John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Friday, September 30, 2005
  Iraq, Northern Ireland and Birmingham
One of the reasons why the British Armed forces have not been as disastrous as the US Forces in Iraq is their experience in Northern Ireland.

That is not to say that in any way they should stay in Iraq, but it is worth looking at conflict in Northern Ireland and gang warfare in Birmingham and using those experiences try to understand what is happening in Iraq.

I have uploaded some of the pictures I took of murals in Northern Ireland (not all of which are paramilitary murals) to flickr.

These are just two:
mural1mural3
One is from the IRA, the other is from the UVF.

The first thing to understand about these conflicts is that they are strongly driven by emotions. The second thing is that sub-groups amongst each group also conflict with each other.

This story about the conflict between the UDA and UVF tells something about conflict within the protestant groups.

The main thing to understand is that there is an emotional drive to revenge that frequently goes far beyond a deterrent form of action.

Within Birmingham there are a number of gangs, happily not as influential as the paramilitary groups, but also armed to some extent. They do not have the same level of support in the communities in which they live that the groups in Northern Ireland have.

There is, however, still the same desire for revenge. In Birmingham if there has been a shooting then the gang members of the same gang that has been shot then have a desire to retaliate. Our challenge in Birmingham, which with the sterling efforts of Operation Ventara (a police gangs initiative) is to get the gangs to accept that the police should be allowed to take enforcement action against people who have shot their gang members.

This was the real challenge when the girls were shot in Aston in early 2003. It was a challenge to get the enforcement to operate through a judicial and investigative process rather an a tit-for-tat retaliation.

Now the issue in Iraq is to understand that really what is happening is a translation of Northern Ireland into Arabic. A big difference is neither side really want the occupation and many Iraqis resent the way in which the occupying forces are snaffling oil money. Obviously the conflict is far far more violent, but the factional nature of the conflict is similar. There is also the additional factor of more factions.

The same form of emotional resentment is building up. The new bombings are in a sense part of a sectarian battle that has gone on for centuries.

In the 1800s strife between the Muwahhiddun (also known as Wahabis) and Shi'a developed and in many ways we have that form of conflict today in Iraq.

The balancing point is that at which the Shi'a who are suffering many of these deaths switch into wanting the occupation to end so that they can act to protect themselves.

There are often two ways forward which can occur to take conflict forward. One is conflict resolution where matters are resolved on a step by step basis and issues are resolved through negotiation. The other is a mixture of increasing the balance of terror and the consequent ethnic cleansing that occurs as people move out of mixed areas into those in which they feel safe.

My fear about Iraq is that now so much damage has been done by the occupying forces that the balance of terror option is one which there is an emotional demand for amongst the patriarchs.

It is important always to remember that people may rationally want peace, but this can be trumped by an emotional desire for revenge. In what are essentially feudal societies this is something that can last for generations (and in Iraq has to some great extent already done so).

This times report includes the phrase “He had no obvious enemies, but he was a Shia from the Amiri tribe, and that was reason enough for him to be attacked.”

Sadly the same article uses the phrase "turf war".

In the mean time the ground troops particularly from the US forces will continue to increase the political temperature of ethnic conflict. This also spills over into the rest of the world.

What the US should try to understand, but I am sure that they won't is that they cannot make things any better by keeping ground forces in Iraq.
 
  Oil Exporter Switches to Import
This story about the reduction in fuel subsidies in Indonesia (they take a third of the government budget) shows how short term governments can be about such issues.

There are two big issues with Nuclear Energy. One is the issue of handling waste. The other is a global shortage of Uranium 235

You can forget fusion and the so-called hydrogen economy.

The Nuclear Energy Agency produce a "red book". The Red Book is something they charge for, but the link gives a summary.

In this instance it refers to locations where uranium is already being mined.

This article in The Independent is a bit of an odd one. It has Exxon claiming 3,000,000,000,000 barrells of oil still to be recovered. Even the USGS only claim that the total global endowment is 3tn bbl and they accept it could be as low as under 2tn bbl.

The problem is, however, that without going back to the source of the quotes it is difficult to be clear as to what they are saying.

On Gas there is better news for UK consumers notwithstanding that this winter could see shortages - the question there is how much electricity generation can be taken out of the loop before impacting on electricity supplies.

In 2007 a new Norwegian gas field comes on line (~20m m3 d-1) and in 2008 the new Liquid Natural Gas terminal at Milton Haven (~33m m3 d-1) come on line.

