Monday, 27 February 2006

Red Clydeside

When I was on my way from Central to Queen Street station on Saturday, I spotted a stall with a couple of red flags flying from it. The Scottish Socialists, I thought. But no. These guys were the originals: the Communist Party. I noted that they had grasped some of the principles of capitalism. After all, if you’re trying to sell political material, it’s better to be outside Borders instead of Next.

I courteously waited for their customer to leave and then barged in with my spiel:

“So are you proud of the fact that your lot murdered 80 million of our fellow human beings?”


”Surely you know about that?” is my response.

"Well, maybe it didn't all go quite right all of the time, but what about capitalism then? How many have been killed by capitalism? Got you there!"

"Please explain the exact process by which capitalistic acts between consenting adults can lead to murder?" I reply.

Stunned silence, but then one of them manages to come out with this masterpiece of Marxist repartee:

"The Private Finance Initiative!"

My turn to be silenced. How does one respond to that without laughing? Then I am informed that no one has been murdered by the commies since the demise of Comrade Trotsky.

"But that was over 60 years ago," I point out. "What about the 1940s, the 50s, the 60s and so on?"

"Where?" they reply.

"Russia, China, Korea, Cambodia, Cuba..." I go on.

"Ah, but it wasn't real communism in China, was it?"

It never is with these people.

At this point I become aware of a strange trembling sensation in my left leg. Perhaps I am getting the Trotsky ice-axe treatment? But no, fortunately it's my new mobile phone, vibrating, glowing and chiming in the pocket of my distinctly bourgeois Barbour jacket. Mrs F & W is calling to tell me that a fight has broken out in the car park near our flat over in Edinburgh. Well, Hearts had just beaten Partick Thistle and Scotland were getting ready to send England homewards to think again, so I'm not too surprised by this news. Maybe some of the fans had become confused through drink and she was witnessing a historically unique Partick v England event.

Meanwhile, back in Glasgow, the Comrades had become downhearted. One of them claimed to have read the Black Book of Communism, but when I challenged him on this he turned quite sheepish for he was unable to tell me whether the book had "around 200 pages" or "around 1,000 pages". That damned capitalist logic. So unfair, isn't it? The demoralised duo started to pack up their wares and didn't seem too happy when I suggested continuing the discussion on my next visit to Red Clydeside.

Understatement of the week

As quoted in Scotland on Sunday:
Dubai has been very clever in developing iconic tourism projects such as the seven-star Burj-al-Arab hotel and the world islands project, Lennon added. "It has been successful because a lot of people don't realise that it is geographically quite close to a number of danger zones."

Sunday, 26 February 2006

Saturday in Glasgow

Just like last year, (scroll down if necessary), sexism is still rampant in Glasgow. At the SECC yesterday all the boys (aged 5 to 105) were attending the Model Rail Scotland exhibition and the girls were in the next hall at the Scottish Wedding Show. These sexual stereotypes just don't go away, do they?

Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't we invite Larry Summers, the deposed President of Harvard University, to move to Glasgow? Like Mr Summers, we Scots understand that people are different under the kilt.

(UPDATE: Isn't this just perfect? The Scottish Baby Show is to be held at the SECC exactly one week after the Wedding Show! Fast workers, those Weegies.)

Just saying "No"

I don't usually buy The Herald and rarely quote it because of the paper's stone-age linking system. I did get a copy yesterday - it's probably safer reading material than the Scotsman when one is in a Glasgow pub with Hearts beating Partick Thistle on the TV.

This was in yesterday's Herald:

Postbag Poll

The balance of opinion among this week's Herald letter writers

The government's plans to introduce identity cards for British citizens must be opposed.

100% said Yes

0% said No

Seems fair enough to me.

My other blog

Scottish Clouds looks like this:

F&W's profile

From these guys and now all over the blogosphere:

Tuesday, 21 February 2006

New photos

I've posted some more photos over on Scottish Clouds.

They were taken in southwest Scotland, mainly at the Isle of Whithorn.

Isle of Whithorn Church
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Monday, 20 February 2006

Should I be a Lib Dem speechwriter?

