Monday, October 29, 2012

The Autonomous Province of Kosovo

Prishtina, February 17, 2008

Even the Siberian temperatures that have occupied the Balkans these days did not manage to stop the influx of the world media to Prishtina and Belgrade on this historic day, which is believed to be stabilising the region. Celebrations in the Mother Theresa Square and the Republic Square have started since the early morning.

Everyone is counting down to 3pm with eyes turned to RTS and RTK to watch the live broadcasting of the extraordinary session in the Parliament of Kosovo. The world is waiting for the historic moment when Tomislav Nikolic and Hashim Thaci address the world and deliver the great news from Prishtina.

The festivities in the parliament seem endless. Guests, friends and diplomats from across the world are waiting seated to witness this rare historic moment for humanity. The hospitality of Atifete Jahjaga and Ivica Dacic is quite evident while they escort Bill and Hillary Clinton, Milorad Dodik, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Marti Ahtisaari and Boris Tadic to their seats. Few yards further, one can see Edita Tahiri and Borko Stefanovic feeling proud that their negotiations were fruitful.

It is 3pm now and the Assembly Speaker Jakup Krasniqi kindly asks all the guests to stand, while Tomislav Nikolic and Hashim Thaci prepare their speech. The noise in the Mother Theresa Square in Prishtina and the Republic Square in Belgrade turns into silence as everyone listens to Catherine Ashton, who has just given the opening speech.

Tomislav Nikolic addresses the world by promising that equality and mutual understanding will be the main pillars between the two nations.

He publicly apologises for all the crimes, persecutions and damages caused by Serbia to Kosovo while adding that Serbia has already started paying war reparations and is returning the stolen pension funds.

Hashim Thaci reaffirms that Kosovo will continue to progress in its Euro-Atlantic path, even though it has now been transformed into a Serbian province. He stresses that the European perspective of Kosovo will be the engine of development and adds that the new Ahstisaari based Constitution is more glorious than the 1974 one.

Belgrade, March 2, 2008

Two weeks of celebrations, joy and music seem to have been enough for the Serbs in expressing their happiness for returning Kosovo to Serbia's sovereignty. Everyone, from retired grandmothers all the way to the Serb youngsters with 1389 tattoos on their chest, cannot hide their happiness that the cradle of their civilisation is back in the hands of Tsar Lazar's successors.

A Monday full of sunshine has dawned on Belgrade, where a new chapter for the institutions of Serbia commences.

Dozens of official cars arrive from Prishtina to Belgrade as the MPs convene for the first time after the enforcement of the new Constitution.

Hashim Thaci, who flew with JAT airways from Prishtina to Belgrade is taking the steps to parliament entrance.

The Deputy President of Serbia Atifete Jahjaga arrives in Belgrade by high-speed train, a generous donation of Japan to congratulate the reconciliation between the two nations. The Japanese were going to call it the Kosovo-Serbia Bullet Train, but decided there had been quite enough shooting between the two countries.

Jahjaga is accompanying Jakup Krasniqi, who is currently busy checking whether Albanian signs and denominations have been put in the parliament building.

According to the Ahtisaari Plan, Albanians as the biggest minority group in Serbia have 28 percent of the seats reserved for them in Serbia's parliament. The ministry of foreign affairs, education and health are governed by Albanian ministers, while the Albanian language has been installed as the joint official language in Serbia.

Serbia's flag has been changed to a blue background where the map of Serbia, Kosovo and Vojvodina is accompanied by six doves symbolising peace. The new Constitution strictly prohibits the use of the old Serbian flag in order not to provoke the Albanian minority and spread the message of a multiethnic Serbia.

Belgrade and Prishtina, June 21, 2008

Guided by the special rights guaranteed by the Ahtisaari Plan, Albanians managed to imprison Serbian Academic Dobrica Cosic, for being one of the drafters of the SANU Memorandum in 1986, which brought violence and terror to Albanians in Kosovo two decades ago.

Last week, the Regional Court of Belgrade sentenced a Serb youngster from Kurshumlia to 5 years of imprisonment for singing the constitutionally banned "Boze Pravde" anthem in Kalemegdan. The sentence of the youngster in conjunction with the Vidovdan celebrations led to nationwide Serbian protests in Belgrade claiming that Albanians are occupying Serbia.

As a response to the Serbian demands, the Academy of Sciences of Belgrade drafted yet another memorandum expressing concern over the dangerous and miserable state of Serbians in Serbia, Kosovo and Vojvodina. The memorandum demands imminent imprisonment of all those that who pose a threat to this nation. Nearly 2 million Albanians are yet again faced with nationalism in Serbia and experience the 90s déjà-vu.

These events transform Prishtina into a nest of terror and police forces from Belgrade are raiding the University of Prishtina and expelling Albanian professors.

Dozens of engineers and journalists in Kosovo's public broadcaster RTK are physically assaulted and persecuted, while Albanian broadcasting is banned. Tomislav Nikolic initiates the amendment of the Constitution in order to revoke the autonomy of the provinces.

The West is finally convinced that Kosovo's return to Serbia would be successful only if it did not include those nearly 2 million people. The region heads towards a new wave of destabilisation as it becomes evident that Serbia is predisposed to repeat the crimes of 90s in the name of country's protection.

Reality, September 2012

Nowadays, the public opinion in Serbia has been taken by surprise with the potential referendum that could be called to decide between Kosovo and the EU.

The initiative surfaces at the time when pressures for a political dialogue on northern Kosovo are on the rise.

However, it would be more logical if, instead of nationalistic weeping, the Serbian nation was presented with a more pragmatic question: Do they want Kosovo as a province, when in this day and age it is evident that you cannot rule it with the oppression you imposed on Albanians for nearly two decades?

Are they prepared to have Albanian ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers due to proportional representation?

Or simply put, would Serbs accept an Ahtisaari Plan and a flag that substitutes the eagle and tricolour with six doves symbolising peace?

They must understand with the discrimination, violence and the state terror, which they imposed on Kosovar Albanians during the 90s, they lost Kosovo once and forever.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Kingdom Of Looting

There is a phenomenon that is readily associated with swathes of Kosovo's post war politicians. In diplomatic terms it is known as "corruption". For me and many of my fellow citizens it is nothing short of robbery.

Sadly, this phenomenon not only has become entrenched in our daily lives, but it has also been nurtured as a vital mechanism in state consolidation.

If the true scale of corruption in this country was fully known, I believe many of our 2 million people would be on the verge of packing everything up and heading towards the border.

The previous statement might sound melodramatic, especially because it brings bitter memories of the agony that Kosovo went through thirteen years ago, but it is unfortunately true.

Those close to the government would, of course, brush off the claims of widespread cronyism. They would even attempt to refute it by referring to the praise lavish on them by the international community as supervised independence officially ended.

During the two-day events in Prishtina, our international partners held up Kosovo as a role model of state building, social and inter-ethnic cohesion.

It is also interesting to note that international media resorted to putting these words in inverted commas, challenging subtlety the over-effusive claims.