I don't have a sufficiently original source of information to check how much of the Norwegian field will be available for the UK - remembering Ramco's experience it may not be as big as expected. The Welsh plant, of course, will be available for the UK - but has to come from somewhere.

The probabilities are, therefore, that we may encounter gas shortages in 2005 and 2006, but then be OK until 2010. The cost, of course, is another issue.

The point about this is that it gives time during which to improve energy efficiency.
 
Thursday, September 29, 2005
  Ofcom delay on Silent Calls
What really surprises me about Silent Calls is how little media attention the issue gets.

Hundreds of thousands of people complain about Silent Calls. The issue, however, hardly ever pops above a low level response. When it appears in the media they get a massive response.

I am not quite sure why that is. It may be that the issue is slightly more complex. The reality is that in the USA they have been banned (this does not involve banning predictive diallers). In the UK Ofcom could ban them.

The reason why those people who do Silent Calls don't want to put out a message is that then people would know who is causing the nuisance. This would enable the whole issue to be sorted out quite quickly.

I had a meeting (organised by the magazine CCF) in July where Ofcom attended and promised action by October. They have now delayed to November.

The basic problem here is that it is Ofcom's job to control nuisance. That means coming down like a ton of bricks on offenders. This is not something they have been doing effectively although there have been two investigations.

The irony of it, of course, is that the government do silent calls as well. Many of them are caused by incompetance and a lack of training as people misuse predictive diallers.

The magnitude of this problem is amazing. When I speak to public meetings I find something like a third of people are concerned about them. This goes across the whole of the social spectrum.

I had thought Ofcom were getting on with the job, but now they are saying they are delaying further that does cause some concerns. I will be writing to Alan Johnson about it. The government have done one of their usual meaninless actions to seem to be doing something about the issue by increasing a fine that is never levied. They really need to get the big boots out and kick Ofcom.
 
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
  Highlights from the World Toilet Summit in Belfast
The previous summit was in Beijing and most have been held in the Far East. Although Singapore has always taken such issues seriously even in Hong Kong there was a lot of sniggering about toilets until 2003 when SARS came along.

When people started dying as a result of an absence of hygiene then public sanitation was taken more seriously.

There are lots of opportunities for scatalogical humour, but what is important is that people take the underlying issues seriously even if people laugh about the issue to start out with.

MRSA is an anti-biotic resistant bacteria. There are two reasons why we are developing bacteria that are anti-biotic resistant. One is the overprescription of anti-biotics - such as for viral infections and the second is the reliance on cure rather than prevention. MRSA kills people. One way of preventing MRSA is better hygiene. Public Sanitation was one of the most important steps to be taken to reduce deaths from infection. It remains that about half of the children that die in the developing world die as a result in part of bad sanitation. Boring, but true. If we want to Make Poverty History we need to prevent problems rather than cure them.

If (and it is a reasonably big if) something like Bird Flu mutates into something which can be carried from human to human then suddenly there will be a big shift into concern about hygiene in the UK.

Before we go onto the fun of the photos of the highlights of the WTS it is worth remembering that many people have to plan their lives on the basis of toilet facilities. We are gradually getting a more squalid and unhygienic public environment with the consequential damage to public health. The survey that the BTA and I have been doing has found in the initial analysis a reduction of about 20% in the number of public toilets available. Only 24% of authorities have been analysed as yet.

Those photos. I am sure you want to see the photos. So here they are:

The WorldSeat
One change for greater hygiene is toilet seats which have their own coverings. This, of course, is not as good as disinfectant in the bowl, but superfically it looks nicer.

Alternatively the seat can be cleaned there and then. Still not as effective as disinfectant.

The Family Seat is a practical solution to the ultimate nightmare of many toddlers.

India takes on allcomers with this public toilet complex.

In the UK we have a bigger problem with vandalism, but that can be designed out as this life size model shows. I only wish the toilets on Virgin trains could be sorted out.

This is yours truly revealing the results of the most recent survey. Interestingly the Audit Commission in 1999/2000 decided public toilets weren't important enough to count them so stopped keeping records.

And here's the Lord Mayor of Belfast with the prize for "loo of the year".

To be fair to the British Toilet Association (which organised this summit which was platinum sponsored by Initial) their awards for good toilets are a good way of encouraging people to improve standards.

I do have some more pictures from the exhibition although the lighting in the conference itself was not good enough to take good pictures most of the time.

