Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Labour in opposition

Are not doing very well. Given that the single biggest issue is the economy and the government's fiscal response, they have failed to make plain one very simple point: reducing government borrowing and cutting government spending, while closely related, are not the same thing - as is becoming increasingly obvious.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

On the Strauss-Kahn case

In the corner of this Time cover, you'll see in tiny black print that this story is about the accused bomber Timothy McVeigh - published as it was prior to his trial and subsequent execution.

That the crimes which Strauss-Kahn has been accused of bear no comparison to this goes without saying but I'm using it because I don't believe for a minute that the 'discomfort' that so many people have told us they're feeling in relation to the indictment of Strauss-Kahn have much to do with a general discomfort with the experience of suspects and their treatment by the media or the American criminal justice system prior to a criminal prosecution.

It is difficult to avoid the impression that it is the position that Strauss-Kahn occupied in the French hierarchy and in world politics when this allegation was made that is the source of all this 'unease'. Henri Bernard-Levi has made himself ridiculous in the eyes of many, but he has done so by merely expressing what I suspect a number of people really feel:
"This morning, I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other. [Emphasis mine]"
Imagine doing such a thing! Regardless of the outcome of this case, it's worth considering the possibility that this represents a kind of progress? I feel the need to share this because I've read a fair bit about the case and have been struck by the sheer scale of 'unease' out there. It hasn't quite reached Bin Laden proportions - but still... A friend of mine put it to me this way. Say what you like about liberal-democratic capitalism; is there, or has there ever been, any other system where the word of a chambermaid would have been taken seriously in a case like this? Or, one could add, where a chambermaid would have even dared? I'll leave you with Lord Acton's most famous phrase - with the interesting bits left in...:
"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. [Emphasis mine]

Saturday, May 14, 2011

'Independence-lite'

Suggested in a previous post:
"No matter how effective the SNP machine is, I still can't imagine the Scottish electorate being persuaded to disengage from institutions which - no matter how much people might wish it otherwise - they have a certain degree of affection for. I doubt this would even be offered as a choice. The model of 'independence' that will be offered is likely to include the retention of the Queen as Head of State, monetary union with England and, much more controversially, continued participation in the British Armed Forces."
It's the sort of thinking that often attracts, "Boo - unionist! You wrong - and you smell!", type comments - but it now seems the version that the 'independence-lite' now favoured by the SNP is even lighter than this version, which some of us assumed was the SNP game all along:
"The Scotsman can reveal Alex Salmond's party is aiming for an "independence-lite" constitutional settlement that could see Scotland sharing defence, social security and foreign policy with England, in the knowledge the SNP would struggle to win a vote on outright separation."
This is described in the same article as a "sea-change in Nationalist thinking" - to which the only appropriate response is to say, "Bollocks!".

Friday, May 13, 2011

The problem with education in this our two countries...

The answer to this varies a great deal, depending on whom you read, although those taking a regular interest in this will note that there's always one single big problem rather than numerous small ones - the latter being altogether too mundane and demanding on the attention for the average online pundit.

For some the core of the problem is the dead hand of the state. 'Producer-capture' has given us schools controlled by unions who are invariably described as 'Jurassic', or some other epithet used to indicate the state of being on the wrong side of History, and 'trendy teachers' who distribute condoms to teenagers in a value-free environment and think all must win prizes.

Or it could be the influence of ideologically-driven reactionaries who want to pursue the twin objectives of returning to the 1950s whilst turning the school system into a supermarket - contradictory goals reconciled with the assumption that the liberated consumers will use their new-found freedom to make the right choice.

Or it could be a bit of both but I'm increasingly of the view that it is neither for reasons I'll attempt to explain in my usual cack-handed way...

