Friday, 31 December 2004

New Year's Honours List

And the top award goes to Michael Howard who has been made a Knight Commander of the Blairite Empire for services to the destruction of the Conservative Party. Sadly, a few of Mr Howard's colleagues aren't quite on message yet:
SENIOR members of the Conservative front-bench cast doubt yesterday on the party’s policy of supporting government plans for national identity cards.
And there are even a few reactionary holdouts on the tax question:
some front-benchers want Mr Howard to promise to cut taxes if he becomes prime minister
But don't worry about your job as Lecturer in Underwater Basket Weaving:
MICHAEL Howard will today play down hopes among some leading Tory politicians that he will fight next year’s general election on a platform of sweeping tax cuts.
Phew, that's a relief.

And Sir Michael won't have to worry about any more of those tiresome elections, will he? After next May's formalities we can look forward to the speedy implementation of the Civil Contingencies Act and the last Tory leader can enjoy a well-earned sinecure as Gauleiter of Lower Kent.

Numbersmen Nix Nationalism

It's not really the most shocking news of 2004 to read that the Conservatives are trying to re-connect with business:
The first of what will become a series of regular newsletters on business matters will be sent to the chief executives of the top 500 Scottish companies early in the New Year.
Nor is it much of a surprise to learn that the Tories are more popular (29%) among chartered accountants than are the other parties:
This compared with 9% for Labour, 4% for the Liberal Democrats and 1% for the SNP.
But surely the Nationalists can't be happy with those figures. I know that some effort has been made by the SNP to appeal to the business community, but it ain't working. As the party's own website proclaims:
The SNP is a democratic left-of-centre political party committed to Scottish Independence. It aims to create a just, caring and enterprising society by releasing Scotland's full potential as an independent nation in the mainstream of modern Europe.
The economies of most of those "left-of-centre" European countries are facing huge problems as a result of a failure to tackle high welfare spending and excessive business-strangling red tape. It's no wonder that accountants are wary of independence. Boring though it may sound, the SNP would be better served by labelling itself as middle-of-the-road.

A welcome Viking intervention

The economy of the Highlands is precarious at the best of times and I was pleased to read about this rescue:
A vital business in the Highlands, which supplies Scotland's salmon farming industry, has been saved from the threat of closure by Norwegian-owned Scottish Sea Farms.
I can't help wondering if the success of Norwegian-owned fishing companies has just a wee bit to do with that country's non-membership of the EU.

Wednesday, 29 December 2004

This blog

For exceedingly geekish reasons to do with the XML feed I have had to go back over every single entry made over the past two and a bit years. There remains a little amount of work to complete before I am entirely happy with the historical postings but the end of this task is nigh. One thing I've learned is not to allow "the system" to generate file references for digital photographs unless you want a rather stylish photo of the sadly unsuccessful applicant for the position of BBC Chair:

to suddenly be replaced by one of a regimental demonstrator:

The life of a blogger can be lonely and sometimes one even wonders if it's all worthwhile. But looking back over the 1,281 entries since April 2002 makes me feel just a wee bit proud of what I've done. And so it's onward into a New Year with many more postings to follow.

The XML feed...

... is now back on.

Monday, 27 December 2004

Are you reading this Miss Downie?

Miss Downie taught the English class at Ayr Academy and would be shocked to learn that I have won a poetry contest!

In the Scottish domestic politics section (extra merit award):

To save our NHS
I'd wager, at a guess
We should convert the numptorium
Into a new sanatorium.

David Farrer at Freedom and Whisky

Thanks to Arthur's Seat for this most welcome news.

Saturday, 25 December 2004

Attention XML feed users

I am reformatting the titles on the blog to make them more user-friendly on Bloglines. Unfortunately the first 25 adjustments appeared on Bloglines as new postings a short while ago. I have switched off the XML feed for the time being until this operation is complete. Hopefully existing posts will not appear on Blogines once the XML is reactivated. Please ignore any sudden appearance of 1,000 or so "new" postings!

