Tuesday 31 May 2005
Monday 30 May 2005
FASHIONABLE wristbands worn by pop stars, actors, top athletes and celebrities to publicise the Make Poverty History campaign are produced in appalling "slave labour" conditions, damning evidence has revealed.The conditions at the Chinese factory don't sound too good, although when I read this complaint:
the company uses "forced labour" by accepting "financial deposits" from new workersI couldn't help thinking of our own closed-shop rules that the same wristband-wearing economic illiterates invariably supported.
The point of course is that is entirely possible that the guilt-ridden charities will now have increased poverty in China by switching their purchases to other firms. Workers in poor countries become wealthier by undercutting western competitors until they have moved up the value chain. I wonder anyone from these charities has actually asked any Chinese worker if they prefer to no longer be "exploited" but unemployed.
A short list of nine is said to have been drawn up to replace Towser, the record-breaking mouse catcher at the Glenturret Distillery at Crieff.The lucky applicant will have to work hard to keep up with his/her predecessor:
Towser is still the Guinness World Record holder for mousing, having caught 28,899 mice - an average of three a day - during her stay at Scotland's oldest working distillery.It looks like a case of "previous applicants need not apply":
Sadly for Famous Grouse bosses, Towser's replacement Amber, who was introduced to the distillery in 1988, did not catch a single mouse.Too much of the Amber liquid, I presume.
Is one "mouser" sufficient? Are cats subject to the working time directive?
(UPDATE: We have news of the nine finalists.)
Saturday 28 May 2005
Their intervention is the first concrete sign that rebel MPs are prepared to make common cause with the opposition to exploit Mr Blair's new-found vulnerability.Are we about to see an early manifestation of the West Lothian Question? It seems entirely possible that the government will get its ID card legislation through the Commons only with the support of its Scottish MPs even though the Scottish Parliament is opposed to those very same cards and claims that their use will not be required to access the NHS north of the border.
With the Conservatives vowing this week to vote against the government the rebels could deprive Mr Blair of valuable support. In theory, only 34 Labour members would need to vote against the bill to halt its progress in the Commons.
Err, not quite. First there was the usual weekend hen party, complete with pink cowboy (girl?) hats. Then there was a large group of males who were probably from the same part of the world judging by one of the tee shirts, which displayed the memorable message: "Hartlepool – Hanging Monkeys".
Next we had the domestic contingent. Joining me at my table was a young man wearing one of those damnably annoying wristbands – in this case maroon and white. I was trying to work out which bizarre political campaign he was supporting when I noticed the small print: “Heart of Midlothian”. He was accompanied by a chav-attired friend sporting a Rangers Football Club tattoo. Fair enough: Hearts and Rangers are soul brothers, so to speak. Enter an elderly, more-or-less toothless gentleman wearing a Celtic tee shirt, Celtic scarf praising both the bhoys and the Pope, a St Christopher’s medallion, a silver cross, an Irish tricolour badge, three green wristbands and Celtic rings on fingers of each hand. He looks round the bar for someone to talk to and picks the die-hard Rangers fan. Within a few minutes they are the best of friends with pints and nips flowing. When Celtic go one-up against Dundee United in the Cup Final the comradeship continues even as the elderly gentleman is praising the blessed Virgin Mary and the apparently even-more blessed Martin O’Neil. At this point I make my excuses and leave. After all, I may have been observing the modern equivalent of one of those football games played on the front line at Christmas 1914. Who knows what followed later.
Friday 27 May 2005
even carrying adverts.Not that any old ads are acceptable:
However, adverts for alcohol, gambling and tobacco would not be welcome.Fair enough: it's their site and they can choose whom to allow to use it, although it does seem rather strange to ban adverts for loans considering that a large proportion of Kirk members probably work in Edinburgh's vast financial services industry.
Neither would ones for loans or anything which, the report states, might be "ethically questionable".
