Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Common Good Land

Andy Wightman reports today on what will hopefully be a game-changer in the saga of Aberdeen's Union Terrace Gardens, where the city council is trying its hardest to turn a venerable green space; the city's green heart and lungs, into another dull modernist blank - or as they are so pleased to call it, a "granite web" - against the stated wishes of a majority of Aberdonians.

The Friends of Union Terrace Gardens explains that: "Aberdeen City Council and an un-elected quango, ACSEF, want to pass ownership of the gardens to a private company and replace them with a large concrete structure. "

"ACSEF alone has cost over half a million pounds of public money so far, despite claiming to be funded by both the public and private sector."

But these expensively mis-laid plans may now crumble as they run smack bang into a legal obstacle which they cannot trample rough-shod. As the report (PDF) makes clear:

"If any part of Union Terrace Gardens ceases to be a recreational park dedicated to public use and/or it is disposed of by way of a lease or sale to a third party, then, as part of the City’s common good, Aberdeen City Council will require the consent of the courts. This will involve the Council raising a petition in either the Sheriff Court or the Court of Session. In the paper presented to the Council in October 2010, a timetable is presented for the development of the City Garden Project. Nowhere in this timetable is there provision for presentation of a petition to the courts for approval to dispose of common good land. This may be because the Council do not consider this necessary or because they are, as yet, unaware of the necessity of doing so ..."


NB., as clarified to the Scottish Parliament on 17 November 2006, "The Common Good originated as revenues from properties belonging to the early Burghs of Scotland. The Common Good, as these revenues were then termed, is of great antiquity and there is no equivalent in English local government although the term remains current in Scotland. Essentially, the Common Good denoted all property of a Burgh not acquired under statutory powers or held under special trusts."

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Backchatting the Gnu Atheists

Listen to my mum and you might think that religion is to blame for everything from world wars to cold calling. She's a paid up member of the Dawkins Tendancy, the affectionately-titled Gnu Atheists. But every now and then some fellow unbeliever finds the guts to say "but hang on ... you're scientists ... er ... where's your evidence ...?"

Prof Jim Woodward is one of those brave souls, and here he is (from John Wilkins' Evolving Thoughts blog). Good on ya Prof.

Seeing this reminded me of the brilliant Dick to the Dawk video, seen here from back in 2008, and which had a better reception, by and large, probably because it was ambiguous and demanded no answers - unlike this young lady, who really ruffled scientific male feathers.

And it has a tiny sequel, here.

Friday, 13 January 2012


The libratory Fidesz party has stirred ConHome readers - usually so Atlantic Bridgable - to a fervour of second campism; seeing the machinations of the EU, and for some, the EU's hidden puppet-masters in the US (wrong hymn-sheet shurely?) behind recent attacks on Orban's new constitution.

D.Singh comments: "So all the shouting in the international media boils down to this. The banking powers that collaborate with the World Bank and the IMF are worried about Hungarian Premier Orbán's refusal to bow to them and his aim to strengthen his country's economy, give people work, build up their shattered self-confidence and finally bring some modicum of justice to a people murdered, tortured and crushed under Communism ..."

Scenario familiar at all, you know, in recent European history? A humiliated population, economic chaos, secretive banking powers, high unemployment, fear of Communism ...

"The demonstrators you see on the news are former communists who fear prosecution for torturing and murdering people"

To which Fourth Republic replies:  "Really? Unlike you, I was present at the demonstration the day Orban celebrated his new constitution. I, like many there, wasn't even born in 1989. It is therefore highly unlikely that I am a "former communist", much less someone fearing "prosecution for torturing and murdering people'."

"I guess many of you reading this are anti-EU, fair enough. But our situation is different to yours. Imagine a Labour regime pledging to greatly restrict your media freedom, your economic freedom (I notice the writer of this piece omitted Orban's nationalisation of the private pension system) and finally judicial independence (the constitutional court is now full of his placemen)."

"You'd stand by and let it happen?"

Near on half of Hungary's working age population has no work. "By the time the financial crisis began, two-thirds of mortgage loans in Hungary were denominated in Swiss francs" (of all things!) and now the whole economy is cracking up.

But what are Fidesz' priorities?

Getting control over as many areas of how people live their lives as possible, including forcing women to have babies they can't look after, and cutting down on freedom of belief. The Wild Hunt has more information on that, see here. BTL Eric Scott portrays a dire view:

"The damning thing about all this is that their new constitution, if I understand it rightly, requires essentially every vote in the future to pass with a super-majority, from ratifying a new constitution to appointing a judge. Even if the populace puts the Socialists back into power next time, unless they also give them a super-majority - unlikely, to say the least - it will be impossible for the Socialists to do anything to fix the problems Fidesz has created. The bureaucracy will remain staffed by Fidesz operatives, which means that even if the Socialists are "in power," on the day to day level, Fidesz will still be running the country."

