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Saturday, June 07, 2014

Scottish UKIP

  There is an interesting discussion going on former member Mike Haseler's blog about UKIP in Scotland. Scottish chair Misty Thackeray has a long post and I have replied. This is something that needs to be decided. It would be better in a less public forum but that has not taken place.

   I have also written a letter to 30 papers supporting David Coburn's gentle taking of the piss out of the SNP over their Borg-like lack of dissent or even internal debate(which has caused our Fat Controller to lose the heid), but will give them a chance to publish first. David is setting a good example/

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Friday, June 06, 2014

Newark Result

                            2010                             %                                   Now                        %
Conservative       27,590                         53.9                               17,431                     45
UKIP                    1,954                           3.8                                10.028                     25.9
Labour                11,438                         22.3                                 6,842                      17.7
Bagley/Hospital                                                                              1,891                        4.9
Green                                                                                              1,057                        2.7
LibDem               10,246                         20.0                                1,004                        2.6
Ors combined                                                                                    454                        1.2


      I find this a very interesting result. I wish I knew how the polling by stations had gone because then I would be making more than an educated guess which votes went from whom to whom (but then if I did I would probably have to keep it quiet out of party loyalty).

The LibDem vote collapsed losing 90% by numbers or 7/8ths by proportion (proportion is the more important - there is nothing unusual about by elections having lower turnouts because the national media isn't hammering home that there is an election today). This is way below any fall to the party's "minimum core vote" (usually assumed about half of it). The LibDem fall closely parallels UKIP's rise but I think it would be unwise to assume we picked up more than a minority of their votes. Probably most of the Green and hospital campaign votes were ex-LDs but that still means more than half went elsewhere. This article on Conservative Home suggests that a lot of them went Tory to keep us out, as did a lot of Labour ones. The BBC Radio 5 reporter also said "I met a number of Labour voters who said they are voting Tory to keep UKIP out" which is quite remarkable.

       Nonetheless, however they went this is a catastrophic result for the LDs. After a couple of weeks of "4 party politics" we may be back to a 3 party system without the LDs. Any result remotely of this order would put ALL the LDs out of Parliament. I suspect the lost LD votes split 4 ways to Tories, Labour, UKIP & the others.

A disaster  for Labour too. A 4.6% fall in their proportion is not going to get Miliband the PMship. He must expect, as the party not in government, to be polling better, during any by election, where people feel free to protest, than he will at the general election. This happens to every party. Labour won this seat in 1997 and have placed 2nd at other times. To be knocked into 3rd place is about as bad as it could be. I suspect Labour's missing 4.6% (if, say, 1/4 of the LDs went to them they would have picked up about 4.3% and thus lost 8.9%). That some of their members voted for Tory to keep out UKIP and others UKIP to beat the Tories does not suggest any enthusiasm whatsoever for his party.

       UKIP. Well we didn't take it but overthrowing a 16,000 majority when your previous vote was 2,000 isn't as easy as it sounds ;-)  We didn't come as close as we expected and that is important. We mainly lost because the Tory vote held up. Had 4,000 more of them (only 1/7th of their previous vote) voted UKIP we would have won.

       Roger Helmer had written of the enthusiasm he found on the doorstep - sometimes people are polite when they haven't yet made up their minds. The other thing is that there was a decent turnout for 2 independents (though not for the last 5). That means that though the contempt for the traditional parties is overwhelming, UKIP has not yet sealed the deal.

     I suspect, in particular, that the smear campaigns by the government media has hurt us. But it is a problem. If a significant number of actual LabConDem voters agree that "there is no difference between them" and decide they like that, we could have a problem. For that I believe we have to have a positive policy platform that will make the large majority of all parties make us their preferred alternative. We are likely to be the contender in most constituencies across the country (as the LDs used to be) and if we can persuade 3rd and 4th placing parties that we are much better than the probable winner we can sweep the country. If they unite to keep the previous winner in we won't - and British politics will lose all semblance of pluralistic democracy.

     But you can't complain about a 22.1% swing to you.

