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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Another Call for X-Prizes

  residential candidate Newt Gingrich on X-prizes
It is a tragedy that between bureaucrats and politicians we have reduced NASA to the point where we are relying on Russian rockets to get to the space station.

I would call for a total replacement of the current structure of NASA with a brand new system that is aggressively designed to challenge free enterprise,....If you had taken 5 or 10 percent of the NASA budget in the last decade and put it into a prize for the first people to get to the Moon permanently, you’d have 20 or 30 folks out there getting to the Moon. We’d already be on the Moon, and the energy level would be unbelievable.
  I agree and perhaps more importantly, no other candidate has decided it would increase their credibility to dispute it. However note the sums he is talkng about.

  NASA's budget has been about $18bn - £11.3 bn to us. 5% of that is £570 million. By comparison our contribution to the European Space agency, which overall controls a budget half the size of NASA's but achieves nothing serioyus, is £265 million annually. The amount we spend on NERC (Natural Enbironment Rersearch Council), one of a number of quangos exiisting to advertise eco-scares and with no significant actual research to its name, has a budget of £450 million.

    That is a total of £715 milliion, comfortably exceeding Newt's careful and undisputed assessment of what could have produced a Moon colony and presumably way stations to get there.

    If it works for the US does anybody dispute it would for Britain? If any British politician didn't prefer wasting the money on bureaucrats and Luddites.
House of Lords Science Committee discusses prizes p24 #31-33

Remarks in Hansard on X-Prizes
Capturing the promise of philanthropic prizes report

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Friday, October 28, 2011

That's Socialism for You - Rape at Occupy Nihilist's Camp

  This seems to be the best single coverage of the Occupy Glasgow rape, though it is buried inside the article.
A 28-year-old was attacked in a tent in George Square in the early hours of Wednesday morning as she took part in the anti-capitalist Occupy Glasgow campaign.
Police said they are looking for two men they believe are known to the victim.
The Glasgow protest is part of the global occupy protests which have been taking place in cities around the world following the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York.

The protesters are campaigning against the perceived injustices of the global economic system....
Strathclyde Police are now hunting for two men they said were staying in the makeshift campsite outside the City Chambers.
Detective Inspector Dougie McKinlay said: "We are looking for witnesses to an incident that took place some time between 9pm and midnight on Tuesday, where a serious sexual assault occurred on a 28-year-old female within the Occupy Glasgow protest camp."
The men are described as 20 to 30, both 6ft and of slim build. One had short, spiky blond hair and one had short dark hair, police said.
Detective Inspector McKinlay added: "The victim may have known her attackers, but possibly not by name. We know there were other people in the area at the time and we are appealing for them to come forward."
On Wednesday evening Occupy Scotland held a meeting to discuss the incident. A spokesperson later said: "A young woman supporter was raped while staying at the occupation camp in George Square. There was lengthy discussion about this abhorrent and intolerable crime and its repercussions.
  When you believe that you have a right to grab other people's property, and are given massive supportive coverage by the state fascist broadcaster, this is logically inevitable. It isn't reported whether the other tents were full and everybody looked the other way or whether most the tents in the "occupation camp"were empty because the protesters were back home for the night.

   This has had coverage across the USA, though it is the same story repeated, but our local media has downplayed it.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Glasgow Airport Link Easy If the Politicians Weren't Stopping It

 The Glasgow airport rail link (GARL) is a long story of the incompetence,at best, of all 3 ruling parties in Scotland's political class
The Scottish Parliament on 29 November 2006 passed the GARL bill by 118 votes to 8, thus allowing the construction of the route to begin. Construction was to be in phases with the re-location of football pitches in the route's path at Paisley St James scheduled for 2007, before route clearing and track work in 2007 and 2008. The cost of the route was estimated at £170m, with inflation increasing the cost to a potential £210m....
In 2008, control of the GARL project passed from SPT to Transport Scotland who would have overseen the building of the route. Overhead catenary work and a re-modelling of Shields Junction over the past year have already taken place in connection with GARL. In December 2008, Transport Scotland announced that the tender competition will begin in spring 2009, meaning GARL would have been operational in early 2013...
On 11 July 2008, Transport Scotland announced that 38 Class 380 trains have been ordered for use on Ayrshire and Inverclyde services and also the Glasgow Airport Rail Link....

