Don’t forget to cast your vote in the general election today. Please don’t do the shrug your shoulders, hey, it makes no difference feeble excuse. Yes, I do understand why some feel that way, we probably all do quite often, but our rights for all adults to cast a vote and decide who will govern was won only after long, long struggles (it is less than a century since women were given the vote, not to mention a whole swathe of men) and those freedoms were preserved at enormous cost. If the people who came before us could fight for the right then fight, sometimes to the death, to protect it, then the very least we can do is get off our arses and get to the polling station and cast that vote.
Spent chunk of the day with visiting cartoonist/journalist I know who was up to cover the referendum, and at one point we strolled down the Royal Mile, passing so many media crews (more camera crews than even during the festival). There was a crowd of Yes campaigners there, this was just after Alex Salmond had announced his resignation as First Minister, although we didn’t know that until we spoke to some of them. This chap got up to make an improvised speech, and, I am glad to say called for understanding and moving on:
Then he finished by calling on the crowd, in Scots tradition, to forget divisions and come together, hold hands and sing Auld Lang Syne, and there they were singing and dancing in front of the Scottish Parliament
This chap started up with his pipes…
And there was the crowd doing some Scottish country dancing, Strip The Willow, right in front of the doors of the Parliament – loved it (and what a contrast to a small cadre of bigoted boot boys in George Square later in the day and their disgraceful behaviour)
And here’s the media village set up by the parliament – think half the world’s media has been on the streets of Edinburgh the last few days
So today I and millions of fellow Scottish citizens decide on the issue of staying in the Union or returning to a state of independence, the most important constitutional decision in three centuries. I said months ago I thought it would be far closer than the previously (over)confident No camp thought it would be, but I had no idea just how close it would become this close to the wire… I’ll cast my vote first thing before going to work, no way I will miss this. I decided a long time ago how I will vote, not on nationalistic lines, or from jingoism or feelings towards Westminster but mostly drawing on what I think is the most important thing, what I consider to be the most democratic outcome for Scottish citizens, that gives us the fairest form of democratic represenation.
(aircraft vapour trails crossing above Edinburgh Castle, creating a Saltire-like image, a floating, ephemeral version of the Scottish flag in a blue sky above the great castle at the heart of the capital)
I have held off from talking about it here because far too many people from politicians in London who ignored most of it for two years (until recently!) to that useless parasite of modern society, the opinionated but brainless celebrity, have been busy trying to tell people how they should think and vote. And while I have (surprise) strong opinions, as I tend to do about most things (Neil Gaiman once commented I was opinionated, but in the good way), I have no desire to try and influence anyone. This is not a decision anyone should try to make for you, not foolish, interfering foreign politicians (yes, Mr Tony Abbot, you and others), not the London government, not celebrities (especially those who don’t even reside in the UK most of the time), this is our decision, for Yes or for No, our nation, our ancient nation, and our choice.
And afterwards… Afterwards, whichever way the result goes, no rancour, no discrimination, no in-fighting, we are, as the grand old Scots saying goes, all Jock Tamson’s Bairns. And recall the words of our great Scots makkar and artist, Alasdair Gray, “work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.” Whichever way the vote goes, work for ever more change – because change doesn’t stop because life is change and we can’t stop it as long as we live – change that makes for a better nation, because our nation is ancient and it was passed to us and we will pass it on to others, hopefully changed for the better each generation.
… the witch is dead… Hey, right wingers hell-bent on canonising Thatcher as some modern political saint, protesters will stop buying Ding Dong the Witch is Dead to get it into the charts if you stop wasting millions of pounds of the tax-payer’s money on what is essentially a state funeral in all but name. Deal? No? Well if you can close down half of central London and waste millions on a politician who is still despised by half the population decades on then it is fine for people to protest in a witty and sarcastic manner by getting this song to the charts. In fact there is something delightfully, subversively British about the humour behind that, the sort of satire and humour which goes back to the days of Hogarth as a way for ordinary citizens to make their views on their ‘betters’ known and heard.
And on the related note of Hogarth, here’s a recent work from one of that esteemed artist and observer of society’s modern heirs, the excellent Martin Rowson on the whole nonsense surrounding Thatcher’s death (cartoon by and (c) Martin Rowson, published in the Guardian):
I’ve head the pleasure of hearing Martin speak twice now at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and he’s not only very knowledgeable about the history of editorial cartooning and illustration, he is passionate about using it to hold politicians and other public figures to account and letting them know we are watching the buggers, which is vital in any healthy democratic society.
