Tuesday, December 11, 2012
This is developing into a very complex and fascinating issue involving 3 or more geographical areas and different political groupings within each. It is so complex that I seriously doubt my ability to distill the whole thing into something neatly laid out in the way that blog articles usually are. However, I will try to set out some of the issues as I see them and I will let the readers (if any, LOL) judge whether I have made done justice to them. Firstly the anti-European sentiment in the UK has recently increased to the point where serious doubts are being expressed about the government's ability to contain it. There is an excellent article in the Economist this week which sets out some of the issues and options and one of the premises is that the British Conservative Party may come under irresistible pressure to conduct an in/out referendum and if one were to be held today there seems to be a high probability that the vote would go against the status quo. This whole situation is exacerbated by the economic crisis which has befallen the countries within the Euro zone and what many perceive as the inevitable demise of the Euro and all it entails. Already there seems to be a strong possibility that Greece may be forced out of the Euro Zone and Spain is in an economic, financial and banking crisis which may require more of a bail-out than Germany (for one) is willing to sign off on. Even if Spain turns out not to be the proverbial straw Italy and France have their own problems which could reach similar proportions if they are not there already. Clearly the possibility cannot be discounted that the Euro Zone as we know it may cease to exist. This does not necessarily entail the complete dismantling of the EEC but it would require at very least a fundamental rethink. A further dimension is that even if the existing Euro Zone was to somehow, miraculously, survive the current crisis the potential departure, or even continued failure to join, of the UK might inofitself lead to Germany pulling out because within the EEC, if not the Euro Zone, the UK and Germany have similar views about economic policies and Britain has been an ally to Germany in countering some of the excesses of the countries along the southern fringe. It should be pointed out, however, that some of the alternative scenarios alluded to in the Economist article are not universally viewed as being viable. A very recent article by Tony Blair dismisses, out of hand, the 'Norway' and 'Switzerland' options. Here is what Blair had to say: "Let us first demolish one delusion, namely that Britain could be like Norway or Switzerland. Norway has a population of around 4.9 million and a GDP of $485.8 billion. It also has a sovereign wealth fund currently valued at more than $600 billion and set to rise to $1 trillion by 2020, owing to vast oil and gas reserves. If the United Kingdom, with a GDP of $2.4 trillion, had a wealth fund of roughly $3 trillion, all of the arguments would change. But it doesn’t. And no serious case can be made that Britain could become like Switzerland, a unique case politically and economically. Britain outside the EU would face three major disadvantages. First, it would lose its global leadership role. There should be no illusions about this. The idea that it would then seek new relationships with the likes of China and India is fanciful. Neither country would ever subordinate its relationship with Europe to a relationship with a non-European Britain. Second, leaving the EU would exclude it from the decision-making process determining the rules of the single market. British companies know this; so do global companies that use the UK as a European base. Finally, Britain would lose the opportunity for cooperation and added strength on issues that it cares about – for example, climate change, trade negotiations, foreign policy, and bilateral disputes – at a time when others are seizing the opportunities offered by regional integration. From the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – now with roughly 600 million people and looking to get a single market underway – to the African Union and South America’s Mercosur and Unasur, countries everywhere are coming together in regional blocs. Will Britain drift away from the one on its doorstep?" Now let's look at the situation which is developing regarding Scotland's standing in the EEC in the event of independence from the UK. At first the assumption was made that because Scotland and its citizens had been members of the EEC for 40+ years they would naturally have the continuing right to remain so, albeit under a different flag, as an independent country and under the same or similar treaties as enjoyed by the UK as a whole. Although this could yet be a tenable position and has not been fully rejected by the great legal minds within the EU bureaucracy in Brussels Jose Manuel Barroso has come out, guns blazing, with a