Dec 162016
 

Melancolia meets the hideous nutcracker named Donald J Drumpf whose odd shaped mouth and repellent hair don’t put her off, neither does the fact he’s actually loaded.  After waging a battle it seems unlikely the nutcracker can possibly win, they are miraculously victorious. Together they go on a journey around the world visiting wondrous lands etc etc. Now read on.

IT WAS A cosy Christmas eve at young Melancolia’s photoshoot; photographers, stylists, other nude models and various reptilian types were gathering for a
Christmas themed girl-on-girl shoot – but a tasteful one.

Melancolia was one of the top glamour models ever to share a full page spread with another woman and guns.
Her sparkly eyes, perfect teeth, chiselled cheekbones and enviable physique were only matched by her perfect pout.

And all her features were perfectly natural, with only a few boob jobs, teeth work, nose re-sculpting, tummy tucking to tweak her natural beauty a wee bit.

Some of the girls had their reservations about the current shoot, but the stylists said ‘this will make your career; it will be very artful – just think of Hannah Montana and the sexualized giant teddy bears only nude – now put on these tassels. What a cracker!’.

But young Melancolia had no such qualms. Rather, she was transfixed by something in the room. It looked like a bloated, oversized animated – overly-animated – nutcracker.

To be clear, this was one of the most repellent looking things at the shoot. It seemed wooden for a start. But it was grossly misshapen – where there might have been a chin, the oversized potato-esque head joined to its body directly, and there were so many chins Melancolia couldn’t count them all.

And the hair! Revolting! Thin wisps of straw like grey material – ‘Squirrel fur?’ Melancolia wondered – were in places dyed a primary shade of yellow. These few strands were probably several feet in length and would have hung down like a balding Rapunzel. Rather, they were seemingly wound into a shape not seen since the days of Douglas Hird and were lacquered into a shape such as to accentuate, rather than disguise the nutcracker’s bald pate.

The eyes were beady; the outfit gaudy. The thing wore a little red cap which only exaggerated the size of its head. The hat said ‘Make America Bigly Again’ – while a little label sticking out of the back of the tacky headpiece proclaimed ‘Made In Mexico’.

The mouth. The mouth was revolting and never, never stopped moving. Was the thing having some kind of asthmatic attack? The mouth seemed to gasp like a basking shark gulping down plankton one moment, and the next it wore a leering smile like a Cheshire cat.

“Melancolia, what are you looking at?” asked one of the models, adjusting a leather sleigh harness and fixing her antlers to her head.

“Zat thing over there – vat is it?” Melancolia said pointing with her chin towards the nutcracker and her glossy mane flew round her perfect features.

“That guy’s a nut – a real whitebread cracker who owns a model agency. Gives me the creeps myself; I try and stay clear. Calls himself Herr Drumpf or something.”

“Sank you” Melancolia said, and turning now to the creature, who was wildly waving its arms and yelling at one minion or other, mouth quivering like the maw of a giant squid, she smiled. The nutcracker smiled back, or at least she thought so.

“Hey baby, you’re wanted on set, and bring the gun and handcuffs, gonna be real classy. People will be talking about this shoot for years to come” the director said to Melancolia.

How right he was. Yugely right.

*                                             *                                             *

What happened that night was all a big blur for Melancolia; the traditional after shoot party was in full swing. Someone had decided to play Christmas music, and Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite was emanating from a wireless. Naturally this being an after-shoot Christmas party, there was lots and lots and lots and lots of ‘snow’.  It seemed to be everywhere. People had all sorts of other candy as well.

The Nutcracker – I mean Drumpf – made its way over to Melancolia; they both pouted. Right then and there, they seemed destined to be together.

“Hey I’m Donald Drumpf, nice to meet me I know. You’re not from Central America I hope?” The Nutcracker drawled,

“Nice shoot baby – loved what they did with the sleigh bells.”

“Zank you, you handsome man.”

“Yes, I know I’m handsome, but thanks for saying it. Wanna go for a ride in my Drumpf jet after the party? The toilets are solid gold.”

“Ven do ve go?” pouted Melancolia

“I can get into some clothes in a minute or two.”

“Never mind the clothes honey, just bring that gun, the handcuffs, and that photographer.”

“Okey dokey as you Americans say.”

From the other side of the room, the random chatter, snorts of amusement (or snorts of something) from the models echoed, and the wireless continued:

“… and the ugly Nutcracker transforms into a rich, handsome prince; he and Clara defeat their enemies, and take off in a magical flying sleigh to the world of candy and fantasy…”

Melancolia listened as Drumpf continued listing his accomplishments; but she was feeling a bit woozy by now.

“… and Drumpf Model Agency, and Drumpf whisky, Drumpf Golf links Scotland, Drumpf…” Drumpf continued without pause.

The wireless competed for Melancolia’s attentions too; the announcer’s voice rising:

“… and The Nutcracker and Clara visit exotic faraway lands such as China and Japan…”

The snow dazzled the East European beauty as large flakes of it fell on her tongue. The more the snow raged, the better looking the nutcracker (and his wallet) became. The room was humming harder as the ceiling flew away. Melancolia fell into a vision – giant mounds of snow appeared, she saw fairies dancing, mice with seven heads, and all sorts. Her head swam.

‘Not bad party’ she thought as Drumpf droned on – “…Drumpf offshore holdings, Drumpf casinos..” and she fell into a reverie (obviously not fuelled by any illicit substances, because nude models don’t go near that scene, nor do their photographers).

*                                             *                                             *

Melancolia closed her eyes for a moment.

Woosh! the happy couple were suddenly flying off to Drumpf’s kingdom on 5th Avenue, and all the little people – black, Jewish, Mexican and even gay ones rejoiced and worshipped their undoubted king and queen Donald and Melancolia. Everyone wanted to buy Drumpf brand clothing; everyone wanted to play golf at Drumpf golf courses, or gamble away all their money at Drumpf casinos.

The whole world watched The Nutcracker – or rather Drumpf – on television telling people they were fired; and all the women contestants on his fantastic television show were in love with the him, which goes without saying. The burgermeisters turned a blind eye to some of The Donald’s colourful antics.

Black people were turned away from Drumpf apartments and Drumpf job openings – but that’s just how you do business. Women were grabbed by their tutus as they competed to be Miss Nutcracker – but of course as they were dressed provocatively, they deserved it and if you’re famous, you can grab all the tutu you like.

Illegal immigrants got beaten up – but in the land of freedom, justice and liberty for all, you have to expect that kind of thing. All was well.

What more could the happy couple have wanted? – they had their own son, and Melancolia might not have been as young as Drumpf’s daughter from another marriage, but she was just as sexy – Drumpf himself often said as much. Melancolia had all the clothes a woman could want, and after all those years without wearing any clothes, this made a nice change.

But somehow for her beloved husband Donald, this wasn’t enough. New York, New York – if he could make it there, he could make it anywhere – so where next for the Drumpfs?

*                                             *                                             *

“Hey Melancolia, ya know” said Donald Drumpf, smiling widely like a crocodile with gas,

“I think I’m gonna go be president. Whaddya think of that?”

He was reclining on a gold lame cushion on the gold divan, sitting on the marble floors inlaid with the Drumpf logo.

“Okey dokey honey – you do that. You win. You big winner. You always telling me that.” 

Melancolia was admiring her face in one of the gilt mirrors.

“Lots of pictures get taken when you campaign in America no? I buy dresses. First Lady dresses. I be traditional First Lady like Mrs Ford or Jackie O. Jackie vas pretty. I prettier.” 

She came and put her arms around The Nutcracker, though they barely reached around the space where a neck should have been.

“Sure honey, you buy all the dresses you want.” The Nutcracker/Drumpf said, its mouth throwing otherworldly shapes,

“Mind the hair Mel, just had it woven last week.”

And so it came to pass that the Nutcracker and his brood hit the campaign trail. Many wondrous sites did they see. All of a sudden wonderful worlds of opportunity appeared; the mood was jubilant. First of all, they could give all the Drumpf children official campaign jobs – that meant tax breaks, taking donation money and giving it to the family, and it was all legit – which made a yuge change.

Then they could hold parties at Drumpf hotels and resorts – and charge the campaign fund a fortune for them! Result! Never before had those fundraising dinners caused The Nutcracker to salivate so. The Donald was now so busy that understandably he forgot about a few million dollars he was going to give to some veterans, but it’s the thought that counts.

Then there was money from his charities – he could raise money for charity and look good, tell people how charitable he was (which is the real point of charitable works), get tax relief, and then keep the money. He should have run for president years ago.

At the rallies Drumpf would tell his euphoric fans what his great plans were.

“Donald J Drumpf will wall up Mexico!” – the crowds cheered

“Donald J Drumpf will punish women who have abortions” – the crowds were in a frenzy

“Donald J Drumpf will throw all the illegal aliens (and some legal ones) out of the country and monitor all those Muslim types!” – the crowds were euphoric

“Climate change is just a myth made by the Chinese!” – how could he fail to win the presidency?

For some reason, not everyone in America was delighted by his candidacy. Then again, these weren’t real Americans – some were even Muslims and a few Mexicans who’d snuck in.

There was one guy who pretended to be some kind of American war hero who objected to Drumpf too – but he was a big fraud who had been dumb enough to get caught, and we all like our heroes to be guys who don’t get caught.

Donald might have been a great war hero himself, but he had a tragic medical flaw – there was a bone spur on his foot. This was so bad, that he couldn’t always win all the college basketball games he played in while being too ill to be drafted. Playing ball with a bone spur must have hurt sometimes, so in a way a pretty heroic thing to play b-ball at all.

Occasionally undesirables would get into one of nutcracker Drumpf’s rallies and try to protest – as if there were anything to protest, and as if resistance wasn’t futile.

“That guy over there is a protestor, throw him out, throw him out. You know, when I was younger, this guy would have been roughed up.” Drumpf told the faithful– and thus he won the heart of the right wing.

Melancolia was not crazy about the arduous schedule this campaigning meant, but it was worth it for such a good cause. She had to sometimes get up early before 11 am when the stylists arrived, and she had to wear some pretty frumpy outfits – but at least they were eye-wateringly expensive. She had to stand around at the nutcracker’s side and smile for hours on end – it was gruelling work.

How hard it was to smile without throwing in a single pout! But the photographers were there, and that was all that mattered. However, things were about to get really tough.

One evening Drumpf told her:

“Honey, ya gotta give a speech next week.”

Melancolia was not used to doing anything more than pouting or smiling, this was going to be a challenge.

“You will have a speech written out, and then you say the words on the paper, and smile – all at the same time. We’ll get you a coach honey, gonna be fine. Gonna be the biggest, best, yugest speech anyone’s ever made – well except me of course.”

And the day arrived and Melancolia read her speech. It was really hard, but she managed. At least people took pictures, and she smiled.

Alas! The speech was copied by someone named Michelle! The nerve! This copying was even more annoying because Michelle did her speech before Melancolia could do hers! This campaigning was a hard business.

Anyway to make a long campaign short, Drumpf The Nutcracker won the nomination, and then went on to defeat the evil cheating lying dishonest Hillary, who should be really in prison. The next president of the United States would be a wooden figure, whose mouth was controlled by a lever in the back by unseen hands. Russian hands. Result!

*                                             *                                             *

A voice far, far away came into Melancolia’s head:

“…and so The Nutcracker and Clara defeat their enemies, and take off in a magical flying sleigh to the world of candy and fantasy…”

He’d won! He defeated all comers and had been elected!

“Dahling!” she purred into her nutcracker-husband’s fuzzy ear-hole,

“eet iz wonderful! I buy ballgowns now. But vat is this cabinet zey keep talking about? Do we need nother gold cabinet to put zings in?  How much money we get for being president?”

“Melancolia – it’s gonna be a really big cabinet. Yuge. The best cabinet ever. No one will have ever had a cabinet like my presidential cabinet’s gonna be. I’m really smart when it comes to cabinets.” Drumpf reassured her, arms flailing, mouth flapping

“Vat you put in zees cabinet?”

“Nuts. Lots and lots of nuts.”

*                                             *                                             *

“Honey, we’re going on a victory rally tour; got the idea from this great book I’m reading by some German guy, Adolph something or other. The media will love it. They love me.” Drumpf explained as the servants packed a few gold-plated essentials.

And off the couple flew, with some of the Drumpf children, a handful of secret servicemen and a press team.

The first stop on this tour was Japan.

Drumpf’s daughter Iwantitall and son Donny Jr had come along on the tour, and it was heart-warming to Melancolia how her Donald was letting his children learn the ropes for the new family president business.

“Iwantitall, why don’t you go to that Japanese meeting thing darling; I’ve got some really important Tweets to send.”

“Fer sher daddy; can I have an advance on my allowance?” Drumpf’s daughter drawled; she was wearing a tasteful mini dress (available from her QVC shopping channel for £499).

Perhaps it was sour grapes, but the Japanese and some embassy attaches (whatever those are Melancolia wondered) didn’t think it was proper that Iwantitall was at the meeting. But what did that matter? Drumpf was running the show – the TV show that is (he was hardly going to give up ‘The Apprentice’ and the chance to say ‘You’re Fired!’ on TV – that was pretty important stuff).

As to running the White House, there was some guy who would call up and give Drumpf pointers. He had a Russian accent, and was pretty knowledgeable about all this electric college and cabinet stuff – how good it was to have help.

And off the entourage flew to their next destination. Africa.

“Welcome to Africa! Hail to the Chief! You come shoot some more elephants and giraffes Mr Donny – we need the shoes and game meat your little visits supply! We’re so grateful! Anything you want, anything at all!”