The Tories have reason for satisfaction. They won and not just by scraping in. Nonetheless an 8.9% swing against is hardly something to celebrate. This won't get Cameron his majority. This was the 44th safest tory seat so to have lost it would have been beyond catastrophic. Beyond that it looks very much like they did lose far more Tory votes than appears and filled them up with 4.3% from the LDs and 4.4% (half of 8.9%) from Labour. 8.7% of their votes are on loan and without them - that's 3.700. That didn't actually keep them in but it does explain why Nigel Farage expected it to be closer. And losing those votes (or actually not having them because they never did) would ensure electoral defeat.

    Another point here is that, at least according to Conservative Home, the Tories pulled out all the stops and ran a very heavy campaign. 150 MPs visiting. Cameron visiting 4 times - absolutely unprecedented for a sitting PM. And it worked. And Labour and the LDs, who both historically have reputations for being able to put feet on the ground, didn't come close to matching them. The old parties have hollowed themselves out because members have no actual influence on the party. I suspect this applies to the Tories too but they just pulled out every card they had. The article itself makes a point of the importance of members on the ground and I agree.

Nigel Farage discusses the result and points out that the Tories cannot put anything remotely like this level of effort into an constituency during the general election

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Thursday, June 05, 2014

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Africa? - UKIP paper #3

   I disagreed with the estimable, but sometimes wrong, EU Referendum on the subject of illegal immigration from, mainly, Africa. Dr Richard North there said that deaths of boat people trying to enter Europe are a tragedy (true) and that several times as many must die trying to cross the Sahara (also true). The problem is that tragedy, as Greek tragedy constantly showed, was not avoided by good intentions.

   Allowing increased immigration would simply encourage more and do nothing to fix the problem. A problem for the entire human race is that demographic growth is fastest in failed states and cultures and exporting people exports failure to the more successful.

   So what can we do to make Africa less of a failure? We have poured trillions into it in "aid" without success and it has tended just to reinforce divisions and kleptocracy.

So here are   some ideas, mostly ones I have written on before, and mostly very inexpensive compared to our annual £12bn a year "aid" budget, now collected in 1 place:

1 - Quit the EU. Getting out would allow us to buy food, which Africa can produce. Outside the EU trade barriers we could buy cheap (by our standards) food from them at high (by their standards) prices. By encouraging market solutions this would, alone, almost certainly do far more than our entire "aid" budget now does.

2 - Use our international influence to support the greatly increased use of DDT. The DDT ban has killed more people than Hitler and Stalin combined (app 1 1/2 million a year) - yet before the western campaign started deaths were down to 50,000 a year.

3 - Use our international influence to support Golden Rice. Genetically modified rice with extra protein, which ends the protein deficiency diseases that leave survivors intellectually stunted. The eco-fascists have been responsible for obscene suffering simply because of their Luddite opposition to science.

4 - Support construction of a massive geosynchronous satellite in orbit over Europe/Africa (2 others should follow) able to provide virtually unlimited telecommunications traffic. It is believed that a, probably the, major reason for economic growth in Africa is that mobile phones have allowed people to negotiate trade with each other.

5 - Once such a system exists it will be possible to create a computerised teaching system able to provide a basic but good (QandA) education in the remotest village.

6 - Use the satellite to photo record all land and make computerised records of land ownership. Poor or no title to land is one of the major factors preventing the raising of investment capital across the 3rd world.

7 - Keep a record of speech, pictures and video footage of crime, sent up by mobile phones. I don't expect this to end corruption and brutality quickly but it will provide pressure. Who would have thought starving Africans could have mobile video cameras but such is our modern world.

8 - Where there are guerrilla wars against moderately sensible governments provide drone aircraft to hunt them down.

9 - Use this same network as a banking system using a non-national virtual currency exchangable through mobiles. A prudent banker can make this inflation free simply by not inflating the quantity of money beyond demand (and still make a vast profit).

10 - I have said we should be building a factory mass producing small nuclear reactors. If maximum production exceeds demand we should give/auction excess ones to 3rd world countries. This has the advantage from our point of view that we are guaranteeing they will all sell, even if only at cost prices, rather than making the market entirely subject to political bans.

11 - Build Aquarius style floating islands powered by OTECs. One spin off is deep ocean water that can be used to grow protein rich algae which can, in turn, be supplied as a protein additive.

12 - Lifestraws - a way of cleaning water that the PC brigade hate. These, if mass produced in the hundreds of millions, would have very low marginal cost.

