Sarah Palin’s prank call

November 2, 2008

In all the furore over the BBC Radio 2 prank call from Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross to Fawlty Towers’ actor Andrew Sachs, a brighter type of prank call was played on Sarah Palin by two Quebec DJs Marc Antoine Audette and Sebastian Trudel Audette.

The Masked Avengers, as they are known, phoned Sarah Palin pretending to be Nicholas Sarkozy.

‘Nicholas Sarkozy’ talked to Sarah Palin about hunting, killing baby seals and his wife being so hot in bed! And from his house he could see Belgium!

A transcript of the prank call can be found at Daily Kos.

Eventually the Masked Avengers owned up it was a prank.

It was a prank call in a much better spirit than Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross’ effort to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs. For Jonathan Ross to tell a 78-year old grandfather that Russell Brand had ‘f**ked his granddaughter’ was in poor taste. Even if the grand-daughter, Georgina Baillie, is in a Burlesque group called The Satanic Sluts.

I don’t so much blame Brand and Ross for their call; sometimes comedy does go over the edge.

I blame the producers putting the show on air. Even after Andrew Sachs complained to the BBC that the call was offensive, it was still put on air.

If the call was pulled from the show and Sachs given a personal apology then all of this hoopla wouldn’t have begun.

Now Russell Brand has resigned, the Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas has resigned, and Jonathan Ross has a 12 week suspension.

Jonathan Ross is an experienced broadcaster and one of the BBC highest earners. His indiscretion, I felt, was worse than Russell Brand’s. Does his £18 million contract intimidate radio producers?

That’s the only thing I can think of why this call was aired.

Brand and Ross may have overstepped the mark. But they were doing their job. The producer wasn’t.

The BBC have now lost Brand and may still lose Ross.

They could probably do worse than give the Masked Avengers a shot.

They can see satire from their house.

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Glenrothes PR disaster

October 23, 2008

I feel sorry for Sarah Brown.

Ushered into the Glenrothes constituency to try and boost her husband’s flagging party, the Labour campaigners turned what should have been a well-orchestrated media campaign into an absolute shambles.

The Prime Minister’s wife was ushered round 9 pre-selected homes in Cardenden.

Unfortunately it seems that the Labour ushers were a bit too much for the journalists.

From The Scotsman:

‘Journalists who then found themselves walking beside Mrs Brown struggled to avoid being tripped up as party members muscled in, trying to form a protective phalanx.

Then came the most extraordinary piece of control freakery of the day. “I want you guys on the green,” said the man from the Labour Party. “There will be six or seven guys with guns who will keep you away from her. You may be shot and then it won’t be my problem.” ‘

Threatening to kill the assembled journalists can’t have gone down well with the press.

This only days after the Commonwealth Journalists Association issued a declaration against the abuse of journalists at their conference in Malaysia:

“We will expose and embarrass. We will lobby our own governments to pressure these despots into treating journalists with basic human respect.”

Various papers just went and interviewed those on the street not fortunate enough for a visit instead:

The Herald:

‘Darren Brovan, 23, a joiner who said he was not given the option of a visit from the PM’s wife, watched the tightly managed procession from an upstairs window.

‘He said: “It doesn’t seem very fair that she’s not going round everyone’s house, though I suppose I wouldn’t have answered the door to her anyway. I lost my job last month, because of the credit crunch, and I think that’s the government’s fault. But what would be the point in me bringing that up with the Prime Minister’s wife? What difference would it make? She’d have forgotten my name in two minutes anyway.” ‘

The Scottish Daily Express:

‘Anne Murray, 45, who did not have a Labour banner in her window, was apparently unworthy of a visit.

‘She said: “I would have asked her, ‘Where’s your husband?’

“She should have been here last night when there were three police cars and an ambulance in the street. I can’t tell you why because I would have my windows put in.” ‘

And the people she did visit?

The Scottish Daily Express:

‘One of the doors she happened to stop at was that of Joni Doig, 37, the daughter of Labour councillor Margo Doig. Joni said: “She was lovely and said she thought Labour might win. We know them quite well. My dad did a bit of painting and decorating for her and Gordon in their house in Inverkeithing last year.”