Donny Jr said:

“Thanks thanks – but ya know, I’ve not bagged one of those ferocious giraffes in a couple of months, let’s go kill some and then you can show me some more gratitude.”

The African ambassadors threw glances at each other for a moment:

“We’ll get back to you on that soon, Donny.” 

For some reason, they all had to go really suddenly.

“That went yugely well” Drumpf said as they all got back on the plane, Donny sporting an elephant’s tail the grateful locals insisted he take with him.

And off they went to China.

“I’m gonna handle this one on my own” Drumpf told his fellow travellers.

“But first, I got a little phone call to make to Taiwan. They’re gonna do some merchandising for me.”

Melancolia thought she saw a look of shock on the faces of some of the press team, but she put that down to their being awed that she and Donald knew Taiwan was a thing.

After completing a phone order for a hundred thousand ‘Make America Greatly Again’ baseball caps from the Taiwanese business delegation, it was off to China.

Stepping out of the plane, Drumpf was for some reason given a frosty reception. Putting on his best ‘O’ shaped mouth, he descended and told the Chinese government representatives:

“Yous guys gotta stop raping America – and why didn’t you ask my permission before you devalued your currency? You didn’t even respond to my tweets about that! You’d better learn who’s in charge – yeah, that’s right Vlad – I mean me. Now if only you’d have done the right thing, I wouldn’ta had to order my baseball caps from Taiwan. So you’d better stop thinking like losers and –“

For some reason at this point the secret servicemen pulled all the presidential party back up the plane steps, and prepared for a hasty departure.

“Get ready for take off!” the pilot announced over the tannoy of Air Farce One

“Ze dress first and leave the shoes on like usual?” Melancolia asked. But no one answered, and off they jetted.

“Geez, this thing doesn’t even have a gold plated can” Drumpf said, exiting the jet’s toilet.

“I’m gonna cancel that Boeing contract, that’ll show ‘em – and get a proper Presidential Plane”

“But- but sir” said one of the press party – and it was a woman to boot,

“there are thousands of American jobs at stake at Boeing, and if you make such an announcement, you’ll devalue the Boeing stock!”

“Who let this woman on the plane – are you a real reporter honey? – you don’t look very pretty. Who are you to be questioning me!” Drumpf thundered,

“and don’t go telling me about business. I know business really well. Dad lent me $6,000,000 – and I’ve only had eight bankruptcies. Go put on some makeup or something.” 

And with that the hapless hack was despatched.

“Ya know, we’re gonna go somewhere they really love me – not that they don’t love me everywhere that is – but in Scotchland they love me. Take us over there, that’s where my mother was from.”

And the Presidential jet touched down in Aberdeen. A police escort took Trump to his beloved golf course at Menie. All the staff were lined up and ready to meet him.

“Sarah Malone always good to see you – how’s that husband of yours doing – does he want another column for his newspaper yet, cause I got some great ideas.”

Drumpf addressed none other than the very Face of Aberdeen – a stunningly beautiful creature – obviously not as pretty as Iwantitall or Melancolia.

“We’re so glad to see you sir Mr Drumpf sir! If I can just -” she squealed.

“Just make sure I get plenty of clean towels honey.”

He dismissed her, and then proceeded to greet all the assembled Aberdeen city and shire councillors who lined up to kiss his ring.

Melancolia thought the Scotchland visit went much better than the China trip. It was freezing cold, the place was deserted, and part of the golf course had fallen into the sea. Still, there was the tasteful Drumpf clubhouse – with the Drumpf family crest – a two-headed monstrous bird – carved or printed on every surface within eyesight. Drumpf whisky was on sale at a mere £500 per bottle, signed by Drumpf (or truth be told, signed by Sarah Malone).

Soon this state visit had to end as well, and off the party flew back towards the States.

“One more stop, just to make sure everyone knows what a winner I am” the Drumpf/nutcracker said; its hinged mouth flapping wildly, its hair more frazzled than ever. “Mexico it is.”

The welcoming party at the airport seemed very festive; the peasants were all holding giant piñatas that looked just like Donald J Drumpf, and they were beating the s*it out of them. Drumpf opened his mouth to speak, but the cheering was so loud he couldn’t be heard. Melancolia was told that the waving of pitchforks and torches was a traditional Mexican greeting. Drumpf, his family and Melancolia were ushered quickly away and soon sat down to talk to the Mexican president.

“It’s very simple.” Donald said, his mouth in one of his widest smiles,

“You’re not giving us your best people. You’re giving us rapist and drug dealers. You gotta keep people in Mexico or I can’t get a good price on my Drumpf t-shirts that they make so cheaply here. So here’s what we’re gonna do. I’m gonna build a wall. It’s gonna be the biggest, bestest, smartest wall anyone ever built, and it’s gonna keep those bad Mexicans out of America.”

“Senor – this is not possible – think of the environment, the practicalities – the cost!” The Mexican president wiped his brow.

“Not my problem – you’re gonna pay for it pal!” Drumpf said, leering.

“This meeting’s over and I’ll send you the bill later.” 

And with that, he rose, the rest of his party rose, and off they went.

“Oh wait, there’s some other place we gotta go” Drumpf said to his weary pilot,

“What’s it called again, it’s somewhere they really, really need my smart thinking. Oh yeah, The Middle East – that’s it.”

Audible groans came from everyone but the first family, as the jet roared into the night.

“Time for your CIA briefing sir.” said a man in a black suit.

“Ya know, I’m not one of those dumb guys, I don’t need to be told the same thing day in day out.” said a bored Drumpf, who was tweeting about a television show called Saturday Night Live, which was not funny or fair at all.

“But Sir!” persisted the CIA officer,

“The Syrian problem is deepening, there is a rift in Turkmenistan, there is insurgency in Turkey, human rights violations in several countries, economic instability threatens several regions, and environmental disaster relief is threatening to outstrip spending on our other missions.”

“Eh?” said Drumpf

“Just do what ya gotta do; maybe I’ll get time for you next month; we’ll see. Don’t you know I still gotta television show I gotta produce?”

Drumpf had ordered all the region’s diplomats and leaders to meet his plane, which as usual was greeted by a classy red carpet, a couple of models, and some bagpipe players just in case anyone forgot his mother was from Scotchland.

“Darling you do know how to make ze entrance!” Melancolia purred.

“Here’s some money from one of the charities – why don’t you and Iwantitall go do some shopping.”

Needing no further encouragement, the women were off. Drumpf was ushered into an assembly room and led to a podium.

“Guys you got to know – Jews love me. Muslims love me. The blacks – they love me. Now the problem is that you’ve got too many Muslims here in the Middle East – I’d suggest you deport some of ‘em like I’m gonna do in the States – send ‘em back where they came from.

“But I gotta hand it to you, ya know how to do great wall building here, and if you play your cards right, you might get some building contract work from me on the Mexican border, maybe even some security guard work, unless my pal Vlad has that sewn up already… Now if you’ll form an orderly queue, I’ve brought a few dozen copies of my new book ‘Nuclear weapons – why have ‘em but not use ‘em?’ – a snip at only £49.99 each – £99.99 if I sign them.”

Leaving the Middle East was all a bit of a blur to Melancolia, but the echoed shouts of thanks seemed to fill the streets.

“Donald Darling – Iwantitall and I have bought such darling new ball gowns – look – even titties mostly covered on mine! – we vant to go have dinner at Buckingham Palace.”

“Great idea Mel – let’s go do that. They love me there. The Queen – she loves me; she’ll want me to stop by. Prince Philip – he and I get along great – agree on almost everything. That Charles one – he loves me. Now don’t get jealous sweetie – but his ex-wife Diana – she couldn’t keep her hands off me. I had to tell her – Di – darling – I’ll send you a t-shirt and a cap, but you gotta get off me.”

Melancolia was not pleased to learn that the late princess had such a fixation on her Donald – but it was perfectly understandable of course. So off they all flew to Heathrow.

Soon they were ushered into a Buckingham Palace state room. A gaggle of courtiers surrounded the stately if diminutive Queen.

“Hey, hey Liz – this is my wife Melancolia – shake hands there you go – give me a big kiss.” 

Drumpf’s attempt to slobber all over HM were blocked by the courtiers. The Queen seemed to have turned a shade of red not dissimilar to the colour of a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat.

“Brought you something” Drumpf said, handing over a plastic bag with one of the coveted baseball caps.

A footman took the package, holding it in his gloved hands by two fingers, holding it an extreme distance away.

“Liz, there’s a guy here that wants to see you too – it’s my pal Nigel Farage. Nigel – Liz, Lizzie – Nigel. You’re gonna be fast friends I can tell. It will be yuge. I told Nigel he can be ambassador to the USA for your little country – that’s OK right? He’s got some great ideas – not as great as mine you understand – but he’s gonna make Great Britain Great Again. 

“Now about these immigrants like the Irish you got here….”

The Queen was speechless, not least because Drumpf’s wife and daughter were both trying to grab her tiara.

“This audience is at an end. Her Majesty thanks you and bids you good day.” a guard said, ushering the whole party out of the palace with bayonets drawn.

Soon they were back on their plane, flying for the States.

“Probably an old English custom. Nigel – leave some of that Drumpf whisky; we need to sell some later, that’s a good guy.” Donald said.

Melancolia was in a whirl from this whirlwind world tour. As they walked to their waiting limos to return to Air Farce One, it started to snow.

Donald was on the phone; she wasn’t sure to whom.

“Yes, Vlad, all good here – how’s Wendy? You must come over for some golf sometime soon. Thanks again for everything. What’s that? You want me to press that button thing now? OK – give you a half hour head start to get into that underground complex. 

“I’ll tell the Pentagon just like we agreed. I’ll tell those missiles myself ‘YOU’RE FIRED!’”

Everything was a blur of mushroom-shaped clouds, Drumpf shouting, and then everything went black. She closed her eyes for a second, and everything seemed to fade away.

The snow was swirling all about her face now, landing in huge crystals around her tongue and nose.

*                                             *                                             *

Melancolia was suddenly back at the Christmas Eve photoshoot – it had all been a dream.

“So honey, you wanna blow this party and come back to 5th Avenue with me on my big gold plated jet now?” Drumpf asked, a little drool spilling over his oily o-shaped lips.

His hair had loosened from its previously lacquered condition so that several single strands of oiliness and dye reached his chest, hitting his Drumpf necktie, which at the neck seemed nearly as wide as the spud-shaped head.

Some of the snow had stuck to his polylmer hair and a dash was on his nose.
Melancolia thought of all her imagined adventures which had seemed so real a moment ago.

Turning to Drumpf, moving closer to him, she turned her pout into a wide smile and said:

“Let’s get going big boy. Zees is going to be great.”

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Dec 012016
 

Sometimes it’s best to keep it all in the family. Here’s a heartwarming tale from our roving reporter, Bec Hander.

money-euro-1144835_1280In a resounding victory for transparency, objectivity, and fair play, an Aberdeen City Senior Sustainable Development Officer was awarded 3 EcoCity Awards worth in the region of £1500 from Aberdeen City. The selection committee included academics, councillors, and several of the winner’s fellow ACC officers.

The Officer, also a director of a local community energy scheme that promises to ‘more than double’ the punter’s investment, is thought to be overcome by surprise at winning 3 of the 7 awards; he had expected to get them all we hear.

The award application details are:

“The EcoCity Awards recognise and reward local people for their efforts to make Aberdeen a more sustainable city. Members of the Sustainable Development Team in partnership with the Environmental Services Team, Transport Team and the Recycling Team, have worked together on the EcoCity Awards 2016 and invite submissions from individuals, community groups, schools, businesses, charities and other organisations.”

– and what could be more local than someone salaried by the City to work as a Senior Sustainable Development Officer?

Demonstrating its largess and generosity, the City Council and officers both recommended and invested in the scheme – very canny as they will ‘more than double’ their investment – and are going to assist with landscaping. They have already generously advertised the investment offer in their publication Our Green Times – modestly not naming the officer who is a director of this scheme, and who won an unequalled 3 Eco City awards.

Judges are thinking of changing the criteria next year, making it mandatory for award winners to already be working as city council officers. A few sore losers pointed out that normally a competition is closed to people who are related to, or work with, the judges or the organisation giving out the awards. Aberdeen City however always operates in such a transparent and fair manner that such criteria would not be necessary.

One of the winning officer’s awards was for his work as an individual.

It brought a tear to the eye of all present that this young man has managed to work full time for the council in a senior environmental capacity (is that full time? He must be working around the clock to avoid doing his hydro scheme on ACC taxpayer time or using ACC resources), get his outside project funded by the council, have the hydro advertised to the public in the council’s green publication, and somehow managed as an individual to get an extra £500 – or whatever it was.

Asked whether the council had any qualms about the promises publicly made by this winner to double a person’s investment, the council obligingly said it backs that statement completely. Should any investors not double their money, the council will, as advertiser, supporter, and investor in this scheme, be over the moon to make up any losses an investor might have.

It’s not as if there is any favouritism, cronyism, or mutual backscratching going on

This award-winning environmental officer managed to make great savings for the city. Not long ago, he ensured that local people on a photography course would have their photographs used in a publication that went to thousands of homes – without paying the photographers a penny or even asking their permission.

Most of course were just so humbled and honoured to see their work in print that they were overcome with emotion, even if some were residents of poor areas of the city – what’s money at the end of the day?

None of the directors of the hydro project are going to get any money from the project we have been told; in fact, they’re spending their own money with no thought of reward according to an email they sent. Just as well then that the city is putting money into its employee’s plans, advertising it, and bunging him the odd £1500 here and there – sorry – I mean giving him a well-deserved handful of awards based on him being just another average guy in the community.

