Recently in About this blog Category

Striving to be better.

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betternationstone.jpgRegular readers of this blog will have become very bored with going back over the same old posts again and again - despite it being summer recess, I've managed a scant four posts over three months.

I'm not the only one writing less often. Some of Scotland's best bloggers, like Malc in the Burgh, have become less frequent, although not as static as me. Others, though, like SNP Tactical Voting's Jeff, manage to keep posting continuously good material.

Part of the reason, for me, is Twitter, where the discussion is constant and lively - just this morning I sent a document through to a Labour MP about Portuguese drug policy, and got this positive reply.

But the short form isn't always right, and group blogs are in fashion, so Malc, Jeff & I have decided to work together as Better Nation, an ambitious title that will no doubt trip us up soon enough. I may still post here, typically the most vitriolic and partisan stuff that doesn't fit under such an optimistic masthead, but the good stuff will be there.
BrownKissinger.pngThere's another blogawardfest in the offing, courtesy of the Scottish Roundup gang, of whom I am but a generally sleeping partner. 

I'm on the panel, though - there will be a panel vote and a readers' vote, but no union block vote - so I think it might be best to state now that if kindly nominated, I will decline. For real.

My personal hope for these awards is to find some new or largely unnoticed quality writing to fill the gaps in my RSS reader left by the demise of Wardog some great blogs, and for the "scene" to be strengthened with some new blood. Longer term, I think Scotland's political bloggers, collectively, should consider aiming at some more ambitious joint projects. This could be a great first step, and an enormous thank-you to the tireless Duncan Stephen for organising it. 

The great backgammon challenge.

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gammonboard.jpgDavid Maddox is at it again on the Steamie, denigrating backgammon as "a random throw of a dice". Actually, it could hardly be a more appropriate training for politics. Henry Thoreau said: 

"All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it."

Indeed, and a bet is called for. So here's the challenge. David: let's play seven games of backgammon, and if you win I'll write three hundred words here about why the Scotsman is the country's best newspaper. 

If I win, I'll need three hundred words on why one might consider voting Green. They can go on the Steamie, here as a guest post, or even in the actual Scotsman if you wish, and I'd be happy for you to explain that you don't mean it, you just lost a bet.

Tell you what, let's say you won the first game before we start. The board's in the cupboard behind me. Bring it on.

Update: Wonderful. The challenge has been accepted. See the comments.

Chess vs backgammon vs cricket.

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brokenwicket.jpgI've come under fire in The Steamie for the most peculiar reason: my attitude to chess. David Maddox blogged earlier today about my love of other board games, including an allegation that I have a game with nuclear war as an objective. That's almost true. I've actually got two, Confrontation and War on Terror. And I'm looking for a third.

He's a backgammon player, which I regard as the finest board game ever invented, and I'm certainly looking forward to beating him, ideally for money. But I cop it over chess. He disapprovingly cites my comment that: 

"Chess is a limited game which can be won simply by processing further into the future than your opponent."

I stand by this: computers now surpass humans precisely for this reason. Peter Hankins says:

".. the conquest of chess does represent a victory of sorts for mere processing power .."

The historical intertwining of chess and politics Maddox sets out is thereafter is fascinating, though, and he's right to say that strategy on the chessboard no doubt has parallels with politics.

I suspect neither backgammon nor chess is his real love, though. That has to be cricket - see how regularly he and Tom Peterkin defend the sport on the Steamie.

With that in mind I dare not step into the crease to criticise this ancient game. For instance, I would certainly be reluctant to associate myself with the comments of Gerrard Hoffnung, who once asked "what's that game, you know, the one where twenty-two men fall asleep on a lawn?"

In praise of Liberal bloggers.

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tavishcamp.jpgRegular readers will know that I am not a huge fan of the Liberals in Parliament. They are, to my mind, the only group without a clear purpose beyond their own re-election, and their campaigning tactics are annoying to say the least. 

Their approach to the Megrahi case was inconsistent and cynical, simply slipstreaming Labour and Tory illiberalism. 

Similarly, Liberal Transport Ministers (including the current leader) rammed through and continue to support massively unsustainable and inappropriate roads schemes like the M74 and the Aberdeen Western Peripheral.

More recently, the party's support for Trump flew in the face of their claims on the environment, and the treatment of Martin Ford and the others by both the local and the national party over this issue was profoundly troubling

And yet, and yet.

If you read Scotland's top two Liberal bloggers, Stephen and Caron, you find an awful lot more sense, and on most of the key issues of the day they take a far "greener" line than their party. Here's a few examples:

The Megrahi case: Stephen and Caron back release
The referendum: I don't share her position, but Caron does grasp the strategic issue and the democratic case, unlike her MSPs, and so too does Stephen
Our insulation campaign: See Caron's supportive comments, and Stephen's too
On the bullying of Aberdeenshire councillors: Stephen supports the former Liberal Councillorsas does Caron
On Trump's Compulsory Purchase Orders: Another spot on post from Stephen here

The most curious missing element, to my mind, is some divergence from their party on the road-building programme - I looked for any scepticism towards either the Aberdeen Western Peripheral or the unnecessary Extra Forth Bridge, but found none.

