June 2008 Archives

Going on holiday.

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tumbleweed.jpgDespite this morning's drama, I don't expect to blog for a week. 

I'll miss you too.

It's true, she's gone.

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selfdestruct.jpgI just watched speeches from Wendy and Cathy Jamieson, both of whom claimed others had made this donations scandal run on. 

Others might reasonably take the view that there were earlier points when she could and should have gone, like the one where she accepted a donation from a Jersey resident that she knew was illegal. 

No-one should take any personal pleasure in her absolutely torrid year, but she really only has one person to blame for this.

They're saying it's all over.

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wendysuit.jpgBBC are reporting the imminent resignation of Wendy, something they wouldn't do lightly. Glenn must be very sure indeed. Either that, or he just read Magnus in this morning's Record.

Statement at 11.

Apologies for moving quickly, but... odds on a successor? Andy Kerr seems to be grimly inevitable, if you listen to the chat at the steamie. And earlier this month Standards ensured he'd be available.

Tomorrow's activism today.

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TomorrowsEnergy.jpgAstroturf is what it's called. Fake grass roots. Corporate shills, masquerading as locals. This tactic evolved into misleading pseudo-research bodies, funded the same way; by the tobacco lobby, the oil industry, the nuclear lot, anyone utterly unpalatable.

So why not turn the tables on them? Greenpeace did. (via the secretly optimistic Suitably Despairing)

Greens 3rd in Henley.

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wendygordon.jpgThe Tories held Henley, with the Liberals in second. No surprise on either count.

But Greens in third? In some pretty unpromising territory? Wonderful work, despite the usual flurry of "Only the Liberal Democrats can win here" (prime spurious example) and other similarly misleading leaflets.

But if I were a Labour supporter, I'd be in utter despair, having been beaten by us to the left and the BNP to the right. Labour's vote is less than the sum total of votes for UKIP plus the Monster Raving Loonies. You don't even need to add in Harry Bear from the Fur Play Party.

Gordon and Wendy are increasingly looking like New Labour's pall-bearers.

One day in the sin bin.

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wendy.jpgSo that's Wendy's sentence. Actually, her real sentence is to be the IDS of Scottish Labour; a failure as a party leader so dire that she won't get to fight an election. Every other Labour leader since devolution has been First Minister too, but no-one expects her even to be given a shot at that, let alone to win, if she made it to May 2011. Labour people I speak to included.

One day in the sin bin has presumably been chosen by the SNP as enough punishment to damage her further, but not enough to force her out, which is a real dancing-on-pins calculation. Now Parliament must vote on it, where "now" means in September.

So a long ugly summer for Wendy beckons, followed by a vote where it appears Parliament will be more or less evenly divided - I understand the Tories have backed Labour's line, while the Liberals voted with the SNP, although reports vary on that.

There's plenty of time for everyone to have a good long think about it and go through the report. That includes the Presiding Officer, who has a stack of related points to sort out from Presiding Officer's Question Time, another term for a mild outbreak of POOL. Please can we have a better alternative on procedural matters?

Unionisht Conshpirashy.

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alicequeenhearts.pngFor some people who shall remain nameless, any opposition to the SNP is part of said conspiracy.

There have been occasions where SNP members have tried to use the term to include us, even though we're somewhat closer to them on the constitution than we are to Labour, the Liberals and the Tories.

But this conspiracy, it doesn't exist.

You can see the evidence today. Wendy's tortured donations saga rumbles on, and the Standards Committee voted five to two against her. The Committee has three Nats on it, two Labour members, one Liberal and one Tory. This means the non-Labour Unionishts backed the SNP and sent Wendy down.

Personally, I'm with the Queen of Hearts on this (no, not that one). Sentence first, verdict afterwards. Wendy's already been sentenced to having her credibility removed. This is just a verdict that recognises that.

The only surprising thing is that the SNP didn't decide to vote the other way and absolve her. Nothing could please them more than having to face Wendy in May 2011, although I don't know a single person who expects that to happen.

One very disgusted elector.

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salmond.jpgAlex Salmond got a letter this morning, complaining about his plans for pensioners' travel and the Ministerial Code of Conduct, amongst other things. How do I know? Because the same letter was copied to the Presiding Officer and to all the party leaders in Holyrood, including Robin. It was signed as per the headline above.

One section related to First Minister's Questions, and it made me smile.

"You have a great propensity for not answering questions put to you. Why is this?"