In an interview given to the German international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, PDK's Arsim Bajrami claimed that the end of Kosovo's supervised independence means more responsibility for Kosovar institutions for combating organised crime and corruption.

The statement of Mr Bajrami is logical. However, the reality suggests that the government has neither the courage nor the interest to fight what it has tolerated and nurtured for years -robbery and looting.

The fact that this phenomenon has now reached uncontrollable levels is demonstrated with the hopelessness of Kosovo's youth. Most youngsters keep an eye out for the first opportunity to take a ticket abroad and head to the western world for employment. Others chose asylum-seeking or illegal immigration.

A senior politicians who decides to treat a group of women to a trip to Albania for International Women's day, costing tens of thousands of euro, could easily be seen as playing fast and loose with the Kosovo budget.

Using a private jet to return from holidays in Turkey at a cost of 20,000 euro is perhaps a worst example of excessive spending.

You might be wondering about the names of these protagonists. I purposefully choose not to name them in order to test our collective memory.

The examples refer to two different governments of Kosovo, the former currently in power and the latter of 2005. If we struggle to remember the names, our apathy is confirmed.

We need to understand the fact that even if these acts have now faded into history this does not dilute them, nor does it legitimise the situation Kosovo is in. But, what legitimises this Kosovo-wide looting is the apathy of society, which allows this phenomena to turn into a lifestyle.

Monday, October 15, 2012

US Patent 6630507: The Nail in the Drug War Coffin?

The nail in the coffin of the US War on Drugs is a medical marijuana patent owned by the federal government. At least, it should have been the fatal mistake of a dying concept, but it wasn't. Instead, the War on Drugs has sloshed onward, buoyed largely by the predation of the government on marijuana users based on the claim that the plant has no medical value. At the very least the feds could change their argument to the reality of the situation, which essentially boils down to the idea that even if marijuana does have medical uses, the government has secured a monopoly on any potential profits.

Of course, this all makes perfect business sense. After all, the War on Drugs is extremely lucrative, so hedging one's bets by securing a patent on medical marijuana will alleviate any pressure applied by an inevitable change in federal policy. That change will of course come on the heels of public outrage, but by then it won't matter: Patent 6630507 ensures that the government will continue to profit handsomely by heavy-handed control of suddenly legal medical marijuana.

What is US Patent 6630507?

The Department of Health and Human Services filed for this patent in 2001 after apparently extensive medical marijuana research where the government claimed, among other things, that;

"Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases."

The US DHHS provides evidence for a number of specific medicines and treatments to be included as part of the patent, and stated in the patent filing's "Summary of the Invention" that;

"It is an object of this invention to provide a new class of antioxidant drugs that have particular application as neuroprotectants, although they are generally useful in the treatment of many oxidation associated diseases."

(Patent Storm: Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants, Patent #6630507, Issued 10/07/2003, Expires 02/02/2021)

What this means is that not only does the government hold a patent on various types of medical marijuana treatments, it also shows clear support for and evidence of its usefulness in many oxidation associated diseases. This is shocking news considering that oxidation associated diseases are those that we struggle with - and die from - every day. This includes conditions such as heart failure, cancer, bipolar, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, sickle cell anemia, autism and many other troubling diseases.

This gives rise to the thought that if the government clearly and enthusiastically admits that marijuana is a useful weapon in the battle against these diseases, but then simultaneously persecutes those who use marijuana to treat those same conditions, then it doesn't seem logical to suggest that the DHHS is acting in the best interest of the American people. Unless, of course, we're talking about the best financial interest of some Americans.

But regardless of the fact that the government's medical marijuana patent was filed and granted more than a decade ago, it hasn't caused much of a stir despite several short bouts of ineffective media coverage. Of course, it could be argued that the stance of the government has changed, considering the fact that 16 states have passed medical marijuana legislation.

However, this argument only adds further insult to injury considering that starting in the spring of 2011 the federal government began an aggressive crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries and suppliers that continues to this day. The reason these law-abiding citizens are being arrested and incarcerated? Because there are no medically accepted uses for marijuana.

Of course, pointing out that patent 6630507 is a blatant, potentially criminal contradiction to this stance invariably leads to the tired excuse of "if we legalize pot for medical use, we'll have to legalize everything else as well."

This argument is correct but flawed considering that we already have legalized most of the other illicit chemicals for medical use. Opiates are possibly the largest class of drug on the planet, and include substances like Vicodin, Morphine, Methadone, Percocet and many others. Cocaine is used for medical purposes including pain management and as an anesthetic, and amphetamines are found in many drugs including popular prescription medications like Adderall, Benzedrine and Dexedrine.

So in reality, this argument only points out the fact that medical marijuana is actually behind the times of perilous street drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth. Of course, even in the filing documentation for Patent 6630507 it's clear that the government tried - unsuccessfully - to patent a class of drugs that were non-psychoactive. However, why should this matter? Prescription drugs are dangerously addictive because they are highly psychoactive, while medical marijuana - even if habit forming - isn't viewed as dangerous by anyone, including the people who demonize it.

Ultimately, the entire War on Drugs is propped up by the marijuana trade. By removing this component from the "War," the federal government wouldn't have any legs to stand on. This is because while the demand for drugs like cocaine and heroin is high, it pales in comparison with the demand for marijuana - medical and otherwise. Additionally, it's likely that the more difficult marijuana is to obtain - as in a high interdiction rate - the more users will turn to other drugs.

But at the base of this issue is the two-sidedness of the US stance on medical marijuana: the government harasses, persecutes and imprisons those who take part in state-sanctioned, legitimate medical marijuana programs by citing the "fact" that marijuana has no medical uses while holding a medical marijuana medicine patent behind their backs.

In fact, even the government's studies have found that this is a useless policy and one that can't hope to survive. The conclusion of a federally-funded study on drug demand and supply stated that;

"Given experiences since the beginning of the war on drugs, which initiated major expansions in expenditures on supply-based programs, it seems more reasonable to conclude that the Nation will not be able to have any large future influence on decreasing the availability and increasing the price of illicit drugs." (William Rhodes; Patrick Johnston; Song Han;Quentin McMullen; Lynne Hozik, Illicit Drugs: Price Elasticity of Demand and Supply January 10, 2002)

Overall, any sane person who examines this issue subjectively will come to the same conclusion: you can't have your cake and eat it too. But for some reason, we the American people have allowed our government to do exactly that. And because of our ineffectiveness at collaboration, dissemination, organization and action, even if we do succeed in ending the War on Drugs, we'll be at the mercy of a highly controlled, government-monopolized program for marijuana - a weed that can grow in any ditch or backyard. The government is playing its people like a game of chess: Exit the War on Drugs, enter Patent 6630507.

Want to do something about it? Spread the news. Create a fire. Share this article, and tell anyone who will listen that there is clear, easy to obtain proof that our government is soldiering on both sides of the War on Drugs. This means that no matter what side you're on personally, you're battling a hypocritical traitor.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Do Blue States Subsidies of Red States Indicate Their Fiscal Superiority?

