Brit Elite Rules

January 26, 2008

Members of the Brit elite are struggling to protect themselves from their own failures, and that’s dishonorable. The good news for Brit revolutionaries is this makes the elite an easy target.

The latest:

The security of the online computer system used by more than three million people to file tax returns is in doubt after HM Revenue and Customs admitted it was not secure enough to be used by MPs, celebrities and the Royal Family.

Thousands of “high profile” people have been secretly barred from using the online tax return system amid concerns that their confidential details would be put at risk…

Their details are thought to be stored on a highly-restricted database with extra levels of security.

There’s no such thing as a secure database, so putting all the high-value targets in one place simplifies the task of revolutionary hackers.

A safer arrangement would be to remove the elite’s obligation to file tax returns, as in its database of Brit kids, which doesn’t include the elite’s progeny.

The elite also has its own rules when it gets caught:

Mr Brown accepted the Work and Pensions Secretary’s resignation “without hesitation” in a telephone call only minutes after the Metropolitan Police announced an investigation had begun into Mr Hain’s failure to declare £103,000 in donations to his failed deputy leadership campaign.

Senior Whitehall sources said they expected Mr Hain to be interviewed under caution by the detectives from Scotland Yard’s Economic and Specialist Crimes Command within a matter of weeks. He is unlikely to be arrested.

That contrasts with their treatment of ordinary citizens like Lionheart:

The offence that I need to arrest you for is “Stir up Racial Hatred by displaying written material” contrary to sections 18(1) and 27(3) of the Public Order Act 1986.

You will be arrested on SUSPICION of the offence. You would only be charged following a full investigation based on all the relevant facts and CPS consent.

The pol just gets an “interview” for alleged payola, while Lionheart is arrested, DNA profiled and fingerprinted for allegedly objecting to Muslim nasties.

Elites throughout history have avoided obeying their own laws, but the strategy bites them when they’re deposed.

Then its easy for the deposers to use the special databases, or absence from databases, to identify and track down their erstwhile oppressors.

Here’s the example of the East German elite:

During the regime’s final days, Stasi officials shredded documents with paper shredders and by hand. As people heard of this, they quickly formed a committee of citizen on December 4th, 1989. In a public demonstration they gained access to the Stasi headquarters on January 15th, 1990 and halted the destruction.

Some day, that will happen in the UK.


The Virus Gordon Brown Shares With Hillary Clinton

January 11, 2008

Both are lifetime seconds-in-command doing, or planning to do, the jobs of leaders. Brown is the latest of a long line of unfortunates proving the impossibility of this transition, and Dems should avoid following the Brit Labour party over this precipice.

Here’s a professor of history:

…during the past four months or so a profound change has come over British politics, with Gordon Brown and the Labour Party falling suddenly, remarkably, and apparently catastrophically behind in the polls, and the Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, forging ahead…

In common with everyone else, I have been extremely surprised by this turn of events, which has come more or less out of the blue. When in mid-2007, Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, he entered with an enormous amount of goodwill and appeared to many to be just the ticket Britain needed after ten years of Tony Blair.

This collapse against a very weak opponent has a strong precedent:

Historically, in Britain when a strong Prime Minister who has been in power for a long time is followed by an obvious heir apparent who has been waiting to take over in a secondary but important post, that successor has generally proven to be an unfortunate choice: Balfour after Salisbury in 1902; Neville Chamberlain after Baldwin; Eden after Churchill; Callaghan after Wilson in 1976.

In effect, the successor has rusted in a secondary but important position which he performed competently – Chamberlain at the Treasury, Eden at the Foreign Office, for instance – but then found himself way over his head in the central limelight.

The cause isn’t “rust”, but the need for subordinates to have characters and skills completely inappropriate to the leadership role – here’s Karl Popper (paperback p143):

The authoritarian will in general select those who obey, who believe, who respond to his influence. Never can an authority admit that the intellectually courageous, i.e. those who dare to defy his authority, may be the most valuable type

People prepared to tolerate subordinate roles prosper under strong leaders, and those that won’t either leave or are fired. That explains why it’s much better to elect leaders than appoint them.

Incidentally, this effect explains why peacetime generals are usually useless in war – they’ve all advanced by obedience, whereas good generals are mavericks who prefer battle. Thus it took real adversity to allow General Petraeus to get to the top.

So poor Brown is doomed because he can’t lead.

In the the US, Hillary Clinton is another second in command. She’s been in her husband’s shadow for her entire adult life, in the process enduring a level of humiliation that no free spirit would accept.

In consequence she’s adept at indirect control, but incompetent as a leader, and I suspect people sense this when giving her such high negative ratings.

If she becomes president, she won’t be able to select, motivate and lead a top-rate management team, and will struggle to deal with life and death issues without support. Her experience is to have someone else do these nasty jobs, but there’ll be nobody there.