17 September 2009, the Scottish Government scrapped the airport branch component of the Glasgow Airport Rail Link amid concerns over the need for public spending cuts

  The cancellation of a project then at about £300 million, cost £41 million. So we got nowt and it only cost us £41 million.

   Labour, who started this, are still making political mileage out of the SNP's subsequent decision to cancel a project which even Labour's initial report acknowledged didn't even come close to making economic success.  Labour fairly openly admit that they care more about the ability to funnel money at Glasgow developers (at least some of whom are Labour donors) than about the economics of the case.

    What both parties studiously avoid mentioning is that there was, on the table, an offer to build a link for around £20 million. All 3 parties were aware of this and rejected it purely because it had not been invented by them.

    I say this with certainty because I was the person who came up with the proposal. I suggested an overhead monorail link to Paisley Station which has trains every few minutes into Glasgow and almost equally valuable - similar rail links to the airport at Prestwick so that together they could serve as a regional hub.

"some years ago I wrote to you, while you (Nicol Stephen, subsequently "LibDem" leader) were the Scottish transport Minister ...suggesting that a better option would be an automated monorail. You will recall that the in initial reply you had sent was that this option would be considered but only if I could find some company will to tender for the job. When I did indeed find such a company, ULTra, who were doing a similar job at Heathrow & who expressed their willingness to tender for a price around £20 million, you will recall that I received a 2nd letter advising that the statement that you would be willing to consider this if I found somebody should not have been taken to mean that you would consider this if I found somebody. Instead I was told that the government would only ever, under any circumstances, be willing to look at any new ideas if they had been brought up by the leaders of the parties in government.

That certainly provides full inoculation against any form of innovation."

  The SNP were somewhat more polite about it but rejected even looking seriously at it on the grounds that until they had looked seriously at it they could not say for certain that it would be "so clearly superior to GARL" as to justify them looking seriously at it (I particularly like the "so clearly superior" which acknowledges that, even without looking at it, they can see it is somewhat superior).

  Since the cancellation all 3 parties simply refuse to comment on the matter.

  This is the ULTra system currently in use at Heathrow airport.

  We could have had that in place by now for half what our politicians have already spent. Obviously less money in it for donors than a £300 million project would make but the people paying would have got something useful out of it.

  We still can.

  John Swinney has said that Scotland's budget for infrastructure projects will go up substantially to offset our recession. This would be a good thing if the money were actually to be spent doing the work efficiently. Unfortunately we know that the SNP's idea of running infrastructure projects is that, when done at their best such projects cost 8 times the engineering costs (an example of not the best being trams) - the rest being blown a mixture of political parasitism and theft.

  The main parties are happy with this cosy arrangement and only a refusal by the public to be stolen from, again, will make them change.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

John McCarthy R.I.P.

I did a listing of some quotes from him and ripped him off for my Big Engineering 38 - automated air traffic control and Big Engineering 20 - Goods and Personal Transport Systems.

      My knowledge of him was limited to his public service political ideas but his day job was in computing and artificial intelligence with concepts I don't claim to be close to understanding.  The NYT has an obituary here which explains his world importance.
John McCarthy, a computer scientist who helped design the foundation of today’s Internet-based computing and who is widely credited with coining the term for a frontier of research he helped pioneer, Artificial Intelligence, or A.I., died on Monday at his home in Stanford, Calif. He was 84....
Dr. McCarthy’s career followed the arc of modern computing. Trained as a mathematician, he was responsible for seminal advances in the field and was often called the father of computer time-sharing, a major development of the 1960s that enabled many people and organizations to draw simultaneously from a single computer source, like a mainframe, without having to own one.
By lowering costs, it allowed more people to use computers and laid the groundwork for the interactive computing of today...
And in the study of artificial intelligence, “no one is more influential than John,” Mr. Diffie said....

In 1958, Dr. McCarthy moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where, with Marvin Minsky, he founded the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. It was at M.I.T. that he began working on what he called List Processing Language, or Lisp, a computer language that became the standard tool for artificial intelligence research and design....
He developed the technique in 1959 and added it to Lisp. That technique is now routinely used in Java and other programming languages.
His M.I.T. work also led to fundamental advances in software and operating systems. In one, he was instrumental in developing the first time-sharing system for mainframe computers.
    I placed this appreciation of him in the comments on Steve Sailer.Saying I recommend following the links would be understating.:

I don't know anything about his computer/artificial intelligence stuff but when Jerry Pournelle once referred to him as one of the most intelligent people in the world I checked out his political blogging and have repeatedly found them invaluable.
The definitive article on why the anti-nuclear scares are false