13 - Cut a tunnel under the Chad mountains and divert most of the water from the Congo's tributary, into Lake Chad and from there, through canals and other tunnels, across the Sahara creating lakes (2 virtually inland seas) along the way. My guess is it would be a century before it reached Tunisia but by then the Sahara would be revitalised by a century worth of water and as fertile as it was during the "catastrophic global warming" of 7,000 BC when we have cave paintings from the centre of the, now, desert, showing hippos.

14 - Open the Qattara Depression to seawater - make electricity and use much of it to refine Manganese and other minerals in sea water.

15 - Build a linear accelerator good space launcher from the top of Kilimanjaro (Bifrost here).

16 - A major programme of disease eradication. Africa is subject to a much greater disease reservoir than almost all the rest of the planet. Tackling them needs a continent wide programme. Matt Ridley  gives a number of examples here - for example:
There are 2,500 species of mosquito in the world and only one of them — Aedes aegypti — is responsible for carrying dengue fever, a disease that currently afflicts nearly 400 million people and rising.... Last month the Brazilian government gave an Oxford-based company called Oxitec a licence to release into the wild genetically engineered male A aegypti mosquitoes. They carry two extra genes that render their offspring incapable of breeding. Release enough of them in an area and the species all but dies out locally. The beauty of this scheme is that the rarer the species gets, the better the chance that the genetically engineered males you release will mate with any available females, so the technique becomes more effective, not less, as local extinction approaches
     There are a lot of diseases there. This plays to our strength of technological knowledge. It should not be allowed to play to our weakness - ecofascism. The "Greens" would certainly oppose curing disease that way but they, in turn, must be opposed.
I would also, like the crime videoing programme, have a programme of recording all the languages, songs, dances, religions and perhaps most important, ballads of every tribe in Africa through the mobiles programme. The brothers Grimm did a little of that for Europe but we don't know how much we have lost, and in a few generations Africa will have suffered the same cultural loss.

I would also like DNA records (ie frozen blood) to the same extent. It may be 50 years before we know what it all means, but we will still have it then.
     Most of these are relatively inexpensive (quitting the EU) or have spin off benefits (guaranteeing sale of small nuclear reactors/space craft). None of them involve more than the minimum direct interaction with local governments. Thus none of them rely on money we pay being passed on successfully. None of them have the obscenity of us telling locals that if they want us to provide power it will only be the most expensive and unreliable windmills, to satisfy political parasites and their friends back here, rather than attempting to maximise any benefit to "aid recipients".

     However, even if all this saves millions of lives and makes it far better for a billion, it won't make life in Africa as good as here so it won't stop attempts at economic immigration. The only thing that can do that is stopping it. Japan and South Korea have immigration rates of 0.00% so it can be done, but only if the will is there.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

7/8ths Of Money For Scottish Government Projects Is Disappearing & No MSP Or Civil Servant Will Say Where

 This is a motion Glasgow branch agreed to put into our AGM. However the AGM has been postponed for the far indeterminate future, something I regret as among other things, issues of importance to the party can only be discussed by party members in such informal ways.

UKIP policy paper #2
UKIP objects to our government projects costing 8 times what they do elsewhere
Proposed by Neil Craig Motion wording, suggested by Robert Malyn

  As a matter of law our elected MSPs and councillors are responsible for spending our money prudently but when I asked all 129 MSPs why the new Forth Bridge was so expensive only 2 replied. One said his party (Greens) had opposed it, which was true but not on the grounds of too much pork barrelling but because it wasn't all going to "Green" supporters and a LibDem of my acquaintance who got somebody to look up the record as discussed at the end. This did not result in any specific answer as to why they promote this massive disappearance of our money or where, specifically, it goes.

Though an FoI reply underlined at the end does, if not giving any explanation of where the money goes, at least explain the formula applied to its going.

