January 31, 2007

Last orders

This story slipped my notice a couple days ago but it looks like the government is going to go back on one of the very few minor liberal policies that it has enacted. They want curbs on the pub licensing laws that they only just freed up. This government, it's enough to drive one to drink.

Schools In

Stumbing and Mumbling as a short post on the proposal to increase the school leaving age to 18. Now even ignoring that this is a fairly blatant attempt to manipulate the youth unemployment figures I agree that this will cause more harm than good, but I don't agree that this is because it is an attempt to force equality of opportunity. An opportunity implies a choice since an opportunity can be missed. Compulsory education is better described as attempting to reach equality of outcome since it cannot be missed, being compulsory, and is supposed to shape everybody in the same way to pass a set of standardised tests.

So the problem that Mr Dillow points to that people can become depressed if forced to be over educated is not a problem of equality of opportunity, since an opportunity is not compulsory and can be missed, but of attempting to reach equality of outcome. However the problems that he points out
... it's very expensive to educate the ineducable. And the benefits of it are low ...
will still apply. Where choice available then everybody could decide for themselves what level of social mobility that made them happiest. There may be people that suffer from 'Affluenza' and would be happier forelock tugging to the local squire, they could choose to live that life. But there are also people that would sell their grandparents for the prospect of advancement, and they could choose to join the Labour Party rat race. Like most decisions this can only really be made by the people themselves as it is only they that know whether they chafe against hierarchy or feel comforted by it.

January 30, 2007

voting fraud, the next generation

After the postal voting scheme brought in by Labour that would disgrace a banana republic because of being wide open to fraud they have decided to try and go one better. No more hard manual labour in the dirty vote factories, ballots stuffed automatically at the touch of a button.

An computer network based voting system is possible, but doing electronic voting correctly is very hard. It hard because of the need for it to be both verifiable and prevent ballot stuffing, while at the same time be anonymous. The proposed solutions to these problems is outlined in a post on Slashdot and can be summarised as they are simply going to ignore them. The only safe guard is to trust the company running the system and that nobody got into the system before they did to get at the results.

Sensibly they decided not to introduce this system for everybody and most of the councils chosen are not marginal. However four of the five councils chosen where conservative controlled, the fifth was the only marginal and Labour controlled even though the Lib-Dems had got most of the votes.

Bright, new, shiny, extremely expensive, and worse than the existing system. Everything that you expect from this government.

January 29, 2007

When he's right, he's right

I don't often agree with Neil Harding but when he's right he's right. Only a couple points to add really.

The first is that many people arguing of the right to be bigoted on religious grounds seem to think that this is something special for people born high on the Kinsey scale over those that choose religion. It isn't the religious are already covered by equivalent anti-discrimination legislation which would mean that, for example, it would be illegal for a gay club to charge the religiously afflicted more for bringing their invisible friend with them.

The second is that while the religious may be screaming to 'think of the children' it is actually they that are proposing to do the most harm. The data is that people high on the Kinsey scale make just as good parents as people low on it. The data is also that children brought up in institutional care or foster homes do very badly in life, and that people that are adopted do far better. So what the god botherers are actually proposing is that because their invisible friend happens to be a raving bigot children should be denied the chance of a good life that comes from being adopted in favour of the very poor life that comes from institutional care.

Undead Constitution

The FT's EU blog has a surgestion on how to raise the EU Constitution from the grave. Disguise it's implications and make it look like as boring a document as possible, in short lie. Which would probably work, it has in the past.

But if they want to do this then they will have to be quick as Vaclav Klaus is approaching with a stake in his hand and a gleam in his eye. He will only accept a version that transfers responsibility from the EU to the member states, and the chances for that are about as good as those of a pretty girl in a Hammer Horror movie. Transferring power back to the member states is simply not part of the nature of the beast.

