Wednesday 30 May 2007

Great headline

From Fox News:
Lawyer: Man Accused In Shooting Rampage Was Trying to Prevent Space Aliens From Abducting Daughter


I don't know if this has appeared elsewhere in the blogosphere, but I see that there's been an outbreak of bullying over in Ayrshire:
A FORMER senior councillor is being investigated over claims he bullied staff by using capital letters in his e-mails.
Here's an example:
"This involves large sums of PUBLIC MONEY. We have a duty to guard this money and pursue and identify fraudsters AND recover ANY money gained by fraudulent means."
And then we have:
"...this becomes a major fraud of over £100,000 of TAXPAYERS' MONEY, and I believe we are duty-bound to pursue the repayment of ALL of this money."
The now sadly ex-councillor believed that he was "effectively an employer" of the local bureaucrats.

If only!

As far as I'm concerned, his language was a bit on the modest side. The truth is that local and national government employees have absolutely no conception of being our servants, PUBLIC or otherwise. Eventually the worm will turn and CAPITAL LETTERS will be the least of the worries for the ranks of unemployable ex-bureaucrats.

For whom the bridge tolls

I understand that unions are keen to protect the interests of their members but such action is only legitimate when it's compatible with a free market.

The proposed removal of Scottish bridge tolls has produced this comment:

The decision to scrap tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges has been attacked by the Transport and General Workers Union due to concerns over job losses.

I support the idea of road pricing. Does the T&GWU (how 1970's that sounds) want road privatisation? Perhaps they should.

From the Halls of St John's Oxford to the Shores of Tripoli

But not to the local phone box and certainly not to Edinburgh.

Richard Thomson asks the appropriate question here.

Nice one!

What I'm wondering is whether the Queen made a point of going by helicopter to meet Alex Salmond just to annoy Messrs Blair and Brown.

I hope so.

(Thanks to Philip Chaston for the "shores of Tripoli" idea.)

Tuesday 22 May 2007

The shrinking world

Remember the case of the plane spotters jailed in Greece?

Never mind Greece, why not try Turkey?

According to Aircraft Illustrated magazine the Istanbul airport tour includes "3 days on the ramp", although I think I'd prefer the Confederate Air Force display myself. Indeed, I was once given an application form to become a Colonel in the CAF...

For the more adventuresome enthusiast there's always the Russian tour with optional "INSURANCE including FLYING AS A PASSENGER IN AN UNLICENSED AIRCRAFT". Way to go! Or, how about witnessing "the launch of Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft from the Gagarin Launch Pad"?

But Russia (like China) is commonplace nowadays. Why not try the Libyan trip?

For the photographer going to Libya:

At the airshow - permitted.

At airports currently forbidden and although negotiations are taking place it is unlikely these will be obtained based on previous discussions.

Don't like the sound of that. Perhaps you should take your photos from an F111.

Finally, why not take a plane spotting trip to Iran? As for photography, it's a case of "approval applied for." Don't get your telephoto lens chopped off...

Life of Dave

I see that the Telegraph was hit by a denial of service attack earlier today.

Now, do we blame the Conservative People's Front or the People's Front of Conservatism?

Saturday 19 May 2007

And where is Britain's Ron Paul?

(Thanks to Lew Rockwell for this.)

Westminster Numpties

Well, they've gone and done it:
GOVERNMENT ministers yesterday helped vote through a bill that will mean MPs are no longer subject to freedom of information laws which force them to publish information about their own expenses.
I don't imagine for a moment that Gordon Brown will go for the blogging vote by appointing 1,000 libertarian life peers to overthrow the dastardly Commons decision.

But look at this in the Herald:

The bill, which will exempt MPs from being forced to reveal information about themselves under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, will not apply to Scotland's Parliament, thus creating a division in the openness of the two jurisdictions.

MSPs, who have been forced to reveal taxi receipts and expenses bills since the legislation was introduced in Scotland in January 2005, will still be subject to scrutiny under the act.

The solution is obvious and should be demanded by the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party:

Abolish devolution and recreate a UK-wide unitary parliament.

In Edinburgh...

Friday 18 May 2007

The Deputy

This is really silly:
WHEN the new electoral system for Scotland's councils was devised, many hoped it would bring a new generation of young minds to local government.

And today in Aberdeen that prediction will come true with the appointment of four councillors under 26 to key posts - including an 18-year-old as Deputy Provost.

... Prof Richard Kerley, a vice-principal at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh and local government expert, said: "I have grave doubts that someone as young as Mr West will enjoy being a councillor, let alone be able to make a contribution.

