Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why the World Still Needs Obama

“It’s the economy stupid” so said President Clinton during his successful 1992 US election campaign. Depending on who you speak to Barack Obama has either saved the US economy or hastened its collapse. His opponents argue that 23 million people unemployed and a record national debt make Obama unfit for his office, while his supporters point to him saving the nation’s crisis-hit motor industry and stimulating the economy towards 15 successive months of growth.  Yet while the economy will be at the forefront of most American voters' mind when they cast their vote, the ramifications of today’s election will be felt thousands of miles from Washington.

Back in 2008 the US’s international standing under the Republican leadership of George W. Bush was at an all time low. Botched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined with a general failure in foreign diplomacy had led many in the international community to question whether America could be trusted any longer.

Since then President Obama has set about cleaning up that tarnished reputation. He acted swiftly, pulling troops out of Iraq and working with the United Nations and international forces to overthrow the Gaddafi regime in Libya. He has also played the long-game in Syria by not intervening in a war between Government troops and rebel forces that are said to be harbouring Islamic Jihadists. In Palestine, Obama has failed to broker a peace agreement but he at least appears more conciliatory toward the Palestinians and has avoided much of the ‘unconditional support for Israel’ rhetoric employed by previous administrations.  

Undoubtedly his greatest foreign policy success was the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Obama authorised an operation by a crack team of American Navy Seals which killed Bin Laden and brought to an end a ten year man hunt for the world’s most wanted terrorist and chief perpetrator of the September 11th attacks.

Obama’s opponent Mitt Romney on the other hand is a far more hawkish prospect. Despite promising to lower the US national debt he says he will increase military spending, perhaps in preparation for a war with Iran. He has also vowed to declare China a ‘currency manipulator’ a move that will only strain relations with the world’s next superpower. Romney may not be as bad as the previous Republican President but he is the next rung down – Diet Bush or Bush Light if you prefer. The last thing the world needs is another American President hell-bent on flexing its military might.

Barack Obama’s first term may not have been perfect; his failure to close down Guantanamo Bay and the continued use of drone strikes has been more than disappointing. But compared to Mitt Romney he remains the only credible choice as the next President.

Today millions of Americans will take to the polls, they need him and the rest of the world needs him to.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Polls Apart

In the first month of the New Year the debate on Scottish Independence has roared back to the top of the political agenda. For political geeks like me it has been a fascinating time as the likes of Alex Salmond, David Cameron and assorted others have traded blows over the timing of the referendum and how an independent Scotland would look should the vote come to pass. Media outlets have been quick to publish opinion polls on independence, while politicians have been just as sharp to jump on their results as evidence that their particular stance is gaining traction with the public. Yet many of these polls are based on dodgy methodology and as such are misleading to the public.

Last weekend the Express published a poll showing that for the first time over 50% of Scots supported independence, this was hot on the heels of a similar poll conducted by the New Statesmen which showed a 50/50 split between the pro-independence and the pro-union camp. On the face of it this looked like positive news for the pro-independence SNP, with numbers of support for independence seemingly rising since the beginning of 2012. Needless to say the SNP and their supporters were quick to express their delight at these findings over the weekend. However, as is often the case with opinion polls, the devil is in the detail. The Express poll sampled a meagre 180 people, to put that into context out of the four million registered voters in Scotland only 0.0045 percent took part in the poll. Such a tiny sample size makes it almost impossible to draw any reasonable conclusions and should be disregarded.

Similar issues have also plagued polls showing support for Scotland to remain part of the UK. Two weeks ago the Daily Mail ran an opinion poll which appeared to show only 23% of Scottish voters supporting independence. While the sample size was far more credible (1001 respondents) the question that was asked; ‘Should Scotland quit the UK?’ was incredibly leading. The word ‘quit’ has negative connotations; people quit their jobs, quit their University courses or quit their gym clubs. It therefore stands to reason that the results  leant against independence. Had the Daily Mail used the Scottish Governments preferred question of ‘Do you agree that Scotland should become an independent country?’ it is likely that they would have seen a different result.