January 22, 2007

Mutually Assured Destruction

Adam Smith Institute Blog is linking to Michael Portilllo in the times about the big electoral clubs that the two main parties have. Labour with Proportional Representation which would make it impossible for the Conservatives to gain an overall majority, and the Conservatives with Scottish independence which would slash the number of votes that Labour gets while not affecting them. Personally I doubt that either will use them, Labour will not instigate PR as that would damage their own position as well (the only people it really helps are the Lib-Dems, who aren't in a position to impose it) and the one overwhelming theme of this Labour government has been an insatiable lust for power. PR will dilute their own power and help their rivals in the Lib-Dems, so it isn't going to happen. The Tories are not going to advocate Scottish independence either, to do so could worry Labour into unleashing PR in a scorched earth defence, and they simply don't need to. A Conservative government with a large majority and a mandate for cutting taxes and spending (which could easily come about if they can get Gordon to tip the economy over the edge) will simply cause such a backlash in state dependent Scotland that they will be demanding independence whether the Conservatives want it or not.

January 18, 2007

A speaking crab

The crab has emerged from his burrow to tell us all why we need his expenses the EU.
The same principle is true in dealing with the economic superpowers of Asia
well the EU's dealings so far have been switching between pointless trade wars and reckless leaking of military secrets which means that the UK might not be able to get the JSF, and selling them a stake in Gallileo at a cut down price so their precision munitions are nolonger reliant on the US NavStar system.
or for our armed forces to share more and do more together under European defence
Thanks to the the 'buy european' strategy that means we get inferior goods at much higher costs. Rather like the rest of our relationship with the EU.
How, post Iraq, can we establish a more equal relationship with the US except by putting more effort into building common European positions,
Maybe by saying 'no' occationally? Rather than slavishly going along with everything. Even an atlanticist like Margaret Thatcher was able to said 'no' (such as over the Grenada invation) more than Labour have and so had much less abusive relationship.
as we have done on Iran?
Iran, ah yes a great victory. The Iranians took everything they wanted then ignored the EU troika once their usefulness as a delaying tactic was expended.
But globalisation is not just about using the EU as a multiplier of diminished national power.
Power is only a tool for getting what you want. If something consistently works against your interest (as the EU does with CAP, CFP, the stupid trade wars, over regulation, forcing us to have VAT with its complexity and fraud etc.) it is better not to lend it your support. It is not better to shoot yourself in the foot with a shotgun than an airgun.
It also forces us to decide what our values are and who we share them with
That would be the Anglosphere more than the EU.
Britain is approaching the levels of public spending of a European social democracy
And our growth has also reduced to the level of a European social democracy, no improvement in services has yet been spotted though
which the Cameron Conservatives are claiming they will not fundamentally reverse
while it is politically expedient
At the same time, following enlargement, the rest of the EU has become more "British" in its attitudes towards market reforms.
Maybe, the question is whether it can be reformed. Since this will take a major new treaty and with every treaty since masstrict at least one contry has refused to ratify because of a referendum (on the first vote anyway) this looks unlikely.
This experience demonstrates three things:
which are?
the relevance of the EU to the 21st century's global agenda;
As a fading protectionist block in a globalised world
the constant need for member states to supply strategic political direction to EU affairs;
which then gets ignored if it does not align with the interests of the undissmissable bureaucrats
the indispensability of the European commission in converting strategy into policy - and sticking to it.
Yes Commissioner Mandelson, and by the way how is the Doha Round of trade talks going? Or the Lisbon Agenda?
Another lesson is for Labour itself to ponder as it debates its future: without an effective and accountable EU,
and we are currently without an effective and accountable EU. Its finances particually are not accountable, as the accountants have shown for 12 years now.
with Britain at its heart
When has Britain ever been at the heart of the EU rather than anything other than a cash machine? It hasn't been under Mr Mandelson's friend the Europhile Blair despite his promise to put it there at the start of his term in office, or under any Prime Minister before him.
the party's capacity to fulfil its progressive ambitions will be severely diminished
Why? For the last decade they have had an overwhelming majority in Parliament. It could pass any law it liked, as can be seen in some of the crap that has been passed; RIPA, SOCA and the various other Crime Acts, the various Terrorism Acts etc. But perhaps he means that because so much of British law originates in the EU it is there, and not the British Parliament, that Labour needs to gain influance if it wants to see it's full agenda implemented. That's more like it.
In Britain, progressives should be more vocal about what New Labour has achieved
Such as RIPA, SOCA and the various other Crime Acts, the various Terrorism Acts, removal of Habeus Corpus, ID Cards and national identity register, hugely more CCTV cameras, more speed cameras, the automatic numberplate recognition system, double jepardy, internment, the shoot to kill policy ...
and about the scale of the challenges we still face, along with our European partners. To recognise these commonalities is not to argue for centralised action from Brussels
Good, because centralised action from Brussels doesn't work. As has been shown by the Common Agriculture Policy, Common Market and Common Fisheries Policy
We ought to recognise that, as modern social democrats, we are Europeans with shared values. It is time for the progressive left in Britain to develop a stronger case for Europe.
Any case for the EU based on the facts of how it is rather than intentions and vague promises of how it could be would be nice.
A new push for Europe should focus on the need for collective, progressive policy responses, before engaging in a technocratic debate about Europe's institutions
Translation: more centralisation and more done at the EU level rather than reform and devolution.
It is important to judge the need for institutional change not for its own sake, but on the basis of what changes are necessary to strengthen Europe's capacity to act in meeting shared globalisation challenges.
Yes, and the need is pressing.

