Friday, 31 October 2008

Rebel Rebel


An interesting discussion with a Labour researcher (I know - I need to keep better company!) saw the question posed "Are there any principled MSPs in the SNP?" (or something like that). To which my response was "Of course - they all are. Their principles made them MSPs" (or something to that effect).


The point the Labour researcher made - while graciously accepting my point that the principle of independence made them party members in the first place - was that since the SNP Government was elected last May, we haven't seen a rebellion. We've seen a couple of votes lost on the basis of accidentally voting against the government, but generally the SNP whip has been pretty tight.

"Wouldn't it be nice," said Labour researcher argued, "to show that SNP MSPs actually stood for something, were willing to stand up for what they believed in - even if that meant being against the government?" (Well yes - of course that would be nice for Labour, wouldn't it!).

But that got me thinking. There are 2 strands to that - first, if the SNP Government put forward something that its members were not entirely comfortable with, that would be resolved before it became public I think. And even if not, the SNP whip would probably still manage to maintain order - unlike their Labour counterpart (Cathie Craigie budget debate anyone?).

But let's entertain the notion of an SNP rebel. In the shape of whom, I can't quite see, but let's anyway. If there were a single MSP rebelling on an important piece of legislation - say, something that the government brought to Parliament - and that legislation was then lost due to that MSP standing on principle there would be consequences. Most likely, some form of Campbell Martin-type suspension. Which would then, for a time reduce SNP MSP numbers to 46 - the same as Labour. With the Lib Dems & Tories both on 16, and the Greens on 2, you'd now have 2 "Independents" - Margo & A.N. Other.

Given that the SNP would then have to find support from either LD or Con (to take Government to 62) plus the Greens (to 64) you would then find the balance of power in the hands of Margo - independent MSP. Saying that, she'd probably abstain anyway, so no harm there.

But that's almost certainly why a) the SNP have been very careful about the legislation brought before Holyrood and b) why there have been no rebellions. Because if there were, it wouldn't just mean the a defeat for the Government - it might mean the collapse of the Government and a new election.

Not that the SNP would be scared of an election at this point...

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Was picking Palin a mistake?


I wrote before (in August) about the wisdom of selecting Sarah Palin as running mate on the Republican ticket. Among the six reasons I suggested she was a good pick for McCain were executive experience, her youthfulness, the fact that she was female and that she could energise the Republican (conservative) base with her views.

I suggested that with a "maverick" (moderate Republican) like McCain on the ticket the VP pick had to be someone that could appeal to conservatives to get the vote out. The fact that she was female was aimed at the pee-off Clinton supporters who were upset at her treatment by Obama and Democrats, while also attracting independents.

Two months later, like every Republican in America, I'm second-guessing that pick. While she has succeeded in energising the Republican base, potential cross-over Democrat voters that might have been won over by a woman on the ticket have been scared off by her conservative views.

At the time, I suggested that the choice of VP candidate for the Democrats would be made on the basis of someone who would win more states for them (and they went for what they needed - someone with clout in North East states) while the Republicans choice would be influenced by their need for someone to energise their base - which is what they went for.

However, might the Republicans have found someone who could have fulfilled that role while also winning more states - particularly in the North East? Someone, perhaps, like former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge? He'd certainly have the clout in Pennsylvania to perhaps swing it for McCain - but his pro-choice views would do little to appease the base who are already unconvinced by
McCain.

The decision to go with Palin has backfired in her inability to win battleground states for McCain, constant disagreements on policy issues with McCain himself and, well, Tina Fey's caricature of her hits quite close to home. Republican sources are starting to question the decision and ask whether other picks would have aided the campaign more.

I guess after the election there will be more of a discussion of the pick... when we know for sure whether it was a good or bad pick. I think if things had turned out differently to this point, and she'd done what was expected of her, then this discussion wouldn't be happening. But she's become the yardstick by which the Republican ticket is measured, and turned polls from what was a McCain lead to an Obama landslide. In that respect, and in so many others, Palin on the ticket has backfired for McCain.

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Thursday, 30 October 2008

Housekeeping...

This is neither here nor there, more housekeeping than anything. Just wondering if anyone wants to give me a bit of feedback on the new three-column layout. Is it still readable enough? That is, I mean, if anyone bothers to read it!

Cheers.

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Vero Possumus (yes we can)

Barack Obama stopped using this on seal on podium events in June after being ridiculed in the press for arrogance.

Looking arrogant in the face of double-digit poll leads is bad for Obama. And he's apparently been
quite wary of talking up his chances before next week.

