Saturday, 31 January 2009

Unravelling the Long Week of Scottish Politics

I'm unlikey to actually blog anything exciting today between football, then clubbing later I'm trying to get ahead on this week's Scottish Round Up.

Nice relaxing weekend planned.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Trumpgate is a Carbuncle

Well it hasn't even started yet. It has had political fallout of all sorts but it is some pride that I'd like to inform you that Donald Trump's Golf Resort has been awarded the Carbuncle for "the Worst Planning Decision".

The judges awarded it when they condemned the decision to "rip up" planning rules to allow the scheme to go ahead. So it appears that Martin Ford, Paul Johnstone, Debra Storr and Sam Coull have made a stand which is backed by others. It is the principle that this was steamrollered out of the hands of the local planning authorities who had reservations, made recommendations and offered a opportunity for a resubmission that clearly stands out in this category.

The fact that a spokesman for Trump has braded the decision a "joke" shows how little regard the Trump organisation has for the law of the land and local people.

On the matter of "Plook on the Plinth" I'll stand beside Tricia Marwick, SNP MSP for Central Fife, just as I did at the by election count who said:

"I am sick to death of people doing down Glenrothes. I fully agree that we
need more civic space in Glenrothes. However, the problem, as we all know, is
that the Kingdom Shopping Centre and the area surrounding it is privately owned
thanks to decisions taken by previous administrations.

"This has left us with virtually no civic space and a town centre
surrounded by roads."

There are elements of Glenrothes that do stand out as quite the opposite. As do the network of paths for pesestrians and cyclists which are similar to those in Livingston. There are sadly some rather dour parts of town. But I've seen and even campaigned in many other such areas across Scotland over recent years.

3 U-Turns to Unanimity for Budget Mk II?

Well from having a dead tie it appears that the SNP have knuckles down and are attempting to bring all three opposition parties on board with concessions to their initial budget. Unanimity could be the ultimate prize if the negotiations com off.

The Lib Dems were first up to the plate yesterday offering to take the Income Tax break off the agenda and instead look for a level of greater fiscal autonomy is working with the Nats to lobby Westminster to allow the Scottish Parliament the power to borrow outwith the block grant. This could in theory path the way for future income tax reductions without necessarily affecting the level of spending to fully compensate.

Labour's Iain Grey that his party's demands for 7,800 new apprentices over the next 3 years could be reduced to two years. It is believed this will cost between £45million and £90 million, but after talks with the Finance Minister John Swinney it was believed that to ensure unanimity that these funds could be found.

Which leads to the Greens who is such addition funds had been available for their insulation in homes proposal on Wednesday Mk I of the budget may well have passed. If the £33million that was granted to them on Wednesday can come out of fresh funds and not affect other fuel poverty funding they may well in a place to accept the budget. Their issue was that to be green in one area the Nats were being less green elsewhere.

So with discussions already underway yesterday and the Greens going for talks today their is a tight timetable to try and get Mk II of the 2009 Budget through its various stages by 11 February. If Alex Salmond does manage to get full unanimity it may be worth his while in starting talks for next years budget immediately so we don't have to go through this whole rigmarole again in twelve months time.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Let's Talk About It

Following yesterday's vote rejected the Budget Bill, Tavish Scott this morning has offered that the Lib Dems will sit down and talk with the SNP about a budget through quickly that will meet the challenges facing Scotland. His comments were welcomed by Finance Secretary John Swinney. Tavish said in a radio interview:

"We need to move forward and build a better budget for Scotland. I recognise the situation we are now in. Obviously we'd like to make [the 2p] argument, but we want to be constructive about this - we are where we are now. The government have got to get a budget through in short order, but we can certainly make progress if we get round the table and have a real discussion about finding a way to make this budget respond to the challenges this country faces."

Here's hoping that diplomacy can find a solution to this impasse. Events of the last few weeks have shown that there may be a lack of trusting dialogue on that score. But there is still time before the current budget runs out to get a solution of the next fiscal year in place for Holyrood and to enable the councils to make their plans based on that outcome. Malc agrees that the time for consensus is now though I hope that Jeff is wrong and that the resultant budget is not cobbled together.

We need at this time discussions to have a budget that will help Scotland, if not to totally weather the storm ahead at least to be ready for when a fair wind blows again to get back on track as painlessly and effortlessly as possible. However, as Malc has live blogged about FMQs it would appear that Alex is still entrenching himself a little even after a hand of friendship has been offered.

Threatening Behaviour not the Best for Scotland

While some are accusing the Lib Dems of playground behaviour*. While the Scotsman thinks it only took two men to bring down the Budget. The far more telling thing is the hissy fit being carried out by the Ego that is the First Minister.

Yet again the great Ego of Banff, Buchan & Gordon though lesserly of Westminster and formerly of this parish is threatening to take his ball away. All of this when the lesson learnt from the three parties who voted against his was that he wasn't doing enough. Admittedly there was not agreement on what the enough should entail. But this limp budget, on the same day that latest GDP figures were published showing that Scotland is accelerating into the recession quicker than the rest of the UK, just didn't cut the mustard.

Somebody pointed out that the Tories had got just exactly what they had been looking for last year, but the Nats were not much better. Despite the shift in the economic tectonic plates in the past twelve months this budget is barely changed from that which was laid out in 2007 in the Spending Review. While a week is often cited as being a long time in politics the last year has been one heck of a ride. Although it would appear to have passed unnoticed by John Swinney.

Instead of threatening to talk his ball away by resigning and calling an election the First Minister should learn the lesson. After all it was he who chose to go into a minority administration in the first place, therefore he really ahs to listen to more than just his own voice in order to get things done for Scotland. He doesn't have a mandate to steamroller all his ideas over the people of Scotland he merely (and only just) has a mandate to reside at Bute House and hold the office of First Minister of Scotland.

But with that comes the responsibility. The responsibility to listen to the people of Scotland not just to Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond. The responsibility to do more to help them in reality rather that filter only the statistics, or adjust those that make you look good.

The people know the reality they are facing it, time for Salmond and his sheep to wake up and smell the coffee too.

*Nice quiet week for me to be editing the Scottish Round Up then.

Civil War in the BBC Newsroom

Subtly and very carefully bits of the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) Gaza Appeal have been slipping out from the BBC Newsroom even if the Director General Mark Thompson and the senior editors have taken the stance that is shouldn't.

The following clip from Tuesday Morning shows the newspapers add plus the phone and website address from the video itself over coverage of the story.

The fact that the newsroom are doing what they can to get the message out there is surely doing more to flaunt the impartiality of the BBC's reporting than if the appeal had been shown in the first place, separate and distinct from the news bulletin itself. It is making an absolute ridicule of the empty platitudes that the top levels of the BBC have churned out on air, in emails or interviews.

I applaud whichever members of the BBC family are doing what they can to get the humanitarian message across despite the shockingly biased and far from impartial decision taken by whatever level decided to ban the appeal.

"A Budget for Scotland" - Purvis

Jeremy Purvis talking about the Scottish Budget vote and where next.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Time to Move Alex

The message was clear just over an hour ago. When the SNPs budget failed to be passed when Labour, Lib Dem and Green MSP all voted against it. The Tories had changed it by 0.171% which was not enough for either Labour or the rest. Patrick Harvie said the the £22million injection was not enough and the Nats had eroded what less than a month ago looked like the two votes that would have tipped the balance.

So what exactly went wrong. The Greens said there were too many caveats announced by Finance Minister John Swinney in his summing up of the motion. But the eleventh hour horse trading by sum was blamed on the Lib Dems using Mike Rumbles to negotiate, but when it appears that even those that looked more likely to be on board Harvie and Robin Harper of the Greens it all came down to the Presiding Officer's casting vote. Who voted as precedent dictates for the status quo.

