Title picture: Cloudscapes, Stornoway, 1 February 2017

Monday, 10 April 2017

13 years ago this week

By the end of this week, it will be thirteen years since I put that CD-ROM into my aging PC and proceeded to install the AOL software. A PCMCIA-card enabled the access to the phone network, and my dial-up connection was up and running. My computer was so old that it was only able to manage access to AOL chatrooms, not much else. AOL chatrooms were a bruising experience, partly as a result of it being a hotbed for right-wing extremism in England. I think I have one contact left from that time. Eighteen months later, I discovered AOL journals and its J-land community. That was lovely caring and sharing community, which only lasted another three years. AOL then closed it down, not even archiving the blogs - we had to transfer them to Blogger. Although I have 70 blog sites (mostly to do with local history in the Scottish islands), I rarely blog anymore. What J-landers are left on-line mostly communicate through Facebook. Not ideal either, lengthy posts like this are a pain, and no formatting. Nonetheless, J-land continues, with the trials of life and (as we saw yesterday) death of its members. I hope it carries on for a lot longer than the 5 years it had on AOHell.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Turk and the Czar - continued

This is an extension to a post I first wrote on The Shell Gallery blog 6 days ago. 

Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan. A dangerous mix, which puts Europe in mortal danger. On April 16th, the Turks will vote in a referendum to afford the Turkish presidents sweeping powers which would turn his presidency into an autocracy. Erdogan is pulling out all the stops to get the diaspora to vote as well, some 5 million strong. His ministers are travelling the length and breadth of Europe - and we saw what happened in Rotterdam. It was thoroughly disconcerting to see the mass of flag-waving Turks in the city, turning to rioting when their minister was sent away. And some militants claiming that the city of Rotterdam will soon be theirs.

It has been suggested that Erdogan wishes to reinstate the Caliphate, which ruled Turkey until 1924. He could just as easily wish to reinstate the Ottoman Empire, which (at one point) reached as far as Vienna in the 17th century. What does that remind you of?

Vladimir Putin. He wishes to reinstate the Russian Federation to within the borders of the old USSR, abolished in 1991. He also wishes to extend his sway to the whole of Europe, made easier by US president Donald Trump. He is not too bothered about Europe, and Putin knows that.

If Erdogan gets his new powers, he could just as easily foment trouble in the Turkish communities in Europe, setting off civil unrest if not worse. Erdogan could cancel the migrant deal, that has stopped the flow of migrants from Syria and other places across the Aegean Sea into Greece and the EU. Hundreds of thousands would come across, causing further instability in Europe. And, with Donald Trump not really minding what happens in Europe, Vladimir Putin could march in to restore stability on Russia's borders. In Ukraine. In Poland. In Germany. In Holland. In the United Kingdom, where Brexit will loosen the ties to continental Europe, where Sturgeon's Scotland seeks to secede.

Why does Putin have this chance, you may well ask. Because after the abortive coup in Ankara in July last year, Western leaders were very reluctant to congratulate him. The Dutch foreign ministerwas actually among the first to call his Turkish counterpart at the time. So, Putin saw his chance. It is often argued that Turkey has so much to lose in a conflict with Europe. Erdogan may calculate that he has more to gain through being Putin's puppet than through being in NATO or friendly with the EU.

There is one other angle on this. If there is conflict between Europe and Turkey, this also means a schism in the NATO alliance. Should this really come to pass, then Putin will have achieved his aims. We should be very worried - if Erdogan gets the majority of Turks to vote Evet. Yes.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Band of Bloggers

It is 8½ years since I started to blog in Atlantic Lines. I opened this journal to carry on after AOL pulled the plug on J-land. That was a community of bloggers, which tried to make a go of it here on Blogger, but ended up on Facebook.

One of their number, Sugar Lewis, has announced that she will close her Facebook account. Sugar has provided me with most of the tags on a memorial journal, commemorating those of us who passed away. Sugar, an ordained minister, has been battling ill health for a long time, and often shared the joys and woes of her furrs. She will now retire from the internet. Sugar, you will be missed.


Monday, 20 February 2017

Monday 20 February

I am travelling to Holland today, to spend some time with family. I hope to be able to return to Stornoway in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Wednesday 8 February

A brilliantly sunny day, but a keen southeasterly wind made it feel cold in exposed areas. Went on a walk to Lews Castle, and had another look inside.

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Brexit and Scexit - 9 February

Parliament in Westminster is approving the legislation that will enable Prime Minister Theresa May to commence the process for the UK to leave the EU. I find the utterances of the Scottish Government on this issue totally irrelevant. Foreign Affairs and Trade are matters that are not devolved to Holyrood (the Scottish Government), and Brexit can therefore not be halted by the devolved administrations. I would expect them to be consulted, but a special deal for Scotland is simply not on the cards. Scotland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. The "threat" to organise another independence referendum is slightly hollow, as such a referendum has first to be sanctioned by (you guessed it) the UK government.

I just wished the Scottish Government devoted its considerable energies to addressing those problems in Scotland for which they have the powers to address. Banging on about independence is getting very, very tiring.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Trump - 6 February

Since President Trump came into office, just over two weeks ago, his decree on immigration has stirred up a storm of controversy. In my postings on Facebook, I have attempted to formulate a balanced opinion on this issue. That is proving to be difficult, particularly with the strong emotions at play, emotions which resound here in Europe. In a BBC report this morning regarding the on-going battle between the President and his judiciary, one line stood out.
Public opinion on this issue is sharply divided
When a controversial figure like Trump becomes popular and gets voted into office, the first question to be answered is WHY. It almost always signals that there is an issue in society which the previous administration has failed to deal with adequately, or that a large section of society feels is not being dealt with properly. Immigration has become such an issue, and not just in America, by the way.

The illegal immigration from Latin America is something that Trump thinks he can stop in its tracks by building a wall along the Mexican border. That, many people feel, would be a way of dealing with that problem. Legitimising the many 'latinos' in the USA is not held as acceptable, and there is a lot of irritation in the USA, as I understand it, about the multi-lingual options on government phonelines.

The second aspect of immigration is intermingled with the Muslim contingent of migrants or refugees (lumped together in one category by many). Since the 9/11 attacks on the WTC in New York, there has been a lot of hostility against Muslims in the USA - and this is what I mean by high emotions - and not just in the USA. Every time there is another terrorist attack, claimed by people who say (!) they're Muslims, the flames of hostility are fanned. Trump's edict against immigration from certain Muslim countries is designed to allay those fears.

The president feels that his loud protestations that he is acting in the best interests of national security justify all means and methods. The judiciary see fit to disagree.