However, he's apparently pretty close to working out who'd be in
his Cabinet should he win next week. Which is either starting to count chickens or being prepared well in advance - depending what side you fall on.

Obama needs people to avoid thinking that the race is over - at least until after Tuesday when it actually will be over. Otherwise what commentators think will be a landslide might turn out somewhat differently...

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Chick kicked by MSP

I wasn't going to blog on this, but I thought it too... bizarrely funny not to.

Apparently BBC football analyst, the "unbiased" Chick Young got a bit of a kicking from a Labour MSP at an MSP-journalists football match on Sunday. The story made
quite a splash in the papers yesterday.

According to my good friend Scottish Tory Boy, who was on the scene (and fairly close to the action - well, as close as his footballing ability allows...) the incident may have been blown out of proportion somewhat.

However, it does make you wonder slightly. Politicians are often the first to speak out against "brawls" on the field when top-flight sides are involved. And now this.


To be honest, kinda puts the whole
Russell Brand-Jonathan Ross hoopla into perspective.

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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Obama ahead in 6 swing states

"If you believe in miracles you still believe in McCain."

so says Republican consultant Joe Gaylord of Arlington, Virginia.

MSNBC has Obama ahead by at least 7 points in Ohio, Nevada, Colorado and Virginia and tied with McCain in North Carolina and Florida. FOX has an Obama national lead of 5.9%.

MSNBC also has Obama within the margin of error of taking McCain's home state of Arizona, where McCain leads in polls 46-44.

Plus my friend, currently on tour with his
band in Minnesota says the campaign ads blitz is crazy and suggests the election will be a washout bigger than the World Series.

And you thought I'd avoid blogging about the US for one day!

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Did Georgia commit war crimes?


I read with interest
this piece on the BBC website about the Georgia-Russia conflict earlier this year.

According to the BBC, Georgia "used indiscriminate force and may have targeted civilians."


I'm not going to come across in full condemn-mode because I appreciate that there are difficulties and decisions in combat that we, as civilians, do not come across in every day life. The use of particular force and the targeting of civilians, while shocking and altogether unpleasant, is something which we can not comprehend nor would we want to. War is an ugly beast.


I will say this though. If the BBC's claims are indeed founded in irrefutable evidence, would this alter the Foreign Secretary's view of the conflict? Presumably he'd still think Russia the aggressor and in the wrong - but this evidence, if it is such, would suggest that Georgia is no saint in the conflict either, and perhaps our backing, and that of the EU, should be re-evaluated.

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Joss Stone and the Queen

Nat readers (or perhaps, "fundamentalist" Nat readers) of this blog may not wish to play the following video - especially if they are in a public area.

It's not one of my favourite songs really - a certain verse and certain symbolism put paid to that - but I couldn't help but enjoy Joss Stone's version of the song, sung before a packed Wembley on Sunday as the New Orleans Saints beat the San Diego Chargers in a sport somewhat unfamiliar to these shores.


I've always thought that, even though Scotland's national "song" - Flower of Scotland - is also a bit of a dirge, God Save the Queen was an anthem that not only failed to capture the spirit in rousing teams up for an international, it was also far removed from the principles that those singing held dear (arguably the monarchy is hardly something John Prescott's "working class" can relate to in many ways).

Anyway, I hope that the Rugby Football Union (RFU) in England were watching on Sunday, as a wee bit of Joss Stone singing the anthem pre-Six Nations matches at Twickenham wouldn't go a miss. I mean, she's no Katherine Jenkings singing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, but she's no bad!

Hope you enjoy music - it's only a minute long - and if you don't, please don't leave abusive comments! I'm just the messenger...

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Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Rice to be next President.

It appears that Condoleezza Rice will not be in the next Cabinet - under either a McCain or Obama presidency... but she may yet be the next president.

It seems the San Francisco 49ers are apparently considering offering her a job as the team's new President.


Bet the title had you hooked...

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Five reasons the race isn't over

I see that Jeff has taken a break from his favourite subject to discuss the forthcoming US Presidential election - which is now only one week away. According to Jeff, it is all over. Heck, even John Swinney has apparently said he'd vote for Obama - according to Yousuf anyway.

I've been here before with this discussion, and there's a chance I'm well wrong, but as I'm in it now, I might as well be
hanged for a sheep as a lamb. Or something equally Dickens-esq.

There are several reasons why I remain unconvinced that this thing is over.


1) Jeff mentions the Bradley Effect. While I'd hope that racial prejudice will not play a large part in this race, I've already posted a video that suggests that some, sadly, still see it as a factor which will influence their vote.

