25 May 2011

I have to fight them off, I tell you



Another day, another woman with designs on my body. The Independent reports:

Lady Gaga likes older men.

The 'Judas' singer - who recently split from boyfriend Luc Carl - says she would be quite happy to date a man who is over 60 because she thinks they'd have a lot in common.

Aye, well don't look at me. With all those crazy outfits, I'd be dead affronted taking her to the pub. And I doubt if she knows how to make mince'n'tatties.



23 May 2011

The pantomime continues

Frankly, I am struggling to keep up. The Independent reports the latest:
A Scottish newspaper became the first mainstream British publication to identify the Premier League footballer who is attempting to prevent discussion on Twitter about his affair with the former Big Brother star Imogen Thomas. Meanwhile it was reported that a High Court judge had referred an unidentified journalist to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, to consider a criminal prosecution for breaching a privacy injunction with a tweet about another footballer.

Farcical? Absurd? To quote Ms Palin, you betcha! Particularly when anyone who wishes to know the identities of the footballers concerned (or the identity of Sir Fred Goodwin's alleged mistress, come to that) need only spend a couple of minutes (if that) on google. Perhaps the lawyers and the judges just don't want to let slip away the nice little earner afforded by privacy injunctions. But they are making themselves, the courts and the law look ridiculous.

22 May 2011

Music of the week

Yeah, yeah, it's from a TV ad for some car or another, but I like it:


Quote of the day

A feminist point of view from Katy in the Independent on Sunday:

New research from the University of the Bleeding Obvious reveals that women prefer tall men, apparently because they are more effective at hitting people. In fact, now that we have evolved from the apes, women think a little more clearly.

In this age of quasi-emancipation, women can earn our own wages, wire our own plugs and fight our own battles, and there are very few things for which we need men. Men are necessary, though, for reaching things off high shelves and having pockets.

Only until we get shorter wardrobes and frocks with pockets will these continue to be important evolutionary advantages.

Well, it made me smile ...

Was it worth it?

So, at long last, we are quitting Iraq. The Ministry of Defence is in celebratory mood:

Brigadier Max Marriner, the commander of British forces in Iraq, said: "The UK armed forces can look back with pride at what they have achieved – security has fundamentally improved and as a consequence the social and economic development of the south has changed for the better, as too have people's lives."

Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for Defence, told Parliament last week: "Thanks to the sacrifice, commitment, and professionalism of thousands of British servicemen and women, southern Iraq is an area transformed."

The Independent has a slightly different perception:

Today, 2,985 days after the first British soldiers entered Iraq, the last contingent leaves. Since 20 March 2003, at least 100,000 Iraqis – shamefully, we can only calculate their number – and 4,769 American and coalition troops have been killed, including 179 British; 32,000 coalition troops have been wounded; violent deaths in Iraq are still running at an average of more than 300 a month; 2 million people have left Iraq, of whom 100,000 have returned, according to the Brookings Institute; coalition forces have used 250,000 bullets for every insurgent killed; the American taxpayer has spent $900bn (£500bn) in total, at the rate of $300m a day; the British taxpayer has spent a total of £8.4bn (£2.8m a day).

Draw your own conclusions.



21 May 2011

It had to end sometime ...

Minor problem with regard to the end of the world at 6pm tonight. It will occur in the middle of the Heineken Cup final, and I don't suppose that God would prepared to delay it for an hour or so.

I guess that I am unlikely to be 'raptured', so for me it will be the earthquake, then the fire and brimstone, and finally down to hell. Let us hope that they don't close the bars in the interim.

Rather unfairly, at least to my mind, because of the hour's difference, my world will end some 60 minutes before that of most of my readers. So I might even miss the start of the rugby ...

20 May 2011

An ethical foreign policy


Look, it's simple. Some Arab tyrants are good guys, like the one above. Some Arab tyrants are bad guys, like this one. And some are in the process of moving from good to bad, like this one.

You can't tell the difference? Well too bad. Our wise and omniscient leader, Mr Cameron, knows who is who, and that's all that matters.

Such irrational exuberance

We've been here before. The Guardian reports:

LinkedIn, the first major US social network to go public, saw its shares more than double as they debuted on the New York Stock Exchange to a bidding frenzy from investors.

It makes Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn's founder and largest shareholder, a billionaire and comes as larger social network firms including Facebook and Groupon are lining up floats. The rise in shares is likely to drive up the prices of those sales too.

LinkedIn shares had been priced at $45 (£27.73) before the flotation and shot up as high as $122 at one point and ended the first day of trading at $94.25. The company is now valued at more than $10bn, a huge increase for a firm that was recently valued at about $2.5bn.

