Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The slavering James MacMillan

The highly esteemed, or is it just steaming? - composer James MacMillan CBE has opened his little bearded slit again. The pompous Tory and defender of the Catholic Church has this time pulled his wire in the direction of National Collective - comparing them to "Mussolini's followers" and whinging that artists should not support politicians.

Ho-ho! Firstly...

Being an evangelical proponent of Roman Catholicism, I would imagine that Fascist dictators are something MacMillan and his church know a lot about.

Secondly, while I agree that 'artists supporting politicians' probably ain't cool, coming from a pompous phallus like MacMillan whose name is suffixed by CBE it is a wee bit strange. It is worth remembering that CBE stands for Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and is part of an 'order of chivalry' known as Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. How very progressive.

Lastly, to my knowledge, National Collective do not support any 'politicians' but seek self-determination and a progressive, fair future for Scotland.

Statue to MacMillan CBE in his native Ayr
Is he for real?

Alas, he is and he has form. He used to vote Tory but of late he has taken offence to the Scottish Tory leader, who happens to be gay, and her comments on Catholic schools. Interestingly, MacMillan was supported by the Glaswegian-turned-Irishman Phil Mac Giolla Bháin - a man who views love of Celtic FC and the Roman Catholic superstition as integral to the Irish ethnicity. Once upon a time, Phil used to be left-leaning proponent of Celtic solidarity but in his interview he gave the very Scottish and right-wing MacMillan carte-blanche to expound upon his 'social conservatism' and why the Tories should do more to attract Catholics to vote for them.

Funnily enough MacMillan seems to have kept schtum on the Catholic Crutch's shameful and ever-emerging record of child abuse. Why speak out on behalf of children - designated 'Catholic' by their parents - when you can lambast a lesbian Conservative on her opposition to segregated schooling? And, as he has a lingering interest in Fascist dictators, I wonder what his views are on the equally shameful collusion between the Catholic hierarchy and the Nazis?

I don't hold my breath.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Syria - who used the gas?

A brutal dictator that 'we' don't like anymore. The guy kills 'his' own people. He has a stockpile of horrid weapons - the kind of stuff that doesn't respect man-made borders. And, if that's true, it's means our pals over there - Israel - are threatened. Reason enough then to send in Bruce Willis to sort out those damn A-rabs...

Deja vu? How about Saddam? Bush and Blair meet up at their men's club to thrash out a propaganda job that claims Saddam's bombs could - will! - reach Londum in 45 minutes.

What do we know? Assad is a dictator who has oppressed his own people. Sure. And 'we' stood by and watched this happen. Sure... but we also stand by and watch David Cameron's pals in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia do much the same. We've stood by and watched China do the same for decades. China though is big enough, not only to bankroll the ailing US economy, but to kick our ass if we question their attitudes to democracy, free-speech, respect of international boundaries and human rights.
Incredible but true, a poor man's Bruce Willis
What else do we know? Apparently - the UN are or were satisfied at least - the Syrian rebels who William Hague wants to finance not only possess chemical weapons but have used them. We also know that the rebels' cause is going pear-shaped, Hibs-style. Assad knows that while 'us' in the 'West' may have hitherto stood by while Syrians slaughtered each other - any really heavy misdemeanour on his part could see the Yanks, the ConDem Brits and the newly bloodthirsty French come in to relieve him of his power and wealth with his likely execution filmed for the YouTube generation - a la Saddam and Gaddafi - to gawk at.

We also know that US and Brutish intervention in the middle-east does not usually end well. Afghanistan is hardly the land o the leal. Iraq has yet to see many of its wonders rated on TripAdvisor by bright-eyed backpackers from leafy Western suburbs. Libya lags someway behind Norway on the democracy, freedom and happiness fronts. Would Barrack 'Death by Drone' Obama be any better?

The answer? I don't have one... though if pressed, I'd go for dialogue over a foreign adventure that will only push the body count higher. It is good though to see some, such as the New York Times and Democracy Now explore the facts and ask questions of both sides while reminding us that the propaganda war is being played by both sides.

Channel 4 - Syria: the rebels battling for Assad's chemical weapons

NY Times - Images of Death in Syria, but No Proof of Chemical Attack

Friday, August 9, 2013

Community control in Scottish football?