January 15, 2007

chips with everything

From the nicely deniable source of an advisory group comes a proposal for firms to be able to trade fat credits in for less regulation. How? Running the fat credits would in itself create a huge chunk of regulation, and by having them tradable you could easily end up with the unscrupulous buying chunks so as to be able to use them as a get out of jail free card for extremely hazardous practices. It is a haft baked (or perhaps fried) idea that can only come to nothing.

If I am right and Cameron's current policy free existence is mainly about goading his opponents could this simply be him seeing how far he can push them before everybody comes to realise he is taking the piss?

Fat credits are just ridiculous, but so was the Boy King's call for some kind of social National Service for people leaving school. A ludicrous idea that then got endorsed by Charles Kennedy as something the Lib-Dems had already been looking at (how much had he had to drink before that statement I wonder?), and was again picked up by Rob Williams in the Guardian in glowing terms. Maybe we going to see this lard trading scheme be taken up in the same way.

Something about the Boy (King)

Really we have absolutely no idea what David Cameron's policies will be when in power. He has resolutely refused to be pinned down on just about everything. Other than a few moments of insanity there does seem to be a theme of shrinking the State, but nothing solid and certainly no bankable promises. I believe there are, or at least could be, three reasons for the Boy King's current strategy, two obvious and one devious.

1. It keeps the BBC on side. By playing to the biases of the largest media group in the country he can stave off the point at which they start demonising him (and they will, just wait) till his warm and fluffy image is set in the minds of the public.

2. It plays to the centre ground and will help take back those seats that fell to the Lib-Dems in former Tory strongholds. With a first past the post voting system the core vote matters a lot less than the outliers in a few marginal seats. By making the core vote hate him he also creates a break with the past making them more likely to actually look at the things he is proposing as it will seem like they cannot judge him by simply anti-Tory prejudice.

Enough with the obvious, here is the devious.

3. He might be able to goad Gordon Brown into doing something stupid.

Higher taxes are the last thing the economy needs being already groaning under a tax burden that is higher than its competitors, and with a housing market that is ripe for a correction. It would not take much to trigger an economic downturn and whatever happens one is going to come along sooner or later. So maybe Cameron wants to try and goad Brown into making it happen before the next election.

Empathising over the poor and disposed is classically what Labour do, so if he could get the Big Clunking Fist to think, 'So you want to try and be more soft and fluffy than me do you? Well I'll show you who the soft and fluffy one around here is you posh southern bastard!' before going on a classic socialist tax and spending binge. If that happens (and the school lottery idea is evidence that the loony wing of Labour are being given a freer ride) then it might be enough to trigger the correction early. New Labour's one achievement of keeping the economy going will disappear in a cloud of Old Labour high taxation, and Cameron is guaranteed a landslide victory with no reason to actually do anything about any of the pseudo-lefty noises he used to goad Gordon since high tax and spending policies will be associated, correctly, with economic failure.

If point 3 is part of David Cameron's plan, and more importantly if it is working, we will know in a few months time once Gordon Brown's last budget before becoming Prime Minister has been delivered.

