Museum of Europe

Interesting:

A recreation of a torture chamber used during Spain’s Franco-era is shown at the temporary quarters of the Museum of Europe in Brussels. Organisers hope to open a permanent museum in the next few years that will illustrate the Continent’s road to unity after the Second World War. Scarlet lingerie, a Soviet ballistic missile and the good-luck charm of a Portuguese lorry driver are other unexpected items in the exhibition, called It’s Our History. Plans for a permanent museum have been delayed by legal, political and financial problems.

Wouldn\’t it be interesting to add a few more torture chambers? Post WWII we might have a Greek one (the colonels), a Portuguese one (Salazar et.al….after all Amnesty was founded to protest the jailing here of two students), so a trio from the Fascists. Then we\’d have a Lithuanian one, a Latvian one, An Estonian one, East German, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Slovene, Romanian, Bulgarian…or is torture by socialists not something we care to remember?

Those Rape Conviction Figures

Of course we must do something about the fact that only 5% of reported rapes end up in convictions. Of course:

The worst day of Paul Haslam’s life began at 3.30am with a loud knock on the door from the police. They told him he was being arrested on suspicion of rape, and took him to Charles Cross police station in Plymouth.

There, he was questioned about what had happened the previous evening, when he had spent the night with a girl he had known for only a short time. He knew he had done nothing wrong, but he did not know how he could prove it.

Later that day Mr Haslam was released without charge. Three weeks later he received a letter telling him that no further action was being taken. By then he had lost his job and had to tell his family about the arrest.

Mr Haslam, 30, had hardly thought about that day nine years ago until he read in his local newspaper this week that the woman who made the false allegation against him had since done the same thing to seven other men.

Gemma Gregory left a trail of disrupted lives across the city of Plymouth. A judge gave her a 12-month suspended jail sentence for perjury for her latest false accusation and ordered her to undergo psychiatric treatment.

No woman would ever accuse a man of rape if it hadn\’t actually happened now, would they? A simple system of accusation and conviction should be suitable, don\’t you think? For we must always listen to the voice of the victim. This insistence upon evidence is simply so patriarchal, testament does, after all, share the same root as testes.

Gosh, I Never Knew That!

Stunning information here:

The economics alone are questionable. The massive and detailed Stern report last year concluded that the negative impact of climate change could cost the world economy 20 times more than acting to prevent the damage in the first place.

Really? As I recall it, if we spend 1% of GDP per year then in a century we save 20% of GDP. That was it, wasn\’t it? Leaving aside all of his funny stuff about discount rates and so on.

Lawson\’s concern is that nothing interferes with globalisation,

Well, quite. As the SRES tells us, it\’s globalisation that\’s goingto lift the poor up out of poverty. That is what we want, isn\’t it?

The End of Hardbacks

So it looks as if the era of a literary novel being printed in hardback before paperback is over. It\’s really rather odd that they don\’t actually explain what is really happening though.

Hardback then paperback is in fact simply a method of price discrimination. The publisher is trying to charge a higher price to those who really want the work and then a lower price to those prepared to wait a year for the paperback. If publishers are now to stop doing this, it will be because this form of price discrimination no longer works. The reason it doesn\’t is explained:

Libraries, which used to in effect underwrite the hardback market by guaranteeing to buy almost every new literary novel, have diverted resources to music, computers and DVDs.

Isn\’t that lovely? The literary fiction market, all those arty types writing and reading the most incredibly boring codswallop, has been subsidised by your tax money all these years. Good that it\’s ended then, isn\’t it?

Why?

I do wish someone could explain to me why this would happen:

The dollar could collapse if Opec officially admits considering changing the pricing of oil into alternative currencies such as the euro, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister has warned.

It\’s a standard part of the woo woo case: that the US benefits in some enormous manner because oil is traded in dollars. I\’ve seen it stated as fact that the Iraq War was all started because Saddam was about to sell oil in euros, not dollars.

Now it is true that the US gains from the fact that the dollar is the de facto world currency. By some $20 billion a year in seignorage. But against a $12 trillion economy and a getting on for $3 trillion Federal budget, that\’s peanuts.

But I simply don\’t see that oil being priced in another currency makes any difference. Anyone know what the supposed mechanism is?

Erm…

Odd:

Concerns among islanders include over-reliance on primary industries such as farming and a lack of affordable housing.

There are also worries about the islands\’ decreasing population as greater numbers move to mainland Scotland for employment.

You\’d think that the solution to high house prices was falling population, wouldn\’t you?

The Boy Dave (M)

Quite:

It is hard to make a speech about the European Union’s goals and not, at some point, seem to move beyond ambition to delusion. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, failed to avoid that pitfall entirely yesterday

Banana Republics

This is interesting:

Victims of the bloody paramilitary conflict in Colombia are suing the US banana company Chiquita, accusing it of funding and arming guerrilla groups blamed for torture and thousands of killings.

