Showing posts from October, 2011


I’ve not looked at the TV listings for later tonight - but I'm sure that somewhere or other John Carpenter's famous film - Halloween, starring Jamie Lee Curtis - will be showing. A good film - though not his best - I would have to give that to Starman and Jeff Bridges - which blends a road movie and a comedy - into a clever play on 'ET goes home'. Time for a sequel I would say - to see what became of the Starman's earthly son. But what the TV schedulers should be listing on Halloween is the Michael Jackson short film - Thriller - which caused a sensation in its day. First broadcast in 1982 - John Landis - who made Amercian Werewolf in London - showcased the American superstar at his very best. To my mind it would be a fitting tribute to Michael Jackson - and a counterpoint to his sad and untimely death. Here's the You Tube link to a performer with the world at his feet - just a shame things didn't stay that way.

Alice Cooper

Somewhere around 1974 I went to see Alice Cooper and his band play live - at the  Apollo Theatre in Glasgow. But it's taken me all this time to realise what a 'nutjob' the man is - and not just because of his  support for the T-party in America. No what did it for me are his fundamentalist religious beliefs - which he has been sharing of late with the great British public - presumably because he's over here at the moment doing another UK tour. Anyway, I digress - because the important thing is that while Alice plays golf every day - he also wants the world to know that he's a man of faith. "I'm Christian. I believe in evolution inside individual species, but I believe in Creation first. I think God created the species and then let them evolve. Even (Stephen) Hawking once admitted that he believes in Creation, because as a physicist, you can't get something from nothing." Now I'll let Stephen Hawking speak for himself - but Alice and h

Running Scared

N ewspaper reports at the weekend confirm that the three candidates out to become the next Scottish Labour leader - Tom Harris, Johann Lamont and Ken Macintosh - re all running scared of the trade unions. Maybe that's a wise move - in the short-term at least - because Ed Milband won the Labour crown from his brother David - only through the backing of the trade unions. Which have one third of the votes - even though a tiny percentage of trade union members bother to vote. Anway the Sunday Herald reported that at Scottish Labour's weekend hustings - all three candidates backed the public sector pension strikes - planned for next month. Which is predictable - but still a bit depressing nonetheless. Because one of the key issues involved - the introduction of 'career average' pensions to replace 'final salary' schemes - is all about fairness and ending discrimination. Why should a school cleaner continue to subsidise the pension arrangements of a headtea

The Squeezed Middle

I am waiting with baited breath. To see if Ed Miliband stands up for the 'squeezed middle' - in response to a government  announcement at the weekend - that will remove tax breaks for people who have second homes. Now that seems like a perfectly sensible idea to me - why should the rest of us subsidise fellow citizens who can afford to have a second home? But every announcement that's made seems to meet with the same dreary response - the squeezed middle is being hardest hit by government spending decisions - so let the axe fall somewhere else. To my mind it's something the Labour government should have done years ago - when it had every chance to do so. And I've nothing against people having a second home - I just think they should pay their way - without relying on a handout from the state. So let's hear from Ed Miliband and the Labour party have to say. Maybe they'll even welcome the proposal - and give the government some credit - where cre

You're So Vain

George Galloway as a cat on Big Brother  The Amercian comedian - Jay Leno - is credited with the the famous barb that - 'politics is show business for ugly people'. Now that may be true - if a tad cruel - but it doesn't stop our politicians being terribly vain - about how they are portrayed in the columns of the press. At the weekend the Independent newspaper ran a delightful article about the private  archives of the great political profile writer - Andrew Roth - who died last year. Apparently Roth researched and kept a file on every MP, Member of European Parliament and Peer from 1950 - until his death in August 2010 - aged 91. Roth's archive became a treasure trove for political journalists and biographers - according to the Independent - but  not all of his subjects agreed with how they were portrayed. Ed Miliband - for example - took exception to the description of his nose and George Galloway objected to being described as a "Bollinger Bolshevik&

Fair Dinkum, Cobber

'Fair dinkum, cobber' - is an Australian saying which no one has ever directed towards me - but means 'fair play to you, mate' - as far as I know. And that seems to be an apt phrase top use in connection with the Qantas dispute - which seems to have ended - vitually overnight.  Qantas had grounded all of its flights in an increasingly biiter dispute with its trade unions - whom the company accused of making unreasonable demands. But instead of dragging things out for months on end - the issues involved were put to an independent arbitration panel - which seems to have ruled in the company's favour and ordered everyone back to work. Now I don't know much about the  independent tribunal involved - but it does seem to have done the trick - by coming down largely in favour of one side or the other - instead of splitting hairs. If that's what has happened it's called pendulum arbitration - which means just that - choosing between different and somet

Meet the Press

I came across this cartoon of Dominique Strauss-Khan (DSK) and the former American President - Bill Clinton - both of whom have a 'trouser problem' - as they say in polite circles. DSK is facing more lurid allegations about his personal behaviour - during his time in office as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - in Washington. Watch this space. 

