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Saturday, November 06, 2010


The magazine Scientific American has been & still is a strong promoter of global warming scares. Perhaps it knows who supplies its advertising, since almost all magazines & newspapers make their profits there, perhaps not. Organisations do polls less to find public opinion than to attempt to lead it so when SA decided to run a poll among its readers on alleged warming they must have bee expecting the desired results (even though it is a badly designed poll allowing multiple answers which sometimes overlap). After all its readership is presumably largely scientists & we are told there is a "scientific consensus." So the results, edited to provide absolute clarity, must be a bit of a surprise:

3. What is causing climate change?
greenhouse gases from human activity 28.0%
solar variation 32.5%
natural processes 77.2%
There is no climate change. 6.14%

4. The IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is:
an effective group of government representatives, scientists and other experts. 16.2%
a corrupt organization, prone to groupthink, with a political agenda. 83.2%

5. What should we do about climate change?
, we are powerless to stop it 68.0%
(this was the only negative option - there was no "no because it is a total lie" option - this shows SA's bias not the opinions of the readers.
Use more technology (geoengineering, carbon capture and storage). 15.5%
Use less technology (cars, intensive agriculture). 5.4% I suspect the use more technology is inspired more by the poll's assumption that something should be done than by any real belief - geoengineering doesn't demand action until visible catastrophic warming has started & practical CCS simply doesn't exist. Note that is 95% opposition to the Luddism which is the only option our politicians discuss - I think that can be referred to as a consensus)

6. What is "climate sensitivity"?
the degree to which global temperature responds to concentrations of greenhouse gases 30.9%
an unknown variable that climate scientists still do not understand 54.7%

7. Which policy options do you support?
increased government funding of energy-related technology research and development 36.9%
keeping science out of the political process 66.9%

8. How much would you be willing to pay to forestall the risk of catastrophic climate change
nothing 78.8%

So we do indeed have a scientific consensus that we should do nothing now to stop it, that the IPCC are simply a corrupt political, rather than scientific body & that the politicos should butt out, and the alarmists can't even claim the poll is biased, well not against them anyway.

PS This is the link to the Scientific American main page inviting participation in the poll - as you will see it is mainly directed at extracting negative opinions of Judith Curry, an alarmist scientist who nonetheless tries to discuss rationally. I assume they didn't give a lot of thought into what the results of what turn out to be the important questions would be. In polling it is normally assumed that once you have got the desired answers at the beginning people will be dragged along in the desired direction.

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Friday, November 05, 2010


This is the Scotsman's lead letter today
Graham McLeod suggests (letter Thurs) that the contractors probably underbid to get the tram contract. When Melbourne can build 3 km of tramline for £13.5 million I doubt that.

The problem is that British public work projects routinely cost 13 times what they do elsewhere in the world & no politician is willing to say a word in opposition or even explanation.

Although the contractor has come in for public criticism, to which they are unable to reply because TIE wrote a gagging clause into the contract it is a matter of record that under mandatory mediation TIE was found to be responsible for 90% of the cost overruns.

I agree with Mr Inglis' (letter same day) admirable listing of conditions to be satisfied before undertaking expensive projects but would like to see a thorough regulatory stable cleaning to allow them to be done at the same sort of costs the rest of the world manages.

Ref Australian tram costs
13 fold costs

I am pleased to say there was virtually no editing.
Both the previous letters I refer to are here.
The matter of record of mediation going 90% against TIE comes, via wikipedia, from the Herald
It is feared the ruling, which has seen BSC awarded 90% of the costs it originally claimed for, will have a knock-on effect for the hundreds of points of dispute between Tie and the consortium, estimated to be worth up to £80m.

Perhaps we will soon see some politicians at least saying a word in opposition to this rip off even if they cannot say a word in explanation.

I wonder how much of the £540 million, which may all have already been spent on this project, actually reached the bank account of the contracting company, or indeed of the people on the ground & how much stays with TIE, the civil service, or the various consultants & minor contractors however I suspect this is all "commercially sensitive" information not available under the FoI. I have written previously of how Richard Rogers said & nobody in the media reported that of the £670 million the Dome cost to build only £46 million went to the builders.

I have yet to see anybody explain exactly what trams can do, apart from using politically correct electricity rather than diesel, that buses can't. This entire project has been a boondoggle & on the principle that if you can't stop when you are ahead you should stop when you are £540 million behind it should be immediately scrapped.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010


Jack McConnell, Scotland's longest serving First Minister gave the Royal Phil lecture last night entitled "Has devolution improved Scotland's place in the world"?

