Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Why is noone ever responsible?

So Tony has apologised for his idiot chancellor's tax credit policy. This is very big of him. Perhaps he would now like to explain to us why it was that his government has denied any problems with the tax credit system for the past year. Perhaps he could even consider holding someone responsible? You know, like say whose fault it is, and fire them. And if he could do it without bringing them back again a few months later that would be nice too.

And well done to the Lib Dems for their vigorous denounciation of yet another Labour bureaucratic balls up.

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said that the reports showed that the design of the system was "flawed."

Mr Laws added that the call to write off overpayments was "sensible and logical".

Mr Laws' ability to capture the taxpayers' indignation in a few sharply worded phrases takes one aback. It's easy to see why the Lib Dems call themselves the real opposition.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The bureaucracy

Via the Englishman and the Bunny we learn that the government is now going to require the pensions regulator to give his permission for the takeover of any company that operates a final salary scheme.

While the stupidity of the government no longer surprises me it is worth remembering this as one of the laws which are going to need to be repealed when we get another government in. There are a lot of these. I mean a LOT. A huge festering heap of unwanted, bureaucratic, nit-picking, nose-poking, nannying, pettifogging paperwork.

Every politician says they are in favour of deregulation, but NONE deliver. The question I ask myself is whether this happens because the governments don't want to deregulate or because they can't. Is the bureaucracy now so large and powerful that the politicians can't cut it back even if they want to?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Scotsman to charge for content

The Scotsman has announced that it is to start charging for some of the content on its website.
The way people use and consume news media is changing and we have developed these services in order to meet this changing demand and to help ensure that we continue to thrive as a publishing organisation.
It's hard to argue that consumption of news is in flux - blogs have thrown up a plethora of free opinion columns on every possible subject and from every point of view. The Scotsman has thought long and hard about this challenge and has decided that the correct way to deal with a barrage of free competition in the opinion market is to charge for their own opinion pieces.

It's an interesting strategy, but I can't see it catching on.

Five books

OK, the five books meme has got round to me, courtesy of dhyb.

How many books do I own?
Pass. There's boxes full in my parents' attic and boxes in my own attic. I would guess something like 500. I have tended to read in phases - novels in my teens, then history, then science and now politics. There's a big section on China, where I lived for a couple of years.

Last books purchased
Brendon Chase by "BB"
Actually I borrowed it rather than purchased it having read it many years ago. A children's book of the 1940s, it's about three small boys who run away to live like outlaws in the forest of the title. For those of a squeamish, green or politically correct disposition this is a most inadvisable read. There is a wholesale slaughter of just about every kind of wild fauna in the English landscape - rabbit, deer, badger, fish, birds, you name it, the reader is treated to an in depth description of their slaughter, and subsequent processing for meat or skin. Also features small boys wielding firearms, openly purchasing ammunition and smoking. It really is heartwarming stuff and a must for libertarians, gun enthusiasts, nature lovers and small boys young and old. I'd like to see a film made of this book.

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell
Exactly what it says on the tin.

Last books read
Liberty and Freedom by David Hackett Fisher
The history of America told through the development of ideas about these two founding principles of the republic. By the author of the wonderful "Albion's Seed"

The Great Deception
by Booker & North
Probably needs no introduction to anyone who visits this site. A history of the EU from a sceptical point of view, which shows how the eminences grises behind the European project lied and dissembled their way to where we are now.

Five books that mean a lot to me
Nature's keepers by Stephen Budiansky
How the US landscape is being destroyed by mismanagement, principally by the government.
Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fisher
How the British took their regional cultures to the New World and created the different folkways of the USA.
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
I just keep reading this again and again.
History of the Countryside by Oliver Rackham
Everything worth knowing about the British landscape through history. As the Economist put it, "it is full of the answers to questions that others have not the wit to ask". Country walks were never the same after this.
The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris
Nature versus nurture and why peer groups matter so much.

And there you go. Now as DHYB points out this will grow exponentially and I'm not sure I can find five blogs I frequent that haven't already done the quiz, so I'll bottle out of tagging anyone else.

The Adventuress says she's not been tagged yet. So here you go Irene....TAG!

Monday, June 13, 2005


Some weeks ago I posted a link to the online pledge not to sign up for an ID card. This pledge has now been closed down by its author in favour of one created by the NO2ID campaign which is much better apparently.

So PLEASE go there now and sign up.

Tell the BBC they're a bunch of lefties

The BBC has been spending some of your licence fee on an experimental system where you can tag their content using functionality similar to or technorati. You can see the system here at the site of the software's developer.