Methinks that's one more question that won't get answered.

A worthy response.

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golfcoursecarrier.jpgThere's a lot of debate going on about where aircraft carriers should be built. But surprisingly, given the £4bn cost, no debate about whether they should be built.

This despite many in the near-pacifist left in the SNP knowing that the carriers are designed, in the Navy's own words, to provide "a coercive presence worldwide".

So late last night we chipped in, arguing that the carriers shouldn't be built at all, and that the skills on the Clyde and the money from the Treasury should instead be redeployed to develop cutting-edge renewables industries and other similar green tech.

The prize for the best response goes to the following, found in my inbox this morning.

"Are you suggesting that we shouldn't be spending billions on the world's biggest floating cocktail party venues? Where will Prince William be able to land his jets? This all sounds dangerously close to treason to me."

I feel fine.

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largehadroncollider.jpgBut apparently it's the end of the world. The fact that they've even taken the time to deny the possibility that the mini black holes they're creating could expand and swallow us all just alarms me all the more. I know, doom-mongering greens. But seriously, do you feel better after reading that article? (musical relief available here)

Don't just take my word for it.

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"Green politics matter now more than ever. It is not woolly to be green at this time. It has never been more hard-headed. The crisis over the oil price is just one of many indicators that it is even more imperative to wean ourselves off fossil fuels and make the radical moves necessary to become a low-carbon economy. The fortunate countries of the future will be those with political and business leaders with the foresight to plan for that world by encouraging investment in clean and renewable energies, carbon capture and green transport."

I do disagree with the statement before that, though. But I recommend you read the whole article. Right through to the last perfect paragraph.

Running dog of uselessness.

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chihuahuaclegg.jpgI do hate spurious polls, so shouldn't link to one. Apologies. 

But apparently the public picked the Chihuahua as the dog they most associate with Nick Clegg. 

And is it any wonder, given how good he looks in his little sweater?

kingfahd.jpgSo we're on the cusp of the post-oil age, as you know. 

There are questions to be answered, like "will we prepare for it properly, or persist with business as usual as long as possible instead". But sooner or later, that's what's happening.

Which would mean we'll no longer be dependent on the Saudi despots for our energy. Unless Gordon Brown has his way, sadly. 

In what might be the most incompetent decision of his brief premiership, he's trying to get us to invest in their dead-end dinosaur wine, while giving them a share of our endlessly productive renewables.

The current failure to prepare for post-oil economics (the opposite of masterly inactivity) means we may have to go cold turkey on fossil fuels. While having made ourselves economically dependent even for our own wind power.

Update: a similar assessment has been made elsewhere of the Bush policies.

Getting one's kilt on.

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mackenzie.jpgUnlike my old man, who wears his kilt nearly daily (see Mackenzie tartan to the left), I only seem to find myself in one when I'm about to encounter drink. Weddings, mostly. Or, once a year, at the Scottish Political Journalists' Association dinner. 

So thanks this year to the Scotsman for the invite. Please don't put me next to you-know-who.

The SPJA is a very relaxed sort of trade union. One annual dinner, and a golf game against the politicians. And very very occasionally they go on the warpath, usually over drink, fittingly enough. 

The dinner is (I think) meant to be Chatham House Rules, which is why it took so long for the famous punchup in 2000 to come out. And it also means that I will blog any gossip that comes my way on Wednesday strictly without naming my sources. Promise. Probably.

Top two relationships.

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swinneysalmond.jpgOfficially, Nicola Sturgeon is Salmond's #2 as Deputy First Minister, but the reality on the floor of the chamber and elsewhere is that the key relationship is Salmond-Swinney. It was put to me last week that Salmond is better understood as President, with Swinney as his Prime Minister. Maybe that makes Sturgeon Deputy President?

When Swinney took on his gargantuan portfolio in May last there were jokes about it; it's similar the role Wendy and Iain Gray had in 02-03, which the Nats slated as Minister For Everything. Still, much as he's implementing policies on the economy and on transport which I broadly disagree with, no-one's yet suggesting he's not up to the workload. 

The same President/PM comparison used to be made about Blair/Brown, of course. But the difference is the brooding: Swinney's had his shot at the top job, and wasn't great at it. I doubt he wants to go through that again, and in any case, any succession to Salmond would probably see a major battle between Sturgeon, Russell, MacAskill and others.

