Monday, July 30, 2007
"For every human problem there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong." - H.L. MenckenTo concede a point, there's no doubt that you can reduce congestion on roads by pricing them. At the ASI, Dr Eamonn Butler argues that:
If charging does not deter traffic, the charge is not high enough. There is some price at which the traffic will flow. If the charge makes people avoid the morning peak, all the better. And since the Park and Ride bus sits in the same traffic queue as everyone else, that's not an answer. (Sure, there are occasional bus lanes – but they just squeeze motorists into even less road space.)Of course, if a congestion charge is introduced in Cambridge, no taxes will be cut and no realistic alternatives will be introduced for those priced out by the charge. I think Dr Butler knows that; they haven't been in London. This is a simple process of pricing the poorest off the roads they have already paid for, through taxation, for the benefit of the better off.
The market is the best way of allocating most resources, roads included. Of course, you have to cut the other taxes on motoring, and provide realistic alternatives for those priced out by the charge. But without some such solution, congestion will inevitably get worse: and that costs businesses and the public dear.
There are other ways to reduce congestion. Simply banning private vehicles from town centres, or making the roads far too narrow and inconvenient to drive (in other words, deliberately introducing impractical levels of congestion), and allowing delivery vehicles only in the small hours are all viable approaches. None favours the rich over the poor. Many towns operate the first of these three policies, Amsterdam operates the second two with some success.
Since this came from the Adam Smith Institute, it's intersting to read what Smith had to say about road tolls:
When the carriages which pass over a highway or a bridge, and the lighters which sail upon a navigable canal, pay toll in proportion to their weight or their tonnage, they pay for the maintenance of those public works exactly in proportion to the wear and tear which they occasion of them. It seems scarce possible to invent a more equitable way of maintaining such works. This tax or toll too, though it is advanced by the carrier, is finally paid by the consumer, to whom it must always be charged in the price of the goods. As the expense of carriage, however, is very much reduced by means of such public works, the goods, notwithstanding the toll come cheaper to the consumer than the; could otherwise have done; their price not being so much raised by the toll as it is lowered by the cheapness of the carriage. The person who finally pays this tax, therefore, gains by the application more than he loses by the payment of it. His payment is exactly in proportion to his gain. It is in reality no more than a part of that gain which he is obliged to give up in order to get the rest. It seems impossible to imagine a more equitable method of raising a tax.Smith was looking at ways the cost of transport links and facilities could be fairly attributed to their users and would, I think, have been revolted by the idea of a taxation system that favoured the indolent and vain rich over the poor, yet this is exactly what an institute with his name is suggesting. Why?
When the toll upon carriages of luxury upon coaches, post-chaises, etc., is made somewhat higher in proportion to their weight than upon carriages of necessary use, such as carts, waggons, etc., the indolence and vanity of the rich is made to contribute in a very easy manner to the relief of the poor...
Two reasons: a misunderstanding about the mechanisms of markets and prices, and what Chris Dillow recently pointed out is a widespread failing among free market enthusiasts:
... the argument for free markets have been besmeared by their (unnecessary) association with the self-interest of the richTo say this association is unnecessary is an understatement. In fact, free markets operate very much to the disadvantage of the rich. It's not as though Milton Firedman didn't point this out repeatedly, identifying large businesses and unions both as vested interests that would manipulate big governments, and that this was one of the reasons why he disliked big government.
But in his ASI piece, Dr Butler identified a tax imposed by a local government as a market mechanism, and that's ridiculous. Markets operate when producers interact with consumers, and they are free if the only forms of regulation are laws of contract and disclosure, so both parties know what is being offered by the other. Prices are measurements of perceived value (though there are ideas about "natural" prices these don't, in my opinion, interact with reality in any significant way). Congestion charging is a form of pigovian tax - a tax intended to alter and/or compensate for behaviour.
Congestion charging is a pigovian tax intended to alter the behaviour of some drivers, by making them avoid certain roads. Those drivers so affected are, quite simply, the least well off. And, as I said at the outset, it works. If the effect diminishes with time, the charge can, as Dr Butler asserts, be raised until it operates at the desired level. In the case of goods deliveries, the charges will, perhaps, be passed on to the consumers of the goods being delivered, thereby apportioning them appropriately (as Smith suggested), but the congestion charge proposals are much less discriminate than that, and this is why they are unjust.
In the piece linked to above, Dillow was writing about suggestions that the sale of patio heaters be banned, saying that:
This is just moronic.And in the comments, Tim Worstall expanded on this:
Let's grant that patio heaters make a large contribution to climate change, thus imposing an external cost onto others. In this case, the solution is to either tax them or - more likely - tax energy usage so that products that use lots of fuel such as patio heaters are more expensive. This would ensure that the private cost of the patio heater equals the social cost.
Such a policy is obviously better than an outright ban. This is because there are some people who derive enormous pleasure from such heaters and would be happy to pay extra to keep using them - possibly by cutting other forms of energy use. And their extra payment - by definition - compensates everyone else. A ban hurts these people, with no offsetting benefit.
Well, we do have a good estimate (it's one of many but still....) of the social cost. It's $85 per tonne CO2. Thats from the Stern Review.So if a patio heater user or airline passenger pays a tax set in this way the social costs are offset and everyone else is compensated? How?
All we need is a Pigou Tax of that amount upon emissions (suitably tweaked for methane etc etc) and we're done. Air Passenger Duty is at that level now. So we're finished with aviation. Fuel Duty is vastly above it so we're done in the transport sector all told.
"Social Cost" is my favourite. What on earth is this supposed to mean and how is it to be measured? If CO2 is causing warming, how do these revenues offset this? And if the extra CO2 is generated and the tax is raised, in what way has this helped? Assuming these are the costs, and Al Gore and Madonna don't feel deterred from flying or installing patio heaters, but I can't afford the surcharge at my home, yet the pub can so I go there instead, what have we achieved, exactly? If I neither fly nor install a patio heater, but others do and pay extra, and my taxes keep rising with no reference whatsoever to the extra pigouvian revenues (and you can bet that's what will happen), in what way have I been compensated?
