road bridge cost £19.5 million which converts today to £314 million. I have asked why exactly real costs have gone up 8 times (now 10 to 13 times) & received no answer except for an implication it is "environmental" & other paperwork costs. The £314 seems in line with overseas experience such as the 2.1 km Sydney cross city tunnel at £300 million.
The official cost of a tunnel is even higher & very much looks like it has been set high so that it will make the bridge look good. We know the Norwegian government have been building tunnels at between £3.5 & £11 million per km which should produce a Forth tunnel at about 1% of the quoted price. The laws of physics are the same on both sides of the North Sea.
I don't believe the rush to build this based on the original claim the current bridge was about to fall down because the cables were going. This story seems now to be winding down & I very strongly suspect it will be found possible to re-rope this bridge for about £10 million - just after contracts are signed on a new bridge. If so then there is no urgency & we need not be bounced into this.
We are entitled to know exactly why the Scots government cannot build things at less than 10 to 100 times what it costs in the rest of the world. If it is regulatory we should remove such regulations. If it is corruption we should prosecute.
The point about buying a pig in a poke is that it is unwise to buy without seeing what it is. This applies equally when discussing a £4.2 billion pig.
Any new crossing should be openly arrived at, knowing whether it is actually needed & with an open bidding process including foreign bidders. Bidders should be invited to quote for any form of crossing - so long as it does the job. We are also entitled to full explanation of why building costs so much higher in Scotland. Only when all facts are on the table should a decision be made.
I note that, unlike the last bridge this is going to be toll free. Perhaps this is due to the generosity of taxpayers towards motorists or perhaps it is because with probable interest payments on this running at at least £300 million a year there is no possible way that tolls could pay for it, as they did for the previous bridge & not charging anything handily conceals that this project makes no economic sense.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
1)The LibDems have chosen the wrong (well ok wrongest) candidate for their leader. Nick Clegg is clearly a stuffed shirt, which is why he was the preferred candidate among the "great & good". Huhne, despite much idiocy & some dishonesty over environmentalism, clearly was a competent economist with some actual ideas. He lost by 500 votes & may well get a 3rd chance if Clegg doesn't start inspiring & their vote keeps deservedly falling.
Clegg's pompous acceptance said he hoped to help Britain to become a better "liberal country" which will be difficult leading a deliberately illiberal party. Ming has commented on how well the party will do with a young leader!
2) The government has increased its guarantee to Northern Rock to cover effectively ALL of its £100 billion liabilities. No answer as to why this has been done, nor why the Branson takeover hasn't been hurried through or indeed anything. The old adage is if you owe the bank £10,000 you have a problem, if you owe them £1,000,000 they have a problem. Well the bank owe us £100,000,000,000 & we have a hell of a problem. Moreover we have established a far worse precedent. If house prices are going to fall & sometime they will because their prices bear no relationship to the cost of building them but are merely held up by government preventing building, then NA will be merely the first to fold. The government will find it infinitely difficult to refuse to subsidise them all & totally impossible to do so.
Japan's economic growth, the fastest in the world, was brought down to zero for a couple of decades by a government which devoted its entire economic resources to ensuring banks which were were broke because of a property bubble, were propped up. We should, under no circumstances, do the same. Bankruptcy is a, perhaps the, vital part of the free enterprise system. If the shareholders of NR refuse to sell to Branson until they get a price which actually depends only on our underwriting them then we should have called in the receivers & let him sell to Branson (or the other guys).
2 guesses as to whether the story about us being down £100 billion or a sheep tick taking over the Illiberals led the news. No guesses which should have.
However this means I have had 4 letters on 3 subjects in the Herald (global warming, nuclear power & now Trump) & 1 in the Scotsman (Trump) in as many weeks which has broken a dry spell.
I note considerable coverage is being given to LibDem leader Nicol Stephen's accusation that the SNP "may" have done something illegal but he can't quite say what, following on his accusation, at first minister's questions of them suffering the disgraceful sin of "cleverness". This was apparently intended to distract attention from the fact that the leading councillors who refused to allow Mr Trump to invest £1 billion in Aberdeenshire were LibDems.
