Tuesday, 30 October 2007

In the City

I was about to take a photograph of the entrance to the Stock Exchange on Friday when a security guard popped out and said that wasn't allowed but that it was OK to take this one of the sign. All I could see beyond the glass door was a common-or-garden looking reception area.

If you don't like the City's strange secrecy there's always an alternative in Brick Lane:

Been Away

In London. At the Libertarian Alliance Conference.

Some photos are here

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Scottish and Newcastle - self made victims

I fully agree with those who think that the location of head offices has an important bearing on the prosperity of different parts of the country. Edinburgh is fortunate in hosting several large PLCs and it would be sad to see the departure of the Scottish & Newcastle HQ even though their brewing activities have disappeared from the city.

But this makes one despair:

SCOTTISH & Newcastle's claim that losing its independence could undermine the government's campaign against binge-drinking was dismissed as "irrelevant" by City analysts yesterday.
Good for the City analysts. Such a claim by S&N is straight out of Ayn Rand's concept of the Sanction of the Victim
The Sanction of the victim is defined as "the willingness of the good to suffer at the hands of the evil, to accept the role of sacrificial victim for the 'sin' of creating values."
Beer is a legitimate product that S&N should be proud of. On second thoughts, I'll not be weeping in my beer if they lose their independence. Brewers should have nothing to do with the government's nanny state policies. In a free society, the only proper role of governments with regard to drinking would be to police the streets properly and deal vigorously with drunks. That's it. "Binge-drinking", so-called, is none of the government's business if no violence is involved. One can't help wondering though whether state education and welfare policies might just have something to do with certain people's lack of control.

What we really need to worry about is binge-legislating...

Note to journalists

All concrete at airports isn't a "runway".

But they almost always think that it is:

The incident was the second aircraft collision this week at a UK airport. On Tuesday, passengers screamed in panic when a British Airways jumbo jet and a Sri Lankan airliner hit each other on a Heathrow runway.
The BBC story is similar:
An eye-witness, aboard the Sri Lankan airliner, claimed it hit the BA aircraft from behind while manoeuvring on the runway.
But the BBC's drawing shows the collision as taking place on the taxiway near to Runway 27 Right, but not on it. There would have to have been a complete breakdown in air traffic control procedures for both aircraft to be on the runway at the same time.

The next day's Times is slightly different:

Air accident investigators are studying the incident, in which the wingtips of a Sri Lankan Airlines Airbus A340 and a BA Boeing 747 clashed on a taxiway just short of the northern runway.
So now, as I expected, the collision didn't take place on a runway at all.

Now all this may seem to be a bit academic although the incident could have been far more serious had it actually taken place on a runway. The point is this: just how frequently are stories in the mainstream press quite different from how they are reported?

All too often I suspect.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

More on the Andrew Marr show

This week's newspaper reviewers were Carol Thatcher and "Comedian and Actor" Patrick Kielty. I took an instant dislike to Mr Kielty because he spent the programme squatting on one of his legs so that his shoe looked like it was scuffing the license-payers' sofa. Straightaway I had him marked down as a leftist.

Sure enough my intuition was proven correct when the subject of Al Gore's Nobel Prize for Fiction Peace was discussed. To be fair, Kielty wondered why Gore was getting a Nobel Prize for Peace. (Kielty is from Northern Ireland.) But he spoiled it all by saying that Gore was merely stating the obvious - that the world is heating up. But that's not what Gore is on about. Gore claims that global warming is primarily caused by the actions of humans - and that's certainly not accepted by all scientists.

Then Kielty's leftism kicked in again. Wasn't it hilarious that the recent court case against Gore's film being shown uncritically in schools was funded by "a Scottish quarrying magnate?" I'm not sure why Christopher Monckton's Scottishness is significant but Kielty clearly assumed that a "quarrying magnate" would inevitably be anti-Gore.

Kielty completely ignored the fact that the global warmers are themselves regularly funded and supported by people looking after their own class interests. Gore's proposals mean more jobs for state-paid scientists, state-paid academics, state-paid politicians and state-subsidised businessmen.

It's that old Bastiat thing again, isn't it?

What is seen is that some people may gain from a particular proposal, but what is not seen is that others may also gain from doing the opposite.

