Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Will Scotland vote “oui”?

Tomorrow’s referendum vote on Scottish independence is flooding the airwaves with a little more balance than NPR and the BBC usually reserve for such events.  Yeah we get the “bad for businesses” and “scary future” drumbeat and some hogwash about the advantages of being in the United Kingdom “family” in a disproportionate amount, but some of the other view is coming through. 

I think that the small modicum of balanced reporting owes itself to two facts:
1, they might win, and
2, they speak English. 

Despite my last name, I have no personal connection to Scotland and have never even been there. 

On the other hand, I do have a deep personal relationship with another place that had an independence referendum that never got any balanced reporting in English.  That is Quebec, the French speaking province of Eastern Canada where more than one independence referendum failed to pass.  I grew up there, in part, and while I was getting what little high school that I have, in French, in an East Montreal trade school, and I voted OUI, (yes) because I felt it was time for Quebec to step forward to take care of itself and deal with other issues.  Those issues were blocked because of the “national question”.  My whole life ran in French from school, to work to bedroom and I have a strong bias in favor of the French language and in favor of national self-determination for any country. 

Given that full disclosure of personal bias,
I’ll move onto my polyglot news junkie version of the Scottish national question. 

Nobody questions that Scotland is a nation.  One of the things most nations have is some kind of self-government and control over their own affairs.  Scotland has some of that via a Scottish Parliament with some autonomy powers.  Many nations are part of a larger state, often in a relationship where clearly defined local control is set in law akin to the US balance of powers between our Federal Government and the States. 

The UK has none of that. 

The UK Parliament in London is “supreme”.  That is the basic rule we all should know about British style parliamentary democracies anywhere, including Canada, is that the “Parliament is Supreme”. 
(Canada’s new constitution moderates that, but if we are going to talk about Scotland, I need to stop on the Canada stuff). 

When Margaret Thatcher, a name as vile as Ronald Regan, decided she did not like “Red Ken” (Ken Livingstone, left Labor) as the head of Greater London Council, she had parliament dissolve the council.  Imagine that?  If Barak Obama was sick and tired of, say the racist government of Arizona, could he decide to dissolve Arizona as a state?  By the way, in the UK the Prime Minister is a member of that Parliament, there is no independent executive, no division of powers with checks and balances or any of that stuff either.  Imagine if Newt Gingrich had the power to dissolve a state of city government when he was Speaker of the House! 

So, when the Scots are deciding if they want to be independent, let’s keep in mind what kind of government they would be independent from, and how fragile their autonomy is today.  Puerto Rico has more legal protections. 


Another thing yes voting Scots would say, and some have, said they want independence from is British foreign policy.  At times it questionable if the UK is independent from the US on foreign policy.  That was shown in the invasion of Iraq where the Blair government took the UK to war despite the opposition of the majority of UK citizens.   In this context, the Tory government is about to follow the US lead into yet another mid-east military intervention against the Islamic State that will put us propping up the semi legitimate government of Iraq and helping to overthrow the semi legitimate government of Syria.  Low income Scots, and many other Scots, serve and die in such wars.  The UK spends vast amounts of cash on their military and offer the public austerity in social services, calling it some kind of governmental reform.   Voting NO in this referendum is to vote to stay part of this foreign policy. 


Being British is to have a big gap between the popular vote and the seats allocated in the all-powerful parliament.  One only needs the MOST votes to hold a seat, not a MAJORITY of votes.  There are no run offs, and there is no proportional representation. 

Except in European elections.  Those seats are allocated based on the popular vote.  The largest number of those votes in England in the last European poll went to UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party and ANTI European Union movement.  

The current government of the UK is the Conservatives, who have promised a referendum to the UK voters to be able to re-decide if they are going to stay in the European Union or leave it. 

So all the talk about Scotland needing to apply to re-enter the EU has the backdrop of being part of a UK that is considering the exit door.  In five years’ time we could find Scotland an EU member and the UK outside the system.  They are half outside the system now, not part of the customs union, holding themselves apart on many smaller issues and not participating in the Eurozone. 

The UK keeps the pound because …. ?  Well, a lot is said and most of it is said about the giant part of the UK economy caught up in the big investment banks and institutions in London.  The “Strong Pound” is good for “The City”, meaning their Wall Street.  Does it help Scotland?  Does it help the other parts of the UK economy that does things like provide working class jobs?  Neither the Conservatives, nor the ‘New Labor” opposition talk much about that.  The pro-independence faction in Scotland claims to want to keep currency union with the UK, in other words keep the Pound.  But if they were not allowed to do that, would they accept the Euro instead?  Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and about anywhere else nearby uses the Euro.  Others are working hard to qualify to join that club. 

So maybe in 5 years we have Scotland part of the bigger picture, using the Euro and the UK even more isolated in Europe than their policies have already made them.

And the Scots have something to sell.  North Sea Oil.  Maybe there is only some more, maybe there is a lot more, but right now London calls the shots and I have to think that pro-independence Scots are looking at whatever oil is left and is thinking about how to best sell it in ways that benefit their own country where the oil comes from.  Maybe they will be able to keep the Pound Sterling, but will they accept Euros for that oil?  The thought comes to mind. 

The international aspect of this vote breaks down along the lines of who has minorities that might want to do the same thing.  Supporters of the NO camp include the Spanish government that does not want an independent Catalonia or Basque Country.  Other nations see this as no problem.  The Check and Slovak republics are the product of a divorce.  Go back far enough and there are a lot of splits that have worked out fine thank you, and whole lot of marriages that do not look so great.  Lines have moved back and forth faster than the people living behind them can adapt and it has broken down, especially in the former Soviet Union states, such as Eastern Ukraine today and the Ex-Yugoslavia.  Keeping nations or nationalities inside of countries they want independence from has a bad history, especially in Europe. 

In a world of growing internationalism, what does it mean for a State like Scotland to be independent in an ever more interdependent Europe?  If the game softened, the French Basque and the Spanish Basque could have their own voice.  They already live in a world where they use the same money in the North and South parts and there are no boarder stops, or immigration controls between them.  A French Basque does not need permission to go live and work in any part of Spain or anywhere else in the EU.  A Spanish Basque has the same rights.  Independence in Europe for them would only mean full membership in the Union and getting off the family plan they are on now. 

If I could vote I would probably vote yes and hope for the UK to fully join the EU, including the Eurozone. 

Yeah, the UK family and the European family should stick together, but under one roof?

Scotland needs to be treated as an equal partner. 



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ruby and the empowerment of women in elections?

Is this the Ruby difference? 

Interesting group of people listed on this day event.  Interesting for who is there and for who is not. 

In this race I have real trouble understanding how these divisions are breaking down.  Why are Ruby, Tuman, Schaaf and Parker running against each other?  Is there an overlap between Schaaf and Quan supporters?  Has this just become some kind of overlapping sets of insular, enfranchised cliques? 

Is this election just about personal ambition?  Are personal animosities, or professional disagreements that we are not hearing a big part of the rivalries? 

We know about Kaplan's commitment to personal ambition, but the others? 

One thing that this Oakland City election is not about, is the underrepresentation of women in government.  Look at the guest list of enfranchised women talking about getting "empowered" when I would think that this group would be more on the list of those who should be telling us how they handle power ethically.