Funny or Offensive

For any football fans out there struggling to discern the difference between what's genuinely funny - as opposed to really offensive - I offer the following 'joke': Q What do you call three dogs and a blackbird? A The Spice Girls. Now I'm sure most readers will know straight away - into which category these comments fall - without things having to be spelled out - in letters six feet high. And it's the same with sectarian behaviour by football fans - you know it when you see and hear it - it ain't that hard to spot. By the way do you know who made the offensive and unfunny Spice Girls remark? None other than the former defence secretary - the Fantastic Mr Liam Fox, a fellow Scot - who made delivered his bon mot at a House of Commons Christmas party - in the year 2000. Apparently the Tory leader at the time - one William Hague - forced Mr Fox to apologise for his crass and boorish behaviour. Good for him - and if William Hague can tell the differ

Bus Lanes and Red Lines

As the row between Elidh Whiteford MP and Ian Davidson MP rumbles on - I was reminded of the strange affair of the Glasgow MP's parliamentary expenses. Which were reported in The Telegraph newspaper - back in 2009. Now like so many MPs at the time - Ian Davidson's expenses claims were approved - no rules were broken apparently. Yet this just confirmed what a cavalier attitude that many 'honourable members' had - towards spending public money. Here's what Christopher Hope had to say in The Telegraph - but what I can't fathom is how it was any easier to deliver furniture coming from Glasgow. Surely a vehicle from Scotland - would still have to contend with the bus lane and the double red lines? And what about all the time, effort and potential expense of driving up and down the M74, M6 and M1 - as well as negotiating the horrendous traffic getting in and out of central London? All sounds a bit odd if you ask me - thankfully the rules on MPs' expe

Two Andy Gorams

    I listened to a succession of seemingly intelligent football fans make fools of themselves yesterday. As they sought to portray new measures to stamp out sectarianism in football - as an attack on their civil liberties. 'Who is going to decide what's offensive and what's not?' - they asked disingenuously - as if they had all just come up on the Clyde on a bicycle. One chap even had the gall to suggest that if you don't like to be offended - then you shouldn't go to football matches - the implication being that such behaviour goes with the territory. Spare me all the mental gymnastics and logic chopping - I couldn't disagree more. Because the only thing that distinguishes football from other sports is the sheer size of the crowd - and the difficulty in policing such large numbers of people. But that doesn't give people a licence to behave badly or cause real offence - in ways that would quickly get them arrested - if they behaved that way

Scottish Times

A new digital newspaper is about to launch in Scotland - the Scottish Times. Here's the link for any readers who want to take a look - at what the new newspaper has to say for itself. I wish it well.  Scotland could do with more choice - more spark and intelligent debate - in our national newspapers. Somehow the Sunday Mail just doesn't do it for me anymore.

Labour's Double Standards

Here 's what I wrote about Iain Gray and the Labour leader's double standards - over Freedom of Information - back in July 2011. South Lanarkshire Council's appeal to the Court of Session is still rumbling on in the background - costing South Lanarkshire Council and the Scottish Information Commissioner a small fortune in legal fees - all of it public money of course. Yet while the Labour leader was quick to condemn the Scottish Government for mounting such an appeal - and refusing to accept the decision of the Scottish Information Commissioner - Iain  Gray has said absolutely nothing about the behaviour of Labour-led South Lanarkshire Council. I wonder why? Freedom of Information (July 4 2011) A few weeks ago I wrote to the leader of the Scottish Labour party - Iain Gray, MSP. The reason being that the Labour leader had spoken up strongly about freedom of information - during the Scottish election campaign. So I asked Iain Gray whether he would do the same -

Blowing a Gasket

Scottish Labour leader - Iain Gray - seems to have blow a gasket in Glasgow yesterday - in a valedictory speech to the party faithful. Iain was addressing a special meeting of party members to vote through new changes - which will strengthen the role of his successor as Scottish Labour leader - and used the opportunity to launch a vitriolic attack on the SNP. Iain spoke of the forthcoming referendum on independence for Scotland and warned party delegates: "You will be attacked, you will be smeared, you will be lied about, you will be threatened. The 'cyber Nats' and the bedsit bloggers will call you traitor, quisling, lapdog, liar and worse. They will question your appearance, your integrity and your sexuality. They will drag your family and your faith into the lies and the vitriol. If you are a woman it will be worse." Now I've had reason to criticise Iain Gray in the past - but to the best of my knowledge  I've never questioned his sexuality o

How's About That, Then?