2) Obama's
double-digit national lead is, I think, slightly overstated. I'd imagine, not necessarily the Bradley Effect, but a similar phenomenon. People who will vote for the Republicans are less likely to be vocal about it - and less likely to tell pollsters that they'll vote for McCain. Call it embarrassment if you want - and I probably would - but I'd say that Obama voters are more likely to speak to pollsters... which might be overstating his mark by as much as 5 points.

3) Congress is heading for large Democrat majorities in both the Senate and the House. Some outlets are
even suggesting as many as 60 Democratic Senators after the election. If this were to occur alongside a Democratic Presidency, it would give President Obama huge, unchecked power. I'm not suggesting that he'd run amok - but I think the US Constitution was designed with a system of checks and balances, and a legislative branch of one party alongside an executive branch of another adds further checks to the process.

4) Sadly, stories like
this. When my Gran asked me who I thought would win, I said McCain. She said "I hope so too. I don't have anything against that nice young Obama, but if he gets elected, someone will try to shoot him." I wish we didn't live in a world where that happened. I wonder of there are any Americans of similar mindset - that it'd be dangerous for Obama to get elected. Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying "people won't vote for Obama for his own good." I'm saying... I don't know. That maybe people will think that having Obama as President is risking his life and out of respect for his life they should vote for the other guy? Nah, I don't buy it either... But I wanted to point out the risks that Obama is taking for his vision - and that he should perhaps be shown even more respect because of that.

5) Finally, the Electoral College. Despite polls to the contrary (see above) I still think states like Florida, Virginia and even Pennsylvania might yet turn for McCain.


What do you think? Am I clutching at straws in the hope I can make £200 out of it? Or are the five reasons I've given not actually scraping the barrel?

You all know I'm working on guesswork and hunches being as far away from the action Stateside as I possibly could be. But I've nailed my colours to the mast... and if (when) the ship sinks, I'll be going down with it! If nothing else, I'll have given Jeff something to think about (and perhaps respond to) for five minutes.

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Monday, 27 October 2008

Rejection for Basque referendum

"An arrogant disregard for the rights of the Basque people."


The words of Basque lehedakari Juan Jose Ibarretxe on the Spanish Constitutional Court's decision not to allow a non-binding referendum on the future of the Basque Country. Here's the question the Constitutional Court rejected as unconstitutional:

¿Está usted de acuerdo en que los partidos vascos, sin exclusiones, inicien un proceso de negociación para alcanzar un acuerdo democrático sobre el ejercicio del derecho a decidir del Pueblo Vasco, y que dicho acuerdo sea sometido a referéndum antes de que finalice el año 2010?

Do you agree that the Basque parties, without exceptions, start a process of negotiation to reach a democratic agreement about the right to decide of the Basque People, and that the aforementioned agreement will be submitted to referendum before the end of the year 2010?
According to the court, it violated Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, which reads:
The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards; it recognizes and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.
Now, in its ambiguity, this article is a bit like the right to bear arms in the US. You can argue that "indissoluble unity" means that no region can break away - or attempt to - which is what the Constitutional Court said. Or you can argue that "self-government of the nationalities and regions" is exactly what Ibarretxe was trying to do - allow for self-government of the Basque Country.

Obviously the case is much more complicated that nuances and semantics. The demonstrations occuring on Saturday - the day the referendum was supposed to be held - emphasise this point.

I guess the point - for closer to home - is this: If the Spanish Government/ Constitutional Court do not allow the Basques to hold a referendum asking their people if they think they should have another referendum on independence, then how would the UK Government react to a Scottish Government proposal for a referendum on independence?

I'd suggest probably not that well. Testing times ahead for the SNP? Perhaps...

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Flying the flag

I know its a flag issue (which is bound to get some people to react...) but I really thought this was an interesting article.

Apparently you can be fined £60 for having a Saltire, St George cross, Welsh dragon... or even a Union Flag on your number plate.


So why can you purchase these registration plates?


And, perhaps more pertinently, and in true Daily Express style, what can we blame the EU for next?

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Sunday, 26 October 2008

Sorry for the mess...

Making some alterations to blog layout/ template etc. Apologies for look while under construction... if I ever get my head round HTML it will work a bit faster...

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Friday, 24 October 2008

"Greening" America... or not.

Interesting wee story about a Green party candidate for the US Congress... who is running for office from a prison cell where he is currently serving time for election fraud.

I wonder how James feels about this. Last week he was delighted to be part of a global Green movement - which, sadly for him, failed to see any Greens elected in Canada. Maybe this isn't quite what he had in mind...

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US race tightens - or does it?


I know I said I thought the race would get closer before Nov 4th, but is it level already? According to this Associated Press poll it is.

