Saturday, September 06, 2008
I have been banned from the Scotsman website (again), apparently this time for mentioning del Ponte's announcement, in her book published in March, about our role in organlegging. This is continuing to be almost entirely censored by the British media (John Pilger did mention it, almost in passing, recently but that is pretty much it. They have had 2 days but if the Scotsman reply to this I will publish it:
I see that following my mentions, on the online editions of the Scotsman, of Carla del Ponte's admission that NATO police (formerly the KLA) had been helped to kidnap between 300 & 1,300 Serb teenagers, dissect them & sell the body parts to our hospitals your estimable newspaper has decided to prevent me writing there again.
I take it you do not dispute this happened. Nor that the government you are protecting was also involved in massacres such as the Dragodan Massacre of 210 unarmed civilians? Or that it is guilty of assisting in the kidnapping of thousands of schoolgirls for purposes of sexual slavery, or of a deliberate campaign of genocide & ethnic cleansing & or that the war itself was criminal?
I note that though you have covered in detail allegations against leaders of other countries of crimes 1,000th as serious the Scotsman has censored any mention of these facts.
That though you do not permit me to mention the truth you have long allowed an open supporter of Hitler's SS to promote his views in discussion with me. Note that I do not dispute the propriety of you giving a soapbox to Nazis but only of you then censoring counter arguments>
Since, unlike you, I believe people attacked should have the right to defend themselves I confirm that I am willing to publish any reply you care to make.
Friday, September 05, 2008
From Gordon Brown's speech to the Scottish CBI
"First of all," he told Scottish business leaders, "devolution has worked but I do see one problem. While there have been good reasons why this is so, the Scottish Parliament is wholly unaccountable for the budget it spends but not for the size of its budget. And that budget is not linked to the success of the Scottish economy. That is why we asked the commission to look carefully at the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament and this is a critical part of Calman's remit."
In other words increased fiscal autonomy. This would require the Scottish government to have control of corporation tax.
That is very good. Cutting corporation tax was the main plank in Ireland achieving 7% growth but has not been within the powers of Scotland. It has been SNP policy for over 2 years. If Labour UK propose us having the power to cut CT it is impossible that Scottish Labour would not endorse this which in turn means they would be likely to say they want to use it. Raising it is understood by almost everybody to be very damaging to the economy & nobody more sensible than Sheriden is going to call for that. While the Conservatives have not officially called for cutting CT (allegedly because it might jog Cameron's elbow) most Tory MSPs like the idea & they were responsible for the SNP keeping to their promise of an early cut to business rates. Even Tavish Scott, whose LibDems expelled me in 2005 because I had been trying to get the party to at least debate such cuts, recently brought up, unprompted, this possibility (officially it remains "too right wing" to be discussed & holding such views "incompatible with membership of the LDs).
This brings us to the next problem. Once we have such power & all the main parties committed to cutting CT how do we make sure they do so? Throughout Jack McConnell's rule as Labour leader he was officially committed to making growing the economy his "number 1 priority" yet he did virtually nothing. The SNP have promised a "Celtic Lion" economy matching or bettering Ireland's but all they have done is a small cut in business rates & even there they had to be pushed by the Conservatives. The LD's promises are even less trustworthy in light of their eagerness to expel anybody who says they should be kept. Corporation Tax raises £2 billion in Scotland. We could afford most, or even all, of that but it would annoy a lot of special interests.
It may seem strange that if the entire political establishment & large majority of voters are agreed on a policy it doesn't get followed. However this is a more particular example of a general rule. All these parties have always been committed to a successful economy. All that has changed is that they are now pretty much agreed on what needs doing.
The problem is that while economic success is very much in the interest of the public as a whole, parties are made up of special interest groups (some of them pretty weird because the satisfied are less likely to become political activists). When given the choice between pleasing everybody a bit by cutting taxes & letting the economy grow, or pleasing one of their own interests by spending more money on Ludditism desired by activists they tend to find paying the Danegeld the easier option in the short term. Most politics is about the short term on the assumption that the public & even more the media, has only short term memory. The example of Labour enforcing the smoking ban shows that parties will even ignore their core vote to please the activists special interest groups.
My own opinion is that the public do not have such a short term memory but that it would require a party to keep plugging about something & to make specific promises as to amounts & dates of CT cuts & the sort of specific promise that this would take priority over specific other measures, to convince voters. A rule of advertising is that when people say they are getting bored with an advert is when it has sunk into their consciousness & is working. I think any of the 4 parties could take advantage of getting really boring on the subject that Irish growth is achievable & that they, alone, can be entirely trusted to do it.