If a resource is scarce, is price a reasonable mechanism for limiting its consumption? Water is scarce in the south of England. Should some people be priced out of the market? Or should people simply pay what it costs to provide them with water, plus a profit margin moderated by competition? How about roads? The congestion charge isn't a mechanism for getting people to pay what it costs to provide them with roads, it's a way to stop some people using roads. That's very different.
If a resource nobody has yet paid for - diamonds from the mine in my back garden - is scarce, then price is the natural mechanism for rationing them to those who want them enough and can afford them. But if a resource we have all already paid for - the roads - are oversubscribed, any mechanism for rationing their use should be equitable. Congestion charging is not.
Monday, July 23, 2007
It can be sensibly argued that our agronomic systems can be improved. Instead, uninformed extremists advocate nonsensical changes that support their otherwise unrelated agendas and biases. It can be argued that our systems have been distorted by government interventions - extremists from another era - and that we would benefit from removing those distortions. But it cannot be argued that further distortions based in bad science and worse ideology will help us.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
This was posted as a comment, but I feel it's my duty to bring it to the fore. Words of wisdom:
mullah cimoc say blogman him just slave for master in tel aviv.UPDATE: You probably guessed, but this was posted from a computer on the Utah Educational Network, Salt Lake City.
so obedient slave boy. how many israeli sympanthy movies watching in him life this dumb and foolish boy gay.
here the question for ameriki brainwashing victim;
1. How long israeli survive without usa triubte payment each year? A: maybe one year, maybe one months.
2. Am usa public opinion important for get congress pay the tribute? A: yes, not so important him bribe but still important.
3. am intel malpractice for him israeli spy and agent not controlling usa media for make ameriki sympathy? A: yes, him israeli intel work for israeli not like usa intel which also work for israeli.
4. How israeli agent him controlling usa public opinion this question of slave of master in tel aviv? A: read, inside the company, a cia diary by phillip agee for learn basic.
for all this reason neocon spy him trickameriki for kill and torture him muslim and the mass murder iraki. faking the wmd intel and controlling the executive of ameriki.
for true and good info contacting now:
also: usa woman become the slut if take LBT (low back tattoo). Ameriki father need protect him daughters.
Yes, I know he was a civil servant, and this makes for some harmless fun, but the case of the man with the very small brain is fascinating:
"The brain itself, meaning the grey matter and white matter, was completely crushed against the sides of the skull," Feuillet told AFP.We know the convoluted surface of the brain is very important, and this seems to confirm that. It also shows how little we know about the brain.
"The images were most unusual... the brain was virtually absent," he said.
Despite having got almost everything wrong (google "another Vietnam" or "another Stalingrad"), Stoppers like to claim events in Iraq have proved them right.
By way of contrast, it's interesting to read a Libertarian who did actually get a hell of a lot right when he wrote in opposition to the Iraq war in 2003. It's a longish piece (Gene Healy, Cato Institute) but worth spending time over.
The administration has framed its case for war in terms of American national security. That's the case I'll address. I won't argue with their assessment that Hussein is an evil and murderous tyrant; clearly he is. I won't argue that venal or frivolous motives lie behind the administration's push for war—such as a desire to control Iraqi oil fields or a personal vendetta on the part of President Bush. I don't think such motivations are what drive the administration. Finally, I won't even spill much ink on the moral case against war in Iraq, even though I think that case is quite strong. Simply put, it's wrong for us to kill (at a minimum) hundreds of innocent Iraqi civilians based on an entirely speculative possibility of future harm. But as it happens, the pragmatic case against invasion is strong enough to suffice by itself. Iraq does not represent a threat to American national security. In fact, invading and occupying Iraq will likely undermine American national security, perhaps catastrophically so.
A new study has revealed that anti-smoking adverts often fail:
The researchers surveyed students in four middle schools about their exposure to anti-smoking ads and their intentions to smoke. They found that, overall, the more the students were exposed to anti-smoking messages, the more inclined they were to smoke.John Mortimer explained this phenomenon last year:
The best part of it is that governmental disapproval now adds considerably to the pleasures. The words "smoking kills" add, to many people, a welcome feeling of danger to the lighting of a cigaretteWhen I was in prison in France for cannabis smuggling, I wrote to Sir John. I'd read his autobiography and Paradise Postponed, and fancied I had a mildly witty remark to make. I didn't know his address, but I sort of described where he lived on the envelope - and thanks to the Post Office it arrived.
I know this, because he replied - a very kind and amusing hand written letter. I suspect he did know how much that would have meant to someone starved of diversions.
I know I'm an atheist, but God bless you, Sir John.
There's something about left wing ideas that makes their holders assume they need no justification at all. Take this, from Chris Dillow:
I reckon it's luck, then, that explains almost all differences in income.But what of the case that luck should be pooled? Apparently, it doesn't need to be made. The case for intervention can be taken as read, the case for non-intervention needs justification, so long as it isn't too strenuous, because that would be ridiculous.
The question is: should luck be pooled or not? Right libertarians have good (if not compelling) reasons to say not. But if they claim much more than this, they are just inviting ridicule.
Begging the question is a basic logical fallacy, but it is amazingly common when this sort of view is expounded. I have never seen a reasoned and evidenced argument in favour of the principle of income redistribution. They always, somehow, either fail the reality test, as in the society is like a caravan idea (it isn't), or fail to make the argument, engaging in circular reasoning or claiming that a moral principle underlies the opinion of the writer.
In politics, claiming a moral foundation for one's views is exactly equal to saying that your opinion is just plain right, and cannot be discussed.
This lack of enquiry into their own opinions is the cause of many of the idiocies of the left.
