Murdering a tune

December 5, 2008

No. Its not a comment on the new Scottish Homecoming advert.

Its a comment on the tragic death of a karaoke singer in the Malaysian part of Borneo.

The karaoke singer, Abdul Sani Doli, was murdered by the regulars of the bar after refusing to give up the microphone and continue singing.

Two men were arrested in connection with the incident.

They are believed to be Simon Cowell, 49, of England; and Louis Walsh, 56, of Ireland… ;)

Only kidding!

But I bet the two guys they arrested would make the X-Factor a show finally worth watching. Wouldn’t they make much better judges than Cowell and Walsh?

To be serious though:

It seems that karaoke rage is fairly common in Asia. A gunman in Thailand recently killed 8 people after getting tired of their endless attempts at John Denver’s Country Roads.

The Malaysian Information Minister, Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin, has likened karaoke singers to bloggers:

Both groups, Mr. Zainuddin said, “take pleasure in their own singing but have no influence.”

He said some people might enjoy bloggers ‘singing’, especially those who shared their views, but many rejected them because they sang ‘out of tune’ and their views were unacceptable to the majority of people.

I think though that Mr Zainuddin would agree with me on this; bloggers have as much of a right to their views as karaoke singers have to sing John Denver songs.

And even if both groups ‘songs’ are terrible; they still must have the right to ‘sing’.

I don’t have to watch the dire X-Factor. I can switch off and do something else – exactly what I do! – or switch over to another channel.

I don’t agree with a lot of blogs. Once visited I may never return!

These two men could have walked out the pub. They didn’t and did something reprehensible – a murder of a man whose only crime was murdering a tune.

Here’s a new tune for them, by Sam Cooke:

That’s the sound of the men working on the chain gang…


Greenland: Yes We Can

November 26, 2008

Greenland has overwhelming voted for more autonomy from Denmark in yesterday’s referendum.

Over 75% of Greenlanders backed the plan.
Just over 23% said no.
The turnout was around 72%.

I reckon that’s an impressive turnout given the dark Arctic winter days. Those in the north of the country must be coping with little or no daylight at this time.

Its a clear sign that the island is heading towards independence.

As I said in yesterday’s blog, the First Minister Hans Enoksen has a timescale of independence in 12 years time.

Others prefer a shorter timescale.

The former foreign minister Aleqa Hammond sees independence in 8 years.

And the head of the Greenland union SIK, Jess Berthelsen, sees it happen in 4 years.

The defeated unionists like the Democrats leader Jens Frederiksen and rebel Siumut politican Finn Lynge are now left arguing over the timescale and the feasibilty of independence.

Lynge in particular thinks that with only 57 000 people, Greenland cannot be independent. He said it was ‘impossible for an island with 50,000 to 60,000 inhabitants to become an independent state.’

‘There are simply too few of us to provide the personnel necessary to develop a viable state’.

The ex-First Minister Lars-Emil Johansen rejects that criticism. Echoing the slogan of Barack Obama he simply says ‘Yes We Can’.

Greenland is rich in oil, gas, gold, diamond and other minerals.

Scottish companies like Cairn Energy are keen to develop the Greenland oil and gas potential. It is now the largest oil company investing in Greenland with a total of 8 licences around the island. Greenland’s oil company Nunaoil has a 8% stake in those licenses.

Its part of the Greenland Government’s plan to diversify its economy which is currently largely based on the fishing industry.

And speed the path to independence.

The world’s current smallest states by population:

1 Vatican City 920
2 Tuvalu 11,640
3 Nauru 13,050
4 Palau 20,300
5 San Marino 28,880
6 Monaco 32,410
7 Liechtenstein 33,720
8 Saint Kitts & Nevis 38,960
9 Marshall Islands 59,070

Currently the population of Greenland would put it at no. 9 in the world.

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Eyes north to Greenland

November 25, 2008

Today is the day of Greenland’s referendum on wresting more powers from Denmark, in a move that is seen as a precursor to full independence for the Arctic island.

Greenland flag

A yes vote would see key economic powers move from Copenhagen to the Greenland Parliament and decrease Greenland’s dependence on the annual block grant of 472 million euros it receives from Denmark.

Greenland would also take control of its oil resources and mineral wealth, although the current referendum deal leaves the possibility of a Danish share when annual oil revenue exceeds $12.6 million. Estimates say north east Greenland might have around 30 billion barrels of oil and gas. Climate change is making access to those resources much easier and cheaper. One report quotes a Greenlander looking forward to having a wine industry in the near future!

