Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Wednesday, 24 October 2007


Recently I wrote that I would support England in the Rugby World Cup Final.

For many Scots this would be a surprising decision. For me it was a surprising decision.

I had enjoyed hugely England’s embarrassment of the earlier rounds but started to fear their progress as Australia fell. I didn’t know on the afternoon of the Final that I was going to support England but I was aware of the question, “Who shall I support?”. The presence of the question indicated a change of position. That there was any doubt about my support for South Africa indicated a change of position.

What happened? Why did I turn? Why did 50 years of supporting England's opponents disappear?

I think I now but yet I'm not sure. Supporting England seemed correct. Certainly the decision had nothing to do with a belief that England would win.

I think I realised that the only basis I had for actively supporting England's opponents was flawed - totally. English victories are rammed down Scottish throats by the national media - or rather the English media. Anything to do with England is rammed down Scottish throats. The BBC becomes the EBC. ITV, and Sky latterly, fulfil similar roles. This bias can't be countered directly and so any English failure, a ramming opportunity lost, is greeted with delight. Victory in 1966 was the killer blow. We suffered so much with every mention or clip from that English victory. For many years this view controlled my thinking - sad really. I had been using the English media to support my desire for English loss.

Certainly, anti-Englishness had nothing to do with my views. Despite my delight at English failure I have always supported England at cricket regardless of who were their opponents.

I think my views were weakening for several years before I allowed them fresh air. The flaw is so obvious that I find it hard to understand why I took so long to find it.

The Scottish media behave in the same way as the national, British, media. Scottish sports coverage is dominated by Rangers and Celtic in the same way a British sports coverage is dominated by English sports. This is an inevitable consequence of broadcasting / writing for the largest constituency: in Britain this is the English and in Scotland it is the Old Firm of Rangers and Celtic. I get Rangers and Celtic rammed down my throat; I support both teams in Europe but I am happy to see them lose domestically. There is no difference between England and Rangers and Celtic.

What had annoyed me for so many years was not a trait solely of the English media but of the media everywhere. We Scots were rather good at remembering our stroll in the park against England in 1967 when Scotland became the first team to defeat England since their World Cup victory. Again there was no difference between us.

Having uncovered these views, now I had nothing but habit to allow me to support England's opponents. I discarded this habit last Saturday.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

PC Problems Over

I've been off-line for a few days: my monitor died after a year-long illness. She deteriorated gradually until she passed away quietly on Saturday. Now I have borrowed a screen and am delighted to be on-line again; to see vibrant, rather than faded, colours; good contrast which allows me to read without magnifying the text. It's hard to believe just how ill was the old monitor, poor soul.

Friday, 19 October 2007

England or South Africa: A Dilemma

Tomorrow I will support ................................. England.

Many Scots, I know, will pray for an England defeat but I cannot join them.

If it were the football World Cup Final I think I would be unable to support England but fortunately that is unlikely to occur soon.

Sometime I'll post my reasons and reasoning.

Once more I say, "I hope England win the Rugby World Cup Final".

There it's done and I haven't been struck by a bolt of lightning!!!

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Courage in Burma - Humbling

Today's Guardian carried, on its front page, an interview with a Burmese man who had taken part in this week's protests.

A small portion is appended below:

"Today was the first day I went to the protests on my own. All my friends were too scared to go out on the streets after being gassed and shot at over the last few days. I woke up feeling more depressed and less optimistic than I have all week, but I felt it was my duty to carry on protesting. I was frightened, but aren't we all? If everybody hid indoors, nothing would change, and we will never be able to draw attention to the hopeless situation our country is facing. I need to stand and be counted."

Whilst many of us witter on about left and right; Brown and Cameron, here is someone putting his life at risk for democracy.

How humbling to read of another's bravery whilst I am safe at home.

Unfortunately, I write this mechanically. I am moved but not uplifted as I should. I am consumed by the issues in my next post

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Do Our Heads Zip Up the Back?

No, of course they don't.

Why then do politicians - and those around them continue to act as though they did zip up? Why do they avoid telling the truth?

It's not as though telling the truth is difficult. It's easy: no stories to make up and remember; just tell it as it is. But still the half-truths, untruths ,evasions and lies come.

There's nothing new in this. We all know this happens and will continue to happen so why am I wound up now?

Yesterday, there were news reports - see for example the BBC - that rationing is rife within the NHS.

Again, there's nothing new here: we all know that rationing is part of the NHS - always has been and always will be regardless of the funding level.

The BMA and the NHS Alliance said respectively:

"There is not much honesty and openness about this. The NHS could spend whatever you gave it, but it obviously works wih a limited budget so we urgently need to have a debate about what can be provided. Trusts are already being forced into this but the political parties are not talking about it."


"Rationing is the great unspoken reality. The only people who refuse to mention the 'r-word' are the media and the politicians, who continue to want to promise everything for everyone in order to win elections."

A Department of Health spokesperson then said:

"The NHS had received an unprecedented funding boost in recent years but finance is not endless and hard decisions will always have to be made about which treatments to provide. Doctors and nurses make these clinical decisions with patients - not managers or politicians.

The last sentence is a downright lie. We all know that politicians and managers have a crucial role in determining funding and services with the health professionals working within the constraints imposed upon them by politicians and managers.

The truth - that's all we want. We can handle the truth. With the truth we can discuss what services to provide; we can push for increased funding in some areas. Hiding the truth denies us this opportunity. Hiding the truth denies us democracy.

The real problem is the politicians don't want us to have the truth; they don't want a true democracy; they want to retain the power for themselves.

They shy away from the truth like Dracula from sunlight.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Jena Six: More Thoughts

One of my sources for my first post on the Jena Six was Kevin at Life Has Taught Us. Kevin has posted again and I think that his post plus our interchange of comments is worthy of a separate post.

Kevin @ Life Has Taught Us
"..............My second concern with the increasing number of voices rallying in support of the Jena 6 is that there has been an increasing call to "Free the Jena 6" rather than for "Justice in Jena." These six teenagers stand accused of a violent crime. They are accused not convicted. They are innocent until proven guilty. However, if indeed they did commit this crime, there must also be justice for their victim. For no matter how vile the alleged racist taunts of their victim may have been, we as a society cannot accept violence as a cure for hatred. Violence only creates more violence. Once again, in the words of Dr. King, "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.