The latest axe-grinders to hitch their wagons to the groaning train of global warming alarmism are vegetarians:
"Everybody is trying to come up with different ways to reduce carbon footprints," says Su Taylor of the Vegetarian Society in the UK: "But one of the easiest things you can do is to stop eating meat."[From the House Journal of cargo-cult science, New Scientist]
This in response to a report from Japan that says:
A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.Not everyone agrees. From a recent post by Gary Jones:
The team looked at calf production, focusing on animal management and the effects of producing and transporting feed. By combining this information with data from their earlier studies on the impact of beef fattening systems, the researchers were able to calculate the total environmental load of a portion of beef.
Meat is not responsible for green house gasses, except for the trivial amounts produced by animals breathing. It's good to have a planet with lots of animals, even if they do breathe. Joking aside, the CO2 they produce would be produced even if they didn't exist since the organic matter they consume, from which the CO2 comes, would be consumed anyway by aerobic bacteria that would otherwise do the organic matter recycling. That's the carbon cycle. If not for those bacteria the planet would be covered with dead leaves and stalks - mulched to death.Worth reading in full - this from someone who is not a climate sceptic/realist/denier/Nuremberg-tribunal-fodder.
The same is true for CH4 in belches and farts, but it would be anaerobic bacteria doing the recycling. Every mulch pile and wetland does the same. The parts that are aerated support aerobic bacteria that need oxygen to live and work, and the parts that are not support anaerobic bacteria that use different metabolic pathways and produce different gases.
The carbon cycle, in which atmospheric carbon is drawn down by plants and later released back to the atmosphere by bacteria, is not a cause of climate change. It's a closed loop. It is mainly the release of extra carbon that had been sequestered as fossil fuel that increases the working set, the amount of carbon in the loop.
Growing crops to feed to animals, especially field crops such as maize, does not help the atmosphere. The soil is impoverished rather than improved. It doesn't matter whether the crops are fed to meat animals, people, or even used to make ethanol. The result is the same. Atmospheric carbon increases. But permanent pastures growing deep rooted perennial grasses and forbs, maintained by herds of ruminants (cloven hooves, cheweth the cud), can suck massive amounts of carbon from the air over time. Prairie ecosystems such as the (former) Great Plains of N. America created their deep rich soils in just this way. Plowing them up to grow veggies has released the carbon back to the air.
a private prosecution via the 2000 Act which have the advantage of not requiring the proving of a conspiracy.This is an excellent idea, and I'm willing to pledge - provided there will be no contingent liability for costs, as in the case of the Neil Hamilton libel case.
The weakest part of the CPS statement is point 30:
In relation to possible breaches of the 2000 Act, we are satisfied that we cannot exclude the possibility that any loans made – all of which were made following receipt by the Labour Party of legal advice - can properly be characterised as commercial.
There are a number of related suspected offences under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 governing the evasion of restrictions on donations which provide a firm and clear basis for action. Crucially, a prosecution on this basis would avoid the difficulties of having to prove a conspiracy. It would also have the advantage that there are statements from donors already in the public domain which, contrary to the stated view of the CPS, exclude the possibility that the loans were made, or intended to be made, on a commercial basis.
Now here's an interesting thought:
The problem is not really that we now have no-fault divorce, but that we have unilateral divorce. What the no-fault revolution has really meant is that it takes two to marry, but only one to divorce. In practice this often means that the "monied party" – usually him – can walk away from the "unmonied" (or making-much-less) party and the kids.I believe the situation in Britain is that after two years of separation, "bilateral" divorce is possible - where both parties agree - and after five years "unilateral" divorce becomes possible. What if the five year period were extended? It wouldn't have to be indefinite to have an effect.
I guess several bad consequences can be foreseen:
1. Some people would be trapped in non-existent marriages, either because their spouse didn't agree to divorce or (possibly - and this is a situation that pertained in the past) because the whereabouts of the spouse were unknown.
2. A malicious spouse - and, if mutual consent were the only criteria, even the one who had left the marriage or whose behaviour was cruel or unreasonable - could prevent the other from remarrying.
3. If other grounds for divorce - infidelity, unreasonable behaviour - still existed these would have to be resorted to, creating a more adversarial breakup than might otherwise be the cae, with the attendant adverse consequences for any children of the marriage.
Having said all that, if marriage really is beneficial for society, it is because it is seen to be a form of commitment to a relationship that exceeds simple partnership. Right now, this is not really the case. Marriage can be exited fairly easily, although there may be financial consequences for the higher earner.
Making divorce harder might provide a stronger justification for the state providing benefits (higher tax allowances, preferential inheritance including of some forms of tenure) as an incentive for marriage. As such, however, you'd also have stronger incentives for entering into a marginal (less strongly desired, less capable of success) marriage and this might increase the total of human misery.
So would the benefits of making divorce harder - longer-lasting marriages even if they are sometimes unhappy, and a stronger justification for incentives - outweigh the disadvantages? I don't think so.
The missing ingredient here is social opprobrium. Unforeseen consequences invariably attend the State's incursions into human affairs. What we are lacking is a general social willingness to be judgemental. And a return of that - not just in marriage but more urgently in respect of child rearing - would be a very welcome thing.
Why does this piece of common sense:
So, can we take the message? Leaders are over-rated? Local knowledge and tradition aren't to be over-ridden lightly. But then, isn't this what proper conservatism tells us?have to come from a left-wing libertarian, rather than a Tory?
Friday, July 20, 2007
While blogs and newspapers debate the crime statistics, here's a little anecdote that has been going around up here in the Fens.
A farmer who lives a few tens of miles from Tony Martin heard voices in his house one night. He was alone. So he called the police.
"There's nobody in your locality," the operator told him. "Lock yourself in your bedroom."
The farmer thought about this for a minute, then called back.
"It's OK," he said. "I've shot him."
There was a police car there in ten minutes.
An Iranian language news service has revealed that:
Any one who converts to Islam in America will be jailed for over 20 years...The bulletin goes on to say that radical Zionist groups in America have proposed a plan that every convert should be jailed and this proposal has prompted the US government to toughen its intelligence gathering efforts to seek those new converts and prosecute them.Those pesky Zionists, huh?