‘Kathleen McNulty, Councillor Doig’s next-door neighbour, also received a visit.’

The Scotsman:

‘Natasha Burns, 18, held her 18-month-old son, McKenzie, who was agog at the goings-on. She said: “He couldn’t believe the commotion. She was just talking away to him and he said: ‘hi’ when she said: ‘Goodbye’.” ‘

A typical street in Cardenden then, merely coincidentally where a Labour councillor lives.

What gets me is Sarah Brown was a founding partner of Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications, a public relations company. I bet she is livid over Labour’s handling of her photo-opportunity!

I’d guess if she visits the Glenrothes constituency again she’ll want a lot more say in how things are run.

Its hardly the start to the campaign that Labour could have wanted.

Sarah Brown was supposed to be Labour’s spearhead in the Glenrothes campaign, according to the Daily Record.

They have a quote from Labour’s Scottish Secretary, Jim Murphy:

“Sarah will shine on the doorstep. Her decision is a real boost for our campaign and it’s a signal Labour is fighting for every single vote.”

When he meant Labour was fighting for every vote, it meant using guns then?

Oops!

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HBOS merger could end Treaty of Union

October 20, 2008

I thought it was interesting listening to Jim Spowart, founder of Standard Life and Intelligent Finance, on Sunday’s The Politics Show on BBC Scotland.

He offered the view that if the HBOS merger with the Lloyds TSB happened it could break the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England.

Spowart has been a long-time advocate against Scottish independence, so his views should be taken as a warning to Unionists over the proposed bank merger.

He estimated that around 100 000 jobs in Scotland, primarily in the central belt, could be lost if the proposed merger happens.

That figure includes jobs from businesses indirectly linked to the HBOS headquarters in Scotland, as well as the losses expected from HBOS themselves.

An absolutely huge figure.

The merger is seen as supported by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and even caused by his mismanagement of the economy in the first place.

So if 100 000 people did lose their jobs in the central belt I doubt they would have much incentive to vote Labour.

The fact that Labour’s heartlands in Scotland are in the central belt, especially in the west, probably won’t have escaped many Labour councillors, MSPs, MPs etc.

And as witnessed in the Glasgow East by-election those voters will predominately switch to SNP en masse.

The HBOS merger might just lead to Labour meltdown in Scotland.

And bring Scottish independence that much closer.

For all that, I doubt the SNP are cock-a-hoop wanting this merger to happen to finally realise their dream of independence. Independence could happen with any number of political scenarios; I very much doubt the SNP want Scotland to lose 100 000 jobs to achieve it.

Why pick the worst option to achieve independence when there is something inevitable about it happening anyway?

Any number of political scenarios could bring about independence for Scotland. The challenge for the Unionists is that each scenario they have to win; nationalists only have to win once: can anyone name a nation who once democratically free and independent actually wanted to go back to its old imperialist masters? That fact alone suggests that independence must be the best way forward for Scotland.

I don’t see Ireland wanting to be back in under UK rule, or Iceland – even with its current financial troubles – wanting to be back under Danish rule.

Independence will happen anyway. It would be a shame if it happened like this.

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Rankings and levers

October 12, 2008

Newspapers have been quoting the survey by the World Economic Forum in which business leaders have been rating the solvency of world banks.

The rankings however were compiled just before the recent £50 billion bail-out by the UK, the nationalisation of the Icelandic banks and the larger US bail-out.

The website has the co-authors interviewed from the 3rd to the 7th of October. The report itself was published on the 8th October.