So, if she is elected, look for her popularity (and the fortunes of the US) to crash as quickly as Brown’s.


Our Dim Future

January 3, 2008

The US and Brit governments have mandated the replacement of our incandescent bulbs by Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). That will probably save energy, so is a Good Thing. But CFLs are awful lamps, so that’s a Bad Thing.

The UK ban:

On the 27 September 2007, the government announced plans to phase out the sale of incandescent light bulbs by 2011. Retailers will not replace 150 watt bulbs from January 2008, 100 watt bulbs from January 2009, 40 watt bulbs in 2010, and all remaining high power bulbs by 2011. These plans are voluntary…

This agreement between vendors is a cartel – common in the collectivist UK. But even in the non-collectivist US:

On December 19, 2007, Congress passed an energy bill that will see the incandescent light bulb phased off the U.S. market beginning in 2012.

The WSJ calls this dirty pool (my ellipsis):

…if you’re GE or Philips or Sylvania, the demise of the plain vanilla lightbulb is less a threat than an opportunity–an opportunity, in particular, to replace a product that you can sell for 50 cents with one that sells for $3 or more.

Yes, the $3 bulb lasts longer. Yes, it cuts your electricity bill. (The manufacturers lobbyist) says that when every one of those four billion light sockets has an energy-saving bulb in it, the country will be saving $18 billion a year on its electric bill. That’s $4.50 per bulb–and the bulb makers are standing by to make sure a substantial portion of those “savings” get transformed into profits for them.

Now it may be that those bulbs are worth more–because they last longer, etc. But some of those bulbs, like compact fluorescents and Philips’ new “Halogena-IR” bulb, are already available. Currently they command all of 5% of the lightbulb market. That means that, whatever value proposition GE and Philips are selling, consumers aren’t buying…

Note that the lightbulb makers didn’t need a ban to convince consumers to “upgrade.” Microsoft, Dell, Apple and any number of other companies manage to convince the Joneses that they need a better “one”–whatever it is–every few years. If Philips wanted a Halogena-IR bulb in every socket, it had only to put them on the market at a price that made them irresistible compared to the 50-cent bulb of yore.

The 5% market penetration is caused by the 6* price differential with incandescent plus three other negatives.

Health hazards:

The Migraine Action Association (MAA) said some of its members alleged the fluorescent bulbs had led to attacks of the powerful headaches…

The Lighting Association, which represents manufacturers, denied that modern designs produced a flicker.

A spokesman said: “A small number of cases have been reported by people who suffer from reactions to certain types of linear fluorescent lamps. These were almost certainly triggered by old technology.”

Since the “old technology” CFLs harmed people, and that doesn’t bother the suppliers, we can reasonably assume there are more negatives in store.

Poor function

CFLs give poor light, as measured by Color Rendering Index:

…a measure of the ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of various objects being lit by the source.

Incandescents have almost perfect CRIs – over 95, while the best CFL is 87 and the typical is a nasty 80.

CFLs are bigger then incandescent, so don’t fit in many light fittings, and they burn out if heated, so you can’t recess them in ceiling cans. The need for new light fixtures can make switching to CFLs uneconomic.

If you don’t run CFLs for at least 5 minutes they burn out in 15% of their intended life. That makes them unsuitable for intermittently used rooms such as bathrooms.

The CFLs we use in Italy take about 1 second to light from cold – very annoying if you’re in a hurry.

Mercury

CFLs contain mercury, which in all other contexts is regarded as a poison (the EU just shut down the Brit weather center industry since it used mercury thermometers). But there’s an argument that because CFLs use less power, we burn less coal, and produce less mercury vapor from that.

Popular Mechanics makes that case, but comments suggest its analysis is wrong, and CFLs will add to the mercury in our environment.

Bottom Line

There are good reasons why CFLs have only 5% of the market – they give lousy light, are expensive, often require pricey new fitments, and have limited application.

And, now our governments have killed their competition, it’s unlikely CFLs will get any better.

That leaves the LED lamp as our only hope for good lighting after 2010. The colors and brightness aren’t quite right yet, but otherwise they’re great replacements for halogen lamps.

But if the LED doesn’t come good, we face a dim future.


Bah, Humbug!

December 24, 2007

As I wandered down our high street glumly pondering the previous post, a passer-by noted my long face and called out the above.

Quite right too – it’s Christmas!


There Goes The EU Neighborhood

November 10, 2007

A Dem president and congress may lose a few American cities, but the Europeans will lose their homelands.