It's hard to know how many Iranians would believe this sort of bullshit, but my guess is that those predisposed to do so will find in it confirmation of their fears and hatred of the Great Satan and its Zionist puppetmasters; the growing, and sophisticated, younger middle classes will find it absurd; and the rest of the population will neither know nor care.
But what will happen to Muslims who are imprisoned? If the USA is anything like Britain, there are mixed signals. Will they organise and recruit new converts to Jihadism? Via Steve:
the foot soldiers of the security services - based at Prison Service headquarters [are] quietly working to ensure that the failed bombers do not inspire a new generation of violent jihadists.But radicalisation of other prisoners is probably the last thing on the mind of Dhiren Barot, the "dirty bomb" conspirator, in Frankland Prison right now:
Most of those convicted are in top security "dispersal" jails at Woodhill in Milton Keynes, Frankland, near Durham, Full Sutton, near York, and Long Lartin in Worcestershire.
a prisoner at the maximum security Frankland Prison in Durham had thrown boiling water on Barot's back which had led to a "physical punch up". Later while attending to his burns, another inmate poured boiling oil over his head.This is the standard treatment meted out to "nonces" (sex offenders) in British prisons, which is why most are held under the segregation of Rule 43. If Islamic terrorists find themselves similarly regarded and threatened there will be very little recruitment going on. Being held in the same regard as child rapists is a bad starting point for preaching. The fact that two inmates attacked Barot suggests both that this view is widespread and that there was some sort of at least informal conspiracy to get him.
"Eesa (Dhiren) Barot has suffered various burns to his hands, forehead, head, neck and back. Eesa Barot as a result of the boiling oil having been poured over him has lost all of his hair," Arani said in a statement.
"Barot is suffering from extensive pain and has been scarred for the rest of his life."
Thursday, July 19, 2007
I can't fault either of these (via the welcome return of the Skeptic):
Now that I’m free again, I have time to read. Books and stuff. A few interesting scraps for today:
افضل الجهاد كلمة حق عند سلطان جائر
“The best form of jihad is a word of truth to a tyrannical ruler.” (Hadith no. 4011 from the Sunan Ibn Majah)
And Abu Bakr’s great inaugural address:
“Oh people, I have been entrusted with authority over you, but I am not the best of you. Help me if I am right and correct me if I am wrong.” (recounted by Abd al-Malik Ibn Hashim in his Sirah al-Nabawiyya)
I too want my rulers to be that modest.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, has admitted that she smoked cannabis when she was a student at Oxford University.I'm not worried by her admission, but the idea that she kept smoking cannabis although she didn't enjoy it is alarming. Is our Home Secretary a masochist? Perhaps she wears a dog collar in her private life. The Cabinet is getting to be an interesting place, with Miss Smith's kinks joining the already present spiked chains of Opus Dei.
Her confession came the day after Gordon Brown announced she would head a review of UK drugs strategy - including assessing whether the Government should reverse a decision three years ago to downgrade the classification of cannabis.
"I did break the law... I was wrong... drugs are wrong," Miss Smith, 44, said.
She was asked on GMTV whether she had taken the drug while being interviewed about the Prime Minister's announcement.
"I have. I did when I was at university. I haven't done for at least 25 years."
She later told the BBC she had smoked it "just a few times'', had "not particularly'' enjoyed it and had not taken any other illegal drugs.
Then again, maybe Miss Smith is a liar. Maybe she's one of these people who enjoyed smoking cannabis, but lie about it now because they think it's to their personal advantage to do so. Maybe she's one of these contemptible people who are willing to collaborate in or cause the destruction of lives, the shattering of families and the artificial crime wave we endure - all caused by drug prohibition - if they think it will advance their careers.
A lot of people, reportedly, smoke or have smoked cannabis, but they go quiet at times like this. That's understandable, since lives can be affected by the admission that one engages in illegal activities, even if the law is wrong. But this silence is harmful.
I've smoked cannabis, on and off, for nearly thirty years. It hasn't done me any... ah... where was I? Oh yes, it hasn't done me any harm. What's more, I'm going to continue to smoke cannabis, assuming I can ever find any that isn't skunk. I hate skunk. It just sends you to sleep. It's one of the adverse effects of illegality - the cultivation of hyper-strong hybrids that can be grown under lights and sold at a premium without the risks of importation.
The drug prohibition laws are tyrannical, stupid and destructive, and I'm not going to dignify them by pretending I will take the slightest notice of them.
In that attitude, I stand with several million other Britons. If they all spoke up, we'd see some change.
Africans are underpricing their raw materials and commodities to developed nations because their bargaining power is lowered by the weight of foreign aid and debt relief. Countries that feature on the debt relief sheet coincidentally have raw materials of strategic importance to Western nations and China.
Rich countries are smart. They too focus on "sexy" headline grabbing packages such as disease and poverty to engage in what may become the greatest fraud in the World once all facts are pinned together. Africans are not beggars, we are simply being conned!
Further to this, I notice from my stats page that someone at the GLA is googling for a transcript of the Darius Guppy, Boris Johnson conversation.
I wonder why.
UPDATE: Ooh! Ooh! Look! He's writing about us!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I feel a bit guilty, being responsible for the series of events that led to Polly Toynbee being able to type this:
... how has [Boris Johnson] survived the Darius Guppy scandal when he was recorded agreeing to find a journalist's contact details so old Etonian friend Guppy could have the man beaten up? How badly? Guppy suggested just a few cracked ribs. Later when Guppy was jailed for a £1.8m insurance fraud, Boris explained his role with: "Oh poor old Darry was in a bit of a hole. He was being hounded."As I mentioned in an earlier post, when I suspected Guppy might have framed me for a robbery in New York, I tapped his telephone - or more accurately, caused it to be tapped - and I released one of the tapes to the press. I know something of the background to this plot. I did at the time. I knew the heavies Guppy had commissioned to carry out the beating. They had a simple plan: take a 50% payment up front, then never do anything further. This is obvious when you listen to the tape, in fact. "The other chap's a bit impatient," explains the contact. "A bit of cash would calm him down". It's quite funny.
