Saturday, July 06, 2013
"Next Time It Will Be Petrol" - What Salmond & The Yes Campaign Fascists Promise
People who combine fascism with hypocrisy but not with the competence to make trains run on time.
they certainly crossed the line when after throwing brown liquid over me and Mike Scott-Hayward (UKIP Scotland Chairman) someone said: "next time it will be petrol".
As for the protest, it was a surreal mixture of the comic and the deadly serious. There was the point the protesters unveiled a huge banner ... facing the wall so that no one could see it ... then they tried to move away onto the road and I was very pleased the police were present because there was a serious risk they would get run over.
There are a number of other unrelated but interesting articles on the site. Will add to my blogroll next time I'm updating.
Friday, July 05, 2013
What Is Britain's Greatest Achievement Of The Last 50 Years - What It Could Be In The Next
But in May of this year, when the public was asked to name the greatest U.S. accomplishment of the past 50 years, somewhat fewer (12%) specifically mentioned space exploration or getting a man to the moon as the greatest achievement. Only about a quarter (27%) mentioned an achievement in science, medicine or technology. (For more from this survey, see “Public Praises Scientists; Scientists Fault Public, Media,” July 9, 2009.)
In the new survey,  nearly as many people point to the election of a black president (10%) as cite the space program as the greatest U.S. accomplishment of the past half-century. In addition, a third (33%) offer no response — or say “nothing” when asked about the top national achievement — compared with 24% in the 1999 survey.
Not surprising that an event 40 years earlier, when most of the population was unborn, would slip a bit with time. My guess is that 34 years from now electing an incompetent because he was a half black brought up by whites, is not going to be seen as a proud achievement - call it a hunch.
In fact what is clear is that the fading of Apollo (6% down but still the greatest single achievement) has not been accompanied by an increase in respect for new achievements but by respect for nothing (13% up).
Which suggests that space exploration, back when the USA was doing it was very well worth it. The original Apollo programme cost $170 billion in 2005 prices which is a little over 1% of current GDP for 1 year. Nothing compared to total government pending.
"To love one's country it should be lovable." Partly because we have had decades of "we shouldn't spend money in space as long as there are still problems here" I have repeatedly said that state support, through X-Prizes, of the development of space, far from costing money, opens the door to wealth beyond anything seen heretofore. All those arguments hold entirely true.
However I have tended to ignore the cultural benefits. Anything which makes people proud of their culture and society and which tends to unite us is desirable. The importance of a society holding common feeling can hardly be underestimated. as Steve Sailer explains:
A rare contribution of the Muslim world to intellectual life was made by the Tunisian philosopher Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century. He developed a theory of the rise and decline of group loyalty. An impoverished tribe out on the fringe of the Sahara would develop an esprit de corps allowing it to conquer the coast’s rich but decadent civilization. Over a few generations of soft living, the new ruling clans would lose their asabiyyah and turn to scheming against each other for petty advantages, only to be conquered by a cohesive new tribe out of the wasteland.
A deliberate space programme (at about 30% of the cost of Apollo if funded through X-Prizes) (£11 billion a year over 10 years) should achieve an effect proportional to Apollo (that now probably means commercial space shuttles, orbital industry, Moon settlements, solar power satellites and Martian & asteroidal exploration and mining) would not only make us extremely wealthy but also give everybody reason for great national pride and therefore national unity. (No downside here since if the targets weren't achieved, by definition, the prizes wouldn't be won.)
We are clearly in need of some reasons for British national pride - the contempt the vast majority feel for our government is tangible. Such pride cannot be obtained simply by spending money. Despite the opening of the Olympics it clearly cannot be obtained simply by having a national health service and welfare state (though I do think a welfare cushion does help whatever the pure free market arguments against it). The traditional way of ramping up national unity and pride is going to war (still being used as our roles in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and Syria prove) but not only is that a risky option it is over time, a distasteful and destructive one.