So is this the end of the honeymoon? Must Alex Salmond stop spouting the hyperbole and actually start to work at being a minority government? He has to be able to build bridges (and I don't mean over the Forth) in order to be able to move on. But move on he must do. The message of this messy budget is that moving on was not what he was doing energetically enough.

Three parties said it wasn't enough, the Tories decided that the miniscule addition they achieved was enough once more to side with the Nats. Scotland needs a strong budget and for all but the Nationalist members that wasn't what they saw and many of the remainder had doubts. Doubts which were not assuaged by Salmond or Swinney.

It is a disaster for the First Minister to have in the past mouth had a agreement with the Greens and then to see that ripped up in his face at the eleventh hour. The budget slipped like sand through his hands quite possibly because like King Canute he refused to budge even when the waves were lapping at his throne.

How to Lose Friends and Budget Negotiations

It appears that there is a stubborn mule at the SNP side of the desk regarding getting its budget through the key 3rd stage today. Even the Greens who were applauded by many, including me here, for seeming to have reached an agreement for free insulation in return for their votes are saying they will vote against.

With both Labour and the Lib Dems threatening to vote against as the minority government is not prepared to give way to any party, even the Conservatives have said they have received "nothing concrete", it looks like the honeymoon may be over. So the SNP having tried the calling a new election card with last years budget, although as they need a 2/3 vote of the Parliament to call it, Labour no that such a bluff would require their support.

Indeed last night ministers were daring opposition MSP to vote down the budget, claiming that it was "designed to take account of hard times in the current economy". Although as I pointed out earlier this is at less than a 1% shift in the spending laid out in 2007 the smallest change in the face of the current crisis of any national or devolved government in the West.

The vote may crucially rely on Margot Macdonald, who like the Tories is not happy with the lengths that the SNP have gone, but may be persuaded to vote for the budget. It could leave the vote balanced at 64-64 leaving the Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson to use his casting vote.

Mr Fergusson has already indicated that should the vote be tied he would have to vote for the status quo and against the Budget Bill. The irony of such a casting vote being used for the status quo is not lost on a Liberal Democrat in light of the Trumpgate affair in Aberdeenshire. Especially after the scorn levelled by the SNP on Martin Ford for using his casting vote in just such as way as precedence indicates it should.

BBC's Response Re: DEC Gaza Appeal

For the sake of balance after posting Sky's response here is the one I received from the BBC this morning at 5:36.

Thank you for your e-mail.

We note your disappointment at our decision
not to broadcast an appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee to raise funds
for Gaza.

We decided not to broadcast the DEC's public appeal because we
wished to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC's
impartiality in the context of covering a continuing news story where issues of
responsibility for civilian suffering and distress are intrinsic to the story
and remain highly contentious. We also could not be confident that the aid
resulting from audience donations could reach those it was intended for at a
time of a fragile ceasefire and sporadic border access. We will of course
continue to report the humanitarian story in Gaza.

The BBC's
director-general Mark Thompson has therefore explained the decision in more
detail in a number of television and radio broadcasts and online at our Editors'
blog. Please follow the link to read his explanation in full:

Please be assured that we have registered your comments on our audience
log. This is the internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily for
all programme makers and commissioning executives within the BBC, and also their
senior management. It ensures that your points, and all other comments we
receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.

Once again, thank
you for taking the time to contact us.


BBC Complaints

So nothing really new or exciting to add there then. They still are less confident than the DEC members that aid will get where it is intended and the continuing mask of responsibility.

One thing that does stand out was the line "We will of course continue to report the humanitarian story in Gaza" so that while the BBC admits there is a humanitarian story in Gaza it isn't prepared to give its viewers a chance to act on that in the most convenient way.

Also saying that "issues of responsibility for civilian suffering and distress" which remain highly contentious. I'm sure we can all see that 1,300 deaths many civilian against 13 death all military would be a hight contentious issue, only if you were wanted to be impartial about it in favour of the side with the least casualties.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Carnival on Modern Liberty: Taboo One Religion

John Stuart Mill in On Liberty went to some length about Self Regarding Actions (SRA) and Other Regarding Actions (ORA). Basically the former is self-regarding and subject only to personal persuasion and inducement. Such an action becomes other-regarding and open to public sanction if, and only if, it either harms an interest, violates a right, or neglects a duty owed to another person or persons.

One of the things laid out in that definition of liberty that I wrote about the other day was the right to believe or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing. Which brings us up against one one in our envelope of modern liberty. The religious believes of someone may be largely malign and a SRA but what is something from those of other faith or none becomes and ORA.

A lot has been made recently of the bus driver who refused to drive the bus carrying the agnostic slogan "There Probably is no god. Get on with enjoying yourself." Or the Christian registrar who refused to marry same sex couples. The actions of both these people of faith in these instances were SRAs there was provision for the driver to drive another bus, and for the registrar others were able to swap assignments with her. However, many on the liberal flanks were up in arms about their actions. Therefore there are two sides to the coin.

People were able to get a bus, driven by that driver. Same sex couples were able to be civil partnered in that London Borough. So therefore no rights or interests were actually denied. You can and many do that the duty to others would have been neglected in the case of the registrar. But looking at it from the other side of the glass if liberty is to allow individuals in society to believe what they want to believe and express themselves as they see fit, does that not mean that in essence the ORAs of others were impinging on these two.

In the past few days somebody did raise with the issue that three of the members of the Disaster Emergency Committee were very much of a Christian ethos and that their aid came hand in hand with a bible and the distribution thereof. The argument being that by supporting the DEC's appeal I was also condoning an added religious tension into the mix. Therefore where does one draw the line. The economist in me said to them there is a cost benefit analysis to be taken into consideration, especially as they along with myself largely wanted to get aid to those in need as quickly as possible.

Which is the greater ORA, the benefit or the cost? With the example of the two individual mentioned earlier there were ORAs in operation on both sides, but which had the greater infringement on liberty?

If we are truly aiming for a modern liberty we have to allow room for those who disagree with us. But as Mill said the line gets drawn where that freedom harms an interest, violates a right, or neglects a duty owed to another person or persons. Indeed Mill himself, in his posthumous essays, saw a "social utility of religion " based on it having a moral code and leading to a benevolence of those who believed. He of course said that the strictures of dogma often impinged on others.

So while our liberty has increased in many areas since Mill's time increasingly humanistic society has started to look down on those of faith; trying to limit the way they express themselves even if it causes no harm to others. Now in some cases that is warrented but in others those with faith are often or are actually agents for social change or justice.

Sky's Standard Response

I have heard back from Sky regarding my complaint about their stance on the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Gaza Appeal. Working as I do in the customer services industry I can spot that this is a standard response. However, it is more than the BBC have managed so far.

Dear Stephen

Thank you for your message. John Ryley, Head of Sky News made the
following statement explaining our position on Monday 26 January 2009.

"The conflict in Gaza forms part of one of the most challenging and
contentious stories for any news organisation to cover.

"Our commitment as journalists is to cover all sides of that story with
uncompromising objectivity. We have provided, and we will continue to provide,
extensive coverage from Gaza and from the wider region on the conflict and its
human consequences for people on both sides. Our team is on the ground in the
region and will continue to cover the story in the coming days and weeks.

"The absolute impartiality of our output is fundamental to Sky News and
its journalism. That is why, after very careful consideration, we have concluded
that broadcasting an appeal for Gaza at this time is incompatible with our role
in providing balanced and objective reporting of this continuing situation to
our audiences in the UK and around the world.

"It is important to state that this decision is not a judgement on the
good intentions of the appeal. No one could fail to be touched by the human
suffering on both sides of the conflict, which has been the focus of much of our
own reporting in the region.