Even so, are you good people not barking up the wrong tree (pictured)? Are you really in the right party? I'm tempted to send you both a Green membership form, even though I know tribal loyalties are hard to shift. Added incentive, though: you'd both be in the same party as Martin Ford again.

Immodesty permits.

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greenquestionmark.jpgThe Iain Dale blog-ranking bandwagon continues to roll, and thanks to you kind readers, I came second again in the Green list, and moved up three places to five in the Scottish list, despite failing Jeff's peculiar test.

Thanks in particular to Jim, who made me blush spectacularly with these words. There are a fair few Green bloggers who I think do better work than me, and his is the best of those. I'd have asked for a recount if I'd beaten him.

But, as Jim asks in the comments to that piece, what about the others? There are some good Scottish Green blogs out there, and listed to the right (updated today), but there's nothing from our councillors, our branch convenors, or even any of our once and future MSPs. Even Patrick doesn't really blog, but he tweets enough to make up for it, and I don't think I'd recommend him trying to fit a blog into his schedule.

So bring on the competition. I'd love to keep doing what I'm doing and come way behind loads more active Green blogs. Get it together, folks. It's incredibly rewarding, especially on those occasions when people say to me "I saw that bit on your blog and I really agreed/disagreed because.. " That's better than any award. 

Blog off.

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As you'll know if you read other political bloggers who haven't been on holiday, it's the season for shameless self-promotion. Iain Dale's Total Politics competition is on again, and in lieu of anything more democratic, it's become the de facto UK political blogging Olympics. 

Last year those who blog were all encouraged to tell everyone who we voted for, but this year the rules have changed and we're now not supposed to do so. It had become an "I'll vote for you if you vote for me" situation, as disreputable as a City remuneration committee.

The rules are here, incidentally, so do go and vote.

So, bloggers are not supposed to "list ten blogs you think your readers should vote for." I wouldn't presume, but I have finally worked out how to get Movable Type to include a blogroll, so if you want to know who I read, they're to the right. 

I will bend the rules slightly, though. Here are a few hearty recommendations for blogs I didn't vote for last time, three of which weren't around a year ago.

1. Jim Jepps' Daily (Maybe). Last year's top-ranked Green, and rightly so. Funny, passionate, open-minded and rigorous. 
2. Lallands Peat Worrier. Undoubtedly the Nats' best new blogger, not yet operational for six months, but already a definite fixture. The cod Enlightenment style may look pompous at first glance, but it's frequently hilarious and always shrewd. 
3. Yapping Yousuf. A great read from another thoughtful blogging newcomer. Could dial down the partisanship from time to time, but I'm well aware of my own glass house on that front. 
4. Scottish Unionist. A blog established purely to defend Yoonyonizhm would have to be good to get my attention, and this is indeed one of Scotland's best. The author regularly goes head-to-head with the demented fringes of cybernatspace and regularly wins. 
5.  Beau Bo D'or. The best British animation and photoshop satire around. OK, there aren't many competitors, but this'd be tough to beat in a field of any side. On hiatus now, but hopefully back soon.

Also, if you care enough about politics to read blogs about it, why not start your own? It's not exactly difficult, and you'll get loads of help if you ask.

Finally, have you voted yet? Please make sure you do.

Update: My memory is clearly failing me. I thought I'd voted for Jeff's splendid SNP Tactical Voting and for Malc in the Burgh last year, but Jeff's reminded me otherwise in the comments. 

Last time Jeff came third in the Scottish section, but I reckon he woz robbed. Consider this a fresh recommendation for your RSS reader if you don't read it already, and not just because of his thoughtful piece on Green prospects this morning. 

Malc, for his part, got Daily Dozenned yesterday, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't vote for him (see how close I skate to endorsements here without breaking the rules?). Again, not just because he's got gradually Greener as time has passed, but just on the intrinsic merit of his writing, especially the posts backed up with real quality research

The drawbacks of eco-living.

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Six weeks ago I gave a total stranger $2 over the internet, back when that was about £1. In exchange, he did me the drawing below based purely on the title of this item, and it arrived this week.

Information on how you too can get your $2 cartoon is here. Even with the decline in the value of the pound, I still think it's a great deal. And watch out for those bears.


Blog tag.

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dianaprivateeyecover.jpgI had a feeling this was coming my way. Iain Dale started a "where were you when?" game of tag, he tagged Tom Harris, he tagged STB, and here we are.

Princess Diana's death - 31 August 1997

I was working in St Andrews, and my boss rang me up and told me to come over with the papers. We had croissants and coffee and watched rolling news. I felt then as I feel now: it's sad when any parent of young children dies, but no more for Diana than anyone else. The Private Eye cover abides, though (click for larger image).

Margaret Thatcher's resignation - 22 November 1990

I was at home and my mother rang up to tell me we needed to organise a street party.

Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001

I was self-employed, and my pal Hamish came round. It looked like the gates of hell had opened up, and that we would see escalating response and counter-response. Now, of course, it seems clear that it was Al Qaeda's one truly ambitious "spectacular".

England's World Cup Semi Final v Germany in - 4 July 1990

This predates my interest in football, really. Subsequently I have grown to love watching England games, especially versus Portugal, Germany and Argentina.

President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963

Pass, for the same reason as STB.

Scottish Unionist (when he gets back)

Yet another gong.

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doggycheekstretch.jpgIain Dale's list of the 20 best green blogs came out today. His lists are the Oscars of the blogging awards world, otherwise I wouldn't mention it. I'm delighted to get the #2 slot, behind the estimable Jim Jay's Daily (Maybe), and I promise not to mention any more awards anytime soon. I mean, does anyone other than the awardees really care?

Another prize.

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Thumbnail image for sgprosette.jpgBlushingly, yet with great ego, I have to acknowledge this #1 ranking from Jim Jay, who compiled the Best Green Blogs of the year. He's also doing a readers' poll on that same page, in case any of you kind souls want to do the right thing.

Of punks and populists.

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swinney.jpgLast night, in the space of three hours, this blog received comments from two unlikely sources. 

First, the bassist of short-lived punk band Nocturnal Vermin set out more of their history, what they're doing now, and confirmed their affection for John Swinney. 

Then one of the founders of the short-lived right-wing political party Scottish People's Alliance criticised Land Value Tax. 

I do love the internet at times like this, and to mark the occasion I'm going dig out Nocturnal Vermin's classic "John Swinney" for your listening pleasure. I originally posted it in February, and I fear it may become my audio equivalent of Private Eye's infamous pic.

Also, here's a review by Alan Cochrane of the Scottish People's Alliance's launch in 2003. Or at least of their catering.

First prize in the dressage.

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Thanks to Jim for spotting my success - best environmental/green issues blog, according to the Witanagemot Club awards, where his excellent Daily (Maybe) also featured. Apologies to the Witanagemot Club for not having heard of them until then. At least I knew what the original Witanagemot was, though. 

Others on their list I like include STB, SNP Tactical Voting, J Arthur McNumptyASWAS, and the timewasters' friend, the Daily Mash. Once I work out how to force Movable Type to let me add proper links to this lot I will, I will. And thanks to the readers who nominated me, of course.

Just to be absolutely clear.

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shoppedwillis.jpgIt has been suggested that my previous item about John Mason was insufficiently clear. 

Did I 'shop the extra fingers behind Margaret Curran's head? Yes, of course I did, and I'd assumed that was obvious.

However, it looked like what he wanted to do, it really did.

Patting ourselves on the back.

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ferretheart.jpgSo everyone who's anyone who blogs here is doing the top ten thing for Iain Dale. I can't resist, especially after some were kind enough to rank my own blog.

Do vote for your own top ten here. Entries must all be UK-based political blogs, and two of these I've had to suggest that Iain include in his directory.

1. J Arthur Macnumpty - The most thoughtful analysis of Scottish politics. Just look at the historical sense here. The site also has useful sidebars, like who's in and who's out of the various leadership contests.
2. Peter Cranie - One of the best from our Green chums down south. Also managing Adrian Ramsay's Deputy Leader campaign, so he must be on the right track.
3. Kez Dugdale - Labour's most determined voice online. They're lucky to have her.
4. STB - Keeps them short and to the point, a good diverse mix of gossip and partisanship.
5. Douglas Fraser - An irregular blogger, and sadly soon to leave Scottish politics. 
6. George Monbiot - OK, it's sort of a blog. But it is 100% Monbiot must-read goodness.
7. Polling Report - All us anoraks love numbers, those bad bad numbers.
8. Political Betting - And betting is even worse numbers than polling.
9. Calum Cashley - Good polemic, hating Wendy and trams equally. Would rank higher if he didn't keep using that "Mouth Park" thing over and over.
10. Scottish Roundup - Makes us all feel read. Aww.

And to prove I'm not too partisan, here's a Liberal one

Bile and venom

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Those are two things I'm not going to have here on this blog. The Herald's estimable Douglas Fraser and Robbie Dinwoodie have both recently talked about this problem.

Both the Scotsman and the Herald bravely (and optimistically) set up comment sections on their news stories, and were rewarded with the sound you might get if you jammed a thousand angry Nationalist supporters into a tiny box, then opened it up just a crack. 

I advised more than one of their activists during the election that they were only harming their own cause, but I think the horse has bolted for them now.

My policy is going to be this, not that I expect a massive flurry of comments. If you register in your own name, and get in touch to demonstrate that you are who you say you are, you will get to comment in your own name.

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If I've forgotten to link to you, let me know. If I don't want to link to your blog I'll pretend I never got your email.

The party's site of which I am rather proud

Along with Jeff (formerly SNP Tactical Voting) and Malc (formerly In The Burgh), I now co-edit Better Nation, a group blog. Stuff will still appear here, but more will be there. Better Nation

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