Wednesday, May 04, 2011

AV and SNP

So it's election time, which calls for a bit more than the 140-character limit that Twitter offers. Tomorrow is polling day, with 2 important decisions to be made: who will form the next Scottish government, and do we want to change the voting system?

I'll take the second, easier, one first. If I hadn't made my mind up very early on, the "no" campaign would certainly have swung me towards voting "yes". The campaign mounted has, I am sad to say, seen the high-profile debut of American "dog whistle" politics founded upon lies and misguided personal attacks. The torrent of bullshit is too much to discuss, but the volume at which they are saying it (and the number of leaflets delivered) have clearly won over a general public open to the type of fear-mongering that they have pedalled. Christ, imagine what a referendum on the EU/Euro would be like? That they are telling lies does not matter; that they are scary seems to have been enough to virtually ensure a "no" vote. This is a huge shame, as the current referendum will surely be the only time in our lifetime that a true change to our voting system is on the table: yes, it's only a step towards the "right" way (full PR), but since when do starving people turn down snacks because they are not full meals? The centre-right faction of Labour (shame on you, Blunkett and Prescott) and the centre-to-extreme right of the Conservatives, BNP et al have mounted a pitiful, swaggering campaign funded by people who don't have our best interests at heart. It saddens me that this is how the movement for electoral change ends for our generation.

It also saddens me that my natural political party, the Liberal Democrats, has enabled the current coalition government, which is having its path steered by a Tory party (and leader) that is MUCH more right-wing and idealogical than the press and public are prepared to admit. I did not vote for this; centrist politics maybe, coalition sure, but not this one. A minority coalition with Labour (that would not have been right nor washed with the general public) or a centre-left opposition against a minority Conservative government are both vastly preferable to this. The Lib Dems have let me down, big-time, and I will be withholding my vote for the foreseeable future. For the first time in my life, I am changing my allegiance, to either Labour or the SNP. On a UK-scale, I feel closer to Labour; this is, however, a Scottish election, which makes things easier. Labour have been poor in Scotland of late, and I have also come to like Alex Salmond (and, believe it or not, Nicola Sturgeon) over recent years. Their style of, and actions in, government have impressed me. The legislation has been crowd-pleasing in all the right areas, centre-left, and the idealogical battles have been well-chosen (i.e. basically right) and have made their victorious opponents look petty and smug when the government has been defeated. I'm willing to trust them now, and will cast my vote for the SNP in the hope that they secure (and increase) a majority to continue their progressive moves.

And then what? Scotland will be left-of-centre, with PR, a world centre of alternative and fossil energy, and good at making alcohol. This appeals to me a lot more than the way that our current UK government is taking us. Keep it up, SNP, and I will be prepared to hear your independence arguments.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The apex of humanity

I honestly think that there is now nowhere for mankind to go; having viewed this there is no point in any creative arts from now on. This is where it's at. Bear with it: it starts off OK and then gets exponentially better.

Some pictures

First, a serious one. This is the Deepwater Horizon sinking at the start of the Gulf oil spill. The photo is incredible, and looks like something from a sci-fi film

Next, 2 examples of "perfect timing".

Kylie makes a bear very, very happy.

They should stick this picture in the dictionary instead of defining "panic".

And finally, my favourite picture in years. Look at the range of expressions here and work out if they are supposed to be releasing a turtle or not. Wonderful.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's time to post again

So, that's another one of my long blog holidays. I might post again this week. Really.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


So Lost finally finishes in the early hours of tomorrow morning. 97.3% of the world's population will sigh with relief and mutter "thank fuck", hoping that their one sad Lost friend doesn't hear them and start off into a lecture about how it's all really clever, about time travel, and that Locke IS THE SMOKE MONSTER!!!!!!!111!!! The remaining 2.7% are in comas, doo-lally, or are really looking forward to it. Sometimes more than one of them. I'm waiting with baited breath, hoping that it is worth all the effort over recent years; I've not been the greatest fan of this series and was ambivalent (at best) about last week's Jacob episode.

Anyway, to prepare for the end/The End, here are 2 great Lost videos. Firstly, the theme tune that somebody wishes Lost had (and me, too; it's genius and a great parody of US TV), and secondly all 6 series of Lost explained by cats in a minute. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stag Saturday

Hampden panorama
Yes, County lost, but it was a fun weekend nonetheless.

