Showing posts from April, 2011

Mapping pro-Putin and pro-Medvedev Russia

Will Putin or Medvedev contest next year's presidential election in Russia?  The answer is by no means certain.  Everything either man does at the moment is interpreted as pre-campaign manoeuvring.

To that end the New Times has sketched up an intriguing map showing pro Putin and pro Medvedev regions of Russia.  It's all rather conjectural, but the speculation is rather fun.

It scores it 28 solid Putin regions to 14 for Medvedev.   The remaining 41 regions are dominated by neither man.    It must be said that the stats aren't based so much on voter intention as the administrative subtleties in each region.

Unionist Lite - thanks for the memories.

I was shocked to check the blog A Pint of Unionist Lite this afternoon and discover that O'Neill is shutting down shop.  It's a sad day for the unionist blogosphere.  UL pre-existed this blog and it was one of the first politics sites, after Slugger, which I began to read regularly.  I've also greatly enjoyed collaborating with O'Neill over the years and must thank him for all the help and encouragement.  Let's hope he reconsiders, but if not, goodbye Unionist Lite and thanks for the memories.  A great blog and a great blogger.

Dima lets his hair down.

A defining image of 1990s Russia was President Yeltsin's vodka fuelled dancing and conducting.  It was interpreted by many Russians as a national humiliation.

That didn't deter Dmitry Medvedev from 'shimmying' along to the song 'American Boy', which Google insists is performed by a singer called Estelle.

This being 2011, you don't have to be on a stage for cringey stuff to be relayed to the world.  The President's dance was captured on mobile phone and it's fast becoming a Youtube classic.

Ignore the more demonstrative guy in the foreground  - Dima is the little guy in the grey suit.

Much needed down time for Medvedev.  Russia faces elections to the State Duma in December.  They'll act as a barometer for the 2012 presidential poll.  Whether the current incumbent even stands in that election, we must wait and see.

Alternative Vote doesn't have the X Factor

It appears that the AV campaign is losing momentum, but there's still a danger that apathy could foist a voting system upon us for which there is precious little popular enthusiasm.  In today's News Letter I argue the case against AV and (I'd imagine) show up my woeful ignorance of popular TV talent shows!

UNLIKE a majority of the population I don’t watch X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. Though I’m led to believe the finals of these shows follow a time-honoured principle. In my opinion it’s rather a good one. As I understand it, the viewers vote for their favourite act, all the votes are totalled and the performer who tops the poll is declared the winner. As simple as that. It’s a highly effective voting system: it gets the job done and, most importantly, it’s fair. In this case, what works for light entertainment also works for politics. In the UK we use the First Past The Post (FPTP) system to decide Westminster elections. At the House of Commons each constituency is rep…

Slow blogging

Forgive the relative silence over the past few days.  I've taken on some new commitments which are mitigating against frequent posts.  Normal(ish) service will hopefully be resumed sooner rather than later.

Slick or bland? The DUP's party promo.

The events in Omagh on Saturday rather put petty party-political squabbles into perspective.  Still, our electoral wheels turn, regardless of the futile, nihilistic violence which subsists at the edges of our society.

Over at Slugger, Mick preview’s the DUP’s 2011 election broadcast.  Like any party promo it’s ripe for parody.  DR points out the resemblance to a DIY store advert and the puzzling detail that its two stars are apparently getting up at 3 minutes past eight in the evening, in order to do a spot of decorating.

These quibbles aside, no-one would deny that it’s a slick production but in my opinion it’s also a trifle bland.  There’s the predictable ’unionist unity’ sting in the tail but in keeping with the party’s ’modern’ image it‘s a little coy.  More “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” than “smash Sinn Féin”.

When the customer doesn't always know best.

In a News Letter column I argue that health can't be treated in the same way as other products and services if it is provided for free.

Whichever way you spin it, choosing a treatment from a hospital is not the same as choosing a product from a shop. If healthcare is just another part of the market, it is one sphere where the customer is not always right. No-one wants a return to the days of overbearing, uncommunicative doctors, but the philosophy of patient choice can be taken too far, particularly when the taxpayer picks up the tab. A patient led service, where GPs are under pressure to provide the treatments people want, rather than those that they need, has its pitfalls. Thanks to the internet, we already have a whole generation prepared to second guess the advice of doctors, on the basis of their own spurious researches. The NHS currently has some protection against the pressure of unscientific opinion and popular campaigning. The National Institute of Health and Clinical Exce…

Duke Snook-em! Ulster music star "Freewheels" into pro snooker.

A bit of a curious story this morning.  The Belfast based singer, Duke Special, is to forsake his piano for the green baize.  The forty year old, whose real name is Peter Wilson, has joined the professional snooker circuit.

"I've long been an enthusiast for the game", said Wilson, "and over the past few months music has become less and less fun.  It's time to try something new".

The performer, best known for his album Songs From the Deep Forest and his energetic stage shows, is not new to snooker.  He was crowned Northern Ireland junior champion in 1988 and is still a dab hand with the cue.

"My top break in competitive matches is 135", confirmed the star from Dundonald, "and I regularly get 147s in practice".  The Duke hasn't ruled out a return to music however, "this is a change in direction, and I'm giving up music for a while, but not necessarily for good".

Watch out Mark Allen and Ronnie O'Sullivan!