My country first. Unlike my own pusillanimous union, I see that the SSTA has decided not to take the line of least resistance to the Scottish Government's plan for pay cuts and reduced conditions of service for teachers. And amongst the grievances are included a criticism of the new curriculum as not being 'fit for purpose'. This is a repetition of a previous line, which was echoed by one of the curriculum's architects, Keir Bloomer:
"Keir Bloomer, a member of the team that created the Curriculum for Excellence, described it as "not good enough". The former council leader and director of education was particularly critical of the literacy element, calling it "complete nonsense".
Complete nonsense it undoubtedly is but to reproduce it for your amusement might distract from what is for me the most important piece of information in the excerpt above.

This is that the gentleman making these remarks is a former council leader and director of education. He had nothing to say when he was doing the job. Perhaps he only formed this opinion when he was approaching retirement but the more likely explanation is that he didn't say anything earlier for the same reason everyone doesn't say anything if they are in a similar position. You don't spend all that time climbing a hierarchy in order to say things that would immediately identify yourself as not belonging there.

This is the problem with projects like the Curriculum for Excellence. They will be a mixture of good ideas and bad, will have elements that work and some that will not. It is not that these are difficult to distinguish, it is that the institutions through which changes like this are mediated simply do not allow for this process.

Because it gains a bureaucratic momentum that is difficult to stop and, above all, they become projects in which people have invested political capital to the extent that the practical functioning of the initiative becomes secondary to survival of it as a partisan political project.

What is happening south of the border with the whole 'free-school' plan illustrates this point. As a way into this, I'll make a token effort to be even-handed. There are in Gove's plans one or two things that strike one as being reasonable ideas. For example, the idea of having five core subjects is from a Scottish perspective uncontroversial since this has been the practice here for many years.

On the other hand, from what this outside observer can gather from any concrete proposals suggested thus far, there's more than one or two elements of the free school plan that don't make any sense to me at all. Perhaps it's not representative but there seems to me to be an obvious contradiction between insisting that free-schools will have no academic entry requirements and suggesting - no, guaranteeing - that the "vast majority of...pupils will get 5 grade Cs at GCSE in academic subjects", as Ms Birbalsingh does for her proposed "Michaela Community School".

However, to focus on this would be to miss the point I am trying to make. This excerpt is from an article entitled, "How to dispel the myths surrounding free schools". Even if this were possible, I somehow doubt the pages of the Telegraph is the place where this is likely to happen, being as it is a space to preach to the choir rather than the unconverted.

In some respects it has already ceased to become important whether free-schools are a good idea or not because they have become a partisan political project and people will, have already, assumed positions accordingly. People will oppose this Conservative plan because it is a Conservative plan, with rightwingers occupying the defensive trench for exactly the same reason. Political capital has already been invested in this and its survival has likely already become more important than whether it actually works or not. Wheels looking a little wobbly on the NHS reform wagon so better make sure this one stays on course... But the felt need to maintain this course necessitates the sidelining of those voices that might carry the practical knowledge that might come in handy if they want to avoid the potholes that would impede the journey.

Enough with the clunking metaphors. Education in our countries has been a political football for as long as anyone can remember. Some of this is unavoidable in a representative democracy but in Britain it is felt more acutely than elsewhere in Europe. At the risk of producing my own monism to replace those on sale elsewhere, I would suggest this is simply because our educational systems are more centralised than in most other countries. Any proposed reform would work better if there was genuine decentralisation at almost every level. Central government should back away from local government, who in turn should back away from the management of individual schools. I would go on to suggest that school managers should also desist from attempting to micro-manage individual departments but they are but creatures of a system that gives them little incentive to do so.

Monday, May 09, 2011

When the music's over...

It bears repeating that it is difficult to underestimate the scale of the SNP's victory on Thursday. Now that Annabel Goldie has decided to quit, this is an election rout that has toppled the leaders of the three main parties of opposition in Scotland. The interesting question is what is Salmond and the SNP going to do with all this power?

I don't mean to rain on their parade... Actually, I do. I am Scottish, after all - and despite what a number of commentators would have you believe, the SNP forming a parliamentary majority on less than 50% of the popular vote might represent a number of significant changes in the Scottish polity but taking it as indicative of a transformation of our national character is a little premature, to say no more than that.