"However, the nature of an appeal is that it sets out to provoke a
specific response from the viewer. We don’t believe that broadcasting such an
appeal on Sky News can be combined with the balance and context that impartial
journalism aims to bring to the highly charged and continuing conflict in

"Unlike some other UK broadcasters, Sky News is widely viewed across
the Middle East. In order to continue to serve all our audiences, we must ensure
that our journalists can continue to operate effectively in difficult
conditions. This must remain the first priority for any news

I appreciate that this is not the conclusion you would have liked us to
come to, but nevertheless I hope you will understand why we came to this

Kind regards

Viewer Relations

Three points I have to raise.

Sky say they are against showing the "appeal at this time" but the whole point of the DEC is to respond in prompt time to real emergencies as they occur. There is not later time that the DEC would be acting together to raise money for funds at this time.

Second as with the BBC they hide behind "incompatible with our role in providing balanced and objective reporting of this continuing situation". The situation with Israel and Palestine has been ongoing for years, centuries, even millennia if we want to be accurate about it. The fact that they deem the situation to be continuing also means that things could very easily still get worse for those who are suffering.

Finally "the nature of an appeal is that it sets out to provoke a specific response from the viewer" yeah it is there to play at people heartstrings to dig into their pockets and donate to alleviate suffering. If we pussy foot around people who cause that suffering because they may be offended to see just what collateral damage they have caused how is that helping anyone.

So at least Sky have responded even if with indefensible platitudes. But nothing yet from "MY" (as they like to remind me) BBC.

Annan Smith Lecture Burns Salmond

You'd think that an economist would know the difference between the author of The Wealth of Nations and the writer of Auld Lang's Syne.

You expect it even more is said economist were a Scot.

Even further if said said was the well briefed on Homecoming Year.

Yet somehow the First Minister Alex Salmond got these two mixed up as to what former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was coming to Scotland to give a lecture on.

For the record this is Burns Scotland's bard.

This is Adam Smith one of the founders of Economics as we know it today.

However, as this one appears on a Bank of England note the MP for Banff and Buchan may not have seen it much as he rarely turns up at Westminster these days.

Monday, 26 January 2009

The DEC Appeal : The Video

This is the call for help that the BBC and Sky decided it was in "their" best intersts not to show.

For the best interests of those in Gaza may I encourage you to watch and consider what action you could take. Thank you.

Sky Falls in Over Gaza

Sky have joined the BBC is refusing to show the DEC Appeal for Gaza.

Adrian Wells, Sky's director of foreign news, said the station understood the good intentions of the charities seeking to publicize the situation in Gaza. He said:

"Let me say to those people who might be angry, people who might be passionate
about this, there is no question about Sky's commitment to reporting the region.
We've had our reporters there since the gates of Gaza opened. There is
absolutely no question of Sky viewers not being aware of the humanitarian

That may be the case but unless you provide an alternative way for people to hear about how to donate to the appeal Britain's largest satellite TV provider has fallen in line with the one UK citizens all pay their licence fee for in stated that impartiality will be compromised.

As I stated earlier on today the DEC were going to distribute Aid impartially however the greater share would obvious got to the greater affected region, which in this case is Gaza.

Kung Hei Fat Choy


Welcome to the year of the Ox as today in the Chinese New Year. The greeting translates as "congratulations and be prosperous". While I'm not not disputing that the Chinese economy is certainly prosperous it is not and should not be the only measure.

In July 2001 when China were awarded the 2008 Olympics, government authorities promised improvements in human rights. However seven years on, China remains a country that executes, tortures and silences its citizens. In many areas, human rights have deteriorated because of the Olympics. The positive legacy that many around the world hoped for is becoming increasingly unlikely.

Amnesty International lists 4 distinct areas and various indicators in each that would be a measure of just how China is measuring up. You can view that checklist on the Amnesty website but be warned it makes grim reading. The four areas are:

  • The death penalty

  • Fair trails and the prevention or torture

  • Human rights defenders

  • Freedom of expression

On the death penalty there are still 68 crimes on the Chinese statute books that are punishable by execution including tax fraud, counterfeiting money and smuggling cultural relics. As for fair trails and prevention of trail the Chinese have continued to maintain their practice of "Re-education through labour" and even swept up undesirables from the streets pf Beijing in the run up to the Game.

Human rights defenders such as Shi Tao, Chen Guangcheng, Ye Guozhou and Hu Jia are amongst some that are currently detained while carrying out what in most of the world is considered peaceful dissent and disagreement.

Foreign journalist are still restricting from reporting on certain issues. And Internet access while relaxed for foreign journalists was not completely uncensored and Chinese such as Huang Jinqui and Yang Tongyan, who are serving 12 year sentences, face imprisonment for legitimate use of the Internet if it disagrees with the state.

Those named and the many other, less high profiled, victims of China's human rights injustices really do need to have a 新年快乐 - Kung Hei Fat Choy. But they do not need theirs to be merely financial.

Footnote: There were links in the article but when I posted they came up with invalid links and blogger prevented me posting. There were too many to do a quick check so I will take a look later and try and direct you to the right sources.

What Partiality are the BBC Really Showing?

Just what are the BBC doing with regard to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Appeal?

Well reports in the Times say that the DEC had told the BBC that aid from the appeal was to be made available to Israeli victims of Hamas rocket attacks. So the claims of impartiality have no grounds for the BBC to uphold its decision to not show the appeal. Of course as agreed by the DEC two weeks ago little of the aid raised in this instance would go to Israel not from any sense of partisanship but based on the actual need and the proportional spilt between the two affected nations in this case.

So that only leaves the other excuse that the BBC have cobbled together in their brief statements of why they refuse to show this. That other point was that aid would not reach the intended victims. From utterances you hear from the BBC anchor to Tony Benn yesterday you can hear a line of questioning blaming this on Hamas.

On the other half of the two page spread in the Times and something I cannot at present find in the online section, is a report about just why aid and relief workers are not getting through. It is not Hamas that is the problem but the Israeli control on the border crossings that are still delaying essential supplies and workers from getting into areas where there are civilian suffering. By branding vast swathes of Gaza to be Hamas strongholds, which seeing as they won the last elections may well account for the whole of Gaza, they are stopping aid getting to the innocent. Before the conflict at least 500 Aid trucks were allowed into Gaza daily now it is 100.

Well the BBC if so much on its high horse it can shows some impartiality. What is must do is report the reason aid is not getting to those in need. It has nothing to do with Hamas and those that rule Palestine but has a lot to do with the continued control and restrictions placed on them by the siege now being carried out after the illegal occupation by Israel.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Tony Benn on the BBC

I know I am currently not linking to BBC related stuff, but for this I make an exception.

Hat tip to Caron

Carnival on Modern Liberty: An Introduction to a Series

When I got tagged by Tom Griffin to take part in the Carnival on Modern Liberty I wondered just which of the areas I have an interest in on the subject I should take up the challenge to write about. I couldn’t really select just one so throughout the week I will attempt to look at one per day.

What I’m going to do is take you to the edge of the envelope to the point where liberty comes up against the point where people start to edge away. People claim to be liberal and uphold Liberty but we all have our breaking points when we say have we gone too far.

First let’s look at the full dictionary definition of liberty.

n., pl. -ties.
  • 1. a) The condition of being free from restriction or control.
  • b) The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of
    one's own choosing.
  • c) The condition of being physically and legally free from confinement,
    servitude, or forced labour.
  • 2. Freedom from unjust or undue governmental control.
  • 3. A right or immunity to engage in certain actions without control or
    interference: the liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.
  • 4. a) A breach or overstepping of propriety or social convention. Often used
    in the plural.
  • b) A statement, attitude, or action not warranted by conditions or
    actualities: a historical novel that takes liberties with chronology.
  • c) An unwarranted risk; a chance: took foolish liberties on the ski
  • 5. A period, usually short, during which a sailor is authorized to go

There is quite a lot in there to enable me to take a look at where liberty comes right up against the taboos in society. Indeed as I hope to show you over the next few days there are indeed a number of contradictions within liberty and how we define it.