Now, before anyone goes off explaining to me that the poll should be discounted because of AP's strict definition of a "likely voter" - in the main, being someone who has voted before, which discounts a lot of young, likely Obama, voters - I know. This poll has Obama at 44% and McCain at 43% - with a margin of error of + or - 3.5%. Which is closer to the way I think the race actually stands.


This poll contrasts with a number that I have recently mentioned - many giving Obama a
double-digit lead.

Early voting has already opened in a number of states - which will surely be influenced by some on the polls.

This isn't so much analysis as commentary now, though I'll say what I've said before: this race is not over yet.

Polls are basically statistics. And as Aberdeen's eccentric former manager
Ebbe Skovdahl stated, "Statistics are just like mini-skirts - they give you good ideas but hide the most important things."

Hmm.... quite.

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Thursday, 23 October 2008

Labour to hold Glenrothes?


I'll start off with a disclaimer. I've only been to Glenrothes once in the last two months. And that was to attend a wedding in Markinch. So I have no real point of reference for what I'm about to say. But bear in mind that my only trip to the east end of Glasgow during a by-election there was to Celtic Park - and I still called that one correctly (ignore the leadership predictions!).


So here's what I'm going to say: I think Labour might actually win it.
I wrote about Glenrothes the day after John MacDougall's funeral, suggesting that Brown might kick it to November - then hedging and deciding he'd probably call a snap election in September. Quote me (19 August 2008):

"Of course, the other, much touted option is to kick it long - possibly even into November. This has a couple of advantages - not least the opportunity for the economy to turn around, Brown to relaunch, polls to turn, a decent candidate to step forward, a new leader in Scotland to tackle the First Minister."
Now, what has actually happened? Well, the economy has been saved/ decimated (depending on your SNP/ Labour filtered glasses) Brown had his relaunch at Conference, polls are beginning to turn for Labour, arguably Labour have a decent candidate... and, well, they have a new leader in Scotland (though not so much tackling the FM as... well, I don't know.

But surely they are in a better position now to win the seat than they were two months ago? And they might just do it - by around 1,500 votes I reckon. Maybe.


There has been some discussion of the Lib Dem chances - but at 100/1, there's a better chance of John McCain winning the US election. An election, incidentally, which may have more impact upon the people of Glenrothes than the election of their own MP, given the current economic climate.


Maybe Gordon got that one right - maybe people will be more interested in what happens Stateside two days before Glenrothes.

Turnout, I'd suggest, might be considerably lower than we've seen in recent by-elections. But, I think, with 2 weeks to go, I'm leaning towards a Labour hold... but it is a totally uneducated guess!

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Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Race still a factor in US election

Regular readers will know I've been supporting John McCain in the US Presidential election and that I'm not sold on Barack Obama. I want to point out - just in case there is anyone who thinks that I'm racist - that it is nothing to do with the colour of his skin. I see Obama as a Tony Blair-type, ready to deliver the country change etc - and I'm not convinced that Blair was the 'conviction politician' he was made out to be. More spin than substance any day of the week.

I say that because I came across this video on The Right Student and I worried in case people saw my attitude to Obama as something similar. Nothing could be further from the truth - I have a lot of respect for Obama. Indeed, his announcement that he is to stop campaigning for 2 days to visit his ill grandmother hit home what a decent guy he is. I'm just not convinced by his policy platform - and his public persona - is all.




I hope you are as worried about Americans as I am after watching this - there's some blatant misconceptions/ untruths about Obama in this clip. And there's downright racism too.


Something I wish I was wrong about - but how many of those featured in this clip will use policy to decide who they vote for on Nov 4th? And how many of them will just look at the colour of a one candidate's skin?


Still think the election is over?

Hat-tip: Arnie at The Right Student

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Holy Cow Batman!


I got the following in an email. I thought it was worth sharing in light of the current economic climate. It obviously plays on national stereotypes, so if you get offended by that, maybe don't read it.

Economic models explained through the medium of... cows.


SOCIALISM

You have 2 cows.

You give one to your neighbour.


COMMUNISM

You have 2 cows.

The State takes both and gives you some milk.


FASCISM

You have 2 cows.

The State takes both and sells you some milk.


TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM

You have two cows.

You sell one and buy a bull.

Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.

You sell them and retire on the income.


AN AMERICAN CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.

Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.


A FRENCH CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.


A JAPANESE CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.

You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'Cowkimon' and market it worldwide.


A GERMAN CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.


AN ITALIAN CORPORATION

You have two cows, but you don't know where they are.

You decide to have lunch.


A RUSSIAN CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You count them and learn you have five cows.

You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.

You count them again and learn you have 2 cows.