When the music's over, there will be a number of challenges that will present themselves to the nationalists sooner or later.

They will no longer be able to blame inaction on some of their 'flagship' policies on their minority status. The reality of the situation is that the much hailed 'competence' of the previous administration was based on cautious, crowd-pleasing measures. Now that this is no longer the case, I'll be interested to see if they press ahead with some of their more controversial plans.

For instance, policies like a local income tax and the minimum pricing of alcohol may or may not be a good idea in and of themselves but I would have thought that their most immediate effect if enacted would be to take money out of the pockets of the median voter. The council tax is unfair but the local income tax, as well as being very costly to introduce, is likely to squeeze couples with children. They'd be wise to let this one slide, in my view.

There is also the question of how their policies are going to be paid for. The election campaign was notable for the way all parties, with the possible exception of the Conservatives, avoided this issue. Regardless of how desirable, how sustainable within the current fiscal framework are free tuition fees, for example?

But a re-arrangement of the fiscal framework forms only part of the SNP vision, which brings me to their most serious challenge. What do they actually mean by independence? While it would be unwise to predict the outcome of a referendum and foolish, as numerous people have already suggested, to underestimate the political cunning of Alec Salmond, it is surely extremely unlikely that Scotland would become an independent nation-state after the pattern of the 19th and 20th century model with the accompanying trapping of a separate monetary policy, army, border controls and head of state?

No matter how effective the SNP machine is, I still can't imagine the Scottish electorate being persuaded to disengage from institutions which - no matter how much people might wish it otherwise - they have a certain degree of affection for. I doubt this would even be offered as a choice. The model of 'independence' that will be offered is likely to include the retention of the Queen as Head of State, monetary union with England and, much more controversially, continued participation in the British Armed Forces. The question is, will this satisfy the nationalists who imagined separation to conform more closely to the picture of 'divorce' painted by Labour's scare-mongers? It remains to be seen.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The woes of Scottish Labour (addendum)

Here's a couple of pieces reinforcing points made in the previous post.

As well as losing the election in general, Labour have lost a few of their more experienced (I decline to call them 'heavy hitters') MSPs.

This needn't have happened if they had entered their names on the list as well as standing as constituency MSPs - but they didn't because they took their re-election for granted:
"Labour also made one other mistake leading to the demise of some of their heavy hitters such as Andy Kerr and Tom McCabe.

They are so used to winning first-past-the-post in places like Glasgow and Lanarkshire, they do not put their names on the regional list. They might want to review the policy and take a lesson from their arch-rivals.

Nicola Sturgeon was a comfortable winner in Glasgow Southside but she would still have returned to Holyrood as number one on the party’s Glasgow regional list."
And on the notion that Labour still see Holyrood pretty much like a large version of the old Strathclyde Regional Council:
"A herd of wild rhinoceroses would not get Jim Murphy or Douglas Alexander to give up their careers at Westminster. I really don't see that happening," the source said.

"We have failed as a group in the Scottish Parliament and it is up to us"."
In any event, I wouldn't have thought Murphy or Alexander would have helped matters much.

The question for me isn't so much, who will lead Labour in Scotland but who on earth would even want to?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The geeks shall inherit the earth - but not yet

In the world of IT, for example, they already rule - but when it comes to the reform of the voting system, it seems they're a little ahead of the zeitgeist. Now the referendum debacle is over, they'll be reaching for some kind of explanation. Here's Tom Clark, for example, with 10 reasons why the Yes2AV campaign lost.

It's a surprisingly long article that at no point mentions some of the unbelievable toss-pottery coming out of the Yes camp as a mitigating factor. Keep telling yourselves you only lost because your opponents fought dirty if you must - but in the meantime I trust we've seen an end to posts that conform, more or less exactly, to the following template:
"I'm a supporter of AV. However, my enthusiasm for democratic renewal has not blinded me to the obvious fact that most people, and especially those who disagree with me, are substantially less intelligent than I am - so I'm going to explain how AV works so that even a simpleton could follow it.

