May 122017
 

With thanks to Martin Ford.

Long-serving councillor Martin Ford was re-elected last Thursday (4 May) for a fifth term as a member of Aberdeenshire Council.

With 18 years on Aberdeenshire Council, Martin Ford is now the longest serving councillor in the Garioch Area.

Cllr Ford represented the Newmachar and Fintray ward from 1999 to 2007.

With the introduction of the single transferable vote system and multi-member wards in 2007, Martin Ford became one of the three councillors representing the East Garioch ward.

Further changes to electoral arrangements this time were down to a revision of council ward boundaries undertaken since the 2012 election by The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland. As of 4 May, the East Garioch ward (which includes Newmachar, Fintray, Blackburn and Kintore) is now larger than it was before.

The ward has been extended to the west by moving its boundary much closer to Kemnay and Inverurie. Reflecting the increase in population, the number of councillors representing the East Garioch ward has also been increased – from three to four.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“I would like to thank all 4,559 residents of East Garioch who voted in the election last Thursday.

“I am tremendously pleased to be starting my fifth term on Aberdeenshire Council. It’s a great privilege to have been re-elected again after 18 years as a councillor. So I would like to express my special thanks to those who put their confidence in me to continue as one of their local representatives.

“Locally, there are a range of priorities within the East Garioch ward. The Council has a key role to play in the delivery of the planned rail station in Kintore. Decisions are required about additional school capacity in Newmachar. The new school in Blackburn is due to open in August 2018.

“With the election last week, there has been a considerable change in the membership of the Council. Moving forward, I hope the Council as a whole will have effective working relationships between councillors of different colours, so there is a preparedness to accept suggestions and good ideas from all sides. There are undoubtedly going to be some tough choices during the next five years, so we need a Council that takes its decisions on the basis of evidence and in the public interest.”

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Apr 202017
 

With thanks to Aberdeen/Shire Greens.

After famously standing a mannequin in the 2012 Aberdeen local elections, Renée Slater is back as a candidate in her own right, standing in the Torry & Ferryhill ward for the Scottish Green Party.

The mannequin, Helena Torry, emerged as an activist figurehead in 2010 in campaigns against the destruction of Union Terrace Gardens, and soon became popular in anti-austerity protests.

As Renée witnessed the effects of cuts to services for disabled people and young people, she wanted to bring these issues into the spotlight and challenge the antagonistic political climate with humour.

In the 2012 council elections, she registered Helena as a candidate to represent ‘the voice of the silent majority.’

When authorities realised that Helena was not a real person, Renée was arrested. She was held until a prisoner exchange took place, and Helena was locked up for a year. The story was covered across the UK, and further afield [links below]. After Renée’s acquittal, Helena continued to support local causes, including the campaign for Scottish Independence.

Renée has been involved in local politics and activism for more than 40 years, and she joined the Scottish Greens in 2014. In standing for Aberdeen City Council in 2017, she hopes to help address issues across the city, from housing and jobs to local pollution and public health.

After years of bitter conflict between Labour and the SNP, Renée and other Green candidates want to bridge the divide and work constructively across parties.

Renée said,

“I’m concerned about inter-party bickering. It’s time we pulled together for all the people of Aberdeen. It’s time to make a change.”

Links:

BBC Report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WRFl9jvOCw
Daily Politics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJEL56CMOzc
ITV: http://www.itv.com/news/2012-04-20/mannequin-removed-from-scottish-elections/
BBC News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-20970395
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/20/shop-dummy-for-councillor-aberdeenshire_n_1440348.html
The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/woman-arrested-after-entering-mannequin-into-council-elections-7665476.html
Other: https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/tag/helena-torry/

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Mar 242017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Local resident Heather Coull has been selected by SNP members in Westhill & District ward to join Councillor David Aitchison in seeking election to represent the ward on Aberdeenshire Council.

Councillor Mandy Allan, who has represented the Ward since 2007 is stepping down at the forthcoming election owing to work commitments.

Heather Coull was born in Aberdeen and has lived all her life in Aberdeenshire. Heather, aged 38, is married and is the youngest daughter of two school teachers.