< It is a shame that he did not benefit from similar coverage when, a couple of years ago on Question Time, he accused the Israelis of criminal behaviour for responding to Hamas rocket attacks by destroying an electricity sobstation which he said was a "war crime". The LibDems very enthusiasticly supported bombing Yugoslavia to help the NATO armed KLA commit genocide. One of the least murderous of NATO's acts there was destroying electricity generators. Does anybody know of any other party leader who has thus not only accused other parties of criminal behaviour but accidentaly accused his own of war crimes?>
Monday, December 17, 2007
My recent comment on Nicol Stephen accusing the SNP of "cleverness" was partly inspired by my response to a particularly brown-nosing piece by him on how his wonderful speech proved "we in the Scottish Lib Dems are the real opposition to this gnat government". None of the other comments are really worth going on about but pretending to accept comments & not doing so is a breach of netiquette which should not go unmentioned.
And before Norman comments I do not & have never pretended to accept comments which are obscene or purely personally abusive to me or other commenters, though I have accepted ones from him which were abusive but also made a point.
This does not make his wife the same but, since she gave him total support throughout, it does prove her unfit for any serious role in government.
Russia's growing wealth
The difference between poverty & "poverty" ie income inequality. http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/kate_green/2007/12/the_beginning_of_the_end.html
Global warming "consensus" http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2221498,00.html
Russian election - The concept that an election being won by the guy that 63% of the voters freely voted for is proof that democracy doesn't exist is a difficult one to maintain.
Perhaps no more difficult than to maintain that an election where only 20% of the electorate voted for the party that got an overwhelming majority, is proof that we have a healthy democracy. http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/tomas_hirst/2007/12/a_vote_against_democracy.html
Reply to my Herald letter on warming & my online response - "No one with any intelligence denies"; "indisputable"; "there is no doubt"; "sceptics are in denial" used instead of evidence shows the intellectual bankruptcy of the alarmists case.
eg It is indisputable that the Sun orbits the earth & no one with any intelligence doubts Galilleo is in denial & must be imprisoned for saying otherwise.
In 41/2 years of "trial" the NATO funded "court" were unable to find a single piece of evidence that Milosevic had done anything criminal.If Timothy Garton Ash has any evidence he must explain why he did not contact the "court" who were desperate for some evidence, right up to the moment when person or persons unknown poisoned him. If he has not the Nazi owes a fulsome & public apology.
I note my post has been deleted. All I said was that (A) no evidence was produced against Milosevic in 4 1/2 years of trial & that he was poisoned by person or persons unknown & (B) repeated, word for word, the gratuitous rudeness the author said about Milosevic back to him.
(A) is merely a matter of public record.
(B) If what I said was improper to write online about somebody writing what are clearly the Guardian's political views then the only possible way it can be right for the Guardian to publish exactly the same words about somebody not given the chance to defend himself is if it is if the paper is willing to say anything about today's propaganda enemy & censor anything about the genocidal war criminals whose pockets they are in.
In which case in what circumstances can we believe anything they say. For example we know that everything they are saying today about Darfur they were saying in the 90s about Yugoslavia. How do we know that any of it is true when we know for a fact that the Guardian is willing to make up anything about one side & censor anything by the side we are (currently) supporting.
Obviously the proper thing to do is to hand over the south of England to immigrants & to ethnically cleanse all British born people. This is, after all, what the Guardian has commissioned so very many articles to say should be done to the Serbs.
Obviously if the Guardian is not being openly racist & pro-Nazi they must have commissioned a similar number of articles to support a similarly progressive policy in Britain. http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/liam_byrne/2007/12/values_added.html
Answering Will Hutton on the long boom & the alleged coming recession:
"That long boom was made possible by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of China (and to a lesser extent India) in the 1990s"
No. The long boom was caused by the growing importance of computerisation & of Moore's Law which says that computer capacity, at a fixed price, doubles every 18 months. This may well also be what caused the collapse of the USSR as well since they had missed out on computerisation & PCs & the internet were incompatible with totalitarianism.