What we should strive for in Jena is justice. Yes, there should be justice for the white teenager who was beaten in this case. If the Jena 6 committed this crime, it would be an extreme injustice to allow them to go free. But, there also needs to be justice for the accused. They must be treated equally under the law. The charges against them must fit the crime and must not be biased by race or any other discriminating factor. If found guilty, their punishment must also fit their crime.

Up to this point, there has been little justice in Jena. The teenagers who started this recent outbreak of violence by hanging nooses in their schoolyard never received a punishment that fit their crime. The subsequent incidents of violence perpetrated by both white and black teenagers have been treated unequally by the justice system. And, now, six teenagers stand accused of crimes that appear disproportionate in light of the actual incident and in light of these previous incidents.

But, there is hope. And, we can make and we have made a difference."

"I understand your disappointment at the call to "Free the Jena Six". I too believe they should face and receive justice for their actions but I can also understand why so many are calling for their freedom.

There are , as you describe, two aspects to justice: firstly the "six" must receive justice in terms of the charges faced, the case itself and the sentencing and secondly others who have committed similar crimes must be treated similarly.

Therefore, even if the "six" receive justice in terms of their own actions, if others are treated more leniently for similar actions then overall the "six" have not been treated justly.

I imagine that this is the perception among many: that the white youths involved have been treated more leniently. Under these circumstances where justice is seen not to have been done; where some have either not been charged or been charged for minor crimes demanding that the "six" be freed is not unreasonable.

Both aspects of justice must be seen to be done. Without that, I imagine, the calls for "freedom of the Jena Six" will continue and with some justification."

"I do understand where you are coming from, but I can't accept that we repay one injustice with another.

I think that it would be an injustice if in fact the youths did commit an assault and they would not be punished for it. It would be unjust to the victim in spite of how vile his words may have been.

We need to push for equality under the law and that is what we have to uphold or else we are going to start an unending spiral of correcting injustices with other injustices.

I strongly support justice for the Jena 6. That is, in the charges against them, in their having fair trials, and in a fair punishment if they are guilty or in freedom if they are innocent."

"I find this issue difficult. I believe the "six" should receive justice for their actions. It would be unjust if they were guilty but were freed.

BUT - a big "but" - it is unjust if the "six" receive the deserved punishment and others get off virtually scot-free for similar actions. I imagine that it is this injustice which will drive the protest and it is understandable if this were the case.

The protestors would have a stronger moral case if they were to ask for justice for all but, if I were in their position, I would want justice for all now. The option of justice for me now but with a long wait until all received justice would be unacceptable.

Justice for me but not for all is injustice for me and is worthy of protest."

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Jena Six

I was thinking about posting on the Jena Six but Ruthie's post on this subject prompted me to read more deeply and to write with a different slant.

The facts of the case and of the background are not clear cut – see the list of articles / blogs at the end of this post – and so an objective assessment is virtually impossible.

What can be said is that many believe the Jena Six to have suffered injustice and racism.

An ACLU publication carries the following quote from the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union:

The racism and injustice endured by the Jena 6 has all the hallmarks of the Jim Crow era: school officials complicit in racism; prosecutors treading lightly when it comes to whites while throwing the book at black youth; and an all white jury convicting a black teen now facing decades in jail."

Is this statement true?

I don’t know. I can’t know.

But if people have suffered racism and/or injustice themselves they are likely to believe that the Jena Six suffered similarly.

If people believe the Jena Six to have suffered racism and/or injustice then they have every right to protest. That some or all of the Jena Six may be guilty of assault is irrelevant to the charges of racism and injustice.

The Jena Six don’t measure up to Martin Luther King’s standards but they don’t need to. However unworthy the six may appear, their case has grabbed the attention and if this helps in the fight against racism and for justice then that is an excellent outcome.

Ruthie says “These students are not martyrs or heroes. I agree entirely that the judicial process was (and is) flawed, but this doesn't excuse or justify the assault.

I agree with Ruthie here but just as we condemn the alleged assault we must condemn the alleged racism.

Ruthie also says, “This is just another example of the media-drenched, racially hypersensitive climate that we live in. Just another point of contention. Just another excuse to stir up divisiveness on all sides.

Is it wrong to be outraged at racism? Surely not!

Is it being hypersensitive to react against racism? Surely not!

Were the Jena Six subjected to racism and injustice? I don’t know, but, unlike Ruthie, “I am not tired reading about it”.

Racism and injustice must be confronted even if those subjected to it are deemed unworthy.

Background Reading:

Ruthie’s post

Wikipedia entry

Wkipedia discussion re the above entry

ACLU article

ACLU background info

Common Dreams article

Help the Jena 6 article

Blog by Life has Taught Us

Cheerful Iconoclast blog Part 1

Cheerful Iconoclast blog Part 2

Cheerful Iconoclast blog Part 3

Houston Chronicle article

Washington Post article part 1

Washington Post article Part 2

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Cameron: Foot in Mouth

David Cameron must be getting desperate to land a blow on Brown. Yesterday, before even the strain of the latest foot and mouth outbreak was known, Cameron came on very strongly. He said:

"I think there is a real question of government competence. We learnt that the first outbreak came from a government laboratory, last week the government told us the foot and mouth outbreak was over, and now we know that this is not the case." (http://tinyurl.com/2j6cj4)


"The PM took pesonal control of this and now it looks as though it is getting out of control." (http://tinyurl.com/32ug29)

Too easily the government can state that guidelines were followed, that 30 days had elapsed since the last case which, given the incubation time of 2 - 14 days, meant that there should not have been a recurrence.

There may well be examples of government inefficiency to be uncovered with this latest case but, with his very early intervention, Cameron did not allow himself the opportunity for those shortcomings to be uncovered. Instead Cameron has demonstrated a burning desire to put pressure on the government - nothing wrong with that - but not the judgment required to do so effectively.

Cameron needs to relax and wait for his opportunities: they will come.

A desperate Cameron will continue to miss.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Day Without End

If only today wouldn't end:

I wouldn't need to go to bed

I wouldn't need to go to sleep

I wouldn't need to switch off the TV

I wouln't need to switch of the video recorder

I would live and relive and relive and relive the game and the best result Scotland has ever achieved.




