Saturday, 31 December 2005

Diets for capitalists

It's no accident - as the Marxists would say - that the Financial Times is printed on pink paper. The FT's endless advocacy of economic interventionism and its love affair with the Effeminate Union mean that I rarely buy a copy during the week. But on Saturdays I make an exception.

It's very enjoyable to pop down to Ryries and enjoy a pint or two while reading the weekend section of the FT. But even with this bit of the paper, there's a problem. Usually the Saturday edition carries an interview with some celebrity that takes place over a meal. The thing is, though, these meals are, how shall I put it, somewhat wimpish. Typically the "meal" goes something like this: two pieces of broccoli, three lettuce leaves, one-and-a half bottles of non-sparkling water and two cups of herb tea. Price £85. Good grief! I want my capitalists to be red in tooth and claw.

And today I got my wish:

Daitoen, Fukuoka, western Japan

Menu

3 plates of top quality salty tongue
3 plates of boneless short rib
3 plates of sirloin
2 plates of marinated intestines
1 plate of minced raw beef
1 plate of raw liver
1 x seaweed soup
1 x tail soup
1 x tomato salad
Kimchee pickles
3 x large rice
Ulon tea

Price: Y19,220 (£94)

On second thoughts, perhaps this is slightly over-the-top, but the guy was a sumo wrestler.

Just what's wrong with that little place in the back streets of Nice, a wee bit west of the Avenue Jean Medecin? The place that my wife and I went to quite a few times when we were in town a few years ago and where we consumed many helpings of steak au poivre with pommes frites, accompanied by lots of cheap but good red wine? About a fiver to you, Monsieur.

Here's the deal. The FT can fly us out to Nice on EasyJet, conduct the interview in that back street restaurant, and fly us back to Edinburgh for around the same price as one of those stick-insect meals. What could be fairer than that?

Friday, 30 December 2005

Is it still the Torygraph?

Many folk in the blogosphere have been lamenting a perceived leftward drift in the pages of the Daily Telegraph. I don't buy the dead-tree version myself, but usually have a quick daily scan of the paper's website. I guess this story in today's paper is the kind of thing that people have in mind:
Redistribution has traditionally been seen as a socialist objective, even though Tony Blair has consistently refused to go that far and has not reversed the cuts in the top rate of income tax introduced by Margaret Thatcher.
"Refused to go that far"! Give us a break, Mr Jones.

Are the rises in National Insurance figments of my imagination? Doesn't the local Labour administration raise my council tax every year? Didn't Gordon Brown mug my pension, but not his own of course? It seems to me that the entire period of the Blair government has been one continuous redistribution of my hard-earned wealth (not to mention my civil liberties) into the pockets of the Guardian-reading classes, as described so well elsewhere in today's Telegraph. No wonder readers are getting worried.

Don't mention the war

Edinburgh is full of tourists at this time of the year. And we've got to make them feel welcome:
A group of travelling actors is taking centre stage in an effort to show those in the tourist industry how to improve their hospitality skills.

They are using a series of Basil Fawlty-style scenes in which holidaymakers are faced with rude and apathetic hotel staff.

The courses are targeted at hoteliers and leisure staff in Scotland.

But would the course help when faced with this situation?

(UPDATE: It occurs to me that it was a bit remiss of the Consul to have been in Scotland for 14 months without having visited a pub. Aren’t these guys meant to get to know the local culture? Of course, I could never be a diplomat in Tokyo. Raw fish! Ugh.)

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

First they came for the microwave

We know how ZaNu Lab likes to criminalise the weapon instead of the perpetrator. You know the sort of thing: make guns illegal so as only criminals have guns.

But I was rather shocked at what happened after the unfortunate demise of a feline from the north east of England:

No arrests were made but a microwave was seized from the house in Middlesbrough.

Will the last person to leave Dumfries please turn out the lights?

