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Saturday, May 15, 2010


Archimedes having a prizewinning idea

I ran across this article by Benjamin Krohmal on historic technology X-Prizes & related. The ones I have checked & have dealt with before are reduced to the heading:

1714 - Longitude Prize

1721 - French Royal Academy Prize Questions

In 1721, the French Royal Academy of Sciences began offering regular scientific and mathematical “prize questions” and offering a Grand Prix medal for the best solution. While no cash prizes were awarded, the medals were potentially career-making honors and stimulated considerable research on the selected questions. Prize-winners included Maclaurin for his work in kinetics and Coulomb for work on magnetic compasses.

1775 - Alkali Prize

1795 - Napoleon's Food Preservation Prize

1820 - Montyon Prizes

In 1820, the French Royal Academy of Sciences began offering large monetary awards after a private donor established the Montyon Fund for prizes in medicine. The Montyon prizes were designated for solutions to pre-specified medical challenges, with reward amounts intended to be “proportional to the service” of the innovator. The Academy struggled with applicants’ failure to disclose negative results, while some suggested that the Academy itself was corrupt as there was little transparency in awarding the prizes and un-awarded funds reverted to the Academy’s coffers. Nonetheless, an unprecedented 283,000 francs in prizes were awarded between 1825 and 1842. In 1860, a young Louis Pasteur was awarded a Montyon prize for his work in physiology, and the winnings subsidized much of his subsequent groundbreaking research. In the mid-1800’s, private contributions to the French Royal Academy lead to the establishment of dozens of additional monetary prizes. These included the Jecker Prize, established in 1851 “to accelerate the progress of organic chemistry” and the Breant Prize in 1858 offering 100,000 francs for a cure for cholera. Charles Friedel was among the winners of the Jecker Prize for his now famous Friedel-Crafts reaction. The main Breant Prize was never awarded, though it propelled more research on infectious diseases that was rewarded with subsidiary prizes. Pierre and Marie Curie received multiple prizes from the Academy between 1895 and 1906. The French Royal Academy gradually transitioned from offering prizes to grants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

1823 - Turbine Prize

In 1823 the French Society for the Encouragement of Industry offered a prize of 6,000 francs for the development of a large-scale commercial hydraulic turbine. The prize was won in 1827 by then 25 year-old Benoit Fourneyron. His turbine was placed in the public domain and was immediately implemented across Europe and helped to power the burgeoning New England textile industry.

1895 - Chicago Times-Herald Prize for Motors

In 1895, the Chicago Times-Herald offered a $5000 Prize for Motors to be awarded for the development of "practicable, self propelling road carriages,” as determined by a 54-mile race. The winner was J. Frank Duryea. Even more than the prize money, the publicity generated did much to promote investment in automotive innovation.

1900 - Deutsche Prize

In 1900, Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe offered the Deutsche Prize of 100,000 francs for the development of an airship that could be flown on an 11km course around the Eiffel Tower in under 30 minutes. Alberto Santos-Dumont became an international sensation after being awarded the prize in 1901, despite exceeding the time limit by 40 seconds. After Santos-Dumont’s success, the Brazilian government matched the prize money he received.

1907 Deutsche-Archdeacon Prize

1908 - Scientific American Prize

In 1908, the magazine Scientific American offered a prize of $2,500 to the first airplane in America to publicly fly for 1km. Glenn Curtiss won the prize the same year.

1909 - English Channel Crossing Prize

1909 - Rheims Airshow Prizes

Also in 1909, several prizes for speed, distance, and altitude were offered at the Rheims Airshow. Glenn Curtiss won two prizes for speed, including the Gordon Bennett Prize, and launched an airplane manufacturing business with his winnings.

1910 - Milan Committee Prize

In 1910, the Milan Committee offered a prize of 160,000 lire for the first pilot to fly a plane over the Alps between Switzerland and Italy. The prize was won the same year by Gorges Chavez, but his winning flight ended in a crash and the pilot died four days later.

1910 - Hearst Prize

Also in 1910, William Randolph Hearst Offered $50,000 to the first pilot to fly across the U.S. in under 30 days. Though there were some attempts, the prize expired in 1911 without a winner.

1913 - Daily Mail Tans-Atlantic Prize

1919 - Orteig Prize

1931 - Soviet Committee for Invention

In 1931, the Soviet Union implemented a Committee for Invention offering payment for new inventions determined by a sliding percentage of the cost savings produced after three years of use. Non-monetary social privileges were also offered as rewards. The patent system was left in place, but application fees were high and patents were made less valuable by market controls. The amount of the rewards was increased in 1942 after innovation declined, but by most accounts the rewards remained too low to promote optimal levels of innovation. The system continued until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

1946 - U.S. Patent Compensation Board

In 1946, the U.S. Patent Compensation Board was established to provide an incentive for private innovations in atomic energy that were no longer eligible to be patented for security reasons. The Board considers the cost and usefulness of inventions in determining how much to reward inventors, but reward amounts have been criticized for being too low; Enrico Fermi received only $300,000 for his patented process for the production of radioactive isotopes. The Compensation Board remains in place today, but largely fails to stimulate private sector innovations in atomic energy.