Imagine there's a group of friends who during discussion when they're slightly sauced in the pub on a Saturday afternoon come up with three options of what they could do in the evening. The two from Liverpool want to drink more, get a gramme of coke and then if they can't pull on their own merits, get a couple of hookers. The three from Islington would rather go for a meal and discuss the future of the Middle East. It's difficult to know what the four Glaswegians want because they're already so pissed they can hardly talk but it seems they want a kebab, and then vomit in a mini-cab.

So here's what they do: they order their preferences..."
Oh fuck off! Honestly!

Ed Miliband won on AV, for crying out loud. That should have been enough to end the argument. But since I feel the need to hammer the nails into the coffin of this ridiculous affair, consider this: Salmond has won an overall majority within a system specifically designed to prevent such a thing happening. Imagine what things would look like today if we Scots had adopted AV, with its well-documented tendency to exaggerate landslides, as a mechanism for choosing our representatives. Scotland said no to AV too, by the way. Despite suggestions that we were more likely to favour reform in general, turns out that we could tell the difference between the PR we have already and the slightly different majoritarian system we were being offered as a sop to Tory supporting Liberal Democrats.

#SP11 The fallout

I'm increasingly of the view that the notion of a 'progressive' or centre-left majority amongst the British electorate is a dangerous myth but in any event what is beyond question is that the centre-left unionist parties in Scotland were dealt a crushing blow in the Holyrood elections.

Naturally both parties will need to ask themselves what went wrong and I see the leaders of both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have decided to quit. Given that no-one believes that this in itself is going to be enough, there remains the question of what to do next?

A number of possibilities will present themselves to both parties. Some of these will be more sensible than others but for Labour there's one I sincerely hope they immediately reject as absurd, which is to simply pretend that it hasn't happened.

I doubt they will, doubt they can - but there's enough rumblings from Labour supporters that are indicative of a failure to grasp the scale of what has happened here. Such as protesting that the Labour vote didn't fall that much from the last election. You wouldn't have thought it needed pointing out but apparently it does: Labour lost the last election and has now lost this one more spectacularly than anyone imagined possible. Salmond's party has won an overall majority within an electoral system that was specifically designed to avoid one party dominating the legislature.

Labour has failed to improve on its already inadequate share of the national vote and crucially has failed to win over disgruntled Lib Dems who seem to have transferred their support to the SNP almost wholesale.

I'm concerned about the manner in which commentators treat Labour and Liberal Democrat voters as a near homogeneous block because it should be clear by now that people vote for these parties for different reasons and when they switch, or stay at home, this is for different reasons also.

Having said that, while both unionist centre-left parties have different problems, many of them are attributable to the fact that they are unionists. I don't mean this in the way a nationalist would. All the evidence thus far would suggest that while the SNP won the election, most Scots do not favour independence. Rather it is the way their experience as unionist parties has influenced their structure and dynamic.

This is obviously easier to explain in relation to the Liberal Democrats. Their near annihilation on Thursday is largely on account of the national party entering into coalition with the Conservatives in Westminster - a party never popular in Scotland at the best of times and even less now.

It is unfair in as far as it has not been the Scottish Lib Dems MSPs who have done this. In Scotland they have stuck to their policy on no tuition fees for students, for example, and have been in coalition with Labour twice.

But they can't be cast as victims entirely. In the unforgiving world of electoral politics it would have been strategically wise for them to distance themselves from Westminster Liberal Democrats and their official policy on the constitution of the UK should have provided them a context in which to do so: they are supposed to be a federal party; they should have cast themselves as the Scottish alternative to the Westminster Yes-men to whom so many voters have said no.

Labour's problems as a unionist entity have a longer history and deeper structural roots. Where to begin? The Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray during the election campaign bleated that it should be about 'policies and not personalities'. Unfortunately, Labour in Scotland has a poverty in both of these rather useful electoral commodities. It is certainly true that the SNP ran an unashamedly presidential campaign; the list entry on the ballot invited electors to vote for "SNP: Alec Salmond for First Minister".