I couldn't help recalling some earlier news from the Kirk:
Churches across Scotland are to sound a wake-up call to the leaders of the G8 countries at the Gleneagles summit.Again, it's their organisation and they're free to run it however they like, but this time I'm wondering whether any of the Church authorities are even aware that there's considerable controversy over whether global warming is caused by human activities, whether it is, on balance, harmful, and whether the sort of expenditures demanded by the green lobby would benefit mankind far more if spent in other ways. In short, what I'm asking is whether the Kirk would welcome adverts on its website from this gentleman, and if not, why not?
The Kirk is demanding action over climate change from the world's most powerful leaders - a key theme of Britain's G8 presidency.
Wednesday 25 May 2005
The ideal world would be one of anarcho capitalism. The next best option for libertarians is a classical liberal society in which governments would be restricted to providing defence against domestic aggressors (requiring a police force - localised, not national), providing defence against foreign aggressors (requiring military forces) and some sort of court system (with the emphasis on restitution to victims).
Given that we do have governments I accept that it's reasonable for political leaders to get together now and again to discuss matters of mutual interest. It would be nice to see a group blog - www.G8leaders.blogspot.com - on which the head honchos would pontificate and we could comment, but I don't expect that too soon. So yes, it's OK for the G8 leaders to meet in the flesh. The trouble is of course that every nutter in the world has jumped onto the anti-G8 bandwagon and it seems highly likely that a great deal of damage will be done to property and possibly persons when the demonstrators hit town in July. Certainly, I shall be removing my car from its outdoors parking spot near central Edinburgh on the day of the big march. I seem to recall a spokesman from the Lothian and Borders Police "welcoming" the demonstrators, as has Gordon Brown. But the Chief Constable and the Chancellor won't have to pay for any damage done to "their" property because police stations and government buildings don't actually belong to them. On the other hand, the poor old businessman in Edinburgh (and in Perthshire) faces potential ruin if things get out of hand. There will be no marches demanding that his resulting poverty be addressed by politicians.
I believe that the huge expense being incurred is an outrage. If the eight leaders wish to get together (actually it's nine - the EU gets to participate too) they should do so in some isolated and defensible spot: perhaps Antarctica or Rockall. Alternatively we could give the North Koreans £10 and hold the event in Pyongyang.
Tuesday 24 May 2005
Monday 23 May 2005
In second place we have:
Financial managers and chartered secretaries, earning an average of £72,124 PAThese guys are well ahead of those in ninth place, which is held by:
Solicitors and lawyers, judges and coroners, whose mean annual pay is £49,970.The point of this, dear readers, is that yours truly is a member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators.
Unfortunately, there's just one slight catch. The job of editor-in-chief of F & W doesn't pay £72K. In fact, it doesn't even match the salary of the leisure and theme park attendants at the bottom of the league table.
Should I complain to the Chairman or join the union?
ON FRIDAY morning, I looked out into our small garden to find a certain amount of chaos. Pots had been smashed, the bench overturned and all manner of climbing greenery pulled off and scattered. Yobs had invaded, tempted, no doubt, by the piles of scaffolding irritatingly left outside our back wall by the firm constructing new flats opposite.But, some of you may be thinking, Katie Grant lives in Glasgow, so what on earth does she expect? Well, contrary to what many southern folk may believe, Glasgow contains some extremely attractive areas that are inhabited by the (expletive warning) prosperous middle classes, and the West End is certainly one of them. Parts of town like that do indeed attract undesirables from elsewhere, but that wasn't the case this time. On the contrary, what shocked Ms Grant was this:
At that moment I felt the nadir of our "it's nae my fault", disrespectful culture had been reached. These youths were not feral predators from a housing scheme. They were not neds. They were well spoken and, although I didn't ask, they were almost certainly university students. Yet for all their education, they could not see, for the life of them, why I might be upset. The idea that their visit to our garden and the damage they had caused were in any way wrong or shameful had to be pointed out to them.Ms Grant is correct in saying that her experience:
... does, however, illustrate that mistake of thinking that yobbery is confined to one section of society. Increasing numbers of affluent parents also produce offspring who, while hardly qualifying as alienated, are just as lacking in any kind of moral compass.What is to be done? I have to say, along with others, that some radical response needs to be forthcoming, although surely Laban Tall is correct in not expecting one until we have "either a BNP or Sharia administration". (Which of those will come first is not-at-all clear so far.)