It started at 7.30 with a rather amusing story about George Bush at the G8 meeting in Scotland - OK then at the main dinner he had to keep his shirt on because the blood was seeping through his shirt. He had nasty scrapes on his arm & back. He & a couple of bodyguards had decided to go mountain biking in the hills behind the hotel where G8 was going on & on the way back a policeman, seeing 3 bicyclists approaching (obviously leftist greeny anti-globalist saboteurs) stepped in front of them with the results Newton's laws of motion predict. Thus the first policeman to be knocked out was not by anarchists but by the president of the USA.

Having got the audience onside he lectured on the glory of Scotland having been given a limited amount of foreign aid to Malawi. Malawi was chosen because it is sufficiently small the aid might be noticed & because of some historic links including that it had been annexed by Britain after a Scottish Church 11,000 signature petition calling for annexation to protect it from the Portuguese & slave raiders.

This lasted till 7.55 taking up most of the lecture. Then followed 15 minutes on how his "first priority" had been fixing the economy, including the remarkable claim that in 2007 Scotland, having been poorer, achieved the same per capita GNP as England, explained what great advantages we have from scientific capacity to tourist attraction & a few other odds & ends ending at 8.10. The rest was Q & A.

My question (did you guess I was going to ask one) was:

"You mentioned improving the economy being your "first priority" & you have said that many times before, particularly before elections. Ireland, which really did make the economy the priority has achieved 7% annual growth since 1989, Britain as a whole has achieved 2.5% & Scotland only 1.5%. You explained the advantages we had & we could clearly have matched Ireland's achievement, at least, had we had a government which really made the economy the "first priority" which if done over the last 11 years would have made us all nearly twice as well off. Do you regret making no attempt to do so."

He said "3 years ago that would have been a difficult question to answer" & explained that
1 - Ireland now has structural problems
2 - Ireland's growth was because they poured money into education
3 - Since the "world recession" the Irish/Icelandic "models are no longer appropriate"
4 - They got a lot of EU aid.
5 - We had the unique problem of the electronics industry moving to Eastern Europe about which we could do nothing.
6 - This meant we had 2 quarters of zero growth so we are bound to perform badly.
7 - Ireland's growth was high because they started at a lower level.

Because I couldn't make an ancillary remark then (neither could pther questioners) I will answer here & send him a copy so he may answer in turn if he wishes.

1 - They are still 27% wealthier than us, much of their problem is that they are tied into the Euro, another "problem" is that they aren't borrowing 12.5% of GNP to artificially pump up the economy but are actually facing their deficit.
2 - That would be no excuse but it isn't the case either. Ireland's growth was because of their low tax free market economy.
3 - If that is what he meant by "Irish & Icelandic models", which have little really in common, then he is wrong. This apparent admission that supporting enterprise would have worked in the past but that that time has, for unexplained reasons, passed is a tactic that has been used for a long time & I expect we will see more of it in future.
4 - Less than we got from the Union "dividend". Also most of their aid went into agriculture, the one area of the Irish economy not to have achieved spectacular growth.
5 - It is not a unique problem - industries move worldwide - that has been an opportunity in Ireland.
6 - Indeed.
There seems to be some dichotomy between admitting that we have had a 1% average lower growth rate than England & his repeated claim that we have "caught up". I know of no evidence for the latter claim & perhaps he will provide it in his answer.
7 - Firstly it has repeatedly been shown that it is easier for richer countries to grow, though it is an excuse repeatedly used by politicians in failing countries. Secondly since Ireland passed our wealth about a decade ago that is a double edged argument.

Other points raised in questions were his belief that Scotland has poor media - giving an example of the fact that not all papers reported the celebrations of the Scotland Malawi partnership, in particular Scotland on Sunday were criticised for not reporting it despite having been "tipped off a month ago". I agree they are crap but for the opposite reason. Scotland/Malawi is not a news story since nothing has actually happened lately it is simple political placement by politicians wanting publicity. Yet it did get a lot of coverage by newspapers that simply will not report that the Forth crossing is £2,290 million fraud; that our environmental agency has spent millions on investigating radiation pollution that obviously doesn't exist; that spending £41 million on mot building a Glasgow airport link was not good value when they had an offer to build it for £20 million; that the isolation of the west Highlands & Islands is wholly unnecessary when we could, for no met cost, build tunnels linking them all; that the man chosen to "investigate" climategate was the one person found to have been responsible for the Parliament building scandal (thus getting all the politicians) & who has since had plum jobs from the politicians; the influence of government controlled fakecharities in forming opinion; the fact that we certainly could have had the growth McConnell & others promised to try for if they had tried for it. etc etc etc. Journalism nowadays seems to consist of rewritting press releases & briefings from poliyicians & fakecharities rather than doing actual investigation & I think that discreditable.