I joined the exodus from north to south in Scotland, on a train that gradually filled up with tangerine-clad people along the way. People from Dundee can be scary, but this lot seemed friendly enough. The general atmosphere of the day was actually very "family" with the County fans made up of seemingly most of the Highlands, be they young, medium, or old. I'm medium, although not medium enough to put a bet on 3-0. Anyway, the atmosphere in Glasgow was fairly relaxed, with the police and security very hands-off; this led to a happy day with plenty of banter (well, as much as you can have with a Dundonian: keep it lowbrow) and mixing of the fans. Any number of County fans, United fans, or locals mentioned how refreshing the lack of an Old Firm presence was.

As an aside, I came to the conclusion that bright orange is not the most sensible choice for a shirt colour: firstly, it is not possible to wear that hue and remain dignified, and secondly if you lose there is not the option of slinking off unnoticed.

The match itself was disappointing. County lacked any real cutting edge and appeared a little overcome by the occasion. This was hardly a surprise and Dundee United were very well organised, stuck to their plan, and in the end won pretty easily. County had a couple of promising 5-minute spells but, to be honest, that was it. The Staggies' fans must take enormous credit though, never expressing too much frustration with the team (who were really trying) and cheering right to the end. The split of fans looked to be about 60:40 in United's favour, but what an effort in terms of people, support, and noise from the Highlands. For most people outside of the Old Firm, seeing your team in the Scottish Cup Final is a once or twice in-a-lifetime event if you are lucky. And I've seen County play in a Hampden final. Magnificent.

A very pleasant weekend was topped off with a couple of wanders around Glasgow city centre (which I grow increasingly fond of) and a delightful bout of dinner and drinks with the Varwells. Summer seemed to finally arrive this weekend, and a couple of whiskies in a warm and sunny Glasgow certainly left me with a warm and sunny feeling.

Some pictures are here, and below is a (pretty rubbish) video that I shot on my phone just prior to kick-off.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Election: some final thoughts

Decision day is almost upon us, so I suppose that it is time for mine. Contrary to almost all expectations, this has been an interesting and policy-focused election campaign, and is the most "exciting" of my lifetime. The race is close, and we seem to be moving inexorably towards a hung department, mostly due to the TV debates. Yes, I criticised the idea and, yes, I stand by much of the sentiment; if you are going to have debates, though, they should be like the ones that we have had. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of substance, the relatively intelligent level of discourse, and the low level of emphasis on "presentation". All sides had their moments, of course: David Cameron's "I met a black man!", Gordon Brown's terrible pre-written jokes, and Nick Clegg's "I AM ANGRY ALL THE TIME".

Talking of Clegg, the rise of the Liberal Democrats has been the force invigorating the campaign. Over the years, the mainstream media (be it Tory or Labour) has effectively ignored or downplayed the third party, but with Clegg front and centre in the first debate it was impossible to ignore. The people listened, and the people liked. The traditional no-hopers were being allowed to have equal time to promote their policies, and what's more they were reasonable, populist, and not pie-in-the-sky. Unless you read the Mail or Express, which will have told you that the Liberal Democrats are crazy Stalinists who wish to bulldoze your grandmother's house with a Nazi tank powered by Iranian oil bought with our new currency, the Hitler Euro. And then fry your baby with garlic and serve it on a bed of pomme puree. Pomme puree! Not even good old British mash!

I may be paraphrasing slightly, but that is basically what they said. Anyway, we have come out of the debates with a 3-way battle for power. Due to the LibDem surge, my original prediction of a narrow Labour victory is looking increasingly unlikely; indeed, Labour may actually end up third in terms of the popular vote (but certainly not in terms of seats). The remaining options are a hung Parliament or Conservative victory. The latter is too horrible to comprehend, but enough people seemed to have cottoned on to Cameron to prevent that. When you have got Charlie Brooker and Peter Hitchens rallying against you, it is fair to say that there is scepticism over a broad range of views. Brooker nails it:
He isn't even a man; more a texture-mapped character model. There's a different kind of software at work here, some advanced alien technology projecting a passable simulation of affability; a straight-to-DVD retread of the Blair ascendancy re-enacted by androids. Like an ostensibly realistic human character in a state-of-the-art CGI cartoon, he's almost convincing – assuming you can ignore the shrieking, cavernous lack of anything approaching a soul. Which you can't.

I see the sheen, the electronic calm, those tiny, expressionless eyes . . . I glimpse the outlines of the cloaking device and I instinctively recoil, like a baby tasting mould. Don't get me wrong. I don't see a power-crazed despot either. I almost wish I did. Instead, I see an avatar. A simulated man with a simulated face. A humanoid. A replicant. An Auton. A construct. A Carlton PR man who's arrived to run the country, and currently stands before us, blinking patiently, blank yet alert, quietly awaiting commencement of phase two. At which point, presumably, his real face may finally become visible.