Heather is committed to lifelong learning. She studied at RGU where she successfully achieved both BA and MSc degrees. 

As a former oil and gas industry worker, Heather has the experience and background to identify with a large number of residents in and around the Westhill area.

A member of Westhill & Elrick Community Council, one of Heather’s main priorities and areas of focus if successful in being elected will be in supporting and championing community groups in Westhill and the surrounding villages to achieve their ambitions via community choice budgeting.

Commenting, Heather Coull said:

“I am delighted to be selected as an SNP candidate for the Westhill & District ward and if elected I aim to carry on Mandy Allan’s good work and work together with David, and indeed the other Westhill councillors, as a strong team for our local area.”

David Aitchison was elected as a councillor at the 2012 election and was formerly a surveyor in the civil service. David who is married with 3 children grew up in Eyemouth and worked in Edinburgh, Nottingham and Durham before moving to Westhill over twenty years ago.

Since being elected David has served on the Infrastructure Services, Scrutiny & Audit and Education & Children’s Services Committees. Since June 2015 he has been Chairman of Aberdeenshire’s Infrastructure Services Committee and Vice-Chairman of NESTRANS, the North-east transport partnership.

Commenting on his selection David Aitchison said:

“It has been a privilege to represent Westhill & District and I am delighted to be a candidate to represent the ward again.

“In my two years as an administration senior councillor I have been able to oversee policies on regeneration, planning and economic development which will benefit Aberdeenshire.

“Westhill is now at a crossroads in terms of its development. It is time to consider what we want our community to look like in the future. If re-elected I will continue the dialogue that I am already having on this issue and work with partners and residents to create a vision for the future which Westhill deserves.”

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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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Nov 072016
 

Director Anthony Baxter catches up with Aberdeen Voice about his film being released for free before the US elections. With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

anthony-baxter-after-uk-premier-ybtt2

Just the ticket. Director Anthony Baxter relaxes following the UK premiere of You’ve Been Trumped Too at Aberdeen’s Belmont Filmhouse.

A soaring number of Americans tuned in Sunday night to a special live streaming of two films Donald Trump has battled to suppress – multi award winning You’ve Been Trumped and the critically acclaimed You’ve Been Trumped Too.
Official figures show that more than half a million potential voters tuned in to watch one or both films over the course of two Facebook live events, with over 3 million more reached through Facebook shares, twitter and other social media.

Trump has reacted furiously to the content of You’ve Been Trumped Too – threatening to sue cinemas showing the film – adding to previous blistering attacks on both the film’s director launched on Twitter and lashing out at local residents branding them ‘morons’

Following Trump’s legal threats, the filmmakers took the unprecedented decision to get the films out to as big an audience as possible through Facebook.

Director Anthony Baxter, who is currently touring Scotland’s cinemas with You’ve Been Trumped Too took part in a groundbreaking Q&A live to Facebook viewers from Inverness last night. Thousands of viewers reacted with fury to revelations contained in the film, that 92 year old Molly Forbes had been without a working water supply for 5 years, ‘all because of Trump’.

Now with just hours to go before Americans go to the polls, some UK cinemas are busy planning special You’ve Been Trumped Too events in defiance of Trump’s threats. For example, At Nottingham’s Broadway theatre a distinguished panel of political experts has been assembled to discuss the film following tomorrow night’s screening. They’ll also be hosting a presidential quiz as the first results come in.

Described as a ticking timebomb’ by Indiewire and ‘the most important film of the year’ by The Irish Times, You’ve Been Trumped Too continues to stream live at trumpedfilm.com and at the film’s Facebook page. The film is also playing at a growing list of cinemas despite Trump’s legal threats.

Among those showing the film are London’s Picturehouse Central, the GFT Glasgow (where Baxter will be present for a Q&A tonight at the 8.45 screening), the Eden Court in Inverness, St Andrews New Picturehouse, the MacRobert Centre Stirling, Dundee DCA, Aberdeen Belmont Filmhouse and Edinburgh’s Filmhouse. The film has also been playing in theatres in the United States and Canada.

