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Saturday, August 20, 2011

More Political and Economic Wisdom of Jerry Pournelle

  I last did these excerpts from his blog in Feb 2010. Here are some more They are mostly part of longer articles. I would like to think of them as distilled axioms. Emphases added by me and comments in italics are my own.:
regulations from Washington are far more stifling, and thus far greater a cause of economic stagnation, than government spending and for that matter taxes. We have had economic booms in times of higher taxes; taxes impede and even stifle, but not to the extent that regulations do. The German Economic Miracle came about from liberation from stifling regulations, not from Marshal Plan spending (the actual amount of capital injected was quite small compared to the capital destroyed by the war and the early Morgenthau Plan implementations) but from relief from regulation. The United States is unlikely to have economic recovery until we eliminate regulatory impediments to economic growth
No representation without taxation: only those who pay something in taxes may vote. It has been proposed before. Indeed, for all of the early days of the republic, a forty schilling freehold was a pretty standard requirement for being a voter.
When the people can vote themselves largess from the treasury, and impose taxed they do not pay, those people are rulers: at one time a small aristocracy, but is it different if it’s just numbers?
I guarantee you that if Congress were elected only by people who have paid more than $500 in income taxes in the previous year we would have a lot more economic freedom. The only thing worse than taxation without representation is taxation with representation in which the people represented are entitlement consumers rather than those obliged to pay for those entitlements
We have already in place regulation exceptions for small businesses. Some are for businesses with ten or fewer employees. Others apply if your business has fifty or fewer. There may be exceptions for those with 100 or fewer, although I am not sure of that.
My proposal is simple: double the exception numbers. Regulations that apply only to businesses with more than ten employees now apply only to those with more than twenty. Those that apply to more than fifty now apply only to those with more than a hundred. Etc. The effect would be to let successful small businesses expand easily. Those that have been making do by using part time employees can now let them become full time. Regulations would remain in place, but now they apply to fewer businesses. This would take effect immediately and be in place for ten years.

I suspect that the effect would be dramatic. Possibly it would not, but it isn’t going to hurt the economy
you can improve most schools by a factor of two by firing the 10% least competent teachers. This shouldn’t be surprising: it’s the case with most organizations a bit surprising that parents never catch on, and the best teachers, who are thoroughly aware of all this, almost never speak out. Of course they don’t dare. Teachers unions may claim to be professional associations, but many of them are more than willing to employ tactics that might shock even a mob-controlled garbage collector union.
Freedom produces prosperity. It takes more than just freedom, of course. It takes rule of law. But freedom and rule of law tend to work: note what happened to the barren rocks of Hong Kong as opposed to the far greater resources of nearby Canton Province. In China they had disorder, then Communism, a Great Leap Forward and a Cultural Revolution, and a stifled economy. In Hong Kong they had British Colonial Rule, few physical resources, but stability, rule of law, and economic freedom.
California is doomed, of course. Everyone who can will flee, and certainly it is no place to start a new business in. The only new jobs are expanding state hiring to be financed by more taxes.....Democracies endure until the voters understand that they can vote themselves largess -- entitlements if you will -- from the public treasury. Eventually they run out of other people's money. The usual next step is a dictatorship. The dictator generally comes in as Friend of the People, although some of them, like Caesar, were not simply power hungry tyrants... usually when democracies collapse, the result is Chaos and Old Night.
There ought to be a prohibition against paying anyone in that department (useless piece of bureaucracy)written as an earmark into the next appropriation bill. It needs to be worded properly so it is not a Bill of Attainder, but perhaps they can eliminate a lot of people
A totally unregulated market will end up with human flesh sold in the market place. Growth of regulation leads to concentrations of wealth and the kind of "Permit Raj" that kept India and China in the dumps for so long. All that is obvious -- but it's obvious to those who issue the permits, too.
One of the long term trends in modern America is the increasing Federal transfer of funds from the younger generation to the older. ..... Another long term trend is the cost of health care, which has risen steadily as a percentage of national income to exceed 1/6 and is approaching 1/4. Since most health care expenditures go to older patients, this dramatically increases the transfer of income from younger to older. Note that it is also a transfer from productive to non-productive in the UK it is about 10%, almost all state spending, which compensates for a higher % of GNP being spent by the state.
The social sciences are also learning that many of their discoveries are based on faulty statistics. Science only works when crucial experiments are replicated; when a theory becomes a creed, it's no longer science and when it becomes heresy to experiment or question a theory, the results are seldom good.
Low cost energy and freedom equal prosperity. Interestingly, I find few who will argue against that statement. It's just that nothing is done to implement it.
Much of economics isn't difficult, or rather, the difficulty is in cooking up arguments to "prove" that common sense conclusions are wrong.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free
a project for those who have time: Government We Can Do Without Just Now