Any similarity to this cash windfall and the time that arts grants money was awarded to an ACC arts officer who knew the judges is purely coincidental. It’s not as if there is any favouritism, cronyism, or mutual backscratching going on in Marischal College. With that kind of paranoid attitude, you’d be expecting them to give builders like Stewart Milne huge tracts of land for a song – and that’s never happened, has it?

Any suggestion that there might have been conflicts of interest, unethical overlaps in the roles of those involved in applying for and awarding awards to an ACC officer are without any foundation.

We can look forward to many more such schemes from our council in the future – make no mistake.

Images courtesy of Pixabay, used under creative commons license. Featured Image, credit: Geralt. Top right and thumbnail, credit: Janeb13.

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Nov 252016
 

As the Aberdeen Press & Journal gets into the festive spirit by announcing on its front cover today that ‘there ain’t no sanity clause’ and it’s dangerous to encourage children to believe in him, Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly marvels at Damian Bate’s organ yet again, and how it has seized the spirit of good will with its attack on Father Christmas.

DictionaryAt this time of year, it’s important to realise how lucky we are, and to think of those who are less fortunate, who suffer, who are abused.

Imagine spending your days in a no-hope situation. A tyrant forces you to do things against your better nature. You are humiliated on a daily basis, and people openly laugh at what you are doing.

Let’s take a moment then and pause. We have our problems. We might have money and health worries. It’s freezing cold.

But at least we don’t have to write for the Press & Journal and Evening Express under Damian Bates and Sarah Malone Bates.

Some poor soul had to write the infamous ‘TRAITORS!’ article back in the early days of Trump’s planning campaign depicting councillors who dared to vote against the unprecedented Trump golf plans.

Some idealistic young thing who years ago dreamed of a career in journalism now takes orders to write articles praising Damian’s wife’s forays into running a 5 star resort (or is that 6 diamonds – as Turnip awarded himself a few years back?). Imagine the overpriced coffee, the clunky ‘temporary’ clubhouse where the invented ‘Trump family crest’* asserts itself on every piece of furniture, paper serviette and presumably loo roll too.

And you have to submit copy saying it’s fabulous.

While you are instructed to write yet another review of MacLeod House and its beautiful concrete fountain, all around you local writers are firing off Freedom of Information requests, digging into Companies House files, and uncovering stories which actually constitute investigative journalism while you try to find 250 words about why the chicken supreme is worth £40 per head, all the while ignoring the giant plaque staring at you through the clubhouse windows proclaiming that you are on the world’s largest sand dune system.

You might like to say something about this being a blatantly untrue fabrication – but you don’t really dare to do so.

At least you get paid for it. Rather like those girls around the harbour. At least they don’t have to put their name to their handiwork. And quite understandably, many of the AJL articles go without anyone claiming a byline.

santa-with-traumatised-children-creepy-santa-comAnd now this week one of you was handed an arcane, clearly deliberately provocative piece from two academics who believe perpetuating the Santa Claus fable is akin to child abuse. ‘Give me a front page story on Bad Santa’ Damian or one of his minions told you.

And you did it, didn’t you?

Did you care this angle has been done before? Was what you were going to bring to the argument so brilliant you didn’t care? Maybe you were happy to get away from Trump for a little, or you were happy to try and forget the real news stories in our area that a reporter would want to cover – Marischal Square and its genesis, who is linked to who in the curious companies Sir Ian Wood and others still keep afloat even though (theoretically) the Union Terrace Gardens parking lot scheme (for that was all it really was) is dead in the water.

Maybe you don’t want to think about the fact your newspaper (for lack of a better word) will soon need to metaphorically tug its forelock at the city council: what other newspaper would even remotely consider taking a free rent from a city council? Can you even keep track of the number of city council stories and dealings that should have been investigated by the local printed press?

No, you are now going to Google elves, Santa, and present your findings on the new throwaway theory Santa is Bad Santa. Someone else is going to look into Muse, Trump, Inspired, fraud inside the council, etc. etc. But not you or your fellow Aberdeen Journals writers.

And Result! Good for you!

The Facebook P&J page has hundreds of hits on this story. Of course most of them are ridiculing the fact your boss put this on the paper’s front cover, and some are angry that young children will see this and dissolve into tears – thus spoiling photoshoots for your next ‘adorable tot’ competition. Hits matter on Facebook to your boss – even if the paper is not exactly flying off the shelf. You may well put this into your cuttings book – another front page story for you.

At least it beats the brains out of having to type for the umpteenth time ‘breathe fresh life into the beating heart of the city’ and such. How do you breathe into a heart anyway?  How fast can you as an Evening Express reporter type the phrase ‘vibrant and dynamic?’ Do they pay you for the word much as some other professionals are paid by the hour?  I’ve always wondered.

Maybe someday they’ll give a Pulitzer for incisive, pithy front page stories about the Tooth Fairy’s negative psychological impact on children. Perhaps that brilliant headline your paper used when a young man was missing ‘search called off due to unforeseen circumstances’ about a no-show psychic should have received more acclaim – how the family must have laughed! But not today.

Just maybe your Father Christmas article will lead to bigger and better – there is no shortage of crackpot experts with degrees who write ridiculous papers to get noticed – not that the attack on the Santa belief wasn’t a serious, scholarly work. You’ll find them – or Damian will find them and tell you to write up an op ed. Can a piece about the Loch Ness Monster be that far off now? I guess we all aspire to something.

perhaps time for you to pick up an actual newspaper and see what other writers are doing

So, many of us who contribute to Aberdeen Voice will keep doing the work you’re too busy to do. We’ll keep revealing that despite Trump’s declarations to the contrary, he was definitely seeking compulsory purchase orders against his neighbours. That was an AV scoop, and it doesn’t seem you picked up on that.

Guess it didn’t have the gravitas a piece on the Easter Bunny will do when you write it.

We revealed the literally cozy relationship between the P&J and Trump International Golf Links Scotland. We found out how much money from the public purse was spent promoting the risible UTG project. Did you like looking at those lurid images of the ridiculous ramps arching over an impossible landscape of trees and open air theatre month after month?

You’ve gone all out to help the council (usually).  Remember the Evening Express story designed to lend creedence to the city’s plans for killing the Tullos Hill Deer?  The deer were going to be killed to plant trees on Tullos despite public outcry to just leave the hill, wildflower meadow and deer alone.  The trees aren’t growing, but the deer are dead.  Your paper helpfully announced ‘Two Deer Found Dead Ahead of Cull’ – implying the poor creatures needed to be culled for their own good.  Then I found out it was fully two years before the cull was proposed that the deer were found dead of unknown cause.  Your paper never did cover my story that deer had clearly been slaughtered in the Gramps – severed limbs were found.  The preposterous claim Ranger Talboys made was that the deer must have been killed somewhere else, then the poachers marched up two different hills to deposit the limbs.  I guess there wasn’t room for any of this as well as another review of MacLeod House.  The ‘cost-neutral’ tree scheme Peter Leonard of ACC forced on the taxpayer has now cost a five-figure sum – obviously that’s not newsworthy to Damian.

As I write, it’s nearly 6pm – knocking off time for you, or perhaps time for you to pick up an actual newspaper and see what other writers are doing. Does it bother you to read Monbiot, Rob Edwards, people who care about corruption, the environment, the threat Trump poses to world stability – or are you genuinely content writing about the latest P&J sponsored award show held at the AECC and who won a golden cabbage or whatever it is given out that helps generate advertising revenue and PR for your stable of publications?

From the rest of us, we feel sorry for you. It’s not news you’re writing. It’s not investigative journalism your paper offers as a norm. You are sucking up to your advertisers (remember when a certain diminutive housebuilder reportedly threatened to pull his advertising if you ever wrote a critical piece on him again? I do). The press should serve as a check and balance on the council; in the P&J’s case, the council’s cheques for ads total £200,000 a year, and press you into service.

Adios to ideals; to dreams of reporting and investigating, or choosing what stories to follow. The rest of us feel your shame, and we pity you. This has taken enough of your time though, and you will likely have a beautiful tot or beautiful bride layout to work on.

Some of us managed to believe (or half believe) the Santa Claus/Father Christmas mythology without it turning us into megalomaniacal would-be fascist dictators, preening newspaper editors whose Facebook page consists of a series of selfies and little else, or a woman in a job over her head who will do anything for money, however much that means swallowing racism, sexism and nationalism – just hypothetical examples of personality disorders, mind you.

I am very thankful. Thankful I am never going to work for you or those you serve.

STOP PRESS:  Be sure to take your children to Santa’s Grotto at the Trump International Golf Links Scotland; if you’re going to scar the offspring for life, do it somewhere where they know about great big men with odd hair promising lots of gifts to people who do what they are told to do (even if those gifts never materialise). A tenner a tyke.

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Nov 142016
 

Old Suzannah relects on the result of the US Presidential Election. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryTrump is in as POTUS elect – cue gushing from Spokesperson Sarah Malone saying what a ‘visionary’ he is. There is celebrating among the racists, and wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who care about the environment, about others, and the future in general.

I spent way too much time on Facebook before and after this catastrophe. There were articles to write, research to do, and crazy attitudes to try to understand and counter.  Mostly I learned that countering people who are stuck in a mindset, particularly one they acquired in childhood, is a non-starter.

Facebook was essential for my trying to figure out what people were thinking and why. I failed.

Some people even more left-leaning than I (it’s possible) have gone down the conspiracy theory hole. Hillary was an evil blood-sucking monster who the white knight Julian Assange was trying to slay. The fact that some US publications had actually printed celebratory ‘Hillary Wins’ programmes and magazines was proof positive that the election result was fixed.

I tried to counter this BS only to be told I that in effect I was naïve and had no idea what was really going on in the world. There are powerful people like the Rockefellers and Rothschilds you see – I had no idea – had you?

The diehard Bernie supporters were filled with ‘I told you so’ rhetoric. Great stuff, but hardly productive or useful against Trump.

Third party voters before the election were adamant it didn’t matter what they were doing with their vote, and that any of the candidates were able to win this horserace. There were only two people who were ever likely to win. Pity that the one with the most popular votes did not actually win the election. After the votes were counted, these third party voters were keen to deny any involvement in Trump’s victory.

The simple, black-and-white fact that they elected to vote for someone other than HRC was in effect the same as not voting at all is lost on them, and they are not going to admit they had a chance to vote against racism, sexism and nationalism – and they decided to, in effect anyway, remain neutral.

Then we come down to the far right. The only people making threats, attempting to denigrate political opponents and sharing bigoted bile were on the far right. Trump has made it acceptable to be a hate-filled, xenophobic nutter. We are going to do something about this, because unlike these hatemongers, we actually know where this kind of hatred takes the world. Is evil too strong a word for someone who hates others who are from different cultures, countries and races? Not for me it isn’t.

The most worrying aspect of this and media coverage is how dumbed down we all are, myself included. Any news report these days, however transparent the truth may be on a point, seems to have to include a counterpoint. If the sky is considered to be blue, someone will source an ‘expert’ somewhere who will explain that the sky is actually yellow, and they are given equal air time.

That’s the media. The real worry for me is the way education in the USA’s Trump-supporting states is turning children’s minds into mush. I’m not the only to worry about this phenomenon, but to illustrate, there are schools which will present Creationism and ‘Intelligent Design’ as being equally valid theories as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

Ignoring the fact there is no evidence for apple-wielding snakes and plenty of evidence the world is just a little older than 6,000 years, pupils are taken to creation museums and taught creation as fact, fact as equally valid as the evidence-based Evolutionary theory. Not only are we filling their heads with superstition masquerading as fact, we are training them to fear a god at the same time.

Oh, and the hours spent on this blatant indoctrination, dumbing-down, and conformity-inducing dogma, we are losing the time we could be spending on teaching them to gather evidence from a variety of sources (yes, even those outside of Fox News), researching (in libraries not just on Wikipedia), and how to take information and form valid conclusions.

This is my greatest fear – we are moving away from the Renaissance values of seeking enlightenment and many people are now seeking comfortable beliefs and comforting fables to wrap themselves in. While Roma is most assuredly burning.

I’m afraid; many people are. But there are things we can do, and this is not the time to give up, but the time to redouble efforts. Figures out what you want to fight for – a better environment, biodiversity, fairer governments around the world, a decent Southern Railway service – whatever it is – and get about trying to fix it.

On a rather personal note:

This has been a crap week for me. My friend Vanessa tells me that the three main areas of your life – love, home, and money/work never seem to be in balance – get any two right, and the other falls apart.

At present, well let’s just say that I’ve no idea where I’m going to be living in the near future, I need to find my next paid stable work gig yesterday, and the love life is now a Shakespearean comedy – without the laughs.

The trump triumph hardly fills me with glee, I feel a responsibility to act as cheerleader to others when I can barely find reasons to cheer, and I can’t honestly decide if the futile hopes that exist – that DJT gets KO’d by the courts over his racketeering charge (or other charges) – are life buoys to cling to, or are sirens calling me to drown with false promises.

And while I am trying to outwardly be strong and cool, my asthma’s gone into hyperdrive, and the medicine I usually need once or twice a month to fend off an attack of CVS (you really don’t want to know), I’m eating by the handful. You can try to tell yourself you’re not stressed, but if you listen to your body, well, you can’t fool it.

Then, I momentarily feel worse because I realise how selfish I am to even think of myself and my first world problems.