The realization that nearly 40% of President Obama's electoral support came from the five fiscally disastrous and chronically blue states of California, Illinois, Michigan, New York and New Jersey apparently hit some raw nerves. Some critics countered with the fair point that red states recover more federal tax dollars then they pay and are consequently subsidized by blue states that pay more than they receive. That assertion is arithmetically correct but the interpretation that somehow red states should be thankful for the generosity of blue states and are financially or fiscally inferior is fanciful.

First, a significant portion of federal tax revenues flow back to residents of all states as Social Security and Medicare payments, which for the most part have been earned by recipients who paid into those programs during their entire working lives, so they should never be confused as gifts of charity and are certainly not the result of the beneficence of blue states. States also receive significant federal tax revenues for national defense and military spending, which protect everyone, especially coastal blue states, at least more so than interior red states.

Second, blue states generally pay more federal taxes than they receive because their residents and businesses are more affluent. Ironically, if President Obama wins the fiscal cliff negotiations and raises taxes on the wealthy, that tax disparity will widen, but the effect should be short-lived as long term trends show that affluent folks continue to leave high tax/high cost blue states for red states; over time the disparity should narrow.

Third, blue states, not red states, need a financial overhaul. The five states identified herein recover federal tax revenues ranging from only 61 cents (New Jersey) to 92 cents (Michigan) per dollar their residents pay in federal taxes, with the remaining three states receiving approximately 75-80 cents per tax dollar they pay. Those states are trying desperately to stay financially solvent by raising state and local taxes, which for New York, New Jersey and California are already among the nation's highest.

Those states carry enormous debt epitomized in the extreme by California's whopping $618 billion; they carry debilitating budget deficits, epitomized by the nation's worst at $44 billion in Illinois; and carry smothering unfunded state government worker pension and healthcare liabilities that amount to as much as 43%, 37% and 31% of the respective state GDP's of Illinois, New Jersey and California.

If allowing those states to keep more of their federal tax dollars would enhance their financially viable, such a policy should be considered, but let's not kid ourselves, there will be no quick fixes to their problems.

Monday, October 1, 2012

How the SNP Uses Anglophobia to Split the Union

Imagine if the English national anthem were about Flodden, the battle which took place in 1513, when James IV's army invaded England, while Henry VIII was away fighting in France. It could go something like this:

Oh flower of England,
When will we see
your like again,
that fought and died for
your field at fair Flodden
and stood against him
proud James' army
and sent him homeward
in his own coffin.

Can you imagine how the SNP would react if such a song were sung at rugby matches? Can you imagine how they would cry about bias if the anniversary of Flodden were to be used for political purposes 400 years later? Yet they wish to do exactly this with regard to the anniversary of a battle which took place in 1314.

Any Scot, who is not in self denial, knows that there is widespread anti-Englishness in our country. If someone were to go into a Scottish pub, when England were playing football, wearing an England shirt, he would at the very least receive unpleasant comments, assuming he could hear them over and above the abuse directed at the television screen.

Ordinary kind, decent Scots, including nearly all of us at one time or another, unthinkingly say things about England and the English that we simply would not dream of saying about any other country or people. At times this is just banter and is the sort of humour that everyone enjoys including the English, who equally crack jokes about the French, while remaining very Francophile. But we Scots know of many instances when anti-English comments are not just banter, when such comments and actions really have the power to wound and hurt, when someone is made to feel unwelcome and insulted because of his accent and the place he comes from.

The one thing that this is not, of course, is racism. White English people are the same race as white Scottish people. The experience of racism, which black and Asian people feel in both England and Scotland, is qualitatively different from Anglophobia and far more severe. Few Scots would be unwilling to be friends with, or fall in love with, someone from England. English people are not discriminated against in employment. But many English people do find the common, everyday instances of anti-Englishness, which occur in Scotland, unpleasant and distasteful. Even if these experiences should not be confused with racism, they make the English person feel as if he does not belong.

Let's look at an English person in Scotland. Can someone born in England, of English parents and with an English accent, can such a person be a Scot? I would contend that the vast majority of Scots make it quite clear that such a person cannot be a Scot, no matter how long he has lived here. What counts as being a Scot is that you are born and bred here and that your accent fits. The key criteria looks very much like family lineage and this is confirmed when we come to that piece of Scottish national dress called the kilt.

Until recently almost no one in Scotland wore a kilt apart from soldiers and deer stalkers, but now at weddings they are becoming universal. Many Scots don't have a particularly Scottish name. Such Scots might pick a kilt they like and wear it with pride, but there's always someone who wants to ask what clan are you from, and are you entitled to wear that kilt. It's as if, unless you can trace your lineage to Culloden, you're not quite entitled to be a Scot at all. But if someone with a name like Walker or Robinson is not entitled, how is someone with a name like Khan or a name like Kowalski going to gain his entitlement?

To their credit the SNP maintain that they are civic nationalists and not ethnic nationalists. Therefore if asked can someone born in Pakistan, India or Jamaica be a Scot, they would answer yes. But does anyone really believe this? If the English can't be Scots how can the Poles or the Pakistanis? The SNP's civic nationalism is founded on their ethnic nationalism and would collapse without the ethnic nationalism. But this is really the case with all nationalisms. Why do many people in Quebec want independence? Because they speak French, have French names and are descended from people who came from France. Quebec nationalism is almost exclusively felt by these people. Those people living in Quebec who speak English or who are descended from places other than France do not want independence. They want to be Canadians. Quebec nationalists are also civic nationalists, but the foundation of their nationalism like all nationalisms including Scottish nationalism is ethnic nationalism. It is based on membership of a clan, opposed to those who do not belong to the clan.

Of course anti-Englishness is not exclusive to nationalists. Many unionists, unconscious of the contradiction, will express anti-English sentiments such as the commonly expressed idea that when I go on holiday the French or Germans or Italians don't much like the British, but when I point out that I'm Scottish, they are much more pleasant. Anyone who thinks like this, who is willing to drop their Britishness when it is convenient, should be voting for Alex Salmond. The strength of the union is that we are all in it together, that no matter where we come from we're all fundamentally the same. We're all British. Without that feeling, the union begins to creak and will inevitably fall apart. When Scots express Anglophobia they are saying that those people are not the same as me, they are foreigners. Furthermore this gives rise to ever increasing levels of anti-Scottish sentiments among the English, and so in turn with the Welsh and the Northern Irish. It is for this reason that Mr Salmond seeks to subtly stir up anti-Englishness by continually complaining about rule from London, code for England, saying such people have no right to have a say about what goes on in Scotland. He is saying that such people are not us, they are foreign. When every country in the union hates those who live in every other country, there will no longer be a union; there will just be a small island full of enmity. And that will be a fine legacy for Mr Salmond.

The great thing about Britain is that it enables us to be both Scottish and British. Britishness is inclusive and it is something anyone can feel no matter where their parents came from. It is for this reason that people in Scotland, who were not born and bred here, overwhelmingly support the union. They know that in an independent Scotland, they will not be Scots, not really and neither will they be British. Civic nationalism will allow them to remain, will give them a passport, but the ethnic nationalism which underpins that civic nationalism, will mean that incomers will forever feel like foreigners in their own country. They will live here, but without an identity. They will not really be Scots, they will not quite be entitled. They'll not get to wear the kilt as they have no clan.

