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Fife Libraries Temporary Reprieve

It seems there has been a stay of execution on the threatened Fife Libraries.

The Council’s Scrutiny Committee has apparently rejected the proposals and suggested a one year moratorium to explore possibilities for keeping library services. There will be a meeting this Tuesday (12th Jan) to discuss the closures.

I have fired off emails in support of the campaign against closures to members of the Council committee concerned.

It also looks like I shall have to continue borrowing books…

Ronald vs Donald

I never really thought too much of Ronald Reagan…

But he was an intellectual genius in comparison to one D Trump (whose comments I paraphrase below.)

Ronald Reagan – “Mr Gorbachev. Tear Down this wall!”

Donald Trump – “Build up a wall!”

When Will They Ever Learn?

The UK under Tony Blair followed blindly (hung on the coat-tails?) where the US led in invading Iraq – ostensibly to get rid of weapons of mass destruction (which anybody with the slightest understanding of Saddam Hussein’s psychology knew didn’t exist – though he wanted us, but more especially Iran, to think they did) but really simply to be seen to be doing something about the attacks on the World Trade Center (which Saddam Hussein had not a thing to do with; Al Qaida had no presence in Iraq before the war precisely because he had such a firm grip on things they weren’t allowed one) the operations in Afghanistan not being satisfactory in rooting out Osama Bin Laden, or just possibly to “secure” oil supplies.

Now that all worked out terribly well, didn’t it?

About two years ago some of the blowback from the mistakes of those adventures resulted in a vote in the UK Parliament on bombing Syria. No consensus on such action could be found.

Yesterday, more or less prompted by the murders committed by Isis/Isil/Daesh in Paris, a measure to bomb Syria was passed by that Parliament’s successor. This time, though, the target is different. Not the forces of President Assad, but those of Daesh.

The decision seems to be from the “grab at a false syllogism” school. This goes along the lines of, “The events in Paris were terrible. Something must be done about the perpetrators. Bombing is something. Therefore we must bomb.”

The fact that bombing Syria is against international law, notwithstanding the recent UN resolution, that bombing by near enough everybody else has had absolutely no effect in reducing Daesh’s activities does not seem to count against this argument. The facts that it won’t defeat them, that it won’t make us any safer, that it will only increase their appeal to potential adherents, that such a response is precisely what they look for when planning their atrocities weighed nothing against the apparent need to be seen to be doing something. Anything.

I had to give a hollow laugh when in the run-up to the vote Mr Irresponsible, aka David Cameron, havered on about outsourcing our security to others. If the UK is not outsourcing its security to others why, exactly, is it a member of NATO? (And, as a by-the by, what exactly is the purpose of the nuclear deterrent? France’s Force de Frappe didn’t prevent the Charlie Hebdo attacks nor those of this November. Trident didn’t stop the IRA nor 7/7 bombers.)

He also said that opponents of the bombing were terrorist sympathisers. Language such as that proves once again that the man is unfit to be Prime Minister.

Yes Daesh is a murdering, barbaric organisation utterly antithetical to freedom. But, Mr Cameron. Isn’t it possible conscientiously to think that bombing is a strategic mistake? That it will only encourage Daesh that it has got under our skin? That it will be profoundly counter-productive? That it will cause civilian casualties far in excess of any damage it might do to Daesh? That it will not bring about an end to Daesh? That it will not reassure Muslims in Britain that war is not being waged against their religion? That it makes us even more of a target than we were already? That it can only strengthen the position of the man the original bombing was supposed to help oust?

The history of British interference in the Middle East goes back a long way. The Sykes-Picot Agreement carved the area up between Britain and France, becoming effective after the Great War. In the 1920s the RAF (in Iraq) was the first air-force in the world to bomb indigenous rebels though it’s likely civilians bore the brunt as usual. The UK mandate in Palestine led (in)directly to the formation of Israel. Along with the US Britain was instrumental in removing the Mossadeq regime from Iran in the 1950s. Then there was the chaos we recently left behind in Iraq and contributed to in Libya.

Our politicians seem to have forgotten all this. Unlike them, the locals have long memories.

I can’t see anything good coming out of this at all.

Denis Healey

One of the last of the big political beasts of my (relative) youth has now departed.

He held office as Defence Secretary for 6 years but was more famous as a Chancellor of the Exchequer excoriated by the left for his adoption of wage controls in 1976 and immortalised in a song – to the tune of What a Friend We Have in Jesus – about the Callaghan Government which contained the line, “All the bad was done by Healey, all the good by Tony Benn.” But Healey in a deaperate bind. There had been an oil price rise of 400%. Imagine today’s politicians coping with that.

