Electoral Ukes!

Passing Scayles Music on Edinburgh’s Southside this afternoon, spotted these fabulous instruments – yes, Election Ukuleles!!!

electoral ukulele

Apologies for the reflections, normally put lens close up to glass to avoid reflections when shooting through a window, but no way to do that in this instance and still fit all of them in. As ever click on the pic to check larger versions on the Woolamaloo Flickr

Vote!

the prisoner vote for no 6

Don’t forget to cast your vote in the general election today. Please don’t do the shrug your shoulders, hey, it makes no difference feeble excuse. Yes, I do understand why some feel that way, we probably all do quite often, but our rights for all adults to cast a vote and decide who will govern was won only after long, long struggles (it is less than a century since women were given the vote, not to mention a whole swathe of men) and those freedoms were preserved at enormous cost. If the people who came before us could fight for the right then fight, sometimes to the death, to protect it, then the very least we can do is get off our arses and get to the polling station and cast that vote.

The Saviour!!!

Oh but this is just priceless – a mock documentary, filmed much like one of the BBC’s Neil Oliver Scottish history programmes, “Jim Murphy, Saviour of the Union” gleefully shows the hypocritical, self-serving stance of the Scottish Labour party in the Independence Referendum and how their cosying up with the tories (yes, Milliband, we haven’t forgotten you leaping to agree with a tory chancellor) has come back post referendum to bite them, with polls terrifying Labour that they may lose a large number of formerly safe Scottish seats in the election, such is their unpopularity in Scotland now (the irony being the Labour leadership in London was most worried about Independence not on some patriotic grounds but because they couldn’t afford to lose that large block of seats they normally won in Scotland for Westmonster, now they may well lose many anyway), using some cleverly photoshopped famous Scottish paintings to illustrate it. (via Bella Caledonia)

The Speaker election system explained

As the House of Shame prepares to elect a new Speaker many citizens are bemused and confused by the typically ancient and deliberately arcane methods used by Members of Parliament, which is not helpful when so much of the electorate are already put off from politics in the UK following recent scenes of mass greed and corruption allied to a rudderless government which appears to have no plans and a distinct track record of ignoring public opinion and concerns. Therefore your trust Woolamaloo Gazette’s political department has created a clear-cut explanation as to how exactly this centuries-old process of electing a new Parliamentary Speaker takes place.

The entire unwieldy event lurches into being when candidates throw their hats into a ring to announce their intention to run for the office following the dismemberment of the previous Speaker (who is ceremonially stuffed, embalmed and mounted in the House of Lords). Today this is a figure of speech but back in the 1600s it was taken literally, where refined, corrupt gentlemen would actually throw their hats physically into a small ring, with the hats which landed closest to the centre of the ring dictating the running order of the election. Accidentally knocking out an opponent’s hat from the ring (thus making their candidacy void before it really began) was seen as quite dishonourable and frowned upon. Doing so deliberately was perfectly acceptable, however. Today’s politicians no longer throw actual hats, they simply have to walk around banging a large drum and yelling ‘pay attention to me, pay attention to me, me me!’. The other Members of the House are, by tradition, supposed to ignore them during this part of the process for as long as possible until they simply can’t take it anymore and agree to let that person stand for the post. This can last for several weeks and over the centuries of Parliamentery Democracy has caused the deaths by terminal boredom or asphyxiation due to excessive hot air inhalation of a number of politicians and members of the Fourth Estate and citizens.

The second phase is to take the remaining candidates into what is known as the Cromwellian stage of the election. All of the prospective Speakers must dress up as Oliver Cromwell (warts and all); a pack of King Charles Spaniels is loosed into the Chamber of the House of Commons and the Cromwellian garbed candidates must chase the floppy eared royal hounds around to the strains of the Benny Hill theme music and catch as many as possible, stuffing them into a burlap sack. The winner of this stage is the candidate who captures the most spaniels then rushes to Banqueting House and leans out the window where King Charles was lead to his execution and lean out displaying the canines and yelling “behold the pets of a traitor”. Those with the fewest sacks of pups are removed from the candidacy. In 1822 there was a great scandal when a leading candidate was found to have cheated by indulging in ‘puppy sack stuffing’. Deemed a dishonourable and untrustworthy scoundrel he was dismissed from Parliament and appointed as ambassador to France.