So the boil has been lanced, and Salmond can look down approvingly from Mount Olympus (Ben Nevis?), knowing his powerful finance secretary isn't sharpening the slide rule. The only other person I can see in a similar position to Swinney in UK politics is William Hague, another who had his shot at glory, who failed, and who subsequently found a leader who understood his talents.

Apologies to both men for comparing them.

How Parliament works.

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linda.jpgWhen Parliament gets its knickers in a twist, as it has done today the chamber descends into Point Of Order Lunacy (POOL). It's like the last day of term at an unruly school.

Two of my favourite Nat Ministers, Bruce Crawford and Linda Fabiani, failed to persuade the chamber that the finances stack up for Creative Scotland, via a dip in the deep end of the POOL.

With Linda not having made the case, and because Bruce sought to withdraw only the financial document, Labour and others scented a chance to defeat the Nats, albeit on a proposal they broadly backed.

Cue an utter POOL feeding frenzy. Some members, like Ken Macintosh, asked sensible questions, masquerading as points of order. Some asked actual points of order, I think, perhaps including Dr Simpson, the fireman's friend, but it was hard to keep up.

Others, like Karen Whitefield, hardly bothered - she just knew she had to start her contribution with the magic words "Point Of Order Presiding Officer Point Of Order", then went on to tell the chamber how important her role was before eventually offering nothing more than a pretty spurious debating point.

What POOL actually is is an unscheduled debate about the correct procedures to follow, working like a regular debate, except that Members have to shout and wave their arms in the air, shout the magic words, barrack each other and generally give a poor impression of the place.

POOL is profoundly not a good system, with or without top hats. And the end result today? A Bill with (admittedly relatively lukewarm) support across the parties has fallen altogether. Although Labour's tactics can easily be represented as divisive game-playing, the fact is that this farce has diminished the SNP's authority in the chamber.

This selection just from the last week. 

"We will continue to work closely with the Saudi government to bring oil prices down to sustainable levels" - Gordon Brown, Britain, so they say 

"I wanted to kill somebody.. you know very well who, like every other Pole" - Donald Tusk, Poland 

"We represent 80% of the electorate and a wide range of public opinion within society. Any reasonable assessment by Irish people has to lead them to vote yes." - Brian Cowen, Ireland 

"We've all had to drive the porcelain bus at some stage" - Kevin Rudd, Australia


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trumpdog.jpgLast year I learnt what this interesting term means from an unexpected source. It's the Victorian profession of gathering up "dog chocolate" for use in tanneries, because, unbelievably enough, the stuff was believed to be "pure". There's even a poem.

It's one of those great long-abandoned career paths, like abacus operator, footman, or pyramid designer. A list to which we will soon be able to add oil industry executive, SUV salesman, and environmental consultant to Donald Trump (left).

Did I just imagine that?

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orangutan.jpegOr did ITV put an advert for a betting company in over the actual play in Italy vs Holland? Jeez, is that even legal? If so, and I didn't imagine it, I've got a special room in hell for the adman who proposed it and the legislators who agreed it: adverts will be shown on the back of their eyelids 24/7.

Update: apparently it did happen. Coincidence? I think not!
peakoil.jpgWhen you understand the way the oil industry works, and the fact that the cheap oil era is over, it changes the way you read the news. 

Oil output is more or less at peak, the point at which about half of it has been used up, and that means production's levelled off ahead of a more or less steep decline. 

For instance, this weekend's SoS noted that "World oil production has stalled at about 85 million barrels a day since 2005", while at the same time not poking fun at Ministers from oil consuming nations who called for extraction to increase. 

Fellers, it can't, because you're at the peak. There's nothing you can do, even with a blowtorch. Even if you could get more out in the short term, through secondary recovery or similar techniques, it'd just make the decline sharper and more painful.

Actually, what they should be doing is listening to the Libyans, whose oil chief said yesterday "The easy, cheap oil is over, peak oil is looming". 

So the question for leaders, including Salmond, is this. Pretend we can get by on business as usual for generations to come, or prepare for a post-oil economy?

The world as it should be?

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news.jpgSome bright spark had a vision of what Google News could look like on a good day (via BB). 

I recommend the secondary headlines too, like "Lucas confession: Yes, Han really did shoot first"

However, "Rowling: I have heaps more to write about Harry" is a vision from a horrific alternate reality I'm glad I'm not part of. Take it all away!

Are the SNP Green?

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salmondM74.jpgI think the answer's in the question. But the Scotsman asked anyway, and apparently the SNP do think they're green. Seriously.