Greenlandic would be recognised as the country’s official language. It is spoken by the vast majority (around 50 000) of the population.

There are only around 57 000 people in Greenland. Around 39 000 are eligible to vote in the referendum.

A ‘yes vote’ is widely expected. It is said that about three quarters of the voters are already decided on voting for more autonomy.

The expected change in autonomy will then be implemented on the 21st June 2009; the day instigated a few years after devolution in 1983 as the National Day of the country. It also voted that same year to leave the EU in a referendum, having previously joined as part of Denmark.

The First Minister of Greenland, Hans Enoksen, supports the ‘Yes vote’.

He expects that with more fiscal autonomy the demand for full independence will increase.

“Agreeing on self-rule is the only road forward,” he said, pointing out that “the Greenlandic people have wished for many years to be more independent.”

He set out his timetable for full independence:

“Greenland will be independent in 12 years … for my 65th birthday.”

Other politicans share this broad timescale. Lars Emil Johansen, one of two Greenlandic members of the Danish parliament, says he dreams the day will come by 2021, in time for the 300th anniversary of Denmark’s colonisation of Greenland.

“Of course we can be the masters of our own destiny and fly on our own wings”

His advisor Hans Jakob Helms agrees:

“Home rule was a compromise,” Helms said. “It’s a simple fact that home rule has reached its limit and there’s a need for more room for self-government.”

Around 300 years of a political union? The parallels with Scotland and the rest of the UK are striking. And similarly to the planned 2010 referendum in Scotland, the Greenland referendum is also non-binding. However the Danish Government will respect the wishes of the Greenlanders.

And like Scotland, Greenland has its own Unionist doubters of independence.

The Greenland Democratic Party are against further devolution – they are campaigning for a ‘No vote’ – and against full independence:

Palle Christiansen, the political spokesperson of the Democrats, who are part of Greenland’s opposition, warned against hurrying the process, noting that ‘self-rule brings with it more than just oil revenues.’

Christiansen cited the administration of judicial affairs as just one area which would incur major costs on the Greenlandic government.

And a minority of members of the Siumut Party have openly dismissed talk of independence, much to their party’s disgust:

“Greenland will never be an independent state,” Finn Lynge recently stated, much to the dismay of his Siumut party, which is part of the government coalition and strongly in favour of a “yes” vote in the referendum.

Its not great times for the government coalition. It may be falling apart under scrutiny from the Greenland Audit Commission, which might result in the referendum result becoming a springboard for a subsequent snap General Election in the country.

“There are only between 50,000 and 60,000 of us living here in geographically and climatically extreme conditions. With such a tiny population it is impossible to provide the human contributions needed to turn Greenland into a modern and independent state,” Finn Lynge said.

Greenland has many social problems like alcoholism and a high suicide rate.

“No one can build an independent state on heavy drinking”, Finn Lynge has stated.

So will the Unionists win the day?

Will the credit crunch and the example of their neighbour Iceland’s financial troubles persuade the Greenlanders to vote against further powers for their Parliament?

We’ll all need to wait and see.

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Electric cars

November 24, 2008

I see Australia is the latest country to start the switch to electric cars and wean its population off dependence on oil.

It follows Denmark and Israel’s lead.

New Zealand has already clinched a deal with Mitsubishi for a fleet of electric cars to be introduced in 2009. And in Japan, Japan Post is replacing its vehicles with electric equivalents.

In England, London has already been at the forefront of electric car usage and Boris Johnston has given a grant for the scheme to be extended across the boroughs of the city.

Now Brighton and Hove are planning a similar system. They successfully secured a £2.2 million grant from the EU for their project. Their 10 charging points will cost £30 000 altogether or £3000 each, quite a bit cheaper than the London counterparts.

The Australian model will be powered by renewable energy. The recharging stations will be powered by wind turbines.

Project Better Place will raise $1 billion to provide 250 000 recharging stations in the east of the country.

This works out at $4000 per recharging station.

Thats a lot cheaper than the £7000 it takes to install a recharging station in London, but I guess the price difference is down to the sheer massive scale of the Australian project.

The similar Danish system is also run by wind turbines. Around 20% of Denmark’s electricity production comes from wind, but the fact that the car batteries are traded in to charge – and they store electricity from the grid – with a number of batteries charging at any one time means that wind power can provide base load even when the wind is not blowing.

In fact, 2 million electric cars in circulation would provide Denmark with a standby capacity of electricity over 5 times its needs.

Project Better Place are in discussion with another 30 countries keen to implement the system. The mayor of San Francisco wants electric cars there.