clear and unequivocal statement that if Scotland should vote for Independence then it will be back to square 1 in terms of membership of the EEC and that all treaties would need to be renegotiated. Opponents of Scottish independence have been quick to point out that this could necessitate Scotland joining the Euro Zone and adopting the Euro plus a closed border with England. The former is almost certainly a deal-breaker in the eyes of all but the most fervent Nationalists, especially in light of the current Euro crisis, the latter might be welcomed by some, especially if the rebuilding and staffing of Hadrian's Wall led to significant job-creation. Here is a link to an article about Barroso's position . The fact that Barroso has his own agenda here should not be overlooked. He is having to deal with the issue of growing Nationalism in several European countries, particularly in Spain where the momentum is being all the more fueled by the country's economic and banking crisis, to say nothing of 25% unemployment. Clearly giving Scotland a green light to smoothly transition to becoming an independent state and maintaining EEC membership on substantially unchanged terms may not be seen to be in the best interests of maintaining stability across the Region irrespective of the rights and wrongs or even legality of the matter. What has yet to unfold is a good summary of the economic pros and cons of Scottish membership of the EEC - both from Scottish and European perspectives. Just how valuable to Scotland are those treaties which are in place? Does the Scottish fishing industry stand to gain or lose by membership or non-membership of the EEC on current terms? What would the EEC stand to lose if Scotland became like Norway? Will Scotland be a net positive contributor to the EEC and by how much? What would Scotland stand to lose if it ceased to be a member of the EEC? It really is a fascinating issue and I am actually beginning to wonder if the timing of the referendum needs to be pushed back. What concerns me is that it appears unlikely that the UK's position vis a vis the EEC may not be clear within the 18-month or so time-frame within which the referendum has to happen. Similarly it may take longer than that for the economic crisis within the Euro Zone to stabilise, if indeed it ever can. Stepping back and looking at these issues one cannot help but wonder if 2015 or 2016 might not be better timing for the referendum. From the "Yes" campaign standpoint the only reason why sooner might be better is the uncertainty created by the anti-European movement in England and the rest of the UK which might be destined to take the UK out of the EEC, whether the Scots like it or not. I am going to end this now. I did not expect to reach a conclusion and I have not reached one. Personally I still believe that Scotland should vote for self-determination and should not have to look towards Westminster for decisions about its future. Scotland's place in Europe is something that has to be worked through but it is possible that there could be very viable, perhaps even highly desirable, courses open which do not require membership either of a United Kingdom or an EEC or Euro Zone. Scotland is much more akin to Norway in terms of size, population and, hopefully, oil-prosperity and this might be a better direction to take. I certainly think that there are a lot of Scots who would welcome the opportunity to wave two fingers at BOTH Barroso AND Cameron. Perhaps I have reached a conclusion after all.....
Monday, December 03, 2012
Today I stumbled on 2 quotations which I liked and which might find their way into designs before too long. The first is a a quote from Winnie Ewing - one of the early SNP MPs, who won a landmark by-election in Hamilton in 1967. On the night of her victory she is quoted as having said 'stop the world, Scotland wants to get on' which resonates just as much today as it did almost half a century ago. Winnie, who sounds like a real character and someone who it would be a delight to meet, I'm sure, recently warned that the people of Scotland should not be fooled by empty promises by Westminster as happened in the 1970's. Apparently during one of her conversations with Sir Alec Douglas-Home just before an earlier referendum she delivered the second quotation which caught my attention, this one by Burns who said: 'The herts aye the pert that aye maks us richt or wrang'. Winnie's advice to the Scottish people today is "So let's not have a repeat of history, and not be gulled by empty promises from David Cameron. "When Alex Salmond comes forward with the referendum in autumn 2014, grab with both hands the opportunity for Scotland to become an equal and independent nation. Alec Douglas-Home offered Scotland "jam tomorrow" in 1979 - and we got 18 wasted years. Scotland has another opportunity to take a step forward - and I'd advise the people of Scotland to trust themselves, not Mr Cameron."
