Oct 312014

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

DictionaryTally Ho! And Happy Christmas and Season’s greetings while I’m at it. Halloween costumes sit next to Christmas cards in all the stores; hope you’ve finished writing  your cards and wrapping your presents.

Despite this being the season of peace on earth, good will to men, etc, etc. there seem to be a few bad-tempered people patrolling Aberdeen’s vibrant streets these days; quite a departure from the peaceful scenes we’re used to.

One man seems to have been provoked past endurance of late at the Bridge of Don area.

I’m sure the disagreement he had with a lady must have been over a spectacularly important issue, as he concluded his best course of action was to use his car to pin her to another car.

To be fair, he did threaten her with his staffie first (I’m sure that dog must have a great existence), so she should have backed down. When he gets his eventual day in court all will become clear.

Elsewhere a man jumped a street sweeper on the green (or Merchant Quarter if you prefer). I’m certain the cleaner must have started it. Believe it or not, drink may have been involved. All was caught on camera by a nearby restaurant mogul who stepped in to stop the beating. Never step into a violent fight; you may risk getting hurt. Do call the police ASAP – and ensure you film all either for a court case or better yet, for youtube.

And for all those people who violently oppose restrictions on air rifles and bb guns, a champion arises. Thirty something (age, not IQ) Aleksandrs Kolosovs apparently said he might shoot a judge after bringing an air gun to an Aberdeen pub.

Our gunslinger was in court charged with threatening to shoot a judge and having an offensive weapon – a BB air gun – in his possession at the East Neuk Bar in Aberdeen. Good tempered Kolosovs is also accused of assaulting a man earlier this year who was shot twice in the head.

Remember, as we’re so often told, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  Of course if  you make it easy for violent tempered people to get guns, it makes it that much easier for them to kill people. Remember, having a weapon that can maim or kill is within your reach and you’re allowed to have them.

Funny though that on hearsay, Dod Copeland had his flat trashed and was taken into custody because some unknown witnesses said he had a rifle inside his flat. These witnesses must have peered (with no reason) into the flat which is off the beaten track, seen a gun, decided it could not have been an air gun or BB gun, convinced the police to launch a massive raid, and thereby trashing Copeland’s home and health.

Let’s not forget that the police later wanted Copeland to say that his feather duster looked like an assault rifle; a mistake any serving police officer could have made when lauching a siege on an empty property. So let’s leave our excellent, clear-cut gun laws as they are, and let’s let the police escalate if they want.  What possible harm can come of it?

He’ll see first hand how transformational the hand of Donald Trump has been

Thankfully there are tales of great generosity to balance things out.

The largess of Scottish Enterprise with our tax money to some big companies is particularly heartwarming.

There may be a small conflict of interest given that a Scottish Enterprise executive had shares in some of these companies, but nothing for us to worry about (more on that later).

Alicia Bruce had a wonderful reception at Woodend barn where her new photographs following a residency there were adored by all visitors. A few Menie Estate residents were on hand; her portraits of these people which mirror well-known paintings have become world famous. The Moorings continues to bring excellent music legends our way; The Men They  Couldn’t Hang and the Anti Nowhere League being recent guests.

Easter Anguston Farm had some Halloween celebrations, and Old Susannah bought a wonderful pumpkin from their shop.

But the big news this week is all the leadership changes and challenges taking place. Exit Alex Salmond, who will now have more time to spend with his constituents.

His overdue visit to the Menie Estate residents will no doubt be scheduled soon. He’ll see first hand how transformational the hand of Donald Trump has been, and if he acts soon, he may get his hands on a discarded Trump hotel bedstead, complete with Trump family crest. Of course the actual origins of the Trump family may be open to some speculation, despite The Donald having a granny from the Western Islands.

And with that it’s time for some definitions.

Salmond: (Scottish proper noun) Former Scottish National Party Leader; MSP for Banff and Buchan.  Not to be confused with Alex Salmon, as Wikipedia advises.

I’m tempted to swallow the bait and do some fish jokes about Salmond and Sturgeon, but we’ve already done that, so I’ll clam up. Apparently some readers find bad puns give them a haddock, but I do like to throw some in now and then for the halibut.

Always reliable, Wikipedia will give you the gen on Mr Salmond. It’s been a remarkable career from independence campaign to unannounced visits during by elections to closure-threatened schools.  From dinners with the Donald to singing at Balmoral Castle. Now that he has more time to spend in his constituency, his visit to Menie will be well received indeed. It may be about a decade overdue, but he’ll be coming.