I keep a little spreadsheet at home that estimates my income and expenditure month by month for the coming year. This document gets updated every few days. At the moment, it shows a council tax payment of £180 per month (excluding the February and March break). From April I had increased the forecast payment to £185 - an extra 2.78%. It looks like I had under budgeted:
HOUSEHOLDERS face the prospect of two years of above-inflation council tax rises and cuts in services unless the Scottish Executive steps in to fill a £1 billion "black hole" in local authority funding.
This morning I upped the amount to £190 per month - a 5.56% increase. Hopefully that'll be enough.

But it wouldn't be in the county of my birth:

Last night, senior local government sources claimed that, faced with these increased burdens, at least one council - understood to be Dumfries and Galloway - was considering a council tax rise of up to 17 per cent.
Seventeen percent! To think that my late grandfather was a Dumfriesshire councillor.

The councils' spokesman says:

the only answer was more money from the Executive
The Executive blames the councils.

I note that the Dumfries Council is:

a Coalition of Independent, Liberal Democrat and SNP Councillors.
and that the local Conservatives
... have reached a common understanding with the Administration about Priorities, Projects and Principles and look to our contribution in Business Review and Performance activities and the scrutiny of service delivery at area level.
Well, I hope that David Cameron is watching Dumfries to see how the local Tories "scrutinise" the proposed 17% tax rise. Perhaps our David will have to send Bob Geldof to Dumfries to help the poor taxpayers. He'll need a map of the local lampposts and a good supply of rope.

Walking tax

Well, not quite:
Walkers using the West Highland Way could be asked to pay £1 a day to help fund improvements to the popular route.
Note that "asked". It's not the usual ZaNu Lab "We're asking (sic) [some of] you to contribute (sic) more to public (sic) services (sic) by paying a bit (sic) more in tax". They really mean it this time - the proposal is to ask people to pay a voluntary contribution towards the upkeep of the walkway. And what's wrong with that?

Here it comes:

However, the Ramblers' Association Scotland has expressed concern at the proposal saying such a scheme could undermine the principles of Scotland's land reform legislation.
As far as I'm concerned, anything that undermines the "license to trespass" legislation is to be welcomed.

And what about this comment:

"I think it should be funded as it's a tourist attraction. Plenty of people along the way get lots of revenue from it."
That "funded" is the giveaway. It's the weasel word par excellence. What is meant is this: tax any private business in the area, whether it's got anything to do with tourism or not, but for God's sake don't ask the LibDem rambling classes to pay a penny.

The state is not your friend

And neither is the EU. No surprise there of course, but that truth keeps popping up almost everywhere.

Consider the latest publication from the Institute of Economic Affairs. (No link yet to the actual book.) Richard Teather of Bournemouth University has written The Benefits of Tax Competition and in Chapter 8 he discusses the EU Savings Tax Directive. Never mind the boring details, just think about this:

Even for EU investors, however, the directive is full of holes and should be easily avoidable; indeed, the Swiss have dubbed it the "fools' tax" because only those who do not take proper advice will be harmed by it.
For around ten years I was the Finance Director of the UK subsidiary of a Swiss-owned company. And guess what? Such advice is indeed available AND IS BLOODY EXPENSIVE! So we have a situation in which the left-leaning EU administration is getting brownie points for soaking the rich but is doing so in a way that can be easily avoided by those who really are rich and can afford the right advice while the man on the Clapham, Copenhagen or Cologne omnibus gets stuffed.

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Unusual event in Glasgow

I don't suppose that this sort of thing happens too often:
Police were hunting a man who staged an armed robbery at an amusement arcade while dressed in a bright pink dress and brown wig.
On the other hand, over here in Edinburgh I've seen an extraordinarily large number of elderly, bearded gentlemen wearing garish red cloaks.

What's Jack Straw doing about this?

Thanks to the full-metal-kilt-wearing Andrew Ian Dodge for reminding me of this story:
Kilt ban gets people uppitty..inc this Anglo-Norman.

And 9000 people have so far signed the petition to get an apology for a High School student who was banned from wearing his Clan kilt to a ball.