Hesiod describes two sorts of strife - one which is war and taking by force and the other gaining wealth by effort to create wealth:
there was not one kind of Strife alone, but all over the earth there are two. As for the one, a man would praise her when he came to understand her; but the other is blameworthy: and they are wholly different in nature
- But the other is the elder daughter of dark Night (Nyx), and the son of Cronus who sits above and dwells in the aether, set her in the roots of the earth: and she is far kinder to men. She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbour, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbour vies with his neighbour as he hurries after wealth.
Thursday, July 04, 2013
Edinburgh Trams - Not Quite As Popular And Financially Viable As Promised
The £776m project is due to begin running in July next year.
A report to councillors said the trams would need an initial start-up loan of up to £3m.
The council expects to receive £51m in payments and dividends over 15 years. However, it will pay out £85m in maintenance and refurbishment costs.
Lothian Buses is expected to generate a £33m dividend for the council over the same period.
However, when the costs of the tram scheme are included, the profit drops to £5m......
Professor Richard Kerley, Queen Margaret University's local government finance expert, said: "I am slightly surprised that the projected figures for cash transfers and dividends are so firm when you don't have tram lines up and running yet."
It was originally intended that the trams would run from Edinburgh Airport to Newhaven in the north, at a cost of £545m.
They will now terminate in York Place in the city centre, with the project costing £776m.
Note sleight of hand comparing £51m takings with £85m "maintenance and refurbishment" but that ignores the actual cost of day to day running, ticket collection etc. Also the "initial start up loan of £3 million" - what do you call a loan that nobody expects will ever be repaid?
Officially the building cost has not been upped for the last couple of years and is still £776 million but that excludes interest payments which are agreed to bring it over the billion.
And of course, as Professor Kerley points out this figure is subject to "unforeseen" extra expenses when the system is actually up. With the building cost well over £1bn for half the original track (originally promised at £300 million it is clear that we are still a long way from knowing where the bottom of this money hole lies.
And Edinburgh city centre is still gridlocked because major roads are endlessly closed to put in/take out/move/repair rails.
And Edinburgh has gone from being the second favourite tourist city in Britain to not being in the top ten.
If you can't quit when you are ahead quitting when you are merely £1 billion behind still makes sense. All Holyrood parties (admittedly the SNP less than the others) share the blame. In the spirit of learning from ones mistakes so that one can repeat them perfectly, all of the old parties are in favour of spending
Wednesday, July 03, 2013
New Nuclear Thorium Reactors Can Be Built in 18-24 Months
The TPC (Thorium Power Canada) Thorium Reactor is a one-of-a-kind technology whose modular design can achieve any output desired at significantly reduced capital and carrying costs. The cost to build a reactor is estimated at $2.0 million per MW and can be built in 18-24 months versus conventional reactors at 5-7 years. Through a partnership with DBI, the company’s thorium reactor design provides a nuclear alternative to fossil fuel consumption, taking advantage of abundant and widely available thorium deposits. The TPC Thorium Reactor has been in research and development since 1970.
There is 2010 patent Thorium-based nuclear reactor and method US 20100067644 A1 by Hector A. D'Auvergne who is the main person behind this reactor design.
Nextbigfuture has summarized the patent.
Chilean 10 MW Thorium Desalination Plant
They are planning a 10 MW thorium reactor located in Copiapó, Chile consists of a core and reactor manufactured by DBI Operating Company in California. The balance of plant, including all buildings and required infrastructure will be constructed on site.....
Indonesian 25 MW Thorium Power Project
Thorium Power Canada is presently preparing a proposal for the development of a 25 MW thorium reactor in Indonesia. This demonstration power project will provide electrical power to the country’s power grid.
Indonesia could install a reactor on the island of Kalimantan in as soon as two years, Kerr said. The reactor would either connect to the grid in the rapidly expanding country, or power a water desalination plant.
