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.

Scottish Elections 11 - Pro-Unionist Claptrap

Ruaridh Nicoll in today's Observer describes how, in all probability, the Union came about because of Scotland’s failed attempt to create an empire based in Darien in Central America. This is a perfectly appropriate story to tell but the story is sandwiched between two pro-Union statements, each of which is challengeable:

It’s a union that may take a body blow on Thursday.

and

Douglas Watt has recently argued that the fiasco (Darien) also taught the nation a hard lesson that would give Scotland its infamous instinct for being canny with money. This has kept the nation well through 300 years of Union. The election, two days after the anniversary, will reveal if we are canny still.

Nicoll’s intention is to reinforce the view that we Scots need to be careful – no, it’s more than “careful - need to be afraid because we might not survive in the big bad world once out of the shelter of the Union.

Ruaridh, we understand what’s happening; we’re savvier than you think. Other than fear you haven’t given any positive reason why Scotland should stay in the Union although you’re not alone; neither have Blair or Cameron.

In fact, Ruaridh, remember this election is not about independence it’s about giving someone else a chance because we’ve had enough of New Labour.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Music and Freedom

A lazy Saturday afternoon; house to myself other than three cats, two guinea pigs and the detritus of four almost human beings accumulated over ten years. Nothing to do. Well, lots to do but nothing that I was going to do. So music. Don’t often listen to music now: the house is too noisy with kids fighting and adults struggling to regain control. It’s a mad house, a sad house but that’s for another day when I’m desperately short of something to blog.

Anyway, to the music. iTunes opened, speakers up full and then it’s back in time to the 60s and early 70s: The Incredible Sting Band, John Prine, Ry Cooder. Real music: I bet that’s what my parents said when they listened to Vera Lynn and Edmundo Ros and I thought it was crap. God knows what the neighbours thought with music blaring and a tuneless bass voice foghorning alongside. Guess I’m lucky the Coastguard didn’t arrive at the door. Two whole hours in my time warp; as happy as Larry.

And then, “What’s that crap?”

Immediate teleporting into 2007, forty years gone in an instant and all the stress of living crushing my shoulders once more.

Freedom gone. What is freedom? But the merest hint of “Illegal Smile” reminded me – just.

Next week or next month, I’ll find the chance again to escape back to when music really was music!

Friday, 27 April 2007

World Bank - Klein Demolishes

Naomi Klein has written an excellent article in which she demolishes the credibility of the World Bank.

Normally I’ll pr├ęcis the article and add my comments on the line taking by the author. Not today. I append 2 paragraphs (below) which outline the article.

It's not the act itself, it's the hypocrisy. That's the line on Paul Wolfowitz coming from editorial pages around the world. It's neither: not the act (the way he disregarded the rules to get his girlfriend a pay rise); and not the hypocrisy (the fact that Wolfowitz's mission as World Bank president is fighting for "good governance").

First, let's dispense with the supposed hypocrisy problem. "Who wants to be lectured on corruption by someone telling them to 'Do as I say, not as I do'?" asked one journalist. No one, of course. But that's a pretty good description of the game of one-way strip poker that is our global trade system, in which the United States and Europe - via the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation - tell the developing world: "You take down your trade barriers and we'll keep ours up." From farm subsidies to the Dubai Ports World scandal, hypocrisy is our economic order's guiding principle.

You should read the article.

Please read the article!

Scottish Elections 10 - Blair Lies

Nothing new about this. Not even newsworthy. He spoke therefore he lied: that’s the Blair we all know.

In today’s Times (26 April 2007, sorry no link) he accused Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP and likely to lead the largest party after next week’s election, as follows:

When Alex Salmond gets up in the morning what is on his mind is fighting England.”

Fighting: this from Mr Military man. “Who’s up for a fight?” “We are”, says Tony. “Well, not me, of course, but “my” troops are up for it”. He has no shame!

Fighting England”, he says. What absolute rubbish! I have seen or heard nothing to suggest there is any truth in this.

I have seen reports that the SNP will try to manufacture issues on which they can claim that the Westminster government is not acting in the interests of Scotland. However, crucial to the SNP, if they are the largest party, is governing well. Only by performing well in government can they hope to win an independence referendum and, so, it is not in the interest of the SNP to have major problems with Westminster. The SNP need to show that they are good administrators: only be achieving this can they hope to win a referendum although obviously a few disagreements with London will not go amiss.

