23 July 2011

Scottish politics

We have our own Parliament in Edinburgh, at a place called Holyrood, which, for information, is just north of Brigadoon. If you haven't been there and want to paint a mental picture for yourself, think of the glamour of Hollywood - then think of the exact opposite. With kilts.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me set the scene. The main political parties in Scotland are the SNP, Labour, and The Proclaimers. In addition to the main parties, a number of smaller parties have had some success, because we in Scotland have a system of proportional representation. 'What is this fictional form of voting,' I hear you cry, 'Is it something J.K. Rowling wrote of in the marvellous Harry Potter books?' No, it's real! You may have heard that PR is a concept that's as likely to work as Europe, but it does. As a result there are representatives at Holyrood from minority parties, such as the Greens... and the Conservatives. I should clarify that the situation for the Tories in Scotland is very different to that down south. In Scotland you're as likely to see a Tory as you are fruit. The majority party is the Scottish National Party, headed up by First Minister Alec Salmond. He's a tremendous orator, but he's got the unfortunate tendency, when he becomes passionate, to sound increasingly like a Dalek. 'Westminster must bow to the wishes of the Scottish people. Exterminate!'

- Susan Calman, The Now Show, Radio 4, 1 July 2011.

05 July 2011

A peace activist

I think I can announce it as a fact, that it is not the wish or interest of that government [Massachusetts], or any other upon the continent, separately or collectively, to set up for independency [...] I am as well satisfied as I can be of my existence that no such thing is desired by any thinking man in all North America; on the contrary, that it is the ardent wish of the warmest advocates for liberty, that peace and tranquility, upon constitutional grounds, may be restored, and the horrors of civil discord prevented.

- George Washington to Capt Robert Mackenzie, 9 October 1774, quoted in J.C.D. Clark, 'British America: What if there had been no American Revolution?', in Virtual History, Niall Ferguson (ed.), 2011 (originally published 1997). 

On marriage and politics

Then there's the matter of "personal baggage", which in [Newt] Gingrich's case is a steamer trunk of Titanic proportions. Republicans are strong believers in man-on-woman marriage, so it makes sense that three of the most prominent Presidential possibilities - Daniels, Trump and Gingrich - have married eight times. (Only seven wives, though: Daniels married the same woman twice, with a Grover Cleveland-like four-year interval during which she left him to marry someone else). Gingrich stands out, for hypocrisy (daily demanding Clinton's impeachment which carrying on his own extra-marital affair with a subordinate), brutality (dumping his first wife while she was in treatment for cancer), and chutzpah (attributing his adulteries to "how passionately I felt about this country").

- Hendrik Hertzberg, New Yorker, 23 May 2011