View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Hogmanay in Stornoway

This year, the Hogmanay celebrations in Stornoway will be held in the town centre, with a massive street party. About 5,000 people are expected to flock to this big shindig - which will end at 11 pm on December 31st, 2011. The thing is that New Year’s Day 2012 is on a Sunday, and any partying extending beyond midnight would infringe the Sabbath. So, it was ordained that Hogmanay in Stornoway will end an hour before “the bells”.

I have the deepest respects for people’s religious convictions. I do not extend that to imposing said convictions on other people’s lives. If anyone feels that they should observe the Sabbath in a certain fashion, then they are at perfect liberty to do so. However, that should not mean that others should be forced to do the same.

There is another aspect to this question, which annuls the argument, put forward by the relevant authorities against extended the permit for the Stornoway Hogmanay do. Are the pubs closing at 11pm on December 31st? The answer to that is an emphatic no. You can get sozzled as much as you like well beyond midnight on Hogmanay. Again, a personal choice, with which I am fine as long as it does not impinge on other people. Unfortunately, we are all familiar with the results of over-indulgence in alcohol, whether it be anti-social behaviour or road traffic accidents, resulting in damage, injury or even death.

I find this discrepancy a case of breathtaking hypocrisy and double standards, and would call for an extension of the street party beyond midnight - or else have the pubs shut at 11pm.

No, I’m not holding my breath in expectation of that all to happen.

Sunday 11 December

Quite an acceptable day, with sunshine and distant showers. Although barometric pressure is falling slowly, down to 988 mbar at the moment, there are no major weather problems imminent. By the end of the week, we may see a repetition of the storm we had last Thursday.

My previous post was on the EU summit in Brussels on Friday, when the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, did not want any changes to EU treaties. These were designed to stabilise the euro currency, which is currently in jeopardy on account of huge debts of some of its member states. The UK does not use the euro, but half its trade is with the eurozone. Placing itself outside the club of 26 may have pleased the eurosceptics in Mr Cameron's Conservative Party, it hardly serves the interests of the United Kingdom. This should have been a non-partizan issue, but when Mr Cameron was answering questions in Parliament, there was a notable series of hesitations. Having given in to the eurosceptics in his own party will place the Tory/Lib Dem coalition under increasing strain. Outside Britain, it is seen as a move to safeguard the interests of the City of London and its investment bankers - a crooked bunch, as portrayed by the Dutch newspaper column. What many people in this country forget is that without the EU, the UK would be much worse off than at present. The double-tracking of the A859 Stornoway to Tarbert road would not have taken place, to mention but one little local example. David Cameron may well have turned the clock back 38 years last Friday.

The party of crooks and thieves - divisions London and Moscow

I am copying a translation of an article in the Dutch national daily newspaper De Volkskrant. Thomas von der Dunk has analysed the recent events in Brussels and Moscow, and drawn some disconcerting parallels. The text remains copyright Thomas von der Dunk. 

Under pressure, everything turns to liquid. This is now also applicable in Europe, and probably soon also for the Netherlands, where Dutch PM Rutte is now caught in a terrible dilemma. However, it was only agreed in Brussels Europe should be given more powers to call 'other' countries to order but of course not us.
Transfer of sovereignty is nominally out of the question, as the prohibition is chiselled in the marble of tolerance. Europe has only been handed the means to enforce things. Whether the latter is indeed the case, remains to be seen, but it's not one without the other.

Everything liquidises under pressure - which was long taboo in Brussels is now a fact: the British are outside on their own. Would they dare to remember that old joke in London "fog in channel, continent isolated?"

Who in any case almost was isolated, was Dutch PM Rutte, who had been so foolish to promise to Cameron to look after his interests. This is an old Dutch hobby: The Hague clears up after London’s dirt.

Even when our political caste, in naive overconfidence, held a referendum on the European Constitution in 2005, several British diplomats thanked Dutch Parliament and Government: "We are so glad, you did this for us', it saved Blair a very difficult discussion at home .

Ideological allies lost
The [Dutch Liberal Party] VVD has also lost a key ideological ally: the British share with the Dutch a traditionally rigid free trade ideology, for whom Europe is little more than a market to sell our cheap waterbomb tomatoes. As cheap as possible: that is the basis for the still half nineteenth century England class society, as low-wage country always negotiates opt outs on European social legislation.

Less averse to protection
Germany and France, which are more industrial nations, are much less averse to the principle of protectionism. They are much more averse to speculation. For the Germans consists of companies that manufacture substantive things and using them to make money, the City of London runs on people who make money with money, which quickly turns into a colossal swindle.

Sarkozy has already referred to investment bankers as thieves and swindlers. Westminster refuses to accept any European measure to restrict – it is quite correct for the other twenty-six to continue without Cameron. The scammers and thieves in the City responded to Cameron’s rigidity with understandable excitement. But Labour leader Ed Miliband, however much his party is equally implicated, noted that the importance of the UK, unlike that of the British bankers, was not served with Cameron's nyet was served. The Tories have revealed themselves these days as the party of scammers and thieves.

Russian elections stolen
Im Westen nichts Neues, at least not for those who in recent decades were not befuddled by neo-liberal droning, but instead paid attention. Moreover, neither was there anything new in the East. The "party of crooks and thieves" that has long been the legitimate nickname for the party United Russia of Vladimir Putin, Russia's wealth after the weekend now again stole the Russian elections.

New was only for the first time that we could know in detail, how it's done in practice. It is also entirely a coincidence that many Russian mafia billionaires with their capital, have sought refuge in the tax haven of England, isn’t it?

Until now, Putin even without manipulation probably still a majority of Russian voters arcs, Western journalists, who usually keen on dissidents, have always tended to underrate the desire for stability and safety in the gray majority in millions of country towns. Which is often more conservative, less "worldly" (in all senses of that word) than the average protester set, which we also see in Tunisia and Egypt.

Stained by turmoil and chaos
To the Russian electorate the notion of democracy has for years been tainted on account of the turmoil, chaos, poverty and international humiliation of the Yeltsin years. After the elections in the year 2000 Putin provided a fairly safe electoral base with his promise of "Dictatorship of Law'. It was inevitable that this was increasingly more dictatorship than law, causing rising discontent in a young generation. For Putin cannot fulfil his economic promises (in return for power) either.

Is another Russian revolution in the offing? Tens of thousands of Muscovites out of a population of ten million makes that a premature conclusion.