Specific people and offices doing things that perhaps need doing if we are rich, but which we can all pretty well agree are not necessary in an era of borrowed money. The more specific the better: a particular office, and even particular employees, doing things that it is pretty clear we don't need to be borrowing money to do.
the most important resource of a nation is its brightest students, and finding them and nurturing them is more important than all the special needs schools put together -- indeed, if we do not develop our intellectual capital, we will not be able to afford schools for special needs students
The remedy to a lagging economy is low cost energy and economic freedom (meaning chopping out regulations that favor existing institutions over new ones so that start ups have a chance to compete). Capitalism's creative destruction will do the rest: look at the German Economic Miracle after World War II for a picture of what hard work and freedom can do.
We cannot build a great world civilization without energy, and we can't get to that civilization without a period of dependence on nuclear fission power
Parkinson concluded that if government disposes of much more than 10% of GDP, things will deteriorate
Note that China is not going to halt nuclear power construction. The major effect of Fukushima Daiichi may well be a very great Chinese comparative advantage. Cheap easily available energy and freedom are the keys to economic prosperity: the Chinese are moving toward both. The United States is moving away from both. The results are predictable .
"energy prices are a major factor in economic growth, and everyone knows it." I have repeated this thought several times - I think it worth it
I don't like Gaddafi, but I didn't like Saddam either. I suspect that putting out a contract on Saddam Hussein would have cost a lot less than a $Trillion $Dollars. I would guess that a billion dollars and a US passport -- bring me his head or proof that you killed him, no questions asked -- would do it. Indeed, I suspect that offering a billion dollars to the first winner of a fair election might be a good old college try at nation building...
I have no idea what the mission is in Libya
The goal in the US is to see to it that only the very rich will graduate without a crushing loan burden; thus there will be a number of educated bond slaves to work for those who graduate debt free. Of course the tax burden will make it nearly impossible for anyone to get into the class whose kids graduate debt free. A few will, by going to work for Goldman Sachs and such, but most professionals will no longer be middle class: they will be debtors who can be ordered about.
Welcome to the brave new world. England is used to that sort of thing. Americans are not. Yet.
democracy was not the object of the Convention of 1787. A republic that derived its powers from the consent of the governed was. The Venetian Republic was discussed frequently (Ironically the Serene Republic was ended and looted by Napoleon and his French Republic soldiers not many years later). Democracies tend to limit freedom and liberty, in favor of equality, particularly egalitarianism in property. Preserving the right to property under a democracy is one of the primary problems of political science. Democracies work best in small uniform countries and city-states.
Much of economics isn't difficult, or rather, the difficulty is in cooking up arguments o "prove" that common sense conclusions are wrong. The fact is that many common sense conclusions are quite correct, and it takes a lot of education to get you to believe different. The LafferLaffer Curve is one such: It is obvious that if you have a zero tax rate you will get no income. It is equally obvious that in any kind of free society if you nave a 100% tax rate on income you will get no revenue, because no one will work unless enslaved. There is clearly some kind of curve connecting the two zero points ...............
Laffer's notion, that we use the borrowed money we threw into the Stimulus Plans to pay everyone's taxes, then stand out of the way and see what happens is stunning. I'd add to it: suspend all regulations that get in the way of hiring people. If you want to hire someone and that someone wants to work, let it happen. They work, you pay, and if you don't think they're working hard enough, you can fire them. (Does that remind you of the German Economic Miracle?) .
The more regulation imposed the less competitive the market will be, and the more concentrated it will become. Economic freedom brings about efficiency. Energy plus freedom brings economic boom.
I am rapidly reaching a conclusion, confirmed by a number of those in the rocket entreprneurial community, and also several Pentagon people: if we stay outside NASA, the technology exists to build a reusable orbiter for under a billion dollars; probably far less than a billion.
This could be done by prizes, and at the moment there are two prize schemes to consider: a single prize of $1 billion, or a first and second prize of $500,000,000 for first and $250,000,000 for second. The notion of a second prize is intriguing but harder to sell. A second insures that more than one firm can raise capital to compete.

Discussion invited. But the astonishing thing is that for a billion or less (with room for profit and operations) we can actually demonstrate reusable, savable orbiters.


$1 billion spent right would in fact develop the technology -- all engineering, no new science needed -- to build an orbital ship that would operate as airlines do. Fly, inspect, refuel, fly again. Once that ship is built, additional orbiters will cost about what big commercial airplanes cost, and operate about the way airlines do. Airlines operate at about 3 to 5 times fuel costs, with about 110 employees per airplane (half of those sell tickets). With orbital access at about the cost of a first class ticket from America to Australia, free enterprise and commerce will take care of the rest
Many years ago I took part in a study at the University of Iowa (SUI in Iowa City) in which we coached students from the drama department to go in for counseling and give textbook responses to see what diagnoses they'd get; the results were not encouraging. Only about half the diagnoses were "correct" in that the therapist came up with the diagnosis that the student was role-playing. In those days the therapy was almost all talk -- there were Freudians, Rogerians, followers of Karen Horney, Gestalt psychologists, Reality therapists, a Jungian or two, and some others I forget, and each had a different treatment for different diagnoses, and none of them knew much about what was really going on. The study made the whole process look farcical, and I think it was never published because it would have terrible effects on departmental budgets;
Transparency and subsidiarity -- i.e. local fiduciary responsibility: those are the keys to good government. See Jane Jacobs Dark Age Ahead for some details and more arguments on how to avoid the Dark Age Ahead -- assuming we can avoid it.
The purpose of the US education system is to insure employment of bad teachers. It is well known that the efficiency of the system as measured by student performance will be about doubled by firing the 10% worst teachers and apportioning their students out among the rest; that is overwhelmingly to be preferred to "smaller classroom size", teacher pay raises, or anything else that might be tried. Of course this won't be tried because the purpose of the whole system is to see to it that the bad teachers are not fired and are allowed to go through ruining lives until they get large pensions.
The second purpose of the system is to insure full employment for professors of education, many of whom have never done any actual teaching, but whose imprimatur is needed to get the "merit pay" advances you can get from "workshops" and various courses in education. Some education colleges actually prepare teachers to teach, but many simply punch tickets; a lot of bad teachers who ought to be fired get "merit" pay for having accumulated credits from education professors. My suspicion is that firing about half the professors of education would greatly improve the efficiency of the system but I don't have any studies or numbers to prove that; but I would bet money that firing the worst 10% would instantly improve the colleges of education just as firing the worst 10% of classroom teachers would instantly improve the schools.