But even if Salmond did have fighting on his mind every morning he would not be fighting England he would be fighting the UK Parliament.

Blair doesn’t believe what he says about Salmond: he is fighting – dirty – to help Labour remain the largest party. He is peddling FEAR.

He is doing here, with the election, what he has done with terrorism: induce fear in people’s consciousness .

After 10 years he is reduced to this base level: there is your legacy, Mr Blair. Please take it and slink away from our shores.


Thursday, 26 April 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Traffic Calming

Late this evening the government confirmed that it will introduce the most extensive traffic calming measures ever attempted within the UK. The main aim is to equalise the flows of a multitude of traffic streams in a way which will alter fundamentally how the UK public interfaces with the blogosphere.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said today, “A few blogs are heavily congested at a time when the majority are very quiet. We intend to redistribute the traffic so that UK traffic is averaged across all UK blogs.

Each UK blogger will be limited to 15 minutes or 2 comments – whichever occurs first - at one of the designated congested sites. After this bloggers will be diverted automatically to a series of uncongested sites each of which must be visited for 10 minutes. We believe that it is of national importance to have uncongested blog sites.


A spokesperson for two of the most congested political blogs, Anonymous, shouted, “This is the act of a discredited socialist government,” and then another spokesperson for them, Anonymous said, shouted “This is shameful. We are being punished for being successful. This government is not interested in the free market.” And then a third spokesperson. Anonymous said said, shouted, “Stealth tax on the successful. A handout to the poor. That nosepicker Brown is behind this.


The government spokesperson then stated, “A second aim of the measures is to ban the use of sock-puppets which have been used to artificially increase the traffic at sites. Also, we are aware of many examples where sock-puppets have forced other users of the blogosphere off sites, their intention being to retain these sites for friends and family.


None of the three blog spokespersons who commented previously, was available but the two blogs issued a joint statement which read, “As two of the busiest political blogs in the UK we refute totally any suggestion that sock-puppets are used on our sites. If this allegation is made in public, legal action will follow immediately. We are instigating a leak investigation to uncover where this scurrilous allegation arose.”

This correspondent understands that the owners of several left-wing blogs await developments with laughter.

Scottish Elections 9 – More of Calum’s Thoughts (Rambling)

I was going to state which party was getting my votes in the Scottish Elections next week but why do it now? There is no reason except it gives me something to write about but there’s more mileage if I keep my intentions masked.

Already I’ve said, “How will I vote this time? Undecided between the SNP, Greens and whichever socialist party is standing but I will not be voting Labour. That seems like a fairly good summary of the position but why these parties? …..(F)or me, the driving force in the election is the desire to punish Labour. Despite these elections being for the Scottish Parliament, Labour will be punished primarily for the failings of the UK Labour government.

There’s no doubt many feel as I do that Labour, both in Scotland and the UK, needs a good kicking and I’m confident that Labour will emerge very badly shaken and in need of recuperation although, in the future, I could vote for Labour but only if it was re-aligned. Unfortunately, voting for a re-aligned Labour party would probably be a wasted vote.

A vote for the SNP gives me the best chance of really hurting Labour but I am torn between this and a socialist party. Voting for a socialist party might tally with my views but nobody gets kicked – I’ve missed. As an aside, I took the Political Compass test today and I came out as “Extreme Left” close to Collectivism and “Extreme Libertarian” close to Anarchism [Economic Left/Right –8.0; Social Libertarian / Authoritarian –7.4]. Well, I’m truly pigeon-holed now. But I don’t think I’m as extreme as these results suggest. I bet everyone who comes out here says this. Perhaps Bel who shows this blog as centre-left needs to make a new category for me.

Labour seems to be getting its campaign going now in the sense that, I think, they’re starting to hurt the SNP and, so, perhaps the vote will be even closer than many thought. Given that there’s still one week left I can see each of the major parties unveiling a vote-catcher in the next few days. I don’t have inside information but given the closeness it seems the logical and necessary thing to do.

Recently I read a criticism of blogs – I can’t remember where – in which bloggers were criticised for doing their thinking online rather than thinking off-line and then putting the fruits of their thoughts online. Sometimes I try to think offline but today I’m in the first group. If I’m doing any thinking at all it’s done online as I type. Many years ago, if I was talking rubbish my father used to tell me that ”I was opening my mouth and letting my belly rumble”. Certainly I’ve got the pc version of that today; a piece that jumps about far too much and, even when still, is incoherent. At least I got the title correct.