Saturday, December 01, 2012
Auld Acquaintance by Rod Macfarlane and I very much like his style. Now, by way of background, let me share some of my thoughts about Scottish Nationalism. My awareness of the movement really dates from when I was in my mid teens, at school in Carlisle. What I remember about it was how the Scottish Nationalist movement won my respect over similar movements on behalf of Welsh Nationalists and the Irish Republican movement. Rightly or wrongly the impression I had was that the Cause was pursued by the SNP by political and non-violent means which was not the case with the Irish - think Tower of London and Harrods bombings - or the Welsh - "come home to a real fire, buy a holiday cottage in Wales..". Even if the Welsh campaign was a long way from being as violent and aggressive as the Irish one there was also the issue that Wales seemed to lack the critical mass and credibility to be a stand-alone nation both of which Scotland clearly had, in spades. I have therefore been pleased to watch, with much admiration, the gradual devolution which this quiet and civilised campaign has brought about. As I mentioned in a comment I left on Rod's blog I have a strong sense that if the referendum is allowed to take its course and is a straightforward yes/no vote then there really is only one possible outcome and that is a "yes", and probably not a marginal "yes" at that. I simply cannot see how a majority of thinking (or even non-thinking) Scots could possibly decide that their best interests are served by an elected body comprised predominently of non-Scots, sitting in London. Even in England the people around the periphery in counties like Cumbria, where I grew up, do not get much of a voice in national politics and are never at the front of the queue when it comes to the allocation of resources. At risk of labouring the point Scotland's interests simply have to be better served by an Untied Kingdom.
Friday, November 30, 2012
As St Andrew's Day dawns in Scotland I am proud to launch the complimentary line of apparel, household and gift items to accompany the Scotland the Bright Calendar. Please check them out via the link on the side-bar just across from here. If anyone reading this thinks that Cafepress is just tee shirts and mugs then think again. In addition to the traditional items we now have all kinds of bags, shower curtains, duvet covers, cushions, cocktail plates, coasters and even yoga mats. The process of sizing images and creating items is still ongoing - as of today there are no badges, magnets, cards or yoga mats, to name but a few. There is, however, a rather fine set of curtains containing a collage which has over 40 major inventions with the inventors all set against a background of 12 different tartans. I have also been doing my homework concerning the Saltire. At first I was puzzled by the different shades of blue I was encountering but Google soon came to my rescue and this is what Wikipedia has to say on the subject: The Scottish heraldic term for an X-shaped cross is a 'saltire', from the old French word saultoir or salteur (itself derived from the Latin saltatorium), a word for both a type of stile constructed from two cross pieces and a type of cross-shaped stirrup-cord. In heraldic language, it may be blazoned azure, a saltire argent. The tincture of the Saltire can appear as either silver (argent) or white, however the term azure does not refer to a particular shade of blue. Throughout the history of fabric production natural dyes have been used to apply a form of colour, with dyes from plants, including indigo from Woad, having dozens of compounds whose proportions may vary according to soil type and climate; therefore giving rise to variations in shade. In the case of the Saltire, variations in shades of blue have resulted in the background of the flag ranging from sky blue to navy blue. When incorporated as part of the Union Flag during the 17th century, the dark blue applied to Union Flags destined for maritime use was possibly selected on the basis of the durability of darker dyes, with this dark blue shade eventually becoming standard on Union Flags both at sea and on land. Some flag manufacturers selected the same navy blue colour for the Saltire itself, leading to a variety of shades of blue being depicted on the flag of Scotland. These variations in shade eventually led to calls to standardise the colour of Scotland's national flag, and in 2003 a committee of the Scottish Parliament met to examine a petition that the Scottish Executive adopt the Pantone 300 colour as a standard. (Note that this blue is of a lighter shade than the Pantone 280 of the Union Flag). Having taken advice from a number of sources, including the office of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, the committee recommended that the optimum shade of blue for the Saltire be Pantone 300. Recent versions of the Saltire have therefore largely converged on this official recommendation. (Pantone 300 is #0065BD as hexadecimal web colours) The flag proportions are not fixed although the Lord Lyon King of Arms states that 5:4 is suitable. (Flag manufacturers themselves adopt a variety of ratios, including 1:2 or 2:3. The ratio of the width of the bars of the saltire in relation to the width of the field is specified in heraldry in relation to shield width rather than flag width. However, this ratio, though not rigid, is specified as one-third to one-fifth of the width of the field. Last, not least I have also been navigating my way around the various design options that Blogger.com provides and have added links from the side-bar to my other web-pages where visitors can make purchases.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
the calendar This is probably my longest blog post ever and so I will call a halt for now but it will be the first of what I hope will be many.