Here it is important for opponents of the SNP to take account of just what a substantial politician Alec Salmond is. Jeff from Better Nation reminds us that as a party leader he has out-lasted Thatcher, Ashdown, Major, Blair, Brown... And now he has a parliamentary majority. If he's feeling a little like Moses today, who could blame him?

But Scottish Labour would be unwise to listen to the likes of Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian who while rightly identifying personality as something of increasing importance in politics, rather overstates his case, at least with regards to Scotland. If personality is so important, why didn't the Greens do better? Pat Harvie is an attractive personality who has performed well. So is Anabel Goldie - but the Tories did badly on Thursday too. Or if you were feeling cruel you could ask: if personality matters so much, why did Labour do so well?

Because Gray was a disaster but here's the problem Labour needs to address itself to: they were unable to do much better than him because of the historic path of ambition taken by people within the Scottish Labour movement. Pre-devolution the brightest and the best went to Westminster, the also-rans ended up in Strathclyde Regional Council.

Strathclyde is no longer with us and now we have a parliament in Edinburgh but with the notable exception of the late Donald Dewar, Scottish Labour politicians have behaved pretty much as if nothing has changed.

And as for policy? Dear Lord. I hope there is as we speak a few standard textbooks being revised with footnotes. FPTP leads to coalition government while one elected under AMS gives the first party an overall majority. As for the stuff about campaigns not affecting the outcome of elections that much; Labour were slightly ahead when it started but lost because said campaign was largely a disgrace.

Let me give you a personal example. Mandatory jail terms for people carrying knives is not doable. No need to take my word for it; according to my colleague, Frank McAveety MSP said the same to a class when he was invited to speak to students at the school where I teach in the East End of Glasgow.

Whether the class remembered the lesson I can't say but I do know the Labour party did not because I received through my door a leaflet with this given as the sole reason why I should vote Labour and not SNP.

When you combine this with the other more general constitutional scare-mongering, I think it would be fair to summarise Labour's 2011 Holyrood campaign as follows: vote SNP and your granny will need a passport to travel to England and in the interregnum if you vote SNP, it's much more likely your granny will be stabbed.

To describe Labour's campaign as 'lacklustre', as some have, is too generous. I think lazy, nasty, mean-spirited and just downright stupid would be better terms. I have to be perfectly honest and tell you that while I voted Labour - in the constituency vote only - I'm slightly embarrassed about it.

Labour have promised to 'listen'. They said that the last time they lost. I'd rather they do some arithmetic and worked out that they have never had, nor are ever likely to have in the future, what they assume they should have, which is the support of the majority of the Scottish people.

This assumption of the right to rule is Scottish Labour's problem. It is this, the Scottish contagion, incubated under the long years of opposition to the Conservatives in the eighties and nineties, that Brown imported into the Westminster situation and lead ultimately to the downfall of Labour at the last election. I'm wondering if there isn't some of this behind Labour's interest in constitutional reform? This never used to concern the party - until they started losing elections. Rather than addressing the problem, they played the nationalist card with a small 'n'. It's a matter for another post entirely but those who support voting reform because they prefer to imagine that the constitutional arrangement is somehow fixed against them, rather than confronting the simple fact that they're just not that popular, play this game at their peril. Labour did it in the long years of opposition to Conservative rule and now the chickens have well and truly come home to roost. Scottish Labour needs to address themselves to this or face a slow grinding decline into electoral oblivion.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Election post-mortem (snack-size)

I'm hearing that it's a somewhat mediocre result for Labour in England and good in Wales. But in Scotland it's a disaster. The SNP have an overall majority - elected under a proportional system.

I'm getting the sense that people in England haven't grasped the scale of the rout here. Some both sides of the border have pointed out that the share of the Labour vote hasn't actually fallen that much since last time. You know, the time when they lost...