I was about to post this when I was taken aback by just how terrible it was: by far my worst post. I found some words I wrote many years ago which apply to this piece.

At least the words are flowing

If not poetically

The ink flows down

And sense goes up

And out the bloody door


Now this is pointless

Fuck the lot

This is fucking shite

So stop the fucking nonsense

Don't bother to fucking write


Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Countryside Alliance Townies in Edinburgh

I copy in its entirety a small article by Robert McNeill in The Scotsman (24 April 2007) – sorry no hyperlink.

He saw these apparent country folk in Edinburgh and was spurred to write about them. This is much better quality than I could achieve and, therefore, my motto comes into play: “If they do it better just pinch it and print it.”

"An Everyday Story of (Pretend) Country Folk

Spotted in the city the other day: the lesser waxed Countryside Alliance buffoon. This guy had the lot: flat cap, some kind of ornate tweed cape thing, and hideous trousers tucked into his socks. His burd wore green wellies. Was she anticipating having to wade through acres of mud in the mall?

The wearing of such ludicrously inappropriate clothing indicated that these primitives were trying to tell us something. It was this “we are from another planet called Countryside. We mangle other creatures. Up to our knees in entrails, we are superior to you.” Correction: in evolutionary terms, these people are inferior. Even neds may look down upon them. They are a pox on the countryside, which abhors them. Nothing is more unnatural than the professional rustic, particularly those in Scotia adopting the whole Anglo-Barbour rig-out in which to mince hither and yon.

The Countryside Alliance is largely to blame for this buffoonery. It started life as a front for fox-manglers but has, inadvertently, found itself having to take an interest in real rural issues, which are of little account to the urban fantasists in Embra’s New Town who make up much of its support.

As a result, nothing much is heard of the sinister organisation now, and it’s hoped that sightings of dim strutters, such as the evolutionary throwbacks described above, will become increasingly rare.”

Scottish Elections 8: Non-SNP Coalition

In the last few days stories have appeared in the press (for example, The Guardian) suggesting that the three Unionist parties in Scotland, Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, may form an anti-SNP coalition to keep the SNP from power should they (SNP) become the major party at the Scottish elections on 3rd May.

If the SNP is the largest party, they and the Liberal Democrats could form a coalition with an overall majority. The Liberal Democrats, however, have ruled out any coalition with the SNP if there is to be a referendum on Scottish independence and some think that the three Unionist parties might prevent the SNP governing by forming their own coalition. On this basis the SNP could be excluded permanently from power, even if they were always the largest party, unless they won a majority of seats at an election: a feat not considered likely under proportional representation.

Although this pro-Union move is legal I would consider that act to be shameful and that would be my view even if I were to vote for one of the pro-union parties. If the SNP are the largest party than they must not be denied the opportunity to govern.

I hope, I pray that the pro-Union coalition does not occur. What, I think, will prevent it is the fear of the three pro-union parties that, should they exclude the SNP, they would be punished severely at the following election: giving the SNP an overall majority.

If they do exclude the SNP I hope we don’t have to wait until the following election to right the wrong. In these circumstances I hope the Scottish people, not just SNP supporters but all right-minded people, would rise up against the decision and force a change.

I make these points as one who is still undecided about how to vote and may not vote SNP. I have never voted SNP but, if they are the largest party, I will fight for their right to lead the governing Executive of Scotland.

Please let democracy win and let the people’s voice be heard.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Lord Goldsmith - Telephone Conversation


I note in today’s Guardian an article claiming that the UK government is trying to undermine the BAE bribes inquiry being held by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. This reminded me of the key role played by Lord Goldsmith – UK Attorney General - in several crucial issues. Firstly there was the advice on the legality of the Iraq war for which he had to exhume the body of the only lawyer who had supported the war. This was followed by the bribes inquiry which Lord Goldsmith halted on the grounds of national interest and, coming up soon, the cash for honours inquiry. What will his advice be on cash for honours?

Below I append the key telephone conversation between Tony Blair (TB) and Lord Goldsmith (LG) during which cash-for–honours was discussed.