So to the hung Parliament, which now looks most likely. Despite the Tories' attempts to scaremonger the possibilities, I think that the public is more or less reconciled to the idea of coalition or minority government. Maybe living in Scotland, where it has basically worked, helps matters. The hung Parliament may be the sea-change that we need here, delivering vote reform and collaboration to create policy that actually makes a difference. Next Friday (and onwards) could be very interesting... The spectre of a Conservative majority does, howerver, make me very nervous.

So what about my vote? I've narrowed it down to SNP or LibDem, and have now read both manifestos. I liked the gist of both of them, to be honest, and agreed with the majority of what the Parties said. The SNP manifesto had a nice font, made nice populist points, and won points for its positive (rather than slagging off the opposition) outlook. I did, however, feel like a lot of the ideas were nice but the means of achieving them were not adequately explained; that comment also applied to the Liberal Democrats to some degree. The SNP also danced around the elephant in the room a little, saying that they favour independence, outlined their version (which sounded like hyperdevolution to me), but did not go into the mechanics of how it would work. The UK is not just going to give up North Sea oil and a heap of its military bases...

Comparing the two parties there is not much to choose between them in my mind, with a hybrid of the two being the ideal. Seeing as that is not going to happen, I think that in this election I will be voting Liberal Democrat. My seat is close, so a vote from me will contribute to the 1300 needed to swing it from Labour to the Liberal Democrats. I would like to reward them for a good campaign, and hopefully contribute to the hung Parliament in the process.

So there we are, I have come all this way to end up where I started, voting Liberal Democrat. It has been an interesting journey during the campaign, and at the start I honestly thought that I might vote Labour. I don't buy the media narritive on the last 13 years, and have seen many positive things from them. I believe that Britain is a better, fairer, more modern country because of what they have done. And the SNP: now they are seriously on my radar. It is very, very likely that they will get my vote in the next Holyrood election.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Today on twitter

  • 22:28 I much prefer orange squash to butternut. Quenches the thirst more. #
  • 22:29 Tickets for the Ross County v Dundee United Scottish Cup final sorted. Yes. #

Monday, April 26, 2010

Today on twitter

  • 08:29 That Labour guy Lord Mandelbrot seems to go into infinite detail about everything. #
  • 14:26 Just flicked through today's Express. Its anti-libdem editorial and general tone of election coverage is horrible. Unacceptably dismissive. #
  • 14:27 A lot of it seems, at best, dishonest as well #
  • 14:29 P14: "they are a bunch of sanctimonious pro-EU left-wingers who would destroy the last remnants of our national identity" #
  • 14:32 Clegg:"a man who despises Britain's heritage, wants to smash our national defences and has an ideological objection to locking up criminals" #

M.I.A. - Born Free

Oh my goodness. The new M.I.A. video which is very, very, not safe for work. A fascinating and hugely disturbing take on the IDF handling of the Palestinians. What you're seeing isn't pretty but it is very prettily done.

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Northern nerds do Justin Timberlake medley

That is it. Nicely Done.

Another policy checker

Following on from my earlier election post, I was directed to Votematch, which is another site where you can answer policy questions and see who you are closest to politically. Importantly, this one includes all the parties, and allows (even instructs) you to deselect those parties that you are not considering voting for. I therefore tried it out only comparing Labour, Liberal Democrat, and SNP.

The outcome was interesting. As I suspected, the results from Vote For Policies had been influenced by the lack of SNP; the Greens were, in my case, a left-wing substitute (indeed, I even selected the Conservative environmental policy!). My task for the first half of this week is to read the SNP manifesto, which was launched ridiculously late. It's becoming clear to me that my choice will be between Liberal Democrat and SNP. Labour haven't massively impressed me so far, the Conservatives have flat-out unimpressed me, the Liberal Democrats have impressed me, and I must admit that I don't know enough about the SNP yet. When I have informed myself, the question may be: policy or tactics? In my constituency the SNP are a distant third, and the Lib Dems have a decent chance of unseating Labour. If I come out in favour of the SNP, do I vote for the Liberal Democrats anyway?

We'll see. Try out Votematch here or in the little widget below. I don't think that these things should tell you how to vote, but are an excellent "hopping off" point to focus your research in the right direction. Importantly, they help cut through the political dogma that Labour and the Conservatives are the only "real" choices by removing the artifice.

Dear BBC, don't worry about taking "balance" to extremes

"Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive , and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal".

Karl Popper

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Today on twitter

  • 10:52 Hurrah! Trending topics works again in Echofon. #

Monday, April 19, 2010

Today on twitter

  • 09:02 Holy shit. It's SNOWING. And not volcanic ash, actual cold water. #