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Saturday, December 16, 2006


Scotland's future

Forth bridge

Response to Jim Sillars letter previously reprinted here

Tunnel costs

NASA's plans

Holocaust denial

More tunneling

Cow farts


Glasgow Edinburgh rail

Lone parents .

Scotland's future

Scotland's financial "union dividend"
Pinochet & other war criminals

Alternatives to Prison

Comment on cancelled investigation published

The "experts" say this weeks rain was because of global warming?

Russians "worried" that the winter isn't that cold?

"Public concern" on warming

"Lib Dems" will not back minority Labour

Friday, December 15, 2006


This very strong articale appreared in the Herald & is, at the time of writing, still accessible.
Global warming is a hypothesis, not fact. And even if temperatures are increasing, that does not necessarily mean it is a result of human activities, nor does it mean that the outcomes will necessarily be overwhelmingly detrimental..........

Accurate scientific records are a recent arrival, relative to the time that has elapsed since the last ice age. From such evidence, however, it would seem that, some two millennia ago, parts of the UK were at least as warm as now. There are reports of the Romans growing grapes and of malaria being present in parts of the south-east of England.
The evidence, which is much more comprehensive than that intimated above, needs to be judged with caution. Most scientists working in this field will liberally use such terms as "may", "perhaps" and "appears" rather than "will", "definitely" and "shows" when discussing the significance of their findings, particularly when this applies to predictions about the future. On the other hand, some politicians, some journalists and some who have a vested interest seem intent on talking up the possible occurrence.....

The other aspect of these predictions is that such changes will inevitably be detrimental. Why? In the UK it has been suggested that we could expect a Mediterranean-type climate. It is then suggested that many people will die as a result of the stress of the raised temperatures. The people of the Mediterranean area seem to enjoy a long and happy life so why shouldn't we also? In any case, would not the people dying because of the raised temperatures, if any, be more than offset by the much larger numbers who currently die of the cold each winter?
The whole article is worth reading though relatively long. It is a very good summation of the case for scepticism.

He also takes a number of sideswips at other Luddite scare campaigns (Y2k, peak oil, protectionism, Club of Rome, DDT, ozone).

Well done Professor & well done the Herald for allowing both sides to be aired.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


1) High resolution video record a couple dozen people each teaching the same college course (e.g. calculus, freshman physics, freshman chemistry, partial differential equations, etc).

2) Make those video recordings free or very cheap to download on the internet. Sell them as DVDs too.

3) Put automated tests on the web where anyone can test their ability to do, say, calculus, freshman physics, etc).

4) Have testing days where you can go to a room and say what you want to be tested in (e.g. calculus, freshman physics, etc). Proctors in the room prevent cheating. Tests are designed by the American Chemical Society (which already has standard tests for subjects like freshman chemistry), the American Physics Society (or whatever it is called) and similar professional societies. Then pay a fee and sit down at a PC that shows you the test questions (variations thereon generated automatically with different numbers and such) and you write in paper to figure out the answers. Then you enter the answers.

5) At the end of the test they tell you if you passed and with what score and that score goes into a database. You then can say you passed freshman chemistry or organic chemistry or inorganic chemistry or linear algebra.

6) Repeat process until the American Chemical Society or similar professional societies say that you have demonstrated your understanding of a bachelor's degree worth of chemistry, physics, math, mechanical engineering, accounting, or other useful topics.

Granted, this does not work so well for topics like Dramatic Arts. But it would save probably $100,000 for each person who wants to earn a degree in an objectively measurable topic.

Tutoring? That costs extra. Do you need it? You'll ask yourself hard questions and try to find people to study with instead.

Randall Parker

I recall that as similar to what I was thinking in the 70's when I did some of my High Justice series of stories, and what Charlie and I were after in Higher Education. I still think it's a good idea. Why don't we try it?

This is another lifted from (Higher Education & Billion Dollar Boy were books he & Charles Sheffield wrote).

It strikes me that not only is this very cheap but, the nature of the net being what it is, any small English speaking state like, for example, Scotland could do this. It might not be possible to do the tests online while preventing cheating without entrants being physically present but international travel is easy today. So long as the tests are demonstrably tough & thus it is not merely a conventional correspondence course doctorate I see no reason why an online degree from the University of Edinburgh, or Islay, should not be acceptable.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

GEO-ENGINEERING: The Politically Incorrect way to solve Global Warming

This Rolling Stone article goes into 6 pages on stopping global warming by proactive means. I am not going to reprint the whole thing (I have discussed this before anyway but here:
Wood hooked up his laptop, threw his first slide onto the screen and got down to business: What if all the conventional thinking about how to deal with global warming was wrong? What if you could do an end run around carbon-trading schemes and international treaties and political gridlock and actually solve the problem? And what if the cost to get started was not trillions of dollars but $100 million a year -- less than the cost of a good-size wind farm?