So roll up, roll up and hope you enjoy the ride as I take you to places you may not have been before, asking questions you may not have considered. The views that I will express in this series are not necessarily all my own. I’m merely looking at where the envelope of liberty does take us in our modern world.

Slow News Year According to Tory Candidate

I'd just like to congratulate Andrea Stephenson the Conservative PPC for Linlithgow and Falkirk on not adding any news item to her own website since this day last year. Boy it must have been a really slow news year.

Maybe all the credit crunch stuff is not important to the people she is seeking to represent. The whole situation over HBOS and the RBS are irrelevant. But what about local issues and things that are affecting their everyday lives, don't they warrant any comment whatsoever. What about the fuel crisis and the effect it may have on Grangemouth or the rising cost of food or fuel for everyone stretching to make ends meet. Or anything about the Sun Microsystems pending job losses, or the Springfield development removing the nursing home from their planning application.

Maybe she is too cocooned in her Edinburgh office to find out what is affecting the people of Linlithgow, Grangemouth, Bathgate, Whitburn and elsewhere in Linlithgow and Falkirk East. She clearly is "in a unique position to help residents of Linlithgow and East Falkirk" being unable to find anything newsworthy for the people of the constituency for the last twelve months.

One thing that does appear to be true is that no matter is important to the people of Linlithgow and Falkirk East these last 366 days has not warrented anything new in the Conservatives eye.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Dear Auntie...Yours Disgusted of Bathgate

I've just sent this off the following to the BBC complaints department.

I am disgusted to learn that the BBC has chosen not to show the DEC appeal.

If such charities as British Red Cross, Christian Aid, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Oxfam, and Save the Children cannot be trusted to make an impartial appeal I doubt that the BBC is truly as impartial as it wishes to appear.

I use the BBC sources as one of the top party political bloggers and often link through to news on you site. I will be refusing to do RSS feeds and various Twitter updates. I shall be obtaining my news for use on my blog from other sources until the DEC appeal is shown on the channel my taxes help fund.

I urge you do a number of things.

Write and complain to the BBC, this can be done via their website.

Sign the online petition.

I encourage you to join the Facebook Group The BBC has refused to run the Gaza appeal on TV - help change its mind

If you are a fellow blogger, don't use BBC sources in you blogging until this is overturned. Advise the BBC of this in you complaint.

If you use Twitter and Follow any of the BBC News Tweeters unfollow from them. At the time of my unfollowing there were 10,022 followers of @bbcbreaking. This is a visable number to us and the BBC of just how widespread the feelings against this decision.

Last week the web lobby managed to apply pressure on Gordon Brown over MPs expenses. This week we appear to be asking the BBC to be humane.

Impartiality or BBC Ineptitude

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Well it will be Sky News, ITV or Channel 4 for me from now on as well as watching snippets of Al Jazeera on You Tube because the BBC is refusing to show a TV appeal for the victims of the war in Gaza. I will also stop using BBC links from this blog after this post which will make things little harder but a price I'm willing to pay.

I've also stopped following @bbcbreaking and @bbcscotland on Twitter. If Twitter can spread the word on #MPexpences let's see if we can send the BBC a direct message by unfollowing them en masse.

In the BBC story of why they have refused Michael Johnson says it it so that they do not want to appear to be partial in their coverage of the conflict. For starters the conflict is currently in ceasefire and the majority of the victims, and all of the civilian victims in the war are from the Palestinian side by a ratio of 100:1. When you add on the buildings, health and education facilities that have been affected it greater heightens the case for a human response to help.

Mr Johnson's statement says:

"Inevitably an appeal would use pictures which are the same or similar to those we would be using in our news programmes but would do so with the objective of encouraging public donations.

"The danger for the BBC is that this could be interpreted as taking a political stance on an ongoing story."

So the BBC is telling orphaned and injured children, bereaved parents, doctors and nurses fighting to help the injured in damaged facilities that appearing to be impartial is more important than there lives. That because they covered the war impartially and showed the major extent of bombardments in Gaza and minimal impact in Israel, that impartiality and heavy weighting of coverage to Palestine is no longer impartial.

The BBC do not seem to be playing from a level playing field as they have shown appeals for war victims in the past. The fact that there is, or has been a sizable Jewish presence in running of the BBC does throw the current decision, which is contrary to the approach of ITV, Channel 4 and Five, into some sort of favouritism towards Israel (or possibly indirectly to the USA).

In my personal opinion the BBC should get off this particular high horse and join the human race for a change.

For the record various Blue Peter appeals on the BBC have been for victims of wars that are part of ongoing stories, others have been to war torn or embattled areas. The distribution of the things bought with these appeals must have been very carefully balanced to avoid favouritism. However, if the children's programming department can be trusted to remain impartial, you expect whoever would have t liaise with the appeal makers can be also.

  • 1976 Lifeline Lebanon Appeal for victims of the civil war.
  • 1979 Bring and Buy Sale for Cambodia which was still a contested country at the time.
  • 2004 The Welcome Home Appeal to reunite families ripped apart by the Angolan civil war

Worth Their Weight in Gold

I burst out laughing at the very well worded first question of the Times, the Week News Quiz this morning:

If bankers are worth their weight in gold - and assuming that each weighed
15 stone - how many could you buy with this weeks £200,000,000,000 bank
a) 4,500 - the remaining staff of Northern Rock
b) 25,000 - the global staff of Lehman Brothers before its collapse
c) 100,000 - the UK staff of RBS

Whoever composed such a question has a dry wit and is a worthy quiz compiler.

BTW the answer is c

Friday, 23 January 2009

The Trumpgate Gang of Four

A new Gang of Four has emerged out of the shocking happenings within the Liberal Democrat group on Aberdeenshire Council

There was another heated meeting of the Council yesterday relating to Donald Trump's golf resort.. This time it was the turn of Paul Johnston to face the ire of his fellow liberal democrats [sic]*.

Cllr Johnston was cleared earlier this month by the Standards Commission. However, it was the support of fellow councillor Debra Storr at the Council meeting on 2 October, 2007. Her claim in defence of Paul that he should be considered innocent until proven otherwise. Led to her being expelled by the Lib Dem council group. However, she appears to have been proven one of the few wise heads in the chamber that day.

Three different proposals were before the council.

  • Martin Ford, he who used to chair the planning committee before his casting vote blocked the American tycoon's plans, proposed that a note be appended to the October 2nd minutes that Cllr Johnston has been exonerated.

  • Anne Robertson the Liberal Democrat group leader proposed ding nothing citing that taking and action was too difficult.

  • The SNP proposed that the decision by the Standards Commission was irrelevant and called for him to be suspended for 6 months.

The Lib Dem group proposal was the one that was finally passed although the Director of Law and Administration in answer to a question said that it was perfectly easy to do what Martin asked. The director saw no issue on doing this on website, in library versions and to all locations where Minutes were regularly sent out. Ford confirmed this best try was OK with him.

The fact that the SNP were actually seeking the suspension of an elected representative who had been cleared by the Standards committee shows a different shocking opinion of democracy. Neither the Lib Dem nor SNP Group come out of this incident in a good light.

Today three of the Lib Dem group Ford, Johnston and Sam Coull left the ruling administration, to join the already expelled Debra Storr to form a new grouping within the council. I now leaves things finely balanced with 34 in the lib dem/Conservative bloc and 34 others including the 4 Liberal Democrats, SNP and independents on the same number.

*I'm deliberately using lower case for the party name in this case.

The Economic Chill Bites and Save Our Forests

Here is the latest offering from Tavish TV, with guest appearance by Jo Swinson MP.

And on Scottish Forests with guest appearances by Jeremy Purvis MP and Jim Hume MSP

Norway Beat Us to South Pole Again: Gratulerer


In 1912 Norwegian Roald Amundsen's team beat the plucky Brits lead by Captain Robert Scott to be the first to the South Pole.