His support for mass immigration was made clear, including the remarkable claim that "California is successful because of immigration" - in fact California is bankrupt, partly because of it.

On Trident he said he had supported making preparations for it but that it should be put on the table in international negotiations - something with which I agree.

Asked on his most lasting achievement he said the smoking ban (& got applause - it is that sort of audience) - saying he was "so proud of the country" because there had been no serious public disobedience. I must admit I feel it shameful that descendants of people who marched to Derby for Price Charlie & had to be cleared from George Square by tanks are now so supine.

On sectarianism he was proud to have opposed it. The only problem is that it always seems to be Protestant sectarianism that gets targeted. It is, for example, notorious that Glasgow provosts are always Catholic (though I once heard a former provost, Mr Patrick Lally state that he had never even heard of this). I wonder if Jack has asked his wife, Bridget, who has a very well paid, no failure standards, arty job with Glasgow Council whether she has ever noticed any preponderance of persons of Irish Catholic antecedents?

Finally he had some words about the nature of our Parliamentarians with their 9 to 5 attitude & lack of interest in making it a real Parliament with real thought & discussion but he will have more to say on that in future.

UPDATE 11/11 From McConnell's office "He has noted its contents." So no attempt to support his arithmetically remarkable claim that though we have grown slower than the UK our GNP caught up.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010


The TEA movement & Republicans have had a major but not an overwhelming victory in the US elections. They got far more Senate seats & far more votes overall. On the other hand the TEAists failed to take Nevada where one of their leaders was up against Harry Reid & though results are not yet in, may have failed to take Alaska, the vote having split between the TEAist who won the primary & the Republican incumbent who refused to step down - the incumbent has probably won. Also in Delaware Christine O'Donnell has been beaten by both an absolutely disgusting smear campaign portraying her as a "witch" & the local Republican leaders opposing her.

Nobody has had a magic touch but Obama, whose on previous seat went TEAist, clearly has a touch of ----. The game is to play for rather than won, which is fair enough.

The BBC reporting kept on about how the Republicans will now "have to work with Obama" & that that will mean betraying what they stand for & their supporters. I don't see the point of that - the voters have more said that Obama will have to work with Congress. The Republicans can demand the Obamacare bill be shelved & a new bipartisan one be worked out; they should demand a freeze on hiring across all departments Federal government (this would cut government size by about 5% annually by natural wastage & is similar to the Gramm-Rudman Act which did similarly cut inflation); on a genuine impartial & fast investigation into catastrophic global warming & if there isn't any (there isn't) the evisceration of the EPA & all related Luddite regulations; & an X-Prize foundation. Ideally the Republicans can demand "Starting [now] we’re going to lay more pipelines … build more nuclear plants" - nominally Obama hasn't said he is against that & had it been done 2 years ago there is no question that America would now be in high growth.

Which brings us to Sarah Palin - will she run - can she win the Republican nomination - can she win the Presidency? I think she would make an outstanding President & I think she would win Republican primaries. However I am not sure she would win the Presidency even against Obama. I have said previously that the dream ticket would be a Palin/Gingrich ticket with either party heading it & stand by that. Palin has recently said she will run “if there is nobody else to do it”
& I believe that is what she means. Obama's ambition was always to be President, admired by the world & thus win his daddy's approval but was never very focused on what he would do there. I think Palin is the opposite - a politician who wants to achieve things more than to be seen (a rare phenomenon). We shall see.

Obama is now speaking & saying - we can agree we want reducing deficit, promoting clean energy, eduction, promoting technology - sounds nervous.

UPDATE Jerry Pournelle has his take on the election - it is naturally considerably better informed than my post, also more optimistic & has some good tactical advice. You should read it here.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010


2 war criminals eventually punished

I am split on this
A Muslim woman tried to kill a Labour MP by stabbing him in the stomach 'in revenge' for him voting for the Iraq War, a court heard today.

Roshonara Choudhry, 21, is accused of knifing Stephen Timms twice in a shock attack during a constituency surgery meeting ...

'I wanted to kill him. I was hoping to get revenge for the people in Iraq.'

Mr Timms, 55, suffered potentially life-threatening injuries in the attack days after the general election in May this year.

Prosecutor William Boyce, QC, told the jury: 'Mr Dein has already indicated to you he will not be addressing you on behalf of the defendant and he will not be inviting you to find the defendant not guilty.

'From this perspective it seems from the Crown's point of view, acting conscientiously, you could not come to any verdicts other than guilty on the three counts.'