Imagine African-Americans and Jews started abandoning the Democrats in droves and you'll begin to have an idea of the earthquake of re-alignment taking place here. The problem for Labour is that proportionately they rely on working class voters more than the Democrats do on African-Americans and Jews.

I'll leave this for now because I'm going to the pub before the SNP raises the price of alcohol.

P.S. Voting reform? I'll have something rational and considered to say later maybe but I don't feel like that now and I apologise in advance for any offence caused but you proponents of AV have just been wasting everyone's fucking time!

Bin Laden, legality, 'execution' and proportion

Bin Laden was 'executed' - and because this is the case, according to a whole lot of people who weren't there, it makes the Americans as bad as those they are supposed to be fighting. Well, if they'd hijacked a couple of passenger jets and flown them into Bin Laden's compound, possibly...

The execution commentary was as predictable as it is copious but this one from Dan Rodricks caught my eye where he quotes Geoffrey Robertson QC approvingly:
"Justice means taking someone to court, finding them guilty upon evidence and sentencing them," Mr. Robertson told an Australian television network. "This man has been subject to summary execution, and what is now appearing after a good deal of disinformation from the White House is it may well have been a cold-blooded assassination."
For an educated man to give such a narrow legalistic definition of justice is quite surprising. Well, maybe not - he is a lawyer, after all. But because he is, the internal inconsistency here should have been obvious, surely? An assassination is, amongst other things, a summary execution so Geoffrey Robertson is basically saying Bin Laden was definitely executed in what may well have been an execution.

There's a lot one could say about this and the whole loss of proportion surrounding the notion that the entire moral fabric of the American republic defends on the pristine legality of this operation but I'll confine myself to one observation at this stage: isn't the burden of evidence supposed to fall on the accuser?

(And in case anyone seriously imagines a capture followed by a trial would have made any difference to those for whom America can do nothing but evil, check this out - and note the date.)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Pre-election thoughts

The cause for AV seems set to lose - deservedly so, in my view. I think perhaps one of the most mystifying comments I've read on this topic is Norm's suggestion that supporters of AV may well be defeated but can draw consolation from the poor quality of the arguments made by the No campaign. If the No campaign has made such poor arguments, what does this say about the Yes campaign? That they made even worse ones? Or perhaps they think opponents of AV are merely stupid? I suspect the latter but either way, how this could be a source of consolation is beyond me. (I accept there's one or two other possibilities that I'll leave for now...)

The arguments have been fairly appalling on both sides - which is why I hope the ultimate winner is the No2Referendums campaign. A whole lot of issues that have nothing to do with the matter in hand have been collapsed into the question? That's what happens with referendums. A polarised argument with exaggerated and downright false claims made by both sides? Artificially simplifying and then polarising a debate is a well-documented feature of referendums - why did anyone think it was going to be different this time? Other features commonly associated with them have been present here too, such as an attempt to paper-over fundamental fractures within a Cabinet. If there's any consolation to be had from all this, it is for me that this shabby and demotic strategy clearly hasn't worked.

When proponents of voting reform aren't busy being patronising themselves, they like to accuse their opponents of doing the same to the electorate. How patronising to Scots, I heard Chris Huhne say, to even imagine changes in the voting system might confuse voters. I'm wondering what other explanation he has for the astonishingly high proportion of spoiled ballots there were in the last Holyrood election?

Labour also seem set to lose in this election. Again, deservedly so, in my view. I have had literature from the Labour party posted to me that is so populist, scaremongering and mean-spirited that it would probably make Norman Tebbit blanche. I'm minded not to vote for them were it not for the raft of nationalist candidates on the ballot - although I have a fair amount of anecdotal evidence that there's not a few Scottish unionist voters who will cast their votes for the SNP this time round.

Last, and least, we have the carnival candidate for the Respect party, Mr George Galloway. Here's his election pitch:



His concern for the state of Glasgow's roads is expressed with a certain degree of hyperbole, as we've come to expect. It's not that this concern isn't justified - but it is precisely this kind of mundane issue that hasn't been the sort on which he has built his reputation, to say no more than that. Let them eat windy rhetoric...

