The Scots don’t owe financial markets a no vote

The markets may have an opinion on Scottish independence — but the No campaign has been mistaken in thinking that it matters. Capital markets should follow the will of the people, not lead it.

Wrote this for the day job. Read more at GlobalCapital.


Facebook buying Oculus is great business – and the start of terrible sci-fi

Facebook is buying Oculus, the maker of virtual reality headsets, for $2bn. Like with Whatsapp, that’s a lot of money (though a lot less money). Neither is overvalued, though we’ll hear plenty of it: the premium to what you might have expected them to pay, though, is where the insidiousness lies.

When Facebook buys virtual reality headsets, it’s really buying the opportunity to make a Facebook branded (virtual) reality. When it bought Whatsapp it was buying the opportunity to brand your whole social interaction with its friendly blue and white logo, in the same way it’s already done to your whole personality and social sphere. Facebook wants to re-make your entire world in its image – these new companies that it’s acquired, and the ones that are no doubt to come, are just the most recent signs of that.

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How to solve a problem like Crimea? A Eurasian conspiracy story

Why has the diplomatic community’s response to Russia’s annexing of Crimea, riding roughshod over international law, been so feeble? Why are financial markets in central and eastern Europe rallying, despite the fact that the threat of war still hangs over the region? Why is nobody panicking? The answer is, or at least could be, simple and scary: it’s all part of the plan.

The international response to Crimea has been decided, barring anything unexpected. All that remains is a few brief months of playfighting, to give Crimeans the impression that they’re being fought for by the West, and Ukrainians the same feeling about Russia.


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The tech bubble is real — but it’s not where you think

There are plenty of reasons to worry about the new lust for tech stocks. King, the UK-based maker of Candy Crush, will be valued at up to $7.6bn when it lists in New York next month, despite being perceived as a one-hit wonder with few apparent plans for the future. Twitter is valued at $30bn after listing in November, 23 times its estimated earnings for 2014 despite failing to post a profit in its first seven years of existence. But the really worrying signs of a tech bubble lurk in the less exciting stocks.

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Dmitry Firtash, Cambridge University and the price of ethics

Dmitry Firtash is a prominent Ukrainian businessman who has made generous donations to the University of Cambridge,” says a page created especially for him on the website of the Cambridge Trust, a charity that supports students studying at the university. Dmitry Firtash is “in ‘extradition custody’ after being held on suspicion of breaching bribery laws and forming a criminal organisation,” the Telegraph reported yesterday. As the traditional routes of university funding start to drop away, we’re going to have to get a lot more comfortable with sentences like those two sitting next to each other.

Firtash Philip

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Penguin Classics doesn’t need anyone’s sanctimony about the Morrissey book

It is a joke. And a good one. Probably Penguin are laughing too. Certainly everyone else should. It’s so odd to see supposedly well-meaning people get hot and bothered on behalf of a publishing imprint. It’s not even a record label. (That would be weird enough.)

Penguin Classics has, by definition, never done anything to support its authors. (At least not until now.) Its value is pure inheritance. Sure it has chosen its mad old aunts well. But they are only aunts. And they are only old.

I’m sure the glitzy shareholders of Penguin Random House are glad of everyone’s vocal support. But it’s an oddly self-important person that thinks that they need it, and a weird line of reasoning that makes that person think that Penguin deserve it.

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Jimmy Kimmel’s Kanye sketches are really about how scared he is

There are more than enough reasons to make fun of Kanye West. But the two main ways that Jimmy Kimmel has so far chosen to mock Kanye West were telling. First, in a sketch replayed in yesterday’s interview but recorded years ago, he had Josh Groban sing Kanye’s tweets. Second, in the sketch that got Kanye on the show in the first place, Kimmel had children recite West’s Zane Lowe interview.

In both cases, it’s a simple joke: it’s funny to hear Kanye’s words come from someone who wouldn’t be expected to see them. But they’re stupid jokes too. In the Groban sketch we’re supposed to be on Groban’s (and Kimmel’s) side – what kind of person would say those things? – but that’s asking us to be on the side of the old: Groban sings stupid opera-lite, for a living and in this video, and the tweets don’t fit because it’s an old form. It’s the same kind of superiority masking as faux-humility when people claim not to have heard of One Direction, or ask whether the X Factor is still airing.

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