What I advocate for the 21st century



List of Sustainability Web Pages





and others linked to them
If you want to do good, work on the technology, not on getting power. - jmc 1995

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

EU Referendum - 111 MPs Who Show Some Honesty

For 111
Against 483
Total MPs 650
Abstained/didn't vote/2 tellers each side 56

  Apparently 81 of the 111 who voted for allowing us a referendum were Conservatives. Add in most of those not voting and we get to 110-120. There are 307 Conservative MPs.\Of these 80-100 will be on the government payroll - ministers, PPS's and a few others who could not defy the whip and remain in government (2 PPS's did resign over it). So probably more than half of their backbenchers defied the government whip to some extent.

    For anybody who looks at the overall vote and thinks Cameron won a comparison with the Norway debate in 1940, which directly caused the fall of Prime Minister Chamberlain and his replacement by Churchill is instructive.

   The government won it too, though by a much smaller majority because the Opposition parties opposed. However "39 Government supporters voted with the Opposition, and some others abstained" - a far smaller total than last night.

   They have saved any claim the Conservative party may have to some integrity. Cameron gave us a "cast iron pledge" of a referendum and can have no personal integrity.  no promise from him as leader can ever again be trusted (though to be fair he has already proven that).

   The Labour party and SNP were silent on the subject during the last election but made absolute Manifesto Promises (a pledge in the manifesto being the single most solemn promise any party can make) of an EU referendum in the 2007 election and immediately cynically broke it. Clearly no equal or lesser promise by any of them can ever be assumed truthful.

   The SNP made the same promise and could have put it through the Scottish Parliament had they wished, being the government, but decided to break their word instead. To be fair any such referendum would have been limited to Scotland. Last night they decided to reverse their previous promise and vote against an independence referendum. What twisty turny things they are.

  The Pseudoliberals made the referendum promise in their 2007 Manifesto and immediately cynically broke it along with Labour. They attempted to regain a shred of integrity at the time by promising a referendum on membership later.This promise was repeated in their Manifesto in 2010 and indeed remained on their website until a few days ago. Having made that absolute promise, so many times, yesterday they marched into the No lobby in Parliament. I do not think it can honestly be denied that this must represent the very highest standard of honesty to which any loyal "Lib Dem" ever aspires and that there are therefore no circumstances whatsoever under which any member of the party can ever be treated as in any way honest.

   I don't know of any case where Vladimir Putin lied to his electorate so thoroughly or indeed so often as all 3 parties in Britain have to their's. In which case it is impossible to honestly say Russia is not clearly more democratic than Britain. A electoral system in which in which you are disenfranchised if you note for any but the 2 or 3 officially approved parties  and there are no circumstances under which the electorate can expect any of them to do as they have promised or to be in any way honest barely counts as even a sham democracy. it is that blatant.

    Democracy needs leaders every bit as much as dictatorship. The difference is that in a democracy, though the leader has the right, indeed duty, to say what he believes is the best policy, he must always remember that in the end  the people's will is sovereign. Remember that and he will keep public trust even when the public disagree with him. The best argument against rule by referendum is that we get to choose our leaders and should trust them. When we know they will repeatedly break the promises they make to get elected we cannot choose knowledgeably or give them trust.

   Naturally our media did their duty, as duty is defined when fascists control the media.. The BBC's coverage has been all about rebroadcasting Cameron's speech (and saying he "feels no bitterness" and none of the others; calling what is clearly the Conservative majority "splitters"; calling it a massive victory purely on the votes; declining to mention the promises we were made; and refusing to actually mention the issues. C4 interviewed one of the Yes voters with the "have you stopped beating your wife" type question "Do you just want to leave Europe". The proper answer to that is "I know of nobody who wants to run a saw under Britain and ship it off into the middle of the Atlantic. Europe is a continent and culture of which we are inextricably part. The EU is not Europe as your question is so dishonestly intended to pretend. Now if you will ask an honest question I will tell you exactly why it is in our interests and those of European culture, that we not be consumed in bureuacractic, Luddite, incompetently run EU superstate" but I can see why he didn't and that such an answer wouldn't get broadcast.
  An idea for UKIP and indeed the SNP if they genuinely favour independence. Since we joined every Westminster government has continuously refused to do an accountancy assessment of the costs and benefits of membership. I believe it to be about £100 bn annually (combination of regulatory cost and the money we hand over), but would be interested in evidence that |I am wrong. It is well within the competence of Holyrood to decide to do such an assessment for Scotland, 8% of Britain by population.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Red Road Flats - Wilful Destruction

  Some years ago I suggested that if the Red Road flats, owned, through the Glasgow Housing Association, by the government could not be manged successfully by them it would be better to gibe them free to the occupants than knock them down. Let the free market try. After all the free market was building the Glasgow Harbour Project which looks very much like a similar group of high flats and seems to be doing OK.