RANKINGS

1. Canada

2. Sweden

3. Luxembourg

4. Australia

5. Denmark

6. Netherlands

7. Belgium

8. New Zealand

9. Ireland

10. Malta

11. Hong Kong

12. Finland

13. Singapore

14. Norway

15. South Africa

16. Switzerland

17. Namibia

18. Chile

19. France

20. Spain

21. Barbados

22. Bahrain

23. Slovak Republic

24. Brazil

25. Estonia

26. Austria

27. Panama

28. Mauritius

29. Kuwait

30. Qatar

31. United Arab Emirates

32. Trinidad and Tobago

33. Senegal

34. Israel

35. Portugal

36. Iceland

37. Cyprus

38. Botswana

39. Germany

40. United States

41. Lithuania

42. Peru

43. El Salvador

44. United Kingdom

45. Greece

46. Benin

47. Costa Rica

48. Malawi

49. Guyana

50. Malaysia

51. India

52. Puerto Rico

53. The Gambia

54. Montenegro

55. Mexico

56. Croatia

57. Czech Republic

58. Jordan

59. Ghana

60. Suriname

61. Brunei Darussalam

62. Latvia

63. Saudi Arabia

64. Kenya

65. Jamaica

66. Honduras

67. Zambia

68. Burkina Faso

69. Slovenia

70. Sri Lanka

71. Pakistan

72. Philippines

73. Republic of Korea

74. Romania

75. Thailand

76. Madagascar

77. Colombia

78. Cote d’Ivoire

79. Italy

80. Bulgaria

81. Hungary

82. Cameroon

83. Georgia

84. Oman

85. Tunisia

86. Paraguay

87. Nigeria

88. Armenia

89. Morocco

90. Dominican Republic

91. Bolivia

92. Malia

93. Japan

94. Tanzania

95. Moldova

96. Bosnia and Herzegovina

97. Poland

98. Nicaragua

99. Venezuela

100. Uruguay

101. Guatemala

102. FYR Macedonia

103. Syria

104. Albania

105. Nepal

106. Mozambique

107. Russian Federation

108. China

109. Uganda

110. Serbia

111. Egypt

112. Ukraine

113. Vietnam

114. Turkey

115. Bangladesh

116. Azerbaijan

117. Taiwan, China

118. Ecuador

119. Mauritania

120. Mongolia

121. Indonesia

122. Zimbabwe

123. Tajikistan

124. Kazakhstan

125. Cambodia

126. Burundi

127. Chad

128. Ethiopia

129. Argentina

130. East Timor

131. Kyrgyz Republic

132. Lesotho

133. Libya

134. Algeria

Yes. That’s right.

The UK lies behind Peru and El Salvador.

Now given this report was a survey of the world’s economists whose advice our banks were no doubt taking; should we believe it?

Are the UK’s banks really behind Peru, El Salvador and Senegal?

Or is it an accurate representation that is slightly out of date, compiled as it was slightly before the bail-outs?

That must depend on whether you believe the bail-outs will work.

If reports are to be believed the Royal Bank of Scotland is next in line to be nationalised tomorrow. If that happens then there will be further pressure on the remaining UK bank’s to be nationalised too. The banking sector could be picked off one by one by the market and the taxpayer forced to pick up the tab.

On that Iain Dale post there have already been comments about the English taxpayer bailing out the Scottish bank.

It must be a pity, to all those who carp, that Scotland is not already independent.

An independent Scotland with a similar oil fund like our neighbour Norway could be similarly insulated from these turbulent times.

It would also have the economic levers to maintain its economy best, not just for the South-East of England as remains the case today. Remember Eddie George, the former Governor of the Bank of England: Unemployment in the north is a price worth paying for affluence in the South!

Although the credit crunch is global, take a look back at those rankings.

Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands. All small countries lying in the top 10.

Even Ireland, who have recently guaranteed all deposits in their banks, are sitting 9th.

The argument that Scotland is too small to be financially unstable is farcical! I don’t hear anyone saying that Denmark is too small and should be run from Berlin. (Not since the days of Adolf Hitler and the Second World War anyway!)

As countries large and small struggle with the credit credit crunch from the U.S. and Russia down to Iceland with its 300 000 population, this population argument of independence must be seen to be invalid. Iceland, with a population slightly smaller than North Lanarkshire, isn’t exactly Miramont Gardens in Pimlico!

Passport to Pimlico

What matters now is that we take the right decisions to get out this mess.

Those decisions may be different for each country. They may even be different for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

That’s why its important key economic levers are devolved away from Westminster.