Salmond’s heir apparent (also know as Fiona to Salmond’s Shrek, as a colleague reminds me – though I can’t think why) Nicola Sturgeon is off to a flying start; she’s insisting that any referendum on EU membership continuing should be voted on by England, Wales Scotland and Ireland as individual countries, not by a UK wide vote as a whole.

Hats off to Nicola for bringing up a constitutional crisis her first fortnight on the job

Funny, when we had the independence referendum, also having impact on the future of the entire UK, she was happy for that to exclude the other 3 nations. Scotland has 5.3 million people; Wales 3 million; Ireland  4.5 million and England England 57 million .

It will be really easy to manage a vote split up by nation. Will residence outweigh place of birth? If you work in Scotland but live in England, where will you vote? No better to split everyone up, have separate votes taken, and then see if 3 of 4 countries agree and we leave – irrespective of the numbers of people involved. Hats off to Nicola for bringing up a constitutional crisis her first fortnight on the job. She’ll have her cake and eat it, too.

We really should stay in the EU; look at all the peace, stability and economic prosperity it’s brought us. Funny, the often used phrase ‘value for money’ never gets mentioned when polititicans talk about the EU.

What has the EU done for us anyway? We’ve given lots of money to countries to keep them stable, like Greece. We’ve had lots of nice farming subsidies, even if no one in Italy, Spain or Portugal can explain exactly where the money’s all gone over the years. In fact, the EU has yet to have a single one of its annual budgets successfully approved and signed off by an auditor. Whistle blowers get interesting transfers.

Carbuncle:  (English Noun)  An infection, boil or growth signaling illness; an unpleasant site (see also ‘Aberdeen’)

The Deen may somehow have lost the city of culture bid we were all so desperately praying for, but take heart! We are probably about to win something big after all. It seems no one does carbuncles quite like we do.

We are certainly ahead of the field in the Carbuncle Award list. A bit more help from our planners, title-proud officers, ACSEF  and the rest, and no one will be able to touch us. When it comes to thinking outside the box, we don’t. If it’s a glass box or a concrete box, it gets planning permission. If it’s a historic building like the Lord  Provost’s house, ignoring the importance of setting or agreeing to a few little nips and changes is fine.

If it’s a building like Westburn House, we’ll let it fall apart. If it’s an important historic site like Thomas Glover’s house, we’ll allow the trustees (including former Lord Provost Stephen) to flog the important contents, and still let the place go.  Result!

Urban Realm editor John Glenday said:

“Aberdeen has a rich granite heritage and in the Victorian era the city was built to last, sadly the same can’t be said of the flimsy, ill-considered buildings going up across the city today.

“Despite its riches Aberdeen has become the poor relation of the Scottish cities.”

Glenday is wrong; this is proved by all the city council reports that clearly state in black and white that we are forward-looking, vibrant, dynamic, etc. etc. That’s good enough for me.

See you this Christmas at the tree in Union Terrace Gardens, surrounded again no doubt by guards, festive people barricades and holiday anti-climb paint. Perhaps Rockefeller Centre could learn a lesson or two from us on the real Christmas spirit.

We’ll see what happens across from Marischal College in due course; perhaps it will make us yearn for the beauty, majesty and proportion of St Nicholas House after all.

Happy  Christmas and Happy New Year! Remember, tis the season for shopping.

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Dec 202012

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

It’s been a very busy week in Aberdeen and the wider world. Donald Trump had a full page ad in the Press & Journal mixing wind farms and the Lockerbie bomber.

Of all the ways Trump could have used his revelation that Salmond wanted The Donald to back the releasing of the convicted Lockerbie Bombing, no one could have predicted such a crass, unsuitable, insensitive ad as this – unless they worked for Trump.

Funnily enough, the Press & Journal which carried this ad refused to carry an ad opposing the City Gardens Project, or so I’m told.

This refusal was interesting, as Aberdeen Journals did manage to carry a pro-web advertisement (the so-called ‘Holiday Inn’ ad, featuring the Holiday Inn logo, yet the ad was placed without the blessing of the Holiday Inn head office, as my enquiries determined). Trump couldn’t have put in his objectionable full-page ad if the P&J had not accepted it.

Rumours fly that Trump’s right hand woman Sarah Malone may have some romantic interest with a P&J supremo. Surely not! While all this carry-on was being carried out, one Mr Bates of the P&J was praising his organ for its unflagging support of the views of ‘the little man‘.

As long as the little man in question is a billionaire, then I guess that’s true.

There are several things I was tempted to satirise this week, not least of all the environmentally catastrophic notion of extending the industrial harbour into Nigg Bay. Thankfully the Marine Protection Act is coming into force soon; this should stop such a destructive plan.

I also doubt the people of Torry will want to surrender their last remaining stretch of coastline in exchange for yet more heavy good vehicles on Torry’s streets.