Less funny is the possibility that this episode could unjustly affect Johnson's candidacy for Mayor of London. I don't especially support Johnson, though I loathe Livingstone, but I'd like to see a fair contest. So let me just explain Johnson's role, as far as I can make it out from the tapes I made at the time.
He didn't know the heavies were planning to rip Guppy off. It must have seemed a serious plot. Guppy made it clear that he could try other means of finding the journalist's address. Johnson assured him he didn't have to - and did absolutely nothing at all to find it himself. I actually had that confirmed by Clive Goodman, the now disgraced formed News of the World royal correspondent who listened to the tape. Johnson said he would approach a specific third party. He specifically didn't. The only conclusion I can draw is that he was trying to make sure Guppy didn't manage to have the man attacked. Rather, he was stalling, waiting for Guppy's attention span to expire - a safe bet for those who knew him well.
I have to admit, grudgingly, that it is to Johnson's credit that he stood by his friend during his subsequent trial and conviction. I'd have prefered it otherwise, for personal reasons, but Johnson didn't abandon his childhood friend when it would have been convenient. I'm not aware he subsequently had much to do with him, but he wouldn't join in the pecking party.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say Johnson took the approach "never explain, never apologise". The full quote is: "Boldness has genius, power and magic in it... Never contradict. Never explain. Never apologise".
I hope he can live up to the provenance of that saying.
UPDATE: The quote itself is sourced here
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Steve points out that three of the four July 21 bombers were let into the UK by a Tory government:
The ringleader's family settled in Britain under Margaret Thatcher's government, although Labour must take the blame for the perverse decision to grant British Citizenship to a man with convictions for violence and street robbery.The Tories also began the bizarre courtship of the Muslim Council of Britain.
It seems a move to Stoke on Trent might be in order, at least temporarily:
Stoke-on-Trent in western England has been dubbed "Smoke-on-Trent" as cigarette addicts can spark up knowing that bureaucrats cannot impose the 50-pound (100-dollar, 75-euro) on-the-spot fine.There's a lot to be said for incompetent government. It's not noticably more expensive than effective government, but gets less done.
The local authority failed to get enforcement powers in time for July 1, when England joined the rest of the United Kingdom in banning smoking in enclosed public spaces.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council, ranked among the worst local authorities in England and Wales by the Audit Commission, cannot enforce the ban until councillors formally approve it at an August 2 meeting.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Monday, July 09, 2007
Clearing out my spam folder, my eye was drawn, as to a road accident, by the title "Get a visit from the Big Dick Fairy". I'm not sure which of the several different images that simultaneously generates is the most alarming. Perhaps the priapic little fellow with the bloodshot eyes, and the gossamer wings.
For the past five years bats have been breathing a little more freely, spared from the gimlet eyed Auberon Waugh and his trusty tennis racquet, Hauteclere. But no longer. A new threat looms: Climate Change.
For I read that
Queensland University of Technology (QUT) PhD student Sandrine Martinezhas been studying bat numbers in Northern Queensland. And she is concerned:
“These bats are insectivores and their decline could be due to a reduction in their food sources in response to climate change – that’s something I’ll be investigating further.She has been studying bat remains from:
the late Pleistocene Epoch (beginning two million years ago and ending approximately 10,000 years ago).Pray God her invocation of modern Climate Change in the study of bat remains from no more recently than 10,000 years ago will not have an adverse effect on her grant application.
Obviously, it's very important to respect copyright. And, as Uri Geller says, his legal actions against YouTube are about "theft", and not free speech, and they're certainly not an attempt to remove clips that show him to be a fraud. Clips like this one:
And this one:
We're with you, Uri.
The idea that political candidates should be selected according to their perceived moral character is a major problem in western democracies. David Boaz of the Cato Institute highlights the idiocy of the religious right:
I’d like to see a pollster ask conservative Christians two questions:
1. Would you support a presidential candidate who is divorced, has estranged relations with his children, never sees his grandchildren, rarely attends church, strongly opposes a law to ban gays from teaching school, and as governor signed the nation’s most liberal abortion law?
2. Would you support him if you knew his name was Ronald Reagan?
UPDATE: It would be reasonable also to ask these questions of Democrat voters.
This time, in Saudi Arabia:
The women at first thought they had been kidnapped by terrorists. The two men however, said they were religious police.Via Eteraz, who also has an interesting post up about the optimistic origins of Pakistan.
It might have gone down as just one more excess of zealousness by the forces charged with upholding Islamic modesty, except that Umm Faisal, the senior of three women, did something that is believed unprecedented in Saudi Arabia: She went to court.
The head of Interpol said Monday that Britain has not shared any information gleaned from the investigation of three failed car bomb attacks, which he said is symptomatic of London's reluctance to join in global efforts to combat terrorism.
This is an important civil liberties campaign:
Large numbers of law-abiding people who pose no threat to society will be criminalised. Examples include:Please consider supporting it.
* ~ the BDSM community - an estimated 10% of the adult population, i.e. up to 4 million people (a News of the World survey found that around 50% of people had at sometime engaged in some form of BDSM activity)
* ~ the Goth community, members of which enjoy material featuring depictions of deaththat could easily be counted as pornographic under the proposed definition
* ~ people who own low-budget thrillers/horror films
Anyone who falls foul of this law is to be placed on the Sex Offenders Register. So the SOR will cease to concentrate on paedophiles and genuinely dangerous offenders, and its importance will be correspondingly diluted.
Although John Prescott has made show of his pride in the achievements of William Wilberforce, his government has presided over the reintroduction of slavery to Britain. Here's where we now find ourselves:
Every child entering the UK should have their biometrics taken in an attempt to stop the trafficking of children for sex, domestic slavery, street crime and drug smuggling.