Sir Jimmy Saville - the veteran broadcaster - has died at home at the age of 84. Probably best know for his hit TV programme - 'Jim'll Fix It' - Saville was a strange character, but one who delighted in making other people's dreams come true. Louis Theroux made an intriguing documentary film about Jimmy Saville - a few years ago. Which suggested that the entertainer had another, much darker side - to his larger than life personality.  But he will be remembered fondly by many people - not least for all his great charitable work - for organisations both big and small.  

Regulator with Teeth

At last - a regulator with real teeth. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) deserves a big pat on the back. No sooner has it exposed the poor standards of care for many elderly hospital patients in England and Wales - than it goes on to highlight some truly shocking behaviour amongst midwives. In one case which has hit the headlines - an exhausted woman in labour was told by a midwife to ‘hurry up or or I’ll cut you’. Now I've heard some foolish union reps trying to excuse this behaviour - by pointing to an alleged lack of resources.  But this simply will not wash - as the CQC makes crystal clear - there is no excuse for staff treating their patients in this way - end of story. Lots of people are overworked and stressed in their jobs at times - but that doesn't give them a licence to rob people of their dignity - or treat them with undisguised contempt. Which is what has been happening - according to the CQC - the health watchdog for England and Wales. Now the CQC

Spread Like Wildfire

The bosses of Britain's top companies are in the dock - after a revelation that the average pay increase for company directors in the Footsie 100 - was a whopping 49% last year. Now like most good stories this is not quite as dramatic as it sounds - because in a small sample (which this is) just a couple of returns can distort the 'average' result quite badly. The statisticians out there will know that it's always better to use the 'median' figure - which is a much better indicator of what's really going on - because it screens out rogue results whether high or low. And the median increase turns out to be 16% - not 49% - which is still a disgrace - but it's better to get your facts right and not exaggerate things - in  my view anyway. So what can be done about Britain's bosses handing themselves such huge pay rises - when everyone else is struggling with the cost of living? Well the people behind the survey - Incomes Data Services - could t

No Bevvying

Jimmy Reid will be birlin' in his grave. Apparently the anti-capitalist protestors in London - outside St Paul's Cathedral - are arguing amongst themselves about the 'no alcohol' rule. According to press reports, the protestors took a democratic decision to ban bevvy from their camp - but this has not gone down a storm with everyone. Some of the occupiers feel it's one establishment replacing another - and just who do these people think they are - laying down rules for other free spirits. Now in the days of the UCS work-in - Jimmy Reid and his fellow shop stewards didn't go in for all this namby pamby voting business - they knew the world was watching and they laid it on the line. 'There will be no bevvying' - Reid declared in his famous speech to the assembled workforce - no one dared question his authority because they knew what he was saying was right. The Occupy London protestors should take a leaf out of Jimmy Reid's book. Because 


The blog site had its first visitor from Libya yesterday - which pleased me no end. Because only months ago it was touch and go as to whether NATO would intervene - to prevent a horrible bloodbath in Benghazi - as Colonel Gaddafi boasted of his intention to hunt the rebels down like dogs - house by house.  The Prime Minister - David Cameron - deserves great credit for the courageous stand he took at the time. Many in his own party - and those on the opposition benches - were less that fulsome in their support - ready to exploit the situation if the Libyan mission failed. Six months on things have changed out of sight. Muammar Gaddafi lies in a sandswept grave in the Sahara Desert - his odious son Saif al-Islam is on the run. But the Libyan people face a bright future which was in the balance only a short time ago. Libya has a population not much greater than Scotland - and huge natural resources to help the country get back on its feet. Which I hope it does soon - on a

Rules of Evidence

A cruel and heartless killer - Vincent Tabak - was sentenced to life imprisonment yesterday for the murder of Joanna Yeates. But what's worrying is that the trial judge had to tell the jury he would accept a majority verdict - before they returned their decision - guilty by 10 votes to 2. Quite what the 2 minority jurors were thinking is beyond me - and just how wrong they were was proved shortly after the verdict was announced - as the judge released more information about Tabak's behaviour which had been withheld from his trial. Tabak pleaded guilty to manslaughter - but denied murder - and if just a few more jurors had swallowed his lies - he would have got away with his heinous crime. As it stands he must serve a minimum of 20 years in prison - before he can apply for parole - but in truth a dangerous man like him should never be released. Tabak exploited the fact that the only witness to his crime could not give evidence against him - because he had strangled her

Where's the Beef?

