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Saturday, September 09, 2006


Under £1 million

7) Add a glass bridge between the 2 towers of Kelvingrove Museum. This was actually proposed but turned down on the grounds that it was not in keeping with the Victorian architecture of the building. I personally think that maintaining Victorian traditions, in architecture or otherwise, is part of our problem. I also
think walking such a semi-invisible bridge would be an experience well worth having.

If, since the revamp of Kelvin Gallery is already complete, this cannot be done there may be other projects which could similarly be made memorable.

8) Put online video cameras on the top 100 sites of scenic or historic interest in Scotland.

9) Organise & put up prize money for an annual Road from The Isles hovercraft race - starting from Portree in Skye & going by sea to Blackwater reservoir, Loch Rannoch, Loch Tummell to end at Pitlochry. I personally think such a race, apart from encouraging individual engineering & Highland tourism has the potential to be
more exciting than Grand prix racing.

£1 million to £5 million

10) Establish an International Space Law Institute with regular conferences. The objective being to work out
rules which will enable private enterprise to work in outer space.

11) Build a copy of the Skylon in George Square (The Skylon was a 300 ft needle held in place by suspension wires built for the Festival of Britain & demolished in an act of political malice & vandalism by the incoming Tory government - it is perhaps the only truly "iconic" building which has been demolished - it should be possible to replace it in even more modern materials held up by carbon nanotubes for a
relatively small cost.

12) Replace the TV tower at livinston with a taller tower up to 3,000ft above sea level with a a lift going up to reinforced glass platform, or platforms from which you would be able to see most of Scotland up to the Highlands. Put a major visitors centre at the base with interactive exhibits & around a map of Scotland in the floor illustrated by photos taken from the platform.

13) Put a lasar in central Edinburgh & another in Glasgow & 1 hour after sunset to 1 hour before dawn have their beams cross about 5 miles up midway between purely for the fun of it. (This will require health & Safety approval).

14) Build a Buckydome cover to McCaig's folly in Oban, make it watertight & add floors, provide a moving staircase to it & turn it into a visitors centre for the history of the lordship of the Isles, with a view of the islands from the dome. For this to be able to achieve the necessary popularity it will be neccessary to have already automated the rail line.

15) Roof over the pedestrian area of Glasgow. Sauchiehall ST, Buchanan St, Gordon St, Argyll st possibly also providing walkways at first floor level. Thus giving thewhole area many of the benefits of mall shopping withoutdestroying the traditional appearance.

16) Establish an equivalent to the Nobel prizes in subjects not covered by the Nobels because they didn't exist back then. eg Computer programming, space engineering, nanotechnology, genetic design

17) Provide legal aid to individual inventors to register patents worldwide(repayable if the patent proves sufficiently profitable).

Friday, September 08, 2006


This is an interview with the former PM of Singapore. Mr lee is, or at least at his peak was the most successful & very probably the smartest political leader in the world. He lead Singapore From Third World to First (the title of his autobiography). To get your country from the standard of living of Calcutta to above the UK's is as successful as you get. Singapore has, since he quit the top job, fallen back behind the UK in per capita GDP, while Hong Kong forges ahead & I may later look into why. Nonetheless any opinion he has is worth listening to even though his style of government is less democratic than what he would call Confucian & we consider paternalistic. You should read the whole thing but here are some excerpts:
On Chinese growth
I saw it coming from the late 1980s. Deng Xiaoping started this in 1978. He visited Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in November 1978. I think that visit shocked him because he expected three backward cities. Instead he saw three modern cities and he knew that communism -- the politics of the iron rice bowl -- did not work. So, at the end of December, he announced his open door policy. He started free trade zones and from there, they extended it and extended it. Now they have joined the WTO and the whole country is a free trade zone.

I wish our leaders appreciated this. Jack McConnell & Nicol Stephen could learn a lot from this - or at least smarter versions of them could.

On Singapore's future options
We have to move to areas where they cannot move.

SPIEGEL: Such as?

Mr. Lee: Such as where the rule of law, intellectual property and security of production systems are required, because for them to establish that, it will take 20 to 30 years. We are concentrating on bio medicine, pharmaceuticals and all products requiring protection of intellectual property rights.
Meanwhile we are busily doing everything possible to help the Greens prevent the GM industry establishing itself here.

And more on the future
Look at the numbers and quality of the engineers and scientists they produce and you know that this is where the R&D will be done. The Chinese have a space programme, they're going to put a man on the Moon and nobody sold them that technology.
What he doesn't mention is that since Space Adventures moved to Singapore they also have a Space programme. Its just us who don't.

On Europe's future
When you look to Western Europe, do you see a possible collapse of the society because of the overwhelming forces of globalization?