The purpose of the schools is to extract money from taxpayers and pay it in ways that insure that professors of education and bad teachers get paid. It is not to create citizens, or to teach anything; it is not to train future Legionnaires. If we are to have Legions, the first thing we need to do is cut all ties between the Armed Forces school systems for service dependents from the rest of the education system and run it in a rational manner as it has been done in the past. Alas the trend is in the other direction, with more and more of the poison that ruined the US public school system spreading everywhere else.
Schools no longer prepare students to be citizens or to learn the skills to be employed, even in the Legions. They have new purposes now, and they serve them well.
The schools are awful. The remedy is well known: fire the worst 10% of the teachers, and we can increase school effectiveness by about 50%.
Philby did monumental damage to the CIA, and it was his actions more than anything else that convinced James Jesus Angleton that the Soviets had moles in the Company. We can make the case that Philby prolonged the Cold War by a decade. as someone who feels that the NATO powers, were the aggressors in the cold war and the Soviet Union would have been happy to be left alone after the ravages of WW2 I do not cast Philby as villain
If you want more of something, subsidize it. If you want less, tax it. If you want more risky investment, lay off taxing the returns from successful investments. If you want more highly conservative investment, tax hell out of anything risky, And so forth. If the purpose of taxation is to raise revenue it requires a different strategy from taxation to "spread the wealth." If you believe that the purpose of government is to protect private property, but you don't like great disparity in wealth, you need to have an open discussion about what you are trying to do. If your goal is to set up enduring bureaus -- well, we know how to do that.

Taxing income rather than taxing spending produces one result; consumption taxing produces another. None of the analysis can be static, either. What government does has a great effect on prudent behavior.
(on 2010 allegedly being the warmest year) I do note that the places where it is said to have been very much hotter than it has ever been are also among the least reliable in past reports, but perhaps that is a coincidence.
My last hard-work assessment of "green" energy technologies was done in the 1980's, when I rated their importance for the future as:
Nuclear Fission
Nuclear fuel recovery/recycling
Nuclear Fission (breeder)
Bio-mass waste product combustion (a booster for coal and natural gas, not stand alone)
Space Solar Power as a long term future
In about that order. ....If we are forbidden to use nuclear energy to get out of the energy shortage, perhaps the best course would be a large x-project power plant (x-project: build the best we can build with technology existing a year after the contract is awarded; don't rely on something yet to be developed).....OTEC is a good idea, but it's not likely to save the world since the places you can use it tend to be places where it's hard to get the energy from there to somewhere that it's useful.
the purpose of TSA is not security, it is to convince the American people they are subjects, not citizens. Salve, Sclave! [save yourself slave]
I do note that a great deal of innovation now comes from American corporation laboratories and think tanks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Given the American school system this is likely to gain importance.
Many colleges consider The Federalist Papers to be too difficult to include in undergraduate non-major classes. They were, of course, originally letters to the editors of newspapers, intended for the general literate population. Were it my choice, I'd assign them in high schools, but I suspect that is unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment in today's courts. to be fair in those days newspaper circulation was more limited, as was the number of article - nonetheless the comparison with today is frightening
if you set up education programs designed in three or four syllibi -- one for the University bound (top 10%, say), one for the College including Community College bound (say another 25%), one for the "tech school" or Trade School bound (say another 35%) and the rest for all those not actually retarded, you will get far better outcomes than we get from any one size fits all education program; but you will also have what appears to be racial segregation, even though you do not choose students on the basis of race. Your top class will have some Blacks, but fewer than the Black proportion in the population; it will have far more Jews and Orientals than their proportion in the population; and more Whites than their proportion would predict. The next class will be the same, although the Black discrepancy won't be so obvious. The next down will have proportionately too many Blacks. And so forth. This will result in law suits
the education system can be raised by the simple expedient of firing the worst 10% of the teachers, with the result that some of the poor Black kids will start looking like success stories. The potential of an IQ 90 to 110 kid is considerably higher than the actual academic achievement of such kids in our present school system. But then our present system is designed largely for keeping bad teachers employed at the expense of the students in their classrooms
The film (Richard Curtis' government funded film of a teacher blowing up children for questioning CAGW) was made by greens who actually thought it would help their cause. ... I have a PhD in Psychology and I was not able to imagine a group delusion of that magnitude. One or two people, perhaps, but an organization with no one able to see the folly of this?
(on friendship with Vietnam & a US base) Had Kennedy pursued US interests and understood what he was doing, it is a result that could have been achieved without all the US casualties. But that's alternate history. (Jerry was a supporter of strongly prosecuting the Vietnam war on the grounds that one should fight to win, but this shows he was not a knee jerk hawk)
All our modern "smart cars" are vulnerable to wireless attacks that could stick the accelerator at full on, or lock the brakes, or disable all the cars on the road at rush hour.
Long term observations of the [radioactive] emissions of some substances like silicon-32 (half life 172 years) show something very strange: the radiation emitted certainly adds up to that expected by a half life of 172 years, but there is seasonal cycle, a wobble, with radioactive output peaking when the Earth is at perihelion and at minimum when the Earth is as aphelion. The closer we are to the Sun, the more radioactive output. The variation is fairly small, but it's there. There are observations of other periodic radiation, some in periods of 7 seconds. Since no one has been looking for any such thing, there's no predicting what else may be found on closer observation.
I've been one of NASA's most stringent critics -- I am told that when the rumor went around that I was going to be appointed Administrator there was sheer terror at NASA headquarters -- but I am no advocate of leaving research and development vital to the future of the human race entirely to commercial forces. It is the duty of government to look into the far future long past the time when you can predict return on investments.
"corollary to your iron law- The half life of a new governmental program is 2 years. Every two years, half of your effective people leave. Half of the replacements are "typical government workers" who never leave. Within 10 years, the government program is useless since 3% of staff will be effective workers. ".