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Nov 022016
 

trumped-too-baxter-from-facebook-page-2With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Donald Trump is using legal threats to prevent a new documentary from reaching American voters – according to the producers of ‘You’ve Been Trumped Too’, which opened in New York on Friday and began in UK cinemas this week.

You’ve Been Trumped Too contains footage showing Donald Trump wanting to ‘get rid’ of houses and building Mexico border style walls around homes in Scotland. 

It also explores the 5-year long saga of a 92-year-old widow who went without proper water supply for half a decade after having it cut off by Trump workers.

But the Trump Organization has issued a legal challenge threatening to sue if anyone dares show the film, and is pledging to take a frail pensioner to court over claims made in the film.

Montrose Pictures, a small Scottish based company, has completed a successful Kickstarter campaign – attracting more than thousand backers, aimed at bringing the film to as many American voters as possible ahead of the election through a digital or TV platform. 

Director Anthony Baxter added,

“Mr Trump tried the same approach with the BBC back in 2012.  But the corporation aired YOU’VE BEEN TRUMPED anyway, to widespread critical acclaim. We’re now looking for an American broadcaster or streaming platform willing to get the truth out there.  According to the critics, this is a film all Americans need to see.”

The film been called a ticking timebomb’ by Indiewire, ‘laced with enough maddening new material for it to feel like a valuable addition to the most hollow house of cards in the history of American politic.’  The New York Times said the film was ‘timely’ and added:

“this time the “you” in the title is the United States.“  

According to Variety: 

“the movie raises a valid question…how would Trump, if elected, treat the American people?”

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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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Jun 172016
 

A parody of the Buffy Saint Marie song ‘Universal Soldier’ covered by Donovan. By Tom Shepherd.

houses_of_parliament ...Big BenHe’s unrepentant, he’s shameless, deceitful, insane,
A betrayer of both you and me.
An he knows he shouldn’t win
But each ballot makes him grin,
Like a shark smelling drops of blood in the sea.

And he’s lying for religion,
He’s lying for greed,
He’s lying for his knighthood one day,
And he’s lying for the left,
And he’s lying for right,
And he thinks he’s doing right by us this way.

But without him
How would corporations fight their private wars?
Without him one percent would stand exposed.
He’ll sacrifice his soul
A stuffed ballot box his goal,
He’ll say his way’s the only way to go.

He’s the Universal Idiot and he’s dedicated to
Selling us the lies he’s paid to tell today,
He holds us in contempt and at arms length
But for those with open eyes
We’ve got find ourselves a better way.

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May 022016
 

Suzanne Kelly visits Tullos Hill – years after the Tree For Every Citizen scheme saw its herd of deer destroyed to protect tree saplings, though the destruction was never going to guarantee successful tree growth. It’s not just the deer that have been destroyed. Story and photographs by Suzanne Kelly.

DSC00908If you visited Tullos before the city and its expensive consultant Jamie Piper got their hands on it, you would have found an area rich in wildlife including deer. Gorse provided habitat for deer, small mammals and birds. A huge portion of the gorse is gone – and so is the wildlife.

Paths have been excessively widened – you can now easily drive a SUV down them – and that meant further loss of habitat and path side plants and fungi.

Other councils in the UK are worried about damage to their wildlife sites; Staffordshire has a report warning of the damage caused by the tactics Aberdeen employs.

You can’t see the forest – but not because of the trees:

It’s one of the few reasonably clement days we’ve had in a while when I visit Tullos. On my walk to the entrance I am struck by how much the area has been transformed by the Wood Group building. We lost the land, houses were torn down, and we must have lot part of Tullos Hill if we lost the approach to the hill.

The city says that this path was narrow and difficult – or words to that effect. The path was far more like what you would find in an area that wanted to give habitat to wildlife rather than to make comfy recreational access at the expense of wildlife habitat. I think of the people who lived in the caravan park who would feed the deer. The people and the deer are gone now, and the Wood Group building and its parking facility tower over the cairn. This is progress.