Friday, November 09, 2012
As a good friend of mine used to say "Only in America" This afternoon I was doing some searching online and noticed a huge spike in activity on Twitter around the name 'Petraeus' - a name I'm only vaguely familiar with. In fact it sounded very much like the name of one or more of the Roman generals I had been reading about yesterday when doing research into Queen Boadicea. In any event it transpires that General Petraeus was, until earlier today, the head of the CIA; that is to say the Central Intelligence Agency and not the, some would say more useful, Culinary Institute of America. It really is quite amazing to watch just how quickly a story like this can spread on Twitter. Wildfire doesn't even begin to describe it. One minute there are just a few 'Tweets' and then all of a sudden the keyword, in this case Petraeus, goes into the top 10 and then we have lift-off. Within not many minutes it became clear the Petraeus had resigned as CIA director because the he had been caught, seemingly by the FBI, having an extra-marital affair with the young ex-soldier (lady) who was 'embedded' with him when he was heading up US forces in Afghanistan and has since written his biography called (wait for it..) "All In" which is being published (and will surely sell out now) next week. It seems that everyone, from newscasters to talk show hosts to journalists and bloggers, was all over this one. Puns abounded, comparisons and contrasts with Clinton and his affair were piled on top of simple observations such as just how come the Nation's Chief Secret-Keeper couldn't keep a secret. It does appear that General Petraeus had difficulty distinguishing between 'Overt' and 'Covert' and there seems to have been an issue concerning access to confidential emails given to his mistress/biographer. However, one cannot help but conclude that the improved relations between agencies such as the CIA and FBI which America was striving for after 9/11 may not be as good as had been hoped. There are also, as usual, some conspiracy theories largely around the fact that Petraeus was apparently due to give testimony next week concerning an incident involving the CIA - a duty which will now fall on the Acting Director. On a totally different subject anyone reading this might find some items on CafePress amusing. They are based around 'Famous Last Words' - not actual sayings but what some famous historical figures might have said. My favourite (so far) is the one attributed to Marat though I also like the Edgar Allan Poe one. Here is a link.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
I have been busy and so it is timely to provide an update on some of my stores on CafePress and Zazzle. 1. What started off as a showcase for gift items incorporating Pre-Raphaelite art now has a rapidly-growing section devoted to the work of some artists from the Art Nouveau Movement. What brought this about was the discovery that some Art Nouveau and Art Deco items were listed as 'best-sellers' and so I decided to create some offerings aimed at meeting the demand. 2. On Zazzle I redesigned Poe Gifts to be a little more Poe-esque rather than have the plain vanilla off-the-peg store. I still view it as a work-in-progress and may tweak it after I have finished on the current phase of the Art Nouveau project. 3. I also gave PreRaphaeliteArt its own identity and store design. There is still much to be done in terms of populating it with items but I do like the design and I hope that visitors will find it attractive and be enticed to buy from it.
See other gifts available on Zazzle.
See other gifts available on Zazzle.
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
large size and the other, what CafePress describe as "Oversize". last, not least, there is one on Zazzle.com which has the same artwork but is just a different size and format. If Poe's gothic horror stories are not your cup of tea perhaps I can interest you in a Pre-Raphaelite Beauties calendar. This features paintings from a selection of artists who painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style - including Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Millais and Waterhouse. The Pre-Raphaelites are enjoying a resurgence of interest as a result of the opening of a new exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London, the first major event of its kind in almost 30 years and I have decided to mark the occasion with some calendars devoted to the works of some individual artists who painted in that style. The first of these is devoted to the work of Gabriel Dante Rossetti and includes an interesting cross-section of his paintings spanning several decades.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Posting again after a 4-year absence is daunting to say the least but the necessity of creating some links to a couple of new shops on CafePress is sufficient to twist my arm. The first shop is based around some Victorian paintings, mostly Pre-Raphaelite but with one or two other favourites thrown for good measure. Interestingly my first sale from this venture was a King size duvet cover with a print of the Village Wedding by Luke Fildes. Oh, how CafePress has moved on from when it was just tee-shirts and a few ceramic products! The duvet was a marketplace sale and was priced at $175. Poe Corner which contains some items based on Edgar Allan Poe, his writings and some art which has been inspired by his stories.