:: Wednesday, March 31, 2004 ::

European elections latest

Here's the Scottish Politics Page (incomplete) list of candidates so far. Also a breakdown of the 1999 results by constituency.

Meanwhile, shockaroonie, top of Labours list, David Martin MEP in some trouble: Top politician faces scrutiny over expenses. Mr Martin is vice-president of the European Parliament.


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:: Tuesday, March 30, 2004 ::

Control your excitement...EU elections news

The SSP have announced their list for the European Parliament elections in June, with Felicity Garvie topping the list. Whilst the list is balanced by gender and region Felicity won the ballot outright. Meanwhile the BBC reports that environmental organisations in Scotland have joined forces to publish their own agenda for EU elections in June. However the Scottish Greens don't seem to have announced their candidates yet.


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:: Monday, March 29, 2004 ::

Kindergarten Parliament

nursery nurses demonstrating

The picture above comes from a demonstration today by Scottish nursery nurses who are out on all out strike demanding a national pay increase. Labour dominated COSLA are trying to push for regional pay settlements despite the fact that all nursery nurses are public employees doing the same job. The placard refers to Pat Watters, COSLA chief, who resignation has been demanded by the Scottish Socialist leader Tommy Sheridan at the SSP conference this weekend. The Scottish Executive have done their usual Pontius Pilate act and said that it is not their concern. At the same time COSLA and the Scottish Executive are happy to push through a £25 000 national pay deal for councillors.

Check out more pictures of the demonstration


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Muslim voters turn away from Labour

Those who misunderstand the demand for Scottish independence often try to portray it as racist and divisive. They may be surprised by this report in today's Herald of research by Glasgow University politics department. It shows 47% of Muslim Scots voting SNP compared with 27% of the rest of the population.

MUSLIMS are deserting Labour in droves and are now twice as likely to vote for the SNP as other Scots, new research reveals today. A study by Glasgow University shows that, between 2001 and 2003, Muslims in Scotland switched away from their traditional support for Labour. Many said their political preferences changed because of the party's stances on foreign policy and the war in Iraq.

What is also clear from the report is the effect that Labours support for war in Iraq has had.

Professor Miller believes hundreds switched because of the SNP's high profile anti-war campaign. He said: "By 2003, Muslims in Scotland were over twice as likely as the average Scot to vote for the Scottish National Party. No doubt they were responding to the SNP's line on the Iraq War.


The report shows that in England the Lib-Dems are the main benefactors of muslim dissent against Labour. The press coverage does not give a full breakdown of how muslim voters intend to vote and it would be interesting to see how the SSP and Greens fare. I would guess a strong showing for these parties too.


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:: Friday, March 26, 2004 ::

save link to disc

mp3blogs are the new thing. They post a few mp3's a week, and take them down after a few days. Mostly rare and unusual stuff. I've added a few links in the sidebar (under music). All sorts of stuff from soul to japanese pop. Even managed to find "Don't Stop Till You Get to Bollywood", the bollywood version of the Jackson 5 track, as played at the World Music Awards by DJ Dolores. Can't remember where it is though...


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In A Hole

Funniest story of the week has to be the exploits of the Combined Services Caving Association in Mexico. This group made up of various wings of the British armed forces went to map and explore a cave complex in Mexico. The cave flooded and they got stuck. Not a big crisis, they were experienced and has supplies and radio contact with the outside world.

But they still needed rescued. And the odd thing is that they refused to allow local authorities to do so, instead getting two specialists from Britain flown in. Asked about this on Channel 4 News a spokesman said that they didn't know if local divers would have the right experience and also the cavers "didn't speak Mexican"! Uhh, I think he means Spanish deadpanned the presenter.

Turns out they were there without having told the Mexican authorities and were on tourist visas. The Mexican government was understandably concerned about why a group of British armed forces specialists were in the country without permission and were so shy of attention to the point of not wanting to be rescued by Mexicans. Two Mexican divers actually reached the men, and they still didn't want rescued.

Reports on the CSCA website didn't do much to allay suspicions. "Some members of the team are trapped inside the cave but are safe and well (probably fed up playing "I spy" by now!)." That's honestly what it says.

They are out now and answering questions from the immigration authorities.


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:: Wednesday, March 24, 2004 ::

Swinney Gets into Protest Politics

Further to my earlier comments, the Scottish National Party (SNP) are trying to put the Iraq war at the top of their agenda for the European elections in June. They gamble that they will profit most from any "protest vote". Traditionally the European elections are seen as an occasion for voters to protest in an election that 'doesn't matter'.

It does matter of course. The European Constitution should give the SNP many headaches, enshrining as it does the existing nation-states of the EU rather than recognising its peoples. So the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is recognised, but not the Scots. Spain is recognised but not the Basques, Catalans or Galicians. You would expect the SNP to have something to say about this, but they calculate that the electorate aren't interested.

