Scottish Independence, by the numbers

Slides from my lab lunch are here.
To encourage discussion in preparation for 18 September, this talk will cover some of the relevant figures and list useful sources of information. I won't make a secret of my own view on the issue, but the goal is to cover relevant information, not to argue for one side or the other.

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I Shall Vote Yes

From Bella Caledonia, a follow up to "I Shall Vote No".

My favourite line: "I shall vote Yes because that ‘early day of a better nation’ stuff gets to me, actually." Me too. The original line is "Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation", from a poem by Dennis Lee, popularised by Alasdair Gray.
The last in the series of referendum poems by A.R. Frith. Read his sonnet for the Undecided here and his I Shall Vote No here.

I Shall Vote Yes

I shall vote Yes because
I just think that, in a divided world, we shouldn’t be building barriers
against immigrants and asylum seekers.

I shall vote Yes because
Labour say they believe in One Nation,
and that’s how fascism starts.

I shall vote Yes because I am fed up
with silly articles illustrated by stills from Braveheart, in newspapers that should know better.

I shall vote Yes, because the thought of having a written constitution
thrills me inexpressibly.

I shall vote Yes because until Independence we're stuck with Alex Salmond.

I shall vote Yes, because it is seven hundred years since the Battle of Bannockburn,
and yet some condescending gits imagine it is an issue for us now.

I shall vote Yes
to spare the blushes of foreign diplomats who have told their governments I will.

I shall vote Yes,
but No to Nato, if anyone asks me (though nobody ever has, come to think of it).

I shall vote Yes because Nicola Sturgeon is fantastic.


I shall vote Yes because I have no wish whatever
to be loved by Eddie Izzard.

I shall vote Yes, because I am striving to be Green.

I shall vote Yes because I have always liked Sean Connery,
even in Marnie and The Longest Day.

I shall vote Yes because it will kill the Nats stone dead.

I shall vote Yes, so that Scotland may take its rightful place
in the Eurovision Song Contest.

I shall vote Yes because to me as a Quaker it seems the right thing to do.

I shall vote Yes because
that ‘early day of a better nation’ stuff gets to me, actually.

I shall vote Yes because the Proclaimers will vote Yes.

I shall vote Yes because my MSP is a Unitarian
and it will boost his morale if someone agrees with him about something.

I shall vote Yes because, although ‘no-brainer’ is an unpleasing word,
I can’t think what else to call it.

I shall vote Yes, in the fervent hope that certain people will indeed up sticks and leave
(though I shan’t be holding my breath).

I shall vote Yes because James Kelman will vote Yes,
and he won the Booker Prize for using the f-word four thousand times in a novel.

I shall vote Yes, because I am persuaded
that the precedent of how Norwegian independence affected Sweden
shows that England will benefit almost as much as we will.

I shall vote Yes, because the experience of the Czech Republic and Slovakia
was that both countries were more prosperous after their velvet divorce.

I shall vote Yes, just to spite George Osborne.

I shall vote Yes out of curiosity
as to which unionist politician will be the first one to claim Independence
was what they really wanted all along, and is plainly a Good Thing.

I shall vote Yes because, despite what some people say,
I am, and always will be, British, thank God,
and so it is my duty.

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Silicon Valley could force NSA reform, tomorrow. What's taking so long?

CEOs from Yahoo to Dropbox and Microsoft to Zynga met at the White House, but are they just playing for the cameras? Photograph: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Trevor Timm asks a key question in The Guardian:
The CEOs of the major tech companies came out of the gate swinging 10 months ago, complaining loudly about how NSA surveillance has been destroying privacy and ruining their business. They still are. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently called the US a "threat" to the Internet, and Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, called some of the NSA tactics "outrageous" and potentially "illegal". They and their fellow Silicon Valley powerhouses – from Yahoo to Dropbox and Microsoft to Apple and more – formed a coalition calling for surveillance reform and had conversations with the White House.
But for all their talk, the public has come away empty handed. The USA Freedom Act, the only major new bill promising real reform, has been stalled in the Judiciary Committee. The House Intelligence bill may be worse than the status quo. Politico reported on Thursday that companies like Facebook and are now "holding fire" on the hill when it comes to pushing for legislative reform.
We know it's worked before. Three years ago, when thousands of websites participated in an unprecedented response to internet censorship legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa), the public stopped a once-invincible bill in its tracks. If they really, truly wanted to do something about it, the online giants of Silicon Valley and beyond could design their systems so that even the companies themselves could not access their users' messages by making their texting and instant messaging clients end-to-end encrypted.
But the major internet outfits were noticeably absent from this year's similar grassroots protest – dubbed The Day We Fight Back – and refused to alter their websites à la Sopa. If they really believed the NSA was the threat so many of them have claimed, they'd have blacked out their websites in protest already.

