MARK FRANKLAND

I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

THE WORLD BEHIND THE LOOKING GLASS WHERE SPENDING $16 MILLION TO KILL 36 ISIS BAD GUYS SEEMS LIKE A CRAZY WASTE OF MONEY.

A couple of days ago the leader of the free world decided the time was right to make good on one of his key campaign promises, namely to 'bomb the shit out of ISIS'

Well, he sure came through. Go Donald!

So exactly how much shit did he manage to remove care of his MOAB strike? Well one thing is for sure, it was an almighty big bomb. It was in fact the biggest bomb dropped by anyone since 9 August 1945 when Harry Truman dropped his 'Fat Man' atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Put another way, last week the Donald dropped the third biggest bomb in history.

I guess the main motivation for his MOAB strike was to rubber stamp the decision of all of those retired coal miners and steel workers to put a John Wayne style tough guy into the Oval office. No more pussy footing around. No more Mr Nice Guy.

The great thing with ordering up the third biggest human made bang in history is just how easy it is to do. You just give the nod to the four star guys and hey presto the job is done. You get your Cillit Bang moment in front of the cameras. Bang and the bad guys are gone!

It is a much easier promise to keep than all of those other pesky promises. You know the ones, building a wall and repealing Obamacare and locking up Hilary and banning Muslims. Poor old Donald has discovered the hard way just how many things are easier said than done. 

So, when all else fails, drop a big bomb. 

Finally he got the chance to bask in the glory of the cameras. He could barely hold back the tears as he pronounced just how proud he was of his wonderful military. And why shouldn't he be? They flew a plane through skies devoid of any enemy aircraft and hit the 'Drop' button when the onboard computer told them to hit the 'Drop' button. What's there not to be proud of? This wasn't some piece of cake walk in the park like Iwo Jima or Khe Sahn.

Then he fixed on a determined grin of satisfaction at what had been 'another successful event'. Well of course it was. He had sent 36 Isis bad guys into the next world.

Well. Allegedly.

Fair enough, as corpses go these were certainly at the top end of the market in terms of cost. $444,444 per dead guy is a tad on the steep side, but this was about more than money. It was something for all the diehards from West Virginia to the shores of Lake Michigan. A chance to yank a beer from the fridge and raise a toast to their guy. Way to go Donald. Way to go.

Was it really another 'successful event' ? Was it a tried and trusted way of clearing bad guys out of a deeply buried tunnel complex? Well, sadly there might be a couple of problems on this front.

No army in the world has more experience of dealing with bad guys in deep tunnels than the Americans. For ten years they tried everything under the sun to find a way to win their underground war against the Viet Cong.

Most particularly, to find a way to clear out the tunnels at Cu Chi. This huge sprawling rabbit warren was to be found in the so called 'Iron Triangle'. Twice the Americans threw the kitchen sink at the Cu Chi tunnels. In January 1966 they launched Operation Crimp. Wave after wave of B52 bombers dropped thousands of tonnes of bombs and 800 soldiers tried for weeks on end flush out the VC.

They got precisely nowhere.

Well, if at first you don't succeed....

In 1967 General Westmorland launched Operation Cedar Falls which was the kitchen sink and then some. There was more carpet bombing. There were great columns of bulldozers. They pumped in hundreds of thousands of litres of noxious chemicals. They pumped in hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of poison gas. Oh, and this time they sent in 30,000 troops.

And once again they got absolutely nowhere.

In the end they found the solution. It was an old school, low tech solution. They gathered together a bunch of the bravest men imaginable who volunteered to become the 'Tunnel Rats'. These guys went down armed with nothing more than a torch, a knife and a revolver and they cleared the tunnels one by one.

Up close and personal.

If Donald had been serious about actually clearing the ISIS tunnels, this would have been the only way to actually do it. Ask for volunteers and send them in. And it would have taken many weeks. And it would have been utterly brutal. And there would have been a lot of coffins landing Stateside wrapped in the Stars and Stripes. And of course everyone would have wondered if such a painful cost was really worth it. And maybe all of those good old boys in Ohio and Michigan might have got to wondering if their guy was actually any good at all.