Instead they are concentrating on the war, the council tax and fishing. The first two are big issues for the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and it is interesting to see that the SNP are trying to make up the ground they lost to the left at the Scottish Parliamentary elections. This led Tory MEP Struan Stevenson to say that Swinney was trying to "out-trot the Trots".

I say, why settle for the copy when you can have the real thing?


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:: Tuesday, March 23, 2004 ::

Next...

picture from indymedia madrid

Picture of March 20th demo from Indymedia Madrid.


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:: Monday, March 22, 2004 ::

Bushwhacked

Demonstrator with flag

Hundreds marched through Glasgow in the pouring rain on Saturday to remember the dead of the Iraq war, and to continue to hold the lying politicians to account. Remember this was a war fought supposedly because of a direct threat caused by 'weapons of mass destruction'. There were no WMD, there are no WMD. Hans Blix knew it, David Kelly knew it. The Sunday Herald reports that:

"on the day of the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, Donald Rumsfeld urged George Bush to retaliate imme diately by bombing Iraq.

Richard Clarke, then the White House counter- terrorism co-ordinator, said: “Defence secretary Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq. We all said, ‘But no, no, al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan.’ They were talking about Iraq on 9/11.”

Rumsfeld responded by saying that “there aren’t any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq”.

Clarke – who is expected to testify on Tuesday before a US Senate hearing reviewing the attacks – said although it was clear al-Qaeda was to blame for the attacks on New York and Washington, Rumsfeld again argued for the need to bomb Iraq at a crisis meeting the next day, even though there was no evidence of the country’s involvement...

...Despite Bush’s national security leadership meeting formally nearly 100 times in the months before the September 11, 2001, attacks, terrorism was the topic on only two occasions.

The last of those two meetings occurred the week before the terrorist attacks as they were putting the finishing touches to a proposed national security policy review. The review was finished on September 10, 2001 and was awaiting Bush’s approval when the first plane struck the World Trade Centre.

“Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism,” Clarke said. “He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something.”


So much for defending democracy. Bush, Blair, Aznar et al have proven they will lie and manipulate the truth when it suits them. So much for democracy when we learn of the rumours that forces around Aznar were discussing a military coup in Spain the night before the election.


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:: Friday, March 19, 2004 ::

Links or sliced?

More people kind enough to link to me Simple Psyche a youthful new yorker (I think) who just heard "The Queen is Dead" for the first time. Aww. Probably better not mention that I saw the Smiths touring that album in a particularly hysterical gig at the Barrowlands. Lisa at A Veces which could be in San Francisco. Pessimism and Hope from Scotland and Martin Sutherland's interestingly titled Legends of the Sun Pig.


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Belle End?

Call girl blogger Belle de Jour has been a big hit since winning the Guardian 'best written' blog award. Now the Times claims to have outed her as do several weblogs. Is she author Sarah Champion? Is she someone else? Could she really be for real (least likely option at the moment.) Don't be left out. You too can confess to being BdJ! I liked this entry the best:

Greetings and felicitations i am sorry indeed for making your acquaiantence in this way but your esteemed details were given to me by a colleague in the Nigerian Department of Works (Lagos). I am Belle de Jour and I was forced to flee my country of Liberia when a coup brought down the government of my good friend MR CHARLES TAYLOR. When I left he gave into my safe keeping a douche bag containing the sum of $100,000,000.00 (ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS) which I am seeking your respected help to move into your country, in return for which I will give you 30%. Until this money is moved into your country I am forced to assume the position of callgirl untill my assets is unfrozen. I thank you and look forward to a successful business relationship with you. I am confident, we will both benefit from the hard work I am now engaged in. I trust that you will enjoy and benefit from this opportunity to work with me.I respectfulkly remain respectfully yours,yours respectfully, BELLE DE JOUR (Mrs)
Posted by "Jello de Boer (Ms)"


Perspective note: prostitution is not funny.


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:: Thursday, March 18, 2004 ::

Bring the Noise

Dean's Tribute to Public Enemy All the Public Enemy you could ever need.


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:: Tuesday, March 16, 2004 ::

Moore the merrier

Alan Moore on Hollywood treatment of his work in the independent
Moore may have had enough of Hollywood, but it hasn't had its fill of him. Constantine, based on a character he created for Swamp Thing, is due out before the end of the year, with a woefully miscast Keanu Reeves in the title role. Moore didn't grant his permission for the adaptation: he doesn't own the rights to the character, so he had no say either way. Neither does he have any control over Watchmen, which is due to start shooting in Prague this year, from a script by David X-Men Hayter. (A screenplay that the Wachowski Brothers wrote for V For Vendetta around the time they were writing the first Matrix film may be a few years off, however: its hero is a terrorist.)