But I will go to bed.

And in the morning this will still be the best result Scotland has ever achieved.

And I will and relive and relive and relive the game.


Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Dancing Lessons for Brown?

Gordon Brown seems to have the measure of David Cameron but Alex Salmond is dancing around Brown.

Salmond's most recent wheeze to rename the "Scottish Executive" as the "Scottish Government" produced a plodding and so predictable response from Brown.

There is no doubt that the name change does improve clarity: there is a government in Edinburgh which governs Scotland albeit with fewer powers than the UK government and so "Scottish Government" is appropriate whereas the meaning of "Scottish Executive" is unclear.

The change was needed - and had been proposed previously but I don't doubt that the change was made primarily for political reasons.

Brown was on a loser from the start. If he accepted the change he believed he was giving credence to the SNP's determination to increase the profile and powers of the Scottish Parliament. If he rejected the change he would appear as being petty.

He chose petty.

According to the Times "a senior British Government source said, 'It's a confidence trick - an attempt to imply there is a government which doesn't exist.'"

It's a petty and stupid response which indicates how out of touch is the London government. Senior Scottish Labour figures have already talked about the "Scottish Government: Wendy Alexander - according to The Times - and Jack McConnell the previous First Minister.

McConnell stated in a First Minister's address to the Scotish Parliament in 2004, "This is a perfect example of devolution working at its best in partnership with the UK government. ..... And the Scottish government will ....".

So using the new name wasn't even an SNP idea but they've got political mileage because Labour have, as yet, no workable strategy for countering Salmond's deft touches.

Perhaps Cameron should give Alex a call.

Perhaps Brown should learn tap dancing!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Blog Holiday Over

Today I restart blogging after 2 months sleep.

Tomorrow I'll talk about why I have returned
and the new direction my blog will take.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Blog On Holiday

This blog is having a long holiday.

I became tired, needed a rest but, more importantly, I have to focus on much more important tasks.

I will return but know not when.

In the meantime, if you wish to leave a comment then "Thank you" and I'll pick it up on my visits.

For all visitors: thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoyed the blog.

To those whose blogs I visited, "Thank you".

I will write again .....whenever

Monday, 11 June 2007

Blogpower Awards - Why I Withdrew

Last night when I withdrew from the Little Bloggers' Category of the Blogpower Awards I hadn't expected to post again on the subject but such has been the turmoil apparent within the community today that I feel compelled to post.

Firstly I'll go into more detail about my approach to voting and why I withdrew and then I'll give my views on the key issues which came to a head today.

My Voting Approach

As a very very small blog - daily visitors normally 7 - 15 although being mentioned and linked in a Blogpower post has doubled my traffic - I was amazed to be nominated 4 times in Category (Note: I self-nominated first hoping that others might pick up on that) and I only wanted to perform creditably in the vote. To that end I asked 2 people if they would vote for me and I hoped that they would find others to vote also. I guess this could be called an attempt to vote rig or skew although I saw it as my chance not to be embarrassed by a very low poll. I voted once per day until James mentioned that we could vote more often.

How many of my votes came from these sources I don't know but my vote was large enough for me not to be embarrassed.

Why I Withdrew

I was uncomfortable with comments made about the nomination of BNP- supporting blogs (actual or alleged) - henceforth called "BNP" blogs - in various categories. I wondered in a comment to a post somewhere if there would have been the same reaction had it been Conservative or Labour blogs which had organised themselves well. My guess is that the reaction was because of their BNP connections - again actual or alleged. When vote skewing was mentioned first I assumed from what was written that it was the "BNP" blogs which were being alluded to. I don't know if this was actually stated or not. When I read that James was playing "hardball" and saw that the leading blog - one of the "BNP" blogs in my Category had not increased its vote in two days - I assumed incorrectly that the organisers either had words with these blogs and convinced them not to vote or had taken other steps to block their vote. At the same time the votes for other blogs seemed to increase markedly.

I was confused. I assumed that there was some "jiggery-pokery" going on and I decided that I wanted out: despite being a great idea the awards were tarnished and I wanted no further part. Had I been unaware of any skewing I would have remained in the competition but I did know and ..........

I accept that James and the other organisers did not ask for nor did they set up any counter-vote skewing.

Key Issues

Whilst I detest BNP policies they are a legal political party and, therefore, they have as much right as any other party to have blogs in Blogpower, to have blogs nominated in the Blogpower awards and to organise their resources to get a favourable poll outcome. I do not agree with any organised attempt to skew the voting totals but, provided that the guideleines are not broken, the results of the voting should stand.

I have huge sympathy for James: he was between a rock and a hard place. Whatever he did he was likely to be criticised. I don't agree with everything James has done in this area but I respect his absolute right to act in the best interests of Blogpower and I support his actions even where I disagree. I have no doubt that James has always acted in the best interests of Blogpower.

Having found support within the Blogpower community I hope Blogpower can move on and find strength from this trouble: certainly I am committed to its on-going success.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Withdrawing from Blogpower Awards

I have decided to withdraw my blog from Category 10 (Best Little Blogger) of the Blogpower awards.

There have been allegations of vote skewing against some blogs - not mine I hasten to add - about which James Higham has talked in various places. In addition, it appears that action has been taken against one blog, at least: the leading blog (in category 10) after 3 days has not increased its vote in the last 2 days. The overall vote total and my blog's vote have increased hugely in the last couple of days.

I appreciate the difficult position with which James has had to deal - rather him than me - but given that I do not understand, and am uncomfortable with, what has been done; why there have been vote surges and vote droughts I have no option but to withdraw from the competition. I guess the bottom line is that I don't know if the vote is now straight or if one skewing has been replaced by another. Withdrawing is easy because I was never going to win
(lying in 4th spot at withdrawal) but I believe it to be the correct decision. I hope I would have made the same decision had I been a contender. My withdrawal does not affect my commitment to Blogpower.

I thank all those who nominated and voted for me. To have been nominated is prize enough.

To James I offer sincere thanks for all his work in organising and trying to maintain control of the awards. My withdrawal does not reflect negatively on James in any way and I would be very disappointed if any saw it a such.