But of course Donald wasn't much bothered about a few ISIS guys making like cavemen. What he craved was a good news day. Some attention. A pat on the back. He wanted to feel like one of those Presidents in the movies. Firm chin. Determined eyes. He was clearly tired of being painted as a draft dodging neurotic basket case wearing way too much make up. Those Holywood Presidents don't have any problems handling stairs and germs and the creepy crawlies at Camp David. He just wanted to be like the movie guys, right? I mean come on, give the man a break.

As I was splitting wood yesterday afternoon, I got to thinking about the cost of Donald's showboating. According to Twitter the third biggest bomb in history had cost $314 million. Surely not. I mean, high tech weapons are expensive, but $314 million seemed bloody ridiculous. A few minutes on Google proved my instincts to be correct. The whole MOAB programme had cost the American tax payer $314 and the bang they got for their buck was 20 bombs. Which when you think about it is a pretty serious amount of bang.

So the actual cost of the bomb was about $16 million. Then there was the fuel and the wages and the guys to write the press releases..

Is $16 million a lot for the biggest economy in the world? We have so many huge numbers thrown at us it gets hard to know what actually is a lot of money and what isn't.

Maybe the best thing to do is to take a trip through the looking glass to a place where there is sanity.

Cue the through the looking glass Donald stepping to the lectern to make an announcement to his people. He tells them about a bunch of ISIS bad guys in some Afghan caves. He explains the best thing to do is to drop the third biggest bomb in history on their heads and hope for the best. So will it work, my fellow Americans? Sadly, it probably won't. You see, we've been here before. In Vietnam. In Cu Chi. We bombed the shit out of Charlie's tunnels and barely gave him a headache.

So here's the thing.

If I am going to spend $16 million of your tax dollars to deliver the world a message about America, maybe I might have a few better options. Check out these numbers guys. And remember, these are your tax dollars I'm looking to spend here.

To fully inoculate a new born baby in Africa costs 40 bucks. So for $16 million we can immunise 400,000 babies.

Big number, right?

It costs a hundred bucks to cure someone of Aids. So instead of bombing the shit out of ISIS today, I could sign off on saving 160,000 people the trouble of dying from HIV.

So, OK. Another big number.

Or maybe we can take a look at the whole issue of fresh water. It costs $8000 to dig a well in a place where there is no fresh water. On average each of these new wells caters for 2000 people. So let's go. $16 million is enough to dig 2000 wells which will provide four million people with fresh water.

Now guys, that is a HUGE number.

So here's the thing. Y'all know I'm a Twitter guy. Go to my handle and each of these options is available on my online poll. It's your money so you can choose. Let me take you through it one more time. You can have 400,000 immunised babies, 160,000 cured of Aids or 4 million drinking fresh water.

Your call. Give me the nod and I'll get it done. I figure it's time for the rest of the world to see us in a better light. Like they used to, right? We've probably bombed the shit out of enough people already. And if we're honest about it, it really hasn't got us very far. So maybe its time to spend the cash smarter?

I mean, come on guys. As a businessman I really can't sign off killing bad guys at $444,444 a pop.

Cue exit Donald and the press corps looking on with gaping mouths.

But of course this is the kind of thing which could only ever happen beyond the looking glass. Isn't it strange how completely insane it seems when we take a moment to consider sane options?

Like my fellow Scouser John Lennon once said .....

Imagine....

Thursday, April 13, 2017

AN UPDATE ON THE RECENT FIRST BASE FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGNS


It's April now which means The First Base Agency has stepped into our fourteenth year. The beginning of a new year is always a good time to sit back for a moment to do some reflecting. Pretty Zen, right? Well, being here at all is no mean feat. The years since the financial crash have been particularly cruel for the voluntary sector. Many small charities have gone the same way as any number of High Street shops. When I look back all the way to 2003 when we first opened our doors, it is sobering indeed to see just how many small charities have folded. Being alive and kicking is something to celebrate I guess, though there seems little sign of life getting much easier.

