Saturday, December 10, 2011

Will Clegg go for the full house?

I was just having a think about the reasons why the average Liberal Democrat probably went into politics...

Sky high university tuition fees? Check.

The retention of a majoritarian voting system? Check.

Saying "no, no, no" to Europe? Check.

All Clegg needs to do now is back the reintroduction of capital punishment, and he'll have the full house. There's nothing like a politician who really makes a difference...

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Thanks to Marcia for alerting me to this rather extraordinary Ipsos-Mori poll of Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions -

SNP 51% (+2)
Labour 26% (-2)
Conservatives 12% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)

Intriguingly, Willie Rennie now has a richly-deserved negative personal rating, with 20% of respondents satisfied with his leadership, and 28% dissatisfied. However, I would imagine that has more to do with perceptions of his party, as I very much doubt that 28% (let alone 48%) of the adult population of Scotland actually know who Willie Rennie is.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Last chance to have your say on gay marriage...

I see that a certain long-deceased English Archbishop is trying to skew the outcome of the Scottish Government's consultation on gay marriage by urging his fellow zealots from south of the border to take part at the last minute (submissions close tomorrow). So to balance things up just slightly, here is a link to an online version of the consultation form, if you'd like to have your own voice heard.

I must admit one or two of the questions are slightly tricky - for instance "If Scotland should introduce same-sex marriage, do you consider that civil partnership should remain available?" I suppose the answer to that depends on whether the right to enter a civil partnership is extended to all couples, gay and straight, on an equal basis. If it is, then retaining civil partnerships might complement the option to marry rather neatly. But I doubt that's what the question is getting at.

And for anyone still harbouring any doubts on the broader subject, here is a useful pie-chart detailing the ramifications of allowing gay marriage, as helpfully provided by one of the more free-thinking members of Archbishop Cranmer's congregation.

Keep Earth in the Solar System, and other radical ideas

I'm still largely 'plugged out' of political news, but I have just caught up with the information that the No campaign in the independence referendum are provisionally calling themselves "Keep Scotland in Britain". My problem with that choice is roughly the same as my problem with the name "Scotland for Marriage" - it expresses a sentiment that the campaign's opponents do not actually disagree with. Scotland is part of an island called Great Britain - Scots were British before the union in 1707 and will remain British after independence. That's a geographical fact. Any hypothetical "Get Scotland Out of Britain" campaign would require a pretty hefty chainsaw.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - "Britain" belongs to all Britons. It's not the name given to whatever political entity London happens to be the capital city of.

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I go to a book club every month, and I had a moment of immense private satisfaction at the most recent meeting when someone nominated The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and it turned out that hardly anyone had actually heard of her. (If only I could say the same.) Sanity 1, Kevin Baker Fan Club 0.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lingua americana

Laura Agustin has caused a stir by criticising journalist Nicholas Kristof for using the American term "seventh-grader" in relation to a twelve-year-old girl he helped to "rescue" in Cambodia. Agustin's broader point is a very profound one - that the use of such terminology betrays the unconscious and pernicious colonial mindset that underpins the whole "rescue industry". But it also reminded me of the much more minor irritation caused by the innumerable petty ways that Americans attempt to force the rest of the world to conform to their norms on a day-to-day basis. One good example is postal codes. If I was writing a letter to someone in another country, I'm confident I would take special care to copy the postal code exactly as it's written. But I can tell you from experience that if you send your address to someone in the US, there's at least an 80% chance that the reply will delete the space in the middle of your postcode. American zip codes don't have spaces, you see, so a postal code with a space is automatically interpreted as an error. And then there's the issue of names. Most of my family and friends call me Jimmy, but I've had experiences where I've literally said to an American "Hi, I'm Jimmy", and the instant reply was "oh hi, Jim". It seems that the American practice is to only use nicknames like Johnny and Jimmy for very small children, and to switch to the shorter names for older children and adults. Ah, well. They're perfectly entitled to their own traditions, but there are times when I can't rid myself of the feeling that I'm dealing with people who have been instructed by a stage hypnotist not to hear the second syllable of my name, no matter how clearly I pronounce it.

The most hilarious example of this mindset has to be Bill Mallon's claim that the selection of Rio de Janeiro as the host city for the 2016 Olympics was proof that the IOC is "international-centric". For the uninitiated, "international" is code for that peripheral part of the world that lies beyond the borders of the US, and where a mere 96% of the global population live. That's the rough equivalent of residents of the Isle of Wight splitting the UK into two distinct regions for the sake of convenience - "Wight" and "The Rest". And it has to be said the government and media are disgracefully Rest-centric.

For those who don't know, I have dual US/UK nationality, so you can put these periodical anti-American rants down to a form of self-loathing.