Finally, if you are minded to vote for me, please do NOT.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Blogpower Blog Awards - Vote for Me

I am among the top 10 nominated blogs in one category in these awards: Best Little Blog - less than 100 visitors/day.

If you like my blog please visit here to vote for me. Just click on the circle next to "Calum Carr".

You can vote once per day every day until 13 June.

If you don't wish to vote for me then thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Scottish Independence - My View

Several weeks ago Lord Nazh asked if I believed in Great Britain or a free Scotland (along with Ireland and possibly Wales)? I read this question as asking. “Do I believe politically in an independent Scotland (with the possibility that some or all of the other three countries could be independent) or do I believe in the United Kingdom (of four countries)?

At last I can answer him.

There are two issues I need to consider: my national identity and the politics of the situation in the light of that identity.

Let us consider my national identity. In a previous post I wrote:
…. I consider myself Scottish and then British but, if asked, I couldn’t find words to describe even my Scottishness. I just am Scottish. I was born here. I have always lived here. As far back as I have traced – about 1750 - all my ancestors were born in Scotland. I feel British but this is a poor second to my Scottishness. I don’t feel European, ever. I know I am officially a European but the concept of Europe as an entity of which I am a citizen means nothing to me.

Some might suggest that, because I live in Edinburgh, I will have more in common with those in other large cities, for example, London or Manchester, than I do with those living in remote parts of Scotland. Certainly, my lifestyle is more similar to those in metropolitan areas than it is to those in remote Scotland but I do not identify, in any way, with other metropolitan dwellers whereas I do identify with other Scots regardless of where in Scotland they are.

Therefore, my Scottishness is undefinable – it just is – and, similarly, my Britishness just is.


If I were told that my Scottishness had to be subservient to my Britishness I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it. It isn’t as though I spend my time considering Scottishness – I rarely do - but asking me to relegate my Scottishness would be like asking me to give up my right hand so that my left hand became more important. I can’t because it’s part of me. Only by performing this simple thought experiment can I get an understanding of those for whom religion is more important than their Britishness and the difficulty they would have making their religion subservient to Britishness.

I am quite clear: I am Scottish first and then British is a distant second. In the weeks since I wrote the above piece I make one significant addition: I am Scottish, I feel Scottish, I only feel Scottish but I am British because I know logically that I am British. I do not feel British in the way that I feel Scottish. In fact, I do not feel British.

Now how does my identity affect how I view the United Kingdom and its four component countries?

Given that I feel Scottish but only know that I am British it is inevitable that I see, feel and identify with Scotland as a country but only know, without feeling, that Britain / UK is a country. Therefore, logically, I expect that those born in England and Wales will see the position similarly. I omit Northern Ireland from this because I imagine some will see Eire as their country whereas others will see Britain as their home.

This is probably an appropriate place to say that I harbour no anti-English or anti-anyone feelings: I arrive at my position simply through my feeling of Scottishness.

From my youngest days, I have known Scotland to be a country in its own right but a country subsumed in a larger composite country (United Kingdom). Perhaps surprisingly I never dreamt of Scotland being an independent country. Just as I accepted without question that Scotland was a country I accepted without question the need for Scotland to remain within the Union. This was just how things were.

Even when the Scottish Nationalists were having success in the 1970s with their “It’s Scotland’s oil” campaign I remained a Unionist convinced that Scotland could not survive independently. It was as though the Nationalists were pushing a dream, an unrealistic and unrealisable dream. Through the years my views remained static: even devolution didn’t move my thinking although I was very much in favour.

Looking back I think my position has been that my heart would have been happy with an independent Scotland but my head has seen sufficient negatives to reject the idea. As time has passed my heart is unchanged but in my head now I am prepared to listen to the arguments in favour of, and against, independence: arguments which are solid or flimsy depending on one’s original standpoint. Therefore, I am left with inconclusive arguments about the likely success (or otherwise) of Scottish independence and the safe position, under these conditions, would be to stay in the Union but I don’t want the safe option anymore. For me the time has come when we should give independence a go and make it work. Will Scotland be better off immediately after independence? I don’t know. The success, or failure, of an independent country, of its economy is dependent on so many factors most of them outwith the control of the country that predicting the future is futile.

There is a risk but, in time, I believe we would prosper. We should take the risk.

We won’t go for it, of course. Our inherent conservatism plus the level of fear engendered by unionists will ensure a majority for maintaining the Union. I can imagine that I too would worry more and become more fearful about the future as independence beckoned. That I am not champing at the bit for independence suggests that, despite my support, I am not wholly committed. Major doubt must still remain. Sometime I will explore this area.

Even if Scotland did vote for independence moral and legal questions would abound. Could Scotland become independent on the basis of a vote of its electorate only? If so, imagine the roles reversed and the electorate of England voted for English independence whilst Scots wanted to remain in the Union: what would Scots say? I suspect that we would complain about being cast adrift by our larger partner with no opportunity to influence the decision.

If voters in both countries needed to vote, would Scots not complain that their future was dependent on voters of another country as would the English if the roles were reversed: obviously an intolerable situation.

Therefore, neither approach can be deemed as acceptable but if I had to choose one approach I would have to take the view that only the electorate of Scotland has the right to determine whether or not Scotland becomes independent with equivalent positions applying in the other UK countries.

In a long-winded way I have now answered Lord Nazh’s question.

Yes, I believe in an independent Scotland with any or all of the remaining countries having the right to proclaim independence but I do not necessarily want independence now.

At the same time, I see the UK as the composite entity of individual countries but I do not have any emotional attachment to this composite country. However, until one of the constituent countries wants to split from the UK or until I am committed fully to independence, I am happy to accept the UK as my known, but unfelt, country.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Blog Awards

In the last few days I came cross two different sets of blog award, one at Conservative Home and the other at the Satin Pajama Awards - sorry no links provided to rivals!

Not to be outdone CalumCarr has run his own awards based on nominations in several categories.

The winner in each category is as follows:

Best Newcomer Blog written by CalumCarr: was won by CalumCarr's Take on ... Whatever

Best Political Blog written by CalumCarr:
was won by
CalumCarr's Take on ... Whatever

Best Anonymous Blog written by CalumCarr: was won by
CalumCarr's Take on ... Whatever

[Winning awards is great fun but I've won so many tonight readers may wonder if there was any competition. God, how cynical some of you must be! Given the award categories other blogs did have a hard time to compete but that's not my fault. I can only beat the competition available on the night and I did have to decide for whom I was going to vote. Anyway, back to the Awards Ceremony.]