This year saw the inaugural Amundsen polar race and as 97 years ago it was Norway first but Britain second. Our team of James Cracknell, Ben Fogle and Dr Ed Coats even put in a final 27 non-stop hours on their skies but were still 20 hours behind the Norwegian team of Rune Malterud and Stian Aker. The winners reached the pole in just 17 days and 11 hours when the Brits were 31.8 miles (51km) away.

Unlike that first time when the gap was 35 days and the gap to other nationalities in getting to the pole even greater others, including South Africans and Irish, are still competing behind the polar pioneering nations.
*Trans from Norwegian: Congratulations.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Carnival on Modern Liberty: Update

Well I have to say that I'm quite impressed that following being tagged by Tom Griffin to take part in the carnival on Modern LIberty that two of my taggees have already posted their contibutions.

War Dog has posted a piece of Liberal Civic Nationalism and McChatterer who dispite protestations that "If [he] knew anything about the subject, or had thought about it at all, this might be a good idea. But [he] do[es]n't." has come up with the goods here.

James Graham in his launch post suggested we don't tag the usual suspects, so I deliberately went outside my political sphere, and indeed my knownblogosphere to an extent, but keeping it Scottish to honour Tom's choice of me. The result is while I don't agree 100% with any of the contributions I've inspired thus far, has created two worthy and thought provoking additions.

As for my own contribution, it is in the making. I thought what could I write about and several ideas started to spin in my head. The end result is that I will posting up a series of reflections ona number of issues, working title "When Modern Liberty Butts Up Against Taboo" which I think takes McChatterers idea a little bit further.

#MPexpenses Ridiculous and Tiresome: Connarty on Expense Claims

Earlier on this week I wrote to Linlithgow and Falkirk MP Michael Connarty asking him to back the move not to exempt MPs expenses from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Bill. With the speed of all the action the usual prompt response I get from my opponent from 2005 was not forthcoming before the dramatic U-Turn of Gordon Brown on Wednesday.

I thought nothing more of it until I read in the Press and Journal that Michael despite claiming to supply receipts to back all his expense claims deems the process to meet it for FOI "ridiculous and tiresome".

Is he saying that transparency to the electorate is tiresome and not worth the effort? Especially when what would be involved appears to be as he claims no more than he does already. What does he mean that is is ridiculous that myself and the other people he represents would be able to get details of their councillors expenses but not their MPs? To me such as proposal to exempt MPs from this legislation is ridiculous.

Also for such a fervent supporter of ID cards as Connarty it is hypocritical. He wants to gather all you personal and biometric data and store it on a data base but is not prepared because of the ridiculous and tiresome nature to let you know how he is paying your taxes.

Or put another way Michael is prepared to learn all about you but not you tell you how he spends your money, if he could get away with it.

Barack the Jugdes Have Spoken

No, not the Chief Justice making the 44th President retake the oath. Although that was one judge who did have to speak to rectify the misspeak he may have inadvertantly caused.

However, these judges will please Caron and Will for The Times has asked Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli to comment on the First Couple's efforts on the dancefloor at the Inaugural Balls.

Mind you there isn't much surprise from either. Craig condemns them for being over simplistic and marks low 3s and 4 while Bruno is gushing about the story and the romance and gives the President an 8 and the First Lady sev-EN but an overall 10.
Footnote: You have to love Twitterfeed. There was me in my haste at the end of lunch must have saved a blank version of this. But it was already backed up as a Facebook note.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Whoops They Did it Again

You would have thought after the Damien Green affair that never again under this Government would the police be able toe search an MPs office at Westminster without a warrent. Well step into the office of Daniel Kawczynski Tory MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham cause that is just what the police have done.

Now some people defending the indefencible with Green that he had papers that he maybe shouldn't have had. But in the case of Kawczynski the police apparently been demanding to see correspondence, because a white powder, found to be flour was found in an envelope sent from his constituency. They were demanding teh correspondence from him for handwriting samples to try and trace what they fought at the time was a major incident, rather than a baking mishap.

Iain Dale in his blog intimated that this story was out there, without naming Mr Kawczynski probably because of the police involvement.

However, Mr Kawczynski admits that he "will have to live" with his decision to hand over correspondence, but having to leave the Chamber to have death with the unwarrented police search of his office, he was obviously somewhat flustered.

If the police can do this in the House of Commons without correct uthority, what chance for the rest of us?

But Gord Will Back Down

Success. Well done all.

The decision to revoke an earlier decision to publish MPs expenses which the Government then backtracked on is now back on track. Gordon Brown surprised many when backed down during PMQs saying he would no longer be seeking to give MPs such an exemption under Freedom of Information.

The activities Unlock Democracy, and my society launched mobilising social networks within hours were key in getting people involved and applying pressure. Things like the Twitter hashtag #MPexpenses, Facebook Groups and other means certainly got the word out quickly and many people seemed to be contacting their MPs to sign Jo Swinson's Early Day Motion, or to vote or speak against this proposal. Apparently many MPs were inundated with letters as the people spoke.

Maybe we truly are heading to an Internet age where if we do not carry out referendae on every piece of legislation the people can at least express their views in issues which detract from the fundamentals of freedom and trust. The public can and must keep holding their parliament to account, after all MPs are only at Westminster by the grace of the electorate.

(On a personal note I just wasted my lunch period starting to write a piece up about this before checking my Tweets, for one I'm glad to spike some copy.)

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Carnival on Modern Liberty

In a bizzare case of two degrees of separation from the Atheist Agnostic bus Tom Griffen has already tagged me to take part in the carnival on Modern Liberty started by James Graham over at Liberal Consirpacy yesterday. Tom decided to make his tags so that the geographic diversity of the taggees was expanded (so it's a good job I no longer live within commuting distance of my University at Kingston).

Here's what James originally posted to outline the idea.

As an online companion to the Convention, it is intended to help promote debate
on civil liberties on the blogosphere over the next few weeks. Fundamentally
however, it is also intended to spur both bloggers and their readers into

I will be producing the first edition this Friday on Liberal Conspiracy. Over the next couple of weeks it will move to OurKingdom and Unlock Democracy and then we’ll be looking for volunteers to host future editions - what about you? (email offers to modernliberty *at* quaequamblog *dot* net).

If you have an article you would like to be included in the first edition you can submit it either by following this link or emailing modernliberty *at* quaequamblog *dot* net. The deadline is 4pm on Thursday 22 January (if you miss this it is no problem as it will simply carry over to the next week’s edition). We are particularly looking for articles on the following sub-topics:

* ACTION: our favourite category! ideas and initiatives for raising
awareness of civil liberty-related issues.

* EVENTS: civil-liberty related events that you are either organising or
would like to promote (you don’t need to wait until 28 February before holding a
meetup, tweetup or even just a social to the pub or cinema - if it’s civil
liberty related, publicise it here).

* JEERS: reports of the latest assaults on liberties.

* CHEERS: good news (we do get it occasionally!) and praise for the
champions of liberty.

* WHAT LIBERTY MEANS TO ME: think pieces about what liberty in a modern
context actually means (once you’ve been all philosophical, do an action post to
balance things out :)).

As the geographical diversity haa now hit Scotland I think it is only fair to nominate some of the Scottish Blogosphere. I could pick all five from the usual susects, the established Scottish blogosphere people who I know would do a sterling job people like Jeff, IoC, MacNumpty, DoctorVee or STB. But James encourages us not to pick the usual suspects and himself tagged Girl With A One Track Mind, London Underground, Neil Gaiman, Bad Science and New Humanist as his five.

So maintaining that thrust I'm going to mix it up a little and give some of the newer or less well established bloggers a shot.

It's Inauguration Day

Today the 43rd man*, but 44th President will be sworn in as President of the USA. If you have been asleep it is the first non-Caucasion to be sworn in on a bible in front to the Capitol. So have a good day Barack Obama.

