Wednesday 31 December 2008

Has the Telegraph been dumbed down?

I guess it has:
Video: New Year's Eve celebrations begin in Aukland

Revellers in the New Zealand capital have watched a colourful display coming from the top of the Sky Tower.



Oh dear...

Tuesday 30 December 2008

Do the Scotsman's journalists pay income tax?

Do unions mislead?

Now here's an interesting story:
SALARIES in Scotland are lagging £3,000 behind the average British wage and are more than £18,000 less than pay packets in London, a survey reveals today.

The research found only workers in Aberdeen and Edinburgh earned more than the £31,323 average taken home by full-time workers across the UK.

No that's not what's "taken home", it's pre-tax. There is a difference.

At least the Scotsman picks up on this bit:

However the GMB's UK national average of £31,323 is far higher than the ONS average of £24,908 as it refers to the "mean" average – a basic division of all salaries by the number of full-time workers – rather than the "median" preferred by the ONS, which effectively ignores extremely low and high salaries.
But let's look at the GMB Union's figures a bit more closely, in particular that £46,462 "average" for London. That seemed extraordinarily high to me, even accepting that the Union doesn't use the normal "median" wage but instead quotes the very misleading "mean".

Here's what the GMB says:

These figures are from a new analysis by GMB, Britain’s general union, of the recently published Table 7.7a of the 2008 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings by the Office of National Statistics. These are the most recent figures from the survey in April 2008. GMB’s analysis ranks the average gross annual pay for full time men and women workers from the highest to the lowest for each region and area of the UK and expresses the pay in each area as a percentage of the average annual pay of full time men and women in UK. The figures are for jobs in the area. What is shown is an average of the gross pay of the higher and lower paid jobs.
I couldn't work out where the GMB got its figure from but according to table 7.7a the mean gross salary for London is £40,354, not £46,462, and the median, that's to say the typical salary with as many people earning above and below this figure, is £29,260 PA.

So why would a union present London salaries in this misleading way? Could it be because they want to discredit capitalism? Surely not...

Monday 29 December 2008

Route 66

I was having a look at Propliner Magazine at lunchtime today when I came across an article by Gordon Reid.

Gordon, or Nodrog as he was known in the good old days, was one of those aviation enthusiasts who came down from Glasgow to Prestwick at the weekends. Another frequent weekend visitor was the late Wilf White. I'm sure that you'll all be buying a copy of Wilf's photographic book, not least because yours truly makes an appearance on pages 16 and 17, although the year quoted on page 17 seems to be a bit out...

Nod, who is on page 17 of Wilf's book, later worked at Heathrow and then emigrated to Australia. His Propliner article describes a recent trip to the US:

After a 14.5 hour direct flight from Melbourne I arrived in Los Angeles on the morning of July 17th. I was en-route to EAA Air Venture 2008 at Oshkosh, Wisconsin and on arrival at Los Angeles my usual means of transport to Oshkosh is a connecting flight to Chicago. This year, however, I had decided that I was going to drive across the USA from Los Angeles to Oshkosh and back to see how many Propliners I could find.
Fair enough, I thought.

Nod's concluding paragraph goes like this:

The return journey from Oshkosh to Los Angeles took me 10 days and added a further 4,400 miles to my car hire thus taking it to 9,541 miles. In total 150 airfields were visited with 157 Propliners being noted. The main types being 81 DC-3s and 44 Convairliners, supported by 13 DC-4s, one Carvair, two DC-6s, two DC-7s, three C-46s, three Martin 4-0-4s, two L-749/1049s, two Viscounts and four YS11s
There are two lessons to be learnt from this:
(1) The younger generation couldn't cope with this kind of workload.

(2) Sell your shares in car rental firms that hire by the week.

Sunday 28 December 2008

Don't Tread on Me

I see that the SNP's been having a go at Westminster's inability to protect data:
THE SNP today hit out at the UK Government's "appalling" data loss record, claiming more than 13 million records were lost this year, equivalent to 25 every minute.
And Pete Wishart's certainly got this right:
Mr Wishart said Labour's record on data security was reason enough to abandon ID cards.
But as one of the commenters puts it:
I really do think the Scottish Nationalist Party are tempting fate - it's not as if those elements of the public sector for which they have responsibility don't handle personal data!
That's exactly what I thought when I first read this piece. Abandoning ID cards is certainly a start but that doesn't deal with the fundamental issue here. What really needs to be addressed is why governments (including Scottish ones) need to collect so much information on us in the first place. And the answer of course is that they've strayed far beyond what could be said to be the only legitimate function of government: protecting us against those who initiate force or fraud.