Joseph Daul

Not been posting much for a few days, that nasty thing called work got in the way. But the telegraph tells us why Joseph Daul is actually the perfect person to lead one the the EU Parliaments major blocks. Being mired in accusations of corruption relating the misuse of agriculture funds makes him the perfect representative to an organisation that is known (unlike M. Daul against whom nothing has yet been proved) to be up to its neck in corruption and fraud having only got 7% a small proportion of its accounts signed off last year, the 12th in a row.

January 10, 2007

The Peace Myth

Arguing about the EU at Voting TakTiX and the peace myth has come up again as a reason for the EU, that the EU has kept europe without war since World War 2. Why do people always reach for this canard? Since there has not been peace in Europe this tends to actually be code for saying that the EU has stopped Germany from attacking France. Obviously there can be no other reason that a country whose "constitution clearly forbids an involvement in proactive warring activity", according to Germany's former president Gerhard Schroeder, would not attack the country that spends the most on defence in the entire EU. Or conversly there can be no reason other than the EU why France would not attack a pacifist country which happens to be supported up by the most powerful defensive alliance the world has ever seen. Which brings me neatly along to the giant, green, glowing, three eyed elephant in the room, atomic weaponry.

For most of the time since World War Two there where two great military behemoths facing each other down with enough firepower to wipe out human civilisation off face of the planet. They almost came to blows several times and had anybody in central Europe been stupid enough to try a bit of military adventuring they certainly would have. This everybody knew and since Armageddon isn't a vote winner, outside of certain religious circles, nobody was willing to try it. Anybody outside these alliances where treated as disposable so long as the ballance of power was not disturbed. Thankfully that situation did not last forever but while the USSR fell apart NATO didn't. Most of western Europe is still part of it so if any country in western Europe is attacked NATO is still obliged to reduce the aggressor to dust and rubble. NATO is the reason for peace in western Europe. You can only loose a war where the other side is willing to use nukes.

But what about the rest of Europe which the EU now covers?

Well much of Eastern Europe has decided to snuggle up in the warm and inviting atmosphere of NATO's fall out shelter. This includes both parts of what was Czechoslovakia, a country that had tried to liberalise during the Prague Spring, only to have it crushed by a soviet invasion which the west was to frightened by soviet nukes to oppose, like crushing of the hungarian revolution of 1956 before it. And then there is what was once know as Yugoslavia, which is also covered in the EU Referendum's summary of the Peace Myth

the actual creation of a European Union in the Treaty of Maastricht coincided with the break-up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. While the EU’s influence on events in the former USSR was strictly limited, in the former Yugoslavia it played a baneful part: by trying to construct a common foreign policy through encouraging Serbia under Milosevic to keep the “country” together at whatever cost and by imposing an arms ban on all the other participants, the EU helped to prolong the war and increase the number of victims. Fierce hostilities and massacres were taking place on European soil once again as the European Union was entering what was perceived to be the final stage of integration and, as expected, it was NATO, led by the Americans that imposed some kind of a temporary solution.

There was the EU trying to keep together an undemocratic, artificial country, composed of a plurality of ethnic groups speaking different languages and all with a long history of killing each other. Plus it had to deal with Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was initially thought a european problem to be dealt with by the europeans, so various european countries ended up bumbling around under UN auspices being at best inifectual and at worst facilitating the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II. It passed beyond a civil war and into an anarchy where people would litterally change sides by changing their hats depending on which side offered the best opportunities that day. Eventually everybody was so sick of the fighting that a peace could be negoniated (brokered by the Americans), NATO stepped in, and finally the mess slowly resolved itself.

January 09, 2007

Hell Frozen. Official

It looks like Satan hasn't been paying his gas bill. The doomed souls are skating on what where the bubbling lakes of suphur, and the hell spawn have been made to wear wooly scarves by their mum. Polly Toynbee has got it right!

The religious are trying to use their choice of a superstition as a get out of jail free card for bigotry, and Polly is having none of it. As Brett Lock also points out they already have exactly the same protections for their chosen superstition yet seek to deny it for others based on the extremely selective choice of passages from the 'holy' books in order to explain their prejudice.