You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.


A SWISS CORPORATION

You have 5000 cows.

None of them belong to you.

You charge the owners for storing them.


A CHINESE CORPORATION

You have two cows.

You have 300 people milking them.

You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.

You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.


A BRITISH CORPORATION

You have two cows.

Both are mad.


AN IRAQI CORPORATION

Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.

You tell them that you have none.

No-one believes you, so they bomb you and invade your country.

You still have no cows, but at least now you are democratic.


AN AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION

You have two cows.

Business seems pretty good.

You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.


A NEW ZEALAND CORPORATION

You have two cows.
The one on the left looks very attractive...

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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Music of the month


Now for something completely different.


A shameless plug for my mate's (unsigned!) band have recorded a couple of new tracks which can be heard
here.

If you like them, drop me a note in the comments and I'll see if I can find out if they are playing any gigs in the near future.

Well worth a wee listen - kinda hybrid Franz Ferdinand/ Travis with less indie influence. Or something.

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A nightmare scenario


Last month I wrote a blog post about how a tie would be the nightmare scenario for the US Presidential election - and that, despite the long odds, there was a fair chance it could happen. This was based on Obama adding to the states won by John Kerry in 2004 by winning Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada.

Now, though, I think there should be consideration of an even bigger nightmare scenario.

With some polls putting Barack Obama as many as 14 points ahead of John McCain nationally and bookies paying out on him winning, there is a scenario that might haunt the US electorate and it is this:

What if Obama wipes the floor with John McCain in the popular vote... but fails to win enough Electoral College votes to win the election? (A point that was well made by Susan in the comments on this piece). And to be clear, I'm not talking about a narrow loss on the popular vote (which would be bad enough - see Bush v Gore 2000 or previous popular vote losses in 1876 and 1888). I'm talking about a resounding loss - say by a couple of million votes - but victory by a small margin (say, 272-266).

In that scenario, what would be "President" McCain's mandate?

By the way, as much as I don't like his biased reporting, Justin Webb makes the point - and I might even go as far as agreeing with him - that McCain probably can't win the popular vote. Which means that if he is to win, he'd win an Electoral College majority without a popular vote majority.

Saying that, we might not have to worry - it seems a majority might end up voting for John McCain after all...

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US election - US readers

I understand from my Google-stats that this blog is read across the US - in no less than 30 different states. Which is pretty cool.

I'm guessing that readership is up on the basis that I've written a lot about the upcoming election in the last couple of weeks. I'd be speculating, but it might also be because despite what everyone else seems to be saying, I might still be clinging to the prediction of a McCain win. Maybe...

Anyway, some folks stateside have found this blog searching for "electoral prediction Republican win," "US polls open" and "269-269 tie."

So, I hope those of you Stateside are enjoying the coverage here - and if there's anything you want to contribute, feel free.

And make sure you vote on Nov 4th.

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Monday, 20 October 2008

Barack Obama at the Al Smith dinner



Obama's response - anyone want to score this, like the debates, as anything but a score draw?


By the way, I understand former Secretary of State in the Bush administration Colin Powell has crossed the partisan divide in America and
endorsed Obama for the presidency.

This is a big endorsement, and with two weeks to go, it gives Obama more momentum on the run up to election day.
I have too much respect for Powell (despite the Iraq war "information") to underestimate this endorsement.

However, isn't there something to be said about the timing? That he waits until there is two weeks to go in the election, when Obama is 14 points ahead in some polls, before choosing his man? Has he been hedging his bets up until now... and will he be looking for a cabinet position (Defence? State?) should Obama win?

As one respected commentator put it to me - "He's like the Man Utd fans of the 1990s - wait until success is assured before joining the winning team."

Except for one little thing. The election isn't for another two weeks. Might he have made his move too early?

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John McCain at the Al Smith dinner





The Al Smith dinner allows the candidates a wee laugh a few weeks out from the election. Some good comedy material here.

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Sunday, 19 October 2008

Ex-Minister: Alternative views are not my bag, baby...

Why I stopped reading And another thing...

His response to Jeff.

Bring back Kezia Dugdale's Soap Box. It might have been partisan, but at least it was rational.

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Thursday, 16 October 2008

Can I hear a slightly overweight woman singing?


Is this a sign of weakness?

Or a sign of someone exasperated, someone who is trying to convince people not to be taken in by Barack Obama?

I guess it depends on what side of the fence you sit.


After my last post where I declared this was far from over, I learn from Political Betting that Paddy Power has payed out on an Obama win while Ladbrokes now has him at 10/1 on.


I still think the bookies are missing something here - and that something is in my previous post. I think there's more to come from this race.