The professor is correct. The Provost (or his Deputy) is the senior figurehead of the community. The role is quite different from, say, that of a young Richard Branson type of entrepreneur. In almost all companies, the Chairman (equivalent to the Provost) is older and has more experience than the managing director. His function is to warn and to advise as well as to carry out the ceremonial aspects of the job. An 18-year-old can't possibly perform that role properly.

The interesting question to me is why do appointments of this sort happen now and again in government but rarely in the private sector? The answer is simple. Private companies spend the shareholders' own money and managers are judged by the bottom line. Politicians spend other people's money and are judged by folk who in many cases don't make any financial contribution to the common pot.

That's why it's important to ensure that as little as possible gets done by the state and as much as possible by the voluntary sector.

Oh dear!

Kevin Williamson's post has this photo of Alex Salmond.

If the SNP really wants to encourage a prosperous and free Scotland it's a bit silly to associate itself with someone who impoverished his own country both economically and in terms of civil liberties.

Sunday 13 May 2007

Eastern Med 2007

Now that I've finished sorting out my photographs from our recent trip I thought that I'd accompany the links with a few notes.

Mrs F&W and I flew from Edinburgh to Amsterdam airport where we met up with Mrs F&W's mother who had flown in from the US. I was last at Schiphol almost a year ago and once again see why it's the connecting point of choice for many travelling from British provincial (sic) airports. The place is very well organised and having just one very large, curved terminal beats poor old Heathrow hands down.

Ninety minutes after arrival we were on our way to Venice in the day's second KLM Boeing 737. The snack was fine and I washed it down with a nice South African white wine.

We took a taxi from Venice (Marco Polo) over the causeway to the Piazzale Roma, which is the point at which taxis and buses congregate. Here's a question. The bus to Edinburgh airport costs three pounds and a taxi sixteen. The Venice bus is three euros and a taxi thirty-five. Why the difference? Our hotel was only a few hundred yards away from the Piazzale but having to cart suitcases over three canal bridges isn't fun.

The next morning I went out with Mrs F&W for an early morning trip down the length of the Grand Canal to San Marco. 7am is the ideal time to avoid the tourist hordes and has perfect light for photography.

Click here for Venice photos

After a later walk round the area near the hotel we took a water taxi to the dock where we joined the Veendam for our cruise. The "driver" of the water taxi cried out "Mamma Mia" as he lifted Mrs F&W's heavy suitcase into his little boat...

On Holland America ships there is a distinct national line up among the crew. The captain and officers tend to be Dutch or British. Captain Albert has a blog. The Cruise Director (in charge of on-board activities) is usually American, as are most passengers. The housekeeping, kitchen and waiting staff are Filipino and Indonesian. Filipinos also man the Front Desk. The bar staff address me as "Sir David" - perhaps it's the British accent or my knowing that Laphroaig shouldn’t be served with ice.

The next morning we arrived at Dubrovnik - my first visit to the former Yugoslavia. The town extends out a long way beyond the old walled-city and looked very similar to plenty of places in Italy. The old town is pedestrianised and has lots of Edinburgh-style closes. The essential word is "pivo" (beer) and we spent four euros on a pivo and a Coke in one of the back street cafes.

Click here for Dubrovnik photos

Two days later we reached Santorini. I'd been there almost twenty years ago and the tour guide confirmed my impression that there had been lots of new housing built in the countryside. As we left, Captain Albert mentioned the recent sinking of a Greek liner at Santorini.

Click here for Santorini photos

The next day we reached Rhodes. A bus took us through the notorious resort of Faliraki (bars, cafes, hotels and tattoo parlours) although it was far too early in the day to see any visiting chavs. We spent a while at the pleasant little village of Lindos before returning to Rhodes town via a pottery - a big business here. I was disappointed in the town itself. The main streets are packed with tacky tourist shops and you are pounced upon by the owners if you make eye contact or even slow down to take a photo. The back streets were far more interesting and in one of them I enjoyed a quick pivo. (Oops, wrong country!)

Click here for Rhodes photos

Then we went to Turkey. Again, I'd been before quite a while ago and had visited Ephesus back then. On this trip there was more time to visit the site and its surrounding attractions. We dined at an interesting steam railway museum. A note for gentlemen - when you visit the toilet at the Virgin Mary House near Ephesus you will stand, doing your business, and look out through an open window directly towards Greece. Surely not a deliberate design feature?

On balconies of the apartment blocks there were numerous Turkish flags. According to the guide they were in support of the secular politicians.