Though the Forth Bridge is the most glaring example of most of the taxpayer's money going walkabout it is not abnormal as to the ratio of disappearing money that our politicians simply refuse to account for. Here are 20 examples:

1 - New Forth Bridge, costing £2,300 million. Previous bridge cost £19.5 million which, converted for inflation means the new one could have been built for £320 million. To be fair to the SNP the previous Lab/Lib estimate was £4 billion.  [8 times]

2 - Scottish parliament. Originally offered a fixed price contract for £40 million. Donald Dewar went on air to say "Tam Dalyell is wicked to suggest it will cost 1 penny more than £40 million". Officially costed at £431 million though there may be undisclosed landscaping costs.   [11 times]

3 - Edinburgh Trams. If, after interest, they come out at less than 1 billion it will be surprising despite them being half the length originally promised. In fact if the cost the same as equivalent Australian examples the full length should have cost no more than £110 million. In the sole legal case on the overruns on what was originally said to be a fixed price contract TIE lost because the court found them responsible for at least 90% of overrun. TIE brought no further cases but enforced gagging clauses in the contract they had competently negotiated.   [9 times]

4 - Aberdeen bypass. The average European or American road costs £2.4 million per mile. The average Russian costs £6.3 million, but that is said to be a mixture of the survival of Soviet style bureaucracy combined with rampant corruption. The Aberdeen bypass cost £23.3 million per mile.
[10 times]

5 - The M74 Glasgow bypass was (like the Olympics) proudly boasted as coming in under budget and on time. This remarkable feat, a mere £692 million)  was achieved by the simple expedient of continuously increasing the budget, which started at £177 million, and extending the completion date.

£ 138 million per km. By comparison an FoI request showed motorways normally cost £6.8 million per lane per km, less than 1/10th of the price. As the minister in charge, Alex Neil, said "This is clear evidence of our robust and effective management of major projects such as this" and who could disagree.     [10 times]

6 -  Skye Bridge. As this was a PFI project it was comparatively close to budget. When the Bridge contract was first awarded, the partnership estimated it would cost around £15 million, although delays and design changes required by regulators added significantly to the cost (to around £25 million) though ultimately after several years of politics the PFI contract was bought back for what is estimated to have been an overall cost of £56.8 million.     [4 times]

7 - Forth Tunnel estimate. This makes the bridge look good, but if we were to assume that was deliberate we would have to accuse John Swinney of lying to parliament and parliamenr being happy to be lied to. He informed them that a Forth Tunnel would cost £6.5 billion, surpassing the world's longest - the 57 km Gothard Tunnel under Switzerland by £300 million. Even worse the Norwegians and Faroese have been cutting hundreds of km of tunnels at about £3 million per km which would make a Forth Tunnel cost under £30 million.
   [ 216 times]

 8 - Interconnector cable - A cable to take windmill electricity from the Hebrides to the mainland, a distance of about 30 km, is to cost £775 million. By comparison the Norwegians laid a 292 km table at a cost of £50m. My letter on this was published by 2 papers though I only learned about the 2nd months later from somebody so impressed that they had kept a copy and sought me out.   [15.5-152 times]

9 - Shetland tunnel. Another unbuilt one. Shetland council got a quote for a Norwegian style tunnel to the island of Whalsay for £22 million which they redefined as £35 million - just above the cost of a new ferry. Except the ferry price turned out not to include a whole lot of necessary but unnoticed construction costs, taking it up to £53 million. Plus subsidised running costs. Plus improved port facilities. Thus,over the life of the ferry it is likely to cost ratepayers around £300 million. A few days after I wrote of this in the Shetland News the council executive wrote that they expected a decision to be made on a fixed link inside 2 months. That was July 2012.
 [13 times]

10 - Glasgow's George Square. The council decided to get rid of all the Victorian statues and make it trendy. This was priced at £15 million. Because of a public outcry, to which UKIP Glasgow contributed significantly, this was scrapped and it was decided they would limit the rehab to changing the glaring red tarmac (trendily put in by the council a few years previously) to a traditional shade. However, getting the last laugh at the public, the councillors confirmed that this recolouring, which should have cost £10s of thousands, was going to cost all £15 million allocated.

Incidentally the adjoining City Chambers were originally built for £580K, equivalent to £50 million now, only 3 times the cost of moving some statues.
  [150 times?]

11 - Iconic bridge. Glasgow council decided they wanted "a project" so they decided on a footbridge across the Clyde 200 yards from the George IVth bridge which carries road and foot traffic. By going for a trendy design they managed to make it cost £40 million. Again public opinion brought it low (though I was told off in no uncertain terms by the chief LibDem councillor for opposing it - I was then a member of that party & they don't like people thinking for themselves). In the end a compromise was reached - they built a less silly looking but equally unnecessary bridge for £7 million.