It certainly has the immediate look of truth...

We cannot do without state workers, but we cannot do without responsibility either, athe civil service system as it has evolved (or degenerated) from the original premise has not proven to be correct.

How can one have careers in civil service, get experienced people to do the jobs, be fair to them -- and avoid what we see as the result?
Cutting taxes and spending won't bring back the economy, but it won't hurt, either. What is needed is cheap energy and more freedom. What is needed is an economic miracle. We are still capable of that.
I am no expert on monetization. I did advise readers to buy gold back when it was $400
I have never met an architect who understood heat flow. Frank Lloyd Wright understood earthquake stresses, but his houses are notoriously hard to heat
IQ is the best single predictor we have for performance in tasks that use symbol manipulation and complex abstract tasks. Best single predictor doesn't mean it's all that good, and a combination of data such as was used in the University of Washington Grade Prediction Program is considerably better. Alas the court forbade use of the Grade Prediction Program because it predicted lower grades for certain racial groups
If we are to take back our government there must be people willing to take it back -- and to be part of a new government. One of the benefits of self government is that not many think of it as a full time job. They have other lives. Yes, there will always be professional politicians; what must not happen is that the professional politicians also control the party structures. Self government means that the people governed take part in the whole governing structure; some hold political office, some become major party officials, some become minor party officials, some simply work a few hours a month on party matters; and those who do none of this pay attention to what is going on. ,,,,
Machiavelli said that if Republics rely on mercenaries for their defense, they take great risks; better to have citizen soldiers. Today the danger is not from our Legions... but from our hired political class. We have opted to entrust our political lives to mercenaries: career politicians, political managers, paid operatives and organizers; what we used to call political machines.
Tribalists live on tradition and custom. Barbarians live on strength and conquest. Citizens live by rules. The three types of human civilization cannot coexist in equality in the same territory. Barbarians respect strength and fear retaliation; they have no other reason not to take what they can. They have shed the tribal customs, and they have not learned the self discipline of citizenry.

We have barbarians within the walls, and we do not require them to be citizens, yet we do not make them fear us. That is sowing the wind.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Oil Spill - Daily Record Letter

  This is the lead letter in the Daily Record today. It is essentially a rehash of the article I did here yesterday.. It went out to a range of Scottish newspapers yesterday but, so far, has appeared only here, unfortunately not yet available online. The bits in italics were edited out. I had already edited the yesterdays scatological comparison and the listing of Journalists alongside politicians and environmentalists as liking scaremongering,   
Shell are getting a lot of political stick because they didn't immediately alert the politicians, RSPB and anti-technology propagandists about the oil leak. Instead they closed it.
How many of those critics have failed to conceal how insignificant it is. How no measurable damage whatsoever has been found.

So lets see exactly how large this leak was. 1300 barrels with a barrel being 0.158987294928m3 exactly. is 207 cubic metres or a cube 6 metres on a side. II2 miles from Aberdeen (ie 177,000 metres away. So 30,000 times more water (ignoring the fact that the ocean is 3 dimensional rather than 1 dimensional. Doesn't look that catastrophic when the figures are actually given does it?

Perhaps some of the "environmentalists", politicians and journalists complaining that Shell "concealed"' the problem rather than than shouting "Don't panic, don't panic" and giving them ammunition should consider their position.
Perhaps another comparison they should have made is with the fact that oil naturally seeps from oil fields into the world's oceans. 500,000 tons of it every year according to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. 
That equates to at least 1,000 tons in the North Sea. Puts Man's pollution record in perspective doesn't it?
But then perspective is precisely what the anti-technology "environmentalists", and politicians don't want
. Quite extensive editing but the Record have a relatively small letters page so that is reasonable and the editing, which largely involves taking out the detail of how I calculated the figure is sensible for the market. They also moved the 2nd paragraph from its previous position near the end. All in all a good professional piece of editing.

I have since found that the letter was also published by the Morning Star. Edited slightly differently. All credit to the Star for this since the letter is distinctly supportive of the bloated plutocrats of "big oil" and critical of the ecofascist movement so widely acepted as part of the "left". Reminds me that on a previous occasion the Morning Star, alone of all British newspapers, was willing to publish a letter calling for X-Prizes to promote a British space effort - a far more capitalist solution than anybody else has.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

North Sea Oil Leak- What the Media, Politicians and Journalists Don't mention

  There has been an oil leak in the North Sea and Shell are getting a lot of political stick because they didn't immediately alert the politicians, RSPB and anti-technology propagandists.  Instead they closed it.
An initial leak was brought "under control" last week but work is continuing on a smaller leak from the same source in an area surrounded by marine growth.
About 216 tonnes of oil - equal to 1300 barrels - were estimated to have spilled from the Gannet Alpha platform, 112 miles east of Aberdeen, by yesterday.

Environmental groups have heavily criticised the operator for the way it has handled the leak, which was first detected on Wednesday.
  The "smaller leak" seems to have added well under another tonne so presumably would not have been even mentioned by the media if they weren't already working up this hysteria.

    So lets see exactly how large this leak was. 1300 barrels with a barrel being  0.158987294928m3 exactly.  is 207 cubic metres or a cube 6 metres on a side. II2 miles from Aberdeen (ie 177,000 metres away. So 30,000 times more water (ignoring the fact that the ocean is 3 dimensional rather than 1 dimensional. Doesn't look that catastrophic when the figures are actually given does it?