It is difficult to understand why the likes of the Express or the Daily Mail choose to carry out such lazy research. With the Scottish referendum likely to dominate the political agenda until 2014 it’s important that media outlets act responsibly while conducting opinion polls. Until then it is perhaps wise for politicians and the public to ignore opinions polls and concentrate on the debate in hand.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekend Predictions - 15th - 16th January

Kenny Dalglish makes his return to Anfield as his Liverpool face Everton in one of a number of derby matches being played on Sunday in the English Premier League. Sunderland will attempt to avenge their 5-1 drubbing when they host Newcastle, while Premier League strugglers Birmingham and Aston Villa face off at St Andrews.   Elsewhere Man United’s unbeaten records will be put under threat as they head south to visit Tottenham.  In Scotland Celtic will look to get back to winning ways when they face Hibs at Easter Road and Hearts could go second if they beat Dundee United at Tannadice.

                                                                Scott                                      Aldos

Chelsea v Blackburn,                                                  2-1                                                        3-0
West Ham v Arsenal,                                                 1-2                                                      1-1
Norwich v Cardiff,                                                        2-1                                                     2-0 
Hibernian v Celtic,                                                        1-3                                                      1-2  
Dundee Utd v Hearts,                                                  0-1                                                      1-1  
Dunfermline v Dundee,                                                2-0                                                      1-1
Birmingham v Aston Villa,                                          2-1                                                       0-0 
Sunderland v Newcastle,                                            2-0                                                       3-1
Liverpool v Everton,                                                    2-0                                                       1-1                          
Tottenham v Man Utd,                                                1-1                                                       1-1

Betting tips

Chelsea seemed to have turned the corner after last week's 7-0 cup win but Blackburn are looking a hard team to beat. Having Roque Santa Cruz back is a massive coup and it will be a tight game. Back draw @ HT. Chelsea @ FT @ 13/5 as Blackburn will be hard to break down

This game has so much at stake. Aston Villa have been shocking away from home this season and a -17 goal difference won't get any better here. Birmingham outright is really tasty at 7/5 who are solid at home

both teams suffered shock FA cup defeats last weekend and will be looking to put that to bed. Sunderland are usually strong at home and with Gyan, Bent and Welbeck on fire I can definitely see them scoring. Sunderland to grab an early goal then kill off Newcastle looks tasty so back Sunderland to win both halves @ 5/1  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Weekend Predictions 18th - 20th December

Following on from a narrow 1-0 victory over Arsenal, league leaders Man United make the long trip south to face champions Chelsea.  The blues did the double over United last year and will be looking to secure a first league win in over month after gaining a decent point against Spurs last weekend. Fixtures north of the border look likely to be once again curtailed by the weather. Inverness will look to extend their unbeaten away record against inform Hearts who are aiming for a seven successive win.  Elsewhere Craig Brown takes charge of Aberdeen for the first time against former club Motherwell and Rangers fans will expect a fairly routine victory over St Mirren at Ibrox.

Deirdre Savage scored a total of five points last week. This week’s guest predictor is Sarah O'Callaghan a Liverpool fan from Dublin.

                                                Scott                   Aldos                    Sarah
Sunderland v Bolton,            2-0                          1-1                          2-1
Arsenal v Stoke,                   OFF                        OFF                        OFF
Liverpool v Fulham,              OFF                        OFF                        OFF
Blackpool v Tottenham,        1-1                          1-1                          0-1
Chelsea v Man Utd,               2-1                          1-0                          0-2
Man City v Everton,               2-0                          2-1                          1-0
Leeds United v QPR,             2-1                        2-1                          3-1
Hearts v Inverness CT,          0-0                         3-1                          1-0
Alloa vs Airdrie                      3-1                          1-1                          2-0
Rangers v St Mirren,             OFF                        OFF                        OFF

Prediction league table:
Andy Tait – 7 points
Scott Leslie – 6.25 (ave)
Aldos Rendos – 6 (ave)
Deirdre Savage - 5
Campbell Aitken – 3
David Thomas – 2

Betting tips

Tipster Scott Leslie had a surprisingly baron spell last time around but is back this week to cast his eye over this weekends fixtures.