It seems clear to me that the Principal of Jackson High School must have been the victim of an extremely traumatic experience. How else can one explain his kiltophobia? Then it struck me: Mr McClard must have visited Paisley recently - and there's a town that would normally welcome a member of the Clan Lard - and the poor chap must have been forced to remove his baseball hat. (Scroll down if necessary.) A citizen of the good State of Missouri would indeed have been traumatised by such an event. And now he's got his revenge. In the good old days we'd have sent a gunboat. Clyde-built of course.

(UPDATE. Should the Royal Navy wish to do its duty - using HMS Edinburgh perhaps - here's the plan:

Take a south westerly route from the UK. Call in at Key West for some Rest 'n' Recreation. (Kilt wearing is optional.) Proceed to New Orleans. Sail north on Ol' Man River as far as Cape Girardeau. Turn guns to the north west. Range about ten miles. Fire. Goodbye Jackson High School. Then invite the local Southern Belles to an onboard party. Kilt wearing is now compulsory.)

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Tell me it's April 1st

Surely it must be. But no, I'm afraid that this is what we've come to expect:
Ministers have told councils, health boards and social work departments that they should compile a "smokers' map" of Scotland, focusing on those who regularly receive visits from officials and carers. This would identify individual households where a smoker is resident.

The smokers would then be sent letters asking them not to smoke for one hour before a council worker or health worker called round.

And isn't this hilarious:
Mike Rumbles, a Liberal Democrat MSP on the parliament's health committee, said: "This is politically correct nonsense, it is political correctness gone mad. We have a good law to prevent passive smoking harming people by banning smoking in enclosed public places. Public places, not private spaces. What is the Executive doing getting involved in people's homes?"
Mike old chap, this is not an example of "political correctness gone mad". This is exactly what political correctness is all about: the deliberate destruction of all of our traditional liberties and the imposition of the values of the enemy class. And guess what? Mike's own "Liberal" party has been at the forefront of that destruction. That's hardly surprising given that the Liberal Democrats are now merely the political wing of unionised town hall apparatchiks and have almost nothing to do with liberty.

Monday, 19 December 2005

The hat blogger

Last week I saw a man in Shandwick Place who was wearing a bowler hat. My late father used to wear one at the time when I was discovering Swinging London. How time flies. Anyway, now it seems that hats are a threat:
Shoppers in Paisley have been banned from entering some retail outlets wearing hoods and baseball caps.
And it's not just in Paisley:
Baseball caps have been banned from a chain of internet cafes in two Scottish cities, it has emerged.

Easyinternetcafes - owned by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of low cost airline Easyjet - claims the headgear is linked with "deviant" behaviour.

The ban on wearing caps is to be piloted at the chain's branches in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Why just Edinburgh and Glasgow - at least to begin with? The customers in the Manchester Easyinternetcafe looked pretty scary when I was last there, but that may have been because the Championship Final was being played at Old Trafford the next evening.

Although I fully support the right of property owners to set the rules for entering their shops I am rather tempted to go to Paisley wearing this snazzy little number:



Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Or I could even try "blogging while hatted" at the Easyinternetcafe in Rose Street just like I did before I had broadband installed in the West Wing of the Bloghouse.

Damn, Damn, Damn

I'd always planned to do this myself.

But it's too late:

The Barclay brothers have agreed to sell The Scotsman newspaper and other titles to Johnston Press in a deal worth £160m
Now I'll have to acquire the whole Johnston Press empire. I remember thinking a few years ago that the Johnston shares were a "buy" but I didn't follow up. Perhaps Freedom and Whisky should make a shares-only bid for Johnston. Think of the synergy.

Sunday, 18 December 2005

Summoned by Big Brother

Have you ever wondered why so few Scots want to become entrepreneurs, at least here in Scotland itself?