Otherwise the Eddie George syndrome will hamper ‘the North’ recovering for years.

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Back to the Future

October 4, 2008

So Gordon Brown has took a trip back in time in his new cabinet reshuffle.

Back to the Future

And the shock recall has been the EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson as Business Secretary.

Peter Mandelson, a serial resigner from Cabinet in the past, will become a Lord to take the role.

Just how desperate is Gordon Brown? Appointing a controversial arch-Blairite with a history of trouble to his cabinet. Why??

Is Mandelson to become the new fall guy in the Cabinet, taking the heat from the Prime Minister?

How long will he last this time? And how will the public react?

Hill Valley Headline

Jim Murphy is appointed the new Scottish Secretary, taking over from Des Browne who was also relieved of his Defence portfolio. Des Browne was offered the Scottish Secretary job after sacked from Defence but felt the job was an ‘insult’.

So once again the Scottish Secretary is a full time job, as it was in the past.

Although it had been rumoured that the job was to be merged with the Northern Ireland and Wales job, as I hinted at in a previous article it would have been better for the Unionists to keep the jobs separate to try and thwart the nationalist advance in Scotland and Wales.

Definitely a case of the Labour Cabinet’s man in Scotland, not Scotland’s man in the Labour Cabinet.

Just in time to preside over the Glenrothes by-election and Motherwell and Wishaw by-election then.

To me, Jim Murphy’s voice just sounds like the Rev I.M. Jolly; especially when the minister had been partaking on the whisky. Its not what I would call upbeat!

So I look forward to hearing him explaining away the forthcoming by-election results.

Rev. I. M. Jolly
“Ah’ve had a helluva year!”

Even if Labour somehow manage to win them both, his voice would send Labour activists jumping off the Erskine Bridge.

In another reshuffle, Alistair Campbell, former Press Officer for Tony Blair, returns to the Labour Government as external advisor.

So its back with Campbell and Mandelson then. The only person missing is Tony Blair and we’d be right back in the Nineties again. Of course, regular readers will recall I pointed out that Labour activists were calling for his return only just recently.

Re-elect Goldie Wilson

We couldn’t get any more ‘Back to the Future’ if Gordon Brown had arrived at 10 Downing Street in a De Lorean.

He must feel like Marty McFly fading away on stage, awaiting for the public to embrace the New Labour message.

Its a pity for him that we’re on the same trip as he is. Lightning won’t strike that clock tower twice!

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Gordon Brown and the internet

September 23, 2008

So it seems that Gordon Brown will unveil an internet connection programme that will apply in England but not in the rest of the UK?

Is this part of the plan to get the UK higher up the world broadband league table where the UK sits 13th?

But its strange that this programme will take place only in England. Not Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland.

Because England leads the UK in broadband takeup!

So because the UK Government is refusing to give Barnett consequentials to Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, the rest of the UK misses out.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d much rather Barnett was scrapped and Scotland had full fiscal responsibility instead (I’m sure the Northern Irish and Welsh have their own ideas) – but while we’ve got the system, it should be seen to be operating.

Otherwise it can only fuel Plaid Cymru and the SNP in their bid for independent nations.

So the nation with the highest broadband takeup in the UK gets all the money, and the rest of us gets nothing! Wasn’t Barnett supposedly based on need?

Wales broadband takeup is only 45%. Northern Ireland is 52%. Scotland is 53 %.

Broadband takeup in Glasgow is 32%. I have already posted a blog comparing Glasgow’s internet reach with the Glasgow circulation of the Daily Record and found the newspaper is marginally ahead of those that read news on the internet.

What that means of course is that more people get exposed to the Daily Record’s Labour propaganda than get their news from the internet.

Indeed the whole Internet Connection Programme can be seen as politically motivated in Labour’s interest. It keeps Labour strongholds like Wales and Scotland’s public free of any dissenting Labour voice and also in England promotes freedom of expression where Labour is weak and also tries to quell any demand for an English Parliament at the same time.