Merry Christmas

Thanks to Neil Craig for this

Friday, 24 December 2004

Not my job, guv!

The First Minister has opened up a good old-fashioned demarcation dispute with his southern colleagues:
“I have one message for MPs and members of the House of Lords in the other direction—and that is to concentrate on their own affairs and allow this devolved Parliament to concentrate on ours. And we in this devolved Parliament will continue as a result to ensure that Scotland is a better place in 2005.”
I don't disagree with that in principle but it's a bit rich coming from our Jack. His own government has been making extraordinary high usage of Sewel Motions. And what on earth are they you may ask. The idea goes something like this:
"the devolution of legislative competence to the Scottish parliament does not affect the ability of Westminster to legislate for Scotland even in relation to devolved matters. Indeed, as paragraph 4.4 of the White Paper explained, we envisage that there could be instances where it would be more convenient for legislation on devolved matters to be passed by the United Kingdom Parliament. However, as happened in Northern Ireland earlier in the century, we would expect a convention to be established that Westminster would not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish parliament.
The problem is that the Scottish parliament has decided to let Westminster legislate whenever, it seems, that the subject at hand is likely to get MSPs into trouble, as is noted here:
One of the most disappointing features of the current Scottish Parliament is its bastardised use of the Sewel Convention in order to avoid any hint of controversy.
I believe that I suggested before that MSPs' salaries should be cut each time a Sewel motion is adopted. Why should they receive full pay if they won't do their job?

In the meantime Jack McConnell has no business telling MPs to butt out of devolved matters if his own administration constantly runs away from controversy by passing the buck to London.

The Tory ID Card disaster

The 1952 Committee membership list can now be viewed here.

Thursday, 23 December 2004

The armed blogger

This was taken when I was thinner, hairier, but no less militant.

Should the justice minister be reading, I would point out that my wife took the photograph in Utah, not Edinburgh.

Big brother

Recently I was sent an e-mail by Giles of Jacobs Room. My Hotmail account automatically stuck his message into my "spam" folder. I replied to Giles and speculated that perhaps the term "libertarian" or "bottle" or even "1952 Committee" had triggered off the spam alert.

Giles thinks it was more likely to have been his use of the salutation "Sir", as in "Dear Sir, I am the Finance Minister of Britain Nigeria and have an offer that you can't refuse..."

Tuesday, 21 December 2004

Sad quote of the week

Anyone who wears a red suit and has a beard remarkably similar to Karl Marx's is not to be trusted. I start with this principle.
... Dr Gary North.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Monday, 20 December 2004

New links added today

Please take a look at The Welfare State We're in (and get the book), and The Barred Bard.

The brothers fall out

Westminster Labour doesn't think too much of its comrades in Holyrood:
In a devastating attack, Labour peer Lord Sewel said the Scottish Executive always seemed to be populated by the same few ministers who were constantly being rotated like "re-treads" because of a dearth of talent on the back-benches.
It's not only Lord Sewel who holds this opinion, as this quote demonstrates:
Another Labour politician, who did not want to be named, said: "The gap between the two parliaments is immense. I mean, who would you want running your economy, Gordon Brown or Tom McCabe?
The answer I would give to that question is: neither. And it may even be preferable for the economy to be "run" by Mr McCabe who would probably be less skilful at ripping off the productive people than Gordon Brown. The real point is that both Holyrood and Westminster do too much. Once we have reduced state activity to a more appropriate level full time politicians won't be necessary. On that happy day it will be possible for people with real jobs to spare a small amount of their time taking part in government.

Saturday, 18 December 2004

"a backstabbing coward"

That's what Annabelle Ewing MP called the Defence Secretary earlier in the week when he announced the abolition of all of Scotland's regiments. Ms Ewing can be seen here marching along Princes Street today along with Conservative and Liberal Democrat colleagues:

A more moderate description of the target of today's march was this:

Judging by the march's reception from the Christmas shoppers neither Mr Hoon nor Mr Blair would have been welcome in Edinburgh today.