The next stage of the election sees the remaining candidates move out onto the riverside terrace of the House of Commons. Upstream a group of school children release a large number of rubber ducks with hooks attached to the top of them; underneath each is taped a sealed, waterproof packet detailing the expense abuses of various members of the House. As the squadron of rubber ducks pass down the Thames the candidates lean out over the side with large poles trying to hook out as many ducks as they can, the idea being to use the expense account information attached to each to blackmail other Members of the House into voting for them; obviously the more a candidate has the more Members he or she can press into their camp.

Since the press has effectively revealed most of this information publicly this year (and rather more efficiently and transparently than the official government attempt at openess) this stage will be abandoned this time and replaced by Duck-a-Speaker, where each candidate is arrayed on a hinged wooden platform suspended over the Thames with a number of targets in the shape of fat pigs above their heads. Members throw stones and if they hit the pigs, the pig’s head drops into a small trough below them. Once all of the pigs have their heads in the troughs the hinge opens below the candidate and they drop into the Thames. This stage now has no actual effect on the voting process and is carried out simply for fun and to ensure the prospective speakers are well used to the rituals of public humiliation.

The final stage sees the actual election segment of the whole process; this has been made into a secret ballot so that Members can freely vote for the candidate their party bosses and whips have told them to vote for. Each goes into a curtained booth wearing only one brown, left shoe on their feet. A Masonic emblem is drawn by the candidate of their choice as the voting Member then turns three times widdershins reciting “God save the Queen” or in the case of Republicans or Atheists “By the Power of Grayskull”. The secret ballots are then collected by the Parliamentary Hunchback who takes them in a silk sack to the Parliamentary grinder, who shreds the ballots before mixing them with barley and oats. The resulting combination is then spread outside to bring down gulls and crows to feast upon it. The birds have previously been had daubs of coloured paint (a shade for each candidate) applied to their wing tips and the winner will be the candidate whose birds eat the most first. To ensure outsider birds do not join in and skew results Prince Phillip stands ready with a shotgun and blasts any errant pigeons who stray into the venerated ancient gaurantee of British democracy.

The winning candidate, now Speaker, is then picked up on the shoulders of Members and carried to the nearest Clark’s shoe shop to be fitted with the special buckled shoes of office. This is our ancient birthright of clear, transparent and fully accountable Parliamentary democracy which makes us better than everyone else fully protected for the people of this great land.

Yes we will

My friend Dan Goldman, artist on Shooting War (my favourite graphic novel of 2007), 08: a Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail and the psychedelic online comic Kelly on webcomics collective Act-I-Vate, has delivered a special treat for the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States today (to be swiftly followed by the solving of all the world’s problems within a month), a short comic with President Obama set in 2012, riffing on his theme of change and using some of Dan’s very cool colouring effects that he lets rip with on Kelly, specially on Tor.com.

Palin crank call

With only days to go Sarah ‘pitbull with lipstick (very expensive lipstick) Palin has been fooled by Canadian comedian Marc Antoine Audette into thinking she was on a phone call with French president Nicolas Sarkozy, which went out on a Montreal radio station. The whole Palin thing – utter lack of a grasp of geopolitics, foreign relations, her dubious record (the library interference when she was a humble mayor, possible misuse of family connections in jobs, trying to avoid freedom of information requests on her work by using personal email accounts rather than official government ones), her hideously intolerant right wing stance, her love of shooting animals for leisure, the pretence at being an ordinary working mom while spending more on clothes and hairstyling than many families bring home in a year, her apparent lack of knowledge of what the duties of the VP actually are – would be funny, except even after all this there are still a lot of Americans who not only would vote for her, they are talking about how she should run for president in 4 or 8 years…

was declaring to the reporter he wouldn’t vote for Obama not on political grounds but because ‘he was a Muslim’.I can’t help but wonder at the sheer stupidity of some people, but then again a lot of those numpties are the ones who voted for a retarded chimp to let in Dubyah (well, second time, first time his brother and dad’s friends in the Supreme Court handed the election to him) and before that voted a dreadful B movie elderly actor who delighted on ratting out his fellows during the McCarthy era into the top job. Watching one news programme some ignorant redneck woman When the reporter pointed out he had been a regular church-goer for many years she said that didn’t count. No, she wasn’t a bigoted, racist cow at all… Although being someone who dislikes organised religions of all types I always find it quite disturbing how much relgion plays into American politics to begin with anyway, especially in a country which likes to boast how state and church are seperated by the Constitution.

