September 2013

€20 billion at Moscow Airport? Nah, no chance matey, no chance at all

A cargo of 20billion euros in cash (£16.75billion) has lain unclaimed at a Moscow airport for six years amid allegations it could be the secret fortune of Saddam Hussein.

The stash, now under high security in a cargo depot, is held on 200 wooden pallets each worth 100 million euros, enough to keep the entire NHS going for almost two months.

Russian customs have demanded the real owner of the booty “presents himself” to claim the fortune, but while a number of bogus and unconvincing attempts have been made to obtain it, no-one has satisfied the authorities that they are the rightful recipient.

Sounds like the opening of a bad Nigerian 419 letter, doesn’t it?

But there’s absolutely no chance at all that the story is true. Even if the money did exist at some time it won’t now. That’s just too much. You could hire an Army regiment to take out the airport for a fraction of that sum out there. Someone really would have taken a platoon of tanks in and a convoy of trucks.

Just not believable.

Hurrah! Jobs for all the long term unemployed! There will be feasting and rejoicing on the left tonight!

Yes, amazing, isn’t it? Finally the Tories are giving in to the left’s great demand. That jobs should be provided for the long term unemployed. It’s just so wonderful to see that finally, finally, those dim bulb capitalist bastards have seen the light. All that work by Neal Lawson, Richard Murphy, Michael Meacher, all of their protests and arguments are now being accepted. If there is a long term unemployment problem then it is the duty of government to create jobs for those people to do.

Excellent isn’t it?

Tens of thousands of long-term jobless welfare claimants will have to work for 30 hours a week doing community service or lose their unemployment benefits, the Chancellor will say.

My congratulations to all of them for getting this through, even if their party isn’t actually in power at present.

In which my old professor loses his marbles over solar power

To make non-carbon energy become competitive is a major scientific challenge, not unlike the challenge of developing the atom bomb or sending a man to the moon. Science rose to those challenges because a clear goal and timetable were set and enough public money was provided for the research. These programmes had high political profile and public visibility. They attracted many of the best minds of the age.

The issue of climate change and energy is even more important and it needs the same treatment. In most countries, there is at present too little public spending on non-carbon energy research. Instead, we need a major international research effort, with a clear goal and a clear timetable.

What should it focus on? There will always be many sources of non-carbon energy – nuclear fission, hydropower, geothermal, wind, nuclear fusion (possibly) and solar. But nuclear fission and hydropower have been around for many years. Nuclear is essential but faces political obstacles and there are physical limits to hydropower. Nuclear fusion remains uncertain. And, while wind can play a big role in the UK, in many countries its application is limited. So there is no hope of completely replacing fossil fuel without a major contribution from the power of the sun.

Moreover, the sun sends energy to the Earth equal to about 5,000 times our total energy needs. It is inconceivable that we cannot collect enough of this energy for our needs, at a reasonable cost. The price of photovoltaic energy is falling at 10% a year, and in Germany a serious amount of unsubsidised, solar electricity is already being added to the grid. In California, forward contracts for solar energy are becoming competitive with other fuels and they will become more so, as technology progresses.

But time is desperately short and there are two even bigger scientific challenges. The first is to make solar power available on a 24-hour basis, when the sun shines only part of the day and can be obscured by cloud. This requires a major breakthrough in the storage of electricity.

All of this is entirely true. Indeed I write a piece saying much the same earlier this week.

But then they lose their minds.

So here is our proposal. There should be a world sunpower programme of research, development and demonstration. The goal would be by 2025 to deliver solar electricity at scale to the grid at a cost below the cost of fossil fuel. All countries would be invited to participate. Those who did would commit, in their own countries, to major new programmes of research, internationally co-ordinated, and to share their findings for the benefit of the world.

Each country would have the goal of demonstrating bulk supply of unsubsidised solar electricity in scale to the grid by 2025. At the world level, the target would be for solar electricity to be at least 10% of total energy supply by 2025 and 25% by 2030. Countries’ contributions to this target would be closely watched.

Yes, they want another traveling circus of bureaucrats. And the reason why they have lost their minds is there in their own evidence:

Moreover, the sun sends energy to the Earth equal to about 5,000 times our total energy needs. It is inconceivable that we cannot collect enough of this energy for our needs, at a reasonable cost. The price of photovoltaic energy is falling at 10% a year, and in Germany a serious amount of unsubsidised, solar electricity is already being added to the grid. In California, forward contracts for solar energy are becoming competitive with other fuels and they will become more so, as technology progresses.

You can look at this in two ways and I don’t particularly mind which way you do. Either that the market has already started to do what was necessary, produce reasonably priced solar power, or that the market needed help, which we’ve given it, and now we’re getting reasonably priced, or will very soon, solar power.

But the point is still the same. It is their own evidence which tells us that we’ve already done whatever it is that we needed to do to get reasonably priced solar power. It’s falling in price by 10% a year, it’s already price competitive in some areas and we’ve absolutely no reason at all to think that it won’t keep falling in price at that rate (or faster) and thus become ever more competitive.