1948 - Wolfskehl Prize

1958 - NASA Space Act Awards

In 1958, NASA established the Inventions and Contributions Board with the authority to offer Space Act awards of up to $100,000 for technological developments in aeronautics that contribute to NASA's goals. The program is still in place, and dozens of prizes have been awarded.
1959 - Feynman Prizes

1959 - Kremer Prizes

1980 - Fredkin Prize

1990 - Loebner Prizes

In 1990, Hugh Loebner and the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies offered the $100,000 Loebner Prize for the first computer to pass the “Turing Test” for artificial intelligence. The grand prize has not yet been won, but $2,000 prizes are awarded annually for the most significant advances in computer natural-language processing and artificial intelligence.

1991 - FCC Pioneer Preferences

In 1991, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the Pioneer Preference Program, offering a reward of preferential licensing (worth many millions of dollars) for the development of new spectrum-using communications services and technologies. Five companies received the reward before the program ended in 1997, and a sixth, Qualcomm, was granted the award for its development of digital wireless technology after a legal appeal.

1992 - Super Efficient Refrigerator Program

1994 - Rockefeller Prize

In 1994, the Rockefeller Foundation offered a prize of $1 million for developing a low-cost highly accurate diagnostic test for gonorrhea or chlamydia that could be easily administered in the developing world. The prize expired in 1999 without a winner, and has been critiqued for being too small, too inflexible, and offered for too short a period of time.

1995 - Ansari X Prize

1996 - Forsight Institute Feynman Prizes

In 1996, the Foresight Institute announced the $250,000 Feynman Grand Prize to be awarded for two specified breakthroughs in nanotechnology. The Grand Prize has not yet been won, but in the meantime the Feynman Institute awards $20,000 annually for the most significant advancements in nanotechnology.

1997 - Budweiser Challenge

1997 - Cheap Access to Space Prize

In 1997, the Space Frontier Foundation and the Foundation for International Non-governmental Development of Space (FINDS) announced the $250,000 Cheap Access to Space (CATS) Prize for the first private team to launch a 2kg to an altitude of 200km. Two launches were made, but the prize expired in 2000 with no winner.

1999 - Cooperative Computing Awards

In 1999, the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced its Cooperative Computing Awards, offering a total of $550,000 in prizes for the discovery of very large prime numbers. The intent of the Awards is to encourage computer networking for the solution of complex computational problems. Nayan Hajratwala won $50,000 in 2000 for discovering a prime number with over 1 million digits with the help of tens of thousands of networked computer users. Prizes for 10 million digits, 100 million digits, and 1 billion digits have not yet been awarded.

2000 - Millennium Grand Challenge in Mathematics

In 2000, the Clay Mathematics Institute announced the Millennium Grand Challenge in Mathematics, offering a combined $7 million; $1 million each for a proof or counterexample to any of seven classical conjectures in mathematics. The prize announcement received considerable public attention. Grigori Perelman was confirmed to have solved one of the seven conjectures in 2006, but he declined the award.

2000 - Goldcorp Challenge

2001 - Innocentive

The now independent company InnoCentive was founded by Eli Lilly in 2001 as a registry for scientific innovation prizes. Companies post specific scientific needs, a prize amount, and a deadline. The innovator providing the best solution is awarded the prize. To date, over 80 prizes have been awarded.

2003 - DARPA Grand Challenges

2003 - Methuselah Mouse Prize

In 2003, the Methuselah Mouse Foundation announced a prize for the development of long-lived genetically engineered mice in order to promote longevity research. The foundation solicits private donations to increase the prize amount, which now stands at more than $4 million.

2004 - Project Bioshield

In 2004, the U.S. enacted Project Bioshield, which includes a provision for automatic government payment to procure newly developed “qualified countermeasures” against bioterrorism. By most accounts, the program has done a poor job of stimulating private R&D on bioterror countermeasures.

2004 - NASA Centennial Challenges

In 2004, NASA announced the first in a series of Centennial Challenges, initially offering prizes from $50,000 to $250,000 for private sector development of specific technologies to advance space exploration. To date, six Challenges have been announced, two have expired with no winner, and five additional Challenges are scheduled to be announced in 2007. Current Challenges include the $2 million Lunar Lander Challenge.

2005 - Medical Innovation Prize Act

In 2005, former Congressman Bernie Sanders introduced a bill, the Medical Innovation Prize Act of 2005, that called for devoting .5% of U.S. GDP annually to be paid to the developers of new pharmaceuticals in lieu of standard patent market exclusivity. New drugs would be open to generic competition as soon as they received FDA approval, with prize payments from over a ten year period serving as an alternative incentive for private innovation. The Act called for prize payments to be linked to the incremental medical benefit provided by a new product, meaning that the fund would be dived between the developers of new drugs on the basis of the relative medical utility of their products. The intent of the bill was "to provide incentives for the investment in research and development for new medicines" and to "enhance access to new medicines."