Inevitably there was a visit to a carpet outlet. Despite the high-pressure technique of a cockney - "I've often played at St Andrews" - salesman, we didn't buy. Anyway, he was unable to demonstrate any flying models. For that I suppose I'd need to go to Iran, but I'm not in the Navy and don't have an iPod as a trade-in.

Click here for Ephesus photos

Then we were back in Greece. Arriving at Piraeus I couldn't help thinking of earlier Persian encounters as we passed Salamis. We took a bus into Athens passing several Olympic sites and endless streets of tightly parked cars. A pleasant morning was spent walking through the Plaka old town.

Click here for Athens photos

The next day we arrived at the tiny port of Katakolon, the gateway for Olympia, home of the original games. The Olympic site was more interesting than I'd expected, the museum was excellent and the guide informative. Don't tell Ken Livingstone - the female athletes ran in short skirts but the men were naked except for a covering of oil.

Click here for Olympia photos

During the afternoon I took far more photos at Katakolon than I'd expected.

Click here for Katakolon photos

Two days later after sailing up the Adriatic we entered the harbour at Koper, which is in Slovenia but just a few miles south of the Italian port of Trieste. While Mrs F&W and her mother visited one of the country's well known caves, I took a bus into Ljubljana. Usefully, the Slovenian word is also "pivo" and I enjoyed a large one for under two euros in a non-touristy bar. Slovenia looks a bit like parts of Austria and one can indeed see the Alps from here. The statues of naked people on the front of the Slovenian parliament are apparently meant to demonstrate that we are all "equal". According to our guide, they show us after taxes have been extracted...

Click here for Ljubljana photos

Later that day we were back in Venice, sailing past San Marco on one of the most photogenic city approaches imaginable.

I had noticed that Internet cafes in Venice all had a sign in the window along these lines: "In the interests of security all users must produce a passport or driving licence for photocopying." Being a law-abiding Brit I produced my driving licence to the little old lady in charge. She waved it aside with a laugh as if I were the first person to pay any attention to the notice. Thus does the over-regulated Italian economy ignore the rules and generate prosperity.

Click here for Venice photos

I returned home the next day and the others two days later. The KLM 737 took off to the north and then performed a complete banking turn over Venice before heading for Amsterdam. I had a very clear view of Antwerp and Rotterdam on the way in and couldn't help thinking of my father's time down there back in 1944/45.

Saturday 12 May 2007


I hope to get back to more regular posts shortly. Going away on holiday is one thing but sorting out over 800 photos is another. That task is now almost complete and links will be provided shortly.

Talking of images, this apparently appeared on CNN for a few minutes recently:

Monday 7 May 2007


Tony Blair's retirement business:

Ephesus - April 2007
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

The voting "fiasco"

Doctorvee has written about it here:
The problems with e-counting were a minor problem. The pundits on television were really annoyed about it — but I think that was because they were unable to report a result. The bottom line is, the results are in and they are correct. We hope they are correct anyway — and there is no real suggestion that the e-counting machines were misreading votes.
That's correct, although why anyone would select a computer system that has Neil Kinnock as a director is another matter...

Oops, I forgot: the selectors were the Labour administration.

Doctorvee goes on to say:

But the bottom line is that the instructions were reasonably clear and it wasn’t difficult.
In the Times Melanie Reid writes:
What is now crystal clear is that the poorer and more ill-educated the voters were, the more likely they were to put the wrong marks in the wrong places, and unwittingly invalidate their forms.

In the constituency of Glasgow Shettleston, an area in the east end of the city that routinely tops all the poverty and deprivation indices for the UK, there were 2,035 rejected ballots, representing almost 12 per cent of the turnout.

Yes, the ballot papers did require a bit of attention to get them right. (I'm reasonably sure that I didn't accidentally vote for Tommy Sheridan!) But I have to say that there's too much veneration for democracy going on in the aftermath of "Confusing Thursday". I can't help agreeing with those who say: "If they can't even fill in a (reasonably) simple form, why should they expect to have a say in running the country?"

The unasked question is this: Why do we have so much democracy in the first place?

I don't necessarily object to voting for politicians as long as they restrict their activities to the bare minimum. There is no reason at all why schools and education (for starters) shouldn't be left entirely to the market. Indeed, were schools in Shettleston and Baillieston removed from the control of politicians it's highly likely that the locals would quickly learn how to buy education products and how to vote.

Saturday 5 May 2007

The Falkirk of the South

OK, it doesn't have a wheel but Venice is an impressive place.