An interesting story in the Sunday Times:
Has Gordon Brown’s mood lightened since his little setback in Dunfermline and West Fife, where he happens to live? Sadly no. The chancellor failed to see the funny side of things when Malcolm Bruce, the Scottish Lib Dem president, bumped into him in the Commons and suggested introducing him to his MP, Willie Rennie. “He didn’t seem too keen and just rushed off without a word,” said Rennie.
I can just imagine Mr Rennie's words:
Pleased to meet you Mr Brown. I understand that you work round here somewhere. Now, if you have any problems you'd like to discuss with your new MP, you're welcome to attend my constituency surgery. Perhaps you've got career worries, concerns about your pension or maybe a troublesome neighbour who could do with an ASBO order?

Does anyone trust these people?

In particular, do the Liberal Democrats?
SCOTTISH Labour is poised to commit a serious U-turn by making identity cards compulsory to register with a GP, pick up prescriptions or claim travel concessions.

Despite assurances from Jack McConnell that the cards will not be required for devolved services, many Labour MSPs are now backing the scheme.

A change in policy would heighten tension between Labour and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, who are implacably opposed to ID cards.


Oh, yes: like they'll give up their ministerial cars on principle. Switching into Machiavellian mode, perhaps the post-Dunfermline Labour party wants to antagonise the Lib Dems.

(Needless to say, any signs of real liberalism in Scotland will be ruthlessly purged.)

Drive Carefully

Drive Carefully
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.
Too late for Mary Jo Kopechne

Monday, 13 February 2006

Quote, unquote

I noticed this item over on Guido's blog a few days ago:
"to be controlled in our economic pursuits means to be controlled in everything."
Guido gives a hat tip for the Hayek "quote" to this site. And why do I put "quote" in quotation marks, you may ask. Because the "quote" isn't quite correct, and therein lies a story.

Around twenty-five years ago I decided to get a backup camera for my trusty Pentax KM SLR. I chose the Olympus XA, and what an excellent camera it was. Actually, I should say "is" - for it's still working fine, albeit without such modern innovations as autofocus or autowind, never mind digital.

At the time I was an accountant with an advertising agency in Knightsbridge. A few days after buying the XA one of the directors rushed into my office and asked if I had my camera with me. "Yes," I replied. "But I've only got black and white film." That was no problem and I was sent off by taxi to the headquarters of EMI who were one of our clients. The job was to take photographs of some visiting American executives while they were standing in front of the famous His Master's Voice painting. I was paid the sum of £60 and was well pleased with this outcome, as the camera had only cost around £100 the previous weekend. I made the decision to always have a camera with me.

About the same time, the Alternative Bookshop opened in Covent Garden under the management of my friend Chris Tame, founder of the Libertarian Alliance. Armed at all times with the XA, I became the official photographer at the shop's signing sessions including the one attended by Professor Hayek.

This was the outcome:

We decided to make the photo into a poster. A work colleague did some retouching that removed a bottle of wine from the dark area and chopped off the entire left hand side of the photo which was taken in landscape format, not portrait. Being in the advertising business I was able to get a supplier to make an A2 sized metallic block and print off the first batch of posters - it helped that I was the person who wrote the cheques - and all of this work was performed in exchange for a bottle of Scotch. This was well before the age of PCs. But of course we needed a Hayek quote to go on the poster.

Back then the Libertarian Alliance was a democracy instead of the benevolent monarchy into which it later evolved. (The full story of The Events of 1982 is complex, but clues can be found here.) The "Committee" searched through the great man's works and eventually came across the words: "To be controlled in our economic pursuits means to be", and then several lines later: "controlled in everything". We decided to go with that "quote" using the ellipsis to indicate the missing lines.

Like this:

"To be controlled in our economic pursuits means to be... controlled in everything." - Friedrich Hayek
Hayek was pleased with the choice and didn't mind the missing words in the least.

In the early 1990's my wife and I were pleasantly surprised to see the poster on the wall of Laissez Faire Books in their shop, which was then in San Francisco. Hopefully it's still on display at the IEA.

So, the lessons to be learned are:

(1) Don't believe everything you read on Google, and
(2) Always carry your camera.

Sunday, 12 February 2006

Now, they're getting it!