Anglophobia is not a nationalist ideology, but it is the foundation of nationalism. Why else choose an anti-English song as an anthem? Why else go on and on about how the English did this and that to us, about how the English oppressed us, how the English say British when we win, Scottish when we lose? Why the chip on our shoulder about the English going on about 1966 when we go on about 1314? In the end the reason that nationalists want to reject Britain is because they can't bear to be associated with the English. The reason they hate the Union Jack is because it contains the cross of Saint George.

Naturally nationalists frequently claim never to have met an SNP member, who is anti-English, but this is like claiming never to have met anti-Englishness in Scotland; a case of self-denial. The virulence and hatred of the cybernats, resembles very closely that Anglophobia, which many English people, to our shame, meet in Scotland, for it springs from the same source. Scots who are willing to abuse someone because of his accent or his parentage, are just as liable to abuse someone who is opposed to the one thing the cybernat wants above all others an independent Scotland free from England, a Scotland where the English have been sent homeward to think again.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Is There a Contradiction Between Euroscepticism and Unionism?

Is there something contradictory about being in favour of the UK leaving the EU, but being against Scotland leaving the UK? Eurosceptics cite that they don't want to be ruled from Brussels, but likewise the SNP does not want to be ruled from London. Are unionist eurosceptics not being hypocritical in denying to the Scots what they want for themselves?

Not at all. Firstly Scotland is going to have a referendum on independence. The first thing that eurosceptics want is a referendum on the EU membership. If we lose we will accept the result just as we will accept the result of the referendum on independence.

Why are eurosceptics against the EU? Personally I'm against the EU not because I'm against unions in general. The United States, for instance, strikes me as an ideal multi state union. Why does it work? Because there is a common identity, a common language and there are common political parties which stand in every state. Each state has a lot of devolved power and each state devolves that power still further so that a great number of decisions are taken by politicians who are close to the people who elect them and who can easily be voted out if they go against the wishes of the electorate. Overseeing all of this is a strong national government, with responsibility over matters, which affect the country as a whole. Of course there are faults with American democracy, but on the whole it is an enviable model.

If the European Union were like that, there might be a case for being a member. But the EU can never be a free, democratic multi state country like the United States, because it lacks the conditions for being a successful nation, a common identity and a common language. It is for this reason primarily that the Eurozone is failing as an optimum currency union. Whereas someone from New York can easily seek work in California, someone from Greece cannot easily seek work in Germany. Whereas richer parts of the United States are happy to transfer money to poorer parts, richer parts of the EU resent the idea of subsidising people who they consider to be foreigners.

Britain already is an optimum currency union, because we have the conditions for being an optimum nation. We have a common language, culture and identity. We do not see people from other parts of the UK as foreigners. We have in Britain what the United States has, a fully democratic country, we have what the EU lacks and can never have.

It is for this reason that I am opposed to breaking up the union of the UK, while being in favour of breaking up the EU. There is no contradiction here.

Scottish independence makes no more sense than Texan independence. Of course each of these formerly independent States could function successfully on their own, but they each benefit from being in a political fiscal and currency union with other people who speak the same language as them, have similar values and cultures and just as a Texan benefits from not being a foreigner in Washington, so a Scot benefits from not being a foreigner in London.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Alex Salmond Wants Independence in the UK

I've been trying to make sense of the ever changing models of independence put forward by the SNP and have come to the conclusion that what they want amounts to "Independence in the UK". Of course they're not using that slogan, but it pretty much equates to the vision they are putting forward of an independent Scotland.

The SNP want to maintain a currency union with the rest of the UK post independence. They want the Bank of England to act as Scotland's central bank and lender of last resort. They want to maintain many of the UK national institutions, such as the DVLA, and they want to maintain a "Social union" of the countries, which make up the UK. Most important of all they want to maintain the monarchy, the union of the crowns, which has existed since 1603. Logically this would mean they would maintain the Union Flag introduced by James VI.

I've been trying to come up with an example of an analogous relationship between countries. The closest I can get is the relationship between Denmark and the Faeroe Islands, but that does not work as the Faeroe Islands are autonomous, but are not independent.

Perhaps a model might be the relationship that Puerto Rico has to the United States. It too has autonomy, as an unincorporated part of the United States, but likewise it is not independent.

The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that what Alex Salmond is offering the Scottish people is not independence at all, but rather autonomy within the UK.

The condition for being in a currency union with the rest of the UK would certainly be that the rest of the UK's chancellor would have a say and in the end a veto over the Scottish budget. Scotland would raise all of its own taxes, would receive a greater share of oil revenues, but would lose the money from the Barnett formula. It would be regulated both by London and by Brussels, assuming Scotland would remain an EU member, not least because London and Brussels are going to exact a price for cooperating so fully with Mr Salmond's dream.

For the life of me I can't see the advantage. At the moment we in Scotland have representation both in Edinburgh and in London. Being "Independent in the UK" means we would only have representation in Edinburgh, but would still be regulated on financial matters by London.

Moreover we know that currency unions have a tendency to bring their members into an ever closer fiscal and political union. Scotland would still have elastic bands tying it to London, but would no longer have the parliamentary representation to have its say there.

Alternatively if Scotland strove to maintain real independence in this currency union with the rest of the UK, the likelihood is that eventually the tensions would be so great that Scotland would be forced out, leading to a messy exist and devaluation on the lines that looks likely for Greece.

Salmond's is offering a vision of independence, which is as close as is possible to remaining in the union so that he can gain as much support as possible from those Scots who otherwise would be scared of independence. But it is not clear that this model of independence is something he is really able to offer. The reason is that the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK post independence, would not be a matter solely for Mr Salmond, but would also be a matter for whoever at that time led the rest of the UK. What would they gain from having a semi-detached autonomous/independent Scotland? We know the difficulties in the Eurozone of having independent countries who are in a monetary, but not a fiscal, nor a political union. Why would the rest of the UK put itself in the position of Germany in relation to Scotland's Greece? What if the rest of the UK reacts to Scotland's independence by saying goodbye, but don't expect any cooperation from us. The trouble with "Social Unions" is that they require that both sides want to cooperate. I doubt there would be much goodwill towards Scotland if there really were a divorce.

Independence within the UK is the latest attempt by the SNP to kid the Scottish public that independence would only amount to nice things, like a UN seat and some extra flag waving, but we really need to hear from the leaders of the rest of the UK before we can be sure what a post independent Scotland, in a currency union with the rest of the UK, would be like, for the nature of such a relationship would not solely be up to Mr Salmond no matter how much he likes to dictate.