Thankfully, despite idiots like Cardinal Winning constantly sticking his oar into Scottish politics (you have your own opinion, but stop trying to tell groups how they should be thinking and voting) its not the same here; in fact when Tony Blair started talking about his mate God we all got rather uncomfortable because its a private matter. And because we think a politician is meant to be answerable to the citizen, not some mythic deity.

"Wir gegen, nach Vienna…"

The recent Austrian elections have seen a jump in support for far right political parties. Oh dear, oh deary, deary me. Its not the first time a large number of Austrians seem to favour right wing nutters most civilised people would find hideously offensive in recent years, previous such support earned the land of mountains and schnapps sanctions from the EU. And then there was the unfortunate Kurt Waldheim affair and the disputes over certain parts of his war record before that. And then going back several decades there is, of course, a rather more extreme example of Austrian support for mad right wing lunatics. Its nice to see that Austria doesn’t feel it has to tiptoe around its rather unfortunate mid-20th century history. While right wing nutters are everywhere (disgustingly some people even voted for them in some local English councils; those self same people pretend they aren’t supporting racism and bigotry but they ain’t foolin’ anyone) in a country with the still fairly recent history Austria has you would think they’d be keen not to be seen as the sort of people who love a good, strong, right wing orator. Listen to that sound? Is that the sound of many brushes polishing jackboots?

Palin’s great grasp of geopolitics

When first announced as the Reptile Party’s Vice Presidential candidate one of the first criticisms about Palin – apart from most everyone outside Alaska (which is most everyone, not the most populous state) – was who the hell is she? The second was that she had bugger all foreign policy experience and has only been out of the country once and that was to a meet-the-troops special. Her spin doctors replied, unbelievably, by saying she was governor of Alaska, with Canada on one side and Russia across the sea on the other, so obviously she did know a lot about foreign relations. Understandably anyone with a brain found this hilarious and it did no end of harm to the perception of Americans abroad where most of the rest of the world assumes most Yanks no nothing about anything outside their own borders and are culturally ignorant. Which I know from personal experience isn’t the case, but it is a general stereotype which she just confirmed to many.

Even more unbelievably she is still spouting this crap line (and bear in mind the Reptiles have been sniping at Obama for his supposed lack of foreign policy experience, compared to McCain, who has experience dating back to a diplomatic mission during the Boer War). This was her on US TV last night – nice to see the Reptiles following up the Chimp’s presidency by continuing to draw on candidates who are sharp, intelligent, well informed and erudite…


Watch CBS Videos Online

Lippygate

Barack Obama is being accused of sexism and attacking Sarah Palin with his comment “You can put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig. You can wrap up an old fish in a piece of paper and call it change. It’s still going to stink after eight years. We’ve had enough.” Some took it to be a reference to right-wing Palin’s recent and oh so charming ‘the difference between a hockey mom and a rottweiler is lipstick’ speech. The whole thing has been taken out of context though and it seems now he might have meant to say “you can give a pig an assault rifle and let it shoot up a family planning clinic but its still a pig.” Which is completely different.

Actually I’ve been watching in vain for someone to post a follow-up to a recent but not confirmed report that VP hopeful Palin, at the start of her political career as the mayor in small town Alaska, called in the local librarian to ask how she went about having books she didn’t approve of removed from the library, a pretty serious and heavy-handed bit of interference if true and an action which would speak volumes of her character, but sadly beyond the original report none of the major news agencies seem to be following it up. You can give a pig a library card but at the end of the day it might remain a close-minded, ignorant pig…

Democracy in action

Hurrah! The people of Iraq are now officially free! No more occupation!!!! Well, except for 160,000 foreign troops and who knows how many foreign fundamentalist fighters. And behold, you who scoffed at Saint Tony and his cowboy pal, Sheriff George – now the cute little people of Iraq have a democratically elected government which truly represents them. Just like in America, where they have a government which was properly elected by the people and fore the people… Oh, hang on a minute… Oh, yes… Er… Hmmmm.