    Perhaps some of the "environmentalists", politicians and journalists complaining that Shells' first action was to solve the problem rather than than shouting "Don't panic, don't panic" and giving them ammunition should consider their position. How many of them have made any play of the actual fact of how insignificant this leak actually is?

    If they claim Shell have a duty to help publicise everything in the most alarmist terms then surely they do too. A comparable emission in the water system under Edinburgh leading to Leith would be about 15cm (6 inches). If Wee Eck or the boss of the RSPB, after a particularly agreeable lunch produces such a dangerous deposit does he not believe he has a duty to tell the press. If so they must be a very abstemious lot because I have never seen such reported in any paper.

    Perhaps another comparison that responsible reporters should have made is with the fact that oil naturally seeps from oil fields into the world's oceans. 500,000 tons of it every year according to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences which equates, even assuming the oil distributed equally across the world, to at least 1,000 tons in the North Sea. Puts Man's pollution record in perspective doesn't it. But then perspective is precisely what the scaremongering anti-technology "environmentalists",  politicians and journalists, don't want.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

SNP Policy on Corporation Tax Conflicting with Their Policy of "Independence in Europe"

  BBC Newsnight Scotland's Gordon Brewer quite often asks perceptive questions, particularly economic ones about Scotland.

  Last night he came up with one for John Swinney about regarding a new paper the Scottish government have produced calling for the power to cut corporation tax.

  He pointed out that Angela Merkel and Nick Sarkozy have just announced an agreement to harmonise their corporation tax rates and that this is almost certainly going to be a prelude to them trying to force CT harmonisation on others, particularly Ireland.
Europe's two most-powerful politicians, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, met in Paris to try to ease the euro's slide...

Worryingly for Ireland, they also put the issue of corporation tax back on the table.
They said their two countries were preparing proposals to introduce a common tax on companies from the beginning of 2013.
And while for now it looks like this common tax rate will only apply to France and Germany, the danger is that it could mark the start of a fresh initiative to harmonise the rate that applies to companies in every European economy.
This would be disastrous for the Irish economy, which uses a low rate of corporation tax as a key attraction for multinationals to open new businesses here. ctd

   Brewer pointed out that if that is the case, while Germany/France may not be able to prevent current members of the EU having low CT there is no way they would sign up a new member without fixing that. Cutting CT is pretty well the only policy the SNP have to improve our economy (this being one more than  the others) while being committed to deepening the recession by putting the lights out.

  Yet the SNP are committed to ensuring Scotland, unlike Norway, is an EU member. So Brewer asked them what they would do and Swinney didn't answer.

    But it is a good question.

  What are the options:

1) Negotiate EU membership as a new country, seeking terms slightly different from what the UK has - for example getting some control over our own fishing grounds and having more EU Parliament members (a bonus given to all the small countries). This would mean giving up the control of CT which has been the only economically progressive policy they have.

2) Claim that as part of the previous UK state they already have membership without renegotiation (the reverse of East Germany becoming part of the EU when it united with the West). This would mean keeping the same rights over CT they now have but mean there would be no renegotiation.

3) Scotland quitting the EU while England and Ireland remain inside. This would put us in the same position as Norway and Switzerland, not coincidentally the 2 richest European countries (excluding Luxembourg which is an accounting invention). Both are strongly linked to EU countries both economically (Switzerland is surrounded by the EU) and culturally (Norway used to be united with Sweden) - perhaps not fully matching Scotland's link with England but not that far short either. However much of the reason why independence doesn't scare us, even though it can be a cold world out there, is because it is a wee pretendy independence in which we are not independent of the EU.

    The independence argument just got more complicated, assuming the big pro-union parties are smart enough to notice. In general, because it makes a nonsense of SNP policy it should discourage a separatist vote. On the other hand could UKIP decide that full independence from both Britain and the EU was preferable to remaining part of both? Whatever happens it could lead to a more grown up debate about the real costs and benefits.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Prizing the Edinburgh Festivals

Punters and performers are being asked to submit ideas for improving the Edinburgh festivals.

The body Festivals Edinburgh is offering prizes each worth £500 for the five top suggestions on ways to make the experience of the world’s biggest art festival even better. ...
The website, at is designed by a New York company which has worked on similar innovation sites for the US Government
  Well I don't know much about art but I know what I like. I like the concept of prizes as the best way to stimulate innovation - I believe I may have said this before. I rather like £500 too (actually it turns out it is prizes worth £500 which is a bit of a swizz) Still here goes:

  "Improving" the Festival is a bit unspecific but I have decided to assume it primarily means attracting a bigger audience to Edinburgh with a side order of doing something innovative, intelligent and memorable.

1 - Place 2 lasers 1.4 miles outside Edinburgh and 2 miles apart and have their white beams cross in the sky every night of the festivals. This would put a giant Scottish Saltire flag in the sky. I guess placement would require the approval of air traffic control.

2 - Open the museum cafe in Prince's St Gardens as a restaurant with an outdoor bar in the Gardens, throughout the festivals.

3 - Have a historical re-enactment, probably in Holyrood Park run by a mixture of the Sealed Knot, representing historical regulars and the Viking re-enactment groups as highlanders.

4 - Hold a formal public political debate on some subject of national importance - perhaps nuclear V windmills or on alleged catastrophic warming.
5 - Put up a temporary shipping container housing unit in the Meadows like the Netherlands' Keetwonen student housing complex. At £2,500 per 4 person unit it would probably pay for itself in one Festival and then be either be reusable at other sites and next year or could be relocated and sold off for affordable housing. (Because Edinburgh is all listed buildings temporary structures particularly suit Festivals there.