If you have received the link to this blog via an e mail, it is more than likely you are one of the many people who supported one of our online fundraising campaigns in the last year. I think updates are in order.

We launched our first campaign in the autumn and it was very much a frantic plea for help. When I hit the 'Publish' button and sent our virtual begging letter out into the world, The First Base Agency was set on a course to completely crash and burn in January. Well, the every existence of this blog shows we managed to make it. The Just Giving page raised just over £13500 whilst a further £7000 came in separately. It means we will see another 100 emergency food parcels head out of the door this week. And next week. And the week after.

And then?

Next winter feels ominous. Thus far the devaluation of the pound since the Brexit vote has been contained. But not for long. The big supermarkets can only stamp their feet and screw their suppliers for so long. In the end Maggie Thatcher's great truism will once again be proved right: you can't buck the markets. A weaker currency means dearer food. And if you live in a country where 60% of all food is imported, a weaker currency means much dearer food.

So what does this mean in practice? Let's say a guy on the dole gets by on keeping body and soul together on £4 a day's worth of groceries. £28 a week, right? By next winter his food bill will be up by 15% - £4.40 a week. So £4.40 doesn't seem so very much if you are gainfully employed and pulling in a reasonable salary. But if you are getting by of £60 a week or so of dole money, £4.40 is a big deal. It means you lose 15% of your disposable income. Seven days of food costs the same as eight days of food. It is all part of the seemingly endless drip, drip of constant poverty. It is just another push in the back in the direction of the cliff edge. It means we will more than likely to be busier than ever.

How are things looking for First Base now? Not bad as things stand. We have several funding applications pending and we are optimistic one or two might come good. If things go to plan, there will be no need for us to be once again holding a frantic begging bowl come the Autumn. Here's hoping....

This was our 'HELP!!!!!!' page


In December we launched our second funding campaign. This time the goal was to raise enough money to provide some heat and light to a client who had been sanctioned for three months and was facing 90 days of cold and dark. We changed his name to Donald and wondered if there were 80 people willing to chip in a couple of quid each.

We crossed our fingers for £160.

We received almost £8000.

Wow.

To say the response knocked us into next week would be a pretty major understatement. Obviously we were able to get Donald sorted out and then we established the 'Donald Fund'. This is now available to anyone in our area who has either had their benefits sanctioned or have been left completely penniless as a result of some kind of paperwork cock up. Once a client is sent along to us by Citizens Advice, we check out their paperwork to make sure they meet the criteria of the Donald Fund. If a person is looking down the barrel of a 30 day benefit sanction, we will pay £3.50 a day - £105 - onto the meter. And before you ask, no we don't hand over any cash. We go along with the client to a paypoint and thereby we make sure every penny goes exactly where it is supposed to go.

In the first four months of the Donald Fund we have helped out 27 individuals and families to the tune of £1427 – an average of £357 a month. One very ill lady comes to mind as an example of how the Donald Fund can make like the 7th Cavalry. She was in her seventies and her health was dire. An admin cock up meant her benefit payments had dried up for two weeks and all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't do a thing about it. When I arrived at her house I found her wearing three coats and a woolly hat. She was camped out in the living room under every blanket she owned. The night before had seen the temperature fall to minus five. I guess the DWP would have said it was only a couple of weeks for goodness sake. Well two weeks can be an awfully long time when you are old and ill. 

She was absolutely adamant £20 would be more than enough. I did my level best to argue otherwise but she was having none of it. I'll tell you what, she might have been quite old and very ill but she could still put her foot down. So twenty quid it was! She promised to call if there were any more delays.

There was no call. £20 was enough to see her through. Without the £20 of warmth care of the Donald Fund, the only solution would have been an ambulance and a week in hospital. Utter madness, but there is little sanity to be found in the Government's austerity programme.