Choice Point

If I may take a leaf from Matthew’s web-book and point you in the direction of an excellent story in today’s Guardian. Choice Point, the information company behind the disenfranchising – accidentally of course – of thousands of US citizens during the 2000 presidential elections in Florida are back in the news.

Choice Point have been paid millions of the American taxpayer’s dollars by the Bush government (who they helped into power) to gather data on the citizens of other nations. No, we’re not talking about criminals, drug lords or terrorists here – they want info on every person in these countries, most of which are friendly nations. They have allegedly secured the entire electoral register of Mexico – a grossly illegal and immoral act – and are gathering data on the date of birth, employment, education, marital status, bank and passport details etc. of all adult citizens in countries like Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina and others. We have to assume Western Europe is on that list too. Quite why Uncle Sam requires this information on every citizen of neighbouring lands is not clear. Perhaps as with the spying on their own citizens – authorised by the so-called Patriot Act – it is to protect us from the Bad Men. Intercepting their own citizen’s emails and scanning their bank accounts while checking credit card details of tourist coming into the city and compiling dossiers on people all around the world – who are they protecting us from?

And who is going to protect us from them? If knowledge is indeed power our leaders – the British government is eyeing these moves up and planning an amended snooper’s charter that Blunkett tried to get through parliament last year – then our leaders are determined to get as much power over us as they can. Big Brother is alive and well long after 1984, complete with sinisterly-named Orwellian ministries, such as the Ministry of Homeland Security – eroding your rights to protect you. Spying on your citizens and allies, illegal obtaining of confidential data by suspect organisations, suspension of your democratic rights – who exactly is the bad guy now? Andy why do the American citizens stand for these repeated violations of all that is sacred to the American spirit? Keep reading and making your voice heard, people, we need to let these smeggers know we have teeth and that we’re watching them. We’re plugged into the planet, we’re smart and we have got power too – and nobody is going to take it from us without a fight, least of all our own ‘elected’ representatives.

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT IN DISARRAY AFTER APATHY PARTY SWEEP TO VICTORY

The political foundations of Scottish democracy were shaken to its core after the election results for May 1st were counted. The ruling Labour party lost seats while the principal opposition, the Scottish Nationalists, bizarrely also lost seats. The Scottish Socialist Party and the Green Party jumped from being one-trick ponies to having a brace of MSPs each, plus four more independent MSPs took seats from the main parties. However, the biggest winner in the Scottish parliamentary and local government elections were the Apathy Party.

With a high – and we use the word advisedly – water mark of around 59% in a few areas and dipping to just under 40% in others a huge groundswell of support of the Apathists has carried them on and into government. So what are the policies of the Apathy Party? Unfortunately this is a mystery to even your intrepid investigators here at the Woolamaloo Gazette. Throughout the month-long campaign season the Apathy Party did not make a single statement, hold a single press conference or make a single electoral broadcast. In fact even the BBC’s Brian Taylor could not track down their spokesperson, party leader or even their office. Some say they don’t really exist, but the truth is that they just can’t be bothered turning up anywhere and certainly can’t be arsed to run the country.

This naturally leaves Scottish democracy in something of a quandary – either the election results favouring the Apathists by a vast majority are ignored in order to install a government that can at least turn up for work (although not necessarily do any better job than the absent Apathists), which would mean breaking the election rules. This would mean overturning a democratic election in a way not seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger arranged for President Allende to be overthrown or since Jeb Bush gave George Bush Florida. It could also lead to cries of electoral irregularities and could lead to Jimmy Carter coming in and kicking some parliamentary ass. The other option, to go with the proper result, leads to a governing party that has no policies and indeed no members who will bother to turn up at Holyrood. If this spreads to the rest of Britain by the next Westminster election we could have no leadership at all at any level, leading to Anarchy in the UK. Some argue that this is not so very different from the present system. Others have speculated that this may be an improvement and that a more apathetic Britain would be a kinder, gentler place (for starters we couldn’t be bothered to go bomb other nations).