TB: Hi, Pete. It’s Tone. How are you? Tell you what it is, Pete? You know this cash-for-honours thing. My best friends in No. 10 are going to be charged. Can’t have it. Think what that will do to my reputation.

LG: Rock bottom already, Prime Minister. Won’t change a thing.

TB: Don’t joke, Pete. There’s nothing in it. It’s a stitch up. That bastard Brown’s behind it. He can’t stand the success I’ve had; can’t stand my being the nearest thing to God. Anyway Pete, to business. I need your help. None of this is true. Everything has been planted but it’s gone so far now that the CPS are bound to prosecute my friends. I can’t have that, Pete. These friends, if they come to court I’ll be embarrassed. I can’t allow these trumped up charges to affect my legacy.

LG: I understand exactly, Prime Minister. I’ll do my duty on behalf of your interest - er sorry the national interest. You can count on me. I’ve done this before and may I say that you have the best legal nose I’ve ever come across. Whatever you thought was in the national interest has been legal. Amazing!!!

TB: Great. I knew I could count on you but you do remember these photos I mentioned before about you and ….. at that party …….

LG: How could I forget, Prime Minister. Best sex I’ve ever had!

TB: Pity if your lovely wife found them.

LG: Yes, yes. My lovely wife. No need Prime Minister. No worry. Consider it done.

TB: I knew you’d see it my way. Oh, before you go, just one more thing. You know I was pushing my wee boy Dave to stand against the big bastard next door. No balls, Pete. He’s got no balls. We need to do something, anything to get him to stand. Any ideas?

LG: There’s one way. That photograph of me and ….. Well imagine if it was touched up professionally so that it was David and not me. Show it to him. He’ll do the right thing. Before you can say “Your marriage, Dave. Such a shame.” He’ll have declared himself a candidate.

TB: You’re brilliant, Pete. I can see why I planted you in this role. Remember now. No charges, national interest, stitch up……

LG: Prime Minister could you destroy the photo of me? Prime Minister, are you there? Prime Minister? PRIME MINISTER.!!

Monday, 23 April 2007

Never Fall in Love with Your Own Airship

At the weekend I picked up a book from a charity shop: according to the blurb, 30 of the greatest minds made predictions about the 21st century. Below is an extract from Umberto Eco’s prediction.

“Never Fall in Love with Your Own Airship”

…. I try not to make these predictions. Just imagine what it was like when the airship was invented. What a wonderful thing, people thought, to be able to travel through the air just like a bird. And then it was discovered that the airship was a dead-end invention. The invention that survived was the aeroplane.

When the first airships appeared, people thought there would subsequently be a linear progression, an advancement to more refined, swifter models. But this did not happen. Instead, at a certain point there was a lateral development. After the Hindenburg went up in flames in 1937, [killing 35 people], things began to move in a different direction. At one time it seemed most logical that you had to be lighter than air in order to fly in the sky – but then it turned out that you had to be heavier than air to fly more efficiently.

The moral of the story is that in both philosophy and the sciences you must be very careful not to fall in love with your own airship.

Not only does his statement apply to philosophy and the sciences but it also applies at work, at home and in our personal lives.

Umberto Eco in an interview with Domenico Paciti in “Predictions: 30 great minds on the future” Oxford University Press ISBN 0 – 19 – 286210 – 3

Sunday, 22 April 2007

End of the Day



It's the end of the day. Phew!!!

Tomorrow's a new day. Yes!!!


Saturday, 21 April 2007

New Labour - Dead?

According to Martin Kettle in today’s Guardian,

This was the week the New Labour project died”.

From both right and left there are cries of, “Yeeeees!!!” but then reality kicks in. What does the future hold? Kettle leaves his readers with gobbledygook – not uncommon for Kettle who leaves sticky fingerprints of New Labour wherever he goes,

“New Labour may be dead, but the tough reality for Brown and his followers is that the party will slide slowly into the margins if it does not embrace the need to reinvent a different and better version of what it has lost.

Whatever the future, please let it be in plain English – unless it’s my writing in which case that is not a requirement. Back to school, Martin!

For those on the left, the future holds two unattractive options: right-wing policies with Brown and much more right wing policies with Cameron. I mentioned in a previous post, “What a choice! It’s like having to decide if I want dog poo on my left or right shoe. Each is equally repugnant. Well, perhaps not “equally”.