In the meantime might not supporters of independence reflect on what they are being offered? Does it not seem just a bit faint hearted? Even tiny Latvia and Lithuania set up their own currencies post independence. Can Scotland really not manage its own currency, set up its own central bank? Is the desire for independence so shallow, so lacking in courage that we can't even emulate far away countries of which we know nothing. It all seems slightly humiliating when you put it like that.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Electoral College Isn't The Problem

You don't hear many people defending the Electoral College these days. But is it the undemocratic relic that its critics claim, or is it a constitutional bastion of federalism, a place where states can still flex their muscle over the most powerful office in Washington, D.C.?

It turns out that where you stand on the Electoral College depends largely upon where you sit.

If you reside in an urban, coastal, densely populated state that is "deep blue," our modern vernacular for solidly Democrat, chances are good that you don't like the current system very much. For one thing, you are apt to be a Democrat yourself, and that means you are probably more inclined to support a bigger role for central government relative to the states on such matters as health care, education and public transportation. For another thing, you probably don't care for the fact that both political parties more or less take your vote for granted in presidential elections. Unless you travel to other parts of the country or happen to live near the border of a swing state like Virginia or Ohio, you saw only a tiny fraction of the political ads that were broadcast in the recent campaign.

You probably want the large number of people who live near you and vote like you to have a commensurate impact in presidential balloting. The New York Times echoed these views in a recent editorial that declared, "The Electoral College remains a deeply defective political mechanism no matter whom it benefits, and it needs to be abolished." (1)

The chief complaint about the Electoral College is that it makes it possible for a candidate to become president without winning the largest share of the popular vote. This has happened three times in our history, in 1876, 1888 and 2000. Some commentators thought it might happen again in 2012. It's likely another president will win the White House without winning the popular vote one day, even if it is not anything like a frequent occurrence.

The Times editorial adds the red herring that the Electoral College was "born in appeasement to slave states." (1) This is true, but the relevant provision isn't so much that Electoral College was created to protect slavery as that it was created to protect agrarian, less populous states. Less populous states and slaveholding states were one and the same until after the American frontier crossed the Appalachians.

In my view, the Electoral College is not inherently undemocratic. Rather, it is a democratic way of instituting federalism. Though today's liberals often overlook the fact (except when discussing subjects like gay marriage), states matter.

The Constitution is indisputably biased to overweight the interests of small states relative to their populations, not only via the Electoral College, but also in the existence and the role of the U.S. Senate. This lopsidedness often leads to distorted policy making, which is why we have overly generous farm subsidies and foolish ethanol mandates. But it also safeguards against a situation in which the country's priorities are entirely skewed toward population centers at the expense of a vast, sparsely populated interior.

A strong federal system is one of the things that distinguish us from, for example, Argentina, where the government financially oppresses its agricultural sector to subsidize urban interests for the political benefit of its leaders. It's not a coincidence that resource-rich Argentina has been sliding in global development rankings for the past 100 years.

The Constitution gives states the power to decide how their electoral vote is determined. If states choose to band together in an interstate compact like the national popular vote legislation, which the Times endorsed, that's their prerogative. It would be akin to having a national Powerball lottery for the presidency. Right now, however, the proposal is not close to gaining enough support to go into effect.

It should come as no surprise that the only states that have signed are deep blue and mostly coastal. (Illinois, one of the endorsers, is far from salt water, but Chicago's economy more closely resembles that of the coastal cities than it does the rest of the Midwest.)

The states that want to augment their power in presidential elections also include those that have among the most indebted governments - the ones that feel most put upon by the disproportionate representation of rural states, and the ones most likely to want to federalize their unsustainable obligations sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Good luck, though, getting the big swing states like Florida, Ohio, and now Virginia and North Carolina, to sign on to this proposal. Why should they? Competitive electoral battlegrounds currently enjoy outsized influence. And what, exactly, will backers of a proposal like the national popular vote tell the minority groups whose expanding role was vividly apparent earlier this month? "We have come up with a way of making sure that the white 72 percent of the electorate will keep their influence a while longer. Let us know when you get to 50 percent plus one!"

It's even less likely that states like Colorado, Nevada and Iowa would endorse such a proposal, since they currently have even more disproportionate influence in presidential campaigns. The idea will be an outright non-starter in rural places like Montana, whose three electoral votes would essentially count for nothing if their influence relied solely on the size of the state's small population. Montana counts for 0.6 percent of the Electoral College and could theoretically serve as the deciding vote in a very tight election. It accounts for only 0.3 percent of the national population and would be all but ignored in a nationwide popular ballot.

The problem with the current system is that each party has, in effect, gerrymandered itself into a secure area - southern and rural places for Republicans, urban and northern ones for Democrats - leaving the balance of power in the hands of a few small groups in border zones.

Luckily, this problem is self-correcting. As the Republican zone continues to shrink and thus lose the ability to secure the White House, the party has a built-in incentive to broaden its appeal. That's exactly what the Democrats did in the 1980s and early '90s, when their labor-oriented message stopped working and Bill Clinton subsequently repositioned himself and his party closer to the political center. Republicans, finding their social and immigration stances hurting them too much with female and Hispanic voters, are currently under pressure to reconsider their approach.

Our existing system balances the regions and pushes parties to the center, where we want them. Abandoning the Electoral College would create more space for the extremes, including extreme pressure for big government spending, which continues to put the financial future of places like California, Illinois and New York at risk. It's precisely because we have a federal system that we don't have to federalize those states' problems. The system is not broken. There is no need to go hunting for something to fix.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Very Best Political System

A Look at the Failure of the Two Party Political System: Why I Want a Woman President in 2020

Super powers such as the United States have for a long time invested a lot of faith in the two-party system. It is yet to be demonstrated in any of these countries however that this party system is indeed the best. Leaders are still exhibiting serious loopholes in their leadership skills, multi-party system or not. They simply lack apt leadership skills. Political analysts often put down third world countries and place clear demarcations that suggest better leadership skills in developed countries as opposed to their counterparts. Such theories are however losing credibility very fast, it turns out that even developed countries are lacking in impressive goal driven leadership. So what really is the evidence of this unfortunate lack of leadership acumen? Well, factors such as providing efficient healthcare, listening to the voice of reason from the majority, providing equal opportunities for all parties and stakeholders to be heard and addressing major social agendas are taking a backseat in most countries the world over. The irony of all this is that it is these factors that truly bring about change.

Minority and Majority Conflict of Interest

A recent survey of political affiliations in the United States revealed rather interestingly that only ten percent of the population represented the extremists (republicans and democrats) each in equal percentage. The remaining ninety percent represented the moderates and the independents yet it is still the minority class that says what goes. It would benefit the country and the world at large if such a minority ruling class actually made decisions that effectively handled crucial humanitarian, financial and political issues. It is indeed high time the world got a taste of what real change and real leadership is like.

One may wonder why the independents are continually fed ineffective ideologies and reform agendas that work against them yet they keep accepting the same. Well the truth is that the resources needed to turn such ideologies around such as money and power lie solely in the destructive hands of the leadership regime. The ongoing campaigns for the presidential elections already have dangerous signals that point towards nothing but more propaganda. A look at many countries will indicate that such political parties have been in the game for years and they constantly win because they have the money and the following they need. The question of multi or single party state therefore does not arise. Poor leadership is rife in both situations. Democracy as was once demonstrated by countries such as the United States was once a beacon of hope for developing and undeveloped countries but its advent brought with it little if any change at all.