Wood's proposal was not technologically complex. It's based on the idea, well-proven by atmospheric scientists, that volcano eruptions alter the climate for months by loading the skies with tiny particles that act as mini-reflectors, shading out sunlight and cooling the Earth. Why not apply the same principles to saving the Arctic? Getting the particles into the stratosphere wouldn't be a problem -- you could generate them easily enough by burning sulfur, then dumping the particles out of high-flying 747s, spraying them into the sky with long hoses or even shooting them up there with naval artillery. They'd be invisible to the naked eye, Wood argued, and harmless to the environment. Depending on the number of particles you injected, you could not only stabilize Greenland's polar ice -- you could actually grow it. Results would be quick: If you started spraying particles into the stratosphere tomorrow, you'd see changes in the ice within a few months. And if it worked over the Arctic, it would be simple enough to expand the program to encompass the rest of the planet. In effect, you could create a global thermostat, one that people could dial up or down to suit their needs (or the needs of polar bears).

By comparison the Lewis windfarm, which is not going to solve 1000th part of the alleged warming, is being costed at £500 million. Perhaps Scotland should just cough up the £50 million to save the world & be done with it.

Actually I would be opposed to doing this until we know any non-beneficial warming is actually taking place. For entirely different reasons a number of catastrophe enthusiasts held the same view:
Bill Nordhaus, a Yale economist, worried about political implications: Wasn't this simply a way of enabling more fossil-fuel use, like giving methadone to a heroin addict? If people believe there is a solution to global warming that does not require hard choices, how can we ever make the case that they need to change their lives and cut emissions?
This is also the Nicol Stephen reason for opposing nuclear - that if we solve this "problem" the common people will never again be persuaded to accept all the nonsense regulations & taxes we want to heap on them.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


The story about the alleged assassination of Litvinenko by Putin's intelligence service has been developing with much more heat than light. It sarted with the papers telling us that he had been poisoned at a meeting with Russians in his hotel/a bar & grew from there.
The Mail on Sunday claims he became ill after having a meeting with an associate at a restaurant in Piccadilly.

The Sunday Times says he had three times the maximum limit of deadly metal thallium in his body.

This, according to the Sunday Telegraph, was "an audacious attempt" to murder a fierce critic of President Putin.
In due course it turned out that he had no thallium & that far from being a serious critic he was Berezovsky's flack whose "revelations" included Putin's responsibility for the London Underground bombs & had a long history of paedophilia.
Over the years, Litvinenko had charged, among many other things, that the Kremlin had trained al-Qaeda's top leaders prior to 9/11; that Putin was behind last year's subway bombings in London; that the FSB was responsible for the 2002 Moscow theater massacre and the horrific 2004 slaughter at the Beslan schoolhouse; and that Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi was a long-time KGB agent. This summer, when Putin was filmed playfully smooching a small boy's belly, Litvinenko rushed out a piece declaring that Putin was a paedophile - a proven fact that he and other FSB officials had known for years, he said, although he didn't explain why he had refrained from revealing this damning information before.
Since then we have been informed by his wife that he was almost unconscious well brore his deatn, that his dying words were a particularly coying speech against Putin & that wrote a letter saying the same & signed it as he died.

None of this seems to surprise our media, but after all they pretended to believe the government story about Milosevic's murder too.

What also really gets me is that though we keep being told that this that person/place has been found to have a "significant" amount of radiation the police never mention figures. It should be obvious from readings of Po whether we are dealing with an amount spilled, or an amount carried from somewhere else on boots etc, or whether it is from a physical contact with somebody.

Another minor point is that these allegedly patriotic pro-Putin assassins traveled by British Airways. This is not particularly impossible but it does seem unlikely.

An alternative scenario which, for some reason has not been mentioned in our MSM would be that the poisoning occurred when Litvinenko & his Italian friend, probably in the sushi bar were handling & possibly opened a vial of the stuff. This would mean that far from being the victim of the Russian government he was part of a conspiracy to use it against the Russian government. If so most other things seem to fit with themain difficulty being where did whoever supplied it get it. Here we come to this article in Asia Times involving an actual expert (Yale Professor) which ends.
KKT: Well, there's plenty of polonium-210 available - any place there's a bomb-maintenance facility - and it's always manufactured. It is a sophisticated thing to know that polonium-210 is dangerous, but that's been known because it did a lot of harm to people throughout the Manhattan Project.