The plan to track children after they enter the UK comes in a Home Office-sponsored study, which admits that human trafficking is now a “real and significant threat” to the country.
Children were being forced to work in cannabis factories, beg on the streets, turned into domestic “slaves” and drawn into the sex trade and benefit fraud, the report says. “The exercise has shown that child trafficking is a nationwide concern as it affects almost all parts of the United Kingdom.”
It's a strange philosophy that holds that laying down thousands of olympic swimming pool-sized slabs of concrete in our few last remaining wild places, to erect wind turbines, is environmentalism. But that sort of attitude leads directly to this:
Almost a third of Uganda’s bird life could lose its habitat in a protected forest if the Government goes ahead with plans to allow sugar cane growers to tear down trees and cultivate plantations for biofuel production.
Blighted by allegations of corruption and lampooned by Borat, the fictional TV reporter, Kazakhstan has turned to a British businessman to overhaul its state industries and improve its international image.Wouldn't it be strange if a comedy prompted genuine and lasting change in a country?
Michael Totten reports:
A few days ago Lebanese daily newspaper Al Mustaqbal quietly reported a limited Syrian invasion of Lebanon.Al Mustaqbal reported that:
Syrian troops on Thursday reportedly have penetrated three kilometers into Lebanese territories, taking up positions in the mountains near Yanta in east Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.Totten comments:
If Israel sent the IDF three kilometers into Lebanon and started digging trenches and building bunkers it would make news all over the world. But Syria does it and everyone shrugs. Hardly anyone even knows it happened at all.And links to YNet, which reported:
Syria can, apparently, get away with just about anything. I could hardly blame Assad at this point if he believes, after such an astonishing non-response, that he can reconquer Beirut. So far he can kill and terrorize and invade and destroy with impunity, at least up to a point. What is that point? Has anyone in the U.S., Israel, the Arab League, the European Union, or the United Nations even considered the question?
Syria has called on its citizens to leave Lebanon ahead of an expected "eruption" in that country, Arab and Iranian press reports have said.I guess the still cosmopolitan and tolerant - and (if flawed) democratic - state of Lebanon is viewed as an acceptable casualty by the new Realpolitik that pervades the post-Blair and, effectively, post-Bush era.
The media reports were translated and made available by MEMRI in a special dispatch on Sunday.
This is extraordinary:
can respond to your question in terms of the following which will be the formal press release available from the National Autistic Society: The Cambridge University Autism Research Centre have not yet released the findings from their prevalence study, as the study is not yet complete. The Cambridge researchers are surprised that an unpublished report of their work was described out of context by the Observer. They are investigating how this report was made available to the Observer. They are equally surprised that the Observer fabricated comments attributed to their team. They do not believe there is any link between rising prevalence and the MMR, or chemical toxins. It is untrue that Prof Baron-Cohen “was so concerned by the 1 in 58 figure that he proposed informing public health officials in the county “. Such journalism raises anxiety unnecessarily and is irresponsible.Via
The CO2 reconstruction through the early Holocene bears a striking similarity to reconstructed solar activity changes. This may suggest a rapid response of climate to minor changes in solar activity during this dynamic period, which in turn impacted the global carbon cycle. This can, to some extent, also be seen in the climatic responses associated with the Maunder Minimum in the mid-17th to early 18th centuries.
--CA Jessen et al, Global and Planetary Change, June 2007
Via Benny Peiser.
Tim Worstall is right to point out that Madonna is not a hypocrite for having links to companies that pollute. We all do.
No, as Tim Blair points out, Madonna is a hypocrite for lecturing us on our personal carbon footprints when hers:
... is 1,018 tons -- about 92 times the 11 tons an average person uses per year
Sunday, July 08, 2007
A really competitive society is perhaps one that holds competitions. I've written before about the cash prizes offered in America for the DARPA Grand Challenge (autonomous vehicles) and the Space Elevator prize. The latest has been announced:
U.S. soldiers will go into future combat situations wearing more than 20 pounds of batteries to run the electronic systems they take with them.These competitions are highly successful - the Grand Challenge is over, having been won. They are also, by the standards of government research budgets, astonishingly cheap. And they're FUN.
That burden is too high, so the Pentagon is offering a $1 million prize to any team that can cut that weight to 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) or less.
We really ought to hold them here.
At least, that must be the explanation, if the religious idea that moral qualities like altruism can only have a religious foundation is true. Because:
Chimpanzees have now shown they can help strangers at personal cost without apparent expectation of personal gain, a level of selfless behavior often claimed as unique to humans.
Apparently, the Centre for Alternative Energy in Wales has produced a report, named "zerocarbonbritain", that explains how we can become a carbon-neutral country:
... it would mean no flying, an annual carbon allowance for all and a diet almost without meat or milk...This report:
comes with an endorsement for its "imagination" and "sense of urgency" from Sir John Houghton, former head of the Meteorological Office and of the scientific working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate ChangeI've mentioned before the role played by the British Met Office in climate alarmism. They issue press releases when it's warm, and pick fluff out of their navels when it's cool. It is systematic, and amounts to deception by omission. But this is one of the most extreme prescriptions for change that anyone with links to them has so far put their name to.
Does the Centre for Alternative Energy have any other agendas? One way to find out would be to take a course there. It would be no hardship. The facilities seem superb. Onsite accomodation is available, and you won't go hungry:
Meals are served in our wholefood vegetarian restaurant.
Britain faces a 15-year battle to end the threat posed by Islamist terrorists, the Government's new security supremo has admitted.Tim comments:
But 15 years? Now you're talking about somwhere near the rest of the natural lives of a good portion of the citizenry. You're also talking about a period of time long enough that we will, all on our very own, change the society irreversibly. After a 15 year period where civil liberties are so curtailed, after we have become a nation of snitches who have given up our freedoms for security (if indeed the latter will have been achieved) then who really believes that we'll get them back?Doing good ain't got no end, as they say in the Westerns. In fifteen years time, nobody is going to say "Right, that's finished." Temporary restrictions have a habit of becoming permanent.
