Saturday, March 25, 2017

One More Edition of the OHBC

Continuing on the theme of Scottish comedy, here are the last couple of clips of Gregor Fisher as Angus, presenter for the Outer Hebrides Broadcasting Corporation on Naked Video.

That's some first class Scottish comedy!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Reaction to the Proposal for Another Scottish Secession Referendum

  • BBC: Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon to seek second referendum
  • BBC: PM: SNP 'tunnel vision' over independence 'deeply regrettable'
  • UK Government for Scotland Facebook Page: The UK Government Response to the First Minister
  • Sky News: British public opposes second Scottish referendum - Sky Data poll

    I suspect that Scots get as frustrated with me commenting on Scottish politics as I get when folk in the United Kingdom comment on American politics. Even so, I find myself hard pressed to explain why the SNP is angling for another referendum. I may comment on it further in the coming weeks and months, or I may leave well enough alone; but it didn't seem right not to post a little something on this occasion.
  • Saturday, February 18, 2017

    More Scottish Comedy from the OHBC

    Continuing on the theme of Scottish comedy, here are more clips of Gregor Fisher as Angus, presenter for the Outer Hebrides Broadcasting Corporation on Naked Video.

    There's one more installment yet to come.

    Thursday, January 19, 2017

    Things I Missed in Graduate School

    In the three years since I finished grad school, I've discovered a veritable treasure trove of resources that would have been extremely valuable during grad school. Their absence obviously didn't handicap me, as I graduated with the highest possible honors. However, as I continue in various strategic efforts, many of them will be valuable. So, what have I found?

    I really haven't found anything that would have been significantly valuable in Strategic Theory, save perhaps for a few podcasts that might have offered some quotes or concepts. (Notably, Professor Lawrence Freedman's 2014 lecture On Strategy and Strategists. Mostly, I wish that I'd spent a bit more time reading - specifically, Strategy in the Contemporary World, On War, and The History of the Peloponnesian War. C'est la vie.

    I've discovered several items that would have been helpful for my course in Strategic Intelligence, though the most useful tool for that course really would have been a ten or fifteen minute discussion of how E wanted term papers formatted. Did you know that the CIA has a FOIA release website? That would have been useful knowledge. Did you know that the British National Archives has released a series of annual podcasts discussing releases from both the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6)? Not that I'm ever bereft of podcasts, but those could have been pretty valuable. I had no shortage of books, but it would have been nice to have known earlier than late 2013 that Intelligence Power in Peace and War was available as a PDF!

    For Strategic Nuclear Doctrine, Critical Mass did a fantastic job of assigning readings that were publicly available as PDFs, and I've linked to the bulk of those. The one item that would have been really useful was Michael Quinlan's slim volume on nuclear strategy, which was extremely useful and extremely succinct (as compared to Professor Freedman's tome on nuclear strategy, which is one of the most difficult books I've ever read). Quinlan's monograph is available from RUSI as a PDF. When CN Sister was working on her SND term paper, she attempted (too late, as it turned out) to check Quinlan's book out from the Hideous Glass Cube, but the HGC - a library - didn't keep all of its books there, so she was out of luck. This PDF would have been a great asset, but fortunately, I'd read it earlier. Global Security Issues dealt largely with the news and current events. I'd also read several relevant books from The Director's prescribed reading list. I haven't really found anything that I didn't have at the time that I wish I had.

    Which brings us to...

    The Dissertation! Several valuable resources about the Dhofar Rebellion have been released since my dissertation was submitted, but I've discovered many sources since August 2013. As with the rest of the course, the proposition that these stray items would have improved my final grade is a non-starter - I scored a coveted 19, which means that I literally couldn't have done any better. I'm still curious, though, about how my dissertation might have been different had I known about some of these resources. The Defense Technical Information Center has a handful of papers that discuss Dhofar either in passing or in depth. I also discovered the National Security Archive and their cache of more than four hundred relevant diplomatic cables, which I've written about elsewhere. While researching a single data point - Cuban troops advising the adoo in South Yemen - I also discovered three documents from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum: a memorandum, a letter, and a Q&A about a 1975 meeting between Sultan Qaboos and President Ford. I absolutely would have included more information about the various foreign alliances if I'd had that information. Three other resources that I would have used for either my dissertation, Strategic Theory, or both were the digital copies of The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan, The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War, and Insurgent Tactics in Southern Afghanistan 2005-2008. Finally, I found a pretty decent op-ed in The Guardian, published just a few months before my arrival in Aberdeen, entitled Ten things I wish I'd known before starting my dissertation; it could have been helpful for calming some of my nerves, though I think that the record shows that I was pretty confident throughout the process.

    It's tempting to think of how I could have improved my experience, if not the bulk of my scores, had I possessed these resources prior to 2016/'17. Ultimately, though, I'm not sure that I would have changed much about how that adventure played out.

