Composable Queries in F# 3.0

James Cheney speaks to the F#unctional Londoners meet-up about our F# library that implements A Practical Theory of Language-Integrated Query.

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The military and the referendum.

Many readers will have heard about Lord Dannat in the Telegraph arguing a vote for independence will dishonour Scotland's war dead.

Perhaps not as many will have heard that Jimmy Sinclair (the oldest surviving Desert Rat, aged 102), Colin May (Lieutenant Commander, Faslane), and sixteen others have written a letter slamming Dannat; at least, I didn't hear until this morning. "How dare he take their sacrifice in vain and try to turn it to political advantage?"

Both sides are reported by the BBC, though the headline mentions only one. (More #bbcbias?)

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The case for Europe

Readers of this list will know that I don't always see eye-to-eye with Alex Salmond. Nonetheless, I think he put the case for Europe well this morning on the Today Program.
In a BBC interview just the other night, a spanish minister being
interviewed by Kirsty Wark despite being invited three or four times
refused to say that Spain would attempt to veto Scottish
membership. And the reason for that of course is that the Spanish
government have already said that in the circumstance of a consented
democratic referendum, as they put it, Spain would have nothing to say
about it.

We can go through legal opinion and expert opinion as much as we like.
I think the answer is in four figures: 1, 20, 25, and 60.

1% is the percentage of Scotland's population compared to the European Union.

20% is the percentage of the fish stocks of the entire European Union.

25% is the percentage of the renewable energy of the entire European Union offshore.

And 60% is the oil reserves that Scotland has.

Anyone who believes that a country [with these resources] is not
going to be welcome in the wider Europe doesn't understand the process
by which Europe accepts democratic results and that Scotland has a
huge amount of attractiveness to the rest of the European continent.

You can hear the original here, the relevant segment starts at around 8:00.

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The British Biased Corporation

Scandalous! Nick Robinson asks Alex Salmond a question, and Salmond takes seven minutes to answer in detail.

On the evening news, Nick Robinson summarises Salmond's answer in a few seconds as 'He didn't answer'.

(Above spotted via Arc of Prosperity.)

And today, this.
I used to be a supporter of the BBC, but it's getting harder and harder to justify.

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Dinna fash yersel — Scotland will dae juist fine!

One relentless lie behind 'No' is that Scotland is too wee to make it on its own, counterexamples such as Denmark, Sweden, Singapore, and Hong Kong being conveniently ignored. May this post from Thomas Widmann, a Dane residing in Scotland, help to dispel the disinformation. 
Pick a random person from somewhere on this planet. Ask them to name an alcoholic drink from Scotland, and it’s very likely they’ll reply “Whisky”. Ask them to name one from Denmark, and they’ll probably be tongue-tied. (They could answer “Gammel Dansk” or “Akvavit”, but they’re just not nearly as famous as whisky.)

Now repeat the exercise, but ask about a food item. Again, it’s likely they’ll have heard of haggis but that they’ll be struggling to name anything from Denmark.

Now try a musical instrument. Bagpipes and … sorry, cannot think of a Danish one.

A sport? Scotland has golf, of course. Denmark can perhaps claim ownership of handball, but it’s not associated with Denmark in the way that golf makes everybody think of Scotland.

A piece of clothing? Everybody knows the kilt, but I’d be very surprised if anybody can name one from Denmark.

A monster? Everybody knows what’s lurking in Loch Ness, but is there anything scary in Denmark?

The only category where Denmark perhaps wins is toys, where Lego surely is more famous than anything from Scotland (but many people don’t know Lego is from Denmark).

Denmark is also well-known for butter and bacon, of course, but these aren’t Danish in origin or strongly associated with Denmark in people’s minds.

Several famous writers and philosophers were Danish (e.g., Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard), but Scotland can arguably list more names of the same calibre, and the Scottish ones wrote in English, which makes them much more accessible to the outside world.

Scottish universities are also ranked better than the Danish ones in recent World rankings.

Finally, Scotland has lots of oil and wind, water and waves. Denmark has some, but not nearly as much, and most other countries have less than Denmark.

Because of all of this, I don’t worry about the details when it comes to Scottish independence. If Denmark can be one of the richest countries on the planet, of course Scotland can be one too.

Yes, there might be a few tough years while the rUK are in a huff and before everything has been sorted out. And of course there will be occasional crises in the future, like in any other country.

However, unless you subscribe to the school that Denmark and other small countries like Norway and Switzerland are complete failures because they don’t have nuclear weapons and a permanent seat on the UN’s Security Council, there’s simply no reason to assume Scotland won’t do exceptionally well as an independent country in the longer term.

So I’m not worried. Of course there are many details to sort out, but at the end of the day everything will be fine. Scotland will be a hugely successful independent country. Dinna fash yersel!

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Krugman vs. Stiglitz, now with added Stiglitz

My last post quoted Joe Stiglitz, indirectly, to refute Paul Krugman's fear mongering. Now the man himself has spoken in the Sunday Herald.
As Scotland contemplates independence, some, such as Paul Krugman, have questioned the "economics".