The lawsuit, filed in New York, seeks $7.86 billion (£4 billion) on behalf of 393 victims and their relatives. They accuse Chiquita Brands of complicity in hundreds of murders carried out by the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, a right-wing paramilitary group known by its Spanish acronym AUC.

No doubt the civil suits agains consumers of cocaine are in preparation: they have been, after al, responsible for similar funding, have they not?

Abu Hamza Extradition

You know, this is one of those tough cases whih rather test one\’s devotion to civil liberties. That Abu-Hamza\’s a bad \’un is, I think, beyond doubt. However:

Abu Hamza al-Masri can be extradited to the United States, a judge ruled yesterday – three and a half years after the extremist preacher was arrested on a “fast-track” warrant.

Not happy about that. For, you see, he\’s a British citizen. Yes, I know, he may have got that through a bigamous marriage but the solution there is to prove that and then strip him of that citizenship.

Hugo Keith, representing the US Government, told the court that the cleric had been involved in “blatant violence, kidnapping and terrorist training”. Mr Keith said: “The general allegation is that Hamza is a member of a global conspiracy to wage jihad against the US and other western countries. He advocates the defence of Islam through violent, unlawful and armed aggression against the enemies of Islam in order to influence the US government.”

He may well be, I think the allegations (for whatever tiny amount my opinions are worth) probably are true. But, you see, in a free country, it is up to you to show that you have sufficient evidence for trial before you whisk him off to another country to try him. Whether or not he should be a British citizen, whether or not he will remain one, are not the issues: he is at present one and so should be afforded the protection of the State.

Yes, even though we\’ve got a law allowing these fast track extraditions: we shouldn\’t have that law is the point.

As Larry Flynt said about freedom of speech (wasn\’t it?), that\’s the whole point of such laws. If they\’ll protect bastards like me then you can be sure that they\’ll protect you, too.

I\’ve no problem with Abu Hamza being extradited, no hassle with the idea that he\’ll likely spend the rest of his life in jail, whether in Yemen or the US. All I want is that he gets the same treatment I would want for myself: that before extradition those doing the extraditing show that they have reasonable evidence for a trial.

Not this fast track shit.

Those Wonderful Planners Again

Gosh, how wonderful of them to consider each and every detail and then make the wrong decision:

Rail industry leaders have accused the Government of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds and undermining the environmental benefits of rail travel by choosing diesel instead of electric trains.

Iain Coucher, chief executive of Network Rail, has written to the Department for Transport, describing its failure to electrify more lines as “very short-sighted”.

In the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by The Times, he says Britain risks being left with an outmoded, inefficient and increasingly expensive railway because the Government has “bet on the wrong type of fuel”.

Britain is one of the only countries in the world that continues to use diesel to power high speed trains. Only 39 per cent of the network is electrified, one of the lowest proportions of any leading European country.

In July The Times disclosed that an industry study had found that modern diesel trains were emitting so much pollution that it would be greener to travel by car.

The Government is planning to spend £1 billion on a new fleet of diesel trains, which will begin trials in 2012, start carrying passengers in 2015 and remain in service until 2045. They will emit at least double the carbon dioxide emissions per mile of a standard electric train.

I think it\’s John B who keeps telling us of the benefits of electric trains, especially if we add something interesting like regenerative braking.

Aren\’t we lucky to be ruled by such clever people?

Polly\’s Politics

This is interesting. The Lib Dems are only important when:

But here\’s the paradox. Despite plunging as low as 11% in recent polls, politically this is their best opportunity for years. They are only needed when the other parties fail too many voters. Last time this happened in the early 1980s, when the choice presented to the voters was Michael Foot\’s catastrophically unelectable Labour party versus Margaret Thatcher\’s slashing and burning of jobs, lives and public services from which the social fabric has not yet recovered. Between that Scylla and Charybdis there was a genuine need for a sane, moderate alternative. This time they are needed because the other two have moved too close together.

Of course, back then they were the Liberal Party. And in that hour of need Polly helped the SDP, the one that split that necessary alternative vote and made sure that Thatcher and Foot were the only viable alternatives. Well done there.

Whatever your view, voters deserve a choice on the big issues where the other parties merge: Lib Dems are strongly pro-European, seeing a closer future across the Channel than the Atlantic.

All parties other than UKIP are strongly pro-EU. So the choice is, here, between UKIP and everyone else.

There rest of it seems to a pean to the virtues of PR: the one way of ensuring that people never actually have a proper choice ever again.

Accuracy in Reporting At The Guardian

This is good from Alexander Chancellor:

 

So it is with Google, the latest wealth-spewing monster of the internet. Its two young founders – Larry Page and Sergey Brin – are each worth around $20bn, much the same as Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is ranked by Forbes magazine as the 13th richest person in the world. But unlike him, they don\’t have private jets, Rolls-Royces, yachts or any of the other pointless accoutrements of the super-rich. The Prince has just bought a new A389 superjumbo, the world\’s biggest passenger aircraft (list price $319m), as his own private plane, which he will convert into a flying luxury hotel and use to carry his fleet of limousines with him around the world. Page and Brin each own nothing more flashy than a modest Toyota Prius, the environmentally virtuous hybrid car.