The "British" Broadcasting Corporation

Neil Craig's analysis is correct:
This morning the BBC news headlines on the Andrew Marr show started with the news that England had beaten somebody or other at rugby
But, as Neil points out:
Scotland had thrashed the Ukraine 3-1 at football
And Neil's conclusion:
Surely if the English result was top of the list this should at least have been mentioned as well. Football is after all a vastly more popular game than rugby.
It wasn't just "top of the list", it was the subject of the first interview as well.

Not only that, BBC Scotland showed the England v. Estonia game on BBC1 at the same time as Scotland were playing at Hampden Park. I presume the explanation is the same as when this happened a week or two ago: "We were outbid for the Scotland Game." As others pointed out at the time, the BBC managed to bid enough for the England game, but not the Scottish one. With Scots paying 9% of the license fee but having 3% of the programming made up here it's no wonder that so many of us feel that we're getting a raw deal.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

A statist writes

This is behind the Scotsman's subscription wall so I'll limit myself to this quote:
Those in financial markets who believe in free markets have temporarily abandoned their faith. For the greater good of all (of course, it is never for their own selfish interests), they argued a bail-out was necessary.
Thus writes the hugely overrated Joseph Stiglitz who is a Nobel laureate in economics.

I've never known anyone who has a "faith" in free markets. All real free marketeers justify the market firstly on moral grounds - namely that it's wrong to initiate force or fraud on others - and secondly on a proper understanding of economic principles that leads inexorably to their supporting laissez faire.

Next, I haven't heard any free marketers calling for a banking bailout, especially as the main long-run beneficiaries would probably be politicians.

Finally, the whole banking crisis is caused by the opposite of free markets. It's the inevitable result of a system that allows governments (and their client banks) to create money out of thin air thereby devaluing the savings of honest citizens.

Arithmetic for editors

I imagine that most readers will have read about this:
Alistair Darling announced that he planned to withdraw capital gains tax (CGT) taper relief, under which there are different rates of CGT for different kinds of investment, down to as low as 10 per cent, replacing it with one rate of 18 per cent.
Fairly straightforward - up from 10% to 18%.

But what about this?

From April, there will be no taper relief and all gains will be subject to the 18 per cent rate, meaning entrepreneurs who have built up businesses over their lifetimes and were perhaps looking forward to selling up to fund retirement will find that unless they do it before next April, they will pay 8 per cent more tax than they were expecting to.
No Mr Business Editor. That's 80% more tax.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Scotland out of the Commonwealth?

First it was the EU.

Now it's the Commonwealth:

AN INDEPENDENT Scotland might have to apply to join the Commonwealth rather than enjoy automatic entry.

I don't think so somehow.

The scene: sometime in the future...

Scotland has voted for independence. The Queen has just opened the first session of the new parliament. Afterwards, she invites Prime Minister Goldie and opposition leader Sturgeon over to Holyrood House for a "girls' night in". Bevvies will be provided. Meanwhile, the Duke of Embra, accompanied by Alex Salmond and other members of the House of Lairds, heads off towards the Grassmarket.

After a few G&Ts Ms Goldie expresses her disappointment that Scotland is no longer in the Commonwealth. But what's this? No one has told Her Majesty. The Queen of Scots whips out her iPhone and speed dials the Commonwealth secretary-general.

The next morning the world's media gathers at the Tolbooth for the first public execution for treason in these islands for many a year. Naturally, the Queen of Scots has cunningly secured worldwide rights for the live coverage on the Internet. Scotland remains in the Commonwealth.

The Frit Minister

I share the widespread delight in seeing the Clunking Fist come a cropper.

As well as his playing politics with our troops it seems likely that the Tory pledge to raise the inheritance tax threshold has paid off for them. But I'm not at all happy to hear that the IHT cut is to be funded by the £25,000 "hit" on the non-domiciled community.

Don't get me wrong, if they live here they should pay tax like the rest of us. The point is this - why does a tax cut have to be covered by a tax rise somewhere else? The Tories still don't get it, do they? What we need is a massive cut in government expenditure. Until the Conservatives start making a moral case along those lines many of their former voters will not be returning to the fold.

(My computer must be an old Thatcherite - the spellchecker recognises "frit" but not "blog".)

UK at Home

This project may be of interest to readers who are photographers.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Down with the database state

Now we're to get an Identity Fraud Tsar:
AN identity fraud tsar is to be appointed to co-ordinate efforts to tackle the growing problem of the crime, an all-party MPs group said today.
So why encourage the fraudsters?

Say no to ID cards!

Friday, 5 October 2007

Talk of the Town

Earlier today I went through from Auld Reekie to the Big Smoke. Fortunately I managed to avoid John Smeaton!