However, Peter Brookes is probably hoping that the 43rd President George W. Bush may well have learnt from history when he drew this:

Peter Brookes in the Times 20 Jan 2009

*Grover Cleveland counts as 22 and 24.

Cub Reporter Unmasks The Stig

***Spoiler Alert Do Not Press on the Click if you want to remain innocent***

Some say he was born on another planet?

Some say his nerves are made or tungsten wire?

But some say that is actually just an ordinary Joe.

Yes a previous Stig identified himself as Perry McCarthy in an autobiography. Before being fired of an aircraft carrier never to be seen again. But the current incarnation of the Top Gear stunt driver has been outed by the press. The BBC are not happy. One show insider said:

"It’s bloody annoying. You wouldn't write a piece saying that Santa didn't

Precisely we all know that The Stig is as much a creature of reality as Santa. We do not want to have our beliefs shattered.

Rumour has it that gentlemen of the press knew the identity of the The Stig. But they knew how to keep mum.

Rumour has it that there is clause in The Stig's contract that if his identity is revealed he will be sacked. Poor man.

Rumour has is that some cub reporter from a provincial title couldn't wait to get his big scoop.

Rumour has is that same cub reporter is now the most hated journalist in petrol head circles.

*To be honest I keep reading that in Jeremy Clarkson's voice and it does seem to fit.

Monday, 19 January 2009

A - Z of Bushisms: The Second Term

To celebrate the end of eight years of George W. Bush I've decided to look at the things he has been substantitive and brought joy and pleasure to the world. Here is the A-Z of Bushisms.

Having already covered the first term it is time to look at the last 4 years.

A- Amnesty?: "Amnesty means that you've got to pay a price for having been here illegally, and this bill does that." on the immigration reform bill, Washington, D.C., June 26, 2007

B -Brazil: Wow! Brazil is big." after being shown a map of Brazil by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 6, 2005

C - Community: "Listen, I want to thank leaders of the -- in the faith -- faith-based and community-based community for being here." Washington, D.C., Sept. 6, 2005

D -Depression: "So I analyzed that and decided I didn't want to be the president during a depression greater than the Great Depression, or the beginning of a depression greater than the Great Depression." Washington D.C., Dec. 18, 2008

E - Erection Election: Who could have possibly envisioned an erection -- an election in Iraq at this point in history?" --George W. Bush, at the white House, Washington, D.C., Jan. 10, 2005

F - Free Markets: "I've abandoned free market principles to save the free market system." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Dec. 16, 2008

G - Gender Confusion: "If you're a younger person, you ought to be asking members of Congress and the United States Senate and the president what you intend to do about it. If you see a train wreck coming, you ought to be saying, what are you going to do about it, Mr. Congressman, or Madam Congressman?" Detroit, Mich., Feb. 8, 2005

G - Germany: "The point now is how do we work together to achieve important goals. And one such goal is a democracy in Germany." D.C., May 5, 2006

H - Hezbollah: "See, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over." chomping on a dinner roll while talking about the Middle East crisis with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the G8 summit, St. Petersburg, Russia, July 17, 2006

I - Internet: Maria Bartiromo: "I'm curious, have you ever googled anybody? Do you use Google?"
President Bush: "Occasionally. One of the things I've used on the Google is to pull up maps. It's very interesting to see -- I've forgot the name of the program -- but you get the satellite, and you can -- like, I kinda like to look at the ranch. It remind me of where I wanna be sometimes." --interview with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, Oct. 24, 2006

J - Joining the Dots: "You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror." interview with CBS News' Katie Couric, Sept. 6, 2006

K - Kennedy, head of: "Finally, the desk, where we'll have our picture taken in front of -- is nine other Presidents used it. This was given to us by Queen Victoria in the 1870s, I think it was. President Roosevelt put the door in so people would not know he was in a wheelchair. John Kennedy put his head out the door." showing German newspaper reporter Kai Diekmann the Oval Office, Washington, D.C., May 5, 2006

L - Literacy: We expect the states to show us whether or not we're achieving simple objectives -- like literacy, literacy in math, the ability to read and write." on federal education requirements, Washington, D.C., April 28, 2005

M - More Better: "We look forward to hearing your vision, so we can more better do our job. That's what I'm telling you." Gulfport, Miss., Sept. 20, 2005

N - Nation's Bicentennial: "You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 -- 1976." to Queen Elizabeth, Washington, D.C., May 7, 2007

O - OPEC APEC: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your introduction. Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit." addressing Australian Prime Minister John Howard at the APEC Summit, Sept. 7, 2007

P - Promises, Broken: "I think younger workers -- first of all, younger workers have been promised benefits the government -- promises that have been promised, benefits that we can't keep. That's just the way it is." Washington, D.C., May 4, 2005

P - Punctuation (in history): "I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is -- my point is, there's a strong will for democracy." interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Sept. 24, 2006

Q - Question, violence: No question that the enemy has tried to spread sectarian violence. They use violence as a tool to do that." Washington, D.C., March 22, 2006

R - Reading I: "[I'm] occasionally reading, I want you to know, in the second term." Washington, D.C., March 16, 2005

R - Reading II: "That's George Washington, the first president, of course. The interesting thing about him is that I read three -- three or four books about him last year. Isn't that interesting?" while showing German newspaper reporter Kai Diekmann the Oval Office, Washington, D.C., May 5, 2006

S - Security (Oval Office): "I remember meeting a mother of a child who was abducted by the North Koreans right here in the Oval Office." Washington, D.C., June 26, 2008

T - Talking Death: "Make no mistake about it, I understand how tough it is, sir. I talk to families who die." Washington, D.C., Dec. 7, 2006

U - Universial Values: "The relations with, uhh -- Europe are important relations, and they've, uhh -- because, we do share values. And, they're universal values, they're not American values or, you know -- European values, they're universal values. And those values -- uhh -- being universal, ought to be applied everywhere." at a press conference with European Union dignitaries, Washington, D.C., June 20, 2005

V - Voices: "People say, well, do you ever hear any other voices other than, like, a few people? Of course I do." Washington, D.C., Dec. 18, 2008

W - War (President of): "You know, when I campaigned here in 2000, I said, I want to be a war President. No President wants to be a war President, but I am one." Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 26, 2006

W - War (Reminder of): "You see, not only did the attacks help accelerate a recession, the attacks reminded us that we are at war." on the Sept. 11 attacks, Washington, D.C., June 8, 2005

W - Words: "Anybody who is in a position to serve this country ought to understand the consequences of words." with Rush Limbaugh, Nov. 1, 2006


Y - Yesterday: Yesterday, you made note of my -- the lack of my talent when it came to dancing. But nevertheless, I want you to know I danced with joy. And no question Liberia has gone through very difficult times." speaking with the president of Liberia, Washington, D.C., Oct. 22, 2008

Z - Zzzz: "I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep on the soil of a friend." on visiting Denmark, Washington D.C., June 29, 2005

One final thought as of tomorrow midday EST this one is so true:

"I can only speak to myself." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., April 28, 2005

A - Z of Bushisms: The First Term

To celebrate the end of eight years of George W. Bush I've decided to look at the things he has been substantitive and brought joy and pleasure to the world. Here is the A-Z of Bushisms. But only for his first term and first election campaign. I had too much material to just keep it down to one set.

Just what are we going to do for desk calanders from now?