Another August and another interesting, if turbulent new season for Scottish football has kicked off. Last year saw The Rangers, aka Sevco, take their place in the fourth tier of Scottish clubs. The club having been re-animated, Pet Sematary style, from the club formerly known as Glasgow Rangers. They're knee deep in shit, again, with some of their ane directors predicting another bout of administration while an early exit from the League Cup at the hands of Forfar has added to the ever-simmering fury or their fans.

This year also sees Scotland's third biggest club, in recent times at least, in administration and with a minus 15 point start to the league. Liquidation is a possibility though fan ownership will probably win the day. If it does and a CVA is agreed with creditors, it will leave Hearts in a much better place than they've been in for some time. They might be in the 1st Division but with no debt, a sensible signing/ spending policy and increased participation and ownership from the fans, a more stable and eventually successful future beckons.

Other clubs may follow suit. In Edinburgh, Hibs' fans have understandably revelled in the plight of Hearts. Is Hibernian FC though in a better place? Owned by an aging millionaire with no love of football, Hibs themselves are in debt - somewhere between £6 and 9million depending on what you read - and made a loss of £1m last year. Years of bottom six finishes in the SPL combined with woeful and embarrassing performances in important games have seen the enlarged Easter Road awash with empty seats at most home games. Kilmarnock and Aberdeen are also labouring on under heavy debt.

Community ownership of Scottish land is growing. The crofters' buy out in Asainte was deemed unlikely or unworkable before the event but it happened nevertheless and some 17 similar community purchases have happened since then. Crofting estates, islands and other tracts of Scottish land have too long been bought and sold at a whim. Rich owners with little or no clue about local culture or traditions have seen them merely as another toy or status symbol. Are football clubs any different?

Is it too much to expect for government - national or local  - to support of our football clubs or other significant sporting institutions? Scottish football enjoys larger crowds, per head of population, than any other nation in Europe attending games. Local government surely has a vested interest in both the success and survival of their clubs. The benefits to the local economies are significant and the good publicity from even an extended cup run adds to it. When clubs work with local schools the benefits for education, health and crime prevention increase the value further.

Needless to say perhaps that this is also an issue of independence and self-determination. On the political front, a 'yes' vote will bring independence to our government. Community ownership and participation brings it to our neighbourhoods and communities.

Local people also have a duty to support their local club. It's a sickener to go to places such as Greenock, Kilmarnock, Paisley, Falkirk, Stirling, Perth or even Inverness and see busloads of glory-hunters heading for Celtic Park or Ibrox. For all the Celtic fans' talk of being 'rebels', the truth is they are the 'establishment' in Scottish football. Celtic are the McDonalds to Rangers' Walmart.

Hearts may not escape relegation this year but if community ownership is achieved and a young, mostly Scottish, squad built up then the future will be a  bright one. I also hope that the locals in Stirling and Dunfermline can turn out in numbers to support their own community-owned clubs.

The Foundation of Hearts

Pars Supporters Trust 

Stirling Albion Supporters Trust

Thursday, August 1, 2013

BBC London - what abuse scandal?

Some say that aspirations for Scottish independence are insular. Ditto the demands for a 'Scottish Six' national news service. However, one look at British television, especially in the company of someone from abroad, and the Anglo, London-centric nature of it stabs you in the eyes.

When Hearts met Hibs in the Scottish Cup semi-final in 2006, the novelty of an Edinburgh derby in a major game was deemed to be of some importance in Londum. The guy in the studio turned to the video link and announced that 'our reporter is at Hampden Park in Glasgow...er or is it Edinburgh...no, Glasgow...'.

The general modus-operandi of the BBC and other channels based in London when assessing the value of a story seems to be one of:
  1. London
  2. The rest of England
  3. The US
  4. Anywhere else, if the body count is high enough
The latest child-abuse scandal and subsequent cover-up involving the Roman Catholic Church is one such example. BBC Scotland, to their credit, uncovered another saga of sickening child abuse at the former Fort Augustus Abbey School. As one of the offenders was allowed to flee Fort Augustus and to carry on his activities in his native Australia, the story has an international dimension. A dimension that failed to make it dahn sath though.

On a day when BBC Scotland's various media outlets were dominated by the story, the 'British' output from London neglected to mention it. We did learn though about increasing numbers of jelly fish on the west coast and of a project in Cornwall that teaches kids to swim in the sea.

As long as 'national news' continues to mean 'Britain' meaning 'England' meaning 'London' we'll be treated to 'news' that doesn't concern us - Scottish devolution, indeed the ins and outs of the Act of Union, has yet to seep into the London consciousness.