The $2 million per MW quoted is marginally higher than the $1.2-1.8 bn for the Westinghouse AP1000 1GW but that is probably a diseconomy of scale - "design can achieve any output desired" certainly suggests much of the cost would be flat for larger outputs.
Thorium is considered to be inherently safer because being non-explosive, unlike uranium, passive safety systems are feasible. There is also 4 times as much thorium in the world as uranium.
But the real killer is the timescale. 18 months to 2 years (previously the minimum has been 3 years in China or 10 in Europe) makes it nearly as fast as building new gas generators. Even with all the decades wasted we could still, possibly, prevent blackouts. I did previously discuss reactors with an 18 month build time but this time we actually have something already being contracted for.
And I have previously suggested building (or allowing the building of) a factory for mass producing modular reactors in Scotland.
Tuesday, July 02, 2013
2 1/ Letters - Metro on Dalgety Bay and Mail & Herald on Shale
This letter went out to all and sundry but, as far as I know, was only published by the Metro. That makes the Mail and Metro only papers ever to have been willing to publish anything sceptical about the LNT radiation scare.
The second letter was in the Herald on Saturday and Mail today. This was signed as a UKIP representative and, somewhat to my surprise, both papers have kept that in. I am particularly surprised at the herald doing this since they have declined to publish UKIPers letters even in response to letters by Alex Orr (publicly funded PR man) attacking us.
Both have published largely unedited. Strangely the Herald has a letter apparently disputing what I and others wrote but, insofar as it refers to me it simply reprints what I said with no actual argument. Persuasive eh?
Monday, July 01, 2013
See The Last Nano-Seconds Of The Big Bang
I'm the sort of person who interrupts Sheldon to correct him on minutia and objects that the opening song clearly tells us that the bang happened "13 million years ago" rather than 13 billion (which I suspect American creationists will find even less plausible)
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Richard III & The Murder of the Princes in the Tower - Shakespeare & The Decay of Bodies
This is from Shakespeare and is Hamlet's unlovely way of telling King Claudius that he has killed his chief Minister, Polonius, and where he put the body.
Incidentally Claudius proceeds to keep the murder quiet and as a result Polonius' son Laertes leads a popular rebellion against him. Clearly kings who try to maintain the appearance of peace by hiding their enemies' activities run the risk of being blamed. Shakespeare's choice of the foot of the stairs as a burial site may well be coincidental. It was a common place in medieval times to bury waste since the area behind the bottom of stairs serves no other useful purpose.
This article is about Richard III and the murder of the Princes in the Tower.
In particular the discovery in 1674, of 2 bodies in a trunk in rubble at the foot of the stairs to the Royal Chapel in the Tower of London. In the 1920s a serious examination of the bodies was made and it and subsequent opinion based on the photographs taken at the time largely agree that it was 2 related bodies of the correct age group at the time the children were last seen. And that they show signs of being related to Anne Warwick whose corpse has also been examined. If all of that is correct the bodies can only be those of the Princes.
It also fits with Sir Thomas More's history of the period which says the bodies were buried at the foot of stairs.
But this leaves 2 problems.
That Henry VII is said to have initiated a search for the bodies and didn't find them - despite More's history being based on information from Henry's court, friends and indeed Henry himself. If the court knew that precisely where the bodies were they would have found them. Alternately if Henry was lying and he had the bodies already he could have had them buried there specifically to back up his story, but that works only if he already has the bodies elsewhere.
And the one raised by Shakespeare - that the presence of 2 bodies, buried indoors in the Tower would have been quite unmistakable for months and perhaps years.
Which means the bodies were planted there some considerable time after their deaths. That means in the reign of Henry VII (possibly at the time of the conviction and alleged confession of Sir James Tyler or later). There is no other actual evidence for the confession and Tyler was not executed for killing them but on an unrelated matter, let alone convicted. But from the ages of the bodies they were clearly killed in the time of Richard III. Incidentally Tyler had a remarkably as an ex-Yorkist, successful career working, outside the country, for Henry after he came to power (as well, less remarkably, for Richard before)..