Full stop.

For those politicians who don't understand this and who might wonder what's in store for them I recommend watching Channel 4's excellent new production.

Saturday 27 December 2008

Friday 26 December 2008

On my recent silence

There's been no blogging here for a couple of weeks. And there are two reasons for this.

First, I've been unwell. My chest infection returned on the 8th of the month and has still not completely gone. I've had no energy to do very much of anything at all, including blogging.

But there's something else.

Readers may well have noticed a distinct reduction of the number of posts over the past year or so. I guess I've become somewhat "blogged out".

This whole thing started way back April 2002 with these words:

Welcome to this new blog. The title Freedom and Whisky links the two themes of this blog: libertarianism and Scotland. The libertarianism will, however, sometimes extend beyond events in Scotland and I shall also be covering non-political news of interest to me north of the border. I have therefore included links to a variety of Scottish sites which I often use.
The plan was to introduce libertarian ideas to readers in Scotland but also to help libertarian-leaning folk elsewhere learn a bit more about this rather strange land.

Most posts have had something to do with politics but I've always believed that it was a good idea to throw in some other pieces that dealt with whatever simply struck me as interesting.

Back in 2002 I was probably the only libertarian blogger in Scotland and indeed one of the very few Scottish bloggers of any sort. I think it's fair to say that we now have quite a few Scottish blogs written by people with distinct libertarian leanings, even if they can't necessarily quote their Mises and Rothbard chapter and verse. The same is so down south. Almost every day I discover a new libertarianish blog written by someone who gets it but whose name is quite unknown to me. How different from the old days.

I joined the Libertarian Alliance way back in 1972 and have looked after its money (such as it is!) ever since. Back then meetings took place in someone's flat and half a dozen was a good crowd. I well remember sitting on someone's floor listening to Harry Schultz going on about gold and money. Was he mad? No, it turned out. Later on we graduated to draughty meeting halls and the numbers rose - perhaps by seven or eight in a good year. I recall being inordinately proud when I met Andrew Alexander of the Daily Mail at some gathering of suit-wearing Young Conservatives and Alexander telling me that I must be the token "real libertarian" because I was wearing blue jeans, a black polo-neck sweater and a Taxation is Theft badge!

Eventually the Alternative Bookshop opened in Covent Garden, managed by LA founder Chris Tame who was later assisted by Brian Micklethwait. Brian was usually to be seen crouched over his highly advanced Osborne computer, churning out an endless stream of LA publications. On paper of course: there was as yet no Internet. The shop saw regular visits by Hayek, Friedman and other prominent writers. Back then we probably knew all British libertarians in person. But now, as I said above, they seem to keep popping up all over the place. There's a veritable anarchy of new libertarians out there and I like to think that this justifies Chris Tame's firm belief that the intellectual battle is what matters, not day-to-day political skirmishes.

So why so few posts here recently?

Partly it's just being "blogged out". How many times can one rant on about the idiocies of politicians? How often do we need to tell the Bank of England to just stop printing the money?

Another reason is connected to the vast expansion of Internet output from libertarians and from others writing about just about everything else that interests me. Take a look this. Click on the folders to expand if necessary. It's a full time job just trying to keep up with other sites!

So what now for Freedom and Whisky? I'm not sure really but I'm not going to go away. Maybe there will be less day-to-day party political stuff and more to do with the more important long-term ideas. Perhaps that takes me a bit more away from Scotland, but not necessarily. I voted SNP back in May last year but they've turned out to be big-statists just like the rest of them. There's plenty of material there. And how will Scotland recover from the near disintegration of its financial services industry? Will part nationalisation make us more afraid of independence or will the inevitable loss of control to London have the opposite effect? It could go either way. But what's certain is this: like everywhere else on the planet Scotland needs the ideas that were pioneered here during the Enlightenment. Libertarian ideas.

A Happy New Year to all my readers.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Saviour of the World

I can't see why there's all this fuss about bridges over the Forth so that folk can get back home to North Queensferry.

Can't they just walk on the water?