A - Africa: "We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease." at a news conference in Europe, June 14, 2001

B - Books: "Bill wrote a book at Yale. I read one." on William F. Buckley, Al Smith Dinner, New York City, Oct. 19, 2000

C- Children (Darkness of Internet): "It's important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. It's not only life of babies, but it's life of children living in, you know, the dark dungeons of the Internet." Arlington Heights, Ill., Oct. 24, 2000

D- Dictatorship: "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2000

E - Explanations: "Never again in the halls of Washington, D.C., do I want to have to make explanations that I can't explain." Portland, Oregon, Oct. 31, 2000

F - Flying Objects: "I am here to make an announcement that this Thursday, ticket counters and airplanes will fly out of Ronald Reagan Airport." Washington, D.C., Oct. 3, 2001

G - Generation (of power): "The California crunch really is the result of not enough power-generating plants and then not enough power to power the power of generating plants." Jan. 14, 2001

H - Human Cloning: "It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber." Washington, D.C., April 10, 2002

I -Internets: I hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft." second presidential debate, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 8, 2004

J - Justice: "Justice was being delivered to a man who defied that gift from the Almighty to the people of Iraq." Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 2003

K - Kennedy Kerry: "Let me see where to start here. First, the National Journal named Senator Kennedy the most liberal senator of all." --George W. Bush, referring to Sen. Kerry, second presidential debate, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 8, 2004

L - Language: "Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican." declining to take reporters' questions during a photo op with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, April 21, 2001

L - Language II (French): "The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur." discussing the decline of the French economy with British Prime Minister Tony Blair 2002

L - Literacy: "You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.'' Feb. 21, 2001

M - Misundestmate: "They misunderestimated me." Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000

N- Name-calling?: "It is time to set aside the old partisan bickering and finger-pointing and name-calling that comes from freeing parents to make different choices for their children." -George W. Bush, on "parental empowerment in education," April 12, 2001

O - Oil: "It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas." Beaverton, Ore., Sep. 25, 2000

O- Oval Office: "I always jest to people, the Oval Office is the kind of place where people stand outside, they're getting ready to come in and tell me what for, and they walk in and get overwhelmed in the atmosphere, and they say, man, you're looking pretty." Washington, D.C., Nov. 4, 2004

P - Peace? (Middle East): "My administration has been calling upon all the leaders in the - in the Middle East to do everything they can to stop the violence, to tell the different parties involved that peace will never happen." Crawford, Texas, Aug, 13, 2001

Q - Quality of Life: "It's important for young men and women who look at the Nebraska champs to understand that quality of life is more than just blocking shots." in remarks to the University of Nebraska women's volleyball team, the 2001 national champions, May 31, 2001

R - Resignate: "They said, 'You know, this issue doesn't seem to resignate with the people.' And I said, you know something? Whether it resignates or not doesn't matter to me, because I stand for doing what's the right thing, and what the right thing is hearing the voices of people who work." Portland, Ore., Oct. 31, 2000

S-Shootings: "For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it." Philadelphia, Penn., May 14, 2001

T - Transformationed: "The United States and Russia are in the midst of transformationed relationship that will yield peace and progress." Washington, D.C., Nov, 13, 2001

T - Twentieth Century: "That's a chapter, the last chapter of the 20th, 20th, the 21st century that most of us would rather forget. The last chapter of the 20th century. This is the first chapter of the 21st century. " on the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Arlington Heights, Ill., Oct. 24, 2000

U - United States Nations Senate: "John Thune has got a common-sense vision for good forest policy. I look forward to working with him in the United Nations Senate to preserve these national heritages." Aberdeen, S.D., Oct. 31, 2002

V - Vampires: "One of the interesting initiatives we've taken in Washington, D.C., is we've got these vampire-busting devices. A vampire is a - a cell deal you can plug in the wall to charge your cell phone." Denver, Aug. 14, 2001

W - Wrangling: "As far as the legal hassling and wrangling and posturing in Florida, I would suggest you talk to our team in Florida led by Jim Baker." Crawford, Texas, Nov. 30, 2000


Y- Yasser Arafat: "After all, a week ago, there were - Yasser Arafat was boarded up in his building in Ramallah, a building full of, evidently, German peace protestors and all kinds of people. They're now out. He's now free to show leadership, to lead the world." Washington, D.C., May 2, 2002

Continues with the A - Z of the Second Term.

Devastation of Gaza Unveiled

With the ceasefire in place the full extent of the 3 week bombardment on Gaza has now emerged.

  • Half a millon people have been without water for 3 weeks.
  • Huge numbers also without power
  • 4,000 homes in ruins.
  • Tens of thousands homeless.
  • 16 health facilities and 16 ambulances damaged.
  • 60 Schools damaged (including 4 used by the UN as shelters for the homeless)
  • More than 1,300 Palestinains dead (that's a 100:1 ratio with the Israelis)
  • Over 20,000 injured

The Palestinians are now pulling dead from the rubble of buildings. Something they couldn't start to do under the constant bombardment. But something that even after the ceasefire was subject to Israel army movements. The Israels who took hows to enter are taking days to withdraw but promise to be be done by 19:00 local time (17:00 GMT) tomororrow when Barack Obama is to be inaugurated.

There have been 20 rockets fired from Palestine into Israel since the announcement of the unilateral Israeli ceasefire. However, it is not clear by the wording from Israeli authorities whether these were before or after the actually start of the ceasefire which was some hours after the announcement. Israel responded with an air strike.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Sad Palestinian Loss Heard Live on Israeli TV

Sometimes it is the small incidents in the midst of mass destruction that really get to people. It may be worse if someone who you were hearing and seeing throughout that conflcit becomes the sad victim at the end, even the very last day before that conflict ends.

Such as case is Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Ashi. His is Palestinian but he works in an Israeli hospital and over the course of the last three weeks he has been reporting to Israel's channel 10 about what is going on in Gaza. Yesterday Israel was present as this Doctor lost three of his four daughters live on air.

"No one can get to us," he screamed in Arabic on a live phone call with a
channel 10 anchor. "My God ... My God ..."

Dr. Ashi told the anchor his family had just been killed, and that he was

"My God ... My girls ..." he cried. "Shiomi ... Can't anybody help us

The news anchor asked Dr. Ashi where his house is, and cameras followed as
the journalist frantically tried to employ his network of contacts to send help
to the doctor. Shortly thereafter, the Israeli Army allowed a Palestinian
ambulance to speed to his location. Only one of al-Ashi's daughters survived.

"Everybody in Israel knows that I was talking on television and on the
radio," said Dr. Ashi. "That we are home, that we are innocent people.

"Suddenly, today, when there was hope for ceasefire, on the last day I was
talking to my children ... Suddenly, they bombed us; a doctor who takes care of
Israeli patients. Is that what's done? Is that peace?"

It is out of the little things that connect to people. Individuals far more than the masses have that impact. I hope that this sad loss will burn into the hearts of those who saw it. And make some inroads to make people wake up to make this ceasefire a permanent peace.

Hat tip to Paul Walter

Iris Robinson Case Police Consult the PPS

Well the Iris Robinson investigation for hate crime has been trickling along quietly since the summer. Well it has been ticking along.

News has now come that the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland had been consulted with regards to procedural advise. While this step does not mean necessarily that charges will be brought under Article 9 of the Public Order (NI) Order 1987 for her comments about homosexuals in June, it does show that it is a complex case and advice is needed to proceed. The article covers the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words which have the likelihood to stir up hatred and arouse fear.

Her comments which have been defended my her husband Nothern Ireland's First Minister using the biblical defence, forgetting that as political representatives they have to serve those of the same religious persuasion and those of none.

We wait an see what happens nexy Mrs Robinson.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Half an Hour Til Peace?

In less than half a hour there will be a ceasefire over Gaza; we hope.

However, with Israel saying that any rocket fired after the 02:00 Local Time 24:00 GMT deadline will be met with a surgical strike (we've seen how inaccurate some of these have been over the last 3 weeks) and Hamas saying it will not accept one Israeli soldier still being present in Gaza. It looks like a very uneasy peace and we will only be able to tell just what happens after it takes effect.

Clegg Wants to Break Through the Cosy Cabal

"This is the route out of recession. But the other parties will not
deliver it. Liberal Democrats – and Liberal Democrats alone – can
truly change Britain for the better.

"Together, I know we can make it happen."