Beyond that, I have no idea. I was surprised that somebody was clever enough to look for polonium-210 during the investigation. If you were looking for alpha emitters, there is a diagnostic energy for polonium-210 no one would mistake. But the act of looking into that shows some insight into what might have been used, and I have no idea how they got that insight. Maybe they knew something about this person or the people he hung around with.
Maybe the police did. Maybe the security services told them. Which would raise the question - if our security services knew these guys were or might be handling Polonium, in London & our government is capable of supplying it then did they do so to help this conspiracy to kill Putin's friends?

The police have, however, now officially decided that it was definitely murder rather than an accident. On the other hand when announcing this they said they had made this decision not on the basis of new evidence & that they did not know the means, motive, method or who did it which suggests a rush to judgment. Somewhat different from the Milosevic murder when they did know the means - rifampicin, the motive - the difficulty of convicting without evidence & who had the opportunity - limited to those who were imprisoning him under 24 hour video coverage. On that occasion the Dutch police naturally jumped to the suicide conclusion because that, while obviously untrue, was the politically acceptable one. Have the London police done the same?

Some comments I have put elsewhere. I think,though I have changed my view slightly, I have been more consistent with the developing facts than our official media.

C4 poisoning
Milosevic & the new poisoning story
on Channel 4 forums?

On Tim Worstall

More on "poisoning"



Both parties poisoned, so who did it



Monday, December 11, 2006


Gordo doesn't like Sir Nicholas Stern & has got rid of him.
The author of the Government’s report on climate change is to quit the Treasury after friends said that he was frozen out of Gordon Brown’s inner circle.
Indeed, though his action in returning airport tax to where it was before he lowered it is about as little as could be done while David Milibrain was ranting about the need for massive "green" taxes
Mr Brown’s move to raise taxes on flights and motorists’ fuel were seen as minimum concessions to calls for tougher environmental action and disappointed green campaigners.

One well-placed government source told The Times that Mr Brown had to be persuaded within the Treasury even to take the steps he did, such was his lack of enthusiasm for green taxes.

Brown is often said to be intellectual, at least by comparison with the more more "fellow next door" fellow next door.

I may be being optomistic but would not be surprised if, when he comes into his inheritance, he proves to have no time at all for the Luddites & their warming scares.

We also have Brown's protege Kate Barker's review of housing
To bring the real price trend in line with the EU average of 1.1 per cent an extra 120,000 houses each year might be required.
The Barker Review’s final report sets out a range of policy recommendations for improving the functioning of the housing market:

Government should set out a goal for improved market affordability.
Additional investment building-up to between £1.2 and £1.6 billion per annum will be required to deliver additional social housing to meet projected future needs.
Introduction of a Planning-gain Supplement to capture some of the development gains that landowners benefit from, to ensure that local communities share in the value of development.
Establishment of a Regional Planning Executive to provide public advice to the Regional Planning Body on the scale and distribution of housing required to meet the market affordability target.
Introduction of flexibility at the local level through the allocation of additional land in Local Development Frameworks, with the release of this additional land triggered by market signals.
Establishment of a Community Infrastructure Fund to help to unlock some of the barriers to development.
Local authorities should be allowed to “keep” the council tax receipts from new housing developments for a period of time to provide incentives for growth and to meet transitional costs associated with development.
This is not quite a pure free marketism but it does, almost uniquely in government circles. acknowledge that the laws of supply & demand apply to housing & that it can only be made "affordable" if we allow more to be built.

Now if he also understands the need for cutting corporation tax & he really ought to by now, then we could have a hat trick. Gordon has been derided for his "dour presbyterian" beliefs but such beliefs are entirely compatible with realism & in many ways more compatible with a commitment to economic success than the "greed is good philosophy" which underpinned Thatcher. Presbyterians are better at saving for the future.

I may be building a house of cards on 2 data & it is certainly true that such things as his pensions stealth tax & general increase in spending don't point that way - but it is quite possible that Blair gave him no choice. We know that Blair did offer him the PMship on condition that we join the Euro which he fortunately turned down. Gordon is certainly brighter than Blair & I think the odds are good he will be a considerable improvement.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Nearly one-third of journalists now serving time in prisons around the world published their work on the Internet, the second-largest category behind print journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in an analysis released Thursday.

The bulk of Internet journalists in jail - 49 in total - shows that "authoritarian states are becoming more determined to control the Internet," said Joel Simon, the New York-based group's executive director....

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