Sunderland v Bolton, 12:45

Sunderland are unbeaten at home in eight matches in the league this season. Both teams have only lost once in each of their last 6 league matches. Sunderland have been the more consistent and Bolton will miss Mark Davies who was sent off last weekend, which in turn was the ignition they needed to beat Blackburn last week.

2-0 home win

Sunderland @ 11/10 is a great value bet to add to your acca

Blackpool v Tottenham, 13:30

Spurs are unbeaten in their last 6 league games. Blackpool are without their captain and playmaker Charlie Adam who has a one match suspension. Spurs are too short to back at odds-on away from home so I'd take the draw. Both teams to score looks increasingly likely

1-1 score draw

1-1 correct score @ 16-1 could be tempting for a neutral

Chelsea v Man Utd, 16:00

Chelsea haven't won in 5 league games and they need to turn this around soon. This is the perfect time as united have only won once away from Old Trafford all season, drawing 6 matches. Chelsea at home at odds-against is too good to turn down.

2-1 home win

Chelsea to win @ 11/10 is a good bet

Man City v Everton, 20:00

City are one of the form sides in the league this season. Like Arsenal, City can take advantage of the Chelsea and United clash this weekend - a draw would suit City down to the ground. Everton have been playing well and not getting the results but I think they will struggling here.

2-0 home win  

Leeds United v QPR, 15:00

QPR lost their first league game in 20 last week which is highly impressive but I think they will still be down because of it while Leeds will be buzzing after being 2-0 down to Burnley and coming back to win 3-2. 

2-1 home win

Hearts v Inverness CT, 15:00

This game either has 4-4 or 0-0 written all over it! I'll go for 0-0 though as ICT's one year + unbeaten record goes on despite playing Celtic recently. With ICT not losing away and Hearts not conceding this will be a bore draw

0-0 bore draw

0-0 @ 9-1 is worth a punt

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Year of the GMac

It’s that time of year again, no not Christmas, but time for the BBC’s Sport Personality of the Year award.

I’ve long been a bit sceptical of this award. Quite often the it goes to people who are more acknowledged for their personality rather than their sporting achievements over the course of a calendar year. In the BBC’s defence the award for is for ‘sports personality’ not ‘sportsperson’ however it would perhaps give the award more credence if it were to see a shift towards sporting achievement in the future.  Nonetheless it has become the show piece of the BBC’s sporting coverage and can be used as a fair barometer of public opinion.

This year’s award sees a wide range of nominees from sports that include; cycling, diving, skeleton and boxing. There is a place for the world’s number one golfer Lee Westwood and for the world’s number one darts player (or should that be dartsman?) Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor.  I’m not sure if darts can really be classified as a sport, but there you go, clearly it has a strong enough support to promote their greatest player on to the shortlist.  I’m sure Taylor and heptathlete Jessica Ennis will enjoy discussing the different natures of their training regimes.

For me, there can only be one winner, golfer Graeme McDowell or 'GMac' as the Americans affectionately call him.

When I look back at the sporting year, I think about a fairly poor World Cup, a Commonwealth Games which created more news off the track than on it and a Winter Olympics which failed to ignite.

Yet there was one competition which managed to encapsulate everything that sport should be about; joy, passion, despair, tension, relief, the 2010 Ryder Cup provided more drama in four short days than what the World Cup could manage in a four  weeks.

I think back to Jeff Overton's 'boom baby', the anguish of the missed putts and the joy as Europe finally overcame a resurgent USA in the final match on the final day.  The man of course who holed the winning put was Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.

Beginning the year as a relative unknown and sitting 37th in the world rankings, McDowell achieved his first victory of the year at the Wales Open back in June, two weeks later he was at Pebble Beach for the US Open. Having fended off the favourite Tiger Woods, McDowell held his nerve and went on to win the tournament by a single shot.  In doing so he not only won his first major of his career but also became the first European winner of the US Open in 40 years and only the third Irishman ever to win a major, following in the footsteps of Fred Daly and Padraig Harrington.