I have also collected some paramilitary mural pictures which I will upload when I get the time.

As well as there being something like 40 nations represented we had a government minister from Malaysia and the Mayor of Singapore. The next WTS is in Moscow.
 
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
  6,000 children a day die in poor countries from poor sanitation
6,000 children a day die in the developing world from diarrhoeal diseases according to the charity WaterAid.

These could be essentially prevented through better sanitation. Governmental priorities, however, tend to ignore these basic solutions to basic problems.


These two somewhat unusually attired ladies have come to the World Toilet Summit in Belfast to highlight this issue which is not given the attention it needs. Funding is provided, but that funding is not being concentrated on the basic requirements such as better sanitation.
 
Monday, September 26, 2005
  The next flight home
I have written a letter to the Sunday Times following Michael Portillo's article today arguing we need to continue to occupy Iraq.
Michael Portillo's thesis on the continuation of the occupation of Iraq fails to consider perhaps the key issue of the dispute. Iraq is a segmented society. The primary patterns of loyalty are to the tribe and extended family. If a member of the tribe dies as a result of the occupation (and in his article perhaps 100,000 people have died for that reason), then their cousin-brothers are duty bound to obtain vengeance against the occupiers.

The longer the occupation lasts the more resentment it generates. This resentment spreads around the world. Al Qa'ida and Al-Sadr's forces both find the occupation as their main recruiting sargeant depending upon the sect that the new recruit supports. The recent events in al-Basrah are not signs of infiltration into the Iraqi security services, but instead the Iraqi security services turning against the occupiers.

British forces should return on the next sensible flight home.


There is always a balance in writing documents in terms of legalistic as opposed to simple language.

The "next flight home" is a good phrase, but obviously you would not actually take the next flight, but organise a withdrawal. The point about this is that we need to bring our boys back ASAP.

(I have linked to Juan Cole's well argued article.)
 
Sunday, September 25, 2005
  Jumping Jack Flash
I was born in a cross-fire hurricane
And I howled at my ma in the driving rain,
But it's all right now, in fact, it's a gas!
But it's all right. I'm Jumpin' Jack Flash,
It's a Gas! Gas! Gas!


The developing energy crisis makes me think of these lyrics. Although clearly these lyrics were not written to predict from 1968 what would happen in 2005, it is clear that the problems in terms of supply caused by Katrina and Rita are a precursor of difficulties with Gas supply.

The UK has a special problem with Gas because of the "dash for gas". That was the reason why the UK's carbon emissions went down without any action from government - then again the government tend not to act.

Remember the figures we have 600 bcm of reserves and use 100bcm a year.

There is gas elsewhere in the world, but it will be difficult to get and also cost a lot more.

I know a week is a long time in politics, but really we should work on longer timescales.
 
Saturday, September 24, 2005
  2-2 and Pebble Mill
Pebble Mill being Milled
This is the current status of the demolition of Pebble Mill. The BBC have moved into "the Mailbox" which is really quite a nice location for the BBC to work from as it looks over onto the Gas Street canal network. Gas Street is the location where my father pushed too hard on the tiller (which broke) and fell into the cut from a narrowboat in the 1970s.

2-2 is the result of the Birmingham City - Liverpool game. I went to meet up with the directors to work with them on the issue of having a regional casino linked with a new stadium. The whole issue is a number of years down the track, but I believe that there is an opportunity of a new stadium. I am not a great fan of increasing the amount of GDP involved in casinos, but if that is happening then we should aim to get the best possible deal for the city.
 
Friday, September 23, 2005
  Kennedy attacks his detractors
"Defiant Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy condemned the critics gunning for his job yesterday - with remarks which appeared to be aimed squarely at Birmingham MP John Hemming."

There is a report that Kennedy's Aides have indicated that I have no experience.

The question is experience of what.

I suppose I only have 22 years experience of running things including having taken part in running the largest local authority in the country as well as a number of commercial enterprises.

Admittedly although I fought the 1983 election, I was not elected then unlike Charles Kennedy, but I feel that if people are trying to say I don't have experience then that is not based in fact.
 
Thursday, September 22, 2005
  Missing Cables
Rushing up to Blackpool I put my PA in my car. (That can be done (just) in three trips with the TN-7000 Accompanier, Mixer/Amp, 2 1kW speakers, 3 Mikes and various cables).