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I Shall Vote No

Spotted on Bella Caledonia.
[After Christopher Logue, I Shall Vote Labour (1966)]
By A.R. Frith
I shall vote No because, without Westminster, We’d never have got rid of the Poll Tax
I shall vote No because eight hundred thousand Scots live in England, and there are no jobs here to match their talents and meet their aspirations
I shall vote No, because my grandmother was a MacDougall
I shall vote No in case Shell and BP leave and take their oil with them
I shall vote No because otherwise we would have to give back the pandas
I shall vote No because I am feart
I shall vote No because the people who promised us a better deal if we voted No in 79, and warned us of the dire consequences of devolution in 97, tell us we should
I shall vote No so as not to let down my fellow socialists in Billericay and Basildon
I shall vote No, because if we got rid of Trident and stopped taking part in illegal wars we would be a target for terrorism
I shall vote No because if I lived under a government that listened to me and had policies I agreed with, I wouldn’t feel British
I shall vote No because the RAF will bomb our airports if we are a separate country
I shall vote No because to vote Yes dishonours the Dead of the Great War, who laid down their lives for the rights of small nations
I shall vote No, lest being cut off from England turns Red Leicester cheese and Lincolnshire sausages into unobtainable foreign delicacies, like croissants, or bananas
I shall vote No, because, as a progressive, I have more in common with Billy Bragg or Tariq Ali, who aren’t Scottish, than some toff like Lord Forsyth, who is.
I shall vote No, because the certainty of billions of pounds worth of spending cuts to come is preferable to the uncertainty of wealth
I shall vote No, because it is blindingly obvious that Scotlands voice at the UN, and other international bodies, will be much diminished if we are a member-state
I shall vote No because having a parliament with no real power, and another which is run by people we didnt vote for, is the best of both worlds
I shall vote No because I trust and admire Nick Clegg, who is promising us Federalism when the Liberals return to office
I shall vote No, because Emma Thompson would vote No, and her Dad did The Magic Roundabout
I shall vote No, because A.C. Grayling would vote No,and his Mum was born on Burns Night
I shall vote No because David Bowie asked Kate Moss to tell us to, and he lives in New York and used to be famous
I shall vote No, because nobody ever asks me what I think
I shall vote No, because a triple-A credit rating is vital in the modern world
I shall vote No because things are just fine as they are
I shall vote No because the English say they love us,
and that if we vote Yes, they will wreck our economy.

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Team Scotland

What happens after Yes? It's not the SNP, it's the people. A great post on Bella Caledonia.
The UK chattering classes have been wondering what a real, mass grass-roots campaign might look like in modern, professionalised politics. Impotent is their usual conclusion. Well come on up and we’ll show you. The old feudal dance where councilor doths cap to MP, MP to Minister, Minister to Prime Minister and Prime Minister to corporate CEO may well continue apace even here in Scotland. But it’s not winning Scotland.

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Help ORG restart the debate about internet filters

The Open Rights Group is starting a campaign opposed to the default filtering now imposed by all providers in the UK---de facto censorship. You can fund it via IndieGogo.

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A new SQL injection attack?

Against speed cameras?

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FAQ: The snake fight portion of your thesis defense

FAQ: The snake fight portion of your thesis defense.

Q: Do I have to kill the snake?
A: University guidelines state that you have to “defeat” the snake. There are many ways to accomplish this. Lots of students choose to wrestle the snake. Some construct decoys and elaborate traps to confuse and then ensnare the snake. One student brought a flute and played a song to lull the snake to sleep. Then he threw the snake out a window.
Q: Does everyone fight the same snake?
A: No. You will fight one of the many snakes that are kept on campus by the facilities department.

Spotted by Garrett Morris.




Happy April Fools, courtesy of Better Together

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10 things that put people off cycling

Sad to say, the photos above and below are not an April Fool. From yesterday's Guardian, 10 things that put people off cycling.



Cycling: Past, Present and Possible Futures

Spokes Spring meeting last week hosted Prof Colin Pooley, of Lancaster University, speaking about a detailed study of why people do and don't cycle. The standout lesson, from interviews and surveys, was that people don't cycle because they don't feel cycling is safe. His report concluded with a list of recommendations:
  • Fully separated cycle and pedestrian routes on all arterial roads.
  • Restrictions on traffic speeds, parking, access etc on all residential roads
  • Adopt ‘strict liability’ on roads to protect the most vulnerable road users
  • Changes to structure of cities to make accessing services by bike easy, and storing and parking bikes easy
  • Societal and economic changes to give people flexibility to travel more sustainably (flexi hours, school provision etc)
  • Change the image of cycling so that it becomes ‘normal’
The meeting was also attended by Andrew Burns, City of Edinburgh Council Leader (who reported it on his blog). The last question Councillor Burns was asked was whether he could remember the first recommendation on the list, but he could not. Which I think encapsulates the problem neatly.

The first recommendation is for separated cycle routes, as found in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and elsewhere. ("Copenhagenize" is now a verb.) To Edinburgh's credit, it has allocated 7% of its transport budget to cycling. How much of that is going to separated cycling routes, and the other recommendations on the list? Councillor Burns says segregated routes are planned for George Street and Leith Walk. I argued we need a more agressive plan. Listening to Pooley, the problems sound difficult, but all we really need are the money and the will. Let's construct a network of separated cycle routes covering the city. Build it, and they will come!

(Above: Edinburgh Links, one of the few segregated bike routes in the city, and my ride to work each morning. Below: Copenhagen.)

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