Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Putting the 'fun' into 'funeral'

I just noticed this at the tfl.gov.uk:
Weird.

"Apple releases U2 removal tool"

From the BBC:

Apple has released a tool to remove all U2 music from its customers' iTunes accounts six days after giving away the latest U2 album for free.

Some users had complained about the fact that their devices were silting up with old U2 songs which they had never quite got round to deleting, and were prompted to finally get round to doing this when Songs of Innocence was automatically downloaded to their devices.

It had not been immediately obvious to many of the account holders how to delete U2's entire back catalogue. The US tech firm is now providing a one-click removal button.

It is rumoured that the tool will be updated to include the option to also delete all Coldplay tracks.

Killer Arguments Against Scottish independence.

From the Daily Record:

A leading property website has broken its silence about the potential break-up of the United Kingdom by warning Scots that Scottish independence could wipe £31,000 off the average house price.

The middleman, sitting behind a desk in a dark office stroking a cat, then told the Scots that they had lovely high house prices and it would be a shame if something happened to them.


Article template c. The Stigler.

Readers' letters of the day

From today's Metro:

When Alex Salmond first went to Downing Street to discuss the questions on the ballot paper with David Cameron, he wanted Yes/No and devo max tick boxes but Mr Cameron and the other two parties only wanted Yes/No.

Now, suddenly, Gordon Brown comes to Scotland offering the people of Scotland devo max if they vote No. To me, this is what Mr Salmond wanted. Now devo max might be given without the people voting for it.

Andrew Nutt, South Wales.
--------------------
As I understand it, at the momembet Scottish and other EU students, with the exception of those from the remainder of Britain, do not pay university tuition fees. After independence, the rest of the UK will have to be treated as any other EU country.

It follows that a Scottish government will have to choose between allowing UK students to study without these fees, or introducing fees for all. A hard choice to be made between allowing a flood of English, Welsh and Northern Irish applicatns, or imposing fees on Scottish students.

David Moss, Lancashire.
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So health secretary Jeremy Hunt wants to fine people for visiting A&E. What about people who do extreme sports? What about the person who crosses the road in the wrong place?

I don't get drunk but this suggestion is stupid.

Jean Prior, Hertfordshire.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Head of the Windsor Family

From the Telegraph

The Queen has broken her silence about the potential break-up of the United Kingdom by warning Scots to think “very carefully about the future” before casting their votes in the independence referendum.

The Queen, sat behind a desk in a dark office stroking a cat then told the Scots that they had a lovely country and it would be a shame if something happened to it.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Phones4U

From the Telegraph

EE, which is understood to account for around half of Phones 4U’s £1bn sales, made its decision after a strategic review. Vodafone, which said it would not renew its contract with the retailer earlier this month made up more than a quarter of sales. O2, which only accounted for around 10pc of sales, pulled out in February.

EE reached the decision amid concerns that Phones 4U was selling for only one of Britain’s main mobile operators. It was felt this reduced its appeal for customers who wanted to compare the prices of different operators.

...

BC Partners attacked the mobile operators.

Stefano Quadrio Curzio of the private equity firm said: “Our overriding concern is for all the dedicated hard-working employees of Phones 4U at a time of uncertainty for the company."

"Vodafone has acted in exactly the opposite way to what they had consistently indicated to the management of Phones 4U over more than six months. Their behaviour appears to have been designed to inflict the maximum damage to their partner of 15 years, giving Phones 4U no time to develop commercial alternatives.

What commercial alternative would you develop to having Vodafone? Vodafone, O2, Orange, and EE paid out for the 3G and 4G bandwidth and and each get to use a bit of it for a period of time. There's no alternative because the bandwidth is taken, and you can't create more of it.

David Kassler, chief executive of Phones 4U, said: “Today is a very sad day for our customers and our staff. If the mobile network operators decline to supply us, we do not have a business. A good company making profits of over £100 million, employing thousands of decent people has been forced into administration.

"The great service we have provided should have guaranteed a strong future, but unfortunately our network partners have decided otherwise. The ultimate result will be less competition, less choice and higher prices for mobile customers in UK.”

The operators are seeking to reduce the number of handsets and contracts they sell through third-party retailers, preferring to deal directly with customers and retain more of the profit margin.

Well, precisely. What were Phones4U adding by being a middleman? People often have so much information about phones that they often know what they want before they even walk into the store, especially on high end phones and contracts.

It's also a thing about relationships that these companies learnt from Apple. The Apple stores were not created so much as shops but as showrooms. They were so disappointed with how shops displayed their products and the poor advice that was given and lies customers were told to make a sale that they set up their own shops to show them off properly.

And that seems to be what my local Vodafone shop is like now. They've got the phones out, all working, beautifully displayed with helpful, well-trained, non-pushy staff. They don't care if you buy that day or walk away and buy online from them 2 days later. The bricks-and-mortar thing is more about trying out devices than buying them.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Is he trying to tell us something?