His ability to speak, if you can bear to view the clip, seems pretty much the central plank of his election campaign. (It's all location, location: in Westminster, before the US Senate, on the radio, on TV, in Saddam's court... Oh hang on - inexplicably, he failed to mention the last one.) Now, I don't think even his most trenchant critics disagree that Mr Galloway has a way with words but I think it's worth reminding ourselves of the causes to which he has applied his often impressive rhetorical skills:
"George Galloway has praised the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, for his dignity, referring to him as the last of the Arab leaders and his country as the last fortress against western aggressors.

In a speech that will incense Syrian democracy campaigners, the former Glasgow MP urged Syrians to take pride in the Baathist authoritarian, who inherited rule from his father, Hafez Assad.

An anticipated UN report into the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, would "frame" Syria, Mr Galloway told an audience at the University of Damascus in a highly charged lecture.

"All dignified people in the world, whether Arabs or Muslims or others with dignity, are very proud of the speech made by president Bashar al-Assad a few days ago here in Damascus," he said.

"For me he is the last Arab ruler, and Syria is the last Arab country. It is the fortress of the remaining dignity of the Arabs, and that's why I'm proud to be here."
Thought it might be worth mentioning, what with Syria being a bit topical and all. See ya tomorrow...

Hand-wringing

Courtesy of... you really need to ask?
"While many nations suffered from al-Qaida's terrorism and few in the world will mourn Bin Laden's death, the United States is the only place where it sparked spontaneous outpourings of raucous jubilation."
Oh, boo hoo...

Meanwhile in sunny Glasgow...
"Not even a week has passed since the riots in Kelvingrove Park and yet another party is said to be kicking off this weekend. The celebration theme this time? Osama Bin Laden’s death.

Revellers are being warned against attending yet another unofficial street party in the West End park which, once again, been organized on Facebook.

Glasgow City Council condemns the plans and is warning people not to attend the 'dangerous' event."
Well, ok - I agree it isn't exactly spontaneous. This has nothing to do with "muscle that converts shared citizenship into a form of national genius [being] well-trained" and the other stuff Gary Younge goes on about; we're just mental like that.

[Disclaimer: this is a joke, ok? You really shouldn't go if you value your safety.]

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Against faux Scots - especially in print

Like this election coverage in the Herald, for example:
"Scotland, exactly – as if we’d sell a massive tree tae the Conservatives tae make a stake that we’d then get burnt oan. No on your witchy nelly! In any case, Tavish, if you kent that they were capable ay being that radge then why are you kickin aboot wi thum noo?"
Now I'm Scots myself. I've lived between our two biggest cities all my life, as well as having travelled around in our little rain-soaked corner of the world a wee bit. So I shouldn't need a translation - but I find that I do. Who talks like this? Nobody talks like this! If you're that uninterested in how people actually speak why don't you just say, "It'll be a braw bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht" and complete the cliche?

Then there's James Kelman who gave us the literary equivalent of being stuck with some annoying drunk arsehole on the last bus from George Square on a Saturday night and wins the fucking Booker Prize! Here's a review:
"You're gony have to read this book. There's nay doubt about it, nay doubt.

Of course, if you're easily offended by strong language aye, then it's probably no for you.

For a potty mouth like me it was aye a bit of a shock like."
Also, if you're a fan of things like punctuation and books that aren't really really shit, you probably won't find it's your bag either. Och aye the noo! Last, and least, there's this truly dispiriting piece of nonsense I've linked to before from some unmentionable MSP who has so much time on his hands it's almost inconceivable:
"A Nationalist politician has written to supermarkets demanding that they translate the English names of fresh produce into their Scots equivalents, such as "tatties", "neeps" and "brambles"."
Here's what to do, all you professional Scotsmen: pop into town, nip into Ann Summers, buy yourself a giant dildo and go take a fuck to yersels. Now that's how people in Scotland talk.
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