6 - Put up a temporary tent as venue, probably in Holyrood Park. (the existence of this extensive park within walking distance of the city centre is unique to Edinburgh and something that can be used)

7 - Build a temporary structure with the same internal dimensions as Shakespeare's Globe and put on his plays. No attempt should be made to make it look anything but modern and could be built out of scaffolding and boards.

8 - Keep the Glasgow/Edinburgh train running till at least 1.30. If people cannot return home from Edinburgh (or Glasgow) if they wait till the pubs close it puts rather a damper on the convivialities.

9 - Lobby to get the Glasgow/Edinburgh train permanently fully automated and thus able to run all night, with less delay, more passengers and cheaper.

10 - Run a music concert in the middle of Holyrood park. I suggest using a raft in Dunsepie Loch as the stage with it facing into the park to avoid disturbing locals.
Dunsepie is the one on the lower right.

11 -  Offer the Danish team building a manned rocket for £50,000 (they have already launched from water in the Baltic) a grant of £50,000 to launch it from the Firth of Forth during the Festivals.

12 - Run an Exhibition of New Materials annually. Nothing expensive to run just things like carbon nanotubes holding up enormous weights. Science is developing so quickly there would be many new materials each year.
13 - Re-enact how Leonardo is presumed to have created the Turin Shroud. The audience would have to be given infra-red goggles or similar and it would take several days for the photographic process to be completed.
14 - Have laminated cutouts of the characters from Alice in Wonderland dotted around Prince's St Gardens.. A few dozen of these should cost almost nothing and would add charm to the scene.
15 - Ditto but for historical Scots figures placed in the Royal Mile.
16 - Put flower planters on all the lampposts of central Edinburgh.
17 - Build a copy of the Skylon from the 1950s Festival of Britain. Except with the improvement in materials available today, not least carbon nano-tubes it could be far taller and more impressive. Either keep this as a permanent fixture or build a new bigger one each year as the strength of available materials improves.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Some Recent Comments

 Douglas Carswell's on how the Ministry of defence are grossly overmanned and wasteful and need reformed.

I'd go for having 2 Ministries of Defence. One for everything we do now except the SAS & submarines, inc Trident and 1 for those and for new things - space satellites, computer-war, orbital impact weapons, lasers that can shoot down planes and missiles, UAVs. With a civil service staff of no more than 1,000. Then fund both according to how useful they turn out to be. I think the traditional Ministry would wither very quickly.
On Carswell - saying we need widespread cuts and aren't getting them from the government

It means cutting back the size of government to useful functions. Useful functions have the bonus that the people doing them don't have the time to conspire, brief and lobby for more money.
So long as government is half the economy anybody ambitious is going to want to be a bit of it.
I would also suggest hypothecating most welfare and NHS away from direct government control and giving it a set proportion of income tax and all NI. That alone would take about 20% of the economy out of Whitehall's hands & prevent them hiding behind the frail and sick when cuts are needed.

My responses to a Mises Institute (the ultimate free marketeers) that the Space Shuttle was a waste of money (which it was)
I believe that if NASA's budget had been put into space development technology prizes (X-Prizes) we would probably now be building the first starship.
If I am correct then we have seen money that the electorate were willing to be spent on space were instead, at lleast 95% stolen by government to pay for government bureaucracy.

1 reply - If the public was able to keep the trillions of dollars that NASA burned through AND it was not illegal for anybody except NASA to go into space in the USA then we would almost certainly be much farther along then we are now.

Such prizes do allow market mechanisms to function because profits still exist if it comes in under budget.
They do not fit the "official libertarian" line because they are still money raised by forced taxes, (albeit as i said relatively popular ones). However I believe that technological breakthroughs do not and probably cannot receive the same returns compared to value added that normal inputs of land labour and capital do* and that it is thus both moral and practical for society to provide an incentive to cover the difference.
* an example being Tesla's development of alternating current for which the patent could not, in practice, be enforced. The short term cause of this is that patent law is written for and by patent lawyers but the underlying and insoluble problem is that an invention is only valuable once it has been made and is known about, at which point keeping control of it is like shoveling sand with a fork. ....

Compared to all government spending NASA's $20 billion is no more than a drop in the ocean.I consider it not the waste of money but the failure to use the money effectively to promote more efficient private development of space that is the tragedy.
That there is public support for space development, when there is less for other parts of government is a form of market pressure, which Congresscritters notice, for such spending.
Danial Hannan on Chris Huhne being an ecofascist parasite yet calling others Nazis  [3 weeks ago]
Huhne is a member of the party most enthusiastic about illegal wars fought, against Yugoslavia, for the specific and deliberate purpose of promoting mass murder, ethnic cleansing, genocide, the sexual enslavement of children and the dissection of living human beings & sale, to western hospitals, of their body parts.
All of this was done to promote the Balkan policy of the late Adolf Hitler. All of it was enthusiastically done with the full knowledge and support of the Liberal Democrats.
This cannot be credibly denied.
Huhne owes everybody who he has compared to Nazis a public apology. None of them are 100th as supportive of Nazism as he himself is.

Reply I had the misfortune to watch a video (in full glorious colour) of the Handzars executing a group of Serbian Civilians by mass hanging and firing squad. Even though the events happened 70 years ago, the video left me traumatised. Until that point I just believed the political rhetoric of "the Serbs are the baddies" and Alijah Izetbegovic is a nice man. I'll bet 99% of the population of Europe have never even heard of 13th SS Handzar Division, let alone have any understanding of what they did.