The same company has already done the same in Israel.

Norway has about 50 recharging stations, but plans to have 400 on the go by 2011. The Norwegian Car company Think currently makes around 10 000 electric cars a year and can’t up with demand but does plan to open new factories to increase production.

Not to be left behind the Swedish Government are planning to provide a network of recharging stations across the country. It plans to be oil-independent by 2020.

The Finns seem to have taken a different approach. They have started a scheme where they convert your existing car to electric using lithium ion batteries. They claim that the top speed of your car will be a little less but the acceleration of the car will be better.

Even the Icelanders – slated by new Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy as being in an ‘Arc of Insolvency’ – have just shook hands on a deal with Mitsubishi to fleet test their electric cars in the country in 2009, similar to the New Zealand deal.

Another country in Murphy’s ‘Arc of Insolvency’, Ireland, will shortly announce plans to have 10% of all its cars powered by electricity by 2020. Project Better Place are already in talks with the Irish Government. Its predicted around 50 000 jobs could be created in Ireland with the establishment of such eco-friendly policies.

So much for the environmentally aware Scandanavians and the forward thinking Irish in their Arc of Prosperity you might say. What about Scotland?

Until recently Scotland had only one electric car. That was a G-Wiz, the electric car much used in London, with a slightly dodgy safety record. It also had only one public recharging station, in the Braehead Shopping Centre.

Clydebank Housing Association has provided electric cars for its tenants at Radnor Park. They are recharged at the local power station that provides electricity for the flats.

Its been funded by a £37 000 Community Scotland grant.

The Department of Transport is also planning to pilot a ‘green van’ scheme in various locations in England from Newcastle, Gateshead, and Liverpool to Leeds and Coventry. In Scotland only Glasgow has been selected.

James May, of BBC’s Top Gear, is not a fan of the Westminster Government’s ‘green transport’ policy:

‘People think it’s about style or performance, but it’s down to the science. There has to be a hydrogen infrastructure in place to provide the energy to make electric vehicles work properly. We are nowhere near that point.’

Far from ‘kick-starting’ the revolution, May says the Government is simply ‘window-dressing’. ‘There’s a feeble bit of Congestion Charge relief if your drive an electric vehicle. This is no more a Green-vehicle strategy than my cat,’ he says.

Newer electric cars like the Smart Fortwo Electric can plug into a mains socket, has a top speed of 70 mph and can travel for 75 miles without a recharge.

The new Tesla Roadster is an electric sports car, assembled by Lotus. It can do 0 – 60 in 3.9 seconds and can travel 244 miles on a single charge of its battery. Of course it does cost 99 000 euros or around £84 000.

Tesla Roadster

75% of Scots in a recent survey said they would consider changing to an alternative powered car if they became readily available.

The Scottish Government has planned a consultation exercise on electric cars this Autumn. But there are already calls for the SNP Government to try and get Project Better Place’s network in Scotland.

But if it doesn’t act soon Scotland could be the poor relation of Europe in electric car takeup.

Spain has announced a target of 1 million electric cars on its roads by 2014.

Germany is launching its own network of electric car recharging stations.

Portugal is also announcing its own network of recharging stations. It will build 1300 stations by 2011.

France has recently announced a $549 million investment in electric and hybrid cars.

With the SNP Government’s commitment to renewal energy surely the Danish model based on wind turbines is the way forward? The combination of providing much more base load than we need and have the rest exported, the reduction of carbon emissions and the prospect of being oil independent when the oil finally runs out must be the favourite way ahead.

Back to James May:

‘The wind blows, the waves roll, the sun shines. The moon in the sky plucks at the sea to makes the tides, and Tennyson’s wild cataract leaps in glory. And he wasn’t talking about an eye infection. All of this will go on for as long as there is a world, and we need convert only a very tiny amount of it to electricity to keep driving until the sun goes out.’

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Yes We Can: Lessons from Obama

November 8, 2008

More thoughts on the Glenrothes by-election.

It was strange. The SNP ahead in the polls, a short Labour surge to level, before the SNP went once again ahead.

The SNP confident, Labour overly pessimistic.

Pundits predicting a narrow SNP win.

Since I wrote yesterday about the Obama effect on the by-election, the parallels between the Glenrothes by-election and the New Hampshire Democratic Primary came to my thoughts.

An election which Obama was widely predicted to win.

The polls were good; pundits were agreed. Hillary Clinton seemed resigned to the loss.

But Hillary Clinton took the state’s nomination.