The future – short-term, at least - is definitely not left. Only John McDonnell offers the Labour party policies from the left but, unfortunately, he may not get the 44 PLP votes required to go forward to the ballot. Another article in the Guardian suggests he may be close now – within 5 MPs – but that Brown is attempting to stifle any challenge, including McDonnell’s, by signing up enough MPs. Already he has 217 MPs signed up (see Grimupnorth).

Of course, even if McDonnell made it through to the next stage he wouldn’t win but, at least, the Labour party would have had a proper debate about policy. This says a lot about the state of the left that their/our best outcome is for McDonnell to get through, have a debate with left-wing policies aired and lose.

I’ll need to go for the least bad option: Brown and Labour ugh!!

I wish I had the commitment and drive of Grimupnorth.

Chelsea Spin

Jose has a contract until 2010 and he wants to stay. …..We are not going to sack him said Peter Kenyon yesterday.

There is much that this statement doesn’t say and in the missing words probably lies the truth. Kenyon didn’t say that Chelsea wanted Mourinho to stay. He said only that he wouldn’t be sacked but did not say what else Chelsea may do to encourage him to leave. Chelsea might make his stay so unpleasant that he decides to leave.

A typical example of spin – covers all eventualities whilst allowing one to claim, “I told the truth”.

Not that I have any interest in Chelsea or any other Premiership team, my allegiance is at the foot of the Scottish Premier League where my team is 4 points adrift with 5 games to go.

Chelsea and Dunfermline are a “million miles” apart in all ways except how the fans feel for their respective teams. I am feeling the pressure. Relegation beckons. If only………

Friday, 20 April 2007

Iain Dale - Advertising



I found this on Iain Dale’s Diary and was intrigued. I knew Iain was big – because he tells us - but big enough to advertise ON!

How could we advertise on him? .

Sandwich boards?

Any suggestions?


Even more interestingly , what could he advertise?

Bloggerheads / Tim Ireland ?

Brown4PM?

Chavez T-shirts

Any suggestions?

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Virginia Tech - Old Thoughts Remembered

I am uneasy posting on this subject for two reasons: firstly at a time when our thoughts should be with the friends and families of those who died some may find it inappropriate for me to talk about my experiences and secondly, I have to reveal much more of myself than I would like. At least, my pseudonym masks my true identity. Despite these misgivings I think my views are relevant to the debate which surrounds this tragedy and other similar examples.

Each time there is a tragedy of the sort seen at Virginia Tech I find myself transported back to the late 1980s where I am at dinner in a small Bed and Breakfast on Skye. For some reason the Hungerford massacre became a topic of conversation. My fellow diners could not understand how Michael Ryan could kill 16 people including his mother before killing himself. Unlike them, I could imagine one being so empty; having a life so worthless; knowing that one’s life had achieved nothing; knowing that one’s life would not be remembered by anyone, that killing others would yield a transformation. Now, this life would be remembered albeit through notoriety and hatred. My God, would it be remembered!

Of course, I had no knowledge or insight into the mind of Michael Ryan but I knew how I felt at that time: despair, emptiness, worthlessness and a life too easily forgotten.

My wife, her parents and I had gone to Skye for a weekend break but, unfortunately, in the weeks leading up to this break I realised that my young marriage was over. I was being discarded, not for another, but discarded all the same. I had spoken to no-one. I wanted desperately to tell my mother-in-law – a wonderful lady – but I couldn’t expose my terror. I wouldn’t have been able to hold myself together. I had never felt so empty. That is how I could imagine life being taken in such an appalling way: an easily forgotten life now forever etched in the psyche of the nation.

I don’t know how I got through that weekend but I did and our separation, when it came, was as trouble-free and amicable as is possible. Then, once alone in our my isolated house I discovered that I hadn’t dealt with the raw emotions of marriage break-up. I was a victim. I bore no responsibility for the marriage break-up. Someone had to pay for this. The bastards had to pay!

For weeks I used to lie alone in bed at night developing a thought experiment - a fantasy - in which I would enter my ex-wife’s workplace at a time when I knew that she and many of her colleagues were in a meeting. I, armed to the teeth, would enter the meeting room and proceed to kill everyone before escaping.

In this fantasy, every minute detail was planned and mentally rehearsed except in one crucial area: I had no guns and had no idea how to how to obtain them. The fantasy could not proceed. There could be no transformation from thought experiment to reality.