2005 - Grainger Challenges

In 2005, the National Academy of Engineering announced the first in a planned series of Grainger Challenges, offering a $1 million first prize and $200 and $100 thousand second and third prizes for the development of economical filtration devices for the removal or arsenic from well water in developing countries. Over 70 entries were submitted, and Abul Hussan was announced the winner in 2007 for his SONO filter that has already been implemented to provide safe drinking water to 400,000 people.

2006 - Archon X Prize for Genomics

In 2006, the X Prize foundation announced the Archon X Prize for Genomics, offering $10 million for reaching targets for high speed and low cost in full genome sequencing.

2006 - Netflix Prize

In 2006, Netflix offered a prize of $1 million for a system to more accurately predict consumer preferences; specifically for a 10% improvement over Netflix’s current accuracy in predicting whether a customer will like a movie given previous selections.

2006 - Ibrahim African Leadership Prize

In 2006, businessman Mo Ibrahim announced a $5 million annual award for a former African head of state who has ceded power after significantly contributing to the welfare of his or her constituents. The prize is intended to reduce corruption as well as promote effective development strategies.

2007 - Virgin Earth Challenge

In 2007, Sir Richard Branson and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore announced the $25 million Virgin Earth Challenge for “a commercially viable design which results in the removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases so as to contribute materially to the stability of Earth’s climate.” In announcing the prize, Branson cited inspiration from previous innovation prizes, including the Longitude Prize, French prizes for alkali and canning, and 20th century prizes for automobiles and aviation.

2007 - Pneumococcal Vaccine Advance Market Commitment

Later in 2007, Canada, Italy, Norway, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $1.5 billion “Advanced Market Commitment” or AMC for pneumococcal vaccines. The AMC specifies requirements for new pneumococcal vaccines and pledges $1.5 billion to heavily subsidize the purchase of eligible vaccines for use in developing countries, in effect offering a prize for the development and delivery of effective vaccines. Backers suggest the AMC will speed delivery of vaccine to developing countries by 10 years and save the lives of 5.4 million children by 2030.


And here is a pdf of a paper entitled

"We can say that any society with prizes or medals paid for results, and that any society with salaried researchers, pensions, or expeditions paid for effort. If publications and courses are set aside as difficult to classify, the remainder of society activities can be thought of as paying for overhead. Thus, of our 135 eighteenth century societies, 47 paid for results, 20 paid for effort, and 47 paid for overhead...

Today, it seems, patrons of basic research pay more for effort and less for results than they once did ...

But why would scientists have pushed grants if grants were not a superior institution?
Well not all of them did – for example, on both occasions of increased British state grants,in 1850 and 1876, the then-Presidents of the Royal Society privately expressed strong reservations, such as a fear of personal jobbery and bureaucratic formalism [17].
More important, big grant advocates were typically associated with leaders of the scientific societies, and grant-like patronage gave these leaders more discretion regarding the money that passed through their hands...

Baron Montyon endowed two very large annual Academy prizes for “making some industrial process less unhealthy”, and for “improving medical science or surgery” Instead of the usual prize competitions, however, the [French] Academy funded the academy journal, some general retrospective awards, and some grants (still called “prizes” to avoid legal challenges), which from the 1850s on were often awarded for non-medical topics. These awards were also often made secretly to avoid criticism, even though the Academy claimed it published all such decisions ...

in 1900, the Royal Society of London declared they would accept “no further bequests to be awarded as prizes for past achievements”...

[after a lot of statistical calculation]

a statistical model has been constructed to predict the combinations of grant-like and prize-like patronage among eighteenth century scientific societies. This model successfully predicts today’s dominant form of basic research patronage, mostly grant-like and not prize-like, and such predictions rely more on patron types
than on a proxy for scientific professionalization. If further research confirms these results on patterns of patronage, including direction-of-causation assumptions, then research into the historical transition from grants to prizes
might do well to examine the role of patron types in more detail. Grants may have won not, as their advocates claimed, because they were a superior institution, but instead because non-local and non-autocratic governments tended to prefer them.
I have suggested that such governments might prefer grant-like funding to prize-like funding because they were susceptible to distributive pressures from leaders of scientific societies, who preferred the “pork” of increased discretion over the money that passed through their hands.

[ie that organisations (originally scientific societies, later government) find it preferable to hand out grants to people known to them than to pay for results which may come from any common ragamuffin, like the Wright brothers, & modern "democratic" leaders with these massive bureaucracies to keep fed are more interested in political pork barrelling & less in putting their name to some permanent achievement than earlier monarchs]

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Friday, May 14, 2010

ULSTER SCOTS aka SCOTS IRISH in history & today

Today Northern Ireland's economy is about 70% government spending & it is necessarily massively subsidised by Westminster. Scotland at around 60% is not that much worse than the UK average of 52-3%. Still none of this is sustainable. Compare & contrast this with Southern Ireland where they cut back on the state sector & regulation & achieved 7% annual growth over the last 20 years & have bitten the bullet in this recession to cut public spending further.