The plan was to use the PA at the Glee Club. Sadly at 10.30pm last night I found that I was missing the cables between the Amp and the armstretching speakers.

Still the hotel (The Imperial) provided a PA. This enabled Russell and I to share out the accompaniment to the glee club. The normal pianist is sadly rather unwell so we tend to have to stand in. I have done the accompaniment at the Southport and Harrogate Spring Conferences. It is a bit of a challenge as that is the only time I practise the particular numbers as I tend to play jazz - and have less time for practising out of the ordinary things now. We had a hired piano which was far too quiet for the room - it needed miking up. The length of the cables prevented more than one mike being used (plus a radio mike).

Still it was an excellent Glee Club with about 300 people in the choir. Having finished loading my car at 2.30am I then had to drive at 8.15am to Birmingham for the eternal Malicious Falsehood action between Tony Kennedy and Martin Mullaney. This is finally heading for court in about 8 weeks+.

The judge was tiring of this a bit as it is getting into a very complicated case on what can only at the most involve £5,000. The judge expressed the view that the complexities would normally relate to a case involving about £100K.

Quite a few media outlets are interested in the idea that I would be quite happy to lead the party. I have explained that when Charles Kennedy retires he is likely to hand over to "a younger man". I am actually younger than him. (expressions of shock all around). I am expecting Charles to lead us at least through the next General Election.

This evening I took part in welcoming a new vicar to All Saints in Stechford. He looks as if he will help a lot in that area. Bishop John Sentamu presided and gave an excellent Sermon. It is sad to be losing him to York. Our loss is their gain.
 
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
  Election Geeks lose out
Surprisingly the conference supported the proposed change to effectively reduce the number of candidates in future leadership elections. I don't agree with the argument that we should reduce the number to fit comfortably into the Newsnight studios. However, the decision was made based upon that argument.

It is rumoured that an MP can sign more than one nomination paper. Therefore a proper election giving the members a proper choice can still occur. Candidates should be able to get the 200 members' signatures themselves.
 
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
  "Orange Book" express train derailed
I was quite pleased that the Lib Dem Conference today derailed the "Orange Book" juggernaut.

It quite winds me up that people put forward motions that clearly do not stack up. I am someone who is involved in the private sector, has been a director of a publicly listed company, still has declarable interests in at least one company.

However, the party heirarchy decides that creating a private monopoly is a good idea and argues that the advisors who have not actually ever done any of these things have a better idea of how things work.

The party conference, however, decided that it needed a proper rethink.

This is the second rebellion against the leadership of this conference. I think there is a fair chance there will be a third on the proposed constitutional change tomorrow.

There is no sense turning the Lib Dems into a third Conservative Party.
 
Monday, September 19, 2005
  Charles Kennedy
A lot of the media have been asking questions about Charles Kennedy. I have always taken the view that the party should be about more than one person.

I explained to the journalists that although I would quite like to be leader of the party (although I am also quite happy to remain a backbencher), I would like Charles Kennedy to remain leader for a while. After all I have only been an MP for about 5 1/2 seconds and it would be far too soon to fight a leadership campaign.

There is a rather silly amendment coming to the conference on Wednesday that means any candidate for leadership has to have the support of 10% of the parliamentary party. Last time there were 5 candidates. With preferential voting this is really unfair as it moves the decision as to who is leader from the membership of party into the MPs - much like the tories really.

For the situation of the last time to reoccur 50% of the parliamentary party would have to have nominated someone.
 
Sunday, September 18, 2005
  Sunny Blackpool
Actually not Sunny Blackpool. It is relatively dreary here. The seaside resorts are used for party political conferences as they can swallow up a relatively large number of people in what would otherwise be relatively cheap empty hotels.

The conferences are just after the summer season. There tends also to be quite a bit mediafest.

It appears that my amendment on the Royal Mail was a bit too hot for the Conference Committee. I still believe, however, that the proposed approach is not the best way forward.
 
Saturday, September 17, 2005
  Guilty until proven innocent
I have been dealing with a complex matter relating to Social Care recently. It is quite interesting to compare this to the Sally Clark/Trupti Patel cases.

It seems to be that when a child or baby dies or suffers there is a developing principle that the parents are guilty unless they can prove that they are innocent. Most parents, of course, cannot actually prove that they are innocent as this is relatively difficult. They end up, therefore, being punished by a rather abusive and arrogant system.

I am hoping to review the general points with one of the solicitors who worked on the Sally Clark case.
 