12 - Glasgow Airport Rail Link - This was a favoured project of the LabLib coalition. Originally promised at £130 million it inevitably crept up and was cancelled by the SNP government, at a cancellation cost of £40 million, when it had risen to £300-400 million.

      There was and indeed still is an alternative. An overhead automated rail link to Paisley station which has trains to Glasgow every few minutes and the bonus that it would link to Prestwick airport (which could have provided extra business allowing the 2 to work as a hub). The minister, Nicol Stephen, was a LibDem & I (have I mentioned I then thought the party liberal) suggested this. I got back a nice letter from his office promising that they were really interested but that, unfortunately, with no specific offer on the table, they could take it no further but would be really happy if I could come up with one. Buoyed up, even though I wasn't a committee with a £200,000 budget, I contacted ULTRA who were building a (now completed) much more complicated project of that sort at Heathrow Airport. They confirmed to both me and the ministry that this was perfectly feasible and they could contract for £20 million.

      I got a reply that when they said had been mistranslated from English and what they had really meant was that they would never, under any circumstances even look at any idea which had not originated from the heads of the 2 ruling parties.

      When the SNP came to power I contacted a senior minister (now retired) whom I knew and still respect to tell him of the offer. He passed it on the Transport and in due course I got a friendly letter telling me that unfortunately, until there was an official assessment proving this option "so clearly superior" they couldn't justify looking at it and until they had looked and done that assessment there was no such assessment.

      When the project was cancelled I did write to ask if doing the job for £20 million might now be considered clearly superior to doing nothing for £40 m but am still awaiting an answer.
     [20 times if it had been completed]

13 - Forth Crossing - keep the old bridge. The original justification for the new Forth crossing was that the cables on the previous bridge were in such a poor state of repair that the bridge could not be saved. By the time the Bill was passed for the new one this had changed to - the cables might or might not be repairable but it will take 6 months to find out and anyway the current bridge is to congested to keep working. Six months later the report came in and said that (A) the cables were significantly less corroded than had been originally designed for (B) they needed no replacement and (C) dehumidification equipment could keep them safe essentially indefinitely. I should also point out (D) that materials technology has improved so much over the decades that we could replace the cables with new ones orders of magnitude stronger and not subject to rusting if we wanted.

     The question of congestion, insofar as the problem was on the bridge itself rather than just needing an improvement of approach roads, was solved by an engineer named Tom Minogue.

    He told them that it would be possible to put a new lane down the centre of the existing bridge. By making this tidal - southflowing in the morning rush, northwards in the evening - traffic capacity could be increased by at least 50%. This would cost about £10 million. Not £2,300 million.

    Almost as if our leaders simply wanted an excuse to grab our money and didn't care how untrue the excuse, he was shown the door. To be fair it is conceivable that there was some other credible reason but if so I wish some of the party politicians involved would say what.
   [230 times]

  These are cases I know of. They tend to be the large ones but I understand the cost of repairing potholes, per pothole, has gone way up too, which may explain why they are less repaired than they used to be. However it is not just an assumption that an average of 7/8ths of public construction money put up by the taxpayer goes walkabout.
I mentioned earlier that one MSP, when prodded had had his assistant look up the records and it turned out that one committee had indeed asked why the new Forth bridge was going to cost so much more than similar bridges across the world (they hadn’t noticed the cost of the old bridge). The answer was that “there may be some geological reason” with which, I regret to say, they were satisfied.

That is obviously not an actual reason but merely the assertion that there may be some unspecified reason. Nor, obviously, was it truthful since the geology of the Firth of Forth where the previous bridge was built is not different from that of the Forth Estuary where the new one is.

I pressed on with a number of freedom of Information enquiries and got an answer marginally more responsive than that. I was told that for the intervening 40 years the costs of all public projects had been going up by an average of “4% more than the rate of inflation” for the rest of society. That does indeed mean every project. 4% a year compounded over those years does come out to an 8 fold increase beyond inflation.
  I suspect many of you could tell rumours of many many other cases which never get publicly reported. They are not isolated cases, they are how Scotland’s government works
 Every bridge; every new school; every pothole; every power line; every housing project; everything has an average of 7/8ths of the money unaccountable, not being spent on the necessary work. Billions, many billions of £s every year from the pockets of the people of Scotland. Our elected representatives, who are legally responsible, simply but resolutely refuse to discuss cui bono. Think what infrastructure we could afford if it only cost what it actually costs.