It was not always so. Catholic Ireland used to be a backward culture of priest ridden peasants whereas the Ulster Protestant or Ulster-Scots as they are known have produced far more than their share of America's great. If the Scots are in competition with the Jews for title of small nation that invented the modern world the Ulster Scots per capita must come ahead. Their culture of free-thinking, argumentative & fertile frontiersmen produced one of the most go getting cultures in human history co,parable in many ways with the Normans.
More than one-third of all United States Presidents have had ancestral links to today’s Northern Ireland - proportionately far more than from any other immigrant group.

At least 15, from Andrew Jackson (7th) to George W.Bush (43rd), are descended from the many thousands of Ulster Scots, often known as Scots-Irish in the US, settlers who left the northern counties of Ireland for the New World in the 18th and 19th centuries.

These so-called Scots-Irish were in the vanguard of the pioneers who opened up the frontier and became, in the words of a prominent historian, “the first true Americans” who helped make the United States what it is today. Yet it often comes as a surprise for people to learn that so many Presidents, generals, bankers, inventors and movie stars had their roots in the same little corner of the world, sharing ‘this stern and virile’ heritage, as Theodore Roosevelt described his maternal Scots-Irish ancestry...

Among the historic Scots-Irish Presidents, the best known are Andrew Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant whose portraits adorn, respectively, the $20 and $50 bills which share the pockets of US citizens with coins bearing the American Eagle emblem designed by Co. Londonderry-born Charles Thomson. It was Thomson who, as Secretary of Congress, also drafted the first version of the Declaration of Independence which was duly printed in 1776 by Co. Tyrone-born John Dunlap, publisher of America’s first daily newspaper...

Northern Irish ancestry was also the common link between American heroes like frontiersman Davy Crockett, novelist Mark Twain, General ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, inventors Thomas Alva Edison, Cyrus McCormick and Robert Morse, songwriter Stephen Foster, as well as movie stars John Wayne and James Stewart. Among today’s celebrities with similar ancestral roots are singers Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire, actor Robert Redford, space pioneers James Irwin, Neil Armstrong and John Glenn plus the wealthy Mellon and Getty industrial/philanthropic dynasties.
One can understand why the UK government has been willing to flood government money into Northern Ireland to try yo rebuild a society after so much fighting. However I am coming to the conclusion that such money almost always robs a culture of its vitality. Thus while none of us lightly turn down large amounts of free money from government the price may be to high.

We gave seen this in action in Gaza. If any reader can think of any instances of government aid, either foreign aid or jelp to depressed regions having a long term positive effect rather than producing dependency culture perhaps you could put it in comments. Thinking of this has had an effect on considering Scotland's future.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010


Hunterston encroached on by windmills

I sent part of the item I wrote yesterday to various newspapers & it has been published today by the Scotsman but so far apparently by nobody else. I won't repost it here because the published version differs only from the part of yesterday's in that the Scotsman edited my statement that 25,000 die each year from fuel poverty (via Help the Aged) to "many thousands" & deleted the "as admitted by their lobby organisation Scottish Renewables" following the reference to wind being unable to supply any part of baseload.

This has resulted in a couple of emails - the minor one asking me to justify my figures. I replied
The £1,243 comes via this SONE briefing"Last summer, the price comparisons firm, reported the average annual household energy bill had doubled in five years to £1,243. It could reach £4,185 by 2020 if the trend continued. But that did not count the likely cost of the massive investment required, adding £548, so that by 2020 bills could have quadrupled to £5,000 a year" as you will see I have been somewhat optimistic in sticking to Ofgen's £2000 estimate rather than £5,000.

The £300 is assuming we can match French prices which are a quarter of ours. With a regulatory regime based on safety needs rather than politics I strongly suspect the nuclear industry could do better than that.

Fig 21 here shows 5.1 TWH of electricity from all "renewable" sources out of just over 45. Scottish Renewables website disingenuously shows 60% of "capacity" being wind but since wind averages about 27% capacity usage that probably means that the wind capacity is much less than 30% of that "renewable" 13%. You will have read my comments about the refusal of the Herald to publish factual responses to the the disgraceful lies they published from that same Scottish Renewables claiming 25%. It is typical of most of the media in this country, obviously including the Herald, that they have not the least compunction about promoting claims which are not merely false but, as can be seen from the way SR's claims are disproven from their own site, deliberate lies by "environmental" parasites without the remotest trace of honesty.
I should admit that I find the £1,243 is actually a figure for all domestic energy including gas. Nonetheless the important bit is that France is producing it so much cheaper.