Thursday, September 15, 2005
  Community meetings
This has been a busy week for meetings in local communities. There were 70 people at the meeting about The Sheldon Pub in Sheldon. Then we had three meetings the "police surgery" and Elms Farm Residents Association tonight plus Sheldon Residents.

It is nice to see reasonable turnouts at public meetings. This is nothing like the turnouts we get in the inner cities though where you have potentially 500-1000 people at a meeting.

It was rather sad that the "duck loving" Inspector Kay Wallace was moving on, but her replacement Nick Welton seems a good person to run the Sheldon Police Station.
 
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
  More jobs for export
I am worried about reports that British Gas may be exporting about 2,000 local jobs. The problem is that if we export industrial jobs and then export service sector jobs then we continue to undermine our long term stability.

An interesting point was also made about Star City at the Council meeting last night. Many of the jobs there are not people from the inner cities, but instead people from Poland.

My biggest concern with all of these things is the rapidity of change and the likelihood of an overshoot. British Gas really should not call themselves British Gas if they have so little commitment to the British economy.

In the mean time I have been quite pleased at how receptive the media have been to the issues of gas depletion. The following letter has been written to Malcolm Wicks:
Re: UK Gas & Electricity Supply Winter 2005/06

I am concerned about UK provisions to ensure energy security through the coming winter period. I fear gas and by association electricity supplies could be insufficient to meet demand.

The UK reliance on natural gas for over 40% of total energy and approximately 38% of electricity generation leaves the UK extremely vulnerable to our declining indigenous natural gas extraction rate. As you are aware this extraction rate peaked in 2000 and has fallen as shown:

Total gas production in million cubic metres (1)
2000 114,557 mcm
2001 112,567 mcm -1.7%
2002 109,816 mcm -2.4%
2003 108,088 mcm -1.6%
2004 100,966 mcm -6.6%


My concern stems from studying Ofgem publications (2) where the following was presented:

§ The winter of 2004/05 was warm, the 6th warmest in the last 77 years, the highest daily demand for gas was down 5.6% on the year before and 7% down on the record reached in during the winter of 2002/03.
§ Despite demand being lower than the previous two years the incidence of supply interruption to customers rose more than 4-fold from the year before. 88% of this shipper interruption was to electricity generating Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGTs), the rest to other industrial customers.
§ During the winter on-the-day gas prices peaked at £1.70/therm, significantly higher than the usual £0.30/therm however this price spike was not met with increased beach deliveries from gas fields or even with increased flow through the interconector since prices were also high on the continent.

The lack of beach deliveries is most concerning. During winter 2004/05 this peaked at 331 million cubic meters per day whereas winter 2003/04 peaked at 338 mcm/d. This reduced flow was not previously expected and the lack of response to the extremely high prices suggests increased flow was impossible. Ofgem are predicting a maximum availability of beach gas for 2005/06 of 351 mcm/d, an increase on the two previous years.

This prediction seems irresponsible in light of limited deliveries last year and depletion rapidly reducing supply. Ofgem are expecting peak daily flow rates to be 6% higher than last year at a time when annual production is falling.

Gas demand could be as much as 10% higher than last year (7% higher due to similar temperatures as winter 2002/03 and another 3% due to three years growth). I don’t see how this level of demand can be met whilst beach gas flows are declining.

Can you explain how if required, a significantly increased gas demand from last year can be met this year in light of likely reduced beach deliveries?

Can you also explain the mechanism through which natural gas will be rationed in the case of a shortage? Last year CCGT’s accounted to for the majority of demand destruction thus limiting electricity generation capacity is there another way to reduce natural gas consumption without significantly compromising electricity generation?

And lastly I understand that despite our acute gas shortage during the later months of winter 2004/05 the interconector was unable to import at full capacity. Why was this and can we expect more gas this year through the interconector is faced with a similar or greater level of shipper interruption during winter 2005/06?

1 DTI Oil and Gas Statisticshttp://www.og.dti.gov.uk/information/statistics.htm

2 National Grid Transco: A Consultation on Winter 2005/06http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/temp/ofgem/cache/cmsattach/11584_14405b.pdf
 
Sunday, September 11, 2005
  Club of Rome / Matthew Simmons
Matthew Simmons has done a review of the Club of Rome's book "Limits to Growth".

This takes me back to the debates of the 1970s about light and deep greens. As a light green I believed then that it is possible to have economic growth without a growth in the consumption of energy and resources.