Realizing True Change: What Needs to Be Done

In conclusion it is clear that countries need a total overhaul in leadership if the real change is to be experienced. Furthermore, dangerous biases to sections of a population and useless political manifestos should be done away with completely. Real change can only be experienced by finally giving the womenfolk a chance at top positions in government. The time for women to keep a low, unassuming profile is over. Awareness campaigns should be carried out to show women that they just might be what the world has been waiting for.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

How Republicans Are Misunderstanding Latinos

For quite a long time now, Republicans have tried to find ways to bring in more Latino voters into its base, but with limited success. Republican leaders stress that Latinos fit in perfectly with the base of the party for multiple reasons, however 67% of Latinos are registered Democrat. Let us look at Republican claims as to why Latinos are a perfect fit for the party and ways that they are misunderstood.

Many people assess the Latino population in the United States as a socially conservative group with deep, predominantly Catholic, values. The GOP for decades have tried to use this to their advantage due to the fact that the Republican base has similar core values. From afar it does seem like a perfect fit, but Latinos are not as socially conservative as Republicans give them credit for. In order to explain this claim I will break down the different demographics within the United States Latino community.

Breaking down the U.S. Latino community into generations (first generation Latino- American, second generation Latino-American, etc... ) is, at least I find, the best way to explain the political matches and mismatches between Latinos and Republicans. Let us start with first generation Latinos in the United States and their political profile.

Out of all the Latino generations, first generation and foreign-born Latinos tend to be the most conservative. According to the Pew Research Center, 35% of foreign-born Latinos consider themselves conservative in their political beliefs as opposed to 28% of Latinos born in the United States, which is likely because of the greater influence that religion has in Latin American countries. They also tend to have a more conservative stance than other generations on issues such as abortion and the acceptance of homosexuality.

Second and third generation Latino-Americans tend to be more liberal on many issues as opposed to earlier generations. Later generation Latinos are slightly more accepting of homosexuals and are much more in favor of legal abortion rights for women. They are also more likely to describe themselves as liberals. One may argue that the reason for the increase in liberal ideology among younger generations of Latino-Americans is their exposure to a more secular society in the United States, as opposed to their parents or grandparents who were grew up in a less secular, Latin American nation.

From the information above, one would think that first generation Latino-Americans would be a perfect match for Republicans, right? They have many of the same core beliefs when it comes to abortion, the importance of religion, and many other issues, but still the GOP sees Latinos vote consistently Democrat. One major reason for this mismatch between the GOP and first generation Latino-Americans is the harsh, seemingly anti-immigrant, language that modern Republicans use. For this particular demographic, immigration is at the top of their list because they went through the immigration process and know the difficulties and struggles they went through to become citizens of the United States. They may still have family or friends living in their native Latin American country that are going through the immigration process, and it is through first-hand exposure to this process that makes it one of their top issues.

They key to appealing to the first generation would primarily be to propose and promote a passable, yet realistic, immigration reform bill. Doing this is key to bringing in new first generation voters, and along with that will come second and third generation Latino-Americans. With the consistent growth of the Latino population in the United States, it is essential that the GOP capitalize on this demographic, exploit the similarities, and bury the differences.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Will ObamaCare Cost Employers More Money?

Not long ago, I was talking to a fellow business owner about the disastrous effects of ObamaCare when it goes live. He is somewhat left-leaning, even though he owns his own business, and he tried to defend ObamaCare and he asked me; exactly what in ObamaCare is going to cause small business owners any challenges?

I told him that if he had a company of over 50 employees it would cost him easily over $4500 per year per employee. He said he didn't have 50 employees, he only has 10. Then he told me that unless I had read the entire Affordable Health Care Act then I shouldn't be making any statements. Still, I threw this back at him and I said unless he had read it he should not defend such a worthless piece of legislation. Still, he wanted to know what I think will happen once a goes into effect, and therefore I've made a small list for you.

Less Expansion
Forcing Jobs Offshore
Closing of Companies
Increase in Health Care Fines
Higher Prices - Wholesale Inflation
Eventual Collapse of the Government Run Obama Care Program

There will obviously be less expansion of businesses because no business owner will want to get more than 50 employees. If business owners fail to grow, they won't buy any new equipment, which will also hurt the manufacturing sector. In that case it will force jobs offshore because that's where people can manufacture cheaper. Once those manufacturing jobs are taken offshore, companies will close.

Those businesses which cannot afford to pay more for healthcare insurance and still stay in business might opt to pay the penalty and fine instead. This means that more people will get on board with the government run health care system, which will run inefficiently because government doesn't do anything very well. This will cause a balloon in the ObamaCare program, which will eventually collapse and stick the taxpayer with the bill.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Next Four Years

On November 6th the men and women spoke with their votes. The question is what was achieved as basically the government remained the same. The next question is what will happen in the next four years. Will it be better than the last four years? We've two main issues which are coming up.

1. Fiscal Cliff. The Congress along with the President have already been kicking it down the road for various years. Now they are going to generate some decisions since as of January 1st 2013 the tax increases and spending cuts will take effect. These will have an effect on all Americans in a negative way. The tax enhance for a lot of middle-income families will be about $2,000.00 determined by calculations of your Tax Policy Center. The Congressional Budget Workplace is estimating 3-4 million jobs will be lost. They also estimate unemployment would rise to 9.1 %. The total price of this determined by the Congressional Budget Workplace will be $671 billion in 2013.

2. The next big question is how will the Affordable Care Act affect our economic climate? A few of the taxes which might be in this bill certainly are a 3.8% surtax on dividends, interest, rent, capital gains, annuities, house sales, on people with a gross revenue of 200,000 for men and women and 250,000.00 for joint tax filers. Also, in the event the Bush tax cuts are not extended then the tax on dividends will go from 15% to 43.8% affecting lots of seniors because they depend on their dividends for their earnings. The flexible spending account contribution will likely be set at $2,500.00 whereas, in the present time there's no restriction. The itemized health care deduction now is $7,500.00 and raised to $10,000.00. The non healthcare withdrawals from a health financial savings account went up in 2011 from 10% to 20%. The over the counter medicines are not paid from the flexible spending account as of January 2011. As of 2013 the healthcare manufactures will need to spend a 2.3% physical exercise tax on items more than $100.00.

The consequences for little organizations are in the 50 employee level. At this level the small business will have to face the 50 employee threshold. These firms will need to either present health insurance that is acceptable to the government or have a tax penalty of 2,000.00-3,000.00 dollars. So firms which might be under 50 people are not going to hire more people, and if they are at just 50 people, then they may lay off personal to acquire beneath the 50 employee level. Lots of compact businesses will contemplate hiring temporary help as an alternative to full-time help as a method of dealing with this predicament. Companies are already starting to cut staff from full-time to part-time. A lot of companies are not planning on hiring staff within the future. The economy has slowed down as many corporations have held back as to view what the elections would bring. Now that they know, they are adjusting towards the consequences of the elections. Elections have consequences no matter whether it is positive or unfavorable. Firms are searching how these new policies affect them. They are making the choices to keep their firms afloat. The sad truth is that the American people will really feel the effects of the election.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What Has the Union Ever Done For Us?