In such circumstances why the fuck do we need to piss money away on another Manhattan Project?

Two ways to look at this Golden Dawn thing

The party’s leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, three other MPs and around a dozen members were arrested on charges of founding a criminal organisation. They are due to appear in court on Sunday to be charged formally.

It is the first time since the military dictatorship ended in 1974 that sitting members of parliament have been arrested. The arrests underline the Greek government’s efforts to stifle the fiercely anti-immigrant party, which has been increasingly on the defensive since the fatal stabbing.

People who have plotted and then carried out a murder should indeed be charged. That’s one way if looking at it.

The other is that so called anti-fascists are acting in a very fascist manner by banning a political party.

And I don’t know enough about what’s going on to know which of those two is the true one.

Although I do have my suspicions and they are fed by the fact that they’re not charging them with being accomplices to murder but with membership of an organisation. Looks much more like the party thing than anything else with the limited information I’ve got.

You’re not talking about democracy here matey

The final historical aspect of this election may only be realised during the coalition negotiations. If there is a grand coalition, we will have a parliamentary opposition without any rights. With only 127 out of 630 seats, the current parliamentary laws mean that Die Linke and the Greens wouldn’t be able to challenge the government’s legislation, either with a complaint of unconstitutionally, a commission of inquiry or a parliamentary hearing.

The only comparable instance in the history of Germany’s federal republic was when the Free Liberal party was alone in opposition against a grand coalition in 1966 and 1969.

If such a scenario becomes reality, Europe will be watching with interest how serious Germany is about democratic principles, especially since my country enjoys lecturing other nations when they ignore the needs of minorities. Europe’s largest country can’t afford to have democracy without serious debate.

is that tyranny of the majority that you’re complaining about.

The protections against it are the rule of law and civil liberties.

Can we get this straight about the IPCC climate change report please?

No Mr. Lean, you are incorrect here.

Yesterday’s giant climate report

We didn’t get a giant climate report yesterday. What we got was the summary for policy makers.

We get the report on Monday. And it’s in that report that it is necessary to go looking for what they’ve done.

Personally I’m going to be fascinated to see what they’ve done (if anything) with the emissions scenarios and families. It’s my understanding (a very vague one it is true) is that the A1 family has pretty much been dropped from the process. Which is something of a pity as that was the straight line projection from the 20th cent and as we all know, straight line projections do often turn out to be true.

It’s also the projection that said that we could indeed have lots of global economic growth and if we did a bit of greening of the energy production system then we’d be fine. Dropping that family of scenarios therefore rules out that sort of solution according to the “scientific consensus”.

So I’ll be interested to read the report: but not the propaganda part of it that is being discussed this weekend.

Look out US taxpayers, here comes the ACA

Conclusion: the ACA exchanges are going to be one more example of government IT projects than run horribly over-budget and deliver (at best) a barely-working unmaintainable system. It’s great news for IT contractors and for large project-managing firms like EDS, Lockheed-Martin etc., but the taxpayers are really going to get it in the shorts.

And Hopper does know his onions on this.

I’m actually sitting here wondering how bad a car crash these state insurance exchanges are going to be. Could they actually be as bad as the NHS IT system?

In fact, I’m wondering whether they will actually work at all. Anyo9ne know o want to make a prediction?

Perhaps they shouldn’t but they’ve every right to

Crispin Blunt, the Conservative MP for Reigate, has been told to reapply for his parliamentary seat amid claims that local Tories want to oust him because he came out as a homosexual after the last election.

It’s not a bigotry I share, the one against Teh Gayers. I wouldn’t vote for or against someone for which flavour of consenting adult they liked to play hide the salami with (nor vote for a Tory, obviously).

However, the people in that constituency have every right to vote for whoever the damn want and for any reason that crosses their synapses, assuming a local Tory party has a cumulatively positive number of those of course. Because this is what democracy means: the peeps get to have their say.

They can vote for or against someone because they are or are not a shirtlifter, black/white, commie, fascist or even, if they’re truly lunatic, One Nation Labour.

Democracy does not get limited to either people one approves of nor to votes being cast only for reasons one approves of. This is rather the point of it actually, to find out what it is that the people, rather than the rulers, do in fact approve of or not. And if it turns out that the voters are indeed bigots then sorry, but you don’t get to go elect another people.

How not to answer the question

Are prices in the UK higher than elsewhere?

Energy prices are rising faster in the UK than in any other country in the EU, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The OECD report found UK energy prices are 2.2% higher than last year. The rate of energy price inflation is four times the increase in Germany, while prices actually fell in France, Belgium, Denmark and Spain.

That wasn’t actually the question was it? They were asking about the level of prices, not the rate of change. And the UK is resolutely mid-table on the level of prices.

Lying bastards, eh?

Why rural broadband is late

The plans are already two years late, with taxpayers footing a greater proportion of the bill, the National Audit Office said in July. The worst-affected areas included Merseyside, Oxfordshire and Derbyshire, which were among those councils that are yet to sign a contract with BT.

Well, yes, it does tend to work that way. Don’t sign a contract to get something done then the something doesn’t get done.