I did do another FoI asking the obvious question – why is there this 4% annual rise? The answer was “ it might be the rise in oil prices in the early 2000s”. The law that effect follows cause is more basic than anything even Newton discovered so it was clearly impossible that this could be in any way true for the 40 years before then and improbable afterwards since oil price rises affect the real world as much as the governmental one.

This motion has been deliberately left open to keep it simple and not tie the hands of UKIP elected representatives, when we get there but I hope when we do, and we will, we will be unrelenting in turning over all the rocks of government by the entire cartel of approved parties, and find what crawls out.
Neil Craig

     This is not entirely a Scottish problem but we do seem to be worse than average. London's Crossrail, which has not much more than 26 miles of tunnel is costed at 16 bn. Richard Rogers is on record as saying that of the £670 million the Millenium Dome cost only £46 million was spent building it. Our railways are far more expensive than continental ones because the infrastructure building and repair costs many times more. There are 2 possible explanations - incompetence and corruption. If there are more perhaps someone could say. Either way Parliament should be able to debate it and provide an answer. This is, historically, what they exist for.


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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

EU Chief Science Advisor - Bosses Say "Find me the evidence"

   Anne Glover, the EU's Chief Science Advisor has denounced the EU's rulers in a job destroying manner. Via Bishop Hill & EU Referendum.
“Let’s imagine a Commissioner over the weekend thinks, ‘Let’s ban the use of credit cards in the EU because credit cards lead to personal debt’. So that commissioner will come in on Monday morning and say to his or her Director General, ‘Find me the evidence that demonstrates that this is the case.’”

    Quite remarkable since she is not some sort of competent, dedicated scientist. quite the opposite as I have previously described:

    Here is a review of a lecture on CAGW she did some years ago when she was still Scotland's Chief Science Advisor.  Her assertion that warming would increase day length seemed to show a remarkable ignorance of science but it was clear the lecture she was giving was one used for her main job - going round schools frightening children with the CAGW scare.

    That she is less able to thole the eurocrats than 10 year old schoolkids, and has presumably decided to get them to fire her, is interesting.
      I did invite her to answer this depiction apparent ignorance of orbital mechanics but she decided not to.

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Monday, June 02, 2014

The Craig Paradox Revisited

   The very estimable Matt Ridley (of whose articles more later) has this on the improbability of our Moon and its influence on making Earth more suitable for life:

"We may be unique and alone in the Universe, not because we are special but because we are lucky. By “we”, I mean not just the human race, but intelligent life itself. A fascinating book published last week has changed my mind about this mighty question, and I would like to change yours. The key argument concerns the Moon, which makes it an appropriate topic for a bank holiday Moonday.
David Waltham, of Royal Holloway, University of London, is the author of the very readable Lucky Planet, which argues that the Earth is probably rare, perhaps even unique, as planets go. He is also a self-confessed “moon bore” who has made important discoveries about how the Moon formed.

Ever since Copernicus, the “mediocrity principle” has been scientific orthodoxy: that our planet is not the centre of the Universe; it’s just one of (as we now estimate) a thousand billion billion spherical objects of similar size orbiting fiery suns just like ours.

But in that case, as the nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi famously asked, where is everybody? Why no faint radio messages from our distant neighbours in space? There should be enormous numbers of planets that have been around for longer than us, long enough surely to get to the point of transmitting some interstellar Muzak. Yet not a peep.

Dr Waltham points out that planets where life fails to survive cannot give rise to sentient life forms, so we are bound to find ourselves on one that has managed to be just right. Precisely because we are afflicted with this severe case of observational bias, the mediocrity principle need not follow. We can be misled by what we can see around us into thinking our case is typical, when actually it might be almost impossibly rare. We might be neither special nor commonplace, just lucky.

And indeed, there does seem to be a long string of coincidences behind our existence. The pressure of anti-gravity in our universe happens to be very, very small — not quite big enough to blow the Universe apart before stars could form. Phew. The relative strength of nuclear and electrical forces is just right to allow carbon to be one of the commonest elements, and carbon’s capacity to form lots of bonds is crucial to life. Cheers. The strength of molecular bonds is just right to allow chemistry to happen at our distance from the Sun. Hooray.