As Mr Lock says if we are to have protections based on certain groups then either all groups must be protected or none. Not all groups must be protected unless the prejudice against their genetics can be traced to some long dead religious nutter along with a whole lot of other things that all the present day religious nutters brush under the carpet as they don't serve their present day prejudices.


Whether their Lordships where responding to Polly's call or not the proposals have not only passed the opponents where toasted with a majority of three to one in favour.

cherry picking christianists

Tescopoly in the comments to Polly Toynbee's article has this reply to the religiously afflicted

Ronnie101 you are obviously a devout committed Christian, perhaps you could give us the authoritative answers to these questions I received in an email a while ago?
When someone tries to defend homosexual equality, Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
I do need some advice, however, regarding some of the other specific laws in the Bible and how to follow them.
1). When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord (Leviticus 1:9). The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
2). I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3). I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual cleanliness (Leviticus 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.
4). I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
5). A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is a abomination of Leviticus 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?
6). Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
7). Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?
8). I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
9). My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Leviticus 24:10-16). Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Leviticus 20:14).

January 08, 2007

Barroso agrees with me

Thanks to Nosemonkey I find that José Manuel Barroso the head of the EU Commission shares rather a lot of my thoughts of the problems with the EU.
he told the Financial Times he was determined the Commission should embrace better regulation, impact assessments and the option of not legislating at all. “The important thing is to change the culture of the organisation,” he said.
I agree that it is the culture that is the problem, and I said:
This [reform] is not something that can do done with another treaty (that is if you can get another treaty, especially one that changes the EU so radically) as this requires a change to occur throughout the culture of the bureaucracy
Changing culture is hard, and Mr Barroso is already facing opposition as:
His own leadership has also been questioned, and some officials inside the Commission yearn for the days in the 1980s and 1990s under Jacques Delors leadership when the project to complete Europe's single market resulted in a steady stream of legislation.
Maybe he will be able to pull it off and maybe not. Probably not in my view, as remember we heard before about the need for deregulation as part of the Lisbon Agenda to transform the EU economy by 2010 which in the end has come to nothing.


Slovenia joined the Euro this year, the first and so far only of the eastern european accession states to do so. And just like with the orginal members of the Euro they have found that suddenly everything is that bit more expensive.


Another quickie, the Conservative Party seem to be doing something a little more useful with their Sort-It website than just insulting people for getting into debt. They have updated it to include details of how to reduce your outgoings. Hopefully they will eventually get around to talking about increasing everybodies incomes by reducing taxes. Or maybe not.

the anti-progress left

Just a quickie, Brendan O'Neill is complaining in the Guardian about the terrible yoof of today. The whoever the sub-editor was sums his argument up as them being sanctimonious, censorious, snobbish and anti-progress. But I wonder if anyone is going to mention that the groups that he complains about are all on what is often called the 'left' or involved in causes that the 'left' has taken as it's own.

Ruth Kelly

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has decided to send her children to private school. This is completely understandable as a former Education Secretary she will have a better knowledge of what she could expect had she given them over to the state sector and like every mother she wants to do what is best for her children. This is simply another example of the selfishness of socialism. Ruth Kelly wants her children get a good education, but at the same time she and Labour want to limit the chances of everybody else getting the same chance. The 'right' on the other hand seeks to extend the number capable of getting out of state provided education to everybody through school vouchers.


Stumbling and Mumbling has a defence of Ruth Kelly mentioning that she personally never argued against the right to educate people privately. OK point conceded, but she is part of a government that scrapped the assisted places scheme thereby stopping many clever but poor children from benefitting from the same education that she wants her own children to have.

January 07, 2007

Philosophicae Nasalis larvatus

J Clive Matthews, aka Nosemonkey, has set forth an argument for the EU. I have heard this argument before, he is basically saying that with enough reform the EU could become something good, just as with enough plastic surgery I could become Miss World. It is true that both could happen, but neither is very likely and quite frankly the latter is more probable.

Yes it would be good if the EU was to mysteriously turn into a confederation of independent states troubling itself with only those very few matters that truly need to be sorted out at the european level, everything else being decided at the most local level possible which would generally be the individuals themselves, while the people of europe can trade freely with each other and move to where they think they would be most suited.