Oliver Letwin, the Minister of State for Extreme Smugness, has excused his bizarre behaviour, caught on film by journalists, whereby he wandered public parks disposing of official government papers in bins as he walked. When challenged on this odd behaviour with all the attendant data protection and potential security issues attached to such foolish actions, Mr Letwin explained to the Woolamaloo Gazette he thought it was an acceptable way to dispose of such papers as “the Wombles would take care of it later.”
I do like this image, a sketch by the excellent Molly Crabapple, part of a series of sketches entitled “Faces From Occupied Wall Street”. Speaks volumes – if only the media here were giving it a bit more of the attention it deserves. And if only someone were doing a similar Occupy The Square Mile in the City of London to show these banking numpties what we think of them.
Yes, it has been ten years and so it is time for the UK-wide Census. Fortunately for those of us north of the border the Registrar for Scotland deals with our one, so at least we don’t get London-blinkered questions like “if you live in Scotland or the North of England, do you know what electricity is?” And it does include Gaelic and Scots as language options too, although annoyingly it didn’t include a box to tick for Elvish or Klingon. Pah. Some citizens have raised concerns over some of the questions being asked, wondering why the authorities really need to know some things – they say it is to plan for the future in terms of hospitals, schools and other resources that will be required, but even so I have to also add my voice to the growing concern over some of the questions posed on the 2011 Census. I mean some of these are invasive of my privacy and I question what strategic planning value they will give to authorities for arranging future national resources, with questions like:
How many yaks do you keep in your household attic? (I especially objected to this one as I live in a Victorian tenement flat so don’t have an attic, so this question left me feeling inadequate and jealous of those rich people with attics to keep yaks in)
How many DVDs do you have in your collection? Please arrange answer by alphabetical title order and BBFC rating. Indicate clearly which films are non English language and contain subtitles.
Do you keep your underwear and socks in the same drawer or individual compartments?
Please explain why you insist on drinking coffee when you know fine well that Her Brittanic Majesty prefers tea.
Preferred biscuit to dunks at elevenses – Digestive, Hobnob, shortbread, other (please indicate – be aware anything other than these three acceptable biscuits will be taken as a sign of subversive personality behaviour)
Have you now or have you ever been a member of the Communards fan club?
Who do you find more trustworthy, Nick Clegg or Cleggy from Last of the Summer Wine?
Are you satisfied with A) your high-speed broadband connection and B) the quality of online pornography?
Elucidate on the correct form of address for the Haggis (include the post code).
Red or White wine?
Cats or dogs?
Kiera Knightley or Carey Mulligan?
How many umbrellas do you own in your househould? Please indicate if they are full-sized or telescopic.
Explain, using graphics where necessary, the symbolism of the London Olympic logo and why it isn’t really a huge waste of money.
When you die do you plan to be interred in a cemetery, cremated, leave your body to science or have your corpse re-animated and return as a zombie? (please indicate if you intend to be evil, brain eating zombie or the more comedy friendly variety if the latter)
Explain why even in a pan-European, progressive, inclusive society it is still socially acceptable to make fun of A) red haired people (even in Scotland), B) fat people, C) mentally disturbed people who appear on reality and talent shows and D) the Belgians.
Britain’s love for curries proves that we’re really not racist at all and are actually a jolly nice multi-cultural society – discuss in no more than 500 words. Please indicate your favoured curry dish.
Explain why, using picures where required, Oor Wullie is an important medium for recording the microcosm of Scottish society.
Did you fill in this form yourself you lower class oik, or did you do it properly and have your butler do it?
Just how buggered is the United States Senate? George Packer in the New Yorker offers up some depressing reading on an institution utterly ruined by its own labyrinthian structures – both the physical building and the arcane rules and customs – and the increasing ways Senators, rather than doing their actual job of representing the interest of the citizens, spend little time on actual legislation and more on fund raising, publicity or goodness knows what else in their various cubby holes secreted around the building. And when they do troop into the chamber they spend inordinate amounts of time and effort to utilise obscure rules to ruin their opponents’ bills. Democratic choice said your party doesn’t have the majority? No problem, just use arcane old rules to wreck possible legislation by procedural means. Meanwhile important matters simply do not get discussed and dealt with. And they wonder why so many people don’t bother to vote?