Wednesday 10 December 2008

That German Market again

I wasn't going to write about it again but then this has cropped up:
A RETIRED lawyer has claimed he was stopped from taking pictures of Edinburgh's Winter Wonderland by an event steward who told him it would "breach data protection laws".
There are plenty of comments and almost all are sensible.

The restriction seems to be on what the organisers call "long lens cameras". But as this chap points out, modern compact cameras often have zoom lenses that are considerably more powerful than the lenses used by the typical DSLR user. It also occurred to me that the more recent "full frame" DSLRs that have larger sensors than is usual are clearly bulkier than the "cropped sensor" DSLRs that most people use. Presumably the security operatives will find these large cameras to be especially threatening. But the larger sensors reduce the telephoto effect of any particular lens. Indeed, that's why the tiny sensors on compact cameras can produce such powerful telephoto effects.

As Mr Elder said:

There should be a clear notice displayed, explaining the rules.
And the rules would seem to be: powerful telephoto zoom lenses are fine unless the camera is large.

New Site

Welcome to Scottish Libertarians.

Friday 5 December 2008


I'm pleased to see that Arthur's Seat is active again. No, not the volcano. The Blog.

And a warm welcome to The Steamie, a proper blog from the folks at the Scotsman.

What's in a name?

When I get fed up with politics I can always return to my love of photography, despite the current threats.

One of my favourite publications is Outdoor Photography. Nothing political there surely.

But what's this? In the current issue's Reader Workshop one of the featured photographers goes by the name of Karlmarx Rajangam.

I really do feel sorry for this chap.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Living beyond "our" means

George Kerevan is one of the Scotsman's best writers. But he's dead wrong on this one:

The article is behind the subscription wall but this is from the dead tree version:

Of course, a fall in sterling still means an implicit wage cut – it's just that we don't see it in happening in our wage packet. A cheaper pound means the imported plasma television is more expensive, as is everything else that is imported, including food, so our real standard of living has been cut. The charm of this approach is that the pain is spread equitably.
No, no, no.

There's nothing equitable about this at all. The financial crisis has been caused by imprudent citizens, by incompetent bankers and, above all, by central banks acting under the control of economically ignorant politicians.

My mother's lifetime savings are being used to fund her increasingly expensive residence in a nursing home. Mr Kerevan thinks it's equitable for her savings to be depreciated in order to bail out spendthrift citizens and politicians. Perhaps she should have blown the lot.

I'm in a somewhat similar situation. I have no debts and a bit of savings. And it took a lot of hard work to get to this position. I can well remember when my total wealth was about £50.

To sort this mess we need to have a massive cut in public expenditure and a return to sound money.

My friend Brian agrees.

Monday 1 December 2008

Is Damian Green a photographer?

It's not just opposition MPs who have to watch out. Here in Edinburgh the war on photography continues.

You'd have thought that the disasters that have befallen HBOS and RBS would have made the City Council all the more determined to protect our tourist industry, especially in the run up to the busy Hogmanay season that's so important for the winter economy. Tourism is probably now our biggest single private sector industry. But oh no, there's no innocent activity that escapes the attention of Big Brother:

I have spoken to Mr. John Paul Murphy who is in charge of the Edinburgh Winter Festivals and the German Market falls under his jurisdiction. He has informed me that we will be required to be "accredited" with a pass. Once we are in possession of the pass, we will have unlimited use of the site to take photography. To this end, he has asked me to gather full names of those wishing to attend on Saturday. If you are uncomfortable printing your full name in this forum, I fully understand and in that case, please mail me your full name in order that you may be granted a pass.

As a sub-note I am not entirely satisfied with this situation and fully intend to delve further into the violation of photographer's rights and will most likely call upon Jacquiline Smith (Home Secretary) and my local MP

The German Market takes place in Princes Street Gardens, one of the most photographed places in the UK. But the Council goons now want the names of local photographers so they can be "accredited" to take photographs in a public space in the centre of our capital city.

One of the bizarre things about the war on photography is the attention paid to SLRs, or "professional cameras" in goonspeak. I'd be astounded if more than one percent of SLRs go to professionals. The vast majority of them are bought by keen amateurs. Normal law-abiding and tax-paying individuals. The people who pay the Council employees' wages. The irony is this: lots of compact cameras that don't seem to worry the camera Gestapo in the the least have longer reaching zoom lenses than are used on most SLRs.

I bet that Damian Green was an amateur photographer and that's really why he was arrested.