Best Blog not to Support the Conservative Party written by CalumCarr: was won by
CalumCarr's Take on ... Whatever

Best Blog to have Died and been Resurrected written by CalumCarr: was won by
CalumCarr's Take on ... Whatever

Best Blog to have called Iain Dale "Smug" written by CalumCarr: was won by
CalumCarr's Take on ... Whatever

Best Written Blog by CalumCarr: Award withheld. No blog met the judge's standards.

That was so disappointing: just when I thought I'd make a clean sweep I was denied by some idiot of a judge! What does he know about blogs? He only writes one crappy blog that few folk visit.


Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Mental Health Provision - An Unnecessary Death

"Did my sick husband have to die in jail?"

This was the headline above an article in Sunday's Observer which described the tragic suicide of Alan Mullin in prison. Alan was mentally ill and should have been in hospital but was in prison where he committed suicide some days after being taken off suicide watch.

This post gives a shortened version of the background to his death which stands as a symbol of
the shabby treatment of the mentally ill.

In the early 2000s Alan was diagnosed as bipolar but, subsequently, he stopped his medication and his condition worsened. Whilst in his local mental health hospital (early 2005) he tried to cut his throat and later, in desperation, his wife asked that he be sectioned only to be told that he was still being assessed.

In February, once back home, he suffered from delusions again, cut himself again, locked the backdoor
to prevent a gunman entering the house and shooting him in the back of the head and sat on the kitchen floor reciting verses from the Bible. Despite this his wife managed to get him into a bath although, to pacify him, she agreed to his request to drink his blood.

In case he could overhear she didn't phone the police but went to the nearest police station and asked for help to get him into hospital. Everything started to go wrong now. The police misunderstood her request and turned up with 15 police, 5 in riot gear, a negotiator and police dogs. What should have ended quietly ended only after a 5 hour siege.

Of course , he didn't end up in hospital but in prison having been remanded in custody for 30 days. After his week's suicide watch he returned to a normal cell but he continued talking about killing himself.

On March 9 he hanged himself whilst alone in his cell.

A tragic and unnecessary death.

Alan's death would be tragic enough were he the only mentally ill patient to die in prison but sadly he is only one of many.

Why, why do we keep sending the mentally ill to prison?

Are there insufficient resources within the NHS?

Why are there insufficient resources?

Is mental health not "sexy" enough; are there not enough votes in it?

Does no-one in power care?

Well you bloody well should care!

I CARE!!!!

Friday, 18 May 2007

Wembley - Thoughts

Regardless of how many matches are played at the new Wembley; regardless of the victories and dramas nothing will ever surpass that one brilliant day at the Twin Towers when new World Champions were crowned!

Banks through to Stiles, Jack Charlton, Moore through to Bobby Charlton, Hurst and Peters. What a team! World beaters! World Champions!

World beaters and World Champions they were but beaten this day, 15 April 1967, by Scotland: the new World Champions!!

England 2 - 3 Scotland

This was England's first defeat since their World Cup victory the previous year and, therefore, with unerring logic Scotland became World Champions; the best team in the world. Yes!!

How long Scotland retained this title no Scot knows nor cares.

1967: a year to remember for as long as 1966 is a year to forget.

Scotland - World Champions

Calum - The Delusionist

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Stop the World! I Want To Get Catch Up

I'm at the cow's tail !

I have to catch up.

No broadband!!

I feel like stone-age man. (I'm as old as stone-age man!) I've had dial-up for years - I was quite an early adopter - but I haven't moved and everyone else (virtually) is racing away from me while I try to load pages in - cre - dib -ly sl - ow - ly. My frustration at the slowness, the inabiity to watch video and my lack of action has overflowed. I am going to get broadband.

Someday soon I'll commit and then you youngsters had better watch out as this oldie comes flying up on the inside.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Salmond - First Minister

At last, the Scottish Parliament has voted Alex Salmond into the office of First Minister of a minority SNP government. I am delighted!

I voted SNP for the first time at the elections two weeks ago primarily because they were the vehicle most likely to turn over Labour. Although my politics lie mostly to the left of Labour I couldn't vote Labour: I, like many others felt, the need for change was crucial. Hopefully, the Labour party will learn lessons and come back a changed and reinvigorated party but I don't hold my breath.

Now I have to lie in the bed of my making and accept what the future brings. Am I concerned? No! I think that the level of competence within the previous Executive was low and an SNP Executive will find it difficult not to improve upon it.

Independence doesn't concern me at the moment: the path is long and, regardless of any SNP machinations to highlight / create tension betweeen Edinburgh and Westminster, there are sufficient crossroads where we can, and I believe we shall, turn off the path.

What the SNP can get through the Parliament and how they achieve this will be of great interest to those of us who follow matters Scottish.

Interesting times lie ahead!

Go on, Alex!

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Gordon Brown - Endorsement

After my moving tribute to Tony Blair, I now endorse Gordon Brown as the next leader of the Labour Party and the country's next Prime Minister with the following statement.

"John McDonnell for leader"

Blair's Resignation

The long expected announcement has come and the MSM is full of tributes and reviews of Blair's years as PM.

Here I pay my brief but, hopfully, eloquent tribute:

$*?*%£? £!$%&$!"

Wednesday, 9 May 2007


I think my brain is mush. For the last couple of days I've found several topics I wanted to write about but my brain hasn't been able to put the piece together. My poor frazzled brain has tripped out (drugless!!) and refused to function. I'm left, therefore, with finding a topic of interest that requires no brain power and i've found it: Scottishisms (or Scottish colloqualisms).

I'm sure there are lists available of Scottish words or Scottish phrases but here I'm only going to post a few which my parents used.

"Yer bum's oot the windae"

translates as:
“your bum is out of the window”

means: “you have no chance”

My father would use this when, for example, we were playing cards - whist or rummy - and he knew that we were going to lose.