Mr Clive Mathews is correct that the EU is unlikely to end up a federal state, however that not because it will become confederal it is because it will be a unitary centralised one. This is the simple logic of the way that it has been accruing power.

In the vision of what the EU could be most decisions are done at the local level, this is especially true of decisions about the minutiae of life; what weights and measures can be used, whether additional measures can be used as well for clarification, the proportion of waste that should be recycled, or the curvature of bananas. But this is exactly what the EU regulates. It is from the sum of the regulations over these small matters that the EU has gains its power.

Secondly in order to reach the promised land of a localised, confederate, EU all these powers would have to be given back reversing another of the underlying principals responsible for the EU as we know it. The principal that once a power comes under EU jurisdiction it stays under EU jurisdiction.

Only by getting rid of these two assumptions about the role of the EU, that the EU deals in the minutae of life and once it starts regulating an area only it can regulate that area, are expunged from its culture can any reform towards a more localised EU be seriously contemplated. But they are what has made the EU what it is today, they are deeply rooted into it's structures. This is not something that can do done with another treaty (that is if you can get another treaty, especially one that changes the EU so radically) as this requires a change to occur throughout the culture of the bureaucracy. The problem is so deeply rooted that it cannot be removed without the complete destruction of the EU as it currently is and then beginning again from scratch. If you want to save the EU you have to destroy it.

January 06, 2007

Saving the last bastion of Socialism

There was an article in the Telegraph today (behind their wall so I can't be bothered to find the link) about Sir Gerry Robinson and the six months that he spent with Rotherham General Hospital. His conclusions where that the NHS might be savable, but only if it where taken out of direct political control and the managers allowed to manage.
Another crucial element of his plan to fix the NHS is to "depoliticise" it. "The NHS is such a bloody hot potato, no one knows what to do. The Department of Health should not run it. Its job should be to find the right guy and let them get on with it. It should focus on straegy, not management."
Stumbling and Mumbling has rather a lot to say on this idea that all is needed is one good manager to make everything better. I would like to concentrate on his call for the NHS to be taken out of Ministry of Health control and depoliticised. There is a problem here as well because the NHS cannot be "depoliticise". It was designed to be politicised, as at the time it was built the socialists that built it thought that the best way to run anything was as a large centrally controlled system with a minister in charge. As Nye Bevan said:
the Minister of Health will be the whipping-boy for the Health Service in Parliament. Every time a maid kicks over a bucket of slops in a ward an agonised wail will go through Whitehall.
Until responsibility for the NHS is removed from the Ministry of Health then there is no chance of the Ministry of Health giving up control. To do so would be an act of extreme political masochism, accepting the blame for something that they have no hand in producing nor a chance of rectifying. So to save the NHS must become independent of government control with each trust running itself with the government simply acting as a supplier of funds, like the social insurance scheme used in France.

January 04, 2007

Fusion sooner

Dr Robert Bussard has been awarded the Outstanding Technology of the Year award for is new type of Fusor, a type of simple cheap fusion reactor originally invented by Philo T. Farnsworth in the 1960's. His modifications have removed a major power drain and could well lead to a commercially generator within a decade, much sooner than Tokomacs such as Iter will be able to do. Most of his research for the last 10 years has been paid for by the military and so not published, so as the silver lining to the cloud of that money stream drying up he has now released it. There is also a video of a talk that he gave for Google about the prospects of fusion power. One of the really good things about the Fusor concept is that it can be used with fuels that won't burn in a Tokomac as Tokomacs cannot get hot enough, such as Hydrogen Boron fuel. Using this fuel the energy of the reaction is released in electrically charged helium nuclii and so can be converted directly to electricity without the need for turbines so allowing for much greater efficiencies.


The Netsmith of the Adam Smith Institute (thanks for the link) has a worry that this could be like Cold Fusion. Don't be. The debates over Cold Fusion where as to whether it was producing fusion reactions at all, there is no such worry with a Fusor. They have been known to produce reactions since the 1960's and are used as the core of commercial neutron sources to fuse deuterium releasing neutrons. The problem is that, like every other fusion reactor in the world, the current designs consume more energy than they produce. This is a major problem, which Dr Buzzard's research may in time solve, and the various facets of it are outlined in Todd Harrison Ridder's paper Fundamental Limitations on Plasma Fusion Systems Not In Thermodynamic Equilibrium.