Click here for the rest of this batch of Venice photos. Many more from the Eastern Mediterranean will be appearing over the next few days.

Venice 19th April 2007
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Venice 19th April 2007
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Venice 19th April 2007
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Venice 19th April 2007
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Venice 19th April 2007
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Venice 19th April 2007
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Venice 19th April 2007
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

47 - 46

I think that Kinglear makes a good point:
In a way, it makes Scotland even more attractive. The best governments are those that leave people alone to get on with it. For the first time in at least a couple of generations, the Scots will have to think clearly about what is really important to them.
American libertarians often welcome "gridlock" in US politics in which different parties control Congress and the Presidency. Hopefully, the instinct of Scots politicians for banning just about anything will be tamed somewhat.

But a majority of just one!

If I were a newly elected SNP member I'd certainly avoid any lone walks in Oxfordshire woods...

Tuesday 1 May 2007

This voter decides

It's taken me a lot of time to decide how to vote on Thursday. Some of my fellow libertarians don't vote (it only encourages them!), some spoil their ballot papers and some will certainly be voting UKIP.

Back in the 1970's, many libertarians voted for the Conservatives, as they seemed to offer an alternative to the economically disastrous policies of Mr Wilson and Mr Callaghan. Margaret Thatcher did indeed carry out necessary reforms that benefited the economy of the UK as a whole including Scotland. Unfortunately there was neither reform of the welfare state nor of state education.

The current Labour government has done immeasurable harm to Britain. The economy has been kept going by unprecedented monetary expansion that will end in disaster - hopefully under the premiership of Gordon Brown. When he sold gold, I decided to buy. But a sick economy can be turned round fairly quickly when the correct policies are adopted. It is far more difficult to cure a broken culture, and that's what Britain now "enjoys". The Blair regime has laid waste to civil liberties that have taken centuries to evolve. It is perfectly correct to describe its policies as "fascist". For the first time in my life I am afraid of my own government. That is a shameful state of affairs.

Needless-to-say, the so-called Liberal Democrats offer no alternative. Despite making a few sound noises on ID cards, the LibDems are nanny statists par excellence. A conservative friend recently pronounced, "I'd rather vote for Tommy Sheridan than the LibDems!"

I am tempted to vote UKIP, but they do have a whiff of incompetence about them despite there being several sound activists in the party. They are not exactly on the radar here in Scotland. So shall I be voting Conservative again? Sort of.

I've met a few of the Tories on the Edinburgh City Council as well as my local candidate. They are normal people. They have real jobs, don't have windmills on their roofs, are unlikely to hug a hoodie and probably think the same sort of thing as I do about Polly Toynbee and her ilk. I'll be happily voting for my Conservative candidate for the City Council.

But that's as far as it goes for the Tories. I do understand that David Cameron is attempting to rebrand his party, but the only reason why they were in need of rebranding is because the Conservatives had totally failed to promote a consistent policy in favour of individual liberty. Where are their calls for slashing the over-bloated state? Why haven't they advocated huge tax cuts on principle? Why are they seemingly determined to remain in the EU no matter what the cost to Britain?

And so, to coin a phrase, it's time.

Rather to my surprise I've decided to vote SNP in the parliamentary election. Don't get me wrong - I remain a federalist, though doubt that a sensible federal solution for the UK will be adopted. If I lived in certain other constituencies I'd be voting Tory - I won't mention which candidates I have in mind, not wanting them to face the probable wrath of their party for the crime of liberty-speak. I would probably vote against independence were a referendum being held this week. But an independent Scotland is not unthinkable for me. Indeed, one reason I am voting for the Nationalists is my extreme annoyance at many of those in the English press and blogosphere who seem to have developed a strong hatred of Scotland. Yes, the West Lothian Question should have been dealt with - a position accepted by 99% of Scots. But all those claims about Scotland being an economic basket case have become rather tiresome. It ain't so and I can't be bothered to link yet again to the evidence. Suffice to say that we're number four out of the twelve UK regions and boringly average in the European economic context.

But my primary reason for voting for the Nationalists is this. What would Tony Blair want? What would Gordon Brown want? What would Joke McConnell want? The last thing they'd want is my voting SNP. So that's what I'll be doing and I hope and pray that Labour gets a good kicking on Thursday.

Blogless in Venice

There was a little clue here about the recent lack of posts. We've been away on holiday and were in Venice, among other places. No golden forks were observed.

Lots of travel photos will be on Flickr in a few days.

To some extent I managed to keep up with the Scottish election campaign, which is certainly more interesting than the last one.

I'll write something later today about how I plan to vote.