From the BBC

Mr Murdoch asked: "Aren't beautiful young women more attractive in at least some fashionable clothes?"

Unless by "fashionable clothes" he means a pair of stockings and high heels, no.

Scottish Independence and Business

There's quite a lot of talk going around about how businesses that are nervous about independence are scaremongering, bullied into it etc. So, I thought I'd check out what businesses are supporting independence on the Yes campaign website:-

For Carole Inglis, owner of Isle of Skye Fudge Company, voting Yes is about Scotland taking control of its own affairs

Like many entrepreneurs, before running my own business I often felt like a square peg in a round hole because when I see a situation, I want to make it better. It’s easy to get bogged down in bureaucracy along the way, but if you can find the strength to adapt and sweep that away, you end up in a far better place. For me, like being your own boss, an independent Scotland is such a liberating idea.

I come from a very enterprising family, so running my own business took only a small leap of faith. My great-grandparents ran a confectionary shop in Glasgow, so when I moved to Skye 35 years ago I started to make and sell tablet using the old family recipe, which had been passed down through the generations.

I've nothing against small businesses. I run one myself. But in the context of Scottish business and post-independence it's important to distinguish where a business sits on the rentier/entrepreneur line. At the most extreme end of rentierism is a teashop outside Windsor Castle that gets a load of trade because people want to put their feet up after walking around it, and they're the first cafe. The most extreme is creating an internet service, which depends on little more than having heating, lighting and internet connectivity.

And 50 odd years ago, before most people had cars, shops were closer to being rentiers. You'd go to the butcher at the end of the road because the next one was a mile or more away. It's why the butchers that are around today are generally excellent - they sell to people coming to them for a product and service out of choice rather than necessity.

Throughout that time I’ve been active in the business community, and have always found that the Scottish Parliament is accessible to me in a way that Westminster could never be. It has a strong record in supporting small businesses, particularly through initiatives such as the Small Business Bonus Scheme.

That's a scheme where small businesses pay no rates. Although any business that has premises should. So, a subsidy to small businesses.

Looking forward, I hope that with independence giving control over tax and regulation, Holyrood can simplify the tax system and design it to meet the needs of businesses in Scotland. I’d also expect further support for employers – hiring staff in an area where there are very few jobs to go around can be scary, and you feel a great deal of responsibility.

Not sure what the author means, but that has a whiff of voting for more handouts.

Connectivity is another really important issue for communities like Skye. That means boosting broadband speeds and providing a universal service through the Royal Mail – both of which we can only see if the Scottish Parliament gets the necessary powers with independence. The same goes for improving access for tourism. It’s crucial to businesses like mine that people can get to Skye easily and see all it has to offer.

In other words, like most little fudge businesses it isn't a business that exists because it makes a great product, but because it's where people go on holiday and need to buy something local to take home to thank their neighbour for looking after the goldfish. Which are not the sort of businesses that leave if the government makes bad economic decisions. It's those that don't have to be there, like a fudge company that sells to supermarkets that operate from an industrial unit in Stirling that could move to an industrial unit in Sunderland.

Why does it depend on who came first?

Interesting story in The Daily Mail:

When Gerard and Christina White moved into their home 37 years ago, they felt the leafy street of detached properties was among the finest in the suburb.

But the couple fear their £275,000 home is now unsellable – after an extension on the house next door effectively turned the Whites’ three-bedroom detached property into a semi.

The two 1930s houses originally stood 4ft apart but are now separated by only inches. They stand so close together that their roofs and gutters overlap.


For a start, the house next door looks a lot nicer in its converted/extended state than it did before. If Mr Nazir can get the right kind of windows, it will look as if it had always been that way:.

But forget about who did what first, if you look at the photos in the article carefully, you will see that the white house is build right up to the boundary and that its gutter is overhanging the plot next door. So if anything, it's the owners of the white house who are taking the piss.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Economic myths: Victorian railways were private enterprise

Sobers repeats the Faux Lib myth:

The State did indeed build the M4, but the growth of Swindon was driven entirely by the building of the railway works by Brunel, which was private enterprise, not the work of the State at all.

Victorian railway companies were indeed privately funded, but without the intervention of the government on behalf of society as a whole ('the State'), they would never have happened; all those railway companies depended very much on the government.

Why?

Because to build a railway from A to B you need to be able to buy up lots of strips of land from hundreds of different landowners; without an Act of Parliament giving you compulsory purchase orders (or whatever they were called in those days), the railways could never have been built.

And why would you want to build a railway from A to B? Because there are people and businesses at A and people and businesses at B; by shortening the effective distance between the two, extra value is created and the railways taps into that added value.

So without 'the State', being the sum total of the people and businesses at A and B and the government to ride roughshod over the rural landowners in between holding out for their ransom payments, the railways would never have been built; and although private individuals stumped up cash up front to build the railways, they got their money back from 'the State' in the end (in ticket prices etc).

PS, all the railways ended up going bankrupt and being nationalised anyway, even though this was not entirely their own fault.