People of all ages took part in and watched the demonstration:

Some more photos:

And at the end of the march:

Can you... the Haggis in Glasgow?

Another objector...

... to the Tory ID error.

Don't DEL

Responding to my posting about the Scottish Parliament building, Stuart called for a separate Scottish Civil Service:
Whitehall continue to run Scotland in just the same distant, arrogant way that they have since the Treaty of Union was signed by our bunch of rogues.
Today I read that the Civil Service is preparing for the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act:
MILLIONS of e-mails to civil servants at the heart of government will be automatically wiped on Monday, 11 days before freedom of information laws come into force.

The Cabinet Office, which supports the Prime Minister and co-ordinates policy across government, has ruled that e-mails more than three months old must be deleted from December 20, The Times has learnt.

When ID cards were first being mooted Scottish Ministers insisted that the cards wouldn't be necessary for access to devolved services such as health. The reasoning was that the Executive was in favour of freedom and open government. I wonder what would happen if Scotland's rulers were to order our civil servants to disobey Whitehall orders and refrain from deleting e-mails.

This gentleman... sceptical about the global warming scam.

He knows what he is talking about - his name is Frost.

Friday, 17 December 2004

That building again

I enjoyed seeing the inside of the new parliament building earlier this week but, like most people, I'm still extremely angry about the project's mismanagement. The official inquiry didn't lead to any meaningful action being taken against those responsible. Now, the inquiry's QC has spoken out:
Mr Campbell lambasted those who ran the project, from the civil servants to the politicians, accusing them all of failing to tackle any of the problems that came to plague the building.
I though that this observation was fascinating:
Mr Campbell was particularly scathing of the MSPs on the Holyrood Progress Group, which was set up four years ago to get the troubled project under control. He said: "Professional teams were all treated as menials by the Holyrood Progress Group. They were kept waiting, they were treated as office boys."
But that's what happens with any political form of management. The politicians lord it over the rest of us, professionals included. Private organisations can get away with treating experts (and customers) as "menials" or "office boys" for a while but pretty quickly lose credibility and market share and then go bust. The political machine just goes marching on.

Wednesday, 15 December 2004


All I can say is: One out, all out!

(On second thoughts, I wonder if Michael Howard is now cursing himself for supporting ID cards. Will Blair now trump the Tories by appointing an anti-ID card Home Secretary?)

Where the money went

I paid my first visit to the new Parliament building last night and I must say that I was impressed with the interior. And so I should be: the front desk cost more than my flat! I liked the extensive use of wood and both the debating chamber and the committee rooms were spectacular. It's such a pity that what actually goes on in the building is so disappointing and both of the two taxi drivers I used had sound views on politicians, taxation and political correctness. The entrance area that contains the £88,000 desk seemed somewhat gloomy and reminded me of a Paris Metro station. Apparently, more lighting will be installed once the remaining "snagging" work is complete. One of my party asked a workman what he was doing. The reply: "I not know. I no speaka da English." Labour outsourcing was evident elsewhere: the waiting staff were Australian, as was the wine. When leaving, I spotted a cash machine and asked an MSP if it was the only one in the country that took money instead of giving it out.

Tuesday, 14 December 2004

The Conservative Party - RIP

So, they've finally committed suicide:
The shadow cabinet revealed its support ahead of next week's Commons vote on a bill to introduce compulsory ID.
By an exquisite piece of timing I shall be able to confront the leader of the Scottish Tories at a meeting that he will be addressing this evening.

Like many libertarians I have despaired of the Conservatives for so long but remained a reluctant voter in the absence of any alternative. No longer: I've joined the 1952 Committee.

Monday, 13 December 2004

There will be...

...little or no blogging today as I am visiting the Lake District.

Sunday, 12 December 2004

Entering the modern world

I have now added an XML feed facility after reading this on Patrick Crozier's new blog :
The drawback is that there is a hard core of RSS refuseniks who I can’t read that way. No, I have to log onto their sites on the off chance that they’ve published an update. It is so 2003.
2003 indeed. I thought we were still in the 'sixties....