Ah’ve seen mair meat on a butcher’s pencil

translates as:
“I have seen more meat on a butcher’s pencil”

means: “The person being spoken about is very slim / thin”

Many of you will be too young to remember the times before electronic cash registers when a butcher would write, with his pencil, on a piece of brown paper the price of each item bought. The butcher would tally up the total cost and then wrap the items in the brown paper. Because the pencil was always on, or close to , the counter it would pick up fragments of meat but not very much. Therefore, to describe a person as having less meat on them than a butcher's pencil meant that they must be very thin.

Ah’ve seen bigger kneecaps on a sparra’

translates as: "I have seen bigger kneecaps on a sparrow"

means: "The person talked about is very slim / thin"

Person must be very thin if a sparrow has bigger kneecaps

(S)he's as broad across the shudders as a kipper atween the een"

translates as: ""(S)he is as broad across the shoulders as a kipper between the eyes"

means: "The person talked about is very slim / thin"

A kipper is a herring split from head to tail, gutted, salted and smoked. The distance between a kipper's eyes is quite small. Therefore, someone described in this way must be very thin.

Ye think yer the whole cheese and yer not even the smell."

translates as: "You think you are the whole cheese and you are not even the smell"

means: "You think you are very smart but you are not nealry as smart as you think"

I assume that this comes from the view that a whole cheese comprises rind, smell, taste and texture and so one who is not even the smell is a long long way from being the finished article or from where they think they are

Monday, 7 May 2007

Scottish Elections 13 - Piss-up in a Brewery

What a shambles!

They couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery!!

100, 000 ballot papers rejected.

Two different ballot papers used for two different elections taking place at the same time: Scottish Parliament and Council elections.

The two elections required two different voting methods: the Scottish Parliament ballot required Xs to be inserted whereas the council elections required voters preferences to be inserted as numbers 1, 2,3,4 etc.

The Scottish Parliament ballot paper required two votes (Xs) to be made: one X in each of two columns.

Each column was for a different method of electing an MSP: one column was a vote for an individual and led to the election of an MSP for a constituency; the other column required a vote for a party and eventually led to the election of several MSPs from lists of candidates supplied by each party

The full instructions were not included on the ballot paper: 2 arrows which should have ensured Xs were inserted into the correct column were omitted from the ballot paper because there was no space. The ballot paper could not be made larger because then the paper would be too large for the electronic counting machines.

Two Xs in one column --- ballot paper rejected

One X in one column and no X in the other column --- ballot paper rejected

Each ballot paper had a barcode which had to be read by the counting machine for the paper to be valid. These barcodes were very near perforations on the ballot paper. When officials handed voters their ballot paper they (officials) had to tear the perforations. The perforations were poorly made and occasionally the barcode was damaged as the officials tore the perforations.

The Scottish Executive set up a Commission to advise on the running of the election. The Commission advised that the two elections should not take place at the same time. The Scottish Executive chose to ignore this advice.

The electronic counting machines did not work properly and counts were shut down form hours.

Apparently, at different count centres different criteria were applied to decide if ballot papers wer valid or not.

They are trying to run country.

They couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery.

A national embarrassment!!

Blog Content

In the last few days, several of you have been kind enough to offer suggestions to help me with my blog.

Already I have made one major change: brighter, more legible layout – thanks Ruthie.

Others suggested that I write only when I have something to write rather than feeling that I must write. This is great advice to which I am striving to adhere.

Ellee thought that I should be patient. I mentioned elsewhere that patience and I have rarely met. I don’t think I’d recognise her unless she introduced herself. Great advice, all the same.

Others thought that I should broaden the scope so that there was less reliance on British / Scottish politics and write about other parts of my life which I feel are relevant. This is where I start to find things getting difficult. Even hiding behind a pseudonym, I will rarely write about myself in any real personal way – although I did re the Virginia Tech killings but that is the exception …..

I would love to have a blog with a wide range of posts which appealed to readers with many different interests but I am incapable of writing such a blog. I’ve given lots of thought to areas into which I could venture but I have an empty notepad. Therefore, I think it would be foolish of me to try to change the blog either in direction or scope. Far better that I do what I enjoy; what comes naturally. Unfortunately for those who read the blog this means British and Scottish politics, current affairs from a British perspective and humour – attempted and lavatorial - plus the very occasional personal piece.

I will try to bear in mind the idea of broadening the blog’s interest but I’m not going to risk what I do now. I know that this approach means that my blog will, almost certainly, remain a low traffic niche blog. So be it – as another said “write what you enjoy writing” and I think that was the best advice of all.

…… write what you enjoy writing.”

Sunday, 6 May 2007

New Legal Principle

John Rentoul, a biographer of Tony Blair, unintentionally describes a new legal principle in his article in today’s Independent on Sunday. There is so much in the article with which I disagree but I have neither the time nor the inclination to dismember the entire article. There is one point, however, on which I must comment – the new legal principle:

Rentoul, whilst comparing the Iraq War with Suez crisis in 1956, states:

The most damning feature of Eden's [PM during Suez crisis] conduct was his attempt to deceive his Cabinet and the US, and finally his uttering, twice, an unadorned lie to the House of Commons.

Blair was, of course, guilty of none of these crimes, and was cleared by four inquiries and one general election.”

I might have taken issue over whether or not Blair lied to parliament and over the effectiveness of the four inquiries but I don’t. What is one of the most amazing and deceitful statements I have read about Iraq is Rentoul’s claim that Blair was cleared by a general election. It is worth picking out that sentence again:

Blair was, of course, guilty of none of these crimes, and was cleared by four inquiries and one general election.”

and there I was thinking that general elections were about electing individual MPs and, thereby, determining the party which is to form the government.

What have I missed all these years?

It’s a judicial process. If the party in power is returned we are actually clearing the Prime Minister of some unspecified crime(s). The corollary of this is that if there is a change in the party in power we find the previous Prime Minister guilty of some unspecified crimes.

Guilt or innocence decided at the ballot box.

Great idea, John!

PS John, your wife called to say you left your pills beside the bed.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Blog Has Near-Death Experience

The blog is recovering well in hospital after nearly dying. Here the blog tells part of his story.

"I opened my eyes to find myself in hospital. A consultant was leaning over me.

Blog: Why am I here? What's wrong with me?

Cons: You're a tosser and ...