Had our schools over the last 60 years included the holocausts of Serbs, Gypsies, Poles & Soviets as well as Jews in their teaching of "History of the Holocaust" I do not think we would have ever allowed our government to support Germany in its determination to "recognise" the Croatian and B & H Moslem regimes, both led by former Nazis.
Without that either Yugoslavia would have survived or would have been peacefully divided on clear ethnic lines, rather than giving the Nazi statelets territory with clear Serb majorities.

Unfortunately during the cold war it was impolitic to mention that most of Hitler's genocide was aimed against Slavic peoples. It still is.
Christopher Booker on the parasitism of our political class
I believe that a deeper reason is that the political class, though enforcing an enormous amount of Luddism. From preventing us having inexpensive nuclear power, which could reduce electricity costs 93%; through 75% of the cost of housing being government regulation; to a H&S Executive that destroys the work of 4 million workers.
Take away that parasitism and our economy would easily grow t least the world average of 5% and probably above the Chines level of 10.8%.
In the 13 years of Labour the economy would thus have grown between 2 and 4 times making Brown's doubling possible, though still not desirable. It would now make ending the deficit possible in just over 2 years and even paying off the entire National Debt in 5.
However the purpose of government is to pay government employees and their friends and the nominal purpose of improving the country is at the very end of the list. Booker has proven this many times over the child "welfare" "services" but it holds true generally.
Tim Worstall, who doesn't know climate physics but does know economics looked at the economic part IPPC's report and found that a high growth high technology strategy would produce less CO2 than what the Luddism the "environmentalists" demand. This is because high tech is, by definition more efficient and uses less resources per unit output. This was picked up by Bishop Hill where Tim put in comments:
    "My arguments about climate change always start with: the IPCC is correct. OK, now, knowing what we do know about economics, what should we be doing?
Emissions are an externality with a cost, we know how to deal with those. Pigou Taxes. So, we'll have a carbon tax please, reduce other taxes so its revenue neutral. We also desire a globalised economy and a market based one (these two can also be derived from the IPCC reports).
That is, even if the IPCC is right, Jonny Porrit, G. Monbiot, nef, Greenpeace, Foe , Chris Huhne and them all: they're wrong."
Douglas Hannan on how East Germany joined the Deutschmark at too high a level and ate still poorer as a result and the Euro is having the same destructive effect on the outlying countries. 3 days ago I said

As a Scot I find this disquieting. It suggests that what we need is independence followed by a devaluation of our pound. I do not like either option but the universe does not always do as I wish.
Martin Durkin who did  the TV programme The Great Global Warming Swindle (and preciously took apart the "breast enlargement is dangerous" scam, which annoyed Moonbat and so on) has a new blog. He starts by correctly denouncing the ecofascists as liars and parasites but I slightly disagreed with him.

For the leaders of "Green" organisations I agree with you.
However what brought ecofascism from a tiny bunch of loons to a major political influence and indeed an existential threat to western civilisation is government adoption of it. If the BBC were not giving 40 times more coverage, per voter, to the "Greens" than UKIP and government not pouring over a billion annually into ecofascist propaganda they would be very far short of getting half as many votes as the BNP do.
So why is government pushing what they know to be a complete fraud. - HL Mencken said it nearly a century ago.
""The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
Almost all of government is parasitism but they need such fraudulent scare stories to get away with it.
This is for anybody who cares about the way the American "scienceblogs" "created by Seed media Group2006 to enhance the public understanding of science...Authors include active scientists working in industry, universities and medical schools as well as college professors, physicians, professional writers, graduate students, and post-docs ... ScienceBlogs had an "authority" of 9,581 and its number of inbound links ranks it 37th among blogs worldwide" according to wikipedia

  My experience is different. Even on those sites that don't censor, they seem almost entirely incapable of even attempting. honest or intelligent debate. I do accept that there are many American active scientists (disproportionally in "climate change" studies and college professors which, in my opinion makes the incapacity of honest reasoning and its replacement by not merely obvious lies but obscenity even more shocking. I know that there are American scientists who are world leaders; who engage in political dialogue and yet who are can do so with old fashioned courtesy (Freeman Dyson and John McCarthy being 2) but that such a large section of American science, almost all of it Democrat by inclination and economics, think obscenity trumps intellect and censorship trumps both, should be very worrying.

This thread started as the author ridiculing Republicans for having the "thin skin" to object to Joe Biden calling them terrorists. Since Biden is the one who said he wanted to put 10 million Serbs in "Nazi style concentration camps" that seemed a little rich and I waded in. The thread has since gone into detail over the atrocities in the Kosovo war (well OK I have, everybody else says NayaNayaNaya.

Regulars here will believe I have had no trouble matching insults but without obscenity and sticking to facts supported by evidence and logic.

  However when, not only does one of these eminent American "scientists and college professors" resort to

"I'm a firm believer in a good ol' swift kick in the nuts to reichtard douchemorans of your stripe. ...Let me know if you need a translation of this; STFU, you fucking fucker" as his only response to facts and worse, not a single reader, including the site's author suggested that such language was inappropriate, it is clear that the barbarians and Brownshirts are not only within the gates in America they are occupying the Ivory Towers. These people should be the best America has.

   This is the thread. I don't advise anybody to waste time reading it all but a little sampling shows what I mean.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

1950 Predictions for 2000 by Heinlein

  This is a list of predictions Robert A Heinlein made in a speech at a Science Fiction Convention in 1950 for the year 2000. He subsequently reviewed their success, or otherwise in 1965 and 1980. His predictions and answers in full were published in Expanded Universe.