Some coastal land was sold years ago, allegedly to help the council with its finances. In return, the people of Torry were going to get … toilets. This toilet scheme was seemingly flushed down the pan by the Harbour Board (which now wants more Torry property). Kate Dean was also instrumental in putting a sewage plant next to Nigg Bay; the air and water pollution aspects are well known to area residents.

The impact of more trucks and more industry in this part of the city will be bad for health, and what remaining wildlife, sea, land and air we have left. We have a bird population which is down 50% in a decade according to the latest surveys – and we’re talking about birds not found in other parts of the world.

But money and empire-building seem set to win the day again. It seems that like Menie, the SSSI at Nigg Bay has very little importance to those in power if there is money about.

However, I can’t think of much aside from guns at the moment.

I don’t feel like making any jokes or satirical remarks. It’s time for another look at what guns have done to the US, and what we can do about air rifles and BB guns here – and why we definitely need to license air-guns in Scotland at the least.

The Michael Moore documentary film Bowling for Columbine came out 10 years ago. It is a brilliant assault on those who worship assault rifles. Sadly, the NRA – National Rifle Association – is about the most powerful lobbying force in Washington, and they will not let the US tighten up gun legislation. President Obama may now have something to say about that, as this latest tragedy is causing considerable public anger.

If you didn’t know, yet another damaged soul has been able to get their hands on automatic weaponry, and has murdered in cold blood 20 children and 6 women in the US state of Connecticut. If he hadn’t been able to easily obtain automatic weapons, these children and women would still be here. That is the fact.

Some people would tell you the American Constitution clearly states people should be able to have guns. It actually says this in its second amendment:

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Where do we start on this? Firstly, this was written 200 years ago – people had muskets and similar types of guns. These were not as accurate as today’s guns, and they certainly were not automatic. A lone shooter would not have been able to take out 26 people in a short span of time.

Secondly, times have changed just a little bit. The Constitution and its Amendments were written following a war of independence, in which the British sought to control the revolutionaries’ weapons. It’s no longer relevant, just as passages in the Old Testament are no longer relevant (except to the odd fanatic).

At this point many people would point out, correctly, that American and British weaponry is being used all over the world. Make no mistake, I hate that as well. The exportation of weapons to corrupt and violent regimes is unacceptable of course. But that is a different story. This is about a nation gone mad, a nation which won’t allow Cuban cigars or unpasteurised milk products.

there are counties where it is mandatory everyone carries a gun once they’re a certain age

This is about a re-imagining of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, while at the same time the main thrust of the revolution was to guarantee that all men (and women) are created equal, and shall not be deprived unreasonably of the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet these rights have been trampled into the dust.

People are not free in most states to marry as they choose. People are in some places not free to teach evolutionary theory, and creationism is given pride of place in science classes. And of course, the evil, horrible plant that is marijuana is totally illegal in most places – a bit of a blow (if you will) to ‘the pursuit of happiness’ for a small minority of people who’d like to use it for recreation, pain control, nausea control, glaucoma treatment and so on.

But while the US forgets or re-writes the basics, the NRA is free to insist that the Second Amendment means everyone everywhere is entitled to have a gun. In fact, there are counties where it is mandatory everyone carries a gun once they’re a certain age.

We recently saw the reports of a girl shot by her cousin on Halloween. She’d been dressed up in black and white, and the cousin apparently thought she was a skunk.

It wasn’t the first time or the last time someone trying to ‘defend their home’ with a gun shoots relatives instead. Teens that’ve snuck home late at night have been shot dead by paranoid parents assuming burglars were about. People have also had their own weapons used against them.

The inimitable Morgan Freeman has also weighed into the debate, reminding us that the media has to take a new look at how it reports these mass killers. The killer gets tons of news coverage, and sees their picture, life and crime scene spread across TV, internet, print and radio. An old and easily disproved adage goes ‘there is no bad publicity’.

To some of these people, like the gunman in Colorado who shot movie-goers, fame indeed seems to play some twisted part in their murders. Let’s not give them any publicity by name; let’s remember instead the victims.

Yes, such a move would cost money – the US could take this from its massive defence budget

America also seems to have a twisted love affair with imagery of girls in bikinis firing automatic weapons. This is adding sex appeal to weaponry designed to take out lots of life quickly. No one needs to prove they are a good shot if they have an AK-47 – you just shoot until you obliterate the target. Anyone but me see anything wrong with this picture?

What’s the answer? I’ve no idea. But would it be so bad to start with a gun amnesty?