Maybe at some point soon I better come to the same Obama party that everyone else is at. I'm still sceptical though.

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Is it over?


After the final debate last night - in which most commentators were suggesting McCain needed a knock-out to stand anything like a chance in the coming weeks - some analysts are now suggesting it might be all over, that the keys of that big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue should be passed over to Mr B. Obama.

However, this article has brought the election back into sharp focus for me by saying something I've been saying to anyone who would listen to me over the last few months.

For those of you that can't be bothered following the link, the article questions whether the lead Obama has in the polls (quoted at 14% in this piece!) is actually a fair reflection of the potential vote. What it asks is basically 2 questions: Have those sampled answered honestly? And have those who may use race as a factor been respondents to samples?


Obviously, there is no way of knowing the answer to either question. And the article doesn't try to. It merely points out that if McCain wins, there may be a reason why the polls have been so wrong.


Telling quote from the piece:


In certain, rare circumstances voters do not tell pollsters the truth, more out of embarrassment than mendacity.

Now, I'm not for one second suggesting that voters who decide to vote for John McCain based on racial discrimination are right. Indeed, if that were the case, perhaps people may start to question whether McCain's presidency might be tarnished by the apparent racism that got him elected. All I'm saying is this: The polls might well be completely wrong - and this could be why.

And as I said before, this thing is nowhere close to being over with three weeks to go.

Things are about to get interesting.

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Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Credit crunch eases?

While I was out seeing the bigger picture running today I saw something that I wasn't sure I'd see again for a long, long time.

At a petrol station on Ferry Road, Edinburgh, Unleaded petrol is now 99.9p a litre. That's less than £1. For the first time in... I don't know how long (and I can't be bothered finding out).


Bad news for James and his global Green movement. But maybe a bit of light relief for those who have been bitten hard by the credit crunch.


Who knows how long it will last though.

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"I can see Russia from my house"

How much does Tina Fey look like Sarah Palin?



Some might say she sounds like her too...

Don't say I don't present a balanced view here!


Funny stuff.

ps - I'm considering liveblogging (for the first time) on the night of Nov 4th for the election. Just wondering if there will be anyone else blogging and/or anyone staying up to watch it?

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Conservatives conquer Canada again


I see that Canada has
re-elected Stephen Harper's Conservative party for another term of minority government. The Conservatives fell short of the 155 seats required for Harper's coveted majority - indeed, one of the main reasons he went to the polls was to secure such a win.

The full result (+/- from 2006 election):

Conservative - 143 (+19)
Liberal - 76 (-27)
Bloc Québécois - 50 (-1)

New Democrat - 37 (+8)

Green - 0 (N/C)

Others - 2 (+1)


Several questions I have - perhaps for people more knowledgeable about Canadian politics than me.


How much of this result was based upon the economic turmoil which currently exists and how much of it was about supporting the Conservative party for their values/ policies?


Can we draw anything from the result for the upcoming US Presidential election and any
potential election here?

Answers to the second on a postcard to a Mr G. Brown, formerly of Kirkcaldy, now in London, who is eager to here some suggestions...

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Mock the Presidential Election

Those of you who read the excellent Tom Harris MP's And Another Thing.... will have already seen this video, but I decided to post it here as well because, well, it is tremendous. And for those of you who don't - why not? It's a really good read for an MP who just got kicked out of government... (sorry Tom!).





So, hat-tip to
Mr Harris. And enjoy.

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Tuesday, 14 October 2008

An Obama win - 1/7


I don't want to turn this into MitB/ Betting... but I've just seen Ladbrokes odds on US election:

To win:

McCain 9/2
Obama 1/7

Now I might be wrong (it has happened before) but I don't think this race is done yet. Certainly not to the tune of 7/1 on.

The states usually get much closer as election day approaches - and as such, might it be worth a punt on McCain as America starts to get cold feet?


One other notable "special":
McCain to win between 290 and 309 Electoral College votes: 40/1

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Labour launch by-election campaign*

*according to the BBC

Bizarrely, this was only yesterday. The seat has been vacant since August 13 - that's almost 9 weeks ago.

What have Labour in Glenrothes been doing up until now?

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Monday, 13 October 2008

Boyd quits


Couple of qualifications here in preamble to this post. I didn't see the Scotland game on Saturday. I'm a Celtic fan but I think Kris Boyd is a tremendously talented Ally McCoist-esq striker.