Perhaps my thought experiment is common. I don’t know.

Perhaps the fantasy was my weird way of dealing with my anger and hurt but I can never know.

Perhaps I was mentally ill but I’ll never know. Certainly I appeared normal to everyone. None could have guessed my fantasy.

Perhaps, even had guns been available, I would have done no more than fantasise but I can never know.

I do know that over time my fantasy became less and less important until eventually I could fall asleep peacefully without first playing out my dream.


As I look back now the frightening aspect is that I can never know what I might have done had guns been readily available. Imagine I had bought guns. Immediately, my thought experiment has moved into reality: I would have the physical reality of cold metal - guns and bullets. Would the fantasy have moved onto completion? Would I have joined the list of those reviled for massacring innocents? I can never know. As an aside, it’s interesting to note that whilst the massacres are remembered - for example, Hungerford, Dunblane, Columbine – the killers are largely forgotten. Their attempts to be remembered, if that were their aims, have failed. The horror of their actions is remembered but not them.

That guns were not available legally was crucial in my fantasy. Without guns, there was nowhere for it to go. The fantasy, not people, was fated to die.


Thank God, that our laws made gun ownership so difficult. This may have saved me and others from death.


Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Milburn on Europe

I don’t know if I’m in good company or bad but Alan Milburn’s article in today’s Times could have been written by me. Not in terms of the subject: I wouldn’t have written about Europe but in the general emptiness of the article; littered with buzzwords as though these confer understanding, solutions and substance.

Milburn’s thesis is that European institutions and decision-making are remote from the ordinary person. Of course, they are remote: just as most political institutions, including those in the UK, are remote from those they are meant to serve.

Unaccountable decision-making no longer works in an era when the public is far more informed and inquiring. The new democratic thirst that exists among citizens requires from the EU a more modern modus operandi.

The need is to find ways of bringing the public into Europe's decision-making tent.

The European Parliament in particular needs to think about how the public’s voice can be better heard in its deliberations.

This also describes accurately the position of government and people in the UK.

Milburn reserves his tour-de-force until his last paragraph:

Unless the EU is prepared to address the gulf between rulers and governed we risk a bureaucrats’ Europe, not a peoples’ Europe. It is time for Europe to face outwards not inwards, to empower the public not the politicians. Elitism is out. Engagement is in. Europe needs to learn the lesson.”

The buzz-words are tripping over each other like politicians fighting to be interviewed but with nothing to say. If Milburn, as a professional politician, can do no better than this, perhaps he should consider his position.

Spend more time with your family, Alan,

Oh, you’ve done that already. Well, just give up Alan; you don’t have what it takes.

Bad company, that’s what you are, Alan!

Scottish Elections 7 - Is The Telegraph Serious?

The 2nd leader in today’s Telegraph is simplistic and conceited journalism. The leader is based on the assumption that the Union is good, and independence is disastrous, for both Scotland and England: a bald statement, not of fact, but of unsupported prejudice.

The Telegraph wants the SNP to hold an independence referendum immediately upon their gaining power but only because this is the best way of maintaining the Union.

Why WOULD the SNP want a referendum now when they would lose? They wouldn’t and no politician would willingly hold a referendum at a time when loss is the obvious result.

Why SHOULD the SNP hold a referendum now when they would lose. There is no reason to do so unless, of course, one is looking for a loss?

Any party would hold a referendum at a time and under conditions which best suits them. The SNP are no different here but this is not acceptable to The Telegraph because:

…. once in power, the SNP will possess the ability to frame the debate - to generate friction with London, to shape politics and policy so as to maximise its chances of winning the referendum. This would be a disaster for both countries.

I am sure that the SNP would attempt to generate fiction between Edinburgh and Westminster but, more importantly, after two or three years in power the judgment on the SNP and on Scotland’s ability to be successful as an independent country will be based upon how the SNP performed in power: “poorly” will give a definite loss whereas “well” will give a possible win.

Blaming their (the SNP’s) poor performance, if it were so, on tensions with Westminster wouldn’t have a major impact on the referendum decision. I suspect that there is quite a strong emotional attachment to the idea of independence but, at crunch-time, the decision won’t be emotional but rational. How the SNP have performed in power will be central to that decision. Delaying the referendum for 2 or 3 years is, therefore, entirely reasonable regardless of the outcome one wishes.