Actually, this XML feed thingy is very neat and will save me a lot of surfing time when reading other blogs. If readers wish to do this themselves, click on the "Sub Bloglines" button.

Friday, 10 December 2004

I'm in the doghouse

I managed to get all the numbers to balance on Thursday. The debits equalled the credits and the results went to the Board on time. I was able to take a day off today. The problem was that I woke up at 3am and couldn't get back to sleep. And so it was that I found myself in the bloghouse at that unearthly hour and occupied myself by getting through the early morning's surfing well ahead of schedule. My friends down in London are still pontificating wisely. It seems that the proposition that the collapse of communism was a con remains not proven, although the jury's still out on that one. The gold market was still functioning somewhere on the planet.

By eight the porridge was brewing and at nine the Better Half was busy vacuuming the flat and rearranging our "miscellaneous stuff". I was engaged in composing epistles to various government departments and the like. And, guess what, I didn't feel like blogging anything at all.

The problem was that the Chairman of Freedom and Whisky PLC was also having a day off. Normally on Fridays he's busy performing his duties as Professor of Canine Epistemology at the University of Edinburgh. I've been summoned to a disciplinary hearing for dereliction of duty and I don't like the look of what the Chairman is reading:

Wednesday, 8 December 2004

Your chance to win

Neighbouring Edinburgh blog Arthur's Seat is running its first annual Clerihew contest. Mr Seat has asked this interesting question:
Can we get something to rhyme with Numptorium?
Click on the link and enter.

Missing manners

So prisoners now have to be called "Mr". I wouldn't mind this so much if other government departments called me Mr Farrer instead of "Dave" or even "mate" as with the Inland Revenue yesterday. Considering that I had to speak to five of my other civil servants before I was put through to the correct one at the Revenue I didn't feel too matey with them anyway.

The coming chaos

I believe that roads should be privatised. In the presumable absence of road charities, the user would have to pay, directly or indirectly. I have some sympathy with local councils who are attempting to introduce charging systems although we can't expect government bureaucrats to come up with the kind of elegant solutions that would emerge in a free market for transport. It does seem rather perverse for the Edinburgh City Council to propose a cut in parking fees by 25% to offset road tolls. Surely the whole point of the tolls is to reduce traffic in the city centre. It looks as though we'll get a typical politically inspired mess with tolls and cheaper parking. Incidentally, I'm one of those who doesn't really think that Edinburgh's traffic is all that much to worry about - take a trip to London. Lack of parking is a major problem but one that's inevitable in a historic city like ours. I almost always use the excellent bus service instead of attempting to find a parking space.

The forthcoming referendum will ask us:

"The council’s preferred strategy includes congestion charging and increased transport investment funded by it. Do you support the council's preferred strategy?"
The Tories are campaigning against the tolls without - no surprise here - putting forward any free market alternatives. Suburban Tory car users may well vote against the proposals but so may some of us who don't believe that the Council will operate a sane system or that the resulting revenue (assuming that it doesn't run at a loss) will indeed be used to improve public transport.


Neil Craig had another letter published yesterday.

Monday, 6 December 2004

The big picture

I recommend that readers take a regular look at the Discussion Form on The Daily Reckoning. I thought that this posting was especially interesting:
Date: December 05, 2004 04:44 AM
Author: Ricardo Smith (
Subject: I'd say Washington has "won" round 1.


I don't think we are even in round one yet. This is just noise for the fans, as the present champion shadow boxes with the upcoming pretender. All know that when China reaches critical mass with a well developed and broad middle class, and a well developed and broad financial system backed by enforceable rule of law, China's internal demand will become the engine of growth that pulls the world, including the USA. Trouble is, does that happen in 10 years, 25 years, 50 years?