Kris Boyd has followed Lee McCulloch into international retirement. Between them they have a grand total of 30 caps. McCulloch I think is rubbish, and we're better without him. But I'm a little sadder about Boyd's decision. He has scored 7 goals in his 15 appearances for Scotland, and has 54 goals in 82 appearances for Rangers, despite hardly ever getting a start (which, as a Celtic fan I'm pleased about - obviously if he isn't playing then he can't score). But it is his inability to break into the Rangers side that has led George Burley to leave him out.

Burley himself held a rather quick press conference on the topic of Kris Boyd's departure (which gets away from him a little towards the end) in which he explains why he overlooked Boyd for an appearance on Saturday.

He said:

"I only want people who are totally committed... How much do you care? You don't need to like everybody. This is your country.... you've got to show that passion. At the end of the day, I just want committed players, 'cause I'm Scottish through and through and I want them to be totally committed."

Now I might not be convinced by Burley's results as Scotland manager (one win in six) but I'm impressed by the man. He's right. In this day and age, when players who earn thousands of pounds a week don't want to represent their country (because they can't get into their club side) then fine. Go and sulk.


But here's the rub. We're a relatively small nation with limited talent when it comes to football. We need our most skilled players if we are ever going to achieve the Holy Grail of qualifying for a major tournament again (sometime before I start drawing a pension would be nice). Will it hamper our opportunities if players like Boyd don't play? Probably.

But I'd rather have eleven men on the field that want to be there, that want to go and win for Scotland.
The Kris Boyds and Lee McCullochs of the game should never even be asked to pull on a Scotland jersey again.

ps - apparently Boyd was to be dropped from the squad anyway.

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Saturday, 11 October 2008

Norwegian Wood

Hoping not to see a similar image later on.

I'm heading through to Glenrothes later today. Before anyone gets too concerned that I'm off on the campaign trail, I should point out that I'm off to a wedding - and no, we won't be throwing election-leaflet confetti. You should have seen the look I got when it was "suggested" that if we went early enough we could do some leafletting first!


Anyway, I'm at that age where all my friends/ girlfriend's friends seem to be getting engaged or married (but thankfully not having kids yet!) as this is our third wedding this year - and we already 3 for next year. And no... not one of them is mine.


I'll have to have words with the groom today about organising his wedding on the same day as a World Cup Qualifier though. Mind you, cermony starts at two, kick off is three... I guess if I make that suggestion to someone close to me I might not have to worry about having a similar day in the future!


Have to say, he's probably doing me a favour though. Norway are no mugs, and after our defeat in Macedonia followed by a less than stellar performance against Iceland - a country we're apparently soon to be at war with - I'd say things aren't looking too good for 3 points this afternoon. I better say something positive or I'll be charged with being a pessimist again...


Nah, can't think of anything. Unless we get three points today, we can kiss goodbye to qualifying. And I think we'll have to be pretty good to do that - something we haven't looked like being since a glorious night in Paris.

I better enjoy the wedding.

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Friday, 10 October 2008

The Economist says what we're all thinking

Now I know that the mass bail out of banks and interest rate cut announced on Wednesday will hopefully have the desired effect and start to turn around the financial markets, but I just found this picture and I thought it was hilarious.



I know I usually avoid swearing but I couldn't resist this. So Mum, if you're reading... sorry!

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Thursday, 9 October 2008

Cringe Time #27



I wanted to bring this to the attention of more people so they could cringe their way through it as well.

"That's ma boy!"

Please bring back The West Wing - even if it is just so Martin Sheen has better things to do than "hang" with Paris Hilton!

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Harvie's havers... part II

What links Lockerbie and Carlisle with Blue Peter and Adolf Hitler?

Yes, you've guessed it...

Professor Chris Harvie MSP.
No, not a professor of foot in mouth studies, as one might think, but of history, apparently.

I wonder if there are those in the Scottish Parliament that think of Prof Harvie as a historical relic, from a time far preceding our own. He certainly dresses like it on occasion.

I also wonder if there have been moves to suggest to the "good" professor that he may wish to cut short his parliamentary career to write another book.

For information, his replacement as an MSP - should he decide to call it a day - would be a lawyer called Roderick Campbell, a previous SNP candidate in Fife North East (2007), North East Fife (2005) and Roxburgh & Berwickshire (2003).

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Gray makes appearance in US election

No, not the new Labour leader in the Scottish Parliament...



Democratic candidate for President, Barack Obama - May 2008













Democratic candidate for President, Barack Obama - September 2008








Having wat
ched Tony Blair and, latterly, Gordon Brown succumb to greying locks, it should come as no surprise that a candidate for the position of world's most powerful man should start to turn grey.

With regards the credit crunch, I guess when Alastair Darling's eyebrows turn grey we should start to really panic about economics.