Time to take the punch bowl away?


18 May 2011

Oh yes, culture

It would remiss of me not to acquaint you with my cultural diversions during my holiday in this quaint fishing village on the Costa del Sol. I don’t just drink beer, you know.

On the DVD front, the highlight has undoubtedly been the first two series of Spiral (Les Engrenages). To those who allege that I have a thing about Capitaine Laure, I admit it. It’s in French of course (not a problem to sophisticates comme moi). But utterly splendid, and I look forward to series 3, recently on the BBC, which I mostly missed (cos it was late at night and over here I don’t have access to the i-player).

I also enjoyed The American. Despite the name and the fact that it starred George Clooney, it struck me as a very European film. The Kids are all right was less successful - a bit too Hollywood for me. But the 9th series of Spooks was melodramatic hokum at its best (or worst) and none the worse for that. RED and The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest were also good fun.

As for the printed word, for once I did not have to cart volumes out with me. Did I tell you that I bought a Kindle? And a terrific invention it is. I have been enjoying numerous volumes, particularly Andrea Camilleri’s Sicilian detective mysteries. Now ploughing through Zola’s Therese Raquin, a book I have loved since I was a student. And I finished off Len Deighton’s Game, Set and Match trilogy.

So there you go. If I have been wasting my time, then too bad. But I don’t think so.

Where's the nearest lamppost?

'Sir' Michael White is less than lukewarm about Lords reform. But you'd expect that from such a toadie to parliamentary tradition and the establishment:

Since the collapse of socialism as a transformative project, middle class progressives have looked to constitutional reform for their agenda. But the public isn't obliged to share that enthusiasm, as it demonstrated in the AV vote. Do we really need another tier of elected politicians? It's not as if the talent pool of volunteers is bursting.
What we do need is more effective accountability of the non 15-year variety, but it is the unelected who need to be held more to account, the quangocrats and officials, the corporate remuneration committees which rob shareholders and pension funds, not least the media barons. MPs try on select committees, albeit with limited success.
If someone can devise a model whereby an elected senate, full of worldly and experienced types with nothing to lose, not mere well-meaning novices, can put the fear of God or the law into that crowd, they'd get my attention.
Until then, I think it's a matter of: "Not now, Nick, we're busy."

He is therefore prepared to tolerate the continued presence in the Lords of 92 hereditary peers and the continued ability of party leaders to appoint their cronies. And The Guardian is supposed to be a progressive newspaper ...

16 May 2011

Double or quit

Just one more push. The cry of the generals throughout the ages. Give them more troops or more munitions and they will win the war. The Independent reports:

The head of Britain's military forces wants to widen the range of targets for Nato aircraft in Libya in an attempt to break the stalemate on the ground.
General Sir David Richards is said to believe Muammar Gaddafi may manage to cling to power unless attacks are carried out against the infrastructure propping up his regime.

In the words of the song, when will they ever learn?

15 May 2011

Just a thought

You know how the SNP is dead keen on the devolution of corporation tax. They could then use reduced rates of tax to attract companies to invest in Scotland. Splendid idea if it works.


But. But. Let us suppose that the corporation tax rate was duly devolved and appropriately reduced. How would we decide to which companies the reduced rate would apply? Simple you say: those companies registered with companies house in Scotland would qualify. Well ok but a lot of companies operating in Scotland do not happen to have their registered office in Scotland and are not therefore registered in Scotland. And some of the companies registered in Scotland do lots of business in the rest of the UK and even abroad.


Should these companies benefit from the Scottish concession? Maybe, provided they can identify how much of their pre-tax profit is attributable to business conducted in Scotland. Oh, and provided HM Customs and Revenue are prepared to trust them on the allocation.


If you are the boss of Tesco or the RBS, can you readily identify the amount of profit coming from Scotland? Not without considerable effort, I suggest.


I’m not suggesting that the devolution of corporate taxation should not happen. But it would be nice to know how the details will be resolved.



Music of the week

I've been a bit dilatory recently, but here's a goodie:

The backlash

We, the Scots, have upset Tim Lott (Tim Moanalot?) who has taken to The Independent:

Well, speaking as one effete arsehole [an Englishman] to the servile miserable pathetic trash [the Scots] – good on you. You've played an outstanding game, politically and economically. But I think the game might be coming to a close – and partly out of the hubris of that very Scottish egoism. Because, if independence comes and the subsidies finally dry up, I suspect they might find that the English had been more useful to them then they imagined (something the historic grassroots opposition to independence in Scotland clearly recognises). But, for me, I have had enough of them. Much as I have liked pretty much every Scot I have ever met (I find them nice, clever, cultured, polite, lovely people), I'm quite happy for them to bugger off, get their hands out of our exchequer, their placemen out of our governments, and their sense of perpetual grievance out of the Union.