Blog: Well, why don't you fuck off and get some bedside manners.

[I know it's lavatorial humour but it's all I know. You may want to leave here.]

Cons: I told you. You're a tosser and ...

Blog: For fuck's sake, just tell me what is wrong with me.

Cons: I am, if you'll let me finish. Tosser and wanker.

Blog: Are you winding me up?

Cons: No! It's not pejorative but technically you are a tosser and a wanker. There are two syndromes each described with an acronym.

Blog: What? Are you telling me there are medical terms called TOSSER and WANKER?

Cons: Well, loosely: medical or psychological.

Blog: OK. I know this is a stupid question but why am I a TOSSER?

Cons: Because you fit the criterion:
Totally Over-Sensitive Scot Embarrased Remarkably

Blog: But a WANKER too?

Cons: Went Against Normal Knowledge of Emotional Responses

Blog: They're not the best acronyms are they? I'm hardly likely to visit my in-laws and say that I've been to hospital and they tell me that I'm a wanker and a tosser but ..... Guess I don't need to. They probably think this already.

Cons: See what I mean. It's not too bad! I know it's not the best but at least it is descriptive. If there is good news it is that there are very few real TOSSERS and WANKERs; you're in very select company. There are only six of you altogether. and four of them are very famous.

Blog: Come on. Tell me. Who are they?

Cons: Tony Blair, David Cameron, George W, Dick Cheney are obviously the famous ones and there's one other. You may have come across him: he's a blogger too - Iain Dale.

Blog; Yes, I've heard of Dale. But, for fuck's sake. I'm in with 3 Tories and 2 neo-cons. Christ, it's bad enough with Blogpower; they lean to the right but this is bloody ridiculous. What have I done to deserve this?

Cons: Basically because you've been a major league TOSSER and WANKER.

Blog: Do they all have exactly the same symptoms as me?

Cons: No, they're all slightly different.

Blog: Can you tell me why they're TOSSERS and WANKERS or does patient confidentiality kick in?

Cons: Confidentiality? For that shower of spinners and liars? It's bad enough that you're lumped in with them. You may as well laugh at them too. Right.

ony Oversees Serious Sequestration of Election Resources
Was Anglican. No Knowledge of Eastern Religions

Tories Only Select Successful English Racists
What A Novelty. Kickstarted Electoral Recovery

Top Officials Stole Series of Election Results
Wants Army Now to Keep Empire Ruled

Took On Secret Service to Eliminate Rivals
Wanted to Attack North Korea with Every Resource

Totally Opinionated Southerner Selectively Erases Responses
Was Angry. No Kudos for Election Reporting

Blog: Ha! I can see how they fit in but bloody hell! I'll never live this down. Tarred with the same brush as these five. That's so much worse than being called a TOSSER and a WANKER!

Cons: Sounds as though you're better now. I think you can go home this afternoon. Nurse: Will you organise transport home for the Tosser and Wanker in bed 4. Thank you.

Nurse: Who?

Cons: You know. The patient that's like Blair, Cameon, Bush, Cheney and Dale.

Nurse: Oh, the one we've been laughing at all day. OK. We'll be sorry to see him go.

Blog: Fuck this! I'm leaving now. Can't cope with being bracketed with these people!"

Thank goodness that there are only six real tossers and wankers!

Friday, 4 May 2007

Back Soon

Hugely embarrassed. Did it all wrong.

PLEASE do NOT comment on this post.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

This Blog Died Today

CalumCarr’s Take on … Whatever

Died 2 May 2007

"You were not good enough to survive"


I love writing this blog. Sorry, I loved writing the blog but now, after 2 months, writing has become a chore. Initially I thought that I could write the blog for me alone and that traffic was unimportant but I have realised that having visitors is great but getting comments is even better. With few visitors and very very few comments I struggle to get the energy to write. There is only so much I can put in and I have reached my limit.

I have done my best but now I need to accept that I am unable to write a blog which is attractive to readers. Therefore, this is my last post.

The blog is dead and will be deleted in a few days.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

British Identity

Jack Straw in an article published through Chatham House talks about identity, about the need for national stories of identity which can help citizens live their Britishness. The backdrop to the article is the alienation of groups within Britain. He says:

“…we have to be clearer about what it means to be British, and, crucially, to be resolute in making the point that what comes with this is a set of values which have not just to be shared but accepted. Yes, there is room for multiple and different identities, but those have to be alongside an agreement, a contract, that none of these identities can take precedence over the core democratic values of freedom, fairness, tolerance and plurality that define what it means to be British. To be a British citizen, fully playing your part in British society, you must subscribe to that. It is the bargain and it is non-negotiable.”

On first reading I had difficulty with this section because he makes Britishness a contract that one must “sign” as though Britishness is a simple set of criteria.

What about my Britishness and Scottishness? I know the article isn’t aimed at those – like me - who already feel British but is aimed at those whose religion might conflict with Straw’s definition of national identity and the underpinning values. However, unless we want to create more difficulties whatever Straw proposes must fit all citizens.

Firstly, I consider myself Scottish and then British but, if asked, I couldn’t find words to describe even my Scottishness. I just am Scottish. I was born here. I have always lived here. As far back as I have traced – about 1750 - all my ancestors were born in Scotland. I feel British but this is a poor second to my Scottishness. I don’t feel European, ever. I know I am officially a European but the concept of Europe as an entity of which I am a citizen means nothing to me.

Some might suggest that, because I live in Edinburgh, I will have more in common with those in other large cities, for example, London or Manchester, than I do with those living in remote parts of Scotland. Certainly, my lifestyle is more similar to those in metropolitan areas than it is to those in remote Scotland but I do not identify, in any way, with other metropolitan dwellers whereas I do identify with other Scots regardless of where in Scotland they are.

The values Straw sees as underpinning national identity are freedom, fairness, tolerance and plurality but these four values have no part to play in my feeling of Scottishness (or Britishness). I might believe in them; I might live them but they are irrelevant to my national identity. Would I be any less Scottish if I were an intolerant bigot who longed for a dictatorship in Scotland. No! I would be a much less pleasant person to know but my national identity would be unaffected. It so happens I do believe in these four values as, I imagine, do the vast majority of my fellow Scots but we are not defined by these values.