With his name removed from these and any other projects Hollywood might like to develop, Moore relishes being able to speak his mind. "I won't have to do what most writers do, which is either keep quiet about it or try to sound enthusiastic." He certainly doesn't mince his words regarding the casting of Depp, or the ethos of Hollywood as a whole, which he classifies as being a giant firework show. "If I write a crappy comic book, it doesn't cost the budget of an emergent Third World nation. When you've got these kinds of sums involved in creating another two hours of entertainment for Western teenagers, I feel it crosses the line from being merely distasteful to being wrong."

And subject of an exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Charleroi, Belgium.

Alan's current novel 'voice of the fire' is based on the premise that Northampton is the centre of the universe. Well it's a better candidate than London.


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Spanish Lessons

bliar

Photo: Mural at St. Johns Church Princes Street, Edinburgh by Artists for Justice and Peace

Tony Blair finds himself more isolated today in Europe with the loss of his key ally Spanish premiere Aznar. Aznar's attempt to win votes by spin-doctoring the Madrid bombing atrocity has been met by revulsion from the electorate. The war in Iraq was hugely unpopular in Spain and Aznar failed to turn that around.

More significantly this result signals a warning that there is an electoral price to pay for backing Bush. Here in Britain I think the war has damaged Blair amongst a sector of the electorate who are now looking for an alternative. And there's the problem. Unlike in Spain, the main opposition, the Tories, have the same position on Iraq as Blair. So where is the alternative?

The Lib-Dems mild opposition to the war will win them some votes although they are nowhere near as vocal as PSOE on the issue and certainly don't back withdrawing troops (whether PSOE will really stand up to America remains to be seen, I'm sure that arms are being twisted already). Whether, in England and Wales, the new RESPECT coalition is strong enough or has a high enough profile to win votes remains to be seen. I hope they do, despite misgivings about the low level of their programme. In Scotland I think the SSP and greens will continue to gain support on the basis of their consistent opposition to war and more credible profile. The grim performance of Swinney's SNP will mean they will fail to win votes but of course still remain a significant force and the main opposition in the Scottish parliament.

It is certainly true that there are more reasons for the defeat of Aznar in Spain than simply the war in Iraq, or even the cynical manipulation of the Madrid bombings by the Popular Party government. Like most countries in Europe and indeed worldwide Spain has seen an attempt to attack workers' rights in the field of pensions and many other issues. I myself was in Madrid when millions of Spanish workers participated in a general strike against Aznar's plans. And here in Britain the war will be just one amongst many issues that are voted on in June.


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:: Friday, March 12, 2004 ::

Madrid

I'm sure the horror and revulsion that I felt watching the pictures from Madrid is shared by you all. Obviously I don't know who was to blame but either way it's depressing stuff. ETA have no popular mandate for their armed campaign and support for parties linked to them slumped when they broke their ceasefire. At the same time the Spanish State have rejected a political solution to the national question in Euskadi and increased repressive measures. Ironically the main beneficiary of this barbaric and anti-human act could be the Popular Party government who support bombs and violence as long as it is in Iraq.

If its the clerical fascists of al-Qaeda, then it means more fear, more racism, more support for repressive measures.

For now, I just hope my friends in Madrid are ok and send solidarity to the families of those murdered whilst on their way to work. Peace.


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:: Wednesday, March 10, 2004 ::

World Music Awards

A very entertaining night at the Radio 3 World Music Awards at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh. Left the camera at home given the televised broadcast nature of the event, there were announcements against using flash photography, not that that stopped quite a few people.

Host Benjamin Zephaniah was be-kilted, wearing the traditional Zephaniah tartan, a clan of militant reggae fans from the highlands.

The event might conjure up images of nice middle class people clad in multi-coloured woolies but it was a lot more diverse than that. Each artist seemed to have their own following and hardcore fan base present. Most extraordinary was Iraqi singer Kazem (Kadim) Al Sahir, whose swoonsome good looks had the clusters of ten or twenty Iraqi's (and Iraqi-Scots) dotted around the hall literally screaming beatlemania style. A bunch of very excited teenagers behind me were screaming, waving Iraqi flags and holding up a big banner marked 'we love you Kazem!'. Things got even hotter when Kazem followed up his Middle East and North Africa category award with the Audience Award, which he walked away with. Kazem, pressed by the host, revealed where he has the melody to one of his songs literally tattooed on his heart in case a friendly American bomb destroyed his house.

More to my musical taste were crazy Belgian musicians Think of One who arrived in a truck with what looked like a boat stuck on the back, and made their way to the stage through the audience playing up a storm. That was enough to persuade me to part with a few quid for the album.

Daara J

Other highlights were energetic Senegalese rappers Daara J who eschew gangsta stylings and keep it positive. Even the Senegalese government have roped in the band to encourage voter turnout, something the UK government might want to look at as host Benjamin Zephaniah pointed out. Senegal is second only to South Africa as a base for African hip-hop and Daara J talk of rap as an African musical form coming home. Daara J appeared with Malian singer, Rokia Traoré who appeared earlier with her musically sophisticated and accomplished band.