I continue to believe that and can cite evidence. However, I have continued to take the view that we should focus on improving quality of life rather than increasing the consumption of resources.

The review is worth reading (see link).
 
  The Times notes effects of Gas Depletion
I cannot find the article online, but yesterday's Times included a section noting that we may fact gas shortages this winter.

Chris Vernon's VitalTrivia.co.uk site has much of the background information. He is ably assisting me to challenge the government on their (lack of) energy strategy.

The nub of the issue is that the UK has resources of about 600 bcm (billion cubic metres) and consumes about 100 bcm pa. The UK consumes a lot more gas than other comparable countries as we use it to generate electricity (the "dash for gas").

You cannot "trust the market" when it comes to resource planning. The market has a short time planning cycle and there is a need to plan in the long term.

The government should not abdicate responsibility for this.

Colin Channen's DTQ system is one mechanism for handling resource constraints and not an unreasonable market based type of system.

That light at the end of the tunnel really is a train.
 
Saturday, September 10, 2005
  Identity Fraud
A relatively clever identity fraud was found today. Someone re-registered someone else's electoral roll entry from Yardley to Sparkbrook. Then they applied for 3 credit cards. As far as I can tell no money was charged to the cards and the police have been involved.

The response of the police appears to be that they are not sure what offence has been created. I would think myself that it is a form of fraud in that credit has been obtained. However, it would be interesting if there is a loophole here that means that unless someone actually spends money on the cards there is no offence.

A good candidate for a written parliamentary question.
 
Friday, September 09, 2005
  Opeth
Having made the promise that my 15 year old daughter could see Opeth in London (with a friend based in London) whilst not remembering the scheduled date was during the school term, yesterday was planned around having to get her back in time for school.

This involved seeing the House of Commons Car Park for the first time and sorting out the associated bureaucracy of that.

It did mean time to interview potential interns for the future and more time on getting more and more elements of the Treasury Model. I did suggest to the Treasury that I popped in to show them which software I needed, but they were not that enthusiastic about this. The Oxford Economic Forecasting group are also being very helpful.

Still as an ex-Heavy Metal Drummer it was reminiscent of gigs in The Odeon, New Street by bands such as Hawkwind - a band which I still think has qualities missing from much of today's metal. I didn't hear the gig myself although I waited for about 800 Metal fans to emanate from the Astoria before my daughter and her friend.

She did, however, get to school today on time.
 
Thursday, September 08, 2005
  Treasury Assumptions
I have now managed to hack into the Treasury Model programs and get the two key programs to work.

The programs are not, however, the whole story. There are also a list of assumptions for external (exogenous) variables and the residual values. The Treasury generate these to produce the budget predictions.

They have never provided these to anyone previously, but I have made a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act for that data. It will be an interesting point of law as to whether or not under S35 that information is exempt.

The programs are relatively complex so it does not surprise me that very few people (OEF and the Item Club only otherwise) actually run the program other than those in the treasury. The program is written in Fortran which is a relatively rare language these days. I last programmed in it in 1978.
 
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
  The failure of government
It could be seen as a symptom of moving more things into the private domain that the public squalor that can come with private affluence also appears as an inability to react in circumstances where only government can sensibly react.

The US Government's failure to react to Katrina in part relates to the expectation that the State would handle it, but in part it appears that they did not think it was their responsibility at all.

The UK Government does not appear to be handling these things well either.

There is also a problem in that when there is not "a plan" then governments have a big problem. The delays after the Tsunami when action was needed on the ground were actually worse than the delays in New Orleans and environs. Admittedly they were international delays when one would always expect that to some extent.

It is also interesting how government is almost incapable of cooperating with the new medias. Ideally the Foreign Office would work with weblogs and online databases to make life easier for people. This, however, does not seem to be possible.

Government in the UK has spent some time making things more complicated and difficult. This is an area that needs to change.
 
  Treasury Economic Model
My research team has been rummaging around the Treasury Economic Model. It is an interesting model based upon some Fortran routines which look at about 600 variables based upon quarterly calculations.

Variables I am particularly interested in are

Alan Greenspan did say that pure economic theory ignores the price of oil (and availability). It is nice to see that the Treasury does not.

I haven't as yet got the right instructions on how to run the model although I have also got another model from someone else, but I will give it a few runthroughs on the basis of certain reasonable assumptions once I have.
 