Islamism in Al Guardian ... again

Al Groan has once again opening it's pages as the Islamist house magazine. But this time they made a little mistake, instead of simply trying to old 'anti-americanimperialist line the writer decided to praise the, rather repressive, family values of Islamist culture as a cure all for the ills that currently affect the UK. However even Al Guardian is not quite ready for that as there is still just about enough of the left left that is liberal to produce a firestorm in the comments. If the editors idea was to get lots of page views then they will have certainly succeeded.

I'm just going to fisk a few points, the comments to the article are extensive and cover everything, just the biggest bits like this:
an assumption that integration is a one-way street. However, there are many things that the rest of the country could learn from Muslims
Yes there are, and yes integration isn't a one-way street. But that means there are things that Muslims can learn from us as well and since most Muslims will be from families that moved here within the last 50 years because they thought Britain was better than where ever they had been living there is probably more they can learn from the natives than the natives from the Muslims.

Hence the calls, growing ever louder, for Muslims to integrate: no more forced marriages; no more honour killings; accept the rule of law.
And this is a bad thing? Are we really supposed to accept rape, murder, and people that think themselves above the law?

It is easy to dismiss Muslim parents as old-fashioned and traditional
Well honour killings and forced marriages are be a bit more medieval than simply traditional, but yes that is a common view. And one that Sarfraz Manzoor goes on to agree with.

but when the rest of the country is busy wondering how to respond to a culture of rampant disrespect, it is worth considering whether they could learn from Muslim values.
So what are these values that we can learn from? If they are worth it then the mongrel culture of Britain is likely to gobble them up like a nice hot curry.

Muslim parents also tend to be less interested in child-centred parenting and more into parent-centred parenting. For example, when I was growing up there was no possibility of answering back to my parents, and this was accompanied by an all-pervasive fear of letting them down. This was a model of parenting that put great faith in deference and, while at the time it felt regressive, it was also what kept my generation in check.

My father often used the threat of "what might the community say?" as a weapon to control my rebellious teenage desires. I resented the power that this community had over me, but it is only now that I can appreciate its value.
I've never read anything like that in the Guardian before, it would be far more at home in the Daily Mail. A homily to the values of the 1950's a repressive culture of fear where men where men and 'fallen' women where sent off to die on the table of a backstreet abortionist to save the scorn of the neighbourhood scold. Well that was the native 1950's culture. Islamist culture doesn't bother with the expense of the abortionist.

Many members of my parents' generation may have been uneducated, employed in manual labour and unable even to speak English, but they raised their children to value values. They instilled in them a strong moral code, in which children's greatest fear was of bringing shame on their family.
Actually the children's greatest fear might have been should they have brought shame on them to have been murdered in front of their family.

Their children learned that responsibility to their parents does not end at the age of 18. That is why so many British Muslims live in extended families today; why my brother lives next door to my mother so that his children can see their grandmother every day; and why our mother does not feel abandoned and useless in her old age. If the greatest weakness of the Muslim community has been its insularity, then that has also been the source of its greatest strengths.
OK this kind of community cohesion may well be a good thing. It might even be worth the cost required to attain it. But it is hardly a uniquely Muslim part of culture. It also holds with the Chinese, Indian, Jewish and many other groups. Or maybe even the native culture from before the 1950's when the Welfare State really began to have an impact in replacing these old social support networks with ones provided by the State. All of these other options do considerably better than both Muslims and the 'white' communities by just about every measure such, for example, employment. Wouldn't they then offer a better model to learn from?

Whether the danger is religious extremism, drugs or crime, those involved are largely third-generation Muslims who are so integrated into white society that they are emulating its worst characteristics.
Religious extremism a characteristic of white society? The society of ever falling church attendances and rampant materialism? Earth to Manzoor, come in Manzoor. We seem to have lost you there.