And I do realise - what with my distinct lack of hair at the rip old age of, erm, 24, I'm hardly in a position to comment on other men's hairstyles.


One question though - do you think Obama has heard of 'Just for Men'? Or is this a calculated ploy to allow the hair to go grey - to make him look older, more experienced and ready to take the job?

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Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Green Formula


The 2000 green Jaguar Formula One car driven by Eddie Irvine.

This is the only way the words "green" and "Formula 1 car" will go together.

So what's this I see? Formula One goes green?

Nope... just some stripes on the tyres.

Oh well... nice idea. Might be more environmentally friendly to go back to racing in daylight though. Just a thought.

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The end of the "Soap Box"


I'm really sad that
Kezia Dugdale's Soap Box has been closed.

I disagreed with her politics... actually, that's what everyone has said. I don't know if I do, really. I mean, the social conscience side of Labour is something that most people can get on board with (when it exists!). For me, what I disagree with was the negative agenda for Scotland that Labour has, its visceral hatred for the SNP and its "we can't work with anyone who wants to break up Britain" attitude.

I disagree with Kez that "blogging is no longer... a proper vehicle for debate." While I understand that perspective from her experience, I generally find that when I try to get a debate going, the debate is good natured. Indeed, I've only ever had to delete one comment - and that was just for a wee sweary.

Where I do agree with Kez, and what makes me really quite sad, is the state of the blogosphere. Kez's experience of comments is that "95% of the comments that follow [her posts] are negative" - and while she's put it in those terms, I think she's being polite. I may be putting words in her mouth, but for "negative" I read "harsh, uncalled-for, occasionally personal, attacks." And that for me is not on.

I do think there is a time for partisan debate - but let me be clear - some of the stuff that has been written in the comments on Kez's blog have been purely aimed at character defamation, fueled by venomous bile. That is not on.

Now, I know that a lot of Kez's posts have been attacking the SNP (comparable to some Nat blogs that simply attack Labour). And the debate on those topics should be lively. But most of the comments have overstepped the mark.


If my own blog had been the subject of such personal attacks then I would have given up a long time ago. So let me just say this. Kez - thanks for your contribution to the debate. I hope you'll re-consider your decision, but I won't be holding my breath.

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Tuesday, 7 October 2008

A fan...

I had a (long but useful) induction day at uni for my PhD today. One funny thing to report.

One of the speakers asked us to talk to our neighbour for a couple of minutes about our PhD projects.

I was talking to another politics student.
I listened to him tell me about his proposal - which, as ever, sounded eminently more complicated than my own - before it was my turn.

"So, what's your name, what are you studying and where are you from?" He asked (paraphrased slightly).

"I'm Malcolm, I'm looking at nationalist parties in government both here and in Spain, and I live in Edinburgh."

His response:


"You don't happen to have a blog called Malc in the Burgh do you?"


Made my day that bit better!

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Monday, 6 October 2008

Hail Mary...

I have written previously that I though McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as running mate may have been the "Hail Mary" pass, the epitome of a last-minute, risk-reward strategy.



However, the New York Times thinks that it hasn't worked... and suggests the Republican ticket may need another trump play.



Their suggestion?




Ditch McCain. Put Palin at the top of the ticket. Make the race about the first woman v the first black man. Make it about cool v ice cold.




My initial thought is this: That is singularly the most crazy thing in politics since Gordon Brown invited Peter Mandelson back for a third stint in the Cabinet.




One thing is for sure though - the momentum, which had shifted away from the Democrats for much of 2008, is now swinging back Obama's way, just in time for the November election. The Republicans need to do something bold, or something needs to change; to break their way. Or Obama is getting the keys to the White House.




Anyone have any thoughts on what that could be?

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Labour MP in understanding devolution shocker

Doing a little bit of research (yes, occasionally us tax-dodging students do) I came across the above book, co-authored by my local MP, Labour's Mark Lazarowicz.

I haven't had an opportunity to read it in detail, but, by all accounts, it is a fairly decent read and account of what the Scottish Parliament was set up to do... and how it works.


Two things I learned from it.

One: that Mark Lazarowicz knows how the Scottish Parliament works. This is something he may wish to share with his Labour colleagues who work there.


Two: that Mark Lazarowicz is very much in favour of the Scottish Parliament. This is something that he may wish to share with his Scottish Labour colleagues at Westminster.

One suspects that if he does not pass on this information, then the number of colleagues he has at each institution may decrease somewhat come the next elections...

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Regrettably, this is probably required:
This blog is my own personal opinion (unless otherwise stated) and does not necessarily reflect the views of any other organisation (political or otherwise) that I am a member of or affiliated to.
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