What has the union done for us cry the Nationalists rather like those characters in the Life of Brian wondering what the Romans have ever done for us. To ask the question is to answer it.

The trouble with most nationalists is that they actually appear to know very little about Scottish history or literature. Anyone who compares and contrasts Scotland prior to the union with Scotland after the union will immediately see exactly what the union has done for us.

A quick glance at Scottish history pre union shows an obscure European country, much poorer than the average, fighting continually with its larger neighbour or alternatively fighting with itself. One of the most dangerous jobs in Scotland was to be king and the most notable feature of most reigns was treachery, factionalism and assassination.

There were, of course, some wonderful things which developed in Scotland, pre-eminently the four ancient universities. There are some fine thinkers and writers. Dun Scotus is one of the greatest of medieval philosophers. John Barbour's Brus is still studied in universities as is Blind Harry's Wallace. The people they wrote about Robert the Bruce and William Wallace are celebrated as heroes the world over as is Mary Stuart, but there's little else in pre union Scottish history or culture that has travelled beyond this country. From the perspective of the rest of the world, pre union Scotland amounts to Braveheart and Mary Queen of Scots ruling romantically, shambolically and in the end tragically.

The union of the crowns in 1603 immediately brought cultural and linguistic benefits. King James VI a Scottish King on the throne of England made one of the greatest contributions to the English speaking world by publishing the King James Bible and he published it not in his native Scots, but in English. Precisely for this reason English gradually took over in Scotland bringing us one of our greatest benefits from the union, a language spoken the world over.

Up until the union people in Scotland spoke and wrote either Gaelic or Scots, the latter a divergent strain of Anglo Saxon rapidly developing into a language which would no longer be mutually comprehensible with English. If Scotland had remained independent, the likelihood is that we would now speak a language in Scotland as different from English as Dutch is from German. But instead with the introduction of the King James Bible and the prestige of the court in London, English came to be the dominant language in Scotland, leaving Scots as a language spoken on the margins less and less used by the educated, used in literature, but mainly as dialogue, poetry and song, barely used at all in philosophy or economics or history or in the church. We may regret this, but the benefits to Scotland today of speaking a world language are obvious and it can be traced to the union of the crowns.

With the union of 1707 came further benefits. Scottish merchants, now protected by the Royal Navy and with new markets opened up to them, which had been closed before, were able to begin to prosper as never before. Prior to entering into currency union with England in 1707, 12 pounds Scots obtained 1 pound Sterling. The Scottish economy was bankrupt after the Darien scheme, but rapidly the union brought prosperity, the benefits of a strong stable currency, order and increased trade, both within the union and without.

As in England, Scotland had been fighting a civil war since the 1630s, which amounted to a fight between Presbyterians on one side versus Catholics and Episcopalians on the other. This same civil war continued, on and off, throughout the reigns of Charles II, James II and VII and had its final battles in the attempts to restore Stuart rule during the Jacobite rebellions.

Many Scots, including me, love the romanticism and the fundamental justness of the Jacobite cause. But thinking Scots realise, that only with the final defeat of the Stuarts and with it the doctrine of the divine right of Kings, arrived the Scottish enlightenment and the prosperity that followed. Bonnie Prince Charlie nearly won in 1745 and without the union he may well have done so. My heart wishes that he had won, but my head realises that Scotland prospered with the Hanoverians, that parliamentary democracy and the idea of constitutional monarchy brought in with the "Glorious revolution" of 1688 was the key to us avoiding the horrors of revolution which engulfed France, the French domination which Jacobite victory would have brought, and so while I toast the king o'er the water, I am glad he remained there.

The end of the century long British Civil war in 1745, brought stability, boredom and prosperity, with it came Scotland's greatest period of intellectual and cultural development. What did the union ever do for us? For one thing, it gave us David Hume (1711-1776), considered by most to be Britain's greatest philosopher and studied the world over wherever philosophy is taught. The union, without which the Scottish enlightenment would not have happened, gave us Adam Smith (1723-1790), perhaps the world's greatest economist. The wealth, which the union brought enabled architect Robert Adam (1728-1792) to design and build, many of the buildings which we most associate with the architectural style of Scotland. Henry Raeburn (1756-1823) painted the Scots who were prospering from the union. Scotland's greatest poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) considered himself a unionist Scottish and British and because he used the Scots language to address concerns which touched the hearts of everyone, rather than addressing narrowly nationalistic issues, he carried that language the world over, giving the world a song sung everywhere on the 31st of December.

Scotland's greatest novelist, Walter Scott (1771-1832), perhaps did even more than Burns to promote Scotland and virtually invented much of what we consider today to be Scottish culture. Scott who was wildly popular the world over, virtually invented the historical novel and influenced each historical novelist who came after from Victor Hugo to Lev Tolstoy. His novels helped to heal the wounds of the Jacobite rebellion, because Scott himself was a Jacobite with his heart, a Hanoverian with his head. It is this duality which makes his novels complex and interesting. He wrote about Scotland in a way that made the English love Scotland and because he was a unionist he loved them back, sparking the revival of interest in medieval England with his novel Ivanhoe.

It is unnecessary to continue much further the list of great Scots who flourished by being in the union. Britain's greatest writer of adventure stories Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), and Britain's greatest writer of detective stories Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), were hardly hindered by being from the UK. There are Scots inventors, like John Logie Baird (1888-1946), Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), scientists like Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) and James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), famous the world over. What do they have in common? They were all unionists.

It's almost impossible to find a major writer or thinker prior to the 20th century who seriously supported independence. In fact, the only major writer I can think of who the SNP can claim is Hugh MacDiarmid (1892-1978). He was an important and fine writer, but notorious for his hatred of the English, listing Anglophobia amongst his hobbies in his Who's who entry.

Nationalists therefore reject the point of view of nearly all those who made Scotland great and do so in a language they would not even be able to speak without the union. They romanticise an independent Scotland through figures like William Wallace, who we only know about through myth, poetry and Hollywood lies and nonsense. They want to resurrect a country, which was obscure, poor and violent and reject a country which gave us the world and made us world famous: shame on them for their narrow nationalism and lack of patriotism.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Positive Case For Unionism

Unionists are frequently asked to come up with positive reasons why they support the continued existence of the Union. For me the main reason to support the union is that I think that it is better for people who live contiguously and who speak the same language to live in one country rather than many.