    Wednesday, January 4, 2017

    Scottish Comedy from the OHBC

    Continuing on the theme of Scottish comedy, I've never actually seen an episode of Naked Video. However, a couple of years ago, I accidentally found some clips of Gregor Fisher (whom some of you may remember as Billy Mack's manager from the 2003 film Love Actually. Here are a couple of clips of Fisher as Angus, the presenter for the Outer Hebrides Broadcasting Corporation.

    There'll be more of that to come. I didn't make the trek out to the Hebrides - inner or outer - while I was in Scotland. The impression I get from both this comedy, and a segment on the BBC Two program(me) Coast, the Outer Hebrides are pretty isolated... Like, Shetland isolated!

    Tuesday, December 13, 2016

    Separated by a Common Language: Orcadian Dialect Edition, Part 4

    Last year, I posted an entire season worth of Whassigo words from the beloved Orkney evening program(me). Many months late, I'm at it again with the words from the '15/'16 Whassigo season. This time, I kept track of the words as the episodes were released during BBC Radio Orkney's winter season, but I'm extremely late in posting them - as evidenced by the fact that there have already been three installments this season. And so, this latest edition of Separated by a Common Language.

    October 2015
  • "koosed" - to exchange, swap, or barter
  • "hoolican" - a shaggy, repulsive sheep
  • "bayow" - a primitive scythe
  • "nutheran" - humming or singing
  • "tyno" - rod or wire for drying fish
  • "tribble" - to touch things with one's fingers; to grope

    November 2015
  • "letto" - an insignificant item of very little value
  • "karr" - a big, strong man
  • "millens" - particulate or fine bits of stoor, e.g., in the bottom of a purse or handbag
  • "scumfaced" - old Scots word meaning disgusted, related to scunnard (scunnered?)
  • "snellie" - a coot (bird?), e.g., a mark that looks like it was made by a snail
  • "ill-fossered" - untidy or slovenly

    December 2015
  • "dagsy" - a bow-legged person
  • "noler" - a snub (Scottish in origin)
  • "feich" - an old Norse word meaning expression of disgust, particularly at a bad smell
  • "gramowrie" - a witch's power, old Scots word derived from French
  • "irpid" - from a Faroese word meaning spiteful or cantankerous
  • "yam" - an old type of Orkney potato

    January 2016
  • "transeerin" - a serious fall from a horse
  • "droose" - a Sanday word meaning to rush forth, originally Norwegian
  • "gamsmyre" - total chaos or pandaemonium
  • "lowter" - a lump of gutter
  • "nowtan" - muttering in an ill-tempered manner, growling or grumbling
  • "pilk" - a small, light-built boy

    February 2016
  • "ab" - a hindrance or impediment
  • "nivvle" - an old Norse word meaning to grip something hard
  • "skarps" - a patch of poor, rocky ground
  • "raam" - someone who is speaking nonsense or rambling incoherently
  • "koofie" - a shellfish, particularly large breeds of clam
  • "lovanentie" - an exclamation equivalent to "mercy me", corrupted from the phrase "Lord, defend me"

    March 2016
  • "skelly-wheeter" - an emaciated beast
  • "toosy" - a state of dishevelment
  • "slunky" - a word describing a long and lean person
  • "maelskorn" - a light, unsatisfying meal
  • "metting" - a single ear of corn; a handful or small amount of anything precious; a tea leaf
  • "krammy" - heavy, drizzly weather
  • "koukan" - swallowing greedily, from an old Norse word

    "April" 2016
  • "clivvo" - a steep road with high banks on the side
  • "skiggan" - from the Norse "skiggar", meaning bright and clean (repeat from February 2015)
  • "loba" - old, coarse grass on bog land
  • "drush" - a great number/amount of something
  • "kony" - strong vegetation, e.g., for making a basket or rope
  • "haffhand" - a concubine or mistress

    I'll try to make sure that the next installment of this particular series gets posted in April of May of 2017, rather than December. Many apologies!
  • Tuesday, November 29, 2016

    Jumpstarting the Blog with Still Game

    I've really neglected blogging over the last few months... Really, the last couple of years. I'm going to try to be better about that. I haven't been back to Scotland since I left nearly three years ago, but I keep up on the news - particularly in Orkney - and there's no reason not to post an occasional update on one topic or another. So, I'll work at it, with the goal of a couple of posts per month.

    I'm going to start this blogging revitalization by sharing something that Glaswegian Sensation, of guest post fame, introduced me to. During the Winter of 2013, several people were gracious enough to let me crash on their sofas or floors when I was back and forth to Aberdeen from my temporary digs in Orkney, and Glaswegian Sensation was one of them. She really went above and beyond by not only cooking a lovely meal - completely unnecessary, but very welcome - but also by firing up YouTube to show me Still Game, which inevitably has a Wikipedia entry. Still Game is absolutely crackin' Scottish comedy, and there's no better introduction than the banter between the lead protagonists, Jack and Victor, and Boabby the barman. Fair warning, this clip is for adults!