I have the option of finding work (even it if’s just as likely to be stacking shelves or flipping flipping burgers at this point). I can see, hear, walk and think (well, after a fashion). I won’t starve anytime soon. Most of all, I know some excellent people, and call many of them friends. It’s a bad week or so at present, but it’s going to get better.

No one’s firing plastic bullets at my face while I’m trying to stop a pipeline going through Lakota sacred land. No one’s bulldozing the forest I live in. I’m not forced into marriage (like to see anyone try), and I can still come and go as I please (Canada remains an option).

My first world problems – your first world problems – are all things we can either fix, or try to fix. And even when we don’t succeed in our goals, be they protecting water supplies, the environment, stopping Trump’s March of the Giants – the fact that someone, somewhere tried to do some good and made any progress at all in this matrix we’re living in – may yet provide the building blocks and/or the inspiration for those who will come after us.

Then I think – it’s hard fighting against the things that need to be combatted today – but it’s a hell of a lot easier to do so than it will be for the next generations.

We have a POTUS elect who doesn’t believe in climate change, and who will have surveillance powers over – I suppose – just about everyone. He will in theory have access codes to nuclear weaponry, and once asked why don’t we use them if we have them?

He may yet lose his POTUS elect status if he goes down for the felony offense of racketeering for his ‘university’.

Students in Utah are working to find legal ways to debar him from the presidency – and there may indeed be grounds. Michael Moore is creating action lists and people are responding. There is always something I can do; there is always something you can do. Whatever it is, however big or small, please consider fighting for something now.

‘We much each of us tend to our own gardens.’

Figure out what is wrong in your own neighbourhood be it your back garden, town, country or world – and there will be something you can do to raise the issue, fight the problem, and make others care. You may not always win; you may never win, but there is much satisfaction in trying, and who knows – if enough people roll up their sleeves, things might just get better.

STOP PRESS:  The DJT Resistance wants you:  https://www.thedjtr.com/

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Oct 152016
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over recent events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryGreetings belatedly; sorry for the late-running of this service; I’ve been busy. For one thing – Result! TV Smith played Krakatoa on 8 October with Fred Wilkinson opening. Fred, or ‘Wilkinson’ as beloved LibDem Aileen HoMalone refers to him, played a lovely song about fashion called The Ghosts of Cable Street. I’m not really sure what it was about, but I think it had to do cable-knit jumpers and something about black shirts not being very popular at one time.

Fashions do have a way of coming around again, and I think there are more than a few blackshirt-lovers out there right now.

Smith played some old-fashioned, quaint ‘protest music’ – although heaven knows, we really have nothing to protest about, except maybe all those foreigners Amber Herd wanted named and shamed for taking British Jobs.

I wonder why she changed her mind? Could there be any link between the pound plunging to a new 31 year low, Brexit, and Amber’s anti-foreigner stance? I doubt it.

I am guilty of not being born in the UK. I am taking the unpaid job of some poor satirical British columnist who otherwise could be labouring for free. Yes, naming and shaming the companies that hire people from other countries seemed like the way forward. But I digress. Smith sang about modern poverty (no doubt caused by foreigners), state surveillance, and other such lefty concerns. Just as well we’ve nothing to protest about here in the Deen.

I understand Torry residents are planning a parade to celebrate all the jobs creation coming our way. We’re getting an incinerator – sorry – waste to energy plant! Result!

We’re going to get rid of the under-used Bay of Nigg so that cruise ships filled with rich visitors can stop by for a bet at Ladbroke’s and some Spar shopping. Result! Of course we’ll have to make a few sacrifices for creating these jobs.

A few protected wildlife species in the Bay, clean air (which we enjoy so greatly now thanks to the sewerage plant) and the wishes of local people – many of whom are foreign! – should not stand in the way of making the Harbour Board richer or getting a good old-fashioned British firm busy burning rubbish next to the school in Tullos. While the house prices here will plummet, a clear message is sent: Scotland is Open For Business.

We are open to taking American fracked gas; a great tanker sailed to Scotland filled with fracked gas, while some Americans in Pennsylvania begged Scotland not to take it.

If it will make us money, at least the considerable pollution will be happening far away – foreigners do have their uses. (The energy efficiency of creating fuel in the US leaving pollution in its wake and shipping resultant gas to Scotland is a little hard for me to understand, especially with gas here having been at considerably low prices for years. Still, if there’s money to be made, we can’t be seen to be closed can we?)

We’re also open for business at Marischal Square, where in keeping with the look of the city, Granite will be the main cladding material. That The Granite City is importing granite from China, where there are a few equal pay and workers’ rights issues is not an issue. We are Open For Business. The council says it’s not their business where the granite comes from – a huge comfort to the veritable slave labour that will be quarrying it.

John Forbes of Bon Accord Granite said:

“What people don’t understand is we haven’t built a major building out of north-east granite for the last 30 years, at least. It’s down to price. If I don’t supply Chinese granite, others will.” 

Thanks John for helping the project’s carbon footprint, Chinese workers’ rights, the government’s push to use UK labour forces – all while making a tidy profit. Nice one.

I get it – the position seems to be ‘if I don’t exploit unfair labour practices in China to supply material cheaply, someone else will’. Good code of ethics there then. So – foreigners = good source of labour to exploit as cheaply as possible – as long as the blighters don’t actually come to Old Blighty.

When the much-loved Marischal Square building is clad in Chinese granite, the much-loved Press & Journal is set to take a year’s free rent to grace us with its presence.

In order to figure out how this equates to being ‘Open for Business’ as opposed to, shall we say, giving the paper a bone so that it won’t unleash its investigative new hounds (if any left) onto juicy city council stories (not that there are any unless you count the cremation scandal, the Torry carve-up, Marischal Square..), Old Susannah lodged a freedom of information request.

We do know the key players at the Town House in this genius free rent scheme are the Head of Finance, Head of Land and Property Assets, Asset Management Manager. The city refuses to comment on these ‘commercial negotiations’ because:

“Release of the information at this stage would influence the negotiating position of parties wishing to occupy space in the development, to the obvious detriment of the Council’s commercial interests.

“Furthermore, disclosure of the requested information at this stage is likely to weaken ACC’s position in a competitive environment by revealing sensitive information of potential usefulness to competitors. ACC must maintain good working relationships with reputable companies to enable it to obtain value for money and so releasing commercially sensitive information could potentially damage ACC’s reputation with such third parties, dissuading the third parties from engaging with ACC.”

“The discussions in relation to the proposals for the AJL terms have involved the advice of external property agents, the Council’s development partner and a number of Council officers.” 

So if I understand correctly, the competition would get wind of us giving a years’ rent free in a new building to the press (normally expected to investigate just this kind of eventuality in some cities anyway), and they would give a better deal, or other people would want free rent like the P&J too.

Perhaps we should pay the P&J to grace the city centre, and breathing new life into the beating heart of the civic centre in a vibrant and dynamic manner.

The phrase ‘Value for Money’ worked its way into the FOI response. Older readers might remember when the previous administration sold property owned by the taxpayer for millions of pounds less than market value, and was investigated by Audit Scotland (the report was meant to be investigated by the police – but they didn’t do anything. When I asked for an update, it was explained the paperwork could not be found, and as it was only a few million pounds’ worth of potential fraud, it wasn’t really a big deal).

We also gifted Stewart Milne lots of land, at the same time he won a few sweet contracts totalling £10 million – he’d underbid the competition – possibly a feat made a bit easier by having a nice parcel of land as a handy asset. But again – I digress. Just as well though that the taxpayer isn’t propping up a hugely biased, outmoded pseudo-newspaper.

Not that there are any juicy city council stories of course, but in light of how the city’s officers are involved in a few slightly questionable activities, I set out to take a look at the register of officers’ interests. I was to meet someone from Legal and democratic services to take a look at the register. A few hours before the meeting, the legal team from the city decided that a FOI request was required.

Now in theory FOI requests should not have to be made to see information that is held – but they were apparently fearful that there might be ‘personal data’ in the register.

This register should be parallel to the register held on all the councillor’s interests and hospitality – which you can view right now on the website. It’s almost as if the officers had more power and influence than coucillors but surely not. The FOI service complains from time to time that it has too many requests to handle (which might be why it is late with a huge portion of responses).

If the other departments had this ‘transparency’ we’ve heard so much about, the FOI team wouldn’t have to suffer so greatly doing its job.

Democratic services? Transparency? Freedom of Information? Clearly not as important as being open for business. More on this soon.

While waiting for any of this information to ever get to me, liquid refreshment at BrewDog helps sustain me and pass the time. Old Dog (as I now call the Gallowgate bar, the first ever BrewDog bar) has been doing some wildly popular craft courses and a once-monthly fun event, Drink and Draw.

I have learned so very much from BrewDog. Did you know that it’s Robert Plant’s son Logan is behind the remarkable Beavertown Brewery? I hadn’t any idea. One of my favourite non-BD libations is Beavertown’s flavour packed Gamma Ray (American Pale Ale). And yes, I’m one of the 10,000 BrewDog shareholders, and still proud of it.

Finally, Anthony Baxter is making another film about ladies’ man Trump, although I can’t think of any recent news developments these past 12 months that would warrant any such documentary. However, the details are here for those who would like to chip in. Expected Aberdeen release 3 November at the Belmont. (And by way of disclosure, there is every chance I’ll be in it).

At this rate there won’t be time for definitions, so with no further hesitation, here are some career-related definitions for the wonderful people who bring so much to Aberdeen.

Spokeswoman: (Modern English noun) a female who undertakes public relations duties.

Sarah Malone has been enjoying a Trump salary these many years; this and husband Damian’s salary will no doubt be helping the Jimmy Choo purchase fund.

In order to get a paid gig dealing with the media as a spokeswoman for a multinational property developer, aspiring spokespersons would have to have style, flair, the ability to think quickly, analyse information and respond swiftly with tact and intelligence. This no doubt is why I toil for free. As a recent example illustrating the calibre of response such a professional spokeswoman would be expected to come up with, I offer the following recently issued by Sarah Malone-Bates, aka from now as Sarah Baloney:

“We have not seen the so-called film and have no interest in it.

“Anthony Baxter is not a credible journalist or filmmaker. He has no interest in the facts or the people of north east Scotland.

“He has propagated lies and nonsense about the company for years in an attempt to make a name for himself off the back of Trump.

“We operate a highly acclaimed, five-star golf resort and enjoy a great relationship with the local community and all of our neighbours with the exception of a few who have fought the project since its inception.”

Old Susannah can’t – however hard I try – write like this. For instance, if I had to use the compound-adjective ‘so-called’, I might have said ‘so-called journalist’. That would have opened up a debate on whether or not award-winning, acclaimed journalist Baxter is credible or not. Obviously we trust a Trump spokesperson’s word for what is and isn’t credible. However, ‘so-called film’ opens up the debate as to whether or not the film is a … film. I think even I could win that battle of wits with Sarah.

She is calling Baxter a liar – a daring PR move which of course could have legal consequences should Baxter want to sue Trump. I hope she’ll share the specific list of these lies with us; I promise I’ll ask for it.

As to that ‘great relationship with the local community’ – well, obviously that’s as true as anything else this professional, well-paid spokesperson said. Just because protestors raise Mexican flags, 580,000 people sign a petition against her boss coming here, the local university rescinded his honorary degree and he’s no longer a global Scot is no reason to think Mr Drumpf is in any way unpopular. And no doubt the relationship with this community is unshakeable…

Star: (modern English term) someone of celebrity status, admired and well-known.

Donald Trump is a star. How do I know? He said so in a conversation about the perks of stardom.

To attain star status, having superior genes is important; modestly Drumpf admits what we already know – that he has superior genes. Somewhere, in some obscure history lesson, I almost remember some other political figure being interested in genetic superiority. Perhaps it’s fashionable to talk about this again?

Perks of stardom include ‘just start kissing’ beautiful women ‘doing anything (to women)’ and ‘grabbing them by the pussy’. Oh those lucky, beautiful young women. Something in the nature of 1 in 5 American women can expect to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

And with that, I find the last satirical inclinations leaving me, and so I will sign off. Let’s hope nothing will dent that community appreciation Drumpf enjoys here in our little corner of Scotland.

Next week – more on other FOI requests, a look at the rosy future of Torry – and a DIY Investigating kit

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Sep 092016
 

Old Susannah’s takes account of how no one is accountable any more for their actions. By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryA lovely week of great weather in the Deen has passed; if only we had some city centre concrete slabs we could have relaxed on instead of a suntrap in the form of a sunken, historic, green, grassy garden. Oh well.

BrewDog threw another of its Drink and Draw events; these are for people of all abilities, and are going down a storm. Lush helped raise awareness and funds this past weekend for excellent charity DAWGS.

This past week in the UK saw some of the great thinkers of our time explaining some of their great works.

A 63 year old man in Manchester is being unfairly persecuted for punching a 5 day old baby in a supermarket. The proud parents were holding the child up to show to some of their friends on the child’s first-ever day out, when the man came over and punched the child in the head.

For some reason security called the police and the child was hospitalised (apparently she is fine now). Inexplicably, the police wanted the man to explain.

“I thought it was a doll,” he said. 

The Manchester City doll-punching finals will be held next month, we hear.

Closer to home, Aberdeen City Council is once again the toast of the town.

Not content with giving us Marischal Square and giving the P&J free rent for a year (while we have homeless on the streets and empty, habitable council properties it should be noted – thanks Pete Leonard), they are making the streets safe. By safe, I mean they are covering those hazardous cobbled streets of the merchant quarter (if that’s what we’re calling the Green this week) with tar.

No more high-heel-related trips; no more boring historical ambiance. It was all going to be lovely – then the not in my back yard brigade demanded the cobbles should be restored.