I liked this suggestion:
Imagine young Kyle outside Tescos main entrance all Saturday, bearing a sign that said 'I stole money from my gran to buy drugs'Sadly though, Kyle might regard the sign as a badge of honour.
On the other hand, the middle class yobs who trashed Ms Grant's garden might not relish standing outside the entrance of Glasgow University bearing a sign that said:
"I am a spoiled, uneducated brat, subsidised by the British working class, and, if any potential employer sees me, don't even think about giving me a job".
Saturday 21 May 2005
Friday 20 May 2005
JAMES Gray, the shadow Scottish secretary, was sacked yesterday after suggesting in The Scotsman that all MSPs should lose their jobs, with Holyrood being turned into a part-time home for Scottish MPs.The editorial in the Scotsman points out that Mr Gray's views were well known before he was appointed shadow Secretary of State:
Mr Gray had been in his high-profile job for only a week, but his position became untenable after a furious David McLetchie, the Scottish Conservative leader, demanded that the North Wiltshire MP be fired from his front-bench role.
Mr Gray, the Glasgow-born MP for North Wiltshire, was known for his wayward views on devolution: he called in January last year for doing away with MSPs and having Scottish MPs sit at Holyrood for two days a week.I share Mr Gray's belief that we don't need two lots of politicians serving (sic) Scotland, although I do support domestic legislation being made here. Given our many-party political spectrum I could be persuaded that Scotland should have some form of PR and that could be taken as meaning that MSPs spend part of the week in Westminster rather than MPs working (sic) in Holyrood part-time. But that's a detail; the point is that one lot of politicians can easily serve at both Westminster and Holyrood. So where did Mr Gray go wrong?
Unfortunately for Mr Gray, his views were:
... at marked variance with official party policy, which is to support both the parliament and its MSPs.I suspect that we haven't heard the last of this by any means. Many English Tories are upset about Mr Gray's treatment:
Some in England believe that the party could profitably exploit the growing unease over Scotland's constitutional and financial position within the United Kingdom, albeit at the cost of handicapping Mr McLetchie and his party.But the English Tories should be exploiting asymmetrical devolution and their subjugation by the Scottish Raj. The real question up here is this: Will sorting out "Scotland's constitutional and financial position within the United Kingdom" harm Scotland? I don't think so. It may well harm the Scottish Conservative Party as led by Mr McLetchie, but that's because far too many McLetchieite Tories share Labour's belief that we're too poor to stand on our own feet financially. Given that Scotland's per-capita GDP is close to the British and European average it seems to me that our problem is profligate spending by an out-of-control government machine rather than insufficient wealth to fund a much-reduced state sector. Scots Tories should embrace fiscal devolution and provide a radical alternative to the all-too-numerous socialist parties that infest the Scottish body politic.
That leaves what I call, for want of a better term, a "bravura act" to catalyse change. The adoption of a flat tax would be one such act. Another might be the abolition of business tax.If that requires a separate party from that led by Michael Howard and with a more radical leader than David McLetchie, so be it.
Monday 16 May 2005
Traffic has been banned from travelling along Edinburgh's Princes Street.It seems that:
The city council first imposed a ban on eastbound vehicles back in 1996You could have fooled me. There was no ban on eastbound vehicles, only on those that weren't buses. Oddly, taxis were allowed to travel eastbound along Princes Street, except for the short stretch between Frederick and Hanover Streets, thus eliminating much of the advantage of using a taxi in the first place. So instead of picking up a taxi from outside a shop on Princes Street one drove to the nearby multi-storey car park at the much-hated St James Centre and added to the overall congestion.