The contest to elect the next leader of the Scottish Labour party gets underway in earnest today - with the first round of official 'hustings' - which allow candidates to strut their stuff. Only three people have thrown their hats into the ring for party leader - Tom Harris, Johann Lamont and Ken Macintosh - one Westminster MP and two Holyrood MSPs respectively. All nice enough individuals - but you have to say this is definitely Labour's 'B' Team on display. The big beast in the Labour jungle have all decided to sit this one out - which is really surprising - because the party faces its biggest test ever - with a referendum on Scottish independence looming in 2014. The biggest Labour figure of them all - Gordon Brown - sits licking his wounds in Fife after losing the 2010 general election - and a particularly bruising experience as Prime Minister. All the same in Labour's hour of greatest need you would expect him to step up to the plate - yet for som

Campbell Christie

Campbell Christie (74) - former leader of of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) - passed away earlier today at the Strathcarron Hospice in Denny - following a short illness. Campbell became general secretary of the STUC in 1986 - he was invited back from London to take up the post - because the king makers at the STUC wanted a big personality to fill the shoes of James Milne - his immediate predecessor in the job. At the time the STUC was still heavily influenced by the Communist Party - which made it possible for someone of independent mind to get the top job - instead of a lackey from the Labour party. And so Campbell agreed to take up the reins - left London and his senior position in one of the civil service unions (SCPS) - and headed north. Campbell had a his fondness for long, interminable speeches - and I recall during a particularly sleep-inducing soliloquy at one STUC congress - when a clumsy delegate dropped a heavy object on the floor - which made a loud crack

Frozen Planet

I was blown away by Sir David Atttenborough's new series for the BBC - Frozen Planet. Just goes to show you what planning, skill and dedication are needed - to bring these events to life. The programme had so many spectacular moments - it's almost impossible to choose just one - but if I had to I would single out the pod of Killer Whales looking for a meal. For all the world they looked like a family of humans - studying the menu carefully - before deciding which species of seal to have for dinner - a Weddell Seal as it turned out. And when the Orcas popped right out of the water - as the two camera guys set up their shot - I bet they got the fright of their lives - for a moment at least. The great thing about David Attenborough is that at 85 years of age - he displays the same  passion for his work that he had 50 or 60 years ago - as a young man. It's a bit like listening to Scotland's best loved rugby commentator - Bill McLaren - whose enthusiasm for his

Wheat and Chaff

I've watched two films recently - one in the cinema and one on the TV - and one is as good as the other one is bad. First the good news - City Island - a made for TV film as far as I know - starring Andy Garcia from The Untouchables. It's a quirky yet heart warming tale of a New York family - who hide things from one another. Some of their secrets and small and inconsequential - others are dark and potentially explosive. The plot is bizarre but works on every level - a comedy, a drama, a love story - of a big hearted city - and its crazy mixed up people - who are all trying to find their way in life. Andy Garcia plays a 'corrections officer' (prison guard) with ambitions to be an actor - his two kids are at that stage where they think their parents are dull and boring or worse - and there's more fear of his wife than excitement in their marriage. Not only that he's just discovered a grwon up son - from a previous relationship - who turns up as a jail

Scottish Ambulance Service

While I'm on the subject of Freedom of Information - I thought I'd share the response I've received to a recent FOI request - to the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS). What a contrast between the SAS and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde - with the SAS essentially refusing to answer simple questions about their 'rest breaks' policy - because the issue is still under discussion. Well it's been under discussion for years apparently until the Scottish Health Secretary - Nicola Sturgeon - stepped in and banged a few heads together. But I'm not asking for any confidential information of course - certainly nothing that would interfere with any internal negotiations that are underway. So what's the big secret? Given the very unhelpful and defensive reply - I have already asked for a review of their initial decision - which the SAS has to respond to within 20 working days. I'm all excited because the 20 days are nearly up - meantime you will note that