The more important response was from Steuart Campbell who has provided a link that suggests the situation is much less dispiriting than I had realised.
What you say (in the Scotsman today) is correct, but unduly pessimistic (see

So it seems that new NPPs will proceed, despite LibDem objections. I note that the new Sec of State for Environment and Climate Change is not Simon Hughes, the LibDem energy spokesman, but Chris Huhne. So either Simon refused the job on account of NP or wasn't even offered it.

I feared that a Con/LibDem coalition would stop NP, but now that it's been sidelined, I'm relieved and hopeful. Any vote on the matter in the Commons, with the LibDems abstaining, would get overwhelming support because of Labour's support. However, it seems that a vote will not happen. Nothing is stopping applications to build NPPs except that planning process (in England and Wales). Even Scotland may fall into line when the SNP lose power next year.

It's just sad that all parties think that we need renewable energy generation.

Thank you for that link which I had not seen & it does significantly reassure me. The LDs being allowed to vote against it is indeed an "odd arrangement" but there should be enough sane Labour MPs to support it unless a Miliband changes the policy back to windmillery alone.

Even so I assume the LDs will act as a brake on development at every turn.

Huhne had been "environment spokesman" & I suspect got the job both because, as somebody who would have beaten Clegg to the leadership if some ballots hadn't been mysteriously delayed he is a bigger fish than Hughes & because the LDs think "environment" is a more important part of the portfolio than energy.

Neil Craig

I think you need to make it clear that, as far as I can tell, there will be no need for as vote in the Common on NP (the only thing holding up applications is validation of the designs by the NII). If there were a vote, the LDs would abstain, not vote against.

Once approved by the NII, applications can be made, but they would be referred to the newly-established Infrastructure Planning Commission, an independent body that now decides applications for 'nationally significant infrastructure projects' (England and Wales only). See In effect, it's a fast-track system avoiding protracted local inquiries, but not everyone likes this idea. So I can't see the matter coming before Parliament and the LDs can't stop such development without threatening the coalition. In effect, although the new government has a policy on the environment, it doesn't have one on energy (it annoys me that energy never gets mentioned in policy lists). So where is there any declaration of how the government will keep the lights on?


The "odd arrangement" is that the LDs will be allowed to vote against any new nuclear plants if a vote is ever required but since they were Labour government policy we can expect Labour to help them get it through. If Balls takes over they certainly will. Miliband D may be more difficult, having nailed his colours very firmly to eco-fascist mast but I think his progress in Labour owes much to him being a blank slate.

It will be interesting to see if there are any responses either on the figures or from the LudDems.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010


So we have a new government. The LudDims have compromised over PR to get ministerial jobs (I strongly suspect the Tories would have jumped at a deal that gave more Tory MPs ministries in return for PR). The Alternative Vote system is a slight improvement since you are now actually allowed to vote for your first preference without being disenfranchised, you just don't get it. As Douglas Carswell, one of the real radical Tory MPs says
I do think that we need to reform the electoral system. Why? Put simply, there's not enough choice and competition. We saw the results in the last Parliament.

Moreover, the current system is horrifically biased against the Conservatives (look at the latest election results).

Top of my list to make politicians accountable are recall and open primaries. I also think that we need a more equitable distribution of seats. There are other reforms that we could make, too.

There is an appetite for a new politics that is more niche, distinctive, particular and local. Yet AV (alternative votes) makes politics the precise opposite.

It turns politics into a game of second preferences. Politicians can discard voters’ immediate concerns, and rely on picking up their second preferences.

Far from allowing an increasingly consumerist electorate a wider spectrum of choice, AV mitigates against niche and distinctive voter choice. It will leave us with a politics that is even more bland and generic.

Career politicians will love it ....

And the deal was struck entirely by career politicians.

The dreadful concession that the Conservatives made was made by Cameron here in his initial speech offering to negotiate so it barely counts as a concession but something he was happy to do. He said
The Liberal Democrats in their manifesto have made the achievement of a low-carbon economy an absolute priority and we support this aim. I’m sure we can agree a common plan to achieve it.

As a result among the ministers is

Chris Huhne - Energy & Climate Change
The LDs are absolutely & unequivocally opposed to permitting any new nuclear plants to be built. Indeed they even decided it would be wrong to extend the life of Hunterston past 2011 to keep the lights on. Supporting nuclear was one of the 3 things officially described as "illiberal & incompatible with party membership" when expelling me (the others being cutting business tax as a free market means of achieving growth & allowing builders to build houses).

Each household already pays an average of £1243 annually for electricity when it can be supplied, via nuclear, for £300. Ofgen has said it will rise to £2,000. With the LDs in control of energy it must rise even further, if anything they have ever said means anything. We already have 25,000 people dying, unnecessarily every year from fuel poverty, murdered by eco-fascist politicians - this cannot fail to rise. Beyond that 70% of electricity is non-domestic so that price rise will feed through to everything else we buy sell or produce making our economy even more uncompetitive than current prices already make it. Moreover windmills simply cannot provide any part of baseload, as admitted by their lobby organisation Scottish Renewables so we are going to have massive blackouts.