His obituaries on the television skipped over his war record to concentrate on his political career. But one of the most striking things I ever heard about him was that he was the Beachmaster (for the British sector) at the Anzio Landings a job of no small responsibility. He’s worth an obituary for that alone.

Denis Winston Healey: 30/8/1917–3/10/2015. So it goes.

Drone Killings

The Prime Minister, David Cameron – known to this blog as Mr Irresponsible – has stated that the recent killing by RAF drone strike of two UK citizens in Syria is lawful as it was an act of self-defence and there was no alternative.

So. Let me get this clear. It is illegal for agents of the UK government to execute people convicted in the UK courts for murder, treason (or even arson in Her Majesty’s Dockyards) since the death penalty for such crimes has been abolished; but it is legal to do so to someone outside the UK’s legal jurisdiction, someone who has not been so convicted, or even put on trial?

How is that exactly?

(And what is to stop the government declaring anyone so guilty and despatching a drone to get rid of them?)

I thought we (the so-called civilised law-abiding nations) were supposed to be better than them (the likes of ISIS, ISIL or, the description I believe they themselves abhor, Daesh.)

We have been here before, of course. The major difference is that Gibraltar is British sovereign territory and Syria is not.

Mind you. Abolition of the death penalty in the UK has been a dead duck since the Iranian Embassy siege.

Trumped?

This photo (credited to Dominick Reuter/Reuters) – which doesn’t seem to be on the website – appeared in Thursday’s print edition of the Guardian:-

aTrump

Surely Mr Trump is using the wrong finger to go along with that facial expression.

Local Libraries Threat

As part of cost-cutting measures a proposal has been put forward to close 16 libraries in Fife. Three of these I have used and one of them has a very good stock indeed.

I have mentioned before how many libraries are within a few miles of Son of the Rock Acres. Most of these serve distinct communities. Not all of them are under threat but I would be sad to see any of them go. However, two of them are the ones I use most often.

As a result of this proposal the good lady and I have recently been borrowing a few more books than we would have previously in order to boost “footfall”. This means the books already unread on our shelves will have to remain there for a while.

Apparently the plans have been halted temporarily to allow for “consultation” – as is mentioned in this article where there is also a link to a petition to keep the libraries open.

Compassionate Conservatism?

This is something that has been bugging me for a long time.

Welfare [wel-fair] noun: the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organization; well-being.

Why has this word become transformed into meaning something derogatory? Something of which those people who need it are supposed to feel ashamed? (Rather than it being to society’s shame that such people don’t have it.)

Sepp Blatter

I still don’t quite know what to make of Sepp Blatter’s resignation.

It was only a few days after he’d secured his presidency for another term. Maybe there’s a lot to come out about his dealings behind the scenes. It would seem so.

But…. A thought occurred to me.

Is it a bit like John Major’s resignation? He resigned (as head of the Tory Party) but still managed to stay on if you recall.

And Blatter’s given himself about six months still in charge while the process of electing a successor takes place. I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if he tried to stand again.

Whatever, I doubt that the next World Cup will be removed from Russia. There were good reasons why it should go there. (It was Europe’s turn and Russia hadn’t had it yet, among others.)

Qatar in 2022 is another matter. (But 2022 is Asia’s turn.)

In another point; to make things absolutely clear, if there is a rerun of the voting for 2018 or 2022, to avoid accusations of sour grapes, England ought not to bid and perhaps neither ought the US given it was that country’s initiative that has resulted in the arrest of FIFA’s executives.

Charles Kennedy

I was shocked to hear the news this morning that Charles Kennedy has died.

The last time I saw him on television – on This Week the week Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister – he seemed in fine health.

I have since read elsewhere that he didn’t look well during the General Election campaign. The death of his father only a few weeks before followed by his defeat at the polls after 32 years as an MP can only have added to his burdens even if he took it well at the time with his joke about “the night of the long sgian dubhs.”

Since his first election (for the SDP) he always came across as likeable – an almost priceless asset in a politician – even decent. The revelations about his alcohol problem didn’t puncture the sense of warmth people felt for him.

He was a man whose instincts seemed to be right. This was exemplified by his opposition to the Iraq War.

Public life in Scotland and the UK is diminished by his passing.

Charles Peter Kennedy: 25/11/1959 – 1/6/2015. So it goes.

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