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September 19, 2014

or maybe just scottish dependence

Well that was a whirlwind twenty-four hours spent obsessing about another nation's government.  But the voters have spoken, and it's nae all the way.  (Though Prime Minister Cameron's remarks on the issue are not so much victory lap as hints at a very different, decentralized United Kingdom.  Interesting.)

And even though the story's done and the rabbit didn't die, I did receive a bit of correspondence from an old pal in London, a learned man who wishes to remain anonymous, which I quote in full:

Alan Cummings' comments are about spot-on.

And the Scots are in a position to do something about it. Labour voters who fear they'll not be represented by the toffs in Westminster are very likely to opt for a solution where they CAN vote a government in.

If the Scots leave, it will only exacerbate similar feelings in the north of England, where Tory deindustrialisation has destroyed communities.

Even if the vote goes in favour of the union, the debate across Britain may well grow, although that's just the view of this optimistic lefty.

In reality, UK politics is adrift as the political class has become a profession in its own right, with the Camerons, Cleggs and Milibands emerging straight from college into party duty and election.

There was a time when the seats of the Commons were filled by Doctors; Teachers; Lawyers; Industrialists; Trade Unionists and Loose radicals who had all worked for a living. In fact, those elected up until I reached my adult years were the product of the war.

One of my favourite quotes of all time was that of Labour Chancellor Denis Healey, who was asked about his time in the darkest hours of the seventies, when he had to devalue sterling and take the begging bowl to the world bank. The interviewer asked about the stress levels he must have faced. Healey, never known to self-doubt, scoffed at the suggestion. "Stress?" he barked "Stress? You're talking to the beach commander at Anzio!"

Scotland is not anti-English, but anti-Westminster. The people of Scotland do not feel they are represented, and they are reacting in a perfectly rational way.

And now we've all learned a little something about our friendly neighbors across the pond.  And maybe it's unfair of me to single out the Tories; it seems that the entire political class is to blame.

Now go wait in line for an iPhone or Talk Like a Pirate or whatever it is you people do to while away the endless stream of days.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:01 AM

September 18, 2014

scottish independence

There's a really interesting thing about today's vote for Scottish independence (or, alternately, the preservation of the United Kingdom).  Well, two interesting things, the first being that I'm kind of not sure how I'd vote, which is odd for me?  Then again, I'm not exactly a Scot either.

But the actually interesting thing about this is that, from what I've read, it seems that the primary motivation for the Scots that want to be free of the UK (aside from that urge for "independence" that Americans assume is genetic) is an utter loathing of the Tories.  I can't really link every thing I've read that leads me to this conclusion, but start with today's op-ed from Alan Cumming.

This is not about hating the English. It is about democracy and self-determination. Scotland is weary of being ruled by governments it did not vote for. The Conservative Party has virtually no democratic mandate in Scotland, yet too often, Scotland has been ruled by a draconian Tory government from London...

Sixteen years on, the differences between the basic tenets of Scotland and those of its southern neighbors are palpable: Unlike the rest of Britain, Scots still enjoy free higher education and free medical prescriptions. Even as parts of the National Health Service south of the border have been dismantled or privatized, Scotland's is still intact and prized. There is an exceptional commitment to the arts, too -- most visibly with the formation of the National Theater of Scotland.

Yes, this is about self-determination, but it is also totally political.  Everything that the Conservatives stand for — dismantling of public services, privatization, austerity, free-market fundamentalism — are things that are loathed in Scotland.  This is an ideological conflict, and, if it goes through (and I think I'm starting to lean Yes?), a big old slap in the face of Chicago school neoliberalism.

And there is something quite jarring seeing the Tory government of David Cameron, knowing full well that their mere existence fuels the independence movement, bending over backwards to potentially grant Scotland some very non-Tory concessions should they vote no.  I mean, wouldn't a committed ideologue stand fast to principle?  It's almost like that time in the late 80s when the world began to agree that yes, pro wrestling is fake.  The Tories are breaking kayfabe, implicitly admitting that their policies are cynical ploys to redistribute wealth upwards.

Well, I guess we'll know by dinner time, right?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:01 AM

September 16, 2014

hamilton nolan and the economic injustice beat

If I had all the time in the world (spoiler alert: I don't have all the time in the world, I would snuggle myself up into a nice economic-justice beat like Gawker's Hamilton Nolan, who constantly writing about the kinds of stuff that I wish I was writing about.  For example, this short piece on one of Nolan's favorite targets, hedge funds:
The people who will continue to defend hedge funds are either A) People who have something to gain, such as hedge fund employees; B) People who have themselves invested in hedge funds, and are holding out hope that they will be the ones to beat the odds and strike it rich, much like lottery players hold out hope of finding the unlikely winning ticket; or C) People who do not know what they're talking about.

Yes, like that.

It's a small item, concerning CALPERS, the largest pension fund in America, who has decided to pull all of its investments from hedge funds, on account of hedge funds being a not-so-intricate scam designed to extract equity from the economy and consolidate it in the hands of a couple people who don't even pay proper taxes on it.  I.e., CALPERS decided that their investments would no longer be dumb money.

And it's not a long piece, but Nolan hammers away, and seeing his headlines interspersed with some of the other TMZ-chasing that you'll see on Gawker gives you hope that some of these issues (hedge funds, Walmart's treatment of employees, etc.) are penetrating the Zeitgeist.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:28 PM