Not the first; and it won't be the last ...

450 "murrders" later

Affectionate article by Glenn Chandler, the original Taggart writer, in The Sunday Independent:

Taggart became known for its bizarre plots and gruesome murders (my favourite was "Nest of Vipers" in which deadly snakes were the murder weapon) but all of them had some grounding in reality. Maybe the venomous spider at the Burns Supper was a bit cheesy, but it was great fun, and Taggart was always about fun.

I remember being in Prague, watching Taggart dubbed in Polish on the hotel telly. At its best, Taggart was one of STV's finest achievements. But now? Probably best to draw a veil over it.

12 May 2011

Something wrong somewhere

I was in Marks & Spencer's Princes Street emporium this morning (I am back in Edinburgh for 48 hours for a family wedding) and was horrified to hear that the music being played over the tannoy was Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits.

It seems to me utterly inappropriate that a middle class department store should deploy Bob as a taster for their patrons. Accordingly, this middle-aged hippie has sold his shares in M & S (and unfortunately made a profit).

When I was 20 years old, I didn't have to face these moral conundrums. All very difficult.

Back to Spain tomorrow morning. They don't play Bob over there.

Quote of the day

An editorial in The Guardian gets a bit carried away:
Alex Salmond, beginning his second term as Scotland's first minister, is nothing short of a political wizard, weaving the spell of national destiny.
I'll admit he's clever, but a political wizard?

09 May 2011

Contemplating the future

At least part of the London chattering classes are beginning to think about Scottish independence. Consider this offering from The Independent:


Which brings us neatly to the second big question, of how much of the UK's national debt Scotland ought to take on. And, within that, how much of the debt related to rescuing the semi-nationalised Scottish-based Royal Bank of Scotland and, arguably the Scottish bit of the Lloyds/TSB/Halifax/Bank of Scotland combine. Either way, the debt-to-GDP ratio of an independent Scotland might prove so large as to sink it financially before it was even born; 100 per cent of GDP is well within the bounds, being about 10 per cent of the UK's projected £1tr debt and Scottish GDP at about £100bn.
Scotland's non-existent track record in managing public finances might also leave markets to impose an immediate "risk premium", meaning even higher borrowing costs, lower investment and lower consumption levels immediately. Apart from Edinburgh New Town, where there would be rush for handsome townhouses to serve as embassies and high commissions, property would be swiftly devalued. Short term, independence would be tough, until Scotland demonstrated its strengths.

Aye, weel. I'm not so sure it would be as simple as that. To suggest that Scotland should take on 10% of the UK's national debt, because our GDP is 10% of the UK's, ignores the matched question of which assets we should inherit. Look at it another way: has public sector investment in Scotland amounted to anything near 10% of public sector investment in the UK? Think of the rail network, think of motorways, think of the numbers of hospitals, schools. Some counting needing to be done, I suggest. And then there is the bloated defence establishment: our share of defence debt should perhaps reflect the number of submarines, eurofighters, aircraft carriers, tanks and equipment which we would be expected to take on. Oh and by the way, we probably won't need any of those palatial embassies in which UK diplomats like to reside.

I will leave the banks for another post; but bear in mind that these are multinational in nature, doing a lot more business south of the border rather than north of it.

Interesting times, eh?

07 May 2011

Quote of the day

David Cameron (quoted here):

"I will campaign to keep the United Kingdom together with every fibre that I have."

Now why would he say that? If he really wishes Scotland to remain a part of the UK, why not simply let the many pro-union Scots get on with it? But no, he would prefer to provide an example of a metropolitan Tory target, seeking to dictate the future for a distant land, for the SNP to shoot at.

And does he really care? After all, he may be passing up an opportunity for the Tories to dominate the English landscape for the foreseeable future. And, provided there was an equitable distribution of the assets and liabilities (admittedly a big proviso), why would he object to Scotland going its own way if that is what we decided to do?

06 May 2011

The riddle wrapped in an enigma

Hey, it wasn’t supposed to happen like this. The system was designed, or so we were told, to ensure that no single party would ever secure an overall majority. But, astonishingly, fat Eck has done the business, and we will need to put up with the consequences for the next five years.

The consequences? Well, first of all, Mr Salmond can do pretty much whatever he wants. Backed by the massed ranks of the SNP, he can ram through parliament whatever policy or budget decisions he chooses. The only checks on his powers will be those written into the Scotland Act; and he is likely to challenge those pdq in the context of the current Scotland Bill.