Hopefully as every month rolls by we are proving the Donald Fund is an efficient way to meet moments of genuine crisis. Our hope is to make applications to various sources of funding to keep topping the fund up. Hopefully we will be successful in this. I will keep you posted.

The page


Our next appeal was to try and save a lovely Nigerian family from being thrown out onto the streets in the weeks before Christmas. Once again we changed their names, this time to Florence, the mum, Abigail, her 19 year old daughter and Thomas, her 10 year old son. Our goal was to collect enough cash to cover their rent for three months and once again the response of the public was truly amazing.

We generated enough to keep a roof over the family's heads for a year. So how are things looking now? Cautiously optimistic. The up front fees for the family to apply for 'leave to remain' in the UK are horrendous. £3000, Which of course might as well be £300,000 for a family who receive no benefits and are not allowed to do any paid work. Luckily they have been able to apply for a fee waiver so long as they can prove they are absolutely destitute. We had to write a letter on their behalf confirming we were keeping the family in food and power as well as covering the rent. However the £3000 was not the only problem. They also had to pay a non negotiable £500 each NHS fee. Luckily we had enough in the pot to cover this for them.

Florence showed me the form they had filled in for the 'destitution' waver of the £3000 application fees. At the top of the form were the letters ECHR. As in European Convention on Human Rights. As in the very thing Winston Churchill put in place as the smoke of the Second World War cleared. As in the thing the Brexiteers just can't wait to scrap as soon as they can. It looks like Florence and her family might just be in the nick of time. Without the protection of ECHR, they would not have stood a chance. I guess they would have already had a three o clock in the morning wake up call from a bunch of Home Office goons. Right now they would be locked away in a detention centre waiting to be deported.

And the rent? Well we have fingers crossed. The Home Office is hardly a well oiled machine right now. Any number of EU citizens are frantically applying for permanent 'leave to remain' in the UK which is stretching the system to breaking point. If every EU citizen currently living here were to make an application, it would take the Home Office 142 years to clear the backlog. This basically means the fate of this lovely family still hangs in the balance. There seems little doubt they will indeed be granted leave to remain under the rules as they stand. Basically Thomas was born here and he has been here for over seven years. As a ten year old, the ECHR guarantees his right to have a mother in his life which means the Home Office is not allowed to deport Florence. At some point Thomas will have the opportunity to ask a judge if can also have his sister Abigail in his life and we can only hope the judge acts like a decent human being and grants his wish.

Abigail is doing all she can to put together a portfolio to prove she is a worthy member of the community. The fact she has a place at university waiting for her to train to become a midwife is not guaranteed to be enough. She is now one of our volunteers and she spends a day a week with us. She also helps out our local MSP Joan McAlpine on Thursday afternoons. She has also more or less completed her training to become a Citizens Advice adviser. Surely even the most ardent Brexiteer would grudgingly admit this is a young lady who has what it takes to be a thoroughly worthy citizen. Then again....!

The page


Our last fundraiser was for Clark's Little Ark, an animal sanctuary up in the old coal mining village of Sanquhar. A couple of weeks ago we were able to present them with a cheque for £2000 which will be enough to keep the animals fed for another 12 months. One or two people have wondered why on earth we have been raising cash for an animal sanctuary. The answer is pretty simple. Clark's Little Ark is every bit as much a sanctuary for people as it is for animals. Struggling families get the chance to give the kids a free day out. Support workers have a place to take clients with disabilities or learning difficulties. Young tearaways can leave the classroom for a while to drain away their anger. Local 'dafties' get to serve out their community service hours doing something which makes them feel like worthwhile human beings.


Clark's Little Ark issue 200 of our food parcels a year. For First Base, they are the perfect satellite collection point. Nobody gets judged. Nobody is made to feel uneasy. Nobody is gossiped about.

It has been a great pleasure to have been able to help them out. Thankfully our fundraiser generated a reasonable amount of local publicity and with a following wind things look promising for the future.