For now, I think China's aims are short term shots across America's bows regarding Taiwan. They want it back before the Beijing Olympics in 2008. But the Taiwanese President wants to force a vote on independence in 2006. If they vote yes, China has publically and repeatedly said they will act militarily to stop it, no matter what the cost. President Hu got all he met on his S American tour at APEC to reaffirm their "one China" credentials. Bush did so kinda, but with his fingers crossed. He has to square a U-turn with his rhetoric of his first 2 years and at the same time not be seen as jumping to China's tune. China knows that even if the US remained miitarily uninvolved, they could freeze the PBOC's (and other's) assets in US bank's and at the Fed. That more than anything else drives China's shift from the dollar, I think, into buying foreign natural resource assets and into making dollar loans to countries around the world. Between now and mid 2006, I think they will try to sclae down dollar risk.

Even so, they still have about half a trillion dollars at risk, plus those held by semi autonomous HK, ($150 billion,I think.) Longer term, this is just the start of the 21st century scramble to lock up diminishing global natural resources. In over simple terms, the US over consumes natural resources and gets a free ride via the dollar. Increasingly,that is starting to rankle non Americans. Probably made slightly worse by the way this President dissipated the global goodwill following 9/11. The present fiat-dollar reserve system is too unstable to last long term. The questions are what replaces it. Does transition happen via a soft landing (cooperation,) or a hard landing (crisis/panic,) and how long the transition. At this point, just before President Bush starts his second term, early indications are that he seems to be flirting with an "in your face", approach. Sort of "the people gave me a mandate, God gave me the first", lets do it. Certainly if he wants to go for broke, there's nothing to stop him putting through the changes he wants. Right now he could almost get away with reinstituting segregation, but I think he'll settle for gutting abortion. Time will tell if he he goes for broke, and if he does, if that's good for the dollar or not.

Doubly stressed?

According to Dr Tony Mann I should be stressed out because my Christmas shopping wasn't completed by 12:30 on Saturday:
FOR anyone who has spent the past week or so sending their blood pressure soaring as they fight their way through the crowds of Christmas shoppers - searching frantically for that one special gift - there is some terrible news: it has been proved mathematically that come 12:30pm today any remaining fun and good cheer they may have felt will disappear
Actually, I'm a bit of an exception here: I reckon the cut-off point is more like 4pm on Christmas Eve. What stresses me right now is learning that our tax-funded universities investigate stuff like this.

Sunday, 5 December 2004

Right and left

Thanks to Steve Coombes for this one. A Highland teacher has run into trouble over his firearms licence. He is also in trouble with his employers:
He was accused of making controversial comments in class on subjects like race, slavery and firearms and said that positive discrimination in favour of the disabled and ethnic minorities had gone too far.

John Bruce, a senior education officer with Highland Council, told the court: "What struck me about the whole affair was the number of views that resided in one corner of the political spectrum and their relentlessness.

"Never in my professional life have I come across such blatant propaganda and indoctrination. I was alarmed and shocked by the extent of it."

A large number of employees of Scotland's local councils, including teachers, are firmly in the left corner of the political spectrum. Does that concern Mr Bruce?

The solution of course is to privatise education and let parents decide what kind of schools they wish to patronise.

Tickets and cards

The Sunday Herald's Iain Macwhirter lets David Blunkett off the hook:
Questions may be raised over Blunkett’s gift of train tickets to his lover and her use of the ministerial car. His civil servants interviewing Mrs Quinn probably broke a ministerial code. Blunkett certainly shouldn’t have been running an alternative immigration service in his office, and if it emerges that he really did intervene in the visa application of Mrs Quinn’s nanny then he is toast. But I can’t believe he would have been stupid enough so to do. The other offences are “de minimis’’, as they say in Whitehall.

I’m not saying it is all right for ministers to bend the rules, but there has to be a limit to the rigour with which essentially petty rules are enforced.

That's not good enough. In other walks of life fiddling expenses can and does lead to losing one's job. I listened to Any Answers on the car radio yesterday. A local councillor phoned in to point out that he would have been called up in front of the standards committee had he signed off a mistress's train ticket. In all likelihood he would have been removed as a councillor. Unsurprisingly, the BBC's leftist Jonathan Dimbleby couldn't understand why the councillor was so upset.