Of course, later Barack Obama went on to defeat Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic Presidential nominee.

And went on to win the U.S. Presidential election in an historic victory.

Obama used the lessons in the New Hampshire election to spur on his support, warning them of the dangers of complacency:

“For those of you who are feeling giddy or cocky or think this is all set, I just have two words for you: New Hampshire”

In the middle of October when things were looking rosy he reminded his campaign staff:

From Ben Smith’s blog:

‘On a conference call with his campaign staff just now, Barack Obama delivered the same message he’s been telling donors: Don’t get cocky.

‘Obama got on the staff call with campaign manager David Plouffe to praise his staff, but also to tell them not to become overconfident, because — in my source’s paraphrase — “too many people are counting on us not to screw this up.’

‘Eighteen days, he reminded them, is a long time, and he told them to “run scared,” run as though they were 10 points down, and “remember New Hampshire.”

Glenrothes is the SNP’s New Hampshire.

And like Barack Obama’s ‘two words: New Hampshire’, Glenrothes should sound as a future warning to complacency.

As people depended on Barack Obama; Scotland’s future depends on the SNP.

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‘Dead Cat’ holds Glenrothes

November 7, 2008

So the Gordon Brown ‘Dead Cat’ bounce has held Glenrothes for Labour.

Its probably bought a few months of air fresheners for the ailing Gordon Brown Government. And probably keep Gordon Brown in his job till the forced General Election in 2010.

But I suspect the public will notice the cat is still dead is due course.

No amount of air fresheners can cover up the decay.

So if that’s Labour what about the SNP?

By-elections give momentum, and although the SNP increased their vote and ate substantially into Labour’s 10 600 majority, many pundits expected them to take the seat.

So the SNP’s blistering momentum from the Glasgow East victory has been slowed.

Still going forward but at a more steady pace.

Alex Salmond has said that his party needs to take a look at how it can combat Labour’s negative campaigning.

I agree, but surely there is only one way to go?

That’s to become even more positive.

Once you become mired in negative politics then not only do you demean your party – and play into the hands of your opponents – but you switch off the voters. Labour does negative campaigning well; they need to – their backs are against the electoral wall, and they lack any vision of where New Labour is going. Although the SNP ran a positive campaign, perhaps they should have killed the negative Labour stories faster.

I think the last thing Scotland needs in its politics is the negative campaigning usually seen in the U.S. The Unionist parties and press are halfway there already, I’d hate to see it get worse!

As Barack Obama shows a positive campaign with the right message can achieve fantastic results.

The SNP dusted off their 1997 election slogan ‘Yes we can’ after Barack Obama’s historic victory in the United States.

In hindsight, they should have used it much earlier when they saw the polls favouring the Obama campaign.

It might have got them some decent press for once.

Then on Obama winning they might have had their own bounce.

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Labour give up on Glenrothes

November 6, 2008

Benedict Brogan of the Daily Mail has said that Labour have admitted defeat in the Glenrothes by-election:

“By the way, Labour word is that Glenrothes is a lost cause.

“The SNP will take it by 1500, give or take 500.

“I don’t detect a Brown Central attempt to prepare a “shock” win. Instead they say that had they had a few days more it might have made a difference, and that without Gordon and Sarah Brown’s personal intervention the result would be far worse.

“So the good news is that defeat will be masked by the Obama euphoria.

“The bad news, as Team Dave will doubtless put it, is that the Novice won, and Gordon lost.”

The same bad admission by Labour is repeated by The Evening Standard:

‘Party insiders conceded that the contest was a “lost cause” despite evidence that the Scottish National Party’s lead in the seat had been narrowed in recent days.’

‘A No10 insider said that if the party had a couple more weeks to campaign, it could have pulled off a victory against the odds. “But we just don’t look like getting it.” A Labour source added that the seat was now a lost cause, though the SNP majority would be tight at possibly around 1,000 votes.’

Interesting that Labour think another couple of weeks would have helped their campaign. Of course no-one knows for sure.

The bookies though give a probability of a Labour win at around 25%, the SNP around 75%.

And interestingly, the Labour probability was falling and the SNP probability was rising over the last week.

It hardly backs up Labour’s perception of ‘just another couple of weeks’ to campaign, does it?

The media are already bracing themselves for another change of position on Gordon Brown.

As seen in The First Post:

‘Senior Labour party figures are braced for an election defeat to a strong Scottish National Party in today’s byelection in the former safe seat of Glenrothes. A heavy defeat could trigger renewed speculation over Gordon Brown’s ability to lead Labour to an election victory.’

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