"And Fidesz didn't campaign on any of this, of course. They were elected over the Socialists because of the bad state of the economy. [And this despite the fact that Fidesz were in power during some of the time that the ground was laid for the current mess.] The idea of radically overturning the entire social order of the state was never mentioned... Until they had their supermajority, and could safely ignore the people who had elected them..."

Same old same old.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

2012 Memento Mori

As the drip drip drip of gooey but insincere hagiography and self-congratulation bursts into the deluge of Olympic Jubilee year 2012, who will hear the whisper of the slave?

For one thing, this year is celebrated the bicentenary of Charles Dickens, a national character who is sufficiently symbolic to have been portrayed on the £10 bank note. Yet look a little more closely into the man and the symbol starts to look all too reflective of what is a truly nasty, concealed reality.

The Amazon blurb for Claire Tomalin's new biography cheerfully admits that "the brilliance concealed a divided character: a republican, he disliked America; sentimental about the family in his writings, he took up passionately with a young actress; usually generous, he cut off his impecunious children."

But those are just minor blemishes. Looming behind these infidelities and hypocrisies is a far more hideous aspect to the great Victorian era:

"Despite his vivid evocations of cruelty and harshness in Victorian London, Charles Dickens was a defender of the infamous Jamaican Governor Eyre who had violently suppressed a revolt by freed slaves in Morant Bay. In 1865 a group of farmers from Morant Bay, Jamaica rebelled against the harsh colonial conditions on the island. Governor Eyre responded with a campaign of ruthless violence that lasted 30 days. Troops killed over 400 people, including children and pregnant women, at least 600 people were flogged [often with piano wire] and over 1000 homes were burned. The event divided British politics and marked a pivotal moment in the violent racism that continued in the post-abolition period. John Stuart Mill led the Jamaica Committee that, supported by Charles Darwin among others, demanded Eyre's trial for murder. Dickens, along with Thomas Carlyle, Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin, supported the Eyre Defence Committee that aimed to raise £10,000 for the Governor's legal expenses. They were successful and Eyre was acquitted, because, it was said, his crime involved 'only negro blood'." National Portrait Gallery website.

These beliefs lurk under Dickens' world like Smeagol's cave. Take Mrs Jellaby, for example. You may well agree that her "telescopic philanthropy"; caring more for those far away while neglecting her own family is wrong, yet to uncover the original motivation behind Dickens' portrayal of Mrs Jellaby is deeply disturbing in that it puts a whole different perspective on it.

In his book 'How the Dismal Science Got Its Name: Classical Economics and the Ur-Text of Racial Politics',  David M Levy investigates the British Imperial race supremacist discourse in great depth, and amongst other details, tells us that "Carlyle found some surprising allies in his attack on those who invoked brotherhood to attack slavery. These included Charles Dickens. In a chapter of Bleak House titled "Telescopic Philanthropy" Dickens ridicules a Mrs. Jellaby who neglects her family for the good of Africans in "Borrio-boola-Gha." On the cover of the serial version of Bleak House, we see Mrs. Jellaby holding two black children. And beside her is a sign reading 'Exeter Hall' ... moral centre of the British anti-slave movement ..."

Whatever celebrations may come and go, let us humbly remind ourselves that civilisations are born and grow, yet however mighty they become, and by whatever means, they gradually senesce and eventually die.

But as for authors, however noble a man John Stuart Mill may have been, yet to my mind never so engaging a creator as his adversary.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The War on Reason

The world is not worthy of words
they have been suffocated from the inside
as they suffocated you, as they tore apart your lungs...

Javier Sicilia

High Concept - Warfare Against the World - Based on Lies

Before the War on Terror we were shown a few pilots. Sure enough, the “War on Drugs” is still running 40 years on;  making fantastic profits for a few, but destroying the lives of millions of others and ransacking whole countries.  

In NAFTA member Mexico "The five-year conflict has not had a significant impact on the quantity of drugs sold by the cartels. This fiscal year, the amount of drugs coming from Mexico seized by US border agents increased by 48 percent. But the war has come at a terrible price to Mexicans, killing more than 45,000, displacing 230,000 and exposing the state's corruption and inability to protect its citizens."

6630507 - the Number of the Fleeced

US patent no. 6630507 "states unequivocally that cannabinoids are useful in the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of diseases including auto-immune disorders, stroke, trauma, Parkinson's, Alzeheimer's and HIV dementia. The patent, awarded in 2003, is based on research done by the National Institute of Health, and is assigned to the US Dept. of Health and Human Services."

"So, why is this important? Here is a legal document, in the public domain, which flies in the face of the US Government's stated position with regard to the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance having no "currently accepted medical use" ..."

Oh what a lot of cleaning up!