I find this statement rather dubious:
The council claims a third of Edinburgh's vehicles are merely passing through and not contributing to the economy and therefore need to be re-routed.A third passing through! That is surely nonsense unless the council is referring solely to the city centre itself. I would guess that almost all of the vehicles "passing through" the centre are contributing to the overall city economy in some way.
I had never heard of the low-key Mr Dobson before, but he's obviously a wise chap:
He adds: "I’m a believer in gold. I’ve always believed in it and I always will. I really don’t believe in fiat currencies. Governments by their very nature can’t help printing money. That’s just what we’ve been doing. We’ve been printing it, printing it and printing it - and we’re going to pay the price in future years. But that’s just my own personal view."Very true, except that it's not just Mr Dobson who holds that view. Again, I recommend this site and its blog.
The old BBC weather charts used a standard Grid projection. The new-style maps use a perspective view taken from above the island and well to the south. This results in massive geographical distortion, such that the image of England (actually 50,000 square miles) occupies a graphical area at least 10 times that of Scotland (30,000).I certainly agree with the Bear when he says:
Scotland should spend rather more time praising initiatives,but I can't help thinking that Dr Fiddes (the letter writer) has a point.
These oddly distorted maps are very widespread in the London-based media, both in print and on television, and are not confined to the weather. I've never noticed any maps in the US, France, Germany or Italy, for example, that show their countries distorted in this peculiar way.
I myself favour the retention of the UK with the constituent parts having equal legislative powers at the local level, but I fear that desirable outcome may be in jeopardy. The recent discovery by our English friends of asymmetrical devolution may well lead to Scotland having independence thrust upon it. But if Scots themselves choose independence it will be because many folk up here get upset by an accumulation of little niggles of which asymmetrical weather maps are but one example.
Of course, if the London media had used proper maps they might have spotted the importance of the West Lothian Question a good many years ago!
Sunday 15 May 2005
Saturday 14 May 2005
We've had one here in Edinburgh this afternoon organised by Gordon McLean of Scottish Blogs. That's him displaying the red eyes of a hardened blogger and sitting beside Gunnella Thorgeirs of Xanth.is:
When the owner of the Jolly Judge found out that we were blogging from his WiFi-equipped establishment, some more beverages were swiftly delivered to our table:
The Judge's WiFi was designed with the help of Martin Little, one of today's participants.
Friday 13 May 2005
Obviously he has missed the fact that a large proportion of the working force in other member states of the EU is spending more time with its family than it would like because there are no jobs to go to.Better still:
In any case who is this MEP, whose idea of work is to sign in and disappear, to tell us what the proper balance is between anything?
Surprisingly perhaps, some of Scotland's politicians actually realise that ending the opt-out will be particularly harmful in this part of Europe:
SNP MEP Alyn Smith said he had met several groups in Scotland concerned at the damage being caused to north and north-east businesses with the end of a separate opt-out for lorry drivers last month.It's an unusual and pleasant surprise to learn that a "Liberal" politician favours freedom of contract. Who knows, if Mr Bruce continues to think along these lines he might end up opposing his own party's high-tax policies, and then he really would be a liberal.
He said: "Scots MEPs are sent to Brussels to stop such meddling from Brussels, not encourage it."
Gordon MP Malcolm Bruce, Lib Dem trade and industry spokesman, called on the Government to "stick to its guns" and fight for the opt-out.
He warned its implementation in the UK "could lead to a cut in people's wages".
Mr Bruce said: "Old Labour is now challenging Tony Blair head on, and it has been left to Liberal Democrat MEPs to stand up for the right of workers to negotiate their own hours."