Then came his return to Celtic Manor, scene of his earlier triumph at the Wales Open and venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup.  McDowell was playing Hunter Mahan in the last match of the tournament, the Americans only required a draw to retain the trophy and with the Ulsterman only one hole up going on to the sixteenth this was a distinct possibility. However, McDowell saved the day, draining a fifteen foot putt at the sixteenth, before once again holding his nerve on the following hole to secure a famous victory for Europe.

McDowell topped off a great 2010 by coming from behind to defeat Tiger Woods at the Chevron World Challenge, an event hosted by Woods himself.  This result helped propel him to seventh in the World Rankings.

McDowell also has the likeability factor, he comes across well in interviews and appears to be extremely gracious and noble in his achievements. He has also been instrumental in the meteoric rise of compatriot Rory McIllroy.  It’s no secret the two of them are close friends and the pairing was used to effect in the Ryder Cup earlier this year.

It’s not only the BBC who have acknowledged his achievements,  McDowell has also been nominated for RTÉ Irish Sports Person of the year, were here to win both it would bring about a unique double.

So GMac gets my vote. Who would get yours?

·          BBC Sports Personality of the year –  Sunday 19th of December 1900-2100, BBC One

·          RTÉ Sports Awards 2010 – Wednesday 22nd of December at 2135 on RTÉ one.

·          Also worth checking out this cheeky viral by GMac starring Rory McIllroy & Iain Poulter -

Friday, December 10, 2010

Weekend Predictions - 11th - 13th December

Arsenal went top of the table last week for the first time this season following a Sami Nasri inspired victory over Fulham.  On Monday they face Manchester United at Old Trafford in what is undoubtedly the game of the weekend.  The Gooners will hope to avenge last seasons 2-1 defeat which famously saw Arsene Wenger being sent to the stand.  Up in Scotland a number of games have once again been postponed due to the weather prompting fresh calls for a shift to summer football.  Out of the matches that have survived, Rangers face a tough trip to Inverness who gained an excellent point in their previous meeting at Ibrox.

Last week saw David Thomas score a total of two points. This week guest predictor is Deirdre Savage an avid Ireland fan from Dublin. 3 points for a correct score, 1 for the right result.

                                                       Scott                      Aldos                     Deirdre
Inverness CT v Rangers                 2-1                          1-1                          0-2
Aston Villa v West Brom,              2-1                          1-1                          1-1
Everton v Wigan,                           3-1                          3-0                          2-0
Stoke v Blackpool,                        2-0                          2-2                          1-2
West Ham v Man City,                  0-1                          0-1                          1-3
Newcastle v Liverpool,                  0-2                          1-1                          1-3
Bolton v Blackburn,                       3-1                          2-0                          1-1
Tottenham v Chelsea,                    1-2                          2-0                          2-2
Man Utd v Arsenal,                       3-2                          2-1                          2-3

Prediction league table:
Andy Tait – 7 points
Scott Leslie – 6.33 (ave)
Aldos Rendos – 6 (ave)
Campbell Aitken – 3
David Thomas – 2

Betting tips

Last week Scott Leslie correctly forecasted that there would be goals in the games at West Brom and Birmingham. This week’s tips are shown below.

Rangers will be feeling the strain after a tough trip to Turkey in midweek. The squad is threadbare as it is and they won't like travelling up to Inverness in this weather.
Caley have scored nine goals in their last three games and will be up for this. 5/1 is a massive price for Thistle at home.


Caley to win @ 5/1 is excellent value

This almost local derby is a must-win for the home team. Villa have lost their last three while the Baggies have won two on the trot. The home side need to pick up  maximum points in games like these.
Villa are odds-against and should be backed at prices like this at home.


Everton have won the last three league meetings between the pair. The Toffees haven't won any of their last 6 league games and like Villa need to get maximum points against teams like Wigan.
2/5 is too short to back Everton outright but the evens on HT/FT is more appealing.