If only there were someone in charge of making decisions about our Housing and Environment who could know what’s going on and what’s happening. But if you’re only going to pay someone about £112,000 a year plus expenses and a £20,000 a year pension contribution, you’re not going to find anyone but a selfless saint to take on the job and actually know what his department heads are up to (isn’t that right Pete Leonard?)

Well, autumn is on the way, and Old Susannah will be joining Aberdeen’s fashionistas to do some shopping. And where better to wear the latest fashions?

ESCALE FRANCE is a Union Street shop selling fox and racoon fur clothing. Nothing screams ‘I am ignorant, self-absorbed and don’t care about needless suffering’ than decorating yourself with the pelt of an animal that was caged, tortured, terrified and skinned, usually alive, sometimes after being clubbed to death.

SPECIAL OFFER: Visit Escale France, and for every OS reader who tells them to stuff their fur where there will be no danger of sunburn, I will buy you a free half pint of BrewDog. I am serious. Send me a photo of yourself in front of their shop with an anti-fur poster to Aberdeen Voice, and I will stand you to a drink (first 50 people).

It is a well-kept secret, but it is possible to be warm and good looking in 21st century Scotland without sewing together the skins of tortured dead animals, raised only for fur, to wear.

Whether it’s making money out of torturing animals, tarring over a medieval cobblestone street, selling Aberdeen taxpayer-owned land for a pittance, or punching infant girls, the people who engage in such activities always have excuses.

Just remember – you can do anything you like – as long as you have a good back up story. Here are some examples of today’s best excuses, great and small. Have you screwed up? Did you lie down on the job? Over your head and don’t know what’s going on? Here are some helpful examples of how great leaders cope.

Clerical Error: (Modern English compound noun) To make an unintentional administrative mistake, which might include making a typographical error, mis-filing documents.

Didn’t get obey the law on Data Protection? No idea there was one? Are you charged with No clue how to do anything but your nails? No worries! If you’ve not registered your multi-million pound, 6,000 person employing golf resort complex with the UK authorities and are in breach of some serious human rights – just tell them you made a clerical error.

If you’ve been filming all those tedious plebs, camera crews and residents for years but didn’t actually register your activities, just tell the authorities it was not your fault, but one of your thousands of employees made a mistake and didn’t file.

According to that leftie newspaper The Guardian, the Scottish Information Commissioner’s office said:

““The Data Protection Act requires every organisation that processes personal information to register with the ICO, unless it is exempt. Failure to do so is a criminal offence,” the commissioner’s office said last week. “We’ll be writing to the company, asking it to clarify how it is registered.”

The award-winning most beautiful golf course in the world ever told the Guardian:

“We take the security of our employees and guests’ personal data very seriously and comply with all aspects of the Data Protection Act. [sure you do – Old Suz] A clerical oversight has just been brought to our attention which is now being rectified.

“As a public facility open to all, Trump International has CCTV cameras located at its entrance and around the public buildings within the estate, for the safety and security of its members, guests and staff. [but not for the safety and security of ramblers like Rohan Beyts, filmed while on the course, obvs – Old Suz]

So, it’s all just a clerical error. The clerk in question forgot to register with the Information Commissioner, assuming they had the sense to know that if you put up security cameras you need to do so. It would be a harsh person indeed who disagrees with the Trump position this is a clerical error.

Far be it from Old Susannah to suggest this is yet another mistake in a catalogue of mistakes (planning, budgeting, forecasting, course design – remember when part of the course was washed away?…) which demonstrate the management shows that it is both out of its depth as to what is required for legal compliance, egotistical to the point they feel themselves above the law, and demonstrative of disdain for the rest of us.

Yes, just a clerical error.

Bonus example of clerical error: The Press & Journal has reported on how lovely the course is, and how tastefully decorated the Trump-crested MacLeod house is. It also reported on Rohan Beyts’ being arrested for allegedly urinating in the Marram grass – and being allegedly filmed on Malone-Bates’ orders.

However, I can’t find a record of Damian Bates’s P&J reporting on Mrs Sarah Malone-Bates’ failure to register the Trump resort with the Scottish Information Commissioner. This omission is most likely just a clerical error.

Road Repair: (Modern English Compound noun) act of ensuring street surfaces are safe.

You really have to hand it to the people responsible for road maintenance in The Granite City. For centuries a cobbled street surface at the Green managed to endure. It’s just wild speculation, but in the past, Old Susannah guesses that if a cobblestone got chipped or loose, either it was replaced or the area around it would have been fixed. How did those past craftsmen manage for the hundreds of years before ACC 2016 existed?

Yes, someone near the top of the food chain, possibly of course in Housing & Environment (would that be you Pete Leonard?) decided the thing to do was to tar over the cobbles. Now I prefer the romance of a tarred street in a historic area as much as the next gal, but apparently people complained, and the cobbles will be restored.

Why did the city suddenly decide to tar the road over? According to the BBC:

“Aberdeen City Council said the resurfacing on Windmill Brae was necessary because some of the stones had come loose. Concerns had been raised on safety grounds by local businesses.”

The BBC piece continues:

“However, the local authority said the work was below standard and the tar would be removed. A “permanent solution” is being sought.” 

Why fix a few loose stones when you can tar over history? You might think that since policy seems to be pothole repair is done on a patchwork spot by spot area (when it’s done at all), some due care might have been given to fixing whatever stones were loose.

It does get better though – this whole debacle shows just how responsive and caring our council is. Local businesses – not named, not coming forward – apparently have safety concerns about the cobbles. Naturally, whenever a business or a person expresses a concern or a wish, the city will immediately spring into action to fix the issue or respond to the request. Just like when 3,000 of us and three community councils asked the city to leave Tullos Hill alone, spare the deer and save money.

If you don’t recall, the head of Housing & Environment helped push the destruction of 36 deer and we now have neither deer nor thriving trees in the scheme our head called ‘cost neutral’ (but you were wrong on all counts, and it’s cost the taxpayer a five figure sum so far, hasn’t it Pete Leonard? Ever thought of going into a different line of work?) But I digress.

Yes, some businesses apparently had safety concerns. Answer: change the hundreds of years old cobblestone streets. I am on the edge of my seat to see what businesses come forward to say they wanted this, and to see what the ‘permanent solution’ would be.

So the next time you vandalise a historic structure by covering it with tar (why didn’t the workmen wonder at the stupidity of their task you might ask?), just say you were trying to please local businesses, and it was unsafe – but you’ll undo it anyway. Makes perfect sense here in the Deen.

Finally, while I am in two minds about including this in a satirical column, sometimes satire is a good response in place of fury. Here are some of Pete Leonard’s excuses for the Aberdeen Crematorium ash scandal. Despite industry bodies existing in the UK for decades, despite best practice standards being easily found on the internet, despite being the man ultimately in charge, Pete Leonard has his reasons for what happened on his watch.

Vacation: (English Noun) State of being away from work, perhaps involved in travel and/or leisure.

While the families who were denied the chance of personally disposing of the ashes of their offspring waited for answers, Leonard was on vacation.

Signed off Sick: (English compound noun) Non attendance at work due to illness.

Mr Leonard did not return from holiday; he is signed off ill.

No Excuse:

So many people seek power and money; I’ve lost track of the people who asked me to try and help with long-running Aberdeen City housing issues (some quite horrific). I’ve tried to make Pete Leonard see sense over the deer cull; he would not take any heed or even listen to the experts who were lined up to give free advice on how to control deer without culling.

Leonard did however deliberately stop the proposal put forward by a councillor to retain and enhance the meadow at Tullos and leave the deer alone – Leonard said leaving the land alone was ‘too costly’.

Housing & Environment always had a reason for delays, bad decisions, and stubbornness. I will, as stated, publish a crematorium review report, but I leave you with this sobering conclusion from the public-facing report (I am trying to get the ‘secret’ report released, you know – by contacting that Information Commissioner Malone hadn’t a clue about). Here is what the report said about the crematorium service, which fell under Leonard’s remit:

“this was a section of the City Council working in almost complete isolation without any strategic direction, development or quality control of the service, so far as it related to babies, infants and non-viable foetuses. There was little knowledge by Senior Management of the service provided to the families of these babies.

“There was insufficient interest taken or leadership shown by management” 

I am sorry if Mr Leonard is ill. I do however want him out of office, as I have done since first encountering him. I am far sorrier for all the people who should have had someone in this highly-paid senior management who actually gave a damn. The evidence over the years convinces me he never did.

Let’s not leave on this bitter note though. Just a few words of advice in summary.

1.  if you are going to run the world’s greatest golf course, there may well be some laws that apply – even to you.

2.  Fur belongs on the animals that bear it. The animals do not belong in cages. The fur trade is obscene.

3.  If you are the sort of person involved in the doll-punching scene, try to make sure you can tell the difference between a doll and a living, breathing infant. If not – consider asking for permission to punch someone’s doll/child before actually doing it.

Next week: hopefully a report on Leonard’s resignation, and more definitions. And – hopefully by then Aberdeen City Council will have offered Aberdeen Voice a free office space too – if they do it for the P&J, then they should do it for us too (nb – we’d turn it down because of things called journalistic ethics, principle, and the fact Marischal Square is nearly as unpopular with the pubic as the P&J has made itself.)

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Aug 262016
 

In this week’s satirical offering from Suzanne Kelly aka Old Susannah, she delights in Aberdeen’s generosity to the Press & Journal, and is happy to brush aside any minor qualms there might be about use of taxpayer money, conflict of interests and ethics; she also spares a few words on an advert for a US gun festival – in Orlando – featuring a skeleton wielding a semi-automatic weapon…(Psst – any non-Aberdeen readers, you might want to skip directly to the last few paragraphs of this column, cheers).

DictionaryTally ho! Another week flies past in Aberdeen. The original BrewDog bar (Old Dog – Gallowgate as opposed to New Dog – Castlegate) have hung up some of my recent paintings and just hosted another successful, fun, packed Drink and Draw session. Their ‘Live Dead Pony’ – it’s the addition of live yeast to their popular brew Dead Pony Club makes it ‘live’ – has proven popular as well.
So for those who can’t stand this small shareholder (one of over 10,000) talking about Aberdeenshire’s most successful start-up company, please feel free to send in a diatribe as to why I shouldn’t be allowed to talk about things I like, even though I’ve disclosed my shareholding since the first mention.

Otherwise, the BrewDog team are looking for further artists’ work to hang, so get in touch at the Old Dog.

For those of you with bigger fish to fry, it’s been quite an interesting few weeks in the Granite City.

The crematorium ash scandal is not a suitable topic for satire, but it needs to be addressed.

The remark made by the man in charge, Peter Leonard, displays all the contempt you’d expect from the man’s previous form, but this belies far more callowness than even seasoned Leonard-watchers have come to expect. If you missed it, the BBC reports (and the council haven’t asked for a retraction which speaks volumes) Leonard saying to/in front of inspectors:

“we’re slow-cooking babies.”

How can anyone who lost an infant or child and was caught up in the crematorium scandal can be expected to work for, with, or have to communicate with this lizard? Why are we keeping him in his job?

My interest in the man goes back to his report which condemned the Tullos Hill deer to massive culling. He told the council the tree-planting scheme was completely cost neutral and would succeed – if we shot the deer and kept the weeds down. Lib Dem councillor Aileen ‘Ho’Malone was at the helm of the relevant committee which pushed the scheme through.

She’s just the sort of person you could convince to wipe out a meadow full of flowers and a herd of deer to plant trees on top of rocks and industrial waste where there is no topsoil.

‘A tree for every citizen’ they called it. They deliberately left the culling and the £43k penalty out of the initial public consultation (correspondence proves they knew a cull was planned – but they wanted to ‘manage’ the public which they knew would object. The city tried to deny the £43,800 penalty it paid for the previous failure, too – that’s what we call open government; but I digress).

Peter’s cost neutral scheme? Looks like it’s cost nearly half a million, with £100k alone going to the consultant Chris Piper.

So, Leonard sits in his highly-paid post having been out with his estimates by half a million pounds of taxpayer money, and having insulted everyone with his ash scandal remark, and has not been bounced out of office. Blame the elected officials for bad decisions if you must – but it’s the officers like Leonard who create the reports the councillors have to vote on. Has he stuffed up one too many times?

Any member of staff who’d blundered like he has would have been disciplined and/or let go. Maybe the powers that be will keep him in place. By many accounts, should Mr Leonard be sent packing, there are a fair few staff who will not shed any tears.

Apologies for the lack of humour to this point, but that needed to be said.

Perhaps a few words on the happy event everyone’s talking about will change the mood. It’s not just that the Marischal Square building project is proving to be a breath-taking beauty (I hear people gasp when they look at it). It’s even better than that: everyone’s favourite newspaper, The Press and Journal, is to grace the building with its presence. Better still: the paper won’t have to pay any rent for a whole year. Result!

I’m thinking of starting a petition so that they’ll never have to pay any rent ever. After all, we’re supposed to be trying to attract smart, successful, vibrant, dynamic, forward-looking businesses to the beating heart of Aberdeen.

What better way to cheer us all up each morning than the sight of Damian Bates rounding Broad Street in his Maserati after dropping Sarah Malone off to her job as Trump’s spokesperson? I can barely wait! And with that, it’s time for some timely definitions.

Limousine Bull: (Proper Scottish Noun) – a Torry-based artists collective which had education, training, exhibition services for people in the south of the city. Closed for lack of £10,000.

These art types; just can’t balance the books. Perhaps if they had gone on one of the city’s cultural (?) ‘speed dating’ events they could have begged the rich for funding and kept going.

