Archive for May, 2010

Dunkirk: 70 Years On

27/05/2010

God bless.

Get Those Oiks Away From My Golf Course

27/05/2010

Presumably having given up on winning any more Aberdeen residents on side, Donald Trump has taken to describing opponents’ properties as slums.

Where is Patrick Sellar when he is needed?

Work to Commence of Tesco Store in Thurso

27/05/2010

This week’s Caithness Courier reports that clearing work on the disused cattle market on School Brae in Thurso will commence next month, with a view to a new Tesco superstore opening in the spring of 2011.   Tesco previously had been accused of landbanking so to prevent other supermarkets from opening stores.

In addition to relocating the services currently supplied at the Millbank store, the new site also will provide a small range of electrical goods, kitchenware and clothes.

Although there inevitably will be an attitude that this is “strangling” small towns, in my experience this plaintive cry has either been hopelessly parochial or complacently middle-class.  The latter is free to hop into its cars for a day-out or regular shop in Inverness whilst it assumes this quaint rural town will continue inconveniencing itself so to accomodate them.

Thurso Community Council previously had supported a competing bid from Asda.  Yet, this still would result in whatever some think is strangling of small towns to take place.  I can, however, appreciate concerns about increased traffic levels between two schools.

What we now need is for the cinema to re-open now the latest owners have discovered they cannot so easily demolish the buildings in way for luxury flats.

Pentland Ferries Praised By MSPs

27/05/2010

Where ferry services are an essential mode of transport amongst Scotland’s scattered islands and even otherwise isolated coastal settlements, my sympathies tend towards some form of State monitoring which ensures regular service is not at the whims of private operators.

Yet just as vanity can be a virtue which drives individuals to assist others in order to bolster their reputation, so can private enterprise and good old fashioned capitalism; whilst unyielding commitment to State control may result in inefficient services which have little incentive to improve as they always will be bailed out.

Examples of both can be seen in the two operators providing such lifeline services between Caithness and Orkney.  In the late 1990s, Andrew Banks, an Orkney entrepreneur purchased a 99 year lease on the pier at Gills Bay, east of John o’Groats and self-financed site improvements before launching Pentland Ferries which provides a vehicle service in 2001 running to St Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay.

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Pearl Mussel Theft in Scottish Rivers

25/05/2010

Scottish rivers contain approximately 50% of the global population of freshwater pearl mussels, which has been attracting thieves for a number of years.

Although individual hauls could raise thousands of pounds, it is difficult to comprehend the destructive mentality which would strip settlement spots of dozens if not hundreds of mussels; with the fear that many are damaged beyond recovery. Although, it should be noted that “unauthorized engineering” (read corporate flouting of the law) is another source of damage.

There are other ways to make a neat little profit from the bounty of the rivers and sea in Scotland. Albert Roux recently lamented that he was unable to purchase locally sourced fish for his new restaurant in Lochinver as the principal catches were immediately packed onto refridgerated lorries bound for down the Continent. Thus he has turned to small boats, with one or two men, to supply his kitchen.

This is How Wars Start

25/05/2010

In perhaps the most serious armed confrontation between North and South Korea since the Gangneung Submarine Incident in 1996, the DPRK has been blamed formally for the sinking in March of the Cheonan, a ROK warship in the Yellow Sea. Forty-six sailors died.

With absolutely no desire to justify myself to latter-day animists (aka conspiracy theorists), the evidence of handwritten Korean script on a recovered torpedo fragment pointed to the Hermit Kingdom which is the only country to mark torpedos as such (and the fragment was consistent with known DPRK torpedos). Other pointers included a visit to senior Chinese Government officials by Kim Jong-Il; his first foreign trip in four years which, unlike the last time, was publicized during and not afterwards.

(Although he may have been reassuring Hu Jintao that, unlike the previous deal for use of the Rajin port which was renaged on, this time it is for real.)

Even though US/ROK joint Naval exercises have been announced, the DPRK has in the past consistently wriggled out of negative consequences for its revolting behaviour (distinct from negative consequences for Koreans north of the 38th). There are very few people in the world whose deaths I would actively welcome, but the death of Kim Jong-Il appears to be essential to solving this.

In other news – with Diner Number One’s taste for rabbits and, like Jabba the Hut, live fish – anyone up for elephant curry?

UPDATE 26 May Rather than kidnap ROK representatives at Kaesong Industrial Complex, the Pyongyang has expelled eight and announced its intention to shoot any loudspeakers installed to broadcast propaganda messages.

UPDATE 27 May Pyongyang has scrapped reciprocal arrangements and telephone hotline with Seoul to avoid accidental naval clashes, as joint US/ROK exercises continue.

Politically Motivated Campaign to Save Nairn Baths

25/05/2010

Since regionalization, one major shortcoming of Highland Council has been the Inverness-based outlook of many decisions and plans. I knew the Nairn Public Baths were a popular and well-established municipal service, so was surprised that they should be included in budgetary cuts.

In the fray stepped Liz Macdonald – SNP Councilor in Nairn, and first female Provost of the town – who vocally opposed plans whilst chairing a ward forum on the matter. As a result, her fellow Councilors in the ward – Labour, LbDem and Independent – accused her of politicizing the role of Provost and first requested her resignation, and then sacked her.

Councilors in the Landward Caithness ward have their own opinions on windfarms, but dutifully keep them quiet with respect to Council policy. So, I agree Macdonald risked compromising the non-partisan role of forum chairman, as she accepted when she offered her resignation from this position.

Yet, unless she was appearing in the garb of Provost, I have difficulty seeing in what way she compromised that civic role. The only conclusion I can make just now is that her fellow Councilors allowed their separate opinons of her to colour their judgment of her probity.

Which would have been a politicized decision.

It is All Within the Rules

21/05/2010

Whilst Nick Clegg was flying about Westminster, looking for which political Party to draw blood from, he was photograph’d returning to Conservative camp with an A4 sheet of negotiation points. Notably absent was issues of social policies; instead it focused on electoral reform and political reorganization which, a cynic might say, were highfalutin compared to continuing the social policies of the Labour which, amongst others, had reduced the increasing rate of child poverty pre 1997.

One bone of contention was “Short Money“. I scratched my head at this, even after it was clarified as the informal name for Financial Assistance to Opposition Parties; pushed for by the-then Leader of the House of Commons, Edward Short in 1974, following a proposal by Harold Wilson during his Queen’s Speech of that year.

Thus, Opposition Parties, without access to civil servants and other machinery of Government, would receive a handicap payment to permit them to conduct research and other Parliamentary work.

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Why Are Violent Glasgow Gangsters Romanticized?

19/05/2010

CROSS-POSTED AT HARRY’S PLACE.

The funeral procession for Kevin “Gerbil” Carroll is led by a horse-drawn carriage

FEARED gangland enforcer Kevin “Gerbil” Carroll was laid to rest yesterday – after mourners were told he had a “heart of gold”.

Any ideas?

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Sun prints an obituary to Stringer Bell praising his service to small businesses.

Nice Shoes Brother

15/05/2010

Must not get our tootsies cold.