The court heard that Choudhry from East Ham is not suffering from any mental illness.

At an earlier hearing, her lawyers entered a not guilty plea on her behalf after she refused to accept the authority of the court.

The trial continues
I do not think Mr Timms bears a particularly strong responsibility for the Iraq war & doubt if, in any trial in a court as honest as the Nuremberg one he would face long imprisonment let alone death.

I do not believe that, by any objective standards, the Iraq war can be classed as being anywhere near as clearly illegal as the Kosovo war - Saddam did have a history of attacking other countries & producing nerve gases & there was, however spurious, documentation claiming to prove he still was. Mr Timms therefore could claim to believe the threat report which would make his vote non-criminal (though many Serbs as indirectly associated with unproven atrocities as Mr Timms is with proven ones are serving lengthy terms).

The defendant has refused to "recognise" the court & refused to say why. Well she is in Britain & when in the Course of human events it becomes necessary to refuse to accept political bands a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes.

She has refused to put up a defence or even to allow one to be put up & we are thus under no obligation to think she believes she has one & if she acted in such a belief she is guilty by intent even if a legal defence does exist.

On the other hand

Such a defence does exist. Our government has endorsed various rules about war crimes including that it is the duty of every individual to help bring such people to justice. This is endorsed by Nuremberg & the more recent ICC treaty, to both of which the British state is a party.

Normally that duty is to help arrest people & bring them to trial. Even then we have declared that it is alright to kill people on the grounds that we wished to arrest them - in Bosnia British troops killed an unarmed Bosnian Serb (in a bathing suit) outside his own home & another group killed a teacher, shooting into a moving car which contained schoolchildren where no serious attempt to make an ordinary arrest was made. These & others involved no subsequent prosecution.

By comparison Ms Chaudry's wounding is far less serious. Also more justifiable because there is no current prospect of people against whom there is a prima facie case of war crimes, or indeed worse, being brought to trial.

It is lawful to take reasonable steps to protect yourself against burglars when there is no policeman present to stop criminals, but not to assault them once the police gave put the cuffs on. In the same way, as we have an actual obligation to bring war criminals to justice, we must be entitled to take actions to mete out reasonable punishment ourselves where the forces of "law" refuse to enforce the law.

Where the only punishments practical are no punishment or death the latter must be a reasonable punishment in circumstances where an honest court, if it existed, would normally only choose lengthy imprisonment.

We also have the precedent of a court deciding, after lengthy evidence from, among others, a current Conservative MP, that clear breaches of the law have "lawful excuse" when done in the name of fighting alleged catastrophic global warming, something for which there is no actual evidence.

The evidence of criminality in launching the Iraq war is strong & over the Kosovo war, undeniable. Indeed so undeniable that even the British Parliament that voted for it has acknowledged that it was illegal. That Parliament was informed by the Foreign Secretary that it overwhelmingly or entirely was those we were going to war to support who were engaged in genocide so no MP of the time can claim innocence.

Ms Chaudry's case appears less clear cut than that & I am willing to let a jury decide knowing that the prosecution's claim that the jury "you could not come to any verdicts other than guilty" is wholly contrary to law. A jury always has the right to acquit even in the teeth of the evidence if they think this serves justice.

Over the Kosovo war there is, at least legally, an iron clad defence for any action against the person of anybody who can be proven to have a prima facie case to answer against charges of war crimes, genocide or indeed the subsequent ethnic cleansing, sexual enslavement & dissections of living people.

On a philosophical point the reason crime is punished by society is to discourage it. The best way to make the world a more peaceful place is if people like Blair, Clinton, Saddam, Pol Pot & bin Laden (where they still live) are brought to some form of justice. After a fair trial would be the ideal, though if that cannot be achieved having the murderers sleep less easy is still a worthy goal. Only thus can countries whose leaders have participated in war crimes & crimes against humanity be trusted again. I think world peace is a noble ideal.

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Monday, November 01, 2010


There are 2 Forth bridges at Queensferry. The original one is the iconic railway bridge.
Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker designed a cantilever bridge in steel, with three diamond-shaped towers.

The bridge was built by Sir William Arrol. Constructed started in 1883. The bridge was opened in 1890 at a cost of £2.5m. It is still in use today, carrying the railways to the north from Edinburgh. more here
Having previously pointed out that the current road bridge cost £320 million in today's money (£19 million in the sixties) while the proposed new one is costed at £2.3 billion (previously four & a half billion) I think a further comparisonof the original in today's costs is in order.