Alas, the city’s uber-rich wanted to build granite ramps and parking spaces; spending money on an actual arts and education service for the less advantaged was never going to get a look-in. And thus it was that after years of having a small warehouse space with studios for artists, Limousine Bull had to close. As their website reported:

“When we discovered ACC had given details of a new round of funding, with applications to be submitted just 6 weeks after our rejection notice, we put together a greatly revised funding proposal and were due to apply for just £1,700 of the £10,000 available to our category.

“On the day and almost exact time of the deadline for this, Carrie messaged the rest of us on the committee, saying she had decided not to submit the application, as she thought ACC’s demands upon applicants were too strict to follow for such a small amount of funding.” – LB website

Perhaps the people who wonder why we couldn’t win the ‘city of culture’ accolade (or is that poisoned chalice – cities that have won have often found themselves in debt afterwards) might think that getting rid of small groups like this might have made us look smarter and more successful to the judges. The people who submitted our exciting CoC bid had no use for Limousine Bull – they wanted to have ‘Gigs on Rigs’ instead.

How exciting that could have been– flying rock bands to play to offshore oil installations where, er, the footage would have been beamed back to shore. Only the worst kind of philistine would have asked ‘why not just have them play on shore?’. What musician wouldn’t rather do survival training, fly to an alcohol-free oil rig in the chilly North Sea than play a few sets in nightclubs and hotels? But I digress.

Back to Limousine Bull – Old Susannah’s not surprised it went under; after all £10,000 is a lot of money (about one fifth of the amount we had to pay back to central government for the first Tree for Every Citizen failure on Tullos. Or, about one 14,000th of the cost of the granite web. But I digress again). Maybe someone in ACC is offering Limousine Bull a chance to resurrect itself rent-free at Marischal Square?

If so, I’ve not heard of it yet. And funnily enough, for some reason Aberdeen Voice’s invitation to a rent-free office suite at the taxpayer’s expense hasn’t come in the post just yet.

Ethics: (archaic term) Morality, knowledge of right and wrong.

We all know what ethics are (well, you do if you’re not in ACSEF … or whatever it is called this week) – the sense of a common morality that would stop a man making crass remarks about deceased children. It’s that sense of right and wrong that would stop people in power from crushing the weak while, for instance, using public resources to subsidise a newspaper thereby gaining control and advantage.

Many companies have ethics policies governing what freebies, advantages, and hospitality can be accepted without compromising the company. If as an employee you are going to accept a gift or hospitality, say a hamper of food or a few bottles of wine, most companies would expect you to declare it or decline it.

You see, accepting something might put you in a position where you would be indebted to the person giving you a gift. If one company were to offer another company something valuable these days – a weekend at a hotel, a trip, or say a year’s free rent for your business in a brand new suite of offices: you’d be expected by your code of ethics to turn it down.

Otherwise you would be either asked to do something in return for the largess, or even if you weren’t asked to do so, there would be an expectation of a ‘quid pro quo’ situation. In other words, there is no free lunch. And for that matter, there are also laws about using public money unethically, laws about public institutions ensuring ‘value for money’ is sought, and avoiding conflict of interests.

Then again, that kind of thing never hampers the truly creative Aberdeen spirit.

I come back to my friend Peter Leonard again. While the deer cull protest raged (several community councils, thousands of residents, the Scottish SPCA all objecting to the plan), an article appeared in the Evening Express:

“TWO DEER FOUND DEAD AHEAD OF CULL”. 

This story was planted by someone in ACC, although surprisingly, no investigation was held to find out who the ‘leak’ was. The intrepid reporter either didn’t ask, or omitted to say when the dead deer were actually found: and it emerged (after AV asked about it) that the deer were found dead two years before the cull.

The city’s insinuation that to stop deer from suffering starvation or possible accidents was not to supply more grazing land and erect fences – but to stop their lives being blighted by taking their lives away. But, shall we say, some readers found the absence of that little gap of several years somewhat misleading. To some people, this little episode might seem ethically bankrupt. However, I’m sure nothing misleading has been printed before or since by AJL.

I’d never insinuate that an organisation like the ACC would or could ever corrupt an organisation like the P&J – how could it? Sadly, other observers have made a few unfortunate remarks about the free rent offer. I think some of these people need shaming:

“If this if it goes ahead, (and all the hall markers suggest it will) it can but only be seen for what it appears to be – a covenant between the ACC and the P&J/EE. So where now lies objectivity, impartiality, indeed freedom to report and print news on anything that objects to the working of their landlord?”
– A MacDonald

“Don’t they realise that the continuing fall in readership is due to their biased approach to local stories in aberdeen. lets remember too that they are not a local paper anymore but another D. C. Thomson, Dundee rag. I for one cancelled my evening express as soon as it was made public that they were in talks to secure office space in Willies folly and i would suggest that others do the same”
– C Duguid

“Many readers were of the impression that the Press and Journal supported the opposition to the Muse development as evidenced by the publication of numerous stories relating to the opposition to Marischal Square and the scores of letters from the public over the past couple of years… It therefore case as quite a shock to many to learn that Aberdeen Journals themselves are to take up office space in Marischal Square.

“Many of your readers saw that as a betrayal…. Surely any deal that did not deliver the projected returns on the council’s investment would be seen as a failure by the council to secure its financial position and deliver on the promise of sustainable rental profits to fund essential public services.”
– a Mr W Skidmore, who is waiting patiently for this letter to be printed in the P & Poo (an affectionate term I’m told). I trust he isn’t holding his breath.

I hope these people will feel suitably ashamed at their negative words, which strike at the very beating heart of the civic district of the Granite City. It’s always sad for Old Susannah to see such cynical, suspicious minds at work criticising our beloved institutions which have done so much for us.

Perhaps the honesty, integrity and wisdom the council is known for will eventually rub off on such harsh critics. I’m sure we’re only talking a few hundred thousand pounds anyway, and it’s not as if there’s anything better to do with the money.

Conflict of interest: (English compound noun) an unethical condition wherein a person or entity owes allegiance to two opposing forces.

Can the P&J continue to claim the moral high ground it has rightly held these many years if it is now Aberdeen City’s bitch – sorry — tenant?

Perhaps we should mention a potential conflict of interest that’s been brought up on social media. For some reason, there are people who see something wrong with Aberdeen Journals Limited taking a year’s free rent in Marischal College from Aberdeen City Council.

I’m trying to figure out why this bothers some people. Sure, the P&J might in the past have called the development ‘controversial’ in its articles: that just shows that they’re not afraid of standing up to the city council!

I’m sure that fighting spirit, and love of investigation we love in the P&J won’t be compromised just because they will have had their bacon saved by ACC. What an insinuation! I think by now the values the P&J have are clear to us all. And, they win awards so we can tell they’re great.

No, I for one don’t think we will see any change to their usual ethical standards. Where would you be without the tiny tots baby competition? Without photos of the Menie Golf course and MacLeod House to look at every day?

An aside….

orlando ad for gun eventI’m sometimes asked, ‘don’t you miss America?’

There are things I don’t miss. I think the whole machinery that’s created a school to prison pipeline for the disadvantaged and minorities (where police brutality runs riot in schools) stinks. I hate the system that allows mega pharmaceuticals to ruin people’s lives for fat profit margins and where drugs and care can be priced out of the reach of those most in need.

I hate it that a woman can take a device like a medi pen, raise its cost through the roof, and pay herself an 18 million dollar bonus.

I hate it that the alleged founding principle of individuals having a right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ is not as fought for as the right to have a well-trained militia which has been torqued into the invented ‘rights’ of anyone to have a semi-automatic weapon.

There are many things I love about my country of birth: the majority of people, the land, the wildlife, the pre-existing culture and our potential. However, we’ve decimated the original inhabitants, the native Americans – and yet now they are leading the fight against our corporate greed. Native Peoples are campaigning on horseback and on foot in the face of the fury of the government and its armies over pipelines which can only devastate the environment.

This is a country where people who were brought in chains on slave ships can eventually see their descendants become professors, leaders, successes in all areas and icons.

We’ve seen heroes like the late great Mohammed Ali and Jesse Hagopian, an educational reformer who was teargassed on a peaceful protest, but still pursues his dream of fair education for all nonetheless.

It’s a country where ancestors like mine came fleeing from famine to find signs in New York’s windows and doors reading ‘no blacks, no Irish and no dogs’ and yet in a few generations, one such Irish catholic descendant became a president.

This is a country where a young American boy of Japanese ancestry can be imprisoned without due course or rights in an internment camp in World War II and somehow still come out of the experience with a wicked sense of humour to emerge as a voice for tolerance and forgiveness.

There is natural beauty (cross your fingers) and biodiversity.

There are also people who will take that right to have a well-armed militia, and exploit it until we have bloodbaths like the recent slaughter in Orlando. And why?

Ultimately to make money for the gun manufacturers. Gun manufacturers do not care who gets killed. Statistically we know that you are more likely to have an accidental shooting at a home with a gun in it rather than your successfully shooting a would be burglar.

The image above belongs to the Orlando Weekly, which sees nothing wrong in advertising a semi-automatic shooting event … with an image of a skeleton. Now, I’m possibly not the most sensitive person in the world, but I see something very wrong in printing an ad like this to a city which is still mourning.

So America, as dearly as I love some things about you, please start worrying more about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and less about this supposed right to have guns. You are locking up people for collecting their own rainwater, for growing herbs – such as ginseng – and you are criminalising people who want to pursue a different life/liberty/happiness than the status quo. That’s not what was meant to be.

Look at this ad. Does this say responsible, sober gun ownership and respect for life to you – or is this nearly the lowest appeal to base nature (save the videos with bikini clad girls firing automatic weapons) and lack of empathy for the dead of Orlando (and the wider country) that can be imagined?

If not for the likes of those who emerged from hardships in the US, I’d despair completely.

The editor of the Orlando Weekly is Graham Jarrett. At first he tried to claim he was forced to print the ad; it was pointed out that no one can force a news publication to take an ad. We’re waiting to hear what you are going to say and do next Mr Jarrett.

(Want to fight against this kind of gun happy propaganda? On Facebook seek out and join One Pulse, a closed pressure group with the fanciful aim of making people want to stop shooting other people. I’m honoured and happy to be a member).

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Aug 042016
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over recent events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

Dictionary

The answers to the world’s problems have been right under our noses all this time. Not until we elected Teresa May to run UK plc did we find out there were so many ways to solve the world’s problems. Between May and Donald Trump – who has some very interesting means of making America and the whole world Great Again – I think we’re on the brink of world peace. More on that later, but get the champagne ready.

Firstly, apologies for the late running of this service. I’ve been on a journalism course in London for a few days, then I went on holiday.

The Centre for Investigative Journalism threw its annual summer school, which was for the most part very interesting.

There were some people from Bristol who started a newspaper and are selling shares in it. It’s a whole year old and a whole new way to get local communities involved in news. To Fred Wilkinson – maybe we should try something like that in Aberdeen? Just a thought.

Anyway the highlight of the summer school was the Panama Papers. The men who received the Panama Papers leak and brought it to the world, Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer, gave a talk.

It was kind of boring though – unless you’re interested in minor details like who is really running the world, who’s funding wars and drug production, which countries are starving their citizens while their elite are buying London penthouses, and what companies launder dirty money.

If you for some reason do care about money flowing through a German law firm in Panama to oppressive regimes, shady billionaires and known criminals, and care about this leak which saw prime ministers (Iceland) resign, further FIFA scandal, Putin and his money-moving pals named, this may be of some passing interest.

Obermaier and Obermayer must be pretty lazy journalists; they’ve not even read all the information leaked to them, and instead are just letting anyone look into the leaked documents here.  It’s as if they wanted to share information or something.  Coming in at 11.5 million documents spanning 40 years and still growing, it might take a few more weeks for them to read everything.

Why bother with dusty old shell companies and billions of pounds when you could be out there looking for a Pokemon Squirtle? For one thing, the Panama Papers database shows there is more than just beauty, glamour and wit to be found in Manhattan’s Trump Towers.

Someone operates out of Donald Drumpf’s building a wee company called Concord International Investments. This has a wee related company, Concord Consultant Services Ltd. This small enterprise, operating from the British Virgin Islands, has some interesting directors. There’s Sheik Aly Hafiz Wahba (apparently a Saudi minister), and, er. the Isis Investment Group.

The Concord lot are tied into a company called Barfield which operates down under.

Also this summer, I’ve been trying to read up on science a bit.

Its registered address is shared with a whole host of interesting nominee companies.

I could go on – and will do if I can ever unravel it all.

But I think we can agree on one thing: even if Mr Drumpf is not directly involved in any of these companies operating out of his building (let’s face it, you might not even know who operates out of your flagship premises if you’re a mere real estate moghul), it shows that there is no bias against people from other cultures in the Trump world. Well done Mr T.

‘What do any of these companies and people do?’ you might ask. I’m sure they must do something more than transfer money around from place to place (and let’s face it, that’s hard work itself as we all know). If I ever find out, I’ll let you know. So, hunt your Pokemon by all means. Perhaps someone out there however might like to spend some time chasing down the rich and powerful using the Panama Papers leak. Just a thought.

Also this summer, I’ve been trying to read up on science a bit. It must be getting more important and popular, as there are more TV-related science programmes on now.

Did you know some people think the world is even more than 6,000 years old? I read this week that the woolly mammoths might have died from thirst. It seems when the climate was changing, their drinking water supplies started to dwindle and get contaminated by all the critters trying to get water. They all competed for the dwindling water, trampling the existing resources such as food plants into the ground, and there were too many of them to eat and drink in a world which was changing.