The problem is that Terror can't surrender. Emergency regulations designed to deal with terrorism might well start as temporary measures but they can become permanent without much outcry. Terrorism is likely to be with us for a long time. But we need to start calling digging implements spades. Temporary measures introduced to combat the Northern Ireland emergency would have ceased to have effect by now. Emergency measures that were stated to be addressing Islamist terrorism would also have a finite life.
Nowadays, mealy-mouthed waffle and (often) good intentions have become the midwives to tyranny.
UPDATE: Re-reading, that might be seen as a comment about Tim. It isn't. It's a comment about people who don't want to call Islamist terrorism by its name.
Sheep rush from one side of the field to the other, if just one of them starts running. That's probably a good idea for prey animals. It's depressing in humans. This is just re-running the American Katrina complaints about the reaction of the Federal government.
I find this depressing:
A major condom brand said Friday it expected thousands of applicants for a new unpaid job on offer — condom tester.But I'm not sure whether the idea that people might want to apply for "expert" status is the worst aspect, or whether it's the possibility that they might score as a consequence of being awarded it.
Durex said 200 adult Australians — men and women — are wanted to test a range of its condoms.
While the successful applicants will not be paid, each will receive a pack of Durex sex products, a chance to win 1,000 Australian dollars ($857 U.S.), plus professional prestige, the company said in a statement.
"Who wouldn't want to have a chance with an actual authorized professional?" Durex marketing manager Sam White asked.
"Durex is expecting thousands of applicants," the statement said.
Hopefuls must explain in their applications why they would make "expert" condom testers.
The only consolation is that someone at Durex will have to read those applications. If there is any justice, it will be whoever thought the idea up in the first place.
Chris Dillow can be exasperating. While able to write genuinely trivial* nonsense like this:
... capitalism arose from state-sanctioned theft and brutality rather than from voluntary transactionsHe also produces some of the best writing on the internet, or indeed anywhere else. See the posts here and here.
Underlying this dichotomy is the broader dichotomy of conventional political polarisation. Everyone suffers from the problem that the thoughts stagger along under the weight of existing ideas. Of course we all "stand on the shoulders of giants", but insight is generally reserved for the occasions when we are prepared to use a slingshot.
* To suggest the origins of capitalism can be attributed to such uncomplicated origins is trivial. This places it in the category of "not even wrong".
Friday, July 06, 2007
David Cuthbertson at the ASI writes about the difference between the Post Office and the banks:
I had two errands to run at lunchtime yesterday. One was to take a parcel to the Post Office and the second was to pay a cheque into the bank.He points out that the difference is accounted for by the fact that the banks are private companies and have to compete for customers, whereas the Post Office is a State institution and expects to be bailed out by the government if it experiences any financial shorrtfalls while operating as a monopoly supplier to its customers.
The Post Office was packed and the queue snaked all around the building. The room was cluttered and the shelves were full of all sorts of detritus. When, after 30 minutes of waiting I arrived at the counter, I was greeted by a sheet of shatter-proof glass and an ancient 2-way intercom. The lady behind the counter was helpful enough and my package was weighed and paid for in a few seconds. Thirty minutes wait for about 30 seconds of service and I was on my way.
Then I went to the Royal Bank of Scotland. It was a revelation. The difference was incredible. The building was open and uncluttered, and it had been recently decorated. The staff sat behind desks instead of screens. The queue was two people long, but even that was too much for the staff. A helpful teller popped up and asked us if anyone was just paying in cheques. She took my card and my cheque and reappeared a few moments later with my receipt.
What he doesn't go on to point out is the social difference in the composition of the customers. State involvement in the Post Office acts as a guarantee that the poorest people in society have to endure the worst service, the longest delays and the most depressing surroundings.
every new molecule of CO2 causes smaller greenhouse effect than the previous molecule: the absorption rate gradually approaches saturation.There had been a response at realclimate.org written by Spencer Weart, a "noted historian of science". Weart joined the discussion thread but declined to offer any substantive responses to criticisms of his argument.
A quote from one of the more technical commentators (Motl attracts 2500 readers a day, and has a very high proportion of professional academics and post docs in his audience):
AGW is like Rasputin. You can stick a knife in it, and drag the entrails out, you can poison it, you can chain up and throw it in the river, and it'll keep on going. If the world temperature started decreasing next year, and continued cooling fo 20 years, they'd concoct some kind of cock-and-bull story about how it's happening, but it's being masked by the aerosols from some factory in far western China.
Meanwhile, looking out of my window, I see cold, wet and stormy weather. It reminds me of 1987.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
The Cato Institute blog made the best comment about President Bush's intervention in the case of Scooter Libby:
But there are plenty of other people who deserve presidential pardons or commutations. Families Against Mandatory Minimums has highlighted a number of good cases here:
Mandy Martinson — 15 years for helping her boyfriend count his drug-dealing money.
DeJarion Echols — 20 years for selling a small amount of crack and owning a gun, causing Reagan-appointed federal judge Walter S. Smith, Jr. to say, “This is one of those situations where I’d like to see a congressman sitting before me.”
Weldon Angelos — 55 years for minor marijuana and gun charges, causing the George W. Bush-appointed judge Paul Cassell, previously best known for pressing the courts to overturn the Miranda decision, to call the mandatory sentence in this case “unjust, cruel, and even irrational.”
Anthea Harris — 15 years when members of her husband’s drug ring received sentence reductions to testify against her, although she had not been directly involved in the business.
A compassionate conservative should also use the pardon power to head off the DEA’s war against doctors who help patients alleviate pain. He could start by pardoning Dr. Ronald McIver, sentenced to 30 years for prescribing Oxycontin and other drugs to patients in severe pain. Or Dr. William Hurwitz of Virginia, sentenced to 25 years but then granted a retrial, convicted again, and awaiting sentencing, which could still be 10 years.
Commute these sentences, Mr. President.