Articles such as this leader are unworthy of journalism, being no more than Unionist propaganda.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Stefan and Time

No sleep last night. Can’t think today. Pulled out some writings from many years ago.


To Stefan and His Friends

Caring deeply

For strangers

Known briefly

Loved forever



Time

So breathe and smile

It's simple

Too simple to be easy

Remember

Breathe

And

Smile

Again

The moments will return

To bring back peace

And joy and hope

To a life that's lost in time



Monday, 16 April 2007

Aung San Suu Kyi

Today’s Guardian contained an extract from a book about one of the most remarkable women alive - Aung San Suu Kyi. Forget that the book is written by Gordon Brown; forget the timing of its publication. Read the extract and remember only Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader in Burma has been under various forms of house arrest by the military junta for almost 18 years. Despite her arrest, her party won the 1990 election taking 82% of the seats but the military regime did not recognise the result. She knew that she could leave Burma to see her family but she knew too that she would never be allowed to return and, therefore, she could do no more for Burma. She had to stay.

Brown writes:

To see her family again, she would have to abandon her country in its darkest hour. Yet Suu Kyi knew it was a false choice: the decision was not whether to choose family over country, but whether to abandon the very ideals upon which her love for both her family and country were grounded.

and

Her courage has shown itself not in the fearlessness of impetuous confrontation, but in a strength of character rooted in passionately held beliefs - beliefs that have sustained her through years of oppression and deprivation and cruel separation from her loved ones.

and

But Suu Kyi represents the power not of the powerful but of the powerless: a woman, a prisoner of conscience up against a state with one of the worst human-rights violation records in the world; a country of only 20 million people with 1,000 political prisoners, 500,000 political refugees, children as young as four in prison, and poets and journalists tortured just for speaking out.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a remarkable lady.

Few can aspire to her heights but all can be inspired by her.


Please read the extract and be inspired!


Scottish Elections 6 - Referendum

I hadn’t intended to write about these elections as often but the papers keep publishing articles which provoke me. Today’s Guardian has an article by Peter Preston which suggests that the way to stop the SNP in its tracks is for either the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats to push for an immediate referendum on independence. His thinking is that the majority will vote against independence but that the position is doubtful if the SNP have 3 years to increase tensions between Edinburgh and Westminster. Preston is within his rights to suggest this course of action but buried in the article are some thoughts which demonstrate how little he cares for Scotland: England is his concern.

I highlight only one. Preston states:

The dismemberment of the United Kingdom is a visceral, passion-primed issue; but, for true desperation, add the calculation that an English Westminster, stripped of its Scottish Labour lobby fodder, would be Tory-Tory-Hallelujah forever. Here's why palliative devolution took priority, post-1997. Here is why Labour wants the independence rot stopped at any cost.

“Stop independence because Labour in England doesn’t want a Tory England”, that is what Preston is saying. That is all Scotland is worth: Labour fodder to ensure, hopefully for Preston, a Labour government in Westminster.

Such a total disregard for Scotland and its wishes will move even more Scots towards the SNP.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Tesco - Hypocrite

This is my third post about hypocrisy (1st here; 2nd here) and today I focus on my hypocrisy, no-one else’s. I note in the papers today that Tesco is about to unveil profits of about £2.5billion.

I hate the way Tesco does business.

I hate the way Tesco treats its staff (I gave 8 months to Tesco a few years ago.)

I hate the way Tesco …….

I hate Tesco.

But I still shop there!!!


Why?

Because they’re the closest supermarket

Because it’s convenient

Because I’m in a routine.

Because I am a HYPOCRITE - I slag them off but do nothing about it


Why don’t I shop elsewhere?

I do occasionally but normally at another supermarket.

Because I’m in a routine of shopping at Tesco

Because I have plenty of other things I need to change which are more important.

Because I am a HYPOCRITE - I slag them off but do nothing about it


Every time I think about Tesco I know their practices are not acceptable.

Every time I shop there I am saying to Tesco, ”Your practices are acceptable”.

Every time I shop at Tesco I am a HYPOCRITE.


As I write this I feel very uncomfortable but, uncomfortable or not, I know that tomorrow or the next day I’ll be a hypocrite again. Hopefully, one week I won’t be a hypocrite.