Monday, September 05, 2005
  Kitchens Direct and Silent Calls
The linked story from 2004 shows how big the Silent Calls problem tends to be Kitchens Direct may have reduced the number of Silent Calls (and started using CLI), but that does not remove the concerns.

They were doing millions of Silent Calls. This, of course, is partially a symptom of the reduction in the cost of telecommunications which also affects international cold calling.

I have just written to Kitchens Direct to ask them to consider providing an informational message to prevent the silence.
 
Sunday, September 04, 2005
  American Pie
The only time I had heard the word "Levee" was in the lyrics of the song "American Pie" for which the link gives a good explanation.

As the issues unravel in Mississippi it raises a large number of issues for the USA and the world.

Firstly, it is clear that Bush was more interested in 3,000 generally rich people dying in New York than over 10,000 relatively poor people drowning in Mississipi.

Secondly, what the US is sowing in terms of carbon emissions it has now reaped in terms of a climatic weather disaster (much that Bangladesh has already had this).

Thirdly, if the US had spent a proportion of the funds it has spent in Iraq and on the "War on Terror" on building up the Levees then the big disaster would not have happened. It was clearly predicted.

Fourthly, and this story is a good basis for this in the USA and probably other countries there are substantial problems with a low social capital, corrupt environment being generated in some urban areas. This is ignored by those in power because it does not affect them. We have had some of this in the UK and it is syptomatic in the developing gang based revenge attacks. I have some interesting evidence of corruption which will go to court later this year, but many people ignore these issues as "too difficult".

Fifthly, the oil supply consumption balance is so constrained that there is no leeway at all for any disruption - much that this disruption is quite substantial.

Sixthly, the US Government is not really that good at organising anything whether in Iraq or the US.

The evidence internationally is very very clear, countries which are corrupt are poor - to some extent even if they have massive natural resources. It is the issues of following the rule of law and giving security to inviduals that generate secure and just societies that can then develop economic security.

This applies to poorer areas of the western nations just as much as it applies to countries that are run by gangster politicians.

Clearly the challenges we face in the future with resource constraints, greater polarisation and headless chickens as political leaders include also greater pressures from the natural environment.
 
Saturday, September 03, 2005
  World Service
I spoke to some trainee journalists from the World Service on Friday Night. They have an interesting opportunity to learn about the varied cultures in the world at some depth.

The World Service is a very cost effective way of promoting a positive view of Britain about which so much damage has been done by the government in recent years.

With all the rows about Al Jazeera it is interesting to note how Al Jazeera has in some ways developed from the World Service.
 
Thursday, September 01, 2005
  Wolf !

Yes it really is a wolf. It is relatively difficult to find a toy wolf.

It does, however, illustrate the key conclusion of the story about the boy that called 'wolf'. At the end there was a wolf.

It has been clear for some time that the supply of fossil fuels will peak. The real question is why the UK government does not provide its calculations. The UK relies on the IEA which relies on the USGS. The USGS has produced figures which are produced with all the possible optimistic methodologies. The USGS estimates 1,000 bn barrells of oil greater than most other people.

Still it is quite a nice wolf.

We also have the issue of the government changing their real strategy to one which is based upon the UK national debt being relatively low so we might as well pile on the pounds.
 
  ASPO newsletter 57 released
The link is to an article quoted in Newsletter 57 of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (and Gas)

The point is that in many countries fuel has been subsidised (ie not taxed, but subsidised) and the subsidies are being withdrawn - unsurprisingly.
From the article linked the following examples are cited:
 
  New Orleans - should they go back
One of the biggest questions to face the "Big Easy" is whether they should try to rebuild the city where it was.

New Orleans is below water level and protected by the levees (dams). With clear evidence that weather is more volatile there has to be a judgement as to when next it will flood.

If they are going to abandon the city for months the big question is whether it would be more efficient to build a "New New orleans" elsewhere (above sea level).

There always is a question as to how much man should fight nature. On the flood plains of the UK it is clear we should not be trying to beat the waters. Instead we should simply not build on the flood plains. On the East of the country the cliffs are being eternally worn away. We have to a great extent to live with that because if we protect one area of cliff another one wears away.

Worsening weather and greater scarcity of hydrocarbons are two issues nothing can be done about in the short term. Even if we stopped burning fossil fuels immediately the climate would continue to change.

The challenge for the US is to decide whether to build a new big easy or not.#
 

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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