Scotland’s Liberation????

Opening ceremony for Highland Games in Alberta, Canada
Is this the future? Opening ceremony for Highland Games in Alberta, Canada

The Big Event

This coming Friday Scotland gets to vote on whether it wants to be free from the UK. Right now those favoring independence for the rugged patch of land seem to be slightly ahead……But a lot can change in the days leading up to the vote, even among those picturesque hills that cover the northern tip of Great Britain. No matter how you look at it, this vote is big and the results could create political-cultural ripple effects that would travel around the globe.

If Scotland Votes Yes

As a U.S. citizen, I can’t vote in Scotland, but still that does not stop me from voicing my opinion that Scotland would be better off as an independent nation. Nonetheless, there is no way to predict exactly how a yes vote will play out. This scenario could play out badly for all parties involved, especially Wales, which may want to follow in Scotland’s footsteps, if they succeed.

What A No Vote Means

A “No” vote means the status quo remains in place. Still, there will be changes in Scottish-English relations, for there is a very good chance that London will give the Scottish a little more autonomy within the UK union. A “No” vote also means it will be a long time before Scotland is faced with another opportunity to establish itself as an independent nation. And it also will make things more difficult in Wales, for those who wish to secede. By the way the majority of political leaders from the western nations have gone on record as being opposed to Scottish independence, including our own president, Barrack Obama, who made a very briefly statement that he thought it would be best if the UK remain united.

Quotes About Scotland

1. “My point is there’s a hidden Scotland in anyone who speaks the Northern Ireland speech. It’s a terrific complicating factor, not just in Northern Ireland, but in Ireland generally.”  Seamus Heaney

2. “Forgive your enemy, but remember the bastard’s name.” Scottish proverb

3. “In Scotland we have mixed feelings about global warming because we will get to sit on the mountains and watch the English drown.” Frankie Boyle

4. Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.” Sir Winston Churchill

5. Oats. A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” Samuel Johnson

6. The Scottish sun, shocked by having its usual cloudy underpinnings stripped away, shone feverishly, embarrassed by its nakedness.” Stuart Haddon

7. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places in the world, the history is fascinating, the men are handsome and the whisky is delicious. But don’t eat the macaroni pies.” JK Rowling

8. Learning to pipe isn’t easy. At first it always sounds worse than a chicken yard full of squawking adolescent roosters.” Amy Jarecki, from Beauty and the Barbarian

9. Scotland is the Canada of England!” Rainn Wilson

10. Edinburgh is a great big black bastard of a city where there are ghosts of all kinds.” Sara Sheridan, Ma Polinski’s Pockets 11. The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!” Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides

12. “If you make a film about a pig farmer in Wales and you are a huge hit as the pig farmer’s wife, the next thing is you’ll be asked to do a film about a sheep farmer in Scotland.”  Kristin Scott Thomas

Quotes About the Independence Vote

1. “I have no time for those who say there is no way Scotland could go it alone. I know first-hand the contribution Scotland and Scots make to Britain’s success – so for me there’s no question about whether Scotland could be an independent nation.”  David Cameron

2. “I think that the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, the friends of freedom, and the countries that would cheer at the prospect… are not the countries whose company one would like to keep.” Tony Abbott Prime Minister of Australia

3. “Scottish independence throws up the possibility of a more progressive England. We won’t be British any more, we’ll be English.” Billy Bragg

4. “The simple truth is that Scotland is subject to the same 21st century pressures as the rest of the world. The more I listen to the Yes campaign, the more I worry about its minimisation and even denial of risks.” JK Rowling

5. “I would hate to have you lose Scotland,……..I hope that it doesn’t happen but I don’t have a vote in Scotland……..I would think it would be a loss for both sides.” Hillary Clinton to Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight

6. (Scottish Independence) “is too good an opportunity to miss”  Sean Connery

7. “Thank you very, very much and Scotland – stay with us.” David Bowie

8. “Staying in the United Kingdom presents greater certainty and stability.” Barrack Obama