Think no more:

Alex Neil, convener of the enterprise and culture committee, has backed a demand by SNP culture spokesman Michael Matheson that Scottish Television and Grampian explain their actions to the parliament. Neil said that the committee should investigate in the context of the recent closure of the Scottish Daily Mirror, job losses at the Scotsman Publications group and the predicted 300 job cuts at BBC Scotland.
Imagine risking everything to start a business. You give up a regularly paid job. Perhaps you borrow against the equity of your home. Amazingly, even the endless stream of red tape doesn't stop you from chasing your dream. And then, very likely because of the actions of spendthrift politicians, you have to cut back and fire some of your employees. Then what? Those very same politicians have the nerve to haul you into their presence and "explain your actions". To hell with them.

1984 1994

We were having a bit of a clearout of old files today and came across a cutting from the Telegraph of 6th September 1994. The headline was:
Science finds the missing link between baboons and civil servants.
Apparently:
Being at the bottom of the pile created stress, leading to physiological damage.
Hmm. Now who was in power back in 1994? Oh yes: the wicked old Tories. No wonder there was inequality and stress for animal and civil servant alike. Fortunately a Labour government was elected in 1997, thus bringing about an age of equality, albeit one in which some are more equal than others.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Blogging

Posts will continue to be few and far between for the next week or so. This has been caused by an unexpected increase in demand for my paid services. Got to keep that cash flowing in ready for the next tax rise.

(I have in mind this sort of thing.)

Monday, 12 December 2005

Confusion in class

I've written about this before but the confusion never seems to go away.

According to Scotland on Sunday

... Scots in their 30s and 40s - more than a million people - are far less likely than their parents to improve their social standing. It also establishes that the nation's poor are less likely than ever to break out of their working-class origins.

The comprehensive education system was last night seized upon as a key factor in reducing the chances of Scots born between 1967 and 1976 bettering themselves.

The problem with this report - as with so many others - is its unthinking use of the term "class".

In Britain people in the "working class" are manual labourers, "middle class" folk work in offices, and members of the "upper class" drive around their estates shooting the odd stag or grouse. We libertarians consider these definitions to be totally useless, and have done for a hell of a long time:

It's such a treat to read Oppenheimer because he always focuses on the key issues. For instance: "There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one's own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others."
So there are actually only two classes - those who work and those who appropriate. By "work", we mean providing goods and services that are voluntarily purchased by others in the marketplace. And contrary to what Mr Marx thought, "work" includes that most valuable of functions - the allocation of capital to its most productive use. By "appropriate", we mean stealing from workers, either directly, or more insidiously, through the state:
Oppenheimer nails the state as a parasite. For example: "The State is an organization of the political means. No State, therefore, can come into being until the economic means [private sector] has created a definite number of objects for the satisfaction of needs, which objects may be taken away or appropriated by warlike robbery."
So when the report talks about "upward mobility" and "downward mobility", it's using "class" in the traditional but useless sense. Listen to "working class" entrepreneur Mike Donnelly:
But Donnelly, who is married with four daughters, is not convinced that tomorrow's workforce has the same opportunities, or the same drive to climb the social ladder. He said: "People don't want to get their hands dirty any more and it has led to a shortage of skilled labour - it has to be imported now. Less people want to take a risk and set up on their own."
I believe that Mike's wrong in thinking that the opportunities aren't there, although he's spot-on about the lack of drive. But sadly the drive to which Mike is referring is one that (like the report) considers an office job to be superior to a manual one. It isn't. What matters is whether the person concerned really is a "worker" in the libertarian sense. The problem today is that all too many people would rather hold "middle class" office jobs with the state. These appropriators would be far more admirable were they to become real productive workers like Mike Donnelly.

A question

Is Struan Stevenson
who paints himself as a Eurosceptic so as to ensure a high placement on the Tory list in Scotland
really a sceptic? Perhaps not.