I can't wait to see how often the tags "lefty" or "bias" get used.

Back to the 40s

So the government is going to keep schools open from dawn till dusk.

Over at Not Proud of Britain Snafu makes the point that if there was a demand for this kind of service it would already be provided by the private sector. The problem is that there is a demand and it is already being met by the private sector through small businesses called "childminders". As a caller on the FiveLive phonein this morning pointed out all of these people will be put out of business by this idea.

The similarities between what is likely to happen and what happened when the state became involved in schooling in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are clear. By providing childcare free at the point of consumption the state will be able to enforce a monopoly and the quality of provision will fall.

What we are seeing is a policy of back to the 40s - wholesale nationalisation of an industry by the back door.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Police implicated in Dunblane cover-up

Via Lurch at Gun Culture we learn that Thomas Hamilton the Dunblane mass murderer may have been a supplier of pornography to prominent people in Scotland, who arranged for him to keep his firearms certificate. They included policemen who were involved in the investigations into the murders.

Apparently the development of the story is being hindered by gagging orders.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

T in the Park

T in the park, Scotland's premier music festival, takes place at Balado which is a few miles away from the Episcopal Palace. Considering the huge size of the event it is perhaps surprising that relations with the local community are on the whole very good, with most local residents apparently quite happy for the area to be on the map for a few days each year.

This time however there have been a few rumblings in the local alehouse. Residents are still quite happy to for the festival to take place, but the concern is that the event will be disrupted by protestors looking for something to trash after the G8. The conference venue in Gleneagles is just over the hill from here.

The situation, which was already bad enough, has been made worse by an idiot politician (namely Frances Curran of the Scottish Socialist Party) encouraging protestors to come down to T in the Park, despite the fact that it has been sold out for weeks.
If a music event is part of the plan, there is a nearby venue in Balado which is used for the music festival "T in the Park", which protestors could make their way to after the rally.
You do have to wonder if this is an attempt to cause as much disruption as possible or if it's just rank stupidity. Curran is one of the organisers of the G8 protests and she seems to be going out of her way to create a risk to public safety. What does she think all these people are going to do when they can't get in? Jump on the bus home? She should be held responsible if it all goes horribly wrong.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Private schools

The Scotsman reports that private schools are likely to lose their charitable status under reforms to charities law, a change that could force many of them out of business.

Scots schools stripped of their charitable status will not suffer an automatic change in their tax status, but it will leave them vulnerable. If changes in English charity law are modelled on the Scottish bill, as is thought likely, then the Inland Revenue - which must apply laws UK-wide - will be able to step in and schools would face potentially ruinous tax bills, even though this clause was designed to deter dubious private tax shelters.

I have little doubt that this policy is being put into place for the furtherance of the class war rather than a desire to improve society in any way, but I also think that there's a valid argument that provision of education to the children of the rich is not a charitable activity. Now many private schools apparently give out bursaries to the able children of poor families, but I doubt if this is on a large enough scale to change their character in a fundamental way. I would argue that they are not in fact charities, but businesses, and a good thing too, as businesses tend to be most responsive to consumers.

I'm also somewhat doubtful about whether private schooling will end once this legislation is in place. Many private schools are not in fact charities, but are profit making businesses, like the GEMS schools. If the charitable schools fail, it may well be that they are taken over by commercial education providers and that business continues under new owners.

However it is probable that a commercial provider with shareholders to satisfy might not have the same inclination to provide bursaries to poorer children. I think that the law of unintended consequences will once more mean that a route out of poverty for the children of deprived families is removed by the very Labour party that claims to speak for them.

Grammar schools. Assisted place scheme. Bursaries. There is a trend here isn't there? Labour always acts to stop the poor from bettering themselves. And they call the Conservatives the nasty party.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

New visitor attraction is rubbish

My local council, Perth & Kinross, has decided to spend £200,000 on creating a visitor attraction at the local rubbish dump.

The council is run by a coalition of LibDems and the SNP, so it is perhaps not particularly surprising to see this kind of lunacy being proposed. It is pretty flabbergasting to learn that the project enjoyed all party support. My guess is that these will run into hundreds of thousands each year.

Quite apart from the capital cost of the project, there will be funding of the deficits which are guaranteed to reoccur year after year.

Councillor Alan Grant said: "This is an extremely important development and we must take it very seriously.

"The necessity to contact the public, particularly young people, with the ideas the centre will promote cannot be over-emphasised."

The need to get rid of Councillor Grant should also not be overlooked.