These have been done in New York in the past, twenty years ago in fact, by New York entrepreneur Fernando Mateo. This was an admirable move. If so much as one life was saved by this initiative, it was worth doing. With the number of illegal guns handed in at the time, it is easy to conclude that many lives were saved. Couple a gun amnesty with mandatory licensing, yearly license renewals and yearly gun checks, and you could save a few more lives.

Yes, such a move would cost money – the US could take this from its massive defence budget. They’re still not able to adequately feed and clothe all of its citizens, but according to the Huffington Post and other sources, it spent some $695 BILLION on defence in 2011. It’s hard to see how present and especially future generations are going to forgive the world’s military for all of its spending on military hardware.

So – gun amnesty, tighten up licensing, make it more difficult to get and keep guns, and finally increase penalties for anyone with illegal guns, and anyone who commits a crime with a gun. Would it solve the problem?

The NRA are masters of spin and lobbying; their famous slogans include:

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and

“If guns were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns.”

Students of propaganda will recognise these kinds of reflexive slogans are catchy. Catchy they are, but do they stand up to any scrutiny? Of course not.

To the former slogan, obviously, (sadly) people can kill each other in many ways. But having a gun makes it a much simpler, surer and simpler matter. Having an automatic weapon makes it certain you can kill lots of people, quickly, and from a distance. I’d prefer ‘guns make it easy for people to kill people, and the NRA makes it easy to get guns’ as a replacement slogan. Not as catchy, but it is considerably more accurate.

To the second phrase – this is an attempt, also a tried and tested propaganda method, to instil fear. ‘If I don’t have a gun, an outlaw can get me!’ is the underlying message. Here are a few words from The Survivors’ Club which should make people think twice:

“In 2008 there were 680 accidental shooting deaths in the United States, with more than 15,500 shooting injuries. Most disturbing, perhaps, is the number of children involved in accidental shootings. Every day approximately five children are injured or killed on a nationwide basis as a result of handguns. The primary cause of youth-involved shooting rests with the fact that children find loaded handguns in the home – and natural curiosity leads them down the road to disaster.

“Each year approximately 100 people are injured or killed while cleaning a firearm and failing to exercise proper caution… Many accidental shootings occur because someone believes a gun is unloaded, points it at someone and pulls the trigger as a “joke”.”

Japan has managed to outlaw guns totally – and now has c. 2 gun deaths per year. Isn’t that an accomplishment to at least try to emulate?
See:  http://www.theatlantic.com-how-japan-has-virtually-eliminated-shooting-deaths

By all means have an armed and well-regulated militia (but hopefully one that needn’t cost over 600 billion dollars a year). These killers clearly are not well-regulated, and they are not in a militia. It’s time to think again.

It’s also time for me to move closer to home, for we have some air gun issues to deal with. If you live in the area, you will know that some people have been targeting animals for some time with air guns, blinding and wounding pets. Most lately, we have a field of horses in the Bridge of Don area being used for target practice so that idiots can get their kicks from wounding innocent horses.

Do I think things will get worse? Yes. Why do I think that? Because a newish discount/pound shop is selling BB-type guns for £6, and lots of ammo. Did I ask them to please not stock these items? Yes. They refused, saying they only sell to those over 18. Do we know any people over 18 who are less than mature? I do. Please feel free to share your thoughts with the manager; this shop is a few doors down from Molton Brown.

We now have a chance to regulate these kinds of weapons in Scotland. There is no way responsible owners of such guns can logically oppose tighter registration in the face of the violence against animals and people that has taken place.

You might recall a toddler was killed by such a weapon in Glasgow, one of the main reasons this legislation is coming about. We’re not talking about something that causes a small discomfort, we’re talking about speeding projectiles that destroy tissue and can even damage bone.

Here are a few words from Animal Concern Advice Line:

”Proposals for Licensing Air Weapons in Scotland

“[there is a] very important consultation which could be used to greatly reduce the number of air weapons in Scotland. As you know air-guns are the tools of vandals and sadists who take pot shots at pet, farm and wild animals and birds.

If you have had personal experience of air-gun misuse or if you run an animal sanctuary and have had to deal with animals shot by people using air-guns please mention that in your submission… If you have a pet why not forward this message to your vet? Most vets know just how much pain, suffering and death is caused by air weapons.”

“The pro-gun lobby will be doing all they can to reduce the impact of this initiative. Please take the time to comment – it will make a difference.”

Clearly not all air-gun owners are sadists – but since we have quite a few who are clearly are, then let’s get some control in place.

Please visit http://suzannekelly.yolasite.com/ to see how you can help and to read the Government’s document

Merry Christmas; Happy Holidays; Happy Chanukah – can everyone please stop shooting now?

Next week – a return to normal service.

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