When the United States has a presidential election something fairly extraordinary happens. Across a huge country, with a population originating from all over the world, essentially people do the same thing. They choose between either a Republican or a Democrat and they accept that the president who results from this choice is the president of all of them. No one much cares from which state that president comes. It is the fact that the United States is a union that makes this process possible. The common identity of the citizens of the United States keeps them together, even when they are in other respects diverse. Fundamental to the unity of the United States is the existence of a common language. There are differences between states and a good deal of power is devolved to the state level and even more locally. However, the common federal structure of law, the rule from Washington, creates an experience for citizens such that they feel that they are in the same country wherever they live. This means that it is easy for people to move. If there is a lack of jobs in Ohio, people can move to California and start seeking work immediately. Their qualifications and experience are immediately recognised, the work practices are familiar, the language is the same. This makes the United States one huge labour market, with enormous economies of scale. It is the fact that United States is a union that makes it prosperous.

Imagine if the Confederacy had won the Civil War. Imagine if the southern states had succeed in their attempt at secession. How would history have played out subsequently? The two successor states would undoubtedly have been less powerful than the United States that came to dominate the twentieth century. Even if both the South and the North had chosen to join the world wars on the same side, the fact that there would have been two armies, two navies and two air forces, would have weakened the contribution from North America. Economically the United States would never have reached the level it did if it had given up its unity in the 1860s. There would have been no single market between Alabama and New York. It is undoubtedly the union of the United States, the unity of the people who live there, which has enabled them to be both wealthy and powerful.

The same, of course, is true of Britain. Imagine if Britain had not gradually come together to form a single country from the middle ages onwards. Imagine if there had been four separate sovereign states in the British isles in the 18th century. Would it have been possible under these circumstances to create the power that this country had, would it have been possible to create the wealth? The answer to this is obviously no. There is a single labour market in the UK and the economy in each part of the UK is closely related to the others. People from one part of the UK can easily work in any other part, our qualifications and experiences are recognised everywhere. Just like the United States, the United Kingdom is a successful union and this union is the source of both our wealth and strength. It is the fact that we did not have to worry about fighting amongst ourselves which enabled us to concentrate on developing strong armed forces, which faced outwards rather than faced inwards. If the UK had been four sovereign states, no doubt each squabbling with the other, who is to say that the Industrial revolution would have developed in these islands, who is to say that our success at innovation and invention would have happened at all?

Looking at the English speaking countries in the world, it is obvious that they are all better together. Imagine if the United States was made up of fifty sovereign nations. Imagine if Western Australia seceded along with New South Wales, if the South Island of New Zealand decided it could no longer bear to live with the North Island? Imagine if British Columbian nationalism rose, with the rallying cry "it's our fish", why should we share it with landlocked Alberta? Does anyone seriously think that the result for any of these countries would be anything other than that they would be less powerful and less wealthy? The strength of each of the English speaking countries of the world is that they are united, that they each form a union of parts. The benefit in terms of economics is that there is free movement of labour and a single market, the benefits in terms of power is that they each can fight a common enemy as one.

To suppose that a democratic union of people speaking the same language is undesirable, is to suppose that none of the English speaking nations are desirable and that it would be better if secession occurred in each of them. But this is exactly what the SNP are saying about the UK. This implies that they think that it would be sensible, if oil were discovered off the coast of Nova Scotia, that this province should decide to secede from Canada. They are saying that if Texas always votes Republican, but sometimes gets a Democratic president, that it would be better for Texas to secede in order to get a political regime closer to the wishes of its people. There are indeed some Texans at the moment striving to secede from the United States, but they are generally recognised as poor losers bordering on the ridiculous. But these sort of people have a line of argument remarkably similar to the SNP.

What we have in the UK is actually quite unusual. Our common language culture and identity is exactly what makes the existence of a single market in this country possible. It is the source of our wealth and prosperity. The reason that the Scottish economy converges so beneficially with the English economy is that we have been living in the same country for over three hundred years.

Nationalists might wonder if union is so beneficial, why are so many unionists also Eurosceptics? A Scottish nationalist might suggest that a unionist who supports withdrawal from the EU is expressing his British nationalism and desire for British independence, while hypocritically denying a Scot the same right to express his own Scottish nationalism by seeking withdrawal from the UK and independence for Scotland. The answer is to realise that many unionists are not nationalists at all. We are unionists precisely because we do not see nationalism as the solution. Rather we see it as part of the problem. In principle, I have nothing whatever against the EU. I have at various times been a keen supporter of European integration. The ideal of countries coming together because they are willing to give up their nationalism appeals to me. If it were possible to create a fully democratic United States of Europe I would wholeheartedly support it. Unfortunately, recent events have made clear that it is not possible. The reason that the United States and the UK can succeed as countries is that we have a common identity, language and culture.

The lack of a common language, the lack of a common culture and identity dooms the attempted union of the EU to failure. The attempt at monetary union fails because Germans don't feel that they are at all the same as Greeks. Most ordinary Europeans struggle to seek work in another country owing to their lack of the necessary linguistic skills. Because the EU lacks the conditions for the possibility of creating a single country, the process by which they are attempting to create a United States of Europe is progressively becoming more and more undemocratic. People are being ruled by unelected officials and international organisations, the results of referendums are being ignored. It is for this reason that unionists are more and more frequently expressing opposition. Not because we are against union, but because we are in favour of democracy. If on the other hand, someone suggested creating a federation of the Anglosphere, with common elections, a single head of state and the right to live, work and travel anywhere where English is spoken, I for one would see this as a wonderful opportunity.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Does Congress Act Like A Congress Of Baboons?

Most of us have seen nature programs or been to the zoo and seen the behavior of Baboons. They are the loudest, most dangerous, most obnoxious, most viciously aggressive and, many believe they are the least intelligent of all primates, beside the Congress... right!

Some have incorrectly claimed that a group of Baboons is called a "Congress," this I believe is an insult to the baboon. In reality, what they are is a "Troop" and are actually very smart among most non-human primates. However, referring to the United States Congress as a Congress of Baboons may not be far from the truth when referencing its intended use as a joke poking fun at our elite, pampered representatives.

A Congress of Baboons, maybe today, it is more than just a joke. I guess congressional actions pretty much explain the reason why legislation is in stalemate, and symbolizes the baboon like behavior ongoing between the two stately bodies hired to protect the Constitution, and pass laws that benefit all America instead of select group or individual in Washington!

This is the impression of many American's who cast their vote in the November elections. The Obama Administration constantly berating the Republicans as the reason he cannot achieve any of his policies, borders on telling the American voter they are too stupid to realize it takes two houses to make a Congress. When you have one controlled by one party and the other controlled by the other, they must work harmoniously to pass law.

Since nothing has changed politically, the congress remains the same unbalanced body it was before the election. The difference, they have the opportunity to do something in this Congress they did not do achieve in the last four years... come together, pass legislation and put forth a budget that they so stubbornly have refused to pass.

Instead of milling around accomplishing little, they must find solutions to fix the economy by stimulating employment, reducing regulations that stymie growth, invest in our future by investing in our natural resources, and assisting the housing markets recovery; all without raising individual taxes.

The next four years will either establish our Congress as two bodies working together to solve our problems. If not, as a Congress of Baboons... once again insulting the loudest, most dangerous, most obnoxious, most viciously aggressive and notably, one of the most intelligent non-human primates.