Monday, April 29, 2002

There are two interesting economics articles in The Guardian today. The first, by Larry Elliot, is on the prospects for the UK economy and its over-heating housing market. Elliot makes the sensible point that the UK economy is prone to disaster when everything is looking rosy, and it’s unlikely it’ll avoid it this time. The housing market will probably lead the charge.

The second by Will Hutton is less good. There are many sensible things to be said about the comparison between the European and US economies, and most of them to correct the belief of recent years that the US economy is perfect and to be copied. Unfortunately Hutton as usual doesn’t make them. Instead he takes two of the (the two?) most-admired European companies, Nokia and VW, compares them with two US firms, GM and Ford, whom are not and bases his case for the entire continent on them. Then he brings out GDP per hour worked statistics, which in almost all the examples he mentions, are somewhat meaningless given their respective countries’ high unemployment levels. The left used to make this point during the Thatcher years – calling it the cricket average problem – if you only send out your openers; you’ll have a higher average score. And you’ll lose the game.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

AOL announts a $54bn loss.'s due to writedowns etc, but that's still real money. This article does have that rather annoying trend to compare things (world's richest man, biggest loss etc) to the GDP of some poor country, in this case Bulgaria. Why? Does anyone have any idea what the GDP of Bulgaria is? Can they visualise it?

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

St.George's Day Update! Billy Bragg is looking for a new England. His manifesto for an England that anyone can be proud of has been launched. One can't really see the point....

Monday, April 22, 2002

How bad are Scoot? As the owner of 150 shares which are down 99.7% from the price I bought them at I though things couldn't get worse. But as the Mail on Sunday notes, the company's market value is £4m even though it has £17m of cash.

Quite an amusing article from the Economist on the first business computer in the UK. Introcuded by Lyons, which The Economist notes, "has 230 teashops carrying a wide range of perishable stocks".

Jean Marie Le Pen has come second in the first round of the French presidential election according to preliminary results from 97% of the votes. Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth across Europe but in practice it means that Lionel Jospin is out of the second round and Jacques Chirac (who was a minister in De Gaulle's governments of the 1960s!) is almost guaranteed a second term. What it means for second term Chirac policies, God knows.

Monday, April 15, 2002

Yesterday's Observer carried a front page story that in an attempt to speed his recovery David Beckham is to receive treatment usually reserved for horses. The omens are good. Regular readers during the 1980s will remember that this is exactly what Roy Race prescribed for his team, although I doubt Beckham will be asked to go to the stables, as Race made his players. The Rovers naturally won their next game, which was some FA Cup final or European Super Cup. Sadly the story is missing, but you can catch up on the great man here.

Friday, April 12, 2002

Also in The Economist is a table showing car ownership per 1000 people, listing Germany top at just over 500, the US next at about 480, Japan at 410ish and the UK at 380 or thereabouts. For anyone whose seen newsreels of 1920s America compete with hundreds of cars on the roads this may seem a little odd that's it's not first. It is odd and it's wrong. The table omits to include "light trucks" which in Europe add about 50 or so cars per 1000, whereas in American it adds something like 200 - 300 more. The reason being SUV's, which outsold cars in the US last years, are counted as "light trucks".

From today's Economist on the Wall Street stock analysts.

"Buy" and "accumulate" recommendations were plentiful, even when Merrill's internet analysts, led by Henry Blodget, belived the company to be hopeless. The shares of excite@home, rated as short-term accumulate and long-term buy, were described in internal emails by one Merrill Internet analyst as "such a piece of crap". Nothing was interesting said Mr Blodget about GoTo.Com, a long-term buy, "except banking fees". Of InfoSpace, both a short- and long-term buy, the "stock is a powder keg"

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

The only good reason for having a weblog is to store things easily, especially silly quotes from right-wingers. For example I now can't remember the exact words Simon Heffer used in the Daily Mail when he said smoking cannabis is an affront to society no less than throwing acid in a person's face nor Clarissa Dickson-Wright's comments in the Scottish Sunday Times when she said that if fox hunting were banned the next step would be the ovens (sadly having no record of it in print or on the internet makes many people disbelieve she actually said it. But she did. More than once. And something about this not being disrespectful as some of her relatives died in the ovens). Anyway, here is this week's right-wing quote from the Daily Telegraph.

Dear Sir,

Oh how every pair of feet respectfully passing the coffin must stick in the craw of those social commentartors who spitefully forecast the demise of the Monarchy at the death of the Queen Mother. What joy to imagine the organic yogurt being spilt in shock on the tabletops of Islington as the hourly bulletins told of ever lengthening queues. Memoranda to Alastair Campbell, Polly Toynbee and all the socialists at the BBC - stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Richard Miller

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

A truly amazing article from the FT's resident American right-winger, Amity Schlaes (and when I say right-winger, I mean right-winger). She genuinely believes 'removing Saddam is the key to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict'. For more laughs check out her archive .

The Republic could be a long time coming. Something seems to have happened to give the Monarchy a boost, with today's newly designed Independent (see below) reporting that only 12% of the country wants to see the Royal Family abolished, where as 54% want it to remain as it is, with 30% favouring radical reform, whatever that means. Looking at the details things get worse – among the Kids (15-25yrs old) 14% want abolition, 58% want it to remain as it is (in perpetual mourning?) and only 20% want radical reform. Even accepting that most of the Kids don’t know what the words radical and reform mean, this is seriously depressing

The Independent newspaper was relaunched today. Newspaper relaunches always fill me with delight – as I am interested in the design aspects – and dread – as we await a ponderous article by Roy Greenslade in Monday’s Media Guardian.

Luckily Roy’s already done his piece (he thought it looks like The Guardian – surprise, surprise) so we can concentrate on the design. Section one looks like the old Independent of the early 1990s, while section two looks like the… Guardian’s.

The newspaper says the most exciting thing about its redesign is that it’s going to be the first newspaper to seek the ‘goal of at last making Britain, in the fullest sense, a key force in contemporary Europe’. What does this mean? In sport it means Seria A will get more coverage that Division 2, in the arts Bilbao or Milan will get more coverage than Manchester, and as ‘decisions taken in Europe affect all of us as much as, if not more than, those taken in Whitehall and Westminster’ the political coverage will become more European too.

Well isn’t that nice? In practice it means ‘we have 200,000 readers, they all live in London, they all earn loads of money and they all don’t like the rest of Britain of much’. A good example of its new target readership is found in its Consumer section which reviews ten watches of which the cheapest is £1,800 (which is nearly 3000 euros if you're an Indy reader).

Essentially therefore this redesign does nothing to solve what I see as the Independent’s major problem. More than even The Guardian, you can’t help but feel that your average Independent reader buys the newspaper purely so others can see him/her reading it. A friend of mine once told me he knew an Independent reader who actually used in conversation, without irony, the phrase ‘I’m independent. Are you?’.

Monday, April 08, 2002

Phew! Found one. Good article on whether the Arab-Israeli conflict has a possible solution by Anthony Lewis in the New York Review of Books. He's not particularly optimistic.

What's amazing is how easy that was. Even I managed it without any mistakes. Now to find something worth posting. Expect the next dateline to be some time in the future.

Oh dear. All new MattyBlog and nothing interesting on the web to refer to. Never mind. It's only a test and at this stage no-one can read it.