Monday, 30 May 2011


From the Daily Mail:-
Germany will shut down all it's nuclear reactors by 2022 in a dramatic reversal of their nuclear policy following the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Officials immediately shut down seven of the country's oldest plants in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami.
How does anyone come up with that in the aftermath of Fukushima? We saw a nuclear power plant tested to well, destruction, and it ended up with 1 death (non-nuclear, probably down to a heart attack) and nothing but relatively small amounts of low-grade radiation being produced.

It might be that you're against nuclear power in general, but I don't understand how anyone who was OK with nuclear before Fukushima could be against it afterwards.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Window Dressing

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The High Street should be at the very heart of every community, bringing people together, providing essential services and creating jobs and investment; so it is vital that we do all that we can to ensure they thrive.
No, the High Street is somewhere we go to buy stuff. And if we buy stuff there, we create jobs. If we buy stuff elsewhere, we create jobs. Honestly, didn't the E in his PPE stretch to Basquiat?

I'm in a minority of people who actually likes what we have right now. I mix up my shopping in the following diverse ways:-

Tesco/Asda: most of my shopping. It's cheap, convenient, reasonably good quality
Local shops: cheap, fresh coriander from the Indian shop, excellent bacon from the butcher, proscuitto from the Italian shop, some wine from the wine shop. The last 3 cost a bit more, but I appreciate the better product/service quality.
Internet: for the variety and price. Wii games and Livarot cheese.

Living in the provinces, we've never had it so good. Get in a time machine to the mid-80s and try to buy Australian Riesling or Hawaiian Kona. You would be going to London to buy it. The first you can get in Tesco, the 2nd on the internet, delivered in a few days. And you don't have to waste your time getting in a car to go to town to buy a book, find it's not in, order it, go back to collect it. Just hit Amazon or Book Depository and get on with your life and it'll come to you.

Labour said people must be able to influence the make-up of High Streets in their areas and proposed legislation on giving local communities more powers currently being debated by MPs could be used to protect small traders and promote retail diversity.

People already influence the make-up of High Streets in their areas by their actions. We might say we like local shops, but when it comes to spending money, we value price, convenience, range and service in different levels. For most people, price and convenience win.

Now, here's a question for all those people who either profess to believing in the free market (Conservatives) and progressivism (Labour): at what point do you have to admit that Tesco is the pinnacle of the free market in action (Conservatives) or a very good way to make the poor richer (Labour)?

We have 3 failed parties in this country. At least Wilson believed in a technological future. And while Major might have liked his spinsters on village greens, he at least believed in the free market. We now have political parties offering nothing but a look back to Camberwick Green.

Monday, 9 May 2011

This sounds like a stitch-up

If so, come and join me on The Street That Cut Everything – that’s the title of a programme to be shown on BBC1 next week. The street in question is in Preston, but it could be pretty much any street in any town or city except for one thing. The residents of this street agreed to take part in a unique experiment. They agreed to live without all the services their council tax pays for – all, that is, except for schools for their children and the emergency services – and to let the BBC film how they got along or, more often, how they did not.
The residents weren’t paid for taking part, but they were given back their council tax money for those six weeks to spend – not on themselves but on the needs of their community.

And what about the rest of it? If you live in Preston, 60% of income comes from central government. Then there's things like parking charges that make quite a few millions.

It's not really surprising that people couldn't do as well as the council, if they're not getting as much money, is it?

Booker on AV and deeper thoughts about problems

Now the demeaning little farce of the AV referendum is over, we can appreciate just how absurd was the pretence that tinkering with our voting system might somehow have given us any greater degree of “democracy”. In no way did it address the real crisis of our politics, which is that any real semblance of democracy in how we are governed has all but drained away.
It is not just that the political class which has allowed us a referendum on this trivial sideshow has denied us one – despite its promises – on the far more significant abdication of our power to govern ourselves that is implicit in the Lisbon Treaty, aka the EU constitution.
As I seem to frequently have to say to people who talk in this tone "yes, and that's terrible, now what practical fucking solutions can you find to change it?".
The problem of blaming the political parties for being pro-EU is that it's as futile as blaming a lion for chasing you when there's no gazelle around for lunch. Blaming the lion isn't a solution. Running away, getting in a car or shooting it are.
The thing is that I've looked long and hard at politics and watched elections, and seen the vote share diminish over time, and I've looked at comparative facts, considered incentives, looked at how parties have acted and basically the ONLY way you'll get anything done about the EU was to have supported the AV referendum. 
Let me try to explain:-
1) Duverger's Law. This means that people will generally tactically vote which means that people will vote to keep the other side out.
2) Duverger's Law. Which means that parties focus their efforts on the voters at the centre because they know that the hardcore voters will vote for them anyway, even if they'd prefer the other guys. The result being that they pick watered down policies that are a fag-paper's width apart.
3) Duverger's Law. And because people tactically vote, it signals to people that other people would like that party, leading to people voting for those parties again and creating something of a vicious cycle.
At some point parties will grow enough that people might think it's worth backing them to try to push them up to win, because they have a chance. How long does this take? Well, it took the SNP about 33 years to get 1 seat. They now have 6 seats after being in existence for 70 years. The Green Party have 1 seat after 37 years. Plaid Cymru have 3 seats after 85 years. UKIP have 0 seats after 17 years.
I'm not going to make any claims that electoral reform will deliver an EU referendum. That would be dishonest. But I will say this: you absolutely, positively, definitely won't get an EU referendum without some form of electoral reform for half a century.