Then there’s the climate. Although there were probably at least four times when the Earth came close to freezing altogether or overheating irreversibly, it somehow recovered each time, unlike on Venus or Mars, and for the last half billion years the weather has been astonishingly benign. Periodic catastrophes, caused by volcanoes or meteorites, have set the evolution of life back, but not often enough to prevent intelligence emerging eventually: another stroke of luck.

Spookily, the slow waxing of our Sun’s strength over four billion years should have produced a ten-degree rise in average temperature, but it has not because it has been almost precisely matched by a slow decline in our greenhouse effect as carbon dioxide became progressively scarcer. This has kept the temperature in a small range for a very long time — long enough once again to allow the emergence of intelligent life. (The recent uptick in carbon dioxide levels as a result of fossil fuel burning is still small in comparison.)

Waltham posits three possible explanations for these great strokes of good fortune: God, Gaia and Goldilocks. God does not show His workings; Gaia says living things themselves somehow unwittingly control the thermostat; and Goldilocks says it’s just an almighty fluke that we’ve managed to keep things neither too hot nor too cold, but just right.

.... the Moon stabilised the rate and angle of our spinning such that we got a fairly long day and regular seasons to keep warming the poles and preventing the irreversible growth of ice. What Waltham has discovered, however, is that this was an even bigger lucky strike than we used to think.

Had the Earth’s day been a few minutes longer just after the collision, or the Moon’s diameter a few miles greater, then the Earth would have had an unstable spin and life would have been repeatedly wiped out by chaotic climate change. If the day had been shorter or the Moon smaller, then we would have had more and longer ice ages, because too little heat would have reached the poles through air currents.

Very few planets indeed could have collided with an object the right size to produce such a moon and even fewer of them would have ended up with a Goldilocks moon that was just the right size. Since life cannot control the Moon’s orbit, Gaia cannot explain this piece of luck. The Moon therefore shows decisively just how hard it will be to find another planet of sufficiently stable climate to spawn life that could last long enough to develop intelligence.

Waltham has persuaded me that we are “perhaps the luckiest planet in the visible universe”, the only one among billions of billions to have thrown six after six whenever the dice were rolled. Whichever planet achieved this would have thinking beings on it who would think they were special, whereas really they were just lucky. And they would be alone, or very nearly so.


   This is a fascinating subject, and important for anybody who thinks life the universe and everything are important. I have written before on why we appear to be alone in the universe and come up with another explanation other than God, Gaia or Goldilocks - "the Everett-Wheeler Multiverse theory in which every single unpredictable possibility of every quantum movement of each atom in the universe creates a new universe every instant. Even though the overwhelming majority then reunite with the next quantum movement, it does produce a number of possible universes for which the word infinite is inadequate. However it does mean that it is inevitable that there will be a universe where we evolved and obviously that it is going to have the unusual conditions allowing us to evolve. This is what we see.

Indeed for the more mystically inclined one can combine this multiverse with its meta-infinity of uninhabited universes with Schroedinger (and his cat’s) view that a quantum event only achieves actuality when it is observed by assuming that our universe became real (whatever that means) when we evolved to be aware of it and that the uninhabited ones are merely quantum fluctuations.

Either option is possible; it’s the traditional random mechanistic universe that is unbelievable. "

Also on Panspermia - theory that life started elsewhere but only developed beyond the microbes(propagated across the universe by light pressure) on this planet & possibly others, because it is hospitable.

Life first appeared on Earth almost as soon as the surface cooled which suggests either that the actual formation, rather than getting complex, is comparatively easy or that it came from elsewhere.

In 2009 I referred to this as the Craig Paradox (ripping off the term Fermi Paradox).

A much more recent benefit (one which would only have shortened our development by thousands rather than billions of years, so not important except to those primarily concerned about human timescales) is that the regularity of the phases of the Moon brought a mathematical order to early Man's universe which was certainly vital to developing mathematics (see the Antikythera Device) and possibly to the entire concept of a rational universe.