Everton to win HT/FT @ Evs

This will be a really entertaining match as both teams play very different styles. Stoke haven't lost in five games and I don't see it happening here. Their big four defenders will be hard for Blackpool's skilful forwards to get past and should secure a clean sheet.


Stoke to win to nil @ 15/8

Man City are one of the form teams in the league just now, having not lost in six. West Ham will be hard to break down but I can see City sneaking this as they have the momentum.


Draw HT, City FT @7/2 looks appealing

Liverpool have won the last four meetings and three of them by the scoreline 3-0. The unrest at Newcastle after the disgraceful sacking of Chris Hughton and the surprise appointment of under achieving Alan Pardew by overweight oaf Mike Cashley will work against him and the players won’t be up for the fight.


Bolton are playing some fantastic under Owen Coyle and he is rightly being spoken about as Lord Ferg's successor. Blackburn are strong at home but don't seem to do well away. This will be a rough derby but Bolton are more than up to the test.


Kevin Davies to score first @ 6/1

Chelsea looks out of sorts just now while Tottenham go from strength to strength. They need to turn this slump around soon and I can't think of a better place to do it than at the Lane.


Chelsea are odds against to win for what must be the first time in ages.

Chelsea to win @ 8/5

This has the potential be a cracking match so no doubt it will finish 0-0. Both teams are in excellent form but look shaky at the back.


United to win 3-2 @ 25/1

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Weekend Predictions - 4th - 6th December

This week’s fixture list has been severely hit by the ‘big freeze’, meaning that all but one match has survived in Scotland. As a result this weekend’s predictions will be coming exclusively from the top two English divisions. The big game of the weekend is the Monday night match, which sees the return of Gerard Houllier to Anfield as his new side Aston Villa face Liverpool.

Last week Campbell Aitken, hindered by a number of postponed matches scored three points. This week’s challenger is David Thomas, a Man United fan from Dublin.

                                                   Aldos              Scott                David
Arsenal v Fulham,                           2-0                          3-0                          4-0
Birmingham v Tottenham,                    1-1                          1-1                          0-2
Chelsea v Everton,                                2-1                          2-1                          2-0
Man City v Bolton,                               3-1                          2-1                          1-1
Derby v Norwich,                                 1-0                          3-1                          2-2

Sunday, 5 December 2010
West Brom v Newcastle,                    1-1                          1-2                          0-2
Sunderland v West Ham,                   2-0                          2-1                          2-0

Monday, 6 December 2010
Liverpool v Aston Villa,                    3-1                          2-0                          1-1

                                                                                Betting tips

A number of Scott Leslie’s tips came in last week including; 2-2 between Celtic & Inverness, both teams to score in the Stoke vs Man City match and Andy Carroll to score at any time against Chelsea. See this weeks selections below

Arsenal v Fulham, 15:00 

Arsenal have kept a clean sheet in the last 5 meetings between these teams while Fulham haven't won away all season. 

3-0 Arsenal

Arsenal to win to nil @ 20/21

Spurs have won their last three premier league matches while the blues have seen a dip in their home form. 


Both teams to score @ 4/5

Chelsea v Everton, 15:00 

Chelsea failed to beat Everton in the league last year. Chelsea have won only 2 out of the last 6 league games but I think they will win here.


Chelsea HT/FT @ 10/11

Man City v Bolton, 15:00 

Bolton have been free-scoring of late but I think City will be too strong for them.



Derby v Norwich, 15:00 

Derby have been in impressive at home of late and I can see this continuing. They have scored 23 home goals this season (the most of any team in the division).



Sunday, 5 December 2010
West Brom v Newcastle, 13:30 

Both teams have scored in the last 5 meetings between the pair and will be looking to build on impressive performances last time out in the league.


both teams to score @ 4/6

Sunderland v West Ham, 16:00 

Sunderland and Man United are the only teams unbeaten at home in the league. This will continue this week as West Ham can't win 3 in a row.


Monday, 6 December 2010
Liverpool v Aston Villa, 20:00 

Liverpool rested key players midweek to keep them fresh for this game. Villa have only won one out of their last 6 league games and I feel that will carry on here as they have a mini injury crisis.