In this light I would like to point out that in the same speech Brown has ruled out a !windfall" tax on petrol (with the alleged intent to reduce its cost) which would damage confidence in the entire economy & ensure nobody invested in the energy sector (but most of the bad results would be in the long term). I had high hopes of him because I was convinced he knew what needed to be done to achieve economic success. I still think he knows & wish he would just do it. By comparison, last night, all 3 candidates for Labour leadership in Holyrood said the wanted such a tax. However badly Gordon is doing it is clear he is head & shoulders above any other possible Labour replacement.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Our core purpose as a government is to promote higher levels of sustainable economic growthThis is what got him elected. However it is very similar to Jack McConnell's repeated assurance that economic growth was Labour's "first priority". Lets go through the programme & see how much of it is consistent with that promise.
The full list of proposed bills is:
Additional Support for Learning (Amendment) Bill
Children's Hearings Bill
Scottish Climate Change Bill
Council Tax Abolition Bill
Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill
Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Bill
Legislative Reform Bill
Legal Profession Bill
Public Services Reform Bill
Rural Schools Bill
Scottish Parliament and Local Government Elections Bill
Not one of these will have a significant positive effect on the economy. The Climate Change Bill will certainly have a significant negative one. Replacing Council Tax with Income Tax will have a negative effect because Council Tax is relatively close to a Land Value Tax whereas income tax obviously puts the burden of tax on wealth creators. This is a technical point - the more immediate point is that all the confusion, fighting, lobbying, disorganisation, tax evasion etc in the process of bringing it in will certainly have an economically depressing effect.
Incidentally the site organiser seems unconvinced that the economy is the promised priority. In the midst of Alex speech is a link entitled:
View details of the Legislative Programme
In which the first priority is Greenery while making us wealthier is squeezed into a portmanteau "Wealthier & Fairer" section which in turn offers nothing, though mentioning the already passed reduction in business rates (which they wanted to delay but the Conservatives wouldn't let them). It does assure us
"Yet Scotland has the people and assets to create a much wealthier and fairer nation. Our education system is one of the best in the world. Our financial services, life sciences and tourism industries have a global reputation. Our land and seas are renowned for the quality of their produce and stewardship of the high quality natural and built environment attracts visitors and investment. Scotland's natural resources give us the potential to be the green powerhouse of Europe and show global leadership on climate change and use of natural resources. Our culture is exceptionally rich, supporting an international reputation for creative talent, unique heritage and contemporary innovation."
Most of which is true though our education system is, disgracefully, falling behind England's & the stuff about being a leader on climate change has no place in an economic assessment. In any case saying how much potential we have & how well we could be doing is no substitute for actually doing something about it.
When I stood for election I put forward a costed programme for growth. Even if the SNP have blown the money on their irresponsible election promises there are still things they could do. that would get our economy closer to the "Celtic Lion" beating Ireland's "Celtic Tiger" which Mr Salmond promised.
1) Encourage the building of new nuclear, without time wasting & overly bureaucratic regulations. With a future of cheap energy business will grow here. If not it will keep moving to China.
2) Cut building restrictions to allow mass production of housing. If we had houses available at 1/4 the current cost we would see an enormous & continuing boom. In a free market houses would cost 1/4 of what they do now.
3) Stop the £1 billion windmill subsidy & put the money into a 3p income tax cut.
4) Cut the regulations that make the costing of the new Forth Bridge at £3.2 billion, 13 times the inflation adjusted cost of the original. If we could cut tunnels at £3.5-£11 million per km, as the Norwegians have been doing for decades we could produce a Forth Tunnel & a Clyde Tunnel at Dunoon & tunnels to our bigger islands for far less than is proposed for the bridge. If we could get construction prices down to what it costs in the rest of the world we would also get a faster growing economy.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
A VOICE FROM THE PAST
According to records recently passed to me. you were at one time a Member of the Party in Greater Maryhill. It may well be that the failure to keep in touch with you is just another symptom of the malaise that gripped the former three Local Parties of Anniesland, Kelvin and Greater Maryhill.
At the end of last year we finally did something radical (and very overdue) about that.
We now have a body called Glasgow North Liberal Democrats. It has a considerable Membership (more than 140) that is growing quite steadily toward the initial target of 150, and then 200 this year. We have a FULL Executive Committee; we produce regular Newsletters; we have a Target Seat of Glasgow North (the Westminster seat) and a terrific PPC in Katy Gordon. We DO things: save two Post Offices, deliver FOCUS to 57,000 people and in 36,000 homes at least quarterly. We are fund-raising, looking to employ a full-time Organiser (and have our own premises!).