     Whats so wonderful about knocking down 1300 homes?

     The LibDem councillor who pushed the £40 million "iconic footbridge" and the party's MSP told me that these flats had been so jerry built by Glasgow council's "preferred contractors" that they were unmaintainable which I am now sure was a lie.

    However I failed to get elected and the Housing Association juggernaut rolled on.

   But while there is no interest among our political class for allowing people to keep their homes isn't it nice to know that there is money for commemorating them.
All eight tower blocks will be demolished in a phased programme which will start in the spring (2010) - but first, Glasgow Museums hope to gather stories and memories of the buildings and the thousands of people who lived there.
The flats were the tallest in Europe at the time they were built

For Mark O'Neill, director of Glasgow Museums, the impending demolition of Glasgow's Red Road flats is akin to the demolition of the Egyptian pyramids.
"Some of these flats are higher than the Egyptian pyramids and in the next few years they'll all disappear one by one," he said.
"It's a huge transformation of the Glasgow skyline." ...

That has included the film Red Road - which brought the area to the attention of the Cannes Film Festival in 2006 - and the heart-stopping tightrope walk between two of the blocks undertaken by Frenchman Didier Pasquette in 2007.
And so it goes

  As Matt Quinn commented previously
I was brought up in the Red Road. I started my first Company (Clydeside Television Productions) from my flat in Red Road court. I had a warm, secure, well appointed home. I loved the place, but was forced to move in 1990 because the council were letting it slide just too far.
The place is in the state it's in because of WILFUL neglect on the part of the City Fathers; no other reason. They let the buildings rot, effectively condoned the violence and drugs and deliberately used the place as a dumping ground.
The original posters proposals won't see the light of day for one reason and one reason only; Those holding the controls want their skin; their wedge off the top. Nose-in-the trough time for the City's fatcats and to hell with the ordinary weegie!
  Parasites. It is purely that high flats went from being politically fashionable to unfashionable.

UK's tallest demolition machine arrives in Glasgow to bring down flats

When things are in fashion the economics of what they are doing don't matter either as long as somebody gets more of our money.
Glasgow Housing Association  is fitting solar panels in 500 homes across the city ....
It's part of GHA's contribution to Sustainable Glasgow - a partnership which aims to make Glasgow one of the most sustainable cities in Europe and reduce the city’s CO2 emissions by 30 per cent by 2020

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

"No Remotely Honest Politician Can Blame Power Companies" - Courier Letter

The Courier (Dundee) published this letter of mine on Friday It had gone out to all and sundry.
David Cameron's publicly "calling in the energy companies to tell them off over prices" is a disgraceful bit of PR fluff, naturally supported by most other politicians.
The fact is that the reason electricity prices are going up is purely because of the activities of politicians like him.
They have been told, for years, that taking money from bills to subsidise windmills is bound to put up prices - indeed it is so obvious they should not have needed telling.
While people are getting paid up to 46.4 a unit for electricity when, according to Royal Academy of Engineering figures, even under current rules, nuclear costs 2.2p.

If nuclear were not under the burden of politically imposed rules which have no possible safety justification it would cost about half as much.
If mass production were allowed it would probably be halved again. Thus at least 93% of the average electricity bill (£1200 out of £1300) is imposed by politicians.
The facts are clear and cannot honestly be seriously disputed. That is why no remotely honest politician can seek to blame the people producing power, rather than the politicians preventing it being produced, for the price.
Ref - Scotsman reporting the 46.4p subsidy

  The only editing was that |I wrote it in 2 paragraphs and they expanded it to 7. The normal complaint from the Scotsman is that my letters are too long so I normally try to minimise the paragraph count but divided up this way actually emphasises the points I am making. Thus I am very pleased with this publication.

  I am very pleased with this letter and the way the Courier have treated it.

  So far they have not published any letter from an "environmentalist" or indeed corrupt politician, disputing anything here but I will keep watching  .

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