9.  “I’m deeply suspicious of patriotism.  People following the band, you know?  I don’t want to be part of it.  It’s paved with fools.” J.K. Rowling

10. “All division worries me.  The secession of a nation without a history of forced unity has to be handled with tweezers and analysed case by case.” Pope Francis

A More Conservative England

Despite Billy Bragg’s rosy optimism, an independent Scotland could result in a more conservative England. This may be come as a major surprise to anyone residing in the USA or Canada, but the elected Scottish representatives serving in London are a very left-leaning bunch. Take away these politicians and not only will GB be more conservative, but the Labor party, which has a lot of support in Scotland will be significantly weakened. “There’s something fundamentally wrong with a system where there’s been 17 years of a Tory Government and the people of Scotland have voted Socialist for 17 years. That hardly seems democratic.” Sean Connery

A Glimmer of Hope

Most observers seem to agree that a “yes” vote for independence would spur other cultural minorities to seek independence from their respective Motherland. Even before the vote takes place, independence movements have been spurred on in places like the Catalans in Spain and the Flemish in Belgium. Even though it is possible that these movements might succeed in the near future, there is one place, where a new independent nation might be particularly beneficial.

And that my friends is the Middle East, where a internationally recognized Kurdish nation is long overdue and greatly needed. If Scottish independence translates into a Kurdish nation, down the road, then I’m all for it.

Can Hardcover Book Sales Successfully Predict Who the Next President Will Be?

The White House as seen from the extensive front lawn, from wikipedia, photo by Daniel Schwen
Who will the next resident be?   The White House as seen from the extensive front lawn, from wikipedia, photo by Daniel Schwen

Presidents As Authors

Just the nature of the job demands that the President of the United States be very adept with the English language. Keeping this in mind, it is no big surprise that the highest office in the land is filled with many authors. In fact, one of the twentieth centuries most successful author-presidents now resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. In 1995 Barrack Obama released Dreams From My Father, a personal memoir of the President’s youth. This memoir helped the Illinois Democrat launch his political career, as he was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996.

Then in 2003, Obama wrote another book, titled The Audacity of Hope. This non-fiction piece was very successful (it has sold over 4 million copies to date), as was Barrack’s Obama campaign for the US Senate. So successful in fact, that in 2008, Obama was elected president of the United States. In 2012, Barrack won re-election.

Presidents As Authors

The tradition of presidents as authors goes all the way back to George Washington, who wrote a memoir about his adventures in the western wilderness, long before the United States became a reality and General Washington was elected to be the first president.  Since then many presidents have followed suit with books written both before and after serving in the White House. Since WWII the frequency of presidential authorship seems to have increased dramatically. Some of the classic examples of books written by future presidents include Six Crises by Richard Nixon (1962), Crusade In Europe by Dwight D. Eisenhower(1948), Profiles In Courage by John Kennedy (1955) and the already-mentioned Dreams From My Fathers by Barrack Obama. Otherwise most post WWII presidential literary efforts seem to be either post-presidential or written solely as pre-campaign literature.

Looking Ahead To 2016

Presently there are many aspiring presidential candidates for 2016,  a situation made more interesting by the fact that our present Commander-in-Chief will be ineligible to seek another term. Though these candidates come from many different political stripes, their one common denominator seems to be that they all have recently written a full-length book detailing their political philosophy and visions for a future America. On the Democratic side, the main contenders appear to be Hillary Clinton, author of Hard Choices(2014), Joe Biden, who has written Promises To Keep (2007),  and Elizabeth Warren, who recently pened A Fighting Chance (2014). Hillary Clinton leads the pack in book sales by a long shot with her recent release about her tenure as Secretary of State, but it remains to be seen if she will even run, much less take the nomination.

Although book sales of potential Republican candidates lag behind their Democratic counterparts, there is no shortage of literary contenders to be the next resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. On this side of the aisle, Rand Paul is in the lead with Taking a Stand (2014). Also of note are Scott Brown’s Against All Odds, Rick Perry’s Fed Up, Marco Rubio’s A Political Son and  Scott Walker’s Unintimidated.  Followers of the political spectrum should also be aware of  Ted Cruz’s recent 1.5 million advance for a political memoir to be released before the 2016 election and Paul Ryan, who has also received a 2013 book deal that is due out sometime this year.