Of course, some Labour bloggers may find this a good idea, given they say a leaning on the internet of nationalist blogs in Scotland.

They fail to realise that its precisely because the public have little newspaper or media support backing their aspirations of independence, that they have had to take to the internet to try and get their views heard! Again, that’s something I have blogged about before.

Incidentally, this blog has just had over 25 000 page views since I started at the end of May. (Thanks to everyone that reads!)

I think that’s not bad, since I still don’t know what I’m doing!

Thanks to Gordon Brown’s ‘not Scotland’ policy, I guess all the Scottish bloggers will be disappointed that the Scottish internet take-up will remain stagnant. (The same goes for Wales and Northern Ireland.)

Another Union dividend.

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Sarah Palin’s burning issue

September 6, 2008

A row has broken out over which books Sarah Palin actually wants to ban.

This is due to a story resurfacing that on becoming Mayor of Wassilla in Alaska, Sarah asked the librarian if she could ban some books in the local library:

In December 1996, Emmons told her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman, that Palin three times asked her — starting before she was sworn in — about possibly removing objectionable books from the library if the need arose.

Emmons told the Frontiersman she flatly refused to consider any kind of censorship. Emmons, now Mary Ellen Baker, is on vacation from her current job in Fairbanks and did not return e-mail or telephone messages left for her Wednesday.

When the matter came up for the second time in October 1996, during a City Council meeting, Anne Kilkenny, a Wasilla housewife who often attends council meetings, was there.

Like many Alaskans, Kilkenny calls the governor by her first name.

“Sarah said to Mary Ellen, ‘What would your response be if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?” Kilkenny said.

“I was shocked. Mary Ellen sat up straight and said something along the line of, ‘The books in the Wasilla Library collection were selected on the basis of national selection criteria for libraries of this size, and I would absolutely resist all efforts to ban books.'”

The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, refused the ban and a few months later Sarah Palin tried to fire her for lack of support.

After a public outcry in Alaska, Palin was instead forced to keep Mary Ellen in her post.

Mary Ellen decided to resign in 1999. “[Palin] essentially forced Mary Ellen out,” says June Pinnell-Stephens, chair of the Alaska Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee and a friend of Mary Ellen Baker’s [Emmons]. “She all but fired her.”

Well it obviously wasn’t for the want of trying!

Some bloggers have a list of banned books but in all the blogs I have read the list actually comes from a site naming banned books – at one time or another – in America.

No-one as yet has come up with a definitive list of books Sarah Palin would like banned.

We know Sarah Palin is a creationist. So it doesn’t take a lot of guesswork to deduce that Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution would be one of the books. Or anything by Richard Dawkins.

We know that America is no stranger to book burning either. Even the Harry Potter books have gone up in flames.

Harry Potter book burning in New Mexico

Its incredible in this day and age that people will want to burn books just because they disagree with their premise or theories. Its almost as if the Enlightenment never happened.

“Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.” – Heinrich Heine. The Nazis burned his books among others in 1933.

Of course if these religious fundamentalists like Sarah Palin actually burned some of the books that were left in Travelodge hotels then we’d probably complain less about it!

Top ten books left in Travelodge hotels:-

1. Prezza: Pulling No Punches by John Prescott
2. My Booky Wook by Russell Brand
3. Speaking For Myself by Cherie Blair
4. Don’t You Know Who I Am by Piers Morgan?
5. Angel Uncovered and Crystal by Katie Price
6. You and Your Money by Alvin Hall
7. Lessons in Heartbreak by Cathy Kelly
8. Blind Faith by Ben Elton
9. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
10. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

I mean if it was just the thrill of burning books then there wouldn’t be too many complaints if John Prescott and Russell Brands’ books were in the pile, surely? I mean apart from environmental concerns anyway! Not that the environment bothers Sarah Palin in any case.

But no. Its always The Catcher in the Rye and Catch 22 and the rest, isn’t it?

Once the argument for one book to be burned is made, its easier for religious fundamentalists to carry on burning others. That’s why even John Prescott’s Prezza: Pulling No Punches deserves to be spared.

At least until the first bad winter anyway!

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