By selling out to the LDs on eco-fascism the Conservatives have made it impossible for our economy ever to permanently get out of recession.

LibDem energy policy on a windless night

And finally in the unlikely event that the Conservatives do intend to do anything at all here is Machiavelli's advice on making cuts (though he was being more literal.
Hence it is to be remarked that, in seizing a state, the usurper ought to examine closely into all those injuries which it is necessary for him to inflict, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily; and thus by not unsettling men he will be able to reassure them, and win them to himself by benefits. He who does otherwise, either from timidity or evil advice, is always compelled to keep the knife in his hand; neither can he rely on his subjects, nor can they attach themselves to him, owing to their continued and repeated wrongs. For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.

Or to put it another way - you have a probably 100 day honeymoon - get all the cuts in place by the end of that, even when it includes announcing that there will be a civil service hiring & pay freeze & benefits freeze until the budget is in balance - something which will take years.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010


The Scottish Conservative Party not only did very badly at the election they were unique in doing badly. The Welsh Conservatives, by comparison, made a significant recovery. The Scots Tories now, admittedly on 17% of the vote, got only 1 seat.

When you consider that all the other sizable parties here are openly very leftist. Labour, SNP & Greens describe themselves as socialist. The LudDims having passed, almost unanimously, motions calling for most of Scots industry to be controlled by political correctness officers with powers to ensure business is managed according to the "expectations" of every leftist "special interest group" are even further from traditional free market liberalism (& arguably sanity). So why don't the Conservatives profit from that.

The common answer is that Scots are inherently leftist but polls on most actual issues show us only about 3% to the left of the UK average. The real elephant in the room has been the SNP whose electoral heartland, the north & east of Scotland is largely where demographics would expect to see Conservative votes. The SNP is led by leftists but largely voted for by natural Tories.That is not so surprising - nationalism has always been a rallying cry for the right while leftists claim internationalism.

The politically correct "left" have, though the media, largely captured the Scottish self image & the Conservatives have done little to stop it. A long series of upper class candidates with anglified accents have not helped, not did Thatcher's very middle England manner. The fact that Gordon brown is quintessentially a dour Scots son of the manse has worked in Labour's favour here where it worked against him elsewhere.

If Cameron, who, as the name makes clear, is of Scots extraction if no more, now faces Clegg & Miliband that may change. I don't think much of Scots Tory leader Annabel Goldie but she is as quintessentially a middle class Scotswomann as Thatcher was English.

My opinion is that to gain ground the Scots Conservatives have to take on the SNP on the nationalism. That cannot be done simply by symbolic flag waving but by taking them on over issues in which they are not serving the national interest.

Specifically the SNP's Luddite but typically politically correct objection to nuclear power will, at best, mean that we will be importing much of our power from England (at worst England will have massive shortages too & will naturally put local customers first). It certainly already means our electricity costs far more than it need.

One of the major policies the SNP went for in the last election was a promise to try to cut Corporation Tax as Ireland had done with remarkable success. I voted for them in the constituency vote for that reason. Since then they have done nothing. Again the Tories not only did nothing but promised nothing.

In the same way the LudDims recently promised they supported cutting Scots income tax, without any costings. As soon as this action prevented the Scottish budget passing the immediately dropped it showing they never meant it in the first place. It is nonetheless a policy that would encourage many of Britain's most enterprising to settle here.

Results over the Labour & SNP governments have shown Scots educational achievements falling below the English ones. This is probably the first time this has been the case since the 15th Century when we had 4 universities & England 2. This should be a matter of shame about which real Scottish nationalists should never be silent.

I believe that if the Conservatives made their strategy to make specific promises of what would give us a growth rate higher than England's they would strike a chord - after all the SNP did. This would cost us some government spending but, considering the amount of waste we have, little real hurt.

This is from my 9% Growth Party election address. I have highlighted things which I think would be particularly useful for bringing our economy ahead of England's & thus making people proud of Scotland. I have asterisked a few I have changed slightly.