Up here in Scotland the BBC is concerned about possible bias:
Wark was subjected to long-term behind-the-scenes scrutiny by her own managers, a team of broadcast executives, who checked out her performance on air for anything which might give rise to accusations of bias.
Let's think about this. Is the Beeb concerned that Ms Wark could be a secret admirer of David Cameron? Was she seen campaigning for the LibDems in Dunfermline? Is she thought to be a closet Nat?

None of the above, I'm afraid:

Concerned corporation governors put Wark under "review" amid fears that her relationship with the First Minister, together with her closeness to former Labour leader Donald Dewar and her role in the Holyrood parliament building, could be damaging to the image of the BBC as an impartial broadcaster.
Labour! Who'd have thought it?

Saturday, 11 February 2006


The Scotsman gets the Tory and SNP logos mixed up:

Friday, 10 February 2006

So long, pension thief

Isn't politics exciting - even for an anarcho-capitalist like me?

Labour has been defeated right in Gordon Brown's own backyard. The changes in the parties' share of the total vote since last year are:

Labour: down 35.43%
Liberal Democrat: up 77.70%
SNP: up 10.92%
Conservative: down 24.30%
SSP: down 4.44%
UKIP: down 60.34%
What's especially heartening is to remember that Labour lost the religious hatred vote in the Commons because so many of its MPs were up campaigning in Dunfermline at the time.

And I wonder if the Tories now regret shafting the obvious local candidate.

Monday, 6 February 2006

Fellow blogger nominated

I note from the print edition of the Scotsman that Margo MacDonald MSP has nominated Arthur's Seat as one of the "Seven Wonders of Scotland".

Congratulations to Mr Seat!

Economic illiteracy alert

Or, where's Bastiat when we need him?

We are told that Labour boosts service jobs:

MORE than 3.3 million jobs have been created in service firms since Labour came to power in 1997, new research showed today.
Isn't it a surprise to learn that the GMB union seems to understand economics more than the business writers on the Evening News?
... the new jobs offset huge cutbacks in manufacturing and that just over half of the posts were full-time.
Yes, it's the "Seen and the Unseen" yet again.

Needless to say, many of those manufacturing jobs have gone because of the socialist policies of Za-NuLab, and even more would have gone had the GMB been more influential.

But the point remains: How on earth does anyone know how many of those new service sector jobs have anything at all to do with the policies of the government?

A "guru" campaigns

There's nothing wrong with campaigning on dietary matters. Like this:
THE TV health guru Gillian McKeith has launched a campaign to kill off a much-loved Scots delicacy.

The dietitian, who helped Pop Idol winner Michelle McManus to shed five stones, now has the famous Aberdeen rowie, or buttery, in her sights.

While visiting the area at the weekend, she said: "I'm here to banish the buttery. Aberdeen is in need of my help."

The problem arises when politicians get involved and try to impose their values on the populace instead of leaving things to the market. Let's hope that Ms McKeith sticks to persausion and doesn't resort to force.

Anyway, the Aberdeen diet can't be doing too much harm.

Sunday, 5 February 2006

Freedom, eventually

Rather surprisingly, the Scottish Parliament has decided that we own our own bodies.

Well, after death that is:

A new law to increase the number of organs available for transplant has been passed by MSPs.

But the Human Tissue (Scotland) Bill stopped short of "presumed consent, which would have required people to "opt out" of being an organ donor.

It's certainly no surprise to learn that the "Liberals" think that your body belongs to the state:
The move to presumed consent, proposed by Liberal Democrat MSP John Farquhar Munro and supported by the British Medical Association (BMA), was backed by several MSPs.
Needless to say, we still belong to the state while we're alive.

Wednesday, 1 February 2006

Dead tree media: some get it, some don't

There was a fascinating post over on the Normblog yesterday. Read the whole thing there. I was particularly interested in this from the editor of the Scotsman's web pages:
We receive a lot of traffic from blogs
Hopefully, I've done my little bit.

When I started blogging, I used to link to the Scotsman and its Glasgow rival in equal proportions. Now I don't because the Herald's links die after a day or so. It's so 2005. In fact, I hardly ever link to the Herald at all these days. I did mention this to a prominent Herald journalist recently and perhaps their new editor will get the message. I've had over 140,000 hits on this blog and I have little doubt that quite a few of my readers - especially the many from overseas - will now be regular readers of the Scotsman's web pages. Not so for the Herald.