Mr. Lee: No. I see ten bitter years. In the end, the workers, whether they like it or not, will realize, that the cosy European world which they created after the war has come to an end.

SPIEGEL: How so?

Mr. Lee: The social contract that led to workers sitting on the boards of companies and everybody being happy rested on this condition: I work hard, I restore Germany's prosperity, and you, the state, you have to look after me. I'm entitled to go to Baden Baden for spa recuperation one month every year. This old system was gone in the blink of an eye when two to three billion people joined the race -- one billion in China, one billion in India and over half-a-billion in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

SPIEGEL: The question is: How do you answer that challenge?

Mr. Lee: Chancellor Kohl tried to do it. He did it halfway then he had to pause. Schroeder tried to do it, now he's in a jam and has called an election. Merkel will go in and push, then she will get hammered before she can finish the job, but each time, they will push the restructuring a bit forward.

SPIEGEL: You think it's too slow?

Mr. Lee: It is painful because it is so slow. If your workers were rational they would say, yes, this is going to happen anyway, let's do the necessary things in one go. Instead of one month at the spa, take one week at the spa, work harder and longer for the same pay, compete with the East Europeans, invent in new technology, put more money into your R&D, keep ahead of the Chinese and the Indians.

Let me say that I don't really agree that working longer hours is a main part of the answer. I think that what is required is just for government not to waste workers time. Nobody ever accused the Irish of being to hard working it is just that Irish businesses get rewarded with profits & ours get rewarded with more regulations. The entire world is getting wealthier which implies that we can get away with less work as long as it is not wasted.

Why China is not a military threat (& the US implicitly is)
About eight years ago, I met Liu Huaqing, the man who built the Chinese Navy. Mao personally sent him to Leningrad to learn to build ships. I said to him, "The Russians made very rough, crude weapons". He replied, "You are wrong. They made first-class weapons, equal to the Americans." The Russian mistake was that they put so much into military expenditure and so little into civilian technology. So their economy collapsed. I believe the Chinese leadership have learnt: If you compete with America in armaments, you will lose. You will bankrupt yourself. So, avoid it, keep your head down, and smile, for 40 or 50 years.
On why the western aggression against Yugoslavia has made the world a much more dangerous place
Can the Chinese convince their North Korean ally Kim Jong-Il to get rid of his nuclear program?

Mr. Lee: North Korea is a riddle wrapped up in an enigma. The leaders in North Korea believe that their survival depends upon having a bomb -- at least one nuclear bomb. Otherwise, sooner or later, they will collapse and the leaders will be put on trial like Milosevic for all the crimes that they have committed. And they have no intention of letting that happen.
Lee does not say that Milosevic was innocent, nor that he was guilty though you have to read him carefully to spot it, but since I can see no way in which saying in a German magazine that the western powers engaged in war crimes would benefit Singapore I don't think he could have been expected to go further.

I agree with him that so long as as the western powers have no respect for the rule of law (ie that Clinton, Kohl, Blair etc are not brought to trial) any nation (even one as semi-allied to NATO as Yugoslavia was in the 1980s) will ultimately need a Bomb. Stopping proliferation depends on our integrity not our threats.

What China has been doing while the US has been wasting its wealth in a "war on terror" in Iraq.
The Chinese are very conscious of being encircled by allies of America. But they are very good in countering those moves. South Korea today has the largest number of foreign students in China. They see their future in China. So, the only country that's openly on America's side is Japan. All the others are either neutral or friendly to China.
On western democracy
I have to amend it to fit my people's position. In multiracial societies, you don't vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion. Supposing I'd run their system here, Malays would vote for Muslims, Indians would vote for Indians, Chinese would vote for Chinese. I would have a constant clash in my Parliament which cannot be resolved because the Chinese majority would always overrule them. So I found a formula that changes that...

& Protestants would vote for Protestants & Hispanics for Hispanics & Germans would blame Jews. Though I am not convinced that he has an inate enthusiasm for democracy he has put his finger on the greatest problem it faces.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


On Tuesday the Scotsman had an article about a Professor complaining that Gordon Brown isn't acting worried about a global warming caused hurricane hitting Britain.

Only hurricane will wake Brown to climate - expert

The interesting part of this nonsense is that of 14 comments from the public only 3 take it seriously. Now granted this is not a statisticly balanced sample & granted I am one of the other 11 which makes it even less balanced but if 80% of respondents in a public debate are removing the urine over this particular scare it may have about run its course.

Next year the BBC will be back to telling us that climate change/global dimming is bringing on an ice age again & the solution is to end modern technology plus more taxes.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


"Every society rests on a barbarian base. The people who don't understand civilization & wouldn't like it if they did. The hitchhikers. The people who create nothing and who don't appreciate what others have created for them, and who think civilization is something that just exists and that all they have to do is enjoy what they can understand of it - luxuries, a high living standard, and easy work for high pay. Responsibilities? Phooey! What have they got a government for?.....