If you still subscribe to the ideals of the Party as enshrined in the preamble to our Party Constitution, if you would seriously like to see a non-Tory alternative to this present Westminster Government of ours, and something better than Alex Salmond in Bute House, then please get back to me. We're doing quite well, but not nearly well enough, yet, and Roy Jenkins was an age ago! We need lots more help and many more Members.
It would be splendid to hear from you.
With my/our best wishes,
Hugh Waterfield - Membership Secretary, GNLD"
Thank you for your email & may I congratulate you on achieving what looks like a quite incredible 30% increase in local membership. The Scottish party having declined from 2nd position to 4th in Scotland since I left & you joined/moved here.
I can confirm that my traditional liberal principles are unchanged since I was the first party member to suggest cutting corporation tax to make our economy grow, as Ireland's has & spoke at conference in favour of free trade, against government control of most of our industry, for individual lifestyle freedom, for less bureaucracy in supporting the the H&I airports, for scientific progress, against fuel poverty, against illegal wars & against genocide.
Unfortunately the party position is officially against letting the economy grow by free market means, against free trade, for state & "special interest group" taking control of most of our industry, against individual freedom, in favour of maximum bureaucracy & waste, against scientific progress, in favour of killing pensioners by hypothermia, in support of war crimes & actively in support of genocide.
I have the official party assurance of this & indeed that to promote traditional liberal values is "incompatible with party membership" & in a particularly Orwellian remark that supporting liberalism is now officially "illiberal". That being the case obviously I cannot rejoin but should you wish to ever be part of a party committed to liberal values rather their opposites I suggest you check http://9percentgrowth.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Letter in the Herald today. I have previously said why going to space by paying for X-Prizes is economically sensible & except from full blooded libertarians who think ANY government economic action is wrong in principle & full blooded members of the "LibDems" who think ANY economically useful government action is wrong in principle (sect 5) have had no real argument.
That argument is therefore won/ignored & this letter is about the cultural reasons for space development. We are told that we live in a "2 cultures" society where people are concerned either about art or about science & I went to some length not to criticise spending on art but to make this letter about how anybody who wants a united culture must wish to see spending not monopolised by either. The Herald have edited out bits marked [ ]. These were a comparison with the £1 billion annually spent on windmillery, which I regard as the opposite of progress & an economic justification for the project.
What we spend money on as a society shows what we value. If the "great & good" say we must spend £100 million for paintings because they are indeed magnificent achievements so be it. [I do begrudge the hundreds of billions we waste on Ludditism, windmillery & the theory that "nature" must trump mere human achievement.]
But I think we should spend at least comparable amounts on progress. Just as 2 centuries ago a government prize of £20,000 led to the development of a way to measure longitude, making ocean travel far easier, & an X-Prize of $10 million was enough to stimulate development of Spaceship One & Virgin Galactic, experts say that an X-Prize of £280 million ($500 million) would be enough to produce a private enterprise reusable shuttle able to fly us to orbit at a price comparable to flying to Australia.
[If it cannot be done then the prize will not be won. This is a bet where, if you lose you get your stake back. Ignore the unlimited economic impact of developing the resources in space & of having our country play a major part in it.] Surely the value to the human spirit alone of becoming a spacegoing civilisation is far more than a couple of paintings.
"Reaching for the Moon" once meant seeking an unattainable goal. Have we declined so far that now, when it is attainable for the price of government's pocket change, we are so fearful of innovation that we turn away from it?
UPDATE Jerry Pournelle has put this letter on his blog as well . I am almost becoming a regular fixture which is a considerable honour.
Monday, September 01, 2008
This year, he plans to paddle waters that are expected to be open for the first time in recorded history in another effort to warn the world of how quickly the Arctic is melting.
On Saturday they referred to his specific intention of going to the pole which would be ice free. Yesterday they just said he would be going as far north as possible.
Now why would that be? Could it be because
It’s looking like the ice at the North Pole won’t melt to water next month, as had been feared. It would have been the first time in thousands of years that the most northerly place on the planet would have been ice-free.
“It’s quite unlikely at this point,” Walt Meier a research scientist at the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center, said today.
Since this is the same guy who went swimming at the north pole last year for the same purpose of "raising awareness" it will be interesting to see how ITN manage to continue reporting this story without allowing its viewers to become aware that instead of melting the ice is actually considerably greater than last year & so, unless he gets out & wlks, he isn't going to make his target.
Of course if ITN merely reported the facts Ofcom would rap them over the knuckles for not enforcing the "consensus" view. Consensus being a code word for whatever the government want us to hear.