I mean, it’s kind of interesting to read about that kind of stuff I guess – but it’s not as if we can really learn much which is useful to us now about overpopulation in a species using up its food and other resources to the point of no return. And that brings me back to how the world’s been saved and why we should be grateful.

Climate Change: (Old English proper compound noun) Outdated fashionable notion the earth, biodiversity, and life in general were under threat of some kind

Climate Change Problem Solved! Result!

Not even a month into her stewardship of the United Kingdom, Teresa May has in one fell (very fell) swoop fixed the climate change problem: she closed the former ‘Department for Energy and Climate Change’. 

we’re probably going to start using more coal and ‘shale gas extraction’

Sensibly, it’s now part of the much more important new entity ‘Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’.

I can’t tell you how happy I am.

Simple solutions to complex problems. Worried about Cimate Change? Answer: sweep it under the rug – or at least into another department which acknowledges business and energy are more important than the climate changing.

There are a few climate change denier deniers out there. They’ve had some hurtful words for our new PM such as:

“Stephen Devlin, an environmental economist at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), said the department’s abolition was a terrible move by our new Prime Minister”.

He said it appeared to signal “a troubling de-prioritisation of climate change by this government”.

“Tackling climate change is an era-defining challenge that must direct and determine what industries we develop, what transport infrastructure we construct, how we manage our land and what our diets look like. It requires a central co-ordinated strategy; if we leave it to the afterthoughts of other departments we will fail,” he said.

“This reshuffle risks dropping climate change from the policy agenda altogether – a staggering act of negligence for which we will all pay the price.”
– http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change-department-killed-off-by-theresa-may

But don’t let the alarmists worry you. It’s not as if there is any history of our Conservatives appeasing businesses, and if climate change were lucrative – sorry – important, we’d probably get round to doing something about it.

Instead we’re probably going to start using more coal and ‘shale gas extraction’. This is great, because it means more jobs. Furthermore, the article has over 800 comments from people calling climate change denier deniers ‘weirdos, cranks and lefties’ – so that’s any scientific or environmental campaigners’ told.

If you happen to look at statistics that show the world is warming at the same time our fossil fuel consumption is increasing, that the Maldives risk flooding (as many other places), that there are freak storm systems defying known patterns, then just remember – the world changes a lot, there are other things to think about (Pokemon, celebrity baking on ice). If there were a problem, Teresa May would be on it. So – rejoice! Problem solved.

Terrorism: (Modern international noun) The belief that violence and shock are the best means to win arguments, gain power and destroy opposition.

Terrorism – that’s so yesterday. We’re going to elect Donald Trump president, and he’s already itching to know why we just haven’t nuked the terrorists. With an incisive mind like that, should the unthinkable happen and he loses the election, we could always put him out as a diplomat. After all, talking tough is the only thing that’s respected, and we must stop being weak. Nothing says tough like dropping a nuclear bomb or two.

Once we let President Drumpf nuke a few of the terrorist strongholds (London, Paris, Tehran, Nigeria, Palestine, New York, Germany), then people will start behaving. No longer will we have people willing to die to exert control over the freedoms and behaviours of others. No, by then we’ll all be ruled by the Trump convention mentality and will conform if we know what’s good for us.

Women will stop all this feminist nonsense and realise the fulfilment they can have as being ‘a great piece of ass’ as Trump would say. Mexicans will dutifully stay put, and happily earn their pesos by sewing Trump neckties. The Chinese will stop ‘raping America’ economically and realise America is Great Again. Trump’s right: we’ve over 7,000 nuclear weapons and we’ve not used a single one. That’s hardly making good economic sense, is it?

The source for this claim is MSNBC news personality Joe Scarborough:

“Several months ago, a foreign policy expert went to advise Donald Trump,” Scarborough said.

“And three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons — three times he asked. At one point, ‘If we have them, why can’t we use them?’”

The Trump camp dismisses this as untrue. Scarborough fair? Not to Trump supporters.

Time Magazine also disputes the claim Trump asked about using nukes. In a recent piece it suggested that he doesn’t want to use them. Here’s a quote:

“I will have a military that’s so strong and powerful, and so respected, we’re not gonna have to nuke anybody… I will have a military that’s so strong and powerful, and so respected, we’re not gonna have to nuke anybody,” he said, adding that he would be “amazingly calm under pressure.” Still, Trump told the magazine he wouldn’t get rid of the nuclear weapons because “other people have them” and are “unfortunately gaining more and more.” “It is highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely that I would ever be using them,” he added.” 

Well, if Trump says it’s ‘highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely’ that he’d ever nuke another country, that’s good enough for me. After all, he has proven time and again he’s a man of his word. If he does drop a bomb, we can not only be sure that the act will dissuade any further terrorism – we can be sure it will be the biggest, best, strongest, most respected bomb in the world.

With a Trump White House ensuring world peace by nuking some bad guys, and climate change abolished by Teresa May, I think a celebration is in order. I’ll either be in BrewDog having one or two, or in an underground bunker stockpiling water and Monsanto vegetable seeds.

Next week? If we are still here, more Panama Papers and local news.

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Jul 082016
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryHurrah! Result! We’re to leave Europe. Or maybe not – no one knows for certain what Scotland’s future looks like at this point, but isn’t it fun and a bit exciting?
And we might get either Michael Gove or Teresa May as the new PM! The Brexiteers Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson as so magnanimous in victory that they’ve scarpered.

You might compare their running away from the result they pushed for to insects running to hide when you turn over a stone, but I know that they’re just getting ready for some further selfless acts of heroism.

Another hero who shuns the limelight is former PM Tony Blair. With the Chilcot report released this week, you’d expect Tony to take the credit for the Iraq war. After all, he saved us from those Weapons of Mass Destruction. Thanks TB.

Looking at this week’s news, here are a few little facts you might enjoy:

When the dust settles a bit on Brexit, Old Susannah will revert with more facts – that’s if anyone’s saying anything factual at all. While Scotland voted to stay, the Brexiteers said that the EU was costing us £350 million a week which could be better spent on the NHS. Clearly that in no way meant that any money saved would be spent on the NHS, which of course is in fine shape anyway.

In far more important news, it was the Portsoy Traditional Boat Festival last weekend, and the weather was largely fine. The Black Isle Brewery was on hand, as was Dyce’s new brewer, Fierce. They have some delicious gear, I bought a lovely wheat beer and a coffee and vanilla concoction. In the meantime BrewDog’s launched a few Jackhammer Variants; Jackhammer being my favourite brew with off-the-scale bitterness.

Blackhammer is my favourite; I hope to see it around for a long, long time. BrewDog is also doing its bit for up-and-coming music and comedy talent; comedy troupe Wildly Unprepared have been doing their improve thing on Thursday nights in Underdog (the venue beneath BrewDog Castlegate). Hope to see you there.

One person though has managed to end years of The Malt Mill’s and Downstairs’ nurturing of fledgling bands. Someone moved to a flat near to the venue – a venue with ‘LIVE MUSIC’ in giant letters proclaiming that the Malt Mill, which looked like a bar with live music to the rest of us – and you’d never guess it – there was live music going on at night!

If only there had been some clue that a flat on a busy commercial road close to a long-running music venue and bar might not be quiet at night! Now Old Susannah understands that people need to play music for whatever reason, and I suppose there should be some allowance in society for that kind of thing in small doses.

It was always going to be the event of the year

Perhaps the venue should have just spent £100,000 from their petty cash and soundproofed the place. After all, if you put on live bands, that means you’re rolling in money.

Hopefully we’ll get something useful in place of The Malt Mill – like a mobile phone shop or Estate Agent. And from now on, let’s all be very, very quiet when we are out on the streets late at night.

Perhaps the hero who forced this closure could let us know when it’s convenient for the rest of us to make any noise on Holburn? I’d absolutely love to hear from you. My words of congratulations for your fighting for your individual right to quiet (rather than using ear plugs, moving, or just getting used to it) and successfully closing down a place for the rest of us to hear new bands are ready any time you want to hear them. I salute you.

Finally, we will all remember where we were when celebrity misogynist Donald J Trump flew into Menie this past week. It was always going to be glamorous with Sarah Malone in attendance. It was always going to be the event of the year with the Press & Journal present. But when Rupert Murdoch AND Jerry Hall flew in as well – what can Old Susannah say? Words cannot convey how exciting this was; it was like being a part of history in the making.

How unfortunate then that a few spoilsports decided – I can’t imagine why – to hang up Mexican Flags near the course. It’s bad enough these people live close to the course in houses The Donald finds unattractive, but to add to the visual pollution – well, that was unforgiveable.

Perhaps not as unforgiveable as Trump’s people: cutting off residents’ water and electricity supplies, calling the police to arrest lawbiding journalists, blocking access for the disabled at various points on the estate, threatening a grandmother with eviction, stopping Michael Forbes from salmon fishing, or threatening to use compulsory purchase orders to steal homes – but it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

(NB – the residents decided not to stage a personal protest, but to just have the flags reminding the world of Trump’s bigotry towards Mexico and everyone who isn’t a white male billionaire. The massive amounts of news cover the flag protest generated in advance of the visit was remarkable. The brief, chaotic, rambling words of Trump to a few score of journos just didn’t cut it. With all of her professional qualifications i.e. being a former beauty queen, the polished, finely-tuned press call on the day was what I expected.).

But at this rate there won’t be any definitions, and I very much want to get back to that part of this column. By the way, this column will finish with No. 200. That will be quite enough for this format, but it doesn’t mean that I’ll take my eyes off The Granite City. Anyway, a few words – about trees and consultations in Aberdeen.

Consultation: (English noun) An exercise in which various experts and/or stakeholders are asked for their opinions and facts on a particular subject.

Peterculter Tree Cull consultation: (Aberdonian noun) An exercise in which various experts and/or stakeholders are asked for their opinions and facts on a particular subject, and the majority of people involved don’t get a look in. and facts are overlooked.

DSCN1516Secondly, the trees were old, and we’ve got enough old stuff around here anyway.

Then there was the fact that the trees were cutting down the amount of sunshine reaching one or two people in adjacent housing.

I for one know that if the sun’s not streaming in my Scottish windows 24/7 365/365, it can only mean the trees (not clouds, storms, snow, hailstones) are blocking the light.

Of course, some of the more intrepid people actually go outside when it’s sunny – but you can hardly do that if you’re living somewhere as dangerous as Peterculter.

So the city got back some responses from people who hated the trees, and cut them down.

Some councillors were very quick to defend this action too. Some councillors said that the trees were diseased and posed a hazard. That must have been a hell of a tree disease. On the one hand, it must have come up very quickly – or surely the city would have taken action before now.

On the other hand, it’s a pretty interesting kind of tree disease when instead of getting rid of the trees (or heaven forbid trying to treat it), you can decide what to do about the trees not by saying their diseased and cutting them, but by asking residents what they want done with the trees.

DSCN1513

One person at least tried unsuccessfully to get through to the relevant people at the city, but as we know, the city responds instantly to any and all queries.

Another funny thing is the city’s existing tree management policy. It seems to say that if it owns trees that are not close to a dwelling, they aren’t going to cut them down.

It’s not that I’m cynical, but I’d love to find out what the disease was that was so bad the trees had to come down but not bad enough that the residents’ opinions could have stopped it. For more info, see here.

Some people claim their responses to the consultation were unanswered. Would the city ever do that?

Tree for Every Citizen scheme: (Aberdonian noun) An exercise in which various experts and/or stakeholders are asked for their opinions only if they are from the SNH or stand to make lots of £££ from killing deer on the hill, or wear shoulder pads (Aileen ‘Ho’Malone), in which consultation existing plans to kill deer are deliberately left out, stopping the public from taking much interest, so their opinions can be ‘managed’ in the words of the SNH. 

No one objected to the proposal – until it was too late. Funny that they didn’t announce the cull when they mentioned the other operational details (rabbit fences).

Even funnier; they refused to listen to free advice from experts on how to have trees and deer. And now we have no deer and no trees. We do have a consultant who’s at least £100,000 better off. And ranger Ian Tallboys got an award from Princess Anne. Result!

The award-winning, manicured Tullos Hill forest will provide a cost-neutral lovely recreation area for city residents. Only that it’s cost a packet, cost the lives of 38 deer (give or take – the city’s record-keeping is so bad we don’t know), and the trees are in such poor shape we’ve been warned that we might have to give the government its grant money back.

That would be nothing new, the previous attempt to plant trees on this former garbage tip with very poor soil didn’t work, either – I wonder why – and cost us £43,800.

Sometimes there is no need to bother even with a token consultation, as the people of Bedford Road can tell you. If they didn’t read page 47 of the Evening Express, read community council notes and city papers – and magically deduce that a ‘bus gate’ meant they would not be allowed to drive on their street again, then it’s their tough luck.

No one thought it necessary to write to them to ask for opinions; although funnily enough, the Peterculter residents were written to about cutting down the trees (apparently 2 people said to cut them – and that was good enough for ACC).

You don’t have to consult the public over minor details like the Marischal Square project either. Just tell them an iconic, smart, forward looking building will breath new life, etc. etc. into the area, but the architects will respect the importance of Provost Skene’s house: then hope they won’t notice when the reality is nothing like the original promise.

In fact, the reality is so much better! We can barely see the provost’s house now, and I hear we might get a hamburger joint. AND – the Press & Journal are going to move in! The best loved, most cutting edge newspaper in the best-loved, most cutting edge building! Result! as they say.