"And now, the hitchhikers think they know more about the car than the people who designed it, so they're going to grab the controls"
from Space Viking by H Beam Piper c 1963*

This clearly applies to Tommy Sheriden of the Judean People's Liberation Front & to his opponents of the People's Liberation Front of Judea**. However it also applies to Greens & many respectable & mainstream politicians. The ones who believe, or claim to believe, that windmills & wishing will keep the lights on & insist that scientists will just have to invent "innovative new renewable" energy sources for them to judge. David Cameron, Ming Campbell, Michael Meecher (former environment Minister!) etc either are or (which would be worse) are deliberately acting like barbarians.

Note that I would not apply this term to people like Lenin & Trotsky who, at the very least, were not hitchhikers & were trying to build a civilization in very difficult circumstances (& tools that didn't work). It might not even apply to Stalin.

The current generation of "socialists" such as Sheriden, who, to quote the SSP's European election candidate believe "The SSP exist to destroy all the economic progress that has been made in the last 200 years because it was achieved by capitalism" (stated at an EU hustings meeting, albeit one run by environmentalists - I later, during audience questions described this as obscene)*** should remember that nobody had a greater appreciation of industrial civilization than early Marxists**** on whose metaphorical graves the eco-Marxists are trampling.

*Despite the title, designed for the audience available to early science fiction, this is a deeply thought out piece of politics that would not dishonour the writing of Machiavelli, who did write some fiction of the same kind (except without spaceships). Most of his other stuff is not greatly inferior.

**For non-Scots readers the charismatic Tommy Sheriden, leader of our populist socialist party committed, to a minimum wage of £8 per hour, has managed, though sexualshenaniganss to split his small party (his own section, without deliberate irony being called Solidarity) in the manner lampooned in the film Life of Brian.

*** As partially described in my Scotsman letter of 31/5/4

****Leninn said that communism would be achieved by "Soviet power & the electrification of the whole country" which,naivee though it may sound, is infinitely more sensible than the policy of closing electricity generators pursued by "Marxist, Liberal Democrat & Conservative" politicians.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


So Ian Huntley the murderer of the Soham girls has attempted suicide in jail.
"This morning at 1.19am Ian Huntley was found unconscious in his cell in the healthcare wing at HMP Wakefield. Resuscitation was attempted and an ambulance was called immediately. The ambulance took him to hospital.

"He is now being held in a state of heavy sedation whilst he receives treatment for what is believed to be an overdose."

Huntley was jailed for life in December 2003 for killing Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, ten-year-olds who attended a school in Soham, Cambridgeshire, where he worked as a caretaker
What exactly is the point of "saving" him?

If you believe in the death penalty (I do) then obviously he would be nane the waur o' a guid hanging.

However if you believe that executing people is a cruel & unusual punishment then surely to keep him alive when de doesn't want to while imprisoned for the rest of his life (minimum sentence is 40 years) is even more cruel. The normal purpose of prison is to rehabilitate but rehabilitation into society cannot be the purpose here.

We are doubtless going to have somebody from the anti-death penalty side coming on the box explaining that keeping him alive is more cruel that execution & that is why they support it. If I really believed such claims I would have to conclude that the people saying it were unutterably cruel. In fact I think they are just desperately looking for a defence to an indefensible policy. Apart from the cost (£23,000 a year for at least 40 years) what conceivable good does such torture do. Far better a clean kill than this.

I believe that the right to die ought to be a fundamental human right. What can be more fundamental to any life than the right to get out of it. That in backing up society's moral cowardice in not taking the responsibility of execution as the ultimate punishment we are now imposing pointless cruelty out of further moral cowardice.

Monday, September 04, 2006


This table of GDP per head from the CIA World Fact Book should be of interest:

6 United States $ 41,800 2005 est.
7 Ireland $ 41,000 2005 est.
15 Hong Kong $ 32,900 2005 est.
25 United Kingdom $ 30,300 2005 est.
The whole table is worth reading (the first 5 are micro states with oil or financial institutions. The point I am making is that Ireland, a country that 17 years ago had a per capita income 2/3s of ours was in 2005 onlt 2% behind the USA, which means it is probably marginally ahead this year. Granted such figures should not be treated as exact - the fact that Ireland's taxes are so low encourages multinational's accountants to add as much of their value as possible there, on the other hand the fact that the dollar is the world's currency certainly gives the US an edge. However the trend is indisputable.

So do we have something to learn from them? Obviously not if you notice the amount of coverage Ireland doesn't get in our media.

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