Is how Nick Clegg finished his speech opening the One Day Policy Conference at the LSE about Progressive Society. He accused Labour and the Conservatives of forming a cosy political cabal sucking the life out of politics.

"Both parties' dependence on special interests, their centralising,
micro-managing ways, that ignore the needs of ordinary people and local
communities, that’s what’s sucked the life out of our politics.

"The two old parties have been running Britain, turn and turn about, making
the same mistakes, for longer than most people can remember. A cosy cabal,
not wanting to change too much. Happy enough with the status quo because
they know they’ll get their foot in the door of a ministerial limousine sooner
or later.

"Labour and the Conservatives – the old parties – are
incapable of real change."

He went out to outline areas of real and radical change in taxation, investment in a stable, green economy fit for or children. About not "clobbering" future generations with debt due to our inability to do anything or the right thing to shorten and limit he effects of the recession. About carrying out a spending review to make sure that what is spent is spent well. Looking at investing wisely in areas such as childcare and education.

Both Labour in Westminster and the SNP in Holyrood have argued that our tax cuts and spending plans do not add up, but have they really looked at what we are saying. We are saying that a review will show up the waste and enable us to spend better. Look at some of the things that Government does spend money on, not necessarily bad things, but not necessarily the best use of money. Nick says:

"It's the duty of a responsible party and a responsible government to squeeze
everything it can out of every penny of tax. This is not "government money"
– it’s people's money, money they worked long and hard to earn. We should
take it away in taxes only when we’re certain we’ll spend it well."

Yes we are facing tough times financially but just as the people are finding ways to get the most out of what disposable income they have remaining, so the government should and ought do likewise. Yes we need to invest, but invest it wisely and make changes that will make it easier for people to able to cope, after all politicians are the people's representatives. The Nats in Scotland have announced less than 1% change on what their spending review said in 2007. The Tories likewise are staring in the headlights like a rabbit with their do nothingness. Or Labour with their "pinprick" VAT reduction which has had no effect.

Labour and the Tories, Nick argues will never make a big change like this. They’re far too timid, too stuck in the old ways.

I see that Tom Harris isn't too impressed quelle surprise no change there then.

The Truth, the Advice, but Only if it Meets Nat Policy

It's not just the questions of the opposition MSPs that Alex Salmond decides to ignore, or answer erroneously. Apparently the great ego presiding over his devolved fifedom of Scotland is also ignoring his advisers.

At this time of economic crisis he should be being praised for assembling consulting his Council of Economic Advisers made up of leading businessmen, economics (some of whom are Nobel laureates) and chaired by a former chair of the Bank of Scotland. Such a panel of wise men should be able to steer the financial future of Scotland. However, the First Minister's response to these sages was to reject anything in their report issued this week which did not fit into SNP policy.

Meanwhile the enquiry into whether the First Minister and his cohorts are actually answering their questions based on fact is getting off to a slow start. The now named Truthgate (or is that Faithgate)* inquiry is unlikely to get underway until the next meeting of Parliament's Standards Committee which convenes on 27 January.

*Will settle down to Frast v Nixon, which I got free in today's Inpendent later, for calmer times when there was only one -gate.

Israel to Vote on Gaza Ceasefire

The UN failed to force them to do it, but after over a further week of death and destruction the Israelis are prepared after talks with Egypt to vote on whether to declare a unilateral ceasefire on Gaza later today.

It is all very much like the talks in Northern Ireland as while both parties are in Cairo they appear not to have been in talks with each other but with Egypt acting as a intermediary. These were the talks that America wanted to see how they progressed when they abstained on the UN security councils resolution. As with Northern Ireland there are conditions from both sides. Hamas obviously want the Israelis to stop their occupation of Gaza and the end of the blockade. Israel insist that any further rockets being fired will bring an immediate end to their agreement of a ceasefire. Of course it doesn't say what Palestine should be expected to do should the Israelis launch an attack themselves without any rockets being fired.

There is talk from Hamas that they will not currently accept the Israeli conditions due to the maintained suppression through control of their boundaries. Even with all the destruction of their homes the Palestinians do not want to give up and hand over too much to Israel who have been extremely heavy handed and aggressive in their treatment of this situation over the weeks.

So far 1,155 Palestinians have been killed and 5,015 injured against 13 Israelis dead, and 223 wounded in the three weeks of this latest conflict.

Friday, 16 January 2009

I Have a Plot

Yesterday I joined thousands of others in becoming one of the "beneficial owners" of a plot of land acquired by Greenpeace right where Heathrow's runway 3 wants to be.

You may have seen it discussed on Question Time last night where they had British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh on the panel. Last night as I was watching the show somebody brought up the fact that runway three would add to Heathrow's carbon footprint more than the carbon footprint of the entire carbon footprint of Kenya. Mr Walsh retorted that many people has said that to him but nobody had ever been able to tell him what the CO2 emissions of Kenya were.

Surprise, surprise within a minute of him saying it I had googled the answer combining two sources to give him an approximate answer. First I found out that Kenya's carbon footprint in 2003 was 0.25 metric tonnes per head, then Wikipedia gave me the results of Kenya's 2007 census which gave them a population of 31m there (even a 2008 estimate of 38m).

Therefore Mr Walsh the answer to the question that you apparently get asked so often is so easily found that one would have expected a little bit of research on your part before going on Question Time where just such a statistic would more than likely be thrown up on a week like this. Somewhere between 7.75 and 9.5 metric tonnes.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Probe into First Minister's Answers

There have been regular claims that Alex Salmond regularly misleads the Scottish Parliament with his answers. He seems to always have an answer while other leaders whether in Holyrood or in Westminster always have a little with at least the occasional answer.

However, at last weeks FMQs when asked by Tavish Scott about redundancy notices having been handed to staff of the Scottish Interfaith Council, Alex Salmond immediately without hesitation shot back ,as is his style and want, that the issue had been solved. This did take the wind out of Tavish's sails somewhat. Until during the week it became clear that this issue was not resolved last Thursday when the First Minister said it was but was still ongoing. The presiding officer yesterday said it wasn't an matter for him to be involved with.

However, at the end of today's FMQ's when the issue was again raised the PO Alex Fergusson said he would be investigating the accuracy of ministerial answers to questions.

Here is what Tavish Scott has got to say on the issue.

Linlithgow Awarded Climate Challenge Funds

Linlithgow Climate Change have secured £93,845 in the third round of funding from the Climate Challenge Fund which was announced today. The group has issued the following statement.

Linlithgow Climate Challenge (LCC) have been granted £93,845 from the
Climate Challenge Fund to reduce the carbon footprint of Linlithgow through
co-ordination and administration of a suite of projects geared to engage the
community of Linlithgow. LCC aim to engage a diverse spectrum of
local community groups, individuals & businesses with several projects to
find the most suitable ecological engagement. Some may prefer simple advice on
energy saving through insulation, while others may require more support and
education to grow local food. Businesses may wish to adopt more sustainable
business practices and supply chains. Whatever the local needs, LLC will offer
assistance to guide our community towards effective solutions towards a carbon
footprint reduction for the town.

As a not-for-profit organisation, we will remain guided by
general community consensus and will position voluntary and funded resources to
support more complex projects such as renewables research, transport improvement
and waste/recycling initiatives. LCC have already worked successfully with the
Energy Saving Scotland advice centres on a number of projects and it is expected
that close partnerships with existing organisations will continue. An earlier
funded Survey is due for printing and distribution to over 5700 households in
January to canvas local public opinion on Climate Change and effective local
measures that could be developed.

Having been involved with the group at the early stages I'm delighted to see this funding come the way of this project. Many of those involved have great enthusiasm and a wide range of concerns, skills and attributes in move Linlithgow forward to a greener more sustainable future.

This will be a great asset to the community of Linlithgow and will be wisely earmarked to projects that will led on to more and greater greening of the historic town. I also hope that this example will lead to other towns in West Lothian rising the challenge of what they can do too.