    If you care to, there are a bunch of episodes available to view for free on YouTube. Still Game is currently in the midst of a long-awaited seventh season after several years on hiatus and a hugely popular live show at "The Hydro" in Glasgow. It's definitely worth checking out.

    Tuesday, July 5, 2016

    Scottish Secession: The Brexit Factor

    Not quite two weeks ago, in a high turnout election, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. One of the potential second order effects that's been discussed is a second Scottish secession referendum. I've spoken with Gray 1 up in Orkney, and The Director in Aberdeen, and wanted to share some thoughts, mainly on the prospects for a second Scottish referendum.

    Politics: While the Scottish National Party (SNP) still control the Scottish Parliament, they recently lost their majority and a great deal of political capital. The previous referendum campaign was premised upon the SNP's majority, so the fact that the SNP has lost that majority, and the referendum (and not narrowly), doesn't bode well for another referendum. Based upon politics, the prospects for Scottish secession have not improved since the referendum, and have probably deteriorated.

    Currency: During the 2014 referendum, the "Yes!" campaign claimed that an independent Scotland would retain the pound as part of a currency union, while the "Better Together" campaign and UK government denied that there was any prospect of this. If Scotland seceded in order to join the EU, a sterling-based currency union would be impossible, and Scotland would likely be saddled either with the Euro, or with its own national currency. At present, the sterling is down, but it has historically been stronger than the euro and is likely to rebound in the long term. Based upon currency, the prospects for Scottish secession are worse in 2016 than they were at the time of the referendum.

    Borders: According to The Director, if Scotland were to secede from an EU-independent UK, the remainder of the United Kingdom would have no choice but to erect a formal border between England and Scotland. This is especially true in light of the ongoing EU refugee crisis, which probably contributed significantly to the Brexit vote. While some of Scotland's trade and immigration is with the United Kingdom, most of Scotland's goods and people move between Scotland and England. Based upon borders, the prospects for Scottish secession are worse in 2016 than they were at the time of the referendum.

    Defense ("Defence"): The "Yes!" campaign made contradictory claims: that Scotland would evict the UK's Trident deterrent, but that Scotland would be grandfathered into NATO. NATO made it clear that Scotland would not be grandfathered into the alliance. The SNP has not softened its anti-Trident stance in the last two years, but Russia has become more aggressive by supplementing its pre-referendum intervention in Crimea with its post-referendum intervention in Syria. Occasional interceptions of Russian military aircraft violating NATO and UK airspace continue. Based upon defense ("defence"), the prospects for Scottish secession have not improved since the referendum, and have probably deteriorated.

    Energy: As I mentioned ad nauseum between 2012 and 2014, the "Yes!" campaign premised its case for secession upon high oil prices, which were going to be used to turn Scotland into a socialist welfare wonderland. In September of 2014, oil was averaging $95.85 per barrel, down from a high of 117.78 in March of 2012. At present, it's at $45.94, and the BBC News North East, Orkney, and Shetland feed posts several articles per week about how poorly the North Sea energy industry is doing. Since the energy industry downturn, there have been repeated observations in politics and the media about how inaccurate the SNP pronouncements were. Based upon Scotland's economy as a function of energy prices, the prospects for Scottish secession are much worse in 2016 than they were at the time of the referendum.

    Union: Finally, there's the state of the EU itself. The fact that the majority of the UK, narrow though that majority may have been, voted for secession is an indicator of the health of the EU. The more influential EU powerhouses, mainly Germany, have expended a great deal of political and financial capital in the last five years to keep the EU afloat, and particularly to keep bankrupt Greece and other nations in the EU. In addition, the migrant/refugee crisis and the problem of unsecured borders has strained the EU's credibility. Brexit may be a one-off, but it could also trigger referenda in some of the other backbone members whose economies the EU needs to survive. With this degree of uncertainty about the future viability of the EU, the temporarily chaotic British economy may very well be a better bet for Scots than a mad dash to reunite with Europe. Based upon the health of the EU, the prospects for Scottish secession are much worse in 2016 than they were at the time of the referendum.

    I don't know if there will be another referendum; and if there is one, I don't know how it will play out. What I do know is that, to quote one of my contacts, "The case for Scotland being an independent nation is now weaker than ever." I suspect that if Westminster can stall for long enough - and given that the SNP billed the 2014 referendum as a "once in a lifetime opportunity", that shouldn't be too difficult a proposition - then talk of a second referendum will probably die down to a dull roar for the time being. But, I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.