There was a good letter in yesterday's Herald that asked whether an ID card system would have prevented the issue of the controversial free rail ticket. I somehow think that ID cards will be aimed at the likes of "ordinary" people and not cabinet ministers and their friends.

Put not your trust in politicians

Thanks to Stuart Dickson for drawing my attention to this story.

The Economist proclaims that:

The financial world, it sometimes seems, is broadly divided into those who believe in gold as the ultimate currency and those who don’t. In the latter camp are most economists, the most famous of whom, John Maynard Keynes, described gold as a “barbarous relic”.
I suppose that statement is correct although I can't help pointing out that most of those "economists" have failed to provide any logical or consistent explanation of their subject, especially monetary economics. For that you need to consult these guys who are firmly on the other side of the divide.

The Economist continues:

It used to be that gold bugs touted the yellow metal’s credentials as a hedge against inflation. But the link was anyway pretty feeble, except for currencies with hyperinflation. And though consumer prices have risen a bit this year, it would be hard to make the case that inflation is about to roar anywhere in the developed world.
But the Economist is wrong: the link is not feeble. I wrote this a couple of years ago:
Since 1913, the pound has lost 98% of its value and the dollar has declined by 95%. As long as we have a fiat currency with money being created out of thin air, inflation will continue. The Austrians showed that sound money can only exist if it is 100% based on a commodity, probably gold or silver.
I don't think that losing all but 2% of your money in less than a century is unimportant. An annual inflation of 3% would wipe out half of your savings in just twenty-three years. It's no mystery why we have a pension crisis. Consider this quote:
"Regardless of the dollar price involved, one ounce of gold would purchase a good-quality man's suit at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, and today."
Peter A. Burshre
I recall reading somewhere that an ounce of gold would also buy you a good-quality toga in Roman times. That's consistency. I'd rather trust gold and silver than any politician. Let's see, it's about twenty centuries since the Roman regime was at its peak. Will the Economist sell me a 2,000-year subscription at today's sterling rates?

Thursday, 2 December 2004

Winter arrives

Four years ago Scotland's first First Minister slipped on an icy pavement outside his official residence at Bute House in Charlotte Square. Sadly, Donald Dewar died from the resulting injury.

This morning saw Edinburgh's first real blast of winter. People were scraping frost from their windscreens and the ground appeared to be slippery. My wife warned me to be careful when walking to work. All was well as I proceeded from Haymarket, through Shandwick Place and into Queensferry Street. I went through the alleyway and on to the north side of Charlotte Square. Then I saw the ice. Someone had chosen this morning of all days to wash down the steps of, yes, Bute House and both the steps and the pavement outside were highly slippery. What are we to make of this? Of all the buildings in all the streets this one was dangerous. Are the civil servants incompetent or are they trying to get rid of another First Minister?

Wednesday, 1 December 2004

Is it possible...

...that this cultural masterpiece has been created without the aid of the Culture Minister? Surely not.

A simple explanation

To some, it's a bit of a mystery: Why are the "big names" not selling?
Famous publishers are paying vast sums for so-called "big books" that wind up very quickly in the remainder shops. Meanwhile, the best-seller lists are topped by perfectly-formed, unprepossessing volumes from small independent firms that can hardly believe their good fortune
Surely the reasons are obvious, and they're not to do with the size of the publisher. Consider who's not selling:
Rageh Omaar - pinko BBC reporter

Jon Snow - pinko Channel 4 newsreader

Greg Dyke - pinko BBC boss (deposed)

And who is selling:
Lynne Truss - who offers first aid to victims of the NuLab education system

Jordan - a creation that no government could conceivably produce

Alexander McCall Smith - creator of The Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency whose heroine is a paragon of the libertarian virtues, among which is an uncanny ability to catch criminals (often pinkos)

The market has spoken. We don't want to read about pinkos or their worldview.