And don’t imagine that the so-called SNP fundamentalists can influence him. Salmond, with Sturgeon and Swinney as his principal lieutenants, has just won a stunning victory of unimaginable (and unimagined) proportions. Within the SNP ranks, he is unassailable.

What of Labour? The Gray Man has already announced that he will stand down. Shorn of its more illustrious dinosaurs, is the party leadership a shoo-in for Jackie Baillie? It doesn’t really matter; indeed, for the next five years, the Labour Party doesn’t really matter. Mocked as losers, doomed to impotence, it looks a long hard climb to the sunlit uplands.

As for the Tories, they should stick with nurse for fear of something worse. Bella may never lead them to the promised land but they might have done a lot worse under anyone else. Besides she is becoming a national treasure.

The LibDems? Oblivion awaits …

Prediction

The BBC reports:

0814 From John Curtice, the psephologist's psephologist (he crunches the election numbers). Here is the latest prediction for the final outcome. The latest Scotland prediction is now: SNP 68, Labour 38, Conservatives 13, Lib Dems 6, Scottish Greens three, Others one.

Surprisingly comfortable overall majority.

More politics

Disappointed to see that George Galloway failed to get elected. Gorgeous George might have livened up Holyrood.

Politics

I am not intending to keep up a running commentary on the elections but it is worth noting that none of Tom McCabe, Andy Kerr, Karen Whitefield, Frank McAveety or Karen Gillon is on the regional list. So having lost their constituency seats, they are out. The same would apply to Iain Gray if he loses.

05 May 2011

Down in the snake-pit

So Lloyds bank had to report a three month loss of £3.4 billion, to cover its mis-selling of payment protection insurance as well as some (more) bad debts. I suppose it is too much to hope that Mr Eric Daniels, the former chief executive, will repay the £1.45 million bonus he was awarded for his oversight of the bank during the past year.

(Editor: he's a banker, a greedy fat-cat with the morals of a Gordon Gekko; do you really think he'll put his hand in his pocket?)

Don't put a bet on yet



The Scotsman provides us with the runners in the leadership stakes to replace the benighted Mr Gray:



David Whitton (5/4)
Andy Kerr (6/4)
Jackie Baillie (5/1)
John Park (12/1)
20/1 bar

It would be unkind to label them as donkeys, but I don't see a Desert Orchid among the contestants.





04 May 2011

At least, he's better than that Sarah

Look, he's 67 years old. Cut the guy a little slack. At that age, the gaffes come more frequently.

And, yes, it doesn't help that he's a pompous, opinionated, self-important, old buffer who thinks he knows best.

Retirement beckons?

The Pope's whisky

Look, it's no big deal. OK, I spotted the special offer in the supermercado of VAT 69 at a price of 8.67 euros a bottle. I don't usually drink whisky (at least not any more) but, after all, I am my mother's son. So there you go: a bargain is a bargain.

Meanwhile, the sun is out, after a week of somewhat indeterminate weather. So it's back to the shorts and the vest. Of course, I hide in whatever shade is available. Cos I don't go brown; just a kinda red and orange, and then it fades.

But when the sun is out, the girls look prettier, the beer tastes better and I can dream - utterly fruitlessly - of a Labour recovery over the next 12 hours ...

Bathos

,Quote of the day from a neighbour of the late Osama bin Laden, according to The Guardian:


"It's going to destroy property prices in this area."

02 May 2011

Music of the week

I once visited El Paso. No Felina though ...


The tangled web

Interesting article by Jackie Ashley on whether it was a good idea to target Gaddafi (if that is what happened):


Had Gaddafi, rather than his son, died at the weekend, and the regime had then collapsed, how many of us would have wept? If it was assassination, rather than targeted "command and control", so what?
The overwhelming answer must be just two words: international law. The law may sometimes be an ass, and particularly when we are dealing with bloody and complex global issues, riven with hypocrisy and double standards. But it is all we have. The UN may be an infuriatingly slow, compromising and mealy-mouthed confederation of tyrannies, democracies and kleptocracies. It's all we have. Cast it aside, cast aside international law, and there is nothing but might is right, arms, oil and profits.
I have a lot of sympathy for this argument. But what if taking out (to use a euphemism) Gaddafi were to save lives? Or to put it another way, what if mealy-mouthed adherence to the rule of international law would lead to the deaths of Libyan (or Syrian) rebels (or freedom fighters, if you prefer)? I genuinely don't know the answer; and I don't envy those who have to struggle with the problem.

Nor am I sure that the assassination of Osama bin Laden is an occasion for rejoicing. Maybe he deserved it, but is such an action a legitimate tool of statecraft? Yes, al-quaida has no qualms about murdering people but are we not supposed to be better?

All very difficult.