Caroline Spelman on Wifi and Temperature

She warned of intense rainfall, droughts and heatwaves in the next 50 to 100 years because of man-made global warming. The signal from wi-fi cannot travel as far when temperatures increase. Heavy downfalls of rain also affect the ability of the device to capture a signal.
"Our economy is built on effective transport and communications networks and reliable energy and water supplies.
"But the economy cannot grow if there are repeated power failures, or goods cannot be transported because roads are flooded and railways have buckled, or if intense rainfall or high temperatures disrupt Wi-Fi signals.
1) Wifi actually has relatively small impact on our economy. I'd rather use a PC with wireless where I can sit anywhere in the house to work. It's handy occassionally to be able to sit in a cafe and work. But most corporations and even quite small companies use wired networking because it's more reliable, faster and more secure (no, I'm not saying wifi is insecure, just that if you can guess the password for a wired network, you still need physical access to it).
2) Google, Apple and HP and thousands of tech startups are all based on California. If wifi was a problem, we'd have soon heard about it from all the geeks out there.
I'm sure this is true, but one of those theoretical things, like that you have to add 60 degrees before you lose 1m of distance. I doubt it has any impact whatsoever on real-world distances affected by 1-2 degrees in temperature.
As for all the other stuff...
3) If you want to stop power failures, build some more nuclear power plants.
4) At worst, our weather ends up something like Toulouse in 100 years. They run TGVs down there just fine.
I assumed for a few years that the environment was the tories trying to sell themselves as not being the nasty party, but they'd have shaken that by now if they were. They seem to be, despite claims of wanting smaller government, to be just as signed up to global warming scaremongering as Labour.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

AV: A Post-Mortem, of sorts

So, sadly, AV was not won.

I've been pretty angry about it for about 48 hours, which is often my reaction to when the public do something that I class as brain-frying stupidity.

To understand why the public voted against AV, I'd like to try to recall another event, the fuel protests of  2000. The immediate reaction by the public was to support the fuel protests. Fuel was expensive and all that. What I discovered in the week after, sitting in pubs was people actually debating it and thinking more about it. And quite a lot of people started to realise that there were downsides to such protests. You won't see the same level of support for the ones happening now as happened in 2000.

The problem for AV is that going into it, most people didn't have a clue about it. The YouGov poll of June 2010 showed that 11% of people understood it well, and 27% of people understood it fairly well. The vast majority of people were blank canvasses, open to very easy influence by liars. Had people been kicking the subject around for a while, they might have voted differently and laughed at claims that "some people get to vote twice".

The Tories won't be fighting electoral reform now. But we can now not only debate it, but can do so by repeatedly pointing out the lies. And if people realise that they got cheated, perhaps we get another chance.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Local News

From the Advertiser
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland denied the poor turn-out spelled doom for local politics, but said more needs to be done to get people off their sofas and into polling booths.
From Wikipedia:-

Political scientists are divided on whether proportional representation increases voter turnout, though in countries with proportioanal representation voter turnout is higher.
And yet, the Swindon South MP thinks that FPTP is the least worst system.

If you want to see for yourself, IDEA have tables of electoral turnout:

Monday, 2 May 2011

Probably a Minority Opinion, but...

From Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called U.S. President Barak Obama on Monday to congratulate him on the assassination of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden the day before.
I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of the US President ordering the murder of another man. I'm uncomfortable with it for the following reasons:-
  1. It's what "they" do, the bad guys. They murder people who they don't like, rather than bringing them to trial for it. By doing the same, we become them, a little. And before anyone says "but it's Bin Laden", Eichmann and Goring were tried in a court of law, so it isn't.
  2. It raises him from a criminal mass murderer to a political martyr in the eyes of many people. Bringing him to trial might have meant that people around the world could see him as a criminal mass murderer. Killing him in this way will do nothing to help that "hearts and minds" thing.
  3. Somewhere deep down, I don't like the words "congratulate" and "assasination" in the same sentence. It's probably my Christian upbringing, but I consider killing to be what you do once other options are exhausted. A policeman in the US would be facing trial if he saw a suspect and just shot him, but would also be allowed to shoot a suspect leaving the scene of a crime.
  4. I really don't trust the government. No, I'm pretty damn certain that OBL did it. I don't believe there's a conspiracy between Bush and some lizard men to blow up the World Trade Center. But I know that if someone like OBL can get a trial, then so can I. And if the government thinks it's OK to go and assassinate OBL then who else do they think it's OK to assassinate? (there are times when government shoot-to-kill actions are quite legitimate, like hostage situations).