Really?

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the low-key co-founders of Google Inc., set tongues wagging last year when they bought a used Boeing 767 widebody as an unusually large private jet. The 767-200 typically carries 180 passengers and is three times as heavy as a conventional executive plane. Mr. Page said last year that he and Mr. Brin would use it for personal travel, including taking "large numbers of people to places such as Africa." He said it would hold about 50 passengers when refurbished, but declined to comment on other details of the plane, which has been kept ultra secret.

Caroline Lucas on Aviation Emissions

Oh dear, oh dear oh dear. Our Ph.D. in Elizabethan literature still hasn\’t quite managed to absorb the major point about cap and trade systems for carbon emissions.

Now I\’ll agree that she and her Green pals have some decent points here. If emissions from aircraft cause more warming (due to altitude) than emissions on the ground then there is a case for a multiplier to be added to the cost of aircraft emissions. They\’re also absolutely correct that permits should be auctioned, not given away.

However:

Essentially, the idea is that a cap is set on aviation\’s overall emissions, and the airlines are allocated a certain number of permits to cover them. If they are efficient, and don\’t need all the permits, they can sell them and if they need more, they can buy them.

Erm, by allowing airlines to buy permits not originally issued to airlines, we\’re not in fact capping airline emissions. Which is a good thing because we don\’t actually want to do that.

It doesn\’t take a Nobel Prize winner in physics to work out that the only way this can possibly reduce aviation emissions is if there is a sufficiently rigorous overall emissions cap, and serious limits to the amount of extra permits aviation is allowed to buy from other sources (ie other industrial sectors, or projects abroad).

But that\’s the point. We don\’t want to reduce airline emissions. We want to reduce total emissions. We want to reduce the lowest value emissions in fact, while allowing the higher value ones to continue (in detail, those emissions where the value is greater than the costs they impose).

Indeed, according to the commission\’s own figures, the proposal would mean that by 2020, instead of growing by 83% under a do-nothing scenario, aviation emissions would still grow by an extraordinary 78%. And since the effect of the scheme would be to add only a maximum 9 euros to the price of a ticket, it\’s hardly surprising that it will have almost no effect on aviation demand. By the same date, under the proposals, instead of growing by 142%, demand is still predicted to grow by a staggering 138%. If that\’s global climate leadership, I wouldn\’t want to see climate complacency.

It really does look like Dr. Lucas doesn\’t actually understand the point of cap and trade at all. We\’re not trying to reduce emissions from any one source. We\’re trying to reduce total emissions. And what we\’re doing by cap and trade is using a market mechanism to try and find out which are the valuable emissions which should continue and which are the low value ones which should be curtailed. She is insisting that a specific sector must be curtailed: but the point of cap and trade is to find out which sector should be curtailed.

Essentially, she\’s acting as a central planner: avaiation emissions should be x. But cap and trade replaces that planner with the market. As long as total emissions are under y, we don\’t actually care whether the aviation sector\’s emissions are under x.

Indeed, we can go further. Imagine that CO2 extraction from the atmosphere is successful (Wild idea, I know, but something like Planktos and iron fertilisation of the oceans.) . We then get to a point where we\’re entirely happy for aviation emissions to be above y, let alone x, because we\’re extracting CO2 as well, meaning that total emissions are below y. And the thing is, once we\’ve set our cap and instituted a market in the permits, whether or not this is a good idea will be revealed by the relative prices.

In short, by insisting that aviation be treated as a sector which cannot buy permits from other parts of the economy, Caroline Lucas is showing that she doesn\’t understand the point of a cap and trade market in permits in the first place.

The US Economy

Only a thought here:

There is not enough demand in this economy, and there was a time when progressives called on the government to help supply it.

Err, increasing demand in the economy. As far as I remember there\’s really only one way the Govt can do this. Defecit spending. Is that really what progressives in the US should be calling for? More defecits?

On Being Ruled By Tax Exiles

I can sort of understand the logic here:

A forthcoming constitutional reform bill could include measures to stop tax exiles from sitting in the House of Lords, the cabinet secretary said yesterday amid further questions about the tax status of the millionaire Tory donor Lord Ashcroft.

Of course, it\’s about nailing Ashcroft rather than there being any principle to it but let\’s take the argument at face value.

We shouldn\’t be ruled by people who do not live under the same law as us. It should not be possible for people who are not resident and subject to UK law to influence said law over those who are resident. That is the point, isn\’t it?

OK, then we shouldn\’t be ruled by the European Union then, should we? Should not allow non-residents to make 80% of our law for us.