Here's Shirley-Anne Somerville for the defence, and Patrick Harvie for the prosecution. You'll note she doesn't mention transport. How could she? Exhibit A shows Alex Salmond in a JCB, personally building the M74. Case closed. Next!

Kez gets it.

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Of the various Holyrood bloggers, three stand out for me.

Calum The Nat along the corridor, lover of motorways above all.
Scottish Tory Boy, whose site curiously shows him to be closest ideologically to Obama.
Kez Dugdale, who is far too consistent and principled to be in Labour much longer.

I don't know of any Liberals here who blog, but any tips on that front would be appreciated.

kez.jpgAnyway, this is about Kez. She came along to the Scotsman debate previously discussed here. In a post on oil earlier this week she not only compared Alex Salmond to JR Ewing, which I love, especially with the pic chosen, but also praised one of Patrick's contributions to that Scotsman debate - the idea that we should be independent from oil, not try to build independence on oil.


She also listed some sensible things the Nats could be doing, including investing properly in public transport. And then notes that instead Salmond's "actively opposing the Edinburgh trams whilst building roads, bypasses, motorways and blocking rail expansion."

So when you get back from your holidays, Kez, let's talk about which roads, bypasses and motorways we think Salmond should scrap. And you've been flagged as "future Green".

The dream candidate?

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So it's finally over. Except that it isn't until Saturday. Or maybe it'll just be suspended until later. I mean, her routes to the top job are now pretty limited. Except, perhaps, in 2012.

If Hillary'd played a bit nicer, especially over things like comparing the Florida/Michigan fixes (which were generous to her side) to the Florida fiddle of 2000, maybe she would have been right for the VP slot. I doubt it.

But just for fun, to the left is what that ticket would look like (via). Scary stuff. I prefer a shot of undiluted Obama. Oh, and may the next serious female candidate for US president be someone more admirable than her.

The politics of hair.

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cameronbullingdon.jpgSo whenever a female politician gets her appearance condemned, cheered, or even sleazed over, we feminists get cross. Why is it always the women who are judged so superficially, or treated as sex objects? We men also get cross when we're not treated the same.

So the Guardian, in the spirit of equality, pored over "Dave" Cameron's hair today. Right on, brothers. Curiously, though, they claim that parting to the left makes someone look more leftwing. Che Guevara, when you pried his beret off him, went a bit to the right. And Green men are disproportionately bald, myself included: what does that say? Neither left nor right, just forward, perhaps? Who knows.

But on Dave, they missed the crucial hairstyle, i.e. the posh-boy semi-mullet as adopted at the Bullingdon (he's #2 in the pic above, click for a larger one). To me that says "I know I'm going to get an excellent Establishment job - possibly The Big One".

Note that Boris is entirely unchanged. Not just the same hair, the same everything. How has he managed to avoid either aging or growing up?

I have a new hero.

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zimmers.jpgDeddie Davies spent five days under cover with the BBC in a care home masquerading as a person with mild dementia. The neglect. The boredom. The food. Oh god, the food. Deddie, I salute you. Her report is here

Oh, and she used to be in Grange Hill. And she rocks as well.

Best of the web.

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metafilter.pngDiscussions online tend to be appalling, filled with racism, homophobia and even spelling mistakes. Youtube, for all its joys, has little else below the videos. Slashdot, for the more geeky, is not as bad as its reputation, but still more or less invented flame wars. 

As for the Scotsman and Herald commenters, well, we've talked about them a lot and I'm not going to go into that well of despair again.

Besides, I didn't bring you here to depress you. I brought you here so I could make you happy and share Metafilter with you. If you have another nominee for best discussions online, let me know, and I'll explain why Metafilter is better. The material linked to is endlessly fascinating, and the discussions bring in new ideas, often very informed, often funny, and, sure, sometimes pointless. Tip - the discussions aren't easy to find at first - click the "n comments" link under a story.

Recent examples include an interesting discussion on fuel costs, an explanation of online ecology in a hacking thread, and a thread on what sounds like The Best Wine Ever, including comments from people lucky enough to have tried it.

And one of the key reasons why it works, and isn't full of comment spam? They charge a one-off $5 to join. Plus some good moderation, and real community pressure to keep the site on track.

(Honourable mention for discussion: When Saturday Comes, formerly just sport)

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2008 is the previous archive.

July 2008 is the next archive.