The boom will continue because Moore's Law in still operative (& something similar is happening in bio-tech), but it may only continue outside Europe. Britain's "boom" has, in fact been a comparative recession since we have grown at 2.5% while the world average was 5%. The main reason for this is that far from being an entrepreneurial culture we are in fact a very heavily & destructively state regulated one. House prices, which are set by government regulation which actively prevents housebuilding, is a prime example.
Free enterprise - The concept of "right" & "left" seems to have become largely defined by how each reacts to free enterprise. If you think free enterprise is is an efficient system which maximises human productivity your are "right". You are also right since hundreds of examples of countries which have run by free enterprise or command, or as in the case of China moved from one to the other undeniably show that free enterprise is much more efficient. If you believe that some form of central planning works more efficiently you are "left" (or possibly a Fascist or Nazi but most "leftists" don't know anything about these movements except that they hated Blacks & Moslems*. A recent variation is that you join the Greens (who claim to be "left" despite being the ultimate conservatives) & say that maximising efficiency (ie progress) is a bad thing & get to blame free enterprise anyway.
The original meaning of left & right is that when representatives entered the French revolutionary Parliament the posh people went through the door first & thus ended at the right of the chamber. If the term were to have any related meaning now it would have to be in favour of maximising the rights & incomes of the poor as against those in charge. On that basis maximum free enterprise but with a decent welfare state should be the leftist position whereas maintaining control of the nearly 50% of our economy by the "great & good" of the civil service etc would be a rightist position. People like Clare short who believe in illegal wars & bombing hospitals would be very far to the right.
*They are wrong. The Nazis were to busy being against the Slavs & Jews to bother Blacks & got on very well with Moslems who manned several SS divisions for them. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2226539,00.html
Why does the Guardian refuse to do more articles on the threat to humanity from witchcraft. All these articles saying this year's floods, last years drought, hurricane Katrina, the low level of hurricanes since, the reduction in butterflies & polar bears, the increase in butterflies & polar bears etc are caused by global warming.
Everybody knows these are caused by witches. It is all a conspiracy by greedy capitalists who are only after profits & who stop the papers telling of the real threat. All these witches flying around & kissing the devil's bum must be true because computer models show that if all the amended figures showing they exist continue at the predicted rate we will all be going to Hell sometime after peak oil hits.
There must be government grants for an urgent programme of finding witches. The government must employ more witchfinders. I guarantee they would find lots of witches. Only thus can we overthrow capitalism. http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/ed_pomfret/2007/12/climate_of_confusion.html
Ian twists & turns like a twisty turny thing in yet another of the articles supporting the KLA which he bet me a bottle of rum didn't exist. In fact, as he effectively admits the NATO powers did accept the complete legal sovereignty of Yugoslavia as part of the occupation agreement. In any case the Helsinki Treaty also guarantees that all European countries, except Albania which refused to play, acknowledged a duty to "take no action against the territorial integrity & unity" of all European countries including Yugoslavia. This rule is, or rather was, a very good basis for European peace. Therefore, whatever Ian says there is no possibility of ANY European or US politician who possesses the remotest trace of integrity supporting "independence" under his openly genocidal Nazi KLA friends.
Ignoring justice, ignoring the rule of law, ignoring human decency (since a KLA which, with NATO help, kidnaps children to sell to brothels is hardly decent), ignoring war crimes, ignoring genocide & ethnic cleansing of 350,000 Kosovars by NATO's Nazi police, ignoring everything but naked self interest - even then Ian should not support his Nazi friends. London is currently just over 40% immigrant, shortly it will be moreso just as the Kosovars have been outnumbered by Albanian immigrants whom our media, as a racist propaganda term now call "Kosovars". The precedent has been established which would allow Ian to be driven from his home or murdered by "Londoners" in "revenge attacks".
Equally, by establishing that the rule of law, the UN Charter & indeed the most solemn treaty promises of every NATO nation are totally valueless we have ensured that every small country must rely on weaponry &/or the Shanghai Pact - ask North Korea, Iran or indeed Israel. This makes the world a vastly more dangerous place, for all of us not just those Nazi journalists who have, for so many years, deliberately lied to support genocide.
PS Readers will be unsurprised to find he welshed on his bet too.
Dregodan massacre http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/martin_bell/2007/12/return_of_the_censor.html