Showing posts from September, 2011

Russia's presidential saga resolved as Duma election takes a familiar shape.

Last Saturday a lengthy political saga finally came to an end at United Russia’s conference in Moscow.  Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin announced that the latter will contest next year’s Russian Presidential election.  This resolves the “will he or won’t he” speculation about President Medvedev seeking a second term in office.

There will, of course, be many Russian liberals who see this decision as a fatal blow to Russia’s democracy.  There will also be a chorus of “we told you so”s from commentators hostile to the Kremlin who always maintained that Medvedev’s presidency was a sham.  
Their arguments have some force, but they’re very far from the full picture.  
The President has defended his decision to step aside and let Putin contest the election, observing that the Prime Minister is Russia’s “most authoritative” leader.  
The Russian public has consistently expressed its preference for Putin, ahead of Medvedev, where polls gave a choice between the two men.  Alexei Levinson, f…

You don't learn basic honesty at journalism school.

For months now the Johann Hari affair has gripped the political blogosphere.  The Independent columnist caused consternation when he was caught out embellishing some of his interviews with quotes taken from other sources. 
Now I don’t intend to make any contribution to the highly personalised debate which has taken place for and against Hari.  I didn’t particularly enjoy his columns, but neither did they send me into apoplectic rage.  The most I can say about his writing is that it was highly ideological and as such it had that precocious-but-angry adolescent feel to it.
His interviews, I must admit, I rarely bothered to read.  The Independent may take a great deal of pride in its ‘journalistic integrity’, but it’s by some distance the least read national quality newspaper and it is (let’s be honest) seriously dull. 
Its coverage of the UK regions is frankly shameful and the best that can be said about the re-modelled paper is that it’s dropped those intensely irritating ‘issue’ fr…

Boundary changes in Northern Ireland

If you're one of the chosen few pouring over details of the boundary commission's proposed changes to the electoral map in Northern Ireland, this map will prove useful.  We're set to lose 2 out of our current 18 Westminster constituencies and these are the commission's plans to change the boundaries.

The possible electoral ramifications will keep pundits busy over the coming weeks and months, but a few weird and wonderful geographical / local identity issues will also keep debate boiling.

For instance it's intriguing that the new mid-Antrim constituency will snake out from the coast to encompass Ballymena, as well the East Antrim locale of Larne and Carrickfergus.  Indeed Ballymena town will be separated from outlying villages like Cullybackey and Broughshane, which are part of Ballymena council and undoutbedly part of the same area.

No doubt there will be similar issues elsewhere.  Intriguing.  

Guest Post: Rugby, thuggery, and the judge

A guest post by itwassammymcnallywhatdoneit

Rugby, thuggery, and the judge

Manu Tuilagi is an outstanding rugby player and at 20, he is the youngest of six professional rugby playing brothers.

His 5 older brothers have all represented Samoa, but Manu, having arrived from Samoa at the age of 13, declared for the England senior team having played through the National age grade structures. Season 2010-11 was Manu’s first season in the Aviva Premiership and he almost immediately showed his potential, not only as an outstanding prospect for his club Leicester, but also as a future England international.

In boxing parlance, he weighs in at 17.5 stone and stands 6.1 tall (reach undeclared) and as he proved on the 14th May, when lining out for Leicester against Northampton, in the Aviva Premiership semi-final, he packs a hell of punch.

His Tysonseque attack (shown here about 30 seconds in) on England’s winger Chris Ashton, would have been worthy of Iron Mike himself and resulted in both pl…

Four points or bust for Northern Ireland in next two games

Another Northern Ireland match is looming.  Last time the team took an early lead against the Faroe Islands, before falling into the old pattern of slow sideways passing.  Luckily the introduction of Niall McGinn, early in the second half, revitalised the line-up and Steven Davis notched up a second from long range, before Pat McCourt decided to take the Islanders apart twice with his mesmerising ball skills.

This time the opposition is a sight stiffer.  Mind you, over at The Social Club, Jonathan Wilson notes that the Serb manager, Vladimir Petrovic, has indicated that he would be happy to return from Belfast with a draw
It is therefore likely that the Serbs, with a number of players missing, will set up defensively against Northern Ireland.  Nigel Worthington is also an innately cautious manager and it looks probable that McCourt and Kyle Lafferty, both of whom are reportedly suffering from calf-strains, will be missing,   It's therefore shaping up to be a turgid encounter. …