  The Moon looks a pretty good explanation for our uniqueness. Apart from the stabilisation of our orbit, the high and varying tides give a very good mechanism for evolution to put life on land. Tides vary because of the mixture of force from the Sun and Moon which sometimes work together to create high tides and sometimes counteract. This means that there is consistent evolutionary pressure for life to be able to survive on the shore for periods varying up to 2 weeks waiting for the tide to rescue them. Life that can live on land for 2 weeks is close to being able to live there forever.

   Another possibility is that it is lunar tidal pull that has kept the Earth's magma mobile and molten. If so this produces 2 gains - (1) continental drift which means we have many small continents with more equitable weather and with nutrients being replaced (2) volcanic outgassing produces excess CO2. On several occasions the planet has come close to being covered by ice (in one case probably more than close). It is assumed that this was reversed by outgassed CO2 increasing, with no plant life to consume it, till it increased global temperature enough to melt the ice. Without that an iceball Earth would have been stable. If, without a Moon, we would have had no liquid core we have no volcanoes.

   So without this big a Moon no advanced life. Nobody really has a good explanation of how the Moon came about - best is that it was hit by a Mars sized comet and bits knocked into orbit, but that doesn't fit well either. So whatever the explanation for our Moon it must be incredibly unlikely.

  Therefore we are incredibly unlikely. Fortunately we live in an Everett infinite multiverse where everything, no matter how unlikely, has happened. But perhaps only once per Universe.

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Sunday, June 01, 2014

Recent Reading

Good Fences - an academic investigation into how different ethnic communities have lived together successfully in Switzerland - because they have a strong cantonal system of government and good geographical barriers stopping overspill (& general social agreement against it as well), so no community feels it has to grab power to protect itself or gain advantage.

Perhaps obvious but important to have it verified.
Review of book about the Yugoslav war. The author was clearly surprised to find our openly genocidal (ex-)Nazi allies were openly genocidal ex-Nazis or that the NATO powers accidentally didn't notice it. Err by automatically assuming, without looking at the evidence, that the Serbs were comparably evil or that NATO's crimes were carried out through ignorance. Half right then, which puts it far ahead of what our media claim.
Inside Venice's secession movement. If the Scottish separatists were remotely as libertarian we could have a good future doing the same - but they aren't, they are big state parasites, Luddites and nihilists, who cannot be trusted to run a whelk stall let alone the most scientifically advanced country in the world (well matching Switzerland),
"John Oliver's viral video: the best climate debate you'll ever see" - not worth watching - included only because the link leads the that Guardian headline. I do not believe every Guardian journalist or sub-editor is so ignorant as to not know that a "debate" is something in which 2 sides participate. Thus we must assume that they are deliberately lying/giving words a different meaning for what they have/copying Orwell's 1984.

So when they say they are a "liberal paper" we may assume the conventional meaning they arte hiding under that word is "lying, thieving murdering Nazi propaganda sheet for whom nobody with more humanity than a rabid dog works". No offence to any of the animals.
EU immigration to Britain rises by 43,000. Cameron refuses to say whether his manifesto promise/lie to cut immigration to "10s not 100s of thousands" will be in the next manifesto too.
The immensely amusing incident where John Snow on C4 introduced a Rumanian woman purely to denounce Farage and UKIP for saying he wouldn't like Rumanian Roma living next door. She said bloody right, neither would I, what a sensible politician. Don't expect C4 to broadcast anything similarly balanced except by more ignorance.
ITV poll (so any bias is warmist) says 62% of people in Britain don't believe the warming scare - moreover the more educated and scientifically literate people are the more they see through it. Another case of an obvious result but the important thing being it is proven.
Why do so many Proposed "Solutions to World or National Problems" Suck even in the Design Phase ? Or Fail to solve the stated problem after implementation ? from Next Big Future
Via Steve Sailer

"Burisma Holdings, Ukraine’s largest private gas producer, has expanded its Board of Directors by bringing on Mr. R Hunter Biden as a new director.

Yes, Hunter Biden is the son of the Vice President, who was in Kiev last month."

Joe Biden is the openly genocidal Nazi VP of the US, who called for 10 million people to be put in extermination camps (albeit they were Serbian Untermensch"
Isn't it great that, unlike in Russia, we have uncorrupt free markets rather than crony capitalism; thatour leaders are democrats rather than murderous Fascists; and that our media are entirely free to make allegations, though evidence is not required, that there is a corruption and crony capitalism - in Russia, which their state owned media, allegedly, censor. 

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