The Prediction

So there you go; Hillary Clinton will defeat Paul Rand to win the 2016 presidential race, unless of course Paul Ryan or Ted Cruz set the literary world ablaze with their upcoming book releases.

The Tree Book Ain’t Dead Yet

Redwood_National_Park,_fog_in_the_forest
Redwood trees in fog, Redwood NP, from Wikipedia, photo by Michael Schweppe

Is This A Golden Age For Writers?

Just recently, Stephen Marche, in his Thousand Words About Our Culture column for Esquire, raised this exact question. To back up his assertion, he put forth numerous graphs and figures, showing that adult readership and book sales are up. Some of the facts are quite convincing; such as increase in both hardcover and ebook sales. For the first half of 2012, adult hardcover sales rose over 8 %, while ebook sales jumped by a whopping 34 %. Also on the increase are the percentage of adult Americans who read literature and the average number of books (of any kind) that are read by individual readers. This is definitely encouraging news.

480px-BarackObamaportrait
Barrack Obama portrait in front of the Capitol building, from Wikipedia, photo source U.S. Senate

A Writer In the White House

Now serving in his second term as U.S. President is Barrack Obama from Illinois, a successful politician, who helped further his political career by writing two widely read books, Dreams From My Father (1995) and The Audacity of Hope (2006). Though most presidents, now publish after they leave office, it is less common to find presidents that used the written word to enhance their political career. John Kennedy and Richard Nixon are two past presidents, who have made it to the White House aided by a successful book publication.

A Good Time To Be A Successful Writer?

Maybe what Stephen Marche should have said is that it is a great time to be a successful writer. Breaking in is still difficult, and perhaps complicated by the huge number of competing writers, all trying for a slice of that same pie that is not nearly big enough to accommodate all those who wish to enjoy some of the sweet rewards.

A Silver Lining For Marginal Writers

One positive development for the struggling  writer is the ebook market, which seems to lend itself admirably to the unknown wordsmith. The ebook does not guarantee success for the upcoming writer, it just levels the playing field a little bit. It still takes a lot of skill and perseverance and perhaps a little luck to breakthrough.

Romney’s Delusions

NGC 6357: Cathedral to Massive Stars
NGC 6357: Cathedral to Massive Stars
Image Credit: NASA, ESA and Jesús Maíz Apellániz (IAA, Spain)

Election Night

After a long and drawn out campaign Mitt Romney went into election night with an overwhelming  feeling of competence that they would win the election. Evidence for this can be seen in the website that was put up right after the polls by the Republican Presidential Campaign Staff and in the fact that Romney only wrote an acceptance speech, which of course he planned on delivering to the nation sometime later that night. I hate to gloat, but I would had loved to been a fly on the wall, when Mitt finally sat down and penned a short concession speech. In Mitt’s defense it should be noted that concession speeches are usually very brief, while a victory proclamation necessitates a bit more effort. And furthermore, writing a victory speech is good PR, especially if you are able to get a press release out before the polls close. Still, the overall effect, remains that despite the fact the race was close, Romney and staff missed some key warning signs as to how the election would turn out, especially in the electoral college, where President Obama outpaced the ex-Massachusetts Governor by more than a 100 points.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, from Wikipedia, photo by Alkarex Malin äger

Romney’s Miscalculations

Unseating a sitting president is not so easy, especially when the incumbent enjoys a 50 % approval rating. In this sense presidential politics is a lot like a heavyweight boxing match. And that means you have to soundly beat the champ to get the referee’s decision. I think this is one area, where the Romney camp underestimated the challenge of defeating the president.

And the other would be the swing states. Even though Obama’s lead was statistically slim it was still steady and did not change much during the last few weeks of campaigning. The fact that Obama carried places like Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada by a good five percentage points raises the question whether these places really were toss-ups.