  He doesn't score 100% but I think he comes far closer than either the popular or "intellectual" consensii pf the time:

1. Interplanetary travel is waiting at your front door -- C.O.D. It's yours when you pay for it.

True - The Luddite politicians have prevented us having it but we could have got to Saturn by 1970 if wanted.
2. Contraception and control of disease is revising relations between the sexes to an extent that will change our entire social and economic structure.
This was said when a woman still had to prove she was married to be prescribed the pill.
3. The most important military fact of this century is that there is no way to repel an attack from outer space. [Expansion makes it clear that he is not talking "alien invasion" but "who holds the high point" in human affairs.]

The Kuwait War was the "first space war" because satellite pictures and communication were massive force multipliers, hence the stunningly low casualties on our side and quick victory
4. It is utterly impossible that the United States will start a "preventive war." We will fight when attacked, either directly or in a territory we have guaranteed to defend.

Unfortunately after the fall of the USSR the US and allies launched a series of purely aggressive wars against Yugoslavia & others since. In no case has there been even the excuse that they were "preventative" - they were and are pure aggression, not even for larceny but simply for the sake of killing people. ""every now and again the United States has to pick up a crappy little country and throw it against a wall just to prove we are serious." Sorry Robert you overestimated your country's government.
5. In fifteen years the housing shortage will be solved by a "breakthrough" into new technologies which will make every house now standing as obsolete as privies.

Modular housing has certainly been available since before then. In China they are putting up tower blocks in days but western governments prevent it. Another overestimation of our governments.
6. We'll all be getting a little hungry by and by.

Fortunately not. Peak food, like peak oil, peak uranium, peak gasetc etc is an ever receding chimera driven back by improving technology.
7. The cult of the phony in art will disappear. So-called "modern art" will be discussed only by psychiatrists.

Sorry - government subsidised art remains rubbish. However every form of commercial art, from adverts to comic books is both technically and intellectually vastly better.
8. Freud will be classed as a pre-scientific, intuitive pioneer and psychoanalysis will be replaced by a growing, changing "operational psychology" based on measurement and prediction.

Freud is so classified and some genuine progress is being made by people who understand statistics. However we see more from people given government subsidies to produce lies that promote more government spending.
9. Cancer, the common cold, and tooth decay will all be conquered; the revolutionary new problem in medical research will be to accomplish "regeneration," i.e., to enable a man to grow a new leg, rather than fit him with an artificial limb.

Medical research is not that advanced. I suspect at least largely because any new treatment, even the simplest new drug, take 10 years and $1 bn before they can be used.
10. By the end of this century mankind will have explored this solar system, and the first ship intended to reach the nearest star will be a-building.

Again it certainly could have been don, as Project Orion showed. However government Luddites prevented it.
11. Your personal telephone will be small enough to carry in your handbag. Your house telephone will record messages, answer simple inquiries, and transmit vision. [In 1980 he observes that the likelihood that phones tied into home computers will accomplish the second sentence, and will eventually enable 3-dimensional holovision and stereo speech.]

And then some. This technology was not physically immobile and thus it proved almost impossible to prevent it - though government fascists keep trying.

12. Intelligent life will be found on Mars.

No because there clearly isn't intelligent life there. There may well be microbial life but the search hasn't been extensive. If so it will either turn out to be related to Earth's life or not to be. Either discovery, or indeed the lack of life, will change our place in the universe.
13. A thousand miles an hour at a cent a mile will be commonplace; short hauls will be made in evacuated subways at extreme speed. [His note in 1965 indicates his intent to mean the 1950 cent; he did not foresee the continual ongoing inflation of the second half of the 20th century.]

With the dollar now a 9th of its value at the time a flight to the USA at 9 cents a mile would be $225. If you hunt around I think you can do significantly better than that.

14. A major objective of applied physics will be to control gravity.

There are such researchers. I don't know if it would be called a major objective. Like cold fusion you won't get government grants for that and government funding has been proven to retard research overall.

15. We will not achieve a "World State" in the predictable future. Nevertheless, Communism will vanish from this planet.

This latter was spectacularly optimistic at the time and moreso by 1980. Yet, unless you redefine "communism" as the Chinese have, it is effectively true. We don't have a "world state" but the pressure of international bodies means were are much closer to a de facto government, enforcing big government parasitism than is safe for the human race.
16. Increasing mobility will disenfranchise a majority of the population. About 1990 a constitutional amendment will do away with state lines while retaining the semblance.

The constitutional amendment proved unnecessary. Banning alcohol required such an amendment but banning cannabis only requires Judges to "find" powers in the Constitution not written down. In many ways the Constitution has been done away with while maintaining the semblance.
17. All aircraft will be controlled by a giant radar net run on a continent-wide basis by a multiple electronic "brain."

Possible for decades but has not been done. The unions and other vested interests don't want such progress.
18. Fish and yeast will become our principal sources of proteins. Beef will be a luxury; lamb and mutton will disappear.

This is #6 again and hasn't happened for the same reason - human inventiveness.
19. Mankind will not destroy itself, nor will "Civilization" be destroyed.

Good so far, as the guy said 2 seconds after jumping off the Empire State Building
Here are things we won't get soon, if ever:

Travel through time

Travel faster than the speed of light

"Radio" transmission of matter.

Manlike robots with manlike reactions

Laboratory creation of life

Real understanding of what "thought" is and how it is related to matter.

Scientific proof of personal survival after death.

Nor a permanent end to war.


In most cases where he was wrong it was not he but reality that got it wrong - they are technically entirely feasible but our parasitic governments prevent it.

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