Extraordinarily there is one suspect connected to both Richard and Henry whom both would have been embarrassed to be connected to.
The Duke of Buckingham.
Buckingham and Richard, then Duke of Gloucester, had been responsible for seizing the Princes from the Woodville family and Buckingham had been, at least publicly, the motivator of them then being declared illegitimate and Richard thus succeeding to the kingship. They were very much partners.
Then suddenly Buckingham rose in rebellion against him, publicly in favour of Henry Tudor. Why?
Buckingham was already the 2nd person in the kingdom - what could Henry possibly offer him that would be better than that? The reason often given by historians to say that Richard had reneged on a promise to give Buckingham the Bohun estate but records show that, until his rebellion, Richard was still going through the process of giving him the title right up until Buckingham publicly rebelled. In fact the only reason to suggest Richard was not giving him the estate is that Buckingham rebelled which appears to be reversing the normal laws of cause and effect.
Also Buckingham was listening to Henry's intelligence chief, Bishop Morton, who was his prisoner and to Margaret Beaufort who was Henry's mother, but Buckingham was no wind up doll for them to so easily reprogramme.
Here is my suggestion that seems to fit the facts better than assuming Richard did it (in which case the "buried" bodies would not have gone undetected, or that Henry did it after capturing the Tower (in which case the bodies would have been older than they were at death).
After Richard had been crowned Buckingham suggested to Richard that it was politically necessary to get rid of the princes. So long as they lived they would retain a claim to the throne. However they were Richard's half nephews (it is now as certain as can be that their father, Edward the IV was not his father's son but was still his mother's) and he may have balked at this. They were not Buckingham's close relation and he would have found it easier to recognise the necessity. So when Richard went on his tour of the country Buckingham arranged for Tyrel to enter the Tower. In theory he did not have this right but he was known to be both the king's right hand man and the 1st noble of the land so it need not have been a problem.
Buckingham might have killed them and removed the bodies, expecting Richard to accept it, even be grateful, for the fait accompli (in the way the killers of Thomas Beckett expected after hearing the king say "who will rid me of this turbulent priest, expected Henry II to be grateful without knowing in advance) or smuggled them out alive. Alive they could have been a figurehead for Buckingham's rebellion and he would have had total control of them, at least until they grew up making him de facto ruler.
Either way there was no way back for him. If Richard was upset at the killings there would be no way back for Buckingham. if brought out alive I have to assume they died subsequently - perhaps accidentally as they made their own escape bid or perhaps he made the mistake of leaving them in the same building with Bishop Morton or Margaret Beaufort and they took care of the matter, thereby disposing of people blocking Henry's path to the throne.
I am assuming that, alive or dead, they were removed from the Tower for the reasons Hamlet gives.
This largely explains the most surprising thing about the disappearances. That while there was no evidence of the Princes appearance after August 148- (and there were certainly rumours at the time of them being murdered which played a part in Richard's overthrow which he could have dispelled by producing them) Henry did not make any public attempt to cast the blame on Richard (though it was to his advantage to do so and not doing so cast suspicion on him). Even the word's of Tyler's alleged confession actively fail to mention who had hired him. Both of those who held legal responsibility for the safety of the occupants of the Tower (Richard until Bosworth, Henry afterwards) refused to blame anybody else. Buckingham, being the ally of both is the only one both might prefer not to implicate (although if Buckingham removed the children alive and they were killed by Henry's mother or Morton or only after Buckingham had raised the standard of rebellion in Henry's name, Henry has particular reason not to discuss the subject in his lifetime.
As with so many other political scandals including Polonius' murder, it is the cover up not the event that causes the problem for the leader. Even if he wasn't thinking of this case Shakespeare's understanding of the nature of politics stands out.