What Romney Did Right

The best thing Romney did for the Republican party was revive the Nixon strategy….and that is…… where you run to the right to get the nomination, then circle back towards the left and the center to win in November. I think that if the Republicans what to revive their hopes in the next presidential contest, they will have to follow this strategy. Also of note is the fact that Romney was the only major Republican candidate to accept the likelihood that “climate change” is affecting us right now in 2012. How it affects us and what we can do about it, is another story, but acknowledging the existence of this recent phenomena does put anybody running for higher office on the right track.

What Gore, Romney and George W. Bush Have In Common

Quite simply, they are all sons of prominent politicians. And they have all been selected by their respective parties to run for the office of the President of the United States. As a group they have not fared well, for only George W. has been able to break the 50% barrier…..and that only occurred once in 2004. Even then, Mr. Bush saw his popularity plummet after the election due to war and a deteriorating economy.

A Literary President

Obama and George W. Bush meet in Oval Office, White House photo by Eric Draper
Obama and George W. Bush meet in Oval Office, White House photo by Eric Draper

Last night Barack Obama gave his State of the Union (SOTU) speech to a packed house and a national TV audience. I did not watch much of it ( not much interest in watching a large crowd stand up every two minutes and applaud, then sit down), but I did happen to listen to the speech, while was working on my computer. The speech conveyed lots of important ideas and goals, plus it was delivered in fine style by a president with good oratory skills.

However, it is Barack Obamas prowess  as a man of words that I would like to focus upon. Though lots of presidents have been able to write well and find success as an author,  Obama stands out in the way by which his literary skills have been so instrumental as a springboard to his political career. In 1995 Barrack Obama released his memoir, entitled “Dreams From My Father” and then a year later he published, “Audacity of Hope”. Although not a professional writer by trade, Obama’s memoir was well received by the American public, even though he was an unknown at the time.

It is from this background that the president speaks, as he did last night. And as was obvious last night, when he does speak, he does so in a very articulate manner.

Rick Steves On Barrack Obama

Graffitti Near Christiana in Copenhagen, Denmark
Graffitti Near Christiana in Copenhagen, Denmark
A few days ago, Rick Steves the noted travel writer and PBS-TV commentator posted a rather long list of articles concerning Europe’s reaction to the new president-elect of the United States, Barrack Obama. If you are interested check out this page on the Rick Steves website. If you do not know who Rick Steves is, then you will have to tune him in on your local PBS station. Check your local listings for date and times.
This church is located in the middle of lake Bled in Slovenia
This church is located in the middle of lake Bled in Slovenia

Anyway Rick Steves has been putting out lots of interesting travel literature about the ins and outs of traveling in Europe for over twenty years. He has covered the Continent from before the fall of the Berlin Wall and has does an excellent job of providing great travel advice about the opening of Eastern Europe as a travel destination. He even gets himself invoved in political or what might be described as political-cultural commentary. Such was the case last Monday when he posted a list of newspapers that were delving into the recent election and how it was being perceived in European capitols. These articles make an excellent read and are worth checking out because the underscore how  the new president-elect is being received in Europe.

The Red and Blue Of Barrack Obama’s Victory

A red abstract photograph
A red abstract photograph

 

On November 4, 2008 history was made in the United States with the dramatic victory of Barrack Obama over his rival John McCain. Today president-elect Barrack Obama is headed for the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. How did the Democratic candidate beat the ever-popular Vietnam War hero and P.O.W.

Very simply it boiled all down to mathematics and a handful of battleground states. Over the past few years the United States has been divided into red and blue areas and battleground states. The red areas vote Republican, the blue areas vote Democratic and the battleground states, which include Ohio, florida, Indiana, Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado can go either way. This year Barrack Obama did very well in almost every battle ground state, thus assuring the Illinois senator a solid victory.

That’s the red and blue of it. How this came to be, I’m not exactly sure, but this is how our polotics will be defined, by afew crucial battleground states.

Blue in graphic design
Blue in graphic design