Thursday 12 May 2005
Parents may lose power to headteachers and local authorities under plans to change the way they are represented, it has been warned.Although the plan is supposedly designed "to encourage more parents to become involved", the Scottish Consumer Council smells a rat. Good for them. But having noticed the problem the SCC come up with a totally wrong solution:
the creation of a professionally-run organisation which speaks for parents.The only way forward for consumers of any product is to become customers instead of supplicants. That necessitates the privatisation of education, which would eliminate the need for pointless committees or forums.
Wednesday 11 May 2005
Tuesday 10 May 2005
Saturday 7 May 2005
(1) The widespread trashing of the education system by politicians that has resulted in pinko-victimological-media studies being considered superior to engineering.
(2) Runaway legislation that has made it almost impossible to actually run a business unless you enjoy dressing in a striped uniform.
(3) Agreeing to pension and benefit packages that are unsustainable in the long run (especially when such schemes are mugged by the aforementioned G Brown and his ilk).
How many of you remember the 1970s? Back then you may recall that the Heath/Wilson/Callaghan regimes hit on the brilliant ploy of devaluing the pound to increase exports and reduce imports. (Of course, the pound in your pocket wasn't being devalued!) The boring old Swiss and Germans kept their currencies strong and, er, prospered. You see, cutting one's prices isn't usually a satisfactory policy. What is needed is to address points (1), (2) and (3) above.
All of these thoughts went through my head when I read this in the FT at lunchtime today:
US carmakers are using growing congressional anger over the weak Chinese renminbi to boost pressure on Japan and South Korea to revalue their currencies as well, a move they hope could ease competitive pressures on the beleaguered US industry.Good grief: why not just bring back Jimmy Carter?
Forty-seven members of Congress, including 35 Republicans, told President George W. Bush in a letter on Friday that the administration should target China and Japan, complaining that “Japan continues to verbally intervene in the market”. Representative Mike Rogers, a Republican from the car-producing state of Michigan, spearheaded the letter.
The congressmen are dancing to the tune of the wonderfully named Coalition for a Sound Dollar.These guys don't mean sound as in gold-backed. No, they mean sound as in weak. The idea is that this sound (weak) dollar would benefit US manufacturers, and it might, but at the expense of importers. Think of Wal-Mart prices going up overnight by 20%, not to mention the contents of the tanks of all those inefficient gas-guzzlers from Detroit.
This policy didn't work in the seventies and it won't work now. And the "Coalition for a Sound Dollar" would be a worthy creation of Orwell himself.
Wednesday 4 May 2005
I would love to see some high-profile Labour casualties: perhaps Jack Straw in Blackburn. It’s probably too much to expect that Tony Blair himself will lose his seat and in some ways I hope that he survives. Justice surely requires that both Tony and Gordon be in power when their bubble economy finally implodes. A good result would be a reduction of Tony’s majority from 17,713 to around 500 with 10,000 postal votes being cast. Who would believe that he had been elected legitimately?
You can guess that I’m not going to vote for the Labour party. I do acknowledge that Blair’s administration hasn’t gone around nationalising whole industries but it’s done something more insidious and far more difficult to correct: nationalising people. It’s extraordinary that a government that’s done so much to abolish Britain’s traditional liberties still leads in the opinion polls. And what can one say about a regime that gives welfare benefits to people earning more than £50,000?
I do like the Liberal Democrats’ stance on civil liberties, at least compared with its rivals. If we were back in the 19th century, or even in the days of Jo Grimond, I would happily vote for the Liberals, but Charlie Kennedy’s lot has blown it completely by being absolutely committed to a level of taxation that would destroy the UK economy. I suppose that’s inevitable given the LibDem’s devotion to the Big Bureaucratic Blob in Brussels. Such a pity.
I’m pleased that some SNP politicians are talking about entrepreneurship and a low-tax Scottish economy, but they’re in a distinct minority. Most nationalists remain wedded to the Scottish collectivist zeitgeist. My own preference is for a small-government federalist UK although I don’t plan to rush for the exit if Scotland does vote for independence. Nevertheless, I’m not going to push the country in that direction so long as the SNP mainstream rejects capitalism.