Next week: Blair, Brexit, Boris

PS – An observation

I was walking through Torry one early evening, past where a small green space off Victoria Road has a small but pretty collection of flowers. A couple were there, possibly Eastern European. We said hello as I passed. They had a little girl. She was smiling from ear to ear, pointing at the flowers, and jumping up and down.

Completely devoid of any prejudice, mindless hatred, greed, or ill-will, she was just delighted to be with two obviously adoring parents, looking at beautiful flowers.

I wondered whether it was too much to ask that we stop hurting our kids by pouring our prejudices and poisons into them. Will this girl be one of the 5 who will eventually be sexually assaulted? Will she encounter kids at school who are mean to her – because their parents taught them to hate people who are ‘foreign’ or ‘different’?

Will she be encouraged to study whatever she wants to study – science, art, languages, history – or will the system channel her into ‘girlish’ activities or will well-meaning people make her study things which lead to well-paying jobs while forsaking arts and philosophy? If she were a Muslim/black/Native American/Asian child, what kinds of barriers, doors and hatred would she be experiencing before long.

I wondered, is it too much to ask that with all the problems we’ve left for the next generation that we can at the very least manage not to fill these little people with hatred and just be nice to them instead? The answer, sadly, is that it probably will be too much to ask. I hope she remembers how happy, free and innocent she was that night. I wish she could live like that always – if she and her peers could, then there’s a chance we could have another world and a far better one.

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Jun 172016
 

Old Susannah turns her head awa frae Aberdeen this week as her lugs pick up gunfire in the States – again. By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryLand of the Free, Home of the Brave, Bastion of Gun Worship; Americans witnessed another senseless bloodbath this past week. It was an American born Muslim extremist

in Orlando, Florida, with an automatic assault rifle in a nightclub. Which politicians will try to use these deaths to score points and whip up a bit more hatred (give you three guesses as to one of them)? Where will it be next time?

America needs some new slogans. ‘Land of the Free, home of the brave’ just doesn’t cut it anymore.

It seems to me that no one’s genuinely free. Minority groups, women and the poor have one set of laws to govern them, and freedoms are more than a little limited.

There is now an expression specifically for spurious, racially-motivated arrests, ‘Running (or driving) while black’.

The more money you’ve got, the better illusion of freedom you can afford, and the better protected you will be. Policing is biased in many places, and as we’ve seen from the Brock Turner rape case, Justice peeks from behind her blindfold, and can tell when there is some gold on her scales. Law and law enforcement have long since gone their separate way from Liberty. ‘Truth, Liberty and Justice for All’ no longer reflects the reality.

Aside from if you were a Native American, it all seemed such a good idea at the time.

The American experiment if taken literally would see people today free to choose where and how to live, collecting their own rainwater without fear of prison, living off the grid if they felt like it, and dare I say it – using whatever plants (including cannabis) however they chose to.

Funny, no one wants to take the freedom, equality and rights-concerned sections of the Constitution literally – but the NRA certainly wants to ensure that we take very literally ‘the right to bear arms’ (which of course was in the context of having a militia and when muskets ruled, not semi-automatics and Saturday Night Specials).

In the USA there are those who take the bible literally too, and are at great pains to prove the world is only 6,000 years old and the righteous will float up to heaven in the Rapture (NB this is a US invention, not that most of the bible belters will admit that). The only parts of the bible they don’t want to take literally (while they build ‘creation museums’ showing dinosaurs romping with humans) is the ‘love one another’/ ‘do unto others’ bit.

What a selective species we can be. Interpretation of Truth and Liberty have been warped by special interest and greed to the point they’ve broken.

When I moved to the UK from New York people would ask me why, and I’d half-jokingly reply ‘because I don’t want to get shot’. Some would look at me funny; I’d explain handgun proliferation and gun culture to the interested. But no one I met in the UK could really understand why some Americans are dead set on ‘protecting’ themselves with guns.

From all the evidence (accidental misfire killings and wounding;, parents shooting children arriving home late, etc), I don’t understand how a gun ‘protects’ the average Yank either.

One reason I’m going to try and write on this topic (once more) was a post Nick Tesco (a founder of The Members, but you know that) made on Facebook in the wake of Orlando:

“Dear American friends, do these mass murderers see children, church goers and gay people as tools of the tyranny that they’ve been obliged to take up arms against as demanded by your Second Amendment and like your NRA say? Or is that something you might need to take a look at when you’ve finished giving women a hard time about abortion?”

21st Century – Still tribal after all these years.

In his post Tesco seems to be asking for an American re-examination of values, guns, the meaning of freedom, and where the focus of securing freedom should be.

Tesco’s since qualified his post; he well knows that not all Yanks are the problem, and if you look at the UK through a similar lens, you might not see a pretty picture either.

For instance there is some unnecessary, ugly violence going on over the beautiful game in France at present. Nationalistic fans clash with nationalistic fans in the streets and bars of France on some primitive tribal quest to prove who’s the most warlike (and I suppose to their minds this makes them superior, manly, desirable). Things aren’t different in the US. Scenes at pro-Trump rallies make thinking-people cringe, and that’s before the violence starts.

What is the American Republican/Democrat push-pull if not mindless tribalism? Everyone wants their side to win, and most people stick with whichever party their parents belonged to. No one looks at what their elected officials’ backgrounds are or what entities fund them and chooses – just whether the elephant or the donkey wins.

You might be living in a trailer park on benefits in America, but if mom and dad were Republicans, you’re likely to vote for a billionaire because he’s in the Republican livery, however exploitative he is of you and your fellow poor Americans. The ingrained desire to be a ‘winner’ overrides logic, fact, and common sense for some.

There is a lot to love about America – most of the people, the environment, and the idea of liberty.

How, when and why did a country which declared the notion of freedom being its core value turn into a racist, sexist, elitist police state governed by the rich for the benefit of the rich and their richer multinational masters? Perhaps being formed on top of, rather than along side of, Native American rights and values, and on the back of slavery meant the American dream was always going to become a nightmare, but the bloodshed and inequality has to be countered before it’s too late.

Ultimately I don’t think it’s too late to turn it around (or I’d not bother writing about it) but this must happen now before more ground is lost to the crooked cop, the bent judge, the lobbyist-controlled congressman and the multinational.

An observation which may or may not be a non-sequiter came to mind. I’ve a good number of intelligent American friends and acquaintances; most far more intelligent than I am. A few have put their brains into music, art, politics; the majority have harnessed their talents to making money. I can’t help but think if they hadn’t been conditioned to think that money equalled success that such talent could have been applied to creative, political and humanitarian ends.

I also can’t help but think for some people, they’d be a lot happier if they hadn’t been worried about being a lot richer.

You might think you are freer in the US than in other places. Gun-loving Americans clutch their guns and decry they will use them to guard their freedoms. They think this is freedom; they think it is a free country. I beg to differ. Here are a few thoughts on how freedom is doing these days.

Free Elections?

Turning back to gun violence, there are many worthy groups fighting to get guns under some form of control. Why don’t people just vote for congressmen who will deliver gun control, and that will be the end of the problem?

In order to run for office, a candidate needs millions of dollars. Perhaps candidates start out with high hopes and best intentions. I respectfully suggest that with a few notable exceptions, by the time they raise this money, they will get their hands dirty. They will owe favours. Will they owe the National Rifle Association, arguably the most powerful lobbying group in America? More than likely.

“According to OpenSecrets, a site that tracks money in politics, the NRA spent $984,152 on campaign contributions during the 2014 election cycle. It also spent more than $3 million on lobbying in both 2013 and 2014. The NRA also spent $28,212,718 on outside political contributions during this period, which includes ads paid for directly by the NRA. That makes it the tenth biggest spender when it comes to such political spending.”
http://fortune.com/2015/12/03/san-bernadino-nra-political-spending-gun-violence/

Voting is a right people fought for, but not everyone uses. About 40% of the country will either not bother to turn out for a presidential election – or do not vote for more sinister reasons.

There are those who want to vote – but get turned away in increasing numbers for spurious reasons. Names go missing from electoral rolls. Last minute demands for photo ID sends some away. In a paradox, questions were raised about some of the votes delivered from Florida by Governor Jeb Bush to clan Bush member Dubya – were all of those who voted: alive, able to vote, received postal votes themselves that they alone completed – questions remain.

Can elections be rigged? Of course. Does that only happen in the third world? Of course not.

So, we are not free to select the best candidate to run for office; we are selecting from candidates pre-selected by vested interest groups who give their candidates enough money to run. We are not free to vote if we are turned away because of unconstitutional practices, and racism does still stop people from getting to the ballot box:

“Thousands of black electors in Florida were disenfranchised in last November’s [2000] election by an electoral system tainted by “injustice, ineptitude and inefficiency” a leaked report by the US civil rights commission says. It accuses Governor Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, and his secretary of state, Katherine Harris, of “gross dereliction” of duty, saying they “chose to ignore mounting evidence” of the problems. 

“The eight-strong commission, whose report will be published on Friday, found that black voters were “10 times more likely than white voters to have their ballots rejected”, and pointed to the use of a flawed list of felons and ex-felons to purge the voting rolls. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/jun/06/uselections2000.usa

Freedom fail.

Tesco also once posed on Facebook that everyone should vote; this is true up to a point. Not that I take all my political leads from musicians, but Jerry Garcia is attributed with having said (I paraphrase again) ‘If you vote and choose between two evils, you are still choosing evil.’

So – while I must vote for Clinton – as a vote against Trump – it is not because of any woman solidarity, and it’s certainly not because I approve of her Monsanto links.

She is clearly the better choice over Trump. A nation of 260 million people – and it comes down to this. I might well write in George Takei who has always spoken out against violence and intolerance, or for heroic filibustering senator Chris Murphy whose stamina has forced a congressional vote to ‘close the terror gap’.

In the end, I will vote for Clinton, to avoid the Trump presidency, and the catastrophe that would spell. (besides which, I’d like to be able to visit the US in the next 4 years without winding up in a boiler suit on my way to GitMo). As far as I know, unlike Trump, Clinton’s not racked up 3,500 lawsuits, hasn’t opened a fleecing operation posing as a ‘university’ and doesn’t want everyone armed. She’s no plans to ‘take out’ people related to terrorists, or to ban Muslims / American Muslims from travel.

Free to have guns.

Anything you need to know about the illogic and insanity of having automatic weaponry freely available can be found in Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine documentary. The sad thing is that this film was made in 2002. Oh, and the wealth and power of the NRA tells you why the country is like this.

Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness.

At the same time we Americans are telling ourselves how ‘free’ we are, and how we want to bring freedom to other countries (frequently those with resources NB), liberty is getting a beating at home and abroad. The same ilk of senator who will keep automatic guns on sale is legislating to give American water not to Americans, but to sell or give it to companies like Nestle, which is bottling it up and signing lucrative deals to take water in states like Oregon.

Want to collect rain water on your own property? In many states that will land you in prison – like Oregon, which is giving your water to Nestle.

Nick Tesco is right in his Facebook post when he alluded to abortion, but it is actually worse and worsening for any woman who wants control over her body and life. Have a spontaneous abortion – don’t do it in certain states, or you’ll go to jail for failing to carry full term.

There are places where you will be mauled by a police dog, beaten to a pulp or beaten to death – or shot for offences like having a tail light out on your car, driving too slowly, running, or just being non-white in a white area. The police are brutal in some states. There is no other way of putting it.

And Justice for All? 

Some police officers are people who want to make the world better; however, organisations like Police the Police are proving time and again that the police force today includes Ku Klux Klan members, paedophiles and sadists. They largely seem immune from prosecution – while the guy collecting rain water or trying to live ‘off the grid’ will spend years in prison. In some states, growing marijuana can lead to decades in prison.

However, if you are white, privileged – and a good swimmer – raping an unconscious woman will get you a few months in a cell at most.

I’d add a description of how Native Americans have been treated past and present – but I cannot do it justice at all. Here is a good place to look at one issue though – the veritable kidnapping of Native children who are chemically coshed and placed with white, extreme ‘Christian’ families for no good reason other than money is made from it, and families and culture is destroyed in the process. This is the tip of the iceberg for Native issues.

It’s lunacy, and as far as the eye can see, the root causes are greed and self-interest.

Does this make me a conspiracy theorist?

Does it serve the interests of those in power when these incidents happen? It doesn’t always hurt. You’ve got Trump insisting if everyone had a gun, Orlando wouldn’t have happened (so no hostage or crossfire casualties in his world I suppose). When the serial killer in question is non-white and non-Christian – then the authorities insist we have an Islamic jihad problem that can only be served by the rest of us giving up more of our freedoms and… by panicking the suggestible into buying guns to protect themselves.

We know how well that works out.

CODA

Just as I finish this piece, Jo Cox MP has been shot and stabbed; she supports the Remain campaign, and works to help Syrian refugees. Allegedly the assailant yelled ‘Britain First.’ [17 June:  Jo Cox has been murdered. Britain First’s Facebook page has a BF ‘news’ item that the murderer didn’t shout ‘Britain First’ – they shouted ‘Put Britain First’.  A trivial distinction which ignores the fact she is dead, and those who have worked tirelessly to ratchet hatred up several notches are at least in part culpable.]

If the reports prove true, and they are a Britain First supporter, they have shown BF in its true light. Despite its many Facebook posts using click bait such as veterans, dog fighting, elderly issues – they are only nationalistic, white supremacist violent thugs. If this is how their followers try to advance their cause, let’s ensure we stop sharing their posts at the very least, and let’s make sure they don’t get a foothold.

The US is rapidly becoming ruled by gunpower – let’s ensure that never happens here.

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