Therefore, my Scottishness is undefinable – it just is – and, similarly, my Britishness just is.

The difficulty Straw has in describing how one should re-establish Britishness is like taking a cake, identifying the constituents and thinking simply by bringing the constituents together again a cake will magically appear. Baking doesn’t work this way and neither will attempts to impose national identity.

His task is made more difficult because he wants to define Britishness only because he sees Britishness as a way of minimising the impact of “… certain fringe minority Muslim groups”. If some in Britain already have religious or non-British identities no amount of detailing rights and responsibilities of being British; no amount of listing the values supporting Britishness (freedom, fairness, tolerance and plurality) will have an effect. For those who have another identity, the greater the difference between Britishness and the other identity the harder it will be for Britishness to get a foothold and attempting to force Britishness on them will meet only resistance.

If I were told that my Scottishness had to be subservient to my Britishness I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it. It isn’t as though I spend my time considering Scottishness – I rarely do - but asking me to relegate my Scottishness would be like asking me to give up my right hand so that my left hand became more important. I can’t because it’s part of me. Only by performing this simple thought experiment can I get an understanding of those for whom religion is more important than their Britishness and the difficulty they would have making their religion subservient to Britishness

Straw is right to highlight the problem but I feel his proposals are dangerous because they demand of people more than is reasonable and, therefore, could lead to even greater alienation and lack of Britishness. Doing nothing will not improve matters either. Unfortunately I believe no-one knows what has to be done. I certainly don’t but I am convinced that Straw’s suggestions would be counter-productive.

Monday, 30 April 2007

Scottish Elections 12 - Brown and Salmond

I know it’s parochial to post so often about the Scottish Elections but they are important to me. This is an extra unplanned post. I had planned to post about “British Identity” following an article by Jack Straw but will post on this tomorrow. I have to write about Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond.

Gordon Brown was asked if, as PM, he could work with Alex Salmond as Scottish First Minister. The answer should have been a straightforward. “Of course, I would. I will work with the First Minister whoever that may be. That would have been the constitutional position but he did not say this. He equivocated. He did not say, as reported, that he would not work with Salmond but he stumbled and smothered his words, saying something along the lines that he could not work with Salmond on any topic which threatened the union. The key is that, despite being asked the question twice, he refused to state that he would work with Salmond.

This deserves to be a big story because implicit in his answer is the threat to voters: vote SNP at your peril because life will be difficult for the Scottish Executive.

David Cameron was asked the same question and he answered that he would work with the First Minister regardless of party. Cameron is in a slightly different position: he isn’t going to be PM soon and there is no chance that the Conservatives could be the largest party in Scotland. Despite these provisos, Cameron must be praised for being so clear.

If only Brown had said the obvious. We would have understood his preference for a Labour First Minister. Instead he has harmed his, and Labour’s, position. The SNP must be rubbing their hands with delight. If they replayed this in a party political broadcast they would be weighing the SNP votes.

Were we expecting a more consultative government under Brown? That is unlikely if this issue is typical – a surly and ungracious reply unworthy of a Prime Minister – even one in-waiting. Brown may not be much longer in-waiting but, if he continues to act so ungraciously he will not be long in No.10.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Blog Killer – Andrew Keen

The Observer describes Andrew Keen:

The author and entrepreneur has stunned his adopted country with a book that accuses bloggers and other evangelists for the web of destroying culture, ruining livelihoods and threatening to make consumers of new media regress into 'digital narcissism'.

and another blog (Warrior Lawyer) quotes Keen:

If we keep up this pace, there will be over five hundred million blogs by 2010, collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture. Blogs have become so dizzyingly infinite, that they’ve undermined our sense of what is true and what is false, what is real and what is imaginary. These days, kids can’t tell the difference between credible news by objective professional journalists and what they read on joeshmoe.blogspot.com

This is strong criticism but he isn’t against blogs per se - he can’t be because he blogs – but he is against them being written by those with nothing interesting to write and little expertise to write it. Again, The Observer quotes Keen:

I'm nostalgic for the world I grew up in where there was a clear distinction between author and audience. I'm not attracted or impressed by the idea of collapsing that distinction. It's hard to be good at what you're doing, it requires expertise. In the same way that not everyone should be doctors or teachers or astronauts, not everyone should be an author. Most people do not have anything interesting to say.

Lots of people play football at a wide range of abilities. Would Keen suggest that only those considered expert footballers should be allowed to play?

Keen’s views are very traditional: news from newspapers and TV news; films from major film companies, music from major music companies; books from major publishers. There is no place for the independent. Keen is comfortable in this hierarchical world because he is an expert and acknowledged as such.

Of course, lots of blogs have little to say, are poorly written and are read by few but, in a way, that is the whole point of blogging. We all find our own level: the topics in which we are interested, the topics on which we write; the blogs we read. I don’t blog to be viewed as an expert – just as well!. I don’t blog to get x hits a day – just as well! I blog because I enjoy the blogging experience –writing, reading, commenting, debating and arguing if need be. I started blogging because I always wanted to comment on … whatever and I’m not disciplined enough to do this on my pc. Only by knowing it’s going on the web to be seen by a few people can I be sure that I’ll do it. I’ve found blogs I love and read and blogs I hate but still read. I am finding my level. Enjoyment, that’s why I do it What better reason could there be?

Keen dislikes blogs like mine for another reason: he worries about culture being destroyed. Again, I think Keen doesn’t understand. Culture comes from all of us; it changes. We’re allowed to change culture because it’s ours. Culture isn’t the sole preserve of the experts: they’re part of it but no more. In a comment to another expert’s blog, Keen said (Comment 2):

Question: would we be any the poorer if, instead of 70 million blogs, we had none? In other words, what have blogs done for civilization recently?

Must everything we do have an effect on civilisation? I better review my life for its effect on civilisation because I might need to kill myself if I can find no positive effect.

Because Keen has taken an extreme position his book will sell – there’s a surprise! – but like many experts he appears so convinced of his correctness that his ears have now disconnected from his brain.

The bottom line is that Keen wants only the elite to be visible. Common “man” has no purpose other than to support and do the bidding of the elite. You’re too late, Andrew, common “man” is marching ahead and you’re being left behind.

Note: Another excellent blog on this subject is here.