I guess that leaves the Tories.
Previously I have expressed my disgust over the decision to support ID cards. As it happens, on the evening of that fateful announcement I was at an event attended by some Scottish Conservative activists and I don’t think I’d be revealing any confidences by stating that many in the party were “steaming” over the ID card policy. Like others, I’m also very angry that the Tories have culled several excellent candidates who spoke in favour of reductions in taxation and the “creative destruction” of the welfare state.
For a while I contemplated a spoiled vote or voting UKIP, but, like the Bunny, I was appalled by that party’s election material and TV broadcast.
And so I find myself asking: “What would Tony want?” Presumably he’d want the re-election of Alistair Darling, despite that gentleman being a protégée of Gordon Brown. Certainly Gordon wants Alistair back in. The outcome is that I plan to vote for Gordon Buchan, the Conservative candidate for Edinburgh South West. I don’t know Mr Buchan but the local Labour party is clearly worried judging by the quantity of election material coming through my letterbox.
I recognise that the Conservative party needs a good kick up the backside if it’s ever to move in a more libertarian direction but here in Scotland there’s very little alternative. Some of the Conservative candidates do have distinct libertarian tendencies: Iain Whyte, in Edinburgh North & Leith; Richard Cook, in East Renfrewshire; Douglas Fraser, in Perth; Alex Johnstone, in West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine; Campbell Murdoch, in West Dunbartonshire; Peter Finnie, in Motherwell & Wishaw and Stuart Randall, in Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath. If Mr Randall knocks out Gordon Brown he’ll be the most famous and surprised politician in the country!
In the long run the intellectual battle is what matters. But tomorrow it’ll be time for some pure theatre and I’ll be up all night. It’s a damned nuisance that I face an audit the following morning.
(UPDATE: I've received three e-mails from a Mr Michael Howard in the last ten minutes! I get the impression that he's not a member of ZaNu-Labour)
Monday 2 May 2005
CONSERVATIVE COUNCILLOR and Dundee licensing board chairman Neil Powrie last night welcomed the decision by MSPs to ban smoking in public places in Scotland and described the arguments made against the Bill by Tory MSPs as “drivel”.This "conservative" just doesn't get it, does he? The organisations targeted by the new legislation are not "public places" but privately owned businesses. The fact that members of the public may chose to enter those premises should be a matter between them and the business owner, and nobody else. If I enter a pub and don't like the smoke, I may well be "affected", but my rights aren't affected at all. (See the previous post.)
Note this comment from Mr Powrie:
“No smoking in pubs is something that is being warmly welcomed by people in Dundee and is vindication of the brave decision by the Dundee licensing board in the face of fierce opposition.”This seems rather odd. If smoking bans are "warmly welcomed" then profit-seeking entrepreneurs will introduce such bans themselves without the need of yet more legislation from the nanny state.
Two Scottish academics, who spent two years analysing the behaviour of people who neglect both themselves and their homes, say such eccentric individuals should be allowed to live as they like so long as it does not affect anyone else.I'll ignore the fact that the academics took two whole years - no doubt at our expense - to come to this conclusion for it's such an unusual one nowadays. The truth is that all of us - not just "eccentrics" - should be allowed to do whatever we want so long as it does not affect anyone else. Actually, that's not quite correct from a purely libertarian perspective. The sentence should end: "so long as it does not affect anyone else's rights", but I'll let that pass. If the powers that be start thinking along these lines the jobs section of the Guardian will be thin indeed.
(A caveat. Note this statement:
the researchers have drawn up guidelines for health professionals, social workers and housing officers, which advises them on ways of dealing with squalid households.In so far as the houses concerned are owned by the state then I think that a degree of monitoring by those ominous-sounding "housing officers" is legitimate. Needless to say I don't think that the state should own any houses.)