So Sarfraz Manzoor thinks that the stronger social networks in Muslim culture (and Hindu, and Chinese, and the indigenous culture of before the Welfare State. All of which he doesn't mention) is a good thing, this may be true. He says we should learn from immigrants, and again probably we should (especially the Chinese and Hindus communities that produce many more successful individuals than the white community, which in turn produces more successful individuals than the Muslim one. Another little thing he does not mention). But to imply as he does that forced marriages, honour killings, and rejection of the rule of law are just little things that shouldn't be worried about in order to get at the cultural riches of Islam is not a trade I am willing to make. Especially when all of these cultural riches are not unique to Islam and can be had in other cultures, including the one that existed indigenously before the Welfare State, without having to accept the unacceptable.

the bigot lifestyle

A group of christian lawyers are petitioning the Queen that their lifestyle choice let them be exempted from having to obey the law about not discriminating against people based on their genetics. She will, of course, sensibly ignore them. I wonder if Charles will be brave enough to change the Defender of the Faith part of his title when he assends to the thrown? If he does so it will help get rid of the nasty theocratic hangovers that these lawyers are attempting to use in order to further their bigotry.

Religion is Stupid, and dangerous

Here is the story of a murder in the US. What makes this different is the reason behind it. The victim was killed because of his Atheism because the killer was out of his mind religious. Unfortunately for the killer as the invisible friend that told him to kill his real one was called God, rather than say Sam, then this is totally normal and not insane behaviour. So the killer was not however able to claim insanity, being a religious fanatic does not count as insanity, and apart from being a raving religious fanatic he was completely normal.

To give the court credit there is rather a lot of historical evidence that killing their friends is normal behaviour for the religiously inclinded. Even the Bible points this out that the invisible friend might not get along with real ones as "thy God am a jealous God" [Exodus 20:1:5]. Even the Spice Girls managed to produce a better philosophy better than that.

January 02, 2007

Road Pricing

Tim Worstall seems to agreed with Labour's plan to introduce road pricing. I don't, Mr Worstall wants to use the pricing change people's behavour so as to reduce the amount of congestion. Personally in traffic planning, as with everything else, I think that is the people involved that are in the best position to decide when they want to travel. If there where some externality that needed to be internalised then there would be a case for road pricing to do this, as they would not have all the information to make that choice until it was. But there isn't, to show that this is the case first a selection of definitions of externality.
A cost or a benefit arising from an economic activity that affects people other than those who decide the scale of the activity.
Any benefit or cost imposed by an individual, household or firm on another individual, household or firm for which no compensation is paid or received.
A cost or benefit not accounted for in the price of goods or services. Often "externality" refers to the cost of pollution and other environmental impacts.

So an externality is something where other people pay the cost for your actions not you. The cost of congestion is being delayed, and everybody contributing to congestion is delayed. Everybody pays the price for their actions.

To contribute to traffic congestion, delaying everybody, means that you have to pay the price for it by being delayed your self. Congestion is not something caused by other people that only affects you, it is caused by and affects everybody on the roads. It is not an externality, it affects the people that cause it as much as everybody else. So there is no need for an extra cost to internalise it.

People simply find certain times of the day they need to drive, that driving is by far the most useful mode of transport, and outside of London often driving is the only mode of transport available. Because of these facts the need to drive is fairly static, as can be seen by how traffic level have been still increasing even with the ever increasing fuel prices. This is going to be yet another of Labour's indirect taxes, and one with some horrific civil liberties repercussions.

Today Programme hunted

The results are in for the Today Programmes Christmas Repeal, and the winner by a landslide is The Hunting Act. I seriously doubt that that act is going to suvive long once Labour have lost power, this and their result on the governments e-Petitions site seem to indicate they have a rather strong and active lobby. It will also act as a good bone for Cameron to through to his more old school conservative back benchers, just as Blair used it to keep Old Labour on side.

Since Today didn't see fit to publish the results in order here they are and it is good to see the European Communities Act in second place.

The Hunting Act: 52.8%
European Communities Act: 29.7%
Serious Organised Crime and Police Act: 6.2%
Human Rights Act: 6.1%
The Act of Settlement: 3.6%
Dangerous Dogs Act: 1.6%