£204,000.00 using the retail price index

£261,000.00 using the GDP deflator

£1,230,000.00 using the average earnings

£1,470,000.00 using the per capita GDP

£2,420,000.00 using the share of GDP

The one that matters is the retail price index. So it comes in at 2/3rds the cost of the original road bridge. Since the rail bridge was naturally built on the shortest & easiest crossing, using natural rocks as tower foundations & provides 2 rail tracks rather than 4 road carriageways that looks like £320m for the road bridge is better value for money, though not enormously better, than £204m for the rail one. This is what one would expect since inflation at the cutting edge of technology is usually less because that cutting edge moves forward over time. However it makes a further nonsense of the government's claim that their prices cannot be compared with the rest of the world's bridge costs because of the "unique geography" of the Firth of Forth.

I note, however, that the cost of the original bridge is very close to the proposed new one as a share of GDP & thus a proportionately equivalent drain on society. This is, at the very least, strongly compatible with government having made an assessment of how much public blood is available for draining & with us so much richer now coming up with a proportionately similar amount to the 1890s figure & deciding that is the figure they can get away with.

Oh and the Victorian bridge hasn't fallen down either. It being, nominally, this fear which requires us to replace the road bridge.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010


This one is for the at least 50% of my readers who come from the USA.

On Tuesday there are Congressional elections which, with luck, will produce a Congress able to prevent the Democrats producing more trillion dollar stimulus/bailout/Obamacare spending programmes, all of which are immensely economically damaging & considerably increase the amount of political patronage in politician's hands - they thus damage both the people's wealth & their freedom. With better luck a major victory by the Tea (Taxed Enough Already) Party will be the start of an about turn in the relentless growth in the size of government (even under Reagan) which has been going on since WW1. Since China's economy is growing so fast it is within a few years of matching America's this may be one of the last chances to save western civilisation.

It is presumptuous of me to tell Americans how to vote in a US election, on the other hand I assume people turning up here are interested in my views.

My advice is, in fact rather more than telling people how to vote. I also suggest you try to ensure that some friend, relative or colleague also remembers to vote. In most elections the number of people on one side who forgot or didn't bother to vote exceeds the amount by which the winner won. Getting out the vote matters even more than persuading people.

The other thing to remember is that it isn't over on Wednesday. Political movements grind fine but they grind exceeding slow. This is simply an early battle. If government parasitism is to be rolled back a committed candidate is going to have to receive the Republican Presidential nomination & then win. That candidate need not be Sarah Palin, though I would be happy if it were as she has demonstrated executive competence in running Alaska, a clear understanding of problems & principles (it was her who called for drilling oil & starting nuclear plants "in January" if the ticket had won & was one of the early catastrophic warming sceptics when that was unfashionable), despite taking enormous strategic risks has barely put a tactical foot wrong since McCain selected her & has a unique gift enunciating ideas in language that normal people can relate to (eg "how's the gopey changey thing going"). The candidate should, however, have Palin's support since I don't trust any established politician who, after Tuesday, suddenly discovers they were enthusiastic for the principles of the founding fathers 7 the Teal party all along.

For us in Britain there is an almost total media blackout on what the Tea party stand for - low tax, lessened government nanny statism & the small government principles the founding fathers wrote the US constitution to protect, which served America well in its growing years.

America, for all its faults, has a much more independent media than we. Britain's BBC is very similar to America's National Public Radio except that, since it has a near stranglehold on broadcasting it is even less accountable & more restrictive. While NPR fired somebody for being unhappy about aggressive Islam the BBC & indeed any UK terrestrial broadcaster, would never have hired him in the first place. As a recent example of BBC political control on their Film Night programme, nominally reviewing popular films the posh arty PC female idiot presenting it took time to explain that Capra's "Mr Smith Goes to Washington" is retroactively not a classic film because it makes Sarah Palin look good. No really.

The other factor, other than Stalinist media censorship", preventing Britain's freedom is that we have both a wholly corrupt FPTP electoral system which disenfranchises people voting for any but the 2 "main" parties & that the main parties are totally controlled from above so that the public have no role in nominating candidates & thus virtually no role in deciding policy. The other EU countries have proportional electoral systems so that new parties can rise unless they arrest or shoot them & not always even then. The US, while still having FPTP has popular nomination of candidates so that Tea party candidates can be nominated by Republican voters whereas in the UK the Conservatives would rather lose the election than court popularity by standing by their referendum promise.

However our politics is strongly influenced by the US's & a strong small government showing there will promote discussion of it here & hearten those who despairing that relentless government expansion had become inevitable.(& also do even more to discredit the totalitarian mainstream media which has censored serious reporting on what is happening). America may save gerself by this exertion & western society by the example.

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