To Russia:

Flushed with profits from the re-nationalized oil and gas industries, President Vladimir Putin has improved Russia’s military, developing “the Topol-M mobile ballistic missile, the Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile, a new multiple-warhead missile, a new evading warhead, the S-400 missile interceptor, fifth-generation fighter planes and four new missile-firing submarines.” Putin has used Russia’s newly empowered military to confront the West.

He has resumed long-range nuclear bomber flights, opposes missile defenses in Europe, claims the North Pole for Russia and suspends cooperation under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. He also sells air defense missiles to Syria and nuclear technology to Iran, suspends gas and oil shipments to pressure other countries, and threatens both to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear forces (INF) treaty and to target NATO countries by basing missiles in Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave.

Absent US support, the EU cannot counter a single one of these mortal threats, and its pols lack the courage to implement the tripling of military expenditure needed to keep the bear in its cage.


On The Road

October 29, 2007

We’re off to Italy this afternoon, where now we should have broadband. So service will continue as usual. Or not, as the case may be.


Appendicitis

October 17, 2007

Visiting London I was struck by appendicitis and have just left hospital after fancy keyhole surgery.

Will return to regular posting when my IQ returns to double digits


Road Warriors

September 22, 2007

Mrs G and I are traveling tomorrow, but this time will take laptops and cellular modems.

There may be a gap in postings of a day or so while we get these to work in darkest mainland Europe.


Spanish Practices

September 16, 2007

Looks like the Spanish government expects a terror attack. From the UK and Ireland.

It started in July:

Holidaymakers travelling to Spain this summer have been warned to brace themselves for delays at airports as a result of the introduction of new security measures.

From June 13, Spanish authorities will be asking travellers to provide detailed information about themselves before they fly to the country…

Airlines have been told that the information needs to be supplied to Spanish customs authorities before anyone boards an aircraft…

That got delayed, and now appears to be restricted to travelers from the UK and Ireland (my ellipsis):

The Spanish Government has introduced new measures requiring airlines to provide, (before flight departure) the Passport or National ID data of all passengers on board flights departing from the UK and Republic of Ireland…

(The requirement is restricted to) passengers traveling to Spain…from the UK or Republic of Ireland from the 19th September 2007 onwards.

Hopefully the Spanish will extend their scheme to flights from Morocco, Algeria, and Syria.


Oil and Iraq

September 16, 2007

Alan Greenspan says the war in Iraq is, as lefties claim, All About Oil. That’s ignorant nonsense, and diminishes the man.

His claim:

America’s elder statesman of finance, Alan Greenspan, has shaken the White House by declaring that the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil…

“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he says…

Britain and America have always insisted the war had nothing to do with oil. Bush said the aim was to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and end Saddam’s support for terrorism.

“Everyone knows” isn’t quite the standard of proof one would expect from an elder statesman. Still, let’s ignore WMDs for the moment and look at how important Iraqi oil was in 2003 to the US and UK.

Iraqi oil was and is irrelevant to the UK, which until 2006 was an oil exporter, so would be nuts to spend blood and treasure invading a competitor. See OECD net oil imports 1992-2006.

So let’s consider the US, which since the year 2000 has had annual oil consumption of about 20 million barrels/day.

Iraqi oil exports in 2000 were 2.1 million barrels/day, and have since fallen to about 1.4 million barrels/day.

When the US launched the war, US oil imports came from the following sources according to Al Jazeera :

Country Million barrels/day in 2001
Canada 1.79
Saudi Arabia 1.66
Venezuela 1.54
Mexico 1.42
Nigeria 0.86
Iraq 0.78
Norway 0.33
Angola 0.32
United Kingdom 0.31
Total imports 9.0

(Table is total petroleum products and excludes all countries from which the US imported less than 300,000 bpd in 2001).

Why would the US go to the cost of invading a nation supplying under 8.6% of its imports?

Protecting the wells can’t have been a consideration – Saddam was nuts, but not enough to shut off his only source of revenue.

Perhaps Greenspan and friends think the US intended to occupy Iraq and take its oil for free. But in that case why not go for the Saudis? After all, they financed and carried out 9/11, Iraq and Saudi Arabia both have about 27 million people so should cost about the same to subdue (assuming the US suddenly became an evil imperialist power), and the US would steal almost 3 times more oil from Saudi Arabia.

That leaves the possibility that the US feared Saddam might have stopped shipping oil to it. But in that case, as an economist like Greenspan must know, Saddam would have to sell his oil to another customer, displacing their current supplier. Who would promptly have switched to supplying the US.

And if all else failed and the US lost Iraq as a supplier and failed to replace it, the US is surrounded by oil – Canada (170 gigabarrels), Mexico (maybe 100 gigabarrels) and of course the US itself (oil shale – 800 gigabarrels). That’s enough for a few centuries.

All this tells us the Greenspan isn’t a numbers man, which may explain the sub-prime disaster.


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