And before you think hey, you’re not American, what does it matter to you that they can’t actually deliver the Great Democracy that they like to tell us all they do better than everyone else? Because some of those possible acts that get screwed up affect other nations – financial reform, foreign policy and aide, environmental protection. And because this sort of nonsense goes on in pretty much every parliament and senate in the democratic world to a lesser extent – and there’s that old worry that it will only get worse both here and there. And it doesn’t help anyone who believe in democracy if the institutions meant to serve it turn out to be full of self serving arseholes with no interest in representing the people and doing a good job. And you thought Mr Smith had a hard time when he went to Washington? (via Nick Smale)
The new government apparently wants to axe the 200 year old tradition of the National Census, saying that there are more up to date, efficient and cheaper ways of obtaining such national level statistics (which in this ages of multiple data bases there almost certainly is, to be fair). But Francis Maude (god, can’t believe that eejit is back in a government post, sigh…) is overlooking one vitally important factor – if we don’t have a national census every ten years then how will we know how many people claim ‘Jedi’ as their religion?? Perhaps this is proof positive that the Tories (and their Liberal Lackeys) are on the Dark Side and doing all they can to make sure no large Jedi tradition exists in the UK. The fiends.
My friend Dan Goldman, artist on Shooting War (my favourite graphic novel of 2007), 08: a Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail and the psychedelic online comic Kelly on webcomics collective Act-I-Vate, has delivered a special treat for the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States today (to be swiftly followed by the solving of all the world’s problems within a month), a short comic with President Obama set in 2012, riffing on his theme of change and using some of Dan’s very cool colouring effects that he lets rip with on Kelly, specially on Tor.com.
Barack Obama is being accused of sexism and attacking Sarah Palin with his comment “You can put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig. You can wrap up an old fish in a piece of paper and call it change. It’s still going to stink after eight years. We’ve had enough.” Some took it to be a reference to right-wing Palin’s recent and oh so charming ‘the difference between a hockey mom and a rottweiler is lipstick’ speech. The whole thing has been taken out of context though and it seems now he might have meant to say “you can give a pig an assault rifle and let it shoot up a family planning clinic but its still a pig.” Which is completely different.
Actually I’ve been watching in vain for someone to post a follow-up to a recent but not confirmed report that VP hopeful Palin, at the start of her political career as the mayor in small town Alaska, called in the local librarian to ask how she went about having books she didn’t approve of removed from the library, a pretty serious and heavy-handed bit of interference if true and an action which would speak volumes of her character, but sadly beyond the original report none of the major news agencies seem to be following it up. You can give a pig a library card but at the end of the day it might remain a close-minded, ignorant pig…
Japan is unhappy with Australia. Why? Because of pictures released showing the hideous slaughter their whaling fleet inflicts on harmless animals for ‘scientific research’ – said research seems to consist of proving that shooting a large mammal with an explosive harpoon causes a long, slow, lingering, painful death and that you can cook the bits later for food (although actually there is some research which says they can hardly give whale meat away in Japan, so why they pursue this slaughter is beyond all comprehension and one is left to think those responsible are just evil bastards). One set of images taken clearly shows the swines killing a mother and a calf then dragging their carcasses up into their mobile concentration camp ships.
These pictures didn’t come from Greenpeace, they came from observers in a team of Australian customs officers.
“It is explicitly clear from these images that this is indiscriminate killing of whales, where you have a whale and its calf killed in this way… And to claim that this is in any way scientific is to continue the charade that has surrounded this issue from day one…” Peter Garrett, Australian environment minister.
Japan’s state-supported Institute for Cetacean Research (where they research whales by killing them slowly and chopping up their carcasses like some sea-going Jack the Rippers) has claimed that releasing these pictures “created a dangerous emotional propaganda that could cause serious damage to the relationship between our two countries.” Well no argument on the first part – it does create emotions but I can’t help but think they are more worried about being seen by the entire world committing these atrocious acts than anything else. They were caught out slaughtering a mother and calf on camera. There’s no excuse for that. And to then try and blame Australia for showing what these bastards were more than happy to do when they thought no-one would notice is just plain cowardice. Then again, this is a country that still likes to pretend they didn’t engage in systematic torture, rape, murder and even using humans as guinea pigs for chemical warfare experiments during the Second World War. Maybe Japan needs to have evidence shoved in its nose and be made to see what the hell it has done.
I’ve got a great idea for some maritime ‘scientific research’ – let’s see scientifically what happens when we fire torpedoes into a whaling ship…