I didn't wish my American readers a happy July 4th. I was too jealous. You got the best Enlightenment constitution in the world; we got the King who discussed matters of State with a tree in Windsor Great Park.
The monarchy is a great tourist attraction, but has no place in a modern constitution - "modern" in this sense meaning "of the past quarter millennium".
We also have a new, unelected, Prime Minister who has no understanding of the nature of constitutional reform. His recent proposals that have been given this heading involve the transfer of powers from the executive to Parliament, and token "consultations" with unelected pressure groups. Whoops, I mean communities.
But constitutions properly include the limitation of the powers of government, whichever arm of government might exercise them.
So we've still got a lot of work to do on this side of the water. In that most recent of British civil wars, you won more than a few battles. You won your freedom.
In April, I quoted the London-based Iranian blogger Azarmehr as follows:
My friend Fariba Marzban, a female ex-political prisoner in the eighties endured 7 years of imprisonment including more than 400 days of solitary confinement and the horrendous torture which became known as the coffin torture, where female prisoners had to sit in a small confinement, draped in a chador, and face the wall for hours and days without uttering a word or making a movement, and Fariba still didnt give in to her captors. She was just an ordinary teenage sympathiser of a Left wing organisation at the time, caught while handing out leaflets.Fariba's name does not appear much on the Internet. Indeed, one commentator wrote:
But if you ask me about the specific memory that is to be forgotten on the colonial site, then it is most obviously the story of women themselves, those who have been fighting foreign domination and domestic abuse alike. There are numerous memoirs written over the last decade alone by Iranian women political activists who have suffered and survived heroically under both the Pahlavis and the Islamic Republic. But who has heard of people like Vida Hajebi Tabrizi, Fariba Marzban, Nasrin Parvaz, or Ashraf Dehghan—all among political activists who struggled and resisted both the Pahlavi tyranny and the even more horrid tyranny of the Islamic Republic that succeeded it? No one.It has been entirely my privilege to bring Fariba's name to a slightly wider audience. But I am afraid there was an error of fact in my original post, and Fariba has contacted me to correct it.
She did not endure 400 days of solitary confinement. She endured two years and seven months of solitary, and a further six months of confinement in tiny, unlit, windowless cells without proper food, without access to bathroom or shower facilities, all the while enduring torture and what she, with restraint and understatement, refers to as other "difficulties".
In making this correction, Fariba wrote that she did not want to make her life out to be a tragedy, but that the tragedy was that of all her generation of Iranians. And she, a woman with the courage to challenge one of the most tyrannous regimes in the world, and to continue to do so in the face of the most savage and brutal cruelty, thanked me for writing about her - for sitting in front of a keyboard in a nice, safe country and typing a few words.
It is of the utmost importance that the world knows the true nature of the Iranian regime, and the names and the bravery of the Iranian people who challenge it. Fariba should know that we admire and salute her bravery and resolve, that we stand with her and that we also long for the day that a democratic and secular Iran can take its rightful place as a great and historic nation in the family of free countries.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
There have been two significant Jihadi developments recently.
The armed wing of the movement seems to have been taken over by candidates for the Darwin Awards.
Some of the more coherent Jihadists and apologists seem to be recovering their sanity.
Are these two things in any way related?
The British Met Office has staked its reputation on the subject of anthropic climate change. They even publish a cargo cult science page of "Climate Change Myths" which is an unashamed piece of advocacy, rather than a dispassionate look at the facts.
Met Office forecaster Keith Fenwick is quoted in a piece about the unusually wet June weather in today's Observer. In passing, he says:
There were a few days of cold weather last week but apart from that, this month has been warmer than the average June by more than a degree Celsius: 13.7 degrees this year compared to the average June temperature of 12.6,' said Fenwick.So, what's average?
This warm weather is consistent with the Met Office's prediction that this summer will be significantly warmer than average, a result - in turn - of industrial emissions that are now warming the climate to dangerous levels.
The Met Office also publishes raw data, and its mean temperature statistics are drawn from a data set that starts in 1772 This data, therefore, takes in the period of unusually cold weather known as the Little Ice Age.
It's hardly surprising that current temperatures should exceed this. Another perspective on June 2007 temperatures can be gained by looking at the sorted data. In the tabulated data recorded since 1659, June 2007 ranks 271 out of 349. It was 78th warmest in a data set that encompasses a long period of unusually cool temperatures.
This isn't the picture you'd get from the Observer article, which goes on to state:
Meanwhile, in the eastern Mediterranean, the scorching weather that has affected the area for several weeks has continued to bring high temperatures. In Athens, they reached 31C, in Corfu 32, Rhodes 33 and Crete 37.But somehow fails to mention the unusually cold temperatures that have been affecting other parts of the world. Like Chile:
Regional Chile was also affected by the cold, experiencing record low temperatures and heavy snowfall. Snow even fell in the port cities of Valparaíso and Puerto Montt, and an estimated 10,000 people were left stranded between Regions XVIII and X after Friday’s snows.and South Africa:
Eastern portions of the XVIII and IX Regions, including the Lonquimay and Alto Biobio areas, were declared “agricultural emergency areas”, and more than 6,000 people in native Pehuenche communities were left stranded. Emergency aid in the form of blankets, mattresses, food and medicine were distributed throughout the affected areas.
Johannesburg recorded its first confirmed snowfall for almost 26 years overnight as temperatures dropped below freezing in South Africa's largest city, grounding flights at its main airport.Now, I'm not suggesting that temperature anomalies make a trend. But the Observer is, and their report is straightforwardly misleading. Lying by omission is still lying. This June has been cooler than most recent Junes. Where it stands against an average drawn since 1772 is neither here nor there.
The biggest problem I have with the AGW alarmism comes from reports like this. If their case is right, why do they have to mislead? Let's take a different time scale for our average, by way of comparison:
This shows negative temperature anomalies for the present climate. It's just as meaningless as the Met Office's averages and anomalies. Their failure to provide reasonable perspective for their announcements is a disgrace.