If you are one of the hundreds of people out there who supported one or more of our recent fundraising efforts, I hope you are pleased to see your generosity has made a genuine difference. First Base is still alive and kicking. Every week people at rock bottom get their lights switched back on. Florence and her family are sleeping in a bedroom, not a doorway and the animals at Clark's Little Ark will continue to be fed and watered for the foreseeable future. Not a single penny has been spent on on a fancy head office with the right kind of London postcode and the paint continues to flake off our walls.


Once again, thanks for your support. We will continue to strive to be worth it.    

Friday, April 7, 2017

THE HIDEOUS ANTICS OF THE TABLOID PRESS MIGHT WELL DELIVER OUR INDEPENDENCE ON A PLATE.

This has felt like a real game changing week for the cause of Scottish Independence. At long last we seem to be getting onto the ground we need to be on. I remember clearly giving talk after talk back in 2014 where I tried to sell the idea of 'Brand Scotland'. How we need to pay attention to what the rest of the world thinks of us. How we need to sell what we have to offer with all the vibrant enthusiasm of a Mumbai street hawker. How we need to stop being constantly obsessed by the way those south of the border are looking at us. At our aspirations. I can't say my message always played all that well!

Well here's how I see it.

Every time some second rate hack steals a minute or two of limelight to sneer and mock the very idea of an independent Scotland, we allow our hackles to rise up. Smug right wingers like Julia Hartley Brewer or Katie Hopkins are presented as having some kind of huge influence on events and we duly react as if they actually have a degree of importance.

Well, they haven't.

They barely deserve to be classified as bit part players. At some stage we were always about to wake up to this tawdry reality. These are low grade click bait who are paid to pander to the worst instincts of retired people in Slough who are spitting angry about a Sikh family moving in three doors down.

I guess as a white settler who headed north to Scotland to escape the growing race hate in my home town of Blackburn, I tend to see what is going down in England more clearly than some of my fellow YES travelers. The poison has been there for years. The Brexit vote was merely the pin which popped the balloon and allowed it to seep out into the light. For many years the tabloid press has been patiently stirring this toxic pot whilst slowly but surely bringing it to boiling point.

There has been a clear agenda for the last few decades as London has been sucking the blood of the rest of the country. Every year 49,999,000 English people get a little bit poorer whilst a thousand or so of the gilded rich sail off into their British Virgin Island sunsets. The big worry of the one percent has always been that this monumental act of larceny might become a thing with the the 49,999,000 who are being so royally screwed over. So the tabloid editors who have been tasked to find a way to get the public to look in the opposite direction to the scene of the crime have always been on the look out for new and different people to blame. We all know the list. The miners, the Scousers, the IRA, benefits claimants, immigrants, Islamic nutters, the EU and now, of course, the pesky Scots.

There is no escaping the fact that this nasty undertaking has by and large gone pretty well. After all, me and my fellow Liverpool fans were successfully blamed for something we didn't do for almost thirty years as a result of our being branded as part of the 'enemy within'.

I recall an extraordinary stat from the 2014 campaign which demonstrated the breathtaking reality of the UK's 'London First' policy. The average spend on transport per head of population in London in 2013 was over £3000. In the North East of England it was £40. The Geordies really should have been marching south with their pitch forks. Instead they allowed themselves to be brain washed into blaming foreigners for the abject poverty of their region. The extent of the brain washing only became apparent on June 23rd when the North East proved to be very much at the top of the xenophobia charts.

Job done.

We Scots have been up to much the same thing for the last couple of decades. We blame London, not foreign people, for most of our ills. The big difference is that we are absolutely right to do so! Potholes on the roads of Hartlepool have nothing whatsoever to do with Polish nurses. The fact that the income from Scottish oil was used to build the M25 DID have absolutely everything to do with London. It was London's motorway. It was London's call.