People were talking about the very pleasant weather and yours truly found himself wearing far too many clothes in an attempt to prevent last week's cold from reappearing. Such is life on the Costa Clyde.

The other topic of conversation among the Weegies was - wait for it - football.

Aberdeen's progress in the Uefa Cup was noted. The stunning victory of Rangers away at Lyon was much discussed. But the main topic was the idiot who ran onto the park at the end of Celtic's home win against AC Milan. I see that the idiot in question has handed himself in. I reckon that he'd be well advised to stay inside the police station for at least 50 years.

I've heard leftists point out that England has only ever won the World Cup under a Labour government. True, I suppose. So why hasn't Gordon Brown claimed credit for Scotland's recent sporting triumphs? Well, you see, sport is generally devolved. I can just imagine the First Minister telling the Frit Minister that "It's the SNP what won it!"

Two things that can be said with certainty: As soon as "real libertarianism" has been established, Scotland will win the World Cup and Kilmarnock the Champions League...

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

In praise of Edinburgh imperialism

This is another idea I got from the latest issue of Economic Affairs


Nevertheless, such cities (for example, Bradford, West Yorkshire) may have been in receipt of vast sums of regional aid, in one form or another, since such aid has existed. Nearby Leeds, however, has thrived. Property prices and land for "Leeds" housing are at a premium. Might a more radical solution be to accept that Bradford should be given a series of Leeds postcodes? Would Bradford fare much better as an initially cheaper, largely residential suburb of Leeds?

If one takes a Number 26 bus from Princes Street it's hardly any time at all beyond Portobello that one leaves the city and enters East Lothian. The small sign can easily be missed and the suburban sprawl continues uninterrupted.

It's quite different on the west side. The airport, the southern end of the two bridges, the foothills of the Pentlands and quite a few farms are all technically in the "City of Edinburgh", and the EH postcodes go even further. The outer west is also an economically prosperous part of the city. It includes the large Edinburgh Park office development and the world headquarters of the Royal Bank.

So we must expand further...

Why not allocate postcodes EH56 to EH200 to a greater Edinburgh beyond the already colonised outposts like Linlithgow and Livingston?

I'm thinking of Falkirk, EH71; Shotts, EH83; Airdrie, EH90; Coatbridge EH91; Motherwell, EH94 and so on.

Indeed, is not our natural boundary the High Street of Glasgow? Beyond there the Weegies can keep their "G" codes.

Furthermore, under this plan Edinburgh would usually have a team in the Champions League, would it not?

We don't care what the animals say,
What the hell do we care,
For we only know,
That there's gonna be a show,
And the Embra Celtic will be there.
You know it makes sense.

Or should we go all the way to Gourock?

Monday, 1 October 2007

For photographers

This has got to be about the best comment ever made on a photography forum.

Where do these ideas come from?

Like this one:
How can Scotland ever be rich with just 160000 people contributing to it's (sic) economy?

Get real.

That was a comment from reader Jeremy Jacobs on a previous post of mine.

This is from the BBC:

The number of unemployed in Scotland has fallen and is close to an all-time low, according to official figures.

Employment statistics equalled a previous high set in 1992 showing 2.53 million people in work, an increase of 60,000 since last year.

All in the public sector I suppose? OK, OK, except for those admirable 160,000 "contributors" of whom I am one.

Not quite:

There were 580,500 working in the public sector in the first quarter of 2007 - down 4,900 or 0.8% - compared to the same period last year.

... It compares with almost two million workers who were employed in the private sector in Scotland in the first quarter of 2007.

None of that's surprising. As I wrote here:
Mr Smith finds that the Scottish GVA per capita comes in at 96.2 against a UK index of 100. That puts us economically below London, the Southeast and the East of England, but above the other eight UK regions. Not too bad, I'd say. Smith then does something rather clever. He adjusts the regional per capita output figures to take account of the differing costs of living. Scotland's "real" GVA per capita now comes out at 101.8 against the UK's 100. So we produce a bit less than the UK average but it goes further
And none of that includes any North Sea oil.

Of course Scotland should be performing much better - as should the rest of the UK. I still hanker after a fully federal United Kingdom, ideally with defence at the UK level and all other government functions (preferably hardly any at all) dealt with by Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London. But part of me is tempted to go for independence - just to show that we can do it. I'll certainly be voting SNP at the next general election unless David Cameron starts quoting Adam Smith and Ludwig von Mises on Wednesday.