There was a dissappointing no-show from Buena Vista legend Ibrahim Ferrer, who was stuck at home on doctor's orders suffering from bronchitis. Get well soon dude. I enjoyed the clip from Poland's Warsaw Village Band, although the acceptance speech about Polish 'identity' struck a slightly jarring note. Uzbekh singer Sevara Nazarkhan encorporated some celtic harp into her act. Brazilian 'superstar dj' DJ Dolores kept the up-for-it crowd entertained at the break with his world dance music.

Ojos de Brujo's singer

The night closed with Catalan collective Ojos de Brujo who defy description. Well they descrive themselves as hip-hop flamenkillo. Three drummers/precussionists dub-bass, spanish guitar, a dj, singers and a dancer (I've probably missed someone out). They also had a partisan crowd from Edinburgh's large Spanish contingent. The sound could have been better but you could see they are an awesome live act.


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:: Monday, March 08, 2004 ::

Happy International Women's Day



Tank Girl at large on the streets of Edinburgh.


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A tale of two billboards

Labour 'anti-independence' billboards to be precise. One wonders if the designers of these really thought through the potential for alteration. The first in Glasgow presumably from the SNP, via Kelvin SNP, see more here. The second presumably from left-wing anti-imperialists in Edinburgh.


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:: Friday, March 05, 2004 ::

Skotske socialister og EACL

Socialistick Information

Socialistisk Information nr. 184 - marts 2004 - Socialistisk Europadebat



Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) var med til at stifte EACL sammen med Enhedslisten fra Danmark, Venstreblokken fra Portugal samt LCR fra Frankrig. SI spurgte Alister Black fra SSPs internationale udvalg om de skotske socialisters syn på EACL forud for EU-valget i juni.

An interview with me in Danish socialist magazine Socialistisk Information on the subject of Europe and the Anti-Capitalist Left. As you can see my Danish has improved remarkably.

For the gist of the article in English see the editorial of the current Frontline.


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:: Thursday, March 04, 2004 ::

I Put A Spell On You

Barbelith Underground > Magick > No Bush in 2004 keeping Bush out of the White House using uhh, 'magick'.


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:: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 ::

Frontline Twelve out now

Frontline 12 cover

The new issue of Frontline is out now and on the web. Featuring articles on secularism and the left, prostitution policy, the ESF, the bin tax struggle in Ireland, the Corsican national question and more.


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:: Tuesday, March 02, 2004 ::

Who'll watch the Watchmen?

Watchmen logo

Rumours abound that the long planned film of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic graphic novel Watchmen will finally start filming in Prague this year. Watchmen was a very dark, intense, complex and heavily layered work which used parallel stories and subplots and recurrent imagery to tell the tale. At times violent and squalid at others epic and fantastic. I am not optimistic that Holywood will tell this tale well, one only needs to see the films made from Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell to see how badly this can go (LXG was also filmed in Prague). Terry Gilliam planned to bring Watchmen to the screen for years, finally pronouncing it unfilmable. Already it seems the ending has been changed as tales of mass carnage in NYC don't play too well with cinema audiences these days.

Avoid disappointment, read it instead!

Watchmen Film Update

Here's another script.

Ralph Hildebrandt's Annotated Watchmen





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:: Monday, March 01, 2004 ::

Well-Designed Weblogs Volume 2

Not including anyone I know but some gorgeous weblog designs to check out. mono ? Well-Designed Weblogs Volume 2 Read it and weep salt tears of talentless frustration. Or just steal the code (joke).


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Eric Lee: Mydoom as a class issue

Eric Lee: Mydoom as a class issue

Home users suffer both a lack of funds and a lack of knowledge and they are increasingly the intended target of malicious attacks like Mydoom.

They are also, increasingly, working class people. The very rich will have the latest and best anti-virus software on their machines. They will be accessing the net through secure corporate networks, behind firewalls, and will rarely be exposed to problems. And if they do have a problem, they simply ring up the folks in the IT department who will come and fix it.

With help lines costing as much as £1.00 per minute here in the U.K., how often to you think working class people are going to pick up the phone and ask for help?


A very useful short article from Eric Lee pointing out that viruses, spam and all the other evil by-products of the information age are affecting working class home users. The result of this will be a serious obstacle on the expansion of broadband and use of the web outside of business and government. And if home users have these problems of course business and government will also be affected.

Here's another solution. An international public body to provide free AV software and the latest virus definitions for everyone, regardless of income. It would require relatively few staff - 100 would do it handsomely and could be funded by taxes on the superprofits of transnational corporations like the ones who provide the buggy email browser software that causes half the virus problems in the first place.


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