Because we have rightly looked to London not foreigners as the main reason for many of the things wrong with our country, we have turned into a much nicer place. We haven't been duped into blaming the blameless. Nobody up here blames immigrants for so many people needing foodbanks. Instead we blame the Department of Work and Pensions. As in the very people who have actually caused so many among us to need a foodbank for their daily bread. Polish nurses have never taken the food from anybody's table. Well, I'm pretty sure they haven't.

In a nutshell, up here we see the real perpetrators. We see who they are and where they are. We have not been deflected. As a result we have become a better place to be. It is no accident UKIP can't get a toe hold up here. Or the BNP. Those charged with keeping the grubby secrets of the super rich have known this for years. The Daily Mail never runs the same headlines up here as they do in their English editions. They know there is little appetite for racist poison north of Gretna Green. Instead they focus on being cheerleaders for Ruth Davidson.

In 2014 it seemed to me we should have spent more time shouting from the rooftops about how every different we are from our southern neighbours. I understand why we didn't. We instinctively realised any criticism of England would soon be spun into us being mouth-frothing IRA style separatists. Fair enough. I get it.

Brexit has taken away any need for such roof top shouting. The rest of the world is waking up to the clear difference between England and Scotland. The rest of the world is very much aware of the extent to which we have become chalk and cheese. Which brings me to the collection of events of the last week.

A big one for me was the news that several mainstream Polish newspapers encouraged their countrymen in England to up sticks and head north to Scotland. Why? Because it is a nicer and safer place for them to be. And the papers didn't just encourage them to migrate north. They went further. They encouraged their fellow Poles to claim their right to vote in Indyref 2 and to do their bit to launch an independent Scotland out into the world.

Then there was the German MEP who is known to be a close ally of Angela Merkel going out of his way to say any Scottish application for EU membership would be fast tracked.

Then there was the Spanish Foreign Minister who for the first time went out of his way to go very public about Spain having no intention whatsoever of vetoing any Scottish EU application.

Then there was Nicola's smooth American tour played out to packed out rooms. Smiling faces and optimistic thoughts all round. It would have been a good look at any time. The fact she was doing her upbeat stuff in the States at the very same time as Theresa May was peddling yet more bombs to the Saudi royal family only made the gulf between London and Edinburgh seem all the wider.

And all the while the tabloids were screaming like spoilt kids, mainly about how Britain can give Spain a proper kicking whenever we like. You want a say on the future of Gibraltar? Oh really. Tell you what Pedro. Try this one on for size. Let us quote you some wise words from the good old boys of Millwall football club – come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.

Get in!!!

EN – GER – LAND!! EN – GER – LAND!!! EN – GER – LAND!!!

Bunch of garlic munching toss pots....

Look. We've got Michael Caine. Who've you got you sad bastards? Manuel from Fawlty Towers?

Andrew Mitchell, Cameron's overseas aid wallah returned home from a visit to Yemen with a few troubling questions. He had been to a school bombed flat by the Saudi air force. The British tax payer had stumped up hundreds of thousands of pounds to build the school. Then the British government had trousered hundreds of thousands of pounds for the not so smart bombs the House of Faud used to send the school back into the stone age. Andrew asked where was the sense in any of this? All our gallant PM wanted to talk about was Easter eggs.

Oh, and old school blue passports.

Our tabloids enthusiastically followed Ruth Davidson's lead and started to spit feathers about Nicola ignoring her 'day job' and flying the Saltire across the Pond to America. Maybe she should have hawked a few smart bombs. Go on Nicola. Go and get yourself a proper day job. You don't go to foreign countries to make nice. You go to foreign countries to sell top dollar military hardware. Capiche?

And at the very same time Liam Fox heroically flew the flag for each and every one of his fellow proud Brits in the Philippines. He did the regulation beaming photo call with their psychotic President and gushed on about how we share so many values. Like executing drug addicts? Really Liam?

The good news is the the rest of the world is noticing all of this. Slowly but surely more and more people from all corners of the planet are taking the opportunity to make nice about Scotland. They are beginning to see us as a beacon of hope in the darkening world of Trump and Putin. We might not be all set to become the next shining city on the hill, but I reckon