Would Scotland, going it alone, risk a decline in standards of living or a fall in GDP? There are, to be sure, risks in any course of action: should Scotland stay in the UK, and the UK leave the EU, the downside risks are, by almost any account, significantly greater. If Scotland stays in the UK, and the UK continues in its policies which have resulted in growing inequality, even if GDP were slightly larger, the standards of living of most Scots could fall.

Cutbacks in UK public support to education and health could force Scotland to face a set of unpalatable choices - even with Scotland having considerable discretion over what it spends its money on.

But there is, in fact, little basis for any of the forms of fear-mongering that have been advanced. Krugman, for instance, suggests that there are significant economies of scale: a small economy is likely, he seems to suggest, not to do well. But an independent Scotland will still be part of Europe, and the great success of the EU is the creation of a large economic zone.

Besides, small political entities, like Sweden, Singapore, and Hong Kong have prospered, while much larger entities have not. By an order of magnitude, far more important is pursuit of the right policies.

Another example of a non-issue is the currency. There are many currency arrangements that would work. Scotland could continue using sterling - with or without England's consent.

Because the economies of England and Scotland are so similar, a common currency is likely to work far better than the euro - even without shared fiscal policy. But many small countries have managed to have a currency of their own - floating, pegged, or "managed."

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Krugman vs Stiglitz

Some of my colleagues have commented on Paul Krugman's financial diatribe, Scots, what the heck. My colleague Nigel Goddard penned a response.
While I have a lot of respect for Paul Krugman, his blanket warning against currency unions is misplaced, at least according to Joe Stiglitz, another Nobel prize winning economist (two economists; three opinions). Stiglitz said (at the book festival) that all three proposed models (currency union, use of currency without union, separate currency) can work depending on the characteristics of the economies and, most particularly, the quality of the institutions running the currency (or currencies). For a union to work the economies must be similar in various important ways (level of investment, competitive advantage, etc). rUK and Scotland are similar at present so it can easily work. Over the longer term it may be that Scotland breaks out of the low-investment, low-skill rUK model and goes for a more northern European high-investment, high-skill model (let's hope!). In that case a currency union would over time come under strain and eventually break up (i.e., into separate currencies). But in that case I know which economy I'd rather be in.
In the current situation, if the UK's central bank takes a decision contrary to Scotland's interest there is nothing we can do about it. An independent Scotland using UK currency could, if need be, move to its own currency. Krugman's piece says not a word on this option.

RBS, Lloyds, and TSB cannot afford to keep their headquarters in Scotland without the backing of the larger UK, though they may well keep much of their operations here. This is touted by Darling as a reason to vote No, but for me it's a reason to vote Yes. Banks too big to fail are an appalling idea; getting rid of them is an enormous benefit of an independent Scotland. I only hope Westminster keeps its promise not to agree a fiscal union!

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Scots voting no to independence would be an astonishing act of self-harm

George Monbiot writes stirring stuff on indy. Well-reasoned and well-documented.
Imagine the question posed the other way round. An independent nation is asked to decide whether to surrender its sovereignty to a larger union. It would be allowed a measure of autonomy, but key aspects of its governance would be handed to another nation. It would be used as a military base by the dominant power and yoked to an economy over which it had no control. ... Most nations faced even with such catastrophes choose to retain their independence – in fact, will fight to preserve it – rather than surrender to a dominant foreign power....The fears the no campaigners have worked so hard to stoke are – by comparison with what the Scots are being asked to lose – mere shadows. As Adam Ramsay points out in his treatise Forty-Two Reasons to Support Scottish Independence, there are plenty of nations smaller than Scotland that possess their own currencies and thrive. Most of the world’s prosperous nations are small: there are no inherent disadvantages to downsizing.
Remaining in the UK carries as much risk and uncertainty as leaving. England’s housing bubble could blow at any time. We might leave the European Union.
How is the argument altered by the fact that Scotland is considering whether to gain independence rather than whether to lose it? It’s not. Those who would vote no – now, a new poll suggests, a rapidly diminishing majority – could be suffering from system justification.System justification is defined as the “process by which existing social arrangements are legitimised, even at the expense of personal and group interest”. It consists of a desire to defend the status quo, regardless of its impacts. It has been demonstrated in a large body of experimental work, which has produced the following surprising results.
System justification becomes stronger when social and economic inequality is more extreme. This is because people try to rationalise their disadvantage by seeking legitimate reasons for their position. In some cases disadvantaged people are more likely than the privileged to support the status quo. One study found that US citizens on low incomes were more likely than those on high incomes to believe that economic inequality is legitimate and necessary.
It explains why women in experimental studies pay themselves less than men, why people in low-status jobs believe their work is worth less than those in high-status jobs, even when they’re performing the same task, and why people accept domination by another group. It might help to explain why so many people in Scotland are inclined to vote no.
To deny this to yourself, to remain subject to the whims of a distant and uncaring elite, to succumb to the bleak, deferential negativity of the no campaign, to accept other people’s myths in place of your own story: that would be an astonishing act of self-repudiation and self-harm. Consider yourselves independent and work backwards from there; then ask why you would sacrifice that freedom.
Scots voting no to independence would be an astonishing act of self-harm

A yes vote in Scotland would unleash the most dangerous thing of all - hope

(Monbiot is also the author of Heat, my favorite book on climate change.)

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