Councillor Aileen Malone promised Aberdeen that shooting the deer, clearing the gorse, (while giving Piper £100,000 plus expenses now a five figure sum at last glance) would give us a forest. The Liberal Democrats had the twee-sounding ‘Tree For Every Citizen’ scheme as its election pledge last time around; some laugh at the fact the only pledge they did uphold was the one everyone asked them not to – killing deer to plant trees on a rubbish tip unlikely to sustain trees.

DSC00903This was my first visit to the Hill in a while; in particular I wanted to see how the trees and weeds were doing. I was struck by how wide the paths are – clearly the intention is to turn a former wildlife area into someone’s idea of a suburban recreation area suitable for vehicles.

There is the bench. There are the parking lot signs with their cheery squirrel and trees.

There is something prematurely self-congratulatory and smug about these items which is very much removed from the reality of what the hill looks like and its use for wildlife at present.

I did see one bit of wildlife – a bee was on a gorse flower. Gorse flowers year long providing food to bees; most of us seem to understand the importance of providing food for bees, which are under a variety of threats, not least loss of habitat like this. Pesticides were used on Tullos; finding a specific record of who was paid what to use which chemicals is not a simple task. Fungi which used to appear alongside the narrower paths have not been seen (at least by me) these past few seasons since the clearing and culling began.

No, I didn’t see any trace of a deer or any small mammals on the hill. There was barely any bird song, either. Some 10 years ago several species of bird were to be found; some of which were increasingly rare in the wild. I don’t’ see them nesting in this area again in numbers any time soon.

The pictures do show some trees have grown. There are also fairly new tree guards – far taller than any used previously. We were once told tree guards had ‘negative visual impact’ so we were not going to use them when we could kill the deer to stop them browsing the young trees instead. Where there are trees that have grown taller, even in the light wind on the day of the visit, they could be seen moving considerably in the breeze.

Experts previously told the city that trees which do establish will be subject to wind toss – there just simply is not good rooting material on this former waste tip – the roots won’t be sufficiently anchored to stop strong winds blowing the trees over.

how-do-you-blame-a-deer-for-this-30-april-2016-skelly2Some trees have no growth at all, despite being in intact tree guards – no deer has damaged them. On the other hand weeds choke many of the trees around and inside of the tree guards.

The city has already been warned that the job they did is not good enough for the funding received. It may not be too much longer before we see Aberdeen City hand back another tranche of money to the government for failing to grow trees on the rubbish tip of Tullos Hill.

As the old saying goes, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different outcomes’. The City planted here before. Weeds killed the trees which did not thrive in the poor soil conditions.

The City blamed deer, and instead of using non-lethal methods (tree guards, fencing, choosing plants deer would not eat), The City slaughtered over 40 animals, then planted trees again. The trees are being killed by weeds, the trees are not thriving in the poor soil conditions.

The only people thriving from this sad state of affairs are those seeking to build their reputations (despite the actual facts) by proclaiming this to be a success – them, and the ones pocketing money for expertise (?), fencing (which originally we said we could not afford), herbicides and trees.

As part of the money he earned, Jamie Piper branded the thousands of citizens who signed a petition against the scheme and the 4 community council objectors as ‘a small but vociferous minority’. Who but a small and vociferous minority now says the hill is better off than before? No one other than those who gained say that the hill looks better now and is home to more wildlife.

There is no forest, and all the signs are there won’t be one. The city may have erected a new parking lot with signs to the ‘diamond woods’ – but calling Tullos a wood is hardly trades-description accurate.

DSC00891A View from the Cairn – of Wood Group’s new HQ:

Tullos had its paths widened.

The city also seems to have surrendered an access point and a large area adjacent to one of the three ancient cairns for the footprint of the Wood Group’s new HQ (a building and car park that by all accounts are underused).

The car park looms over the cairn, and the remaining wildlife is hardly going to benefit from the air pollution resulting from the construction and the uses (even if minimal) of the new parking.

What did the City say about losing the parking and the access?

“It would appear that in recent years the Council failed to maintain the car park and that the previous owners of the land (before Argon bought the site last year) have restricted access in order to stop unauthorised encampments from occupying the land. This has resulted in the car park falling into disrepair and access to the hill becoming overgrown, although it was still possible to walk from the car park onto the hill.