Seasonal Greetings

Thanks to Chris Tame of the Libertarian Alliance for this:

THE TWELVE POLITICALLY CORRECT DAYS OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE HOLIDAY

"On the 12th day of the Eurocentrically imposed midwinter festival, my potential-acquaintance-abuse-survivor gave to me:

Twelve males reclaiming their inner warrior through ritual drumming,

Eleven pipers piping (plus the 18-member pit orchestra made up of members in good standing of the Musicians Equity Union as called for in their union contract even though they will not be asked to play a note...);

Ten melanin-deprived testosterone-poisoned scions of the patriarchal ruling class system leaping;

Nine persons engaged in rhythmic self-expression;

Eight economically disadvantaged but still virginal Gyno-Americans stealing milk products from enslaved Bovine-Americans;

Seven endangered swans swimming on federally protected wetlands;

Six enslaved fowl-Americans producing stolen nonhuman animal products;

Five golden symbols of culturally sanctioned enforced domestic incarceration; (Note: after a member of the Animal Liberation Front threatened to throw red paint at my computer, the calling birds, French hens and partridge have been reintroduced to their native habitat. To avoid further animal-American enslavement, the remaining gift package has been revised).

Four hours of recorded whale songs,

Three deconstructionist poets;

Two Sierra Club calendars printed on recycled processed tree carcasses;

And a spotted owl activist chained to an old-growth pear tree."

Friday, 9 December 2005

Nanny strikes again

The taxpayer-funded Air Transport Users Council wants to "correct" what it sees as a market failure:
AIRLINES are being urged to show all-inclusive fares on their websites, following concern that passengers booking online may be paying more than they intended.

The official passenger watchdog wants carriers to follow British Airways' example in showing inclusive fares, rather than listing add-on taxes, fees and charges separately.

Is there really a problem here? Not that I can see, and as is so often the case Mr O'Leary's airline gives a suitably robust response:
Ryanair, which sells 98 per cent of its seats online, said showing its fares separately from add-ons enabled passengers to see which charges were imposed by airports, governments and the airline.
Why doesn't the ATUC tell British London Airways to change its website and let us see the full extent of taxation imposed on the traveller? And a comparison of airport charges might lead us to ask why the BAA airports were privatised as a non-competitive block rather than separately. At least the Ryanair and easyJet websites work properly, unlike some. Come to think of it, wouldn't it be a good idea for all prices to be shown before and after taxes?

Sunday, 4 December 2005

More sport

EUROPEAN CUP

First leg

At the Waterloo Stadium, Brussels
Kickoff 1815

GOOD GUYS 2, BAD GUYS 0

(Wellington, Blucher (during extra time))

Second Leg

At the Parc des Voleurs, Brussels
Kickoff 2005

BAD GUYS 2, GOOD GUYS 0

(Chirac, Blair (own goal))

Sport

When I was enjoying my lunchtime beverage today I was half reading the newspaper and half watching the Aberdeen v Celtic match on the pub TV. I do go to see a live game now and again - about every five years - but I have a couple of questions about what I saw on the box.

(1) How long ago did the police stop watching the football and start videoing the crowd?

(2) Were the inflatable sheep being waved by good-natured, self-mocking Aberdonians or by politically incorrect visitors from the big city?

OK, but what's your solution?

Dani Caravelli doesn't seem too impressed with the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders in Mid Calder:
The way children are perceived is often a self-fulfilling prophecy: they tend to live up or down to our expectations. If we persist in demonising young people - portraying them as trouble-makers who need to be kept off our streets - we shouldn't be surprised if some of them, at least, turn out to be demons.
I've read elsewhere that many in the political classes think that the ned problem is caused by "deprivation". Is that so? The unemployment rate in West Lothian is 2%, falling to a mere 1% in Mid Calder itself.

There's something much more fundamental going on here. The "ned" problem is, I believe, an inevitable consequence of Britain's welfare state. It's worse here because we adopted mass welfarism before other places and, unlike elsewhere in Europe, our elites hate their own country, its history and its values.

(For further evidence of our intellectual bankrupty, read here:

And author and campaigner George Monbiot said: “When you step into a superstore, you are faced with a choice of two crimes: joining the poor in stealing from the rich, or helping the rich to steal from the poor.

“Both are wrong, but one crime is surely more heinous than the other.”)