1) Stop blackouts. Act before we lose 50% of our electricity.
2) 9% growth using the methods that gave Ireland 7% on average & 10.5% in a good year.
3) Reform planning regulations. In 1907 a house & car cost the same - the difference is that planning regulators restrict housebuilding.
4) Stop subsidising windmills. Save £1 billion.
5) The smoking ban is an illiberal restriction on individual freedom. End it.6) End fuel poverty. France produces 80% nuclear at 1.3p a unit. We can do the same.
7) A needs based transport policy. The previous Executive were committed to spending 70% of their transport budget on public transport (code for railways) though it makes up only 3% of traffic.
8) Tunnels project. Norway built 740km of tunnels at £7 million per km. We should do the same making it a short drive from Glasgow to Dunoon, Rothesay, Kintyre, Jura, Islay & Mull etc.
9) Fully automate Glasgow's subway allowing it to run at lower costs, greater capacity & 24/7.
10) Fully automate the Glasgow-Edinburgh train with the same effect.11) Ultimate aim of a fully automated Scots rail transport system.
*12) 4% cut in civil servants annually. was 2% but the economy has done badly since
*13) 4% government efficiency savings. Almost any private business trys to incresae efficiency at least that much & their is more scope in Holyrood.
*14) Make sure government projects at least come close to making economic sense.
15) 3p cut in Scots income tax after funding of business tax cuts to provide growth.
16) No new politically correct vindictive bans. The smoking ban was NOT in manifestos at the last election.
17) A Holyrood committee to find & abolish counterproductive laws & regulations.
18) A schools vouchers system.
19) Allow schools to impose discipline.20) Make a DVD of Scotland's history & post it to Scots, or those with Scots names, over the world. Include links encouraging Scottish tourism.
21) Establish a £20 million X-Prize to encourage space satelite industry to locate in Scotland.
22) Establish an X-Prize foundation funded from the Scots contribution to the lottery to encourage high technology in Scotland.
23) Widen & improve the M8.
"24) Repeal the law requiring us to destroy 505 of our electricity supplt & thus GNP over the next 10 years. Show a little backbone over the global warming catastrophisy lies
*25) Over 60% of all money spent in Scotland is government money. Cut this.
*26) deleted - to late

The other thing is to get the Scottish budget directly related to our tax receipts. I shall deal with this soon but so long as we have a "needs based" budget payment rather than productivity based one we have a morally debilitating pressure to always demand more.

The final thing the Scots Conservatives have to learn is that they live (at least in Holyrood terms & probably soon in Westminster) in a Parliament where they are never going yo have 51% of MSPs but then neither will they face a total wipeout. The FPTP system encourages parties to fight solely over what is considered the central ground. Under PR parties establish & hopefully extend their niche of support. This also gives them much more space to embrace policies which do not command mass support & to try & sell them. One of the most depressing things about the last Holyrood election was seeing the Tories refusing to offer income tax cutting, serious business tax cuts or new nuclear power & instead making their unique selling point more council houses & more money for drug addicts because this fits closely with what all the other parties consider the consensus. That did not pick up votes from swing voters & actively discouraged their own vote from coming out. Even under FPTP getting your own natural vote out is more effective than picking up opponent's ones - under PR with multiple parties it is much moreso.

And they could do worse than asking Brian Monteith.

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Monday, May 10, 2010


So what happens if the LudDims & Conservatives go for the Luddite anti-nuclear, windmillery "low carbon economy" that Cameron gave in his first offer. Well basically our electricity prices keep going through the roof & even worse, Britain ceases to be able to produce enough electricity to keep the lights on. Though we are spending £10s of billions on wind it only provides 0.3% of our electricity & is thus totally useless [see generation by fuel type table]

Here are figures of energy use/GNP internationally. This is similar to the SNEK figures I previously produced except that they showed simply electricity usage whereas this is less specific covering all energy use & with the ratio reversed.
World 212.9
Albania 158.2
Algeria 176.8
Angola 322.6
Argentina 138.6
Armenia 191.1
Australia 208.3
Austria 139.1
Azerbaijan 437.2
Bahrain 559.4
Bangladesh 97.9
Belarus 458.9
Belgium 205.5
Benin 301.3
Bolivia 205.8
Bosnia and Herzegovina 189
Botswana 120.3
Brazil 146.1
Bulgaria 354.7
Cameroon 222.8
Canada 293.2
Côte d'Ivoire 265.3
Chile 166.7
China 231.3
Colombia 98.1
Congo 30.5
Democratic Republic of the Congo 4746.3
Costa Rica 101.2
Croatia 179.3
Cyprus 159.6
Czech Republic 254.4
Denmark 133.2
Dominican Republic 136.2
Ecuador 221.4
Egypt 201.4
El Salvador 146.4
Eritrea 215
Estonia 295.9
Ethiopia 389.9
Finland 269.1
France 170.5
Gabon 204.5
Georgia 244.3
Germany 163.9
Ghana 198.7
Greece 137.8
Guatemala 153.3
Haiti 159.4
Honduras 202.3
Hong Kong 91.4
Hungary 178.4
Iceland 401.4
India 189.5
Indonesia 239.3
Iran 316.1
Ireland 107.6
Israel 141.3
Italy 122.8
Jamaica 401.1
Japan 154
Jordan 253.1
Kazakhstan 539
Kenya 467.6
South Korea 238.2
Kuwait 481
Kyrgyzstan 319.3
Latvia 189.6
Lebanon 327
Lithuania 233.7
Luxembourg 153.7
Macedonia 222.1
Malaysia 257.5
Malta 130.7
Mexico 180.3
Moldova 528
Morocco 96.4
Mozambique 409
Namibia 102
Nepal 248.1
Netherlands 172.4
New Zealand 206.4
Nicaragua 181.9
Nigeria 776.6
Norway 172.2
Oman 361.6
Pakistan 236.1
Panama 132.3
Paraguay 155.9
Peru 86.7
Philippines 127.4
Poland 212.2
Portugal 138.2
Romania 248.7
Russian Federation 519
Saudi Arabia 448
Senegal 155.1
Singapore 213.8
Slovakia 273.4
Slovenia 190.2
South Africa 265.1
Spain 142.5
Sri Lanka 120.8
Sudan 266.7
Sweden 216.9
Switzerland 122.3
Syria 294.3
Tajikistan 486.3
Tanzania 783.5
Thailand 199.1
Togo 318.2
Trinidad and Tobago 766.2
Tunisia 123.3
Turkey 167.1
Ukraine 565.9
United Arab Emirates 481.3
United Kingdom 141.2
United States 221.7
Uruguay 94.5
Uzbekistan 1253
Venezuela 434.2
Viet Nam 227.3
Yemen 335.9
Zambia 729.4
Zimbabwe 374.6

This shows that UK energy use already puts us near the bottom of energy users ahead only of Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Colombia, Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Namibia, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Switzerland, Tunisia & Uruguay. Apart from Hong Kong which, being a city state, has less diffuse energy needs that is an unprepossessing crowd & the pure electricity rather than energy figures measured by SNEK remove Austria, Italy & Switzerland, the most successful of them.

We need to stop the lights going out at almost any cost. Nuclear power would, by a long way, be the option chosen by any sane government but since all our main political parties are driven by insane ideological Luddite parasites we need another option that will at least minimise the increase in 25,000 deaths fuel poverty already causes unnecessarily annually.

I have previously suggested the world build a High Voltage Direct Current International Grid.

Doing it on a smaller scale we could just build 2 or 3 new interconnectors. We already have one to France which provides 5% of UK electricity & is all that is keeping the lights on in Britain.

This shows Europe's already existing interconnectors (red), under construction (green) & proposed (blue dotted)

So lets get on with building them. Better yet extend the Norwegian one to Russia which, producing 2.5 times the world average of energy to GNP & 4 times what we do would clearly be able to sell it to us at a competitive rate.

As I say buying foreign electricity, largely nuclear generated if from France, Sweden or Russia, is not remotely as sensible as making our own but it is infinitely more sensible than letting the lights go out.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010


If the Conservatives refuse to agree to a credible offer of PR do the LDs have a serious other option. An incredible one would be one that requires a commission & then takes a long time to go through Parliament & might be wrecked by Tories "ignoring" a whip. Norman Tebbit says no & that the Conservatives should just set up a minority government & dare the LDs to bring them down. Here is an alternative.

Labour & LDs set up their own minority government under Miliband or Johnston, Brown having been removed. Labour would have to go for PR instantly & give the LDs a lot of seats in Cabinet. Such an arrangement would not have a Parliamentary majority but only 315 votes, enough to beat the Conservatives but 11 short of a majority. However the SDLP in Ireland would almost certainly support it & most of the other parties, which tend to consider themselves of the "left" & all of which support a democratised electoral system would not vote against it immediately. Such a government could certainly take office.

It would, however, have no overall majority & would be likely to fail to pass some legislation. Nobody would expect it to last long.

Here is the clever bit - the Labs & Libs could make a deal whereby, until PR was in place, if the government fell & a new election was needed they would fight on a single list. In each constituency the party which had previously placed first would stand & the other stand down asking its voters to support their government partner. Both would also have to be able to instantly deselect any of their own mem,bers who voted against the government - particularly over PR. They would also promise that within a certain period - say 6 months - of PR being introduced they would go to the polls again. Theoretically this would mean in a new election the before PR "alliance" would get 52% of the vote & according to electoral calculus, a 266 seat majority. In practice they might well do rather better since, with the knowledge that a new election would be introduced after PR, they might well gain votes from other PR supporting parties (some of whom like UKIP might not field candidates & endorse the PR alliance) & fairminded Conservatives.

When PR was introduced the friendships established & general discrediting of the Conservatives would make it likely these 2 would get about 52% in the following election & remain the dominant force in UK politics.

I would like to make it clear I do not want this outcome. I would much prefer the Conservatives, a few of whom are competent, to Labour, none of whom are. However I do think proportional representation to be a vital reform to make our political system democratic, accountable to the electors, with low barriers to entry to new parties & ideas, relatively uncorrupt & to end the divisive effect of the south of England being apparently all Conservative (because they get about 40% in each constituency) & the north & Scotland apparently Labour (because they win with 40% in each constituency). Thus PR should be a deal breaker for the LDs. It should be the only deal breaker because if they are sen as having destroyed the most stable possible coalition in favour of an openly discredited Labour they would be punished at the polls. If the Conservatives refuse it or are clearly dealing dishonourably the LDs should take their toys across the street. I don't think Cameron, whatever his faults, is dealing dishonourably but I prefer him not to have the opportunity to.

The point for all to remember is that the people's will is sovereign & that though they may channel it they have no right to override it. Everybody keeping that in mind will emerge with popular credit. Everybody who doesn't will always have to fear popular revenge.

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