Whilst the proposed office building could be constructed and site laid out with the existing public car park remaining in place, Argon expressed a desire to have the car park removed, in order to allow more extensive landscaping to be provided around the development.”
– email to Cllr N Cooney of April 2014

So, we couldn’t maintain one parking lot on land gifted to us, directly adjacent to the Hill’s entrance – land coincidentally useful for this development. However, the city is confident it will be able to maintain the new parking lot.

near the entrance to the hill 30 april 2016 skellyAs to the quality of landscaping referred to in the email; other than having the Wood Group building and its parking making a negative impact on Tullos and the cairn, it’s hard to see what landscaping they are talking about.

As an aside, the email in question admits that air quality on Wellington Road falls short of desired standards.

A new building and its parking will hardly help improve things.

A few changes, none for the better:

More trees have been planted; some of the new guards dwarf the previous tree guards. This is likely the result of a recent warning from the government to ACC that the trees aren’t sufficient either in number or condition, and there is a chance the grant may have to be returned. I wonder how much this new work has cost.

Not content with the area cleared for the tree scheme, gorse clearance continues apace. It is as if there were some pressing need to get rid of this important plant when the reality is they cannot control the trees they have planted – perhaps watching the gorse grow effortlessly is an affront to the egos involved.

gorse destruction 30 april 2016 skellyOverall the effect is one of dead and dying gorse separated from empty tree guards, all surrounded by weeds. It is as if a man balding in patches were desperately trying to implant new hair – then again, I’ve been concerned lately with the Trump campaign – and this is probably where that image came from.

If you go down to the woods today, you won’t be going to Tullos. Bring back the deer.

Remember – the people who insisted this was cost neutral and must go ahead are Liberal Democrat Aileen Malone and the rest of her party: are you going to vote Lib Dem this year? NB – the price of this ‘cost neutral’ scheme so far (less any new planting) is estimated at £600,000 – and no officer or supporter has been called to account for this remarkable mismanagement to date.

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Apr 292016
 

Dennis Robertson, Bill DeanWith thanks to Paul Robertson.

Two renowned Huntly business​men have given their backing to the SNP’s Dennis Robertson to be re-elected as Member of the Scottish Parliament for Aberdeenshire West.

Dennis, 59, was elected to represent the Aberdeenshire constituency in the Scottish Parliament in 2011.

He has campaigned passionately for local small businesses, most recently the businesses that have been affected by the flooding in Ballater.

​Visiting local businesses on the campaign trail with local MP Alex Salmond, Dennis has now received the backing of two well known local businessmen.

Bill Dean is Managing Director of Dean’s of Huntly, who have been baking traditional shortbread since 1975 and now export to over 30 countries around the world. Bill Dean is backing Dennis to be re-elected as MSP for Aberdeenshire West.

He said:

“Over the last 5 years, Dennis has shown himself to be dedicated and passionate about making our communities a better place to live and work. 

“He has always been prepared to listen to me as a local business owner and on a number of occasions, has stepped in to help and support our business.

“That’s the kind of dedicated local MSP that Aberdeenshire West needs, and I am pleased to give Dennis my support.”

James and Irene Shearer together run the Huntly Vehicle Care Centre on Old Toll Road. The owners of the family-run​ garage and coach hire ​business are also supporting Dennis Robertson’s campaign to be re-elected as MSP.

​James Shearer said:

“​The SNP in Government has done so m​uch for small businesses like our own. The Small Business Bonus Scheme has taken pressure off our business and the money saved has enabled us to invest and expand. 

“We are also a family owned business – and it is really important to us that the future of our business – our son, Alan –  benefitted from a free university education. Our daughter had to pay the graduate endowment and I know that only the SNP will ensure that there is no return to fees for university education which places such a burden on families and our young people.”

​Welcoming the support, SNP Candidate for Aberdeenshire West Dennis Robertson said:

“I am delighted to have the support of Bill Dean and the Shearer family. ​These businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and that’s why the SNP has prioritised support for small and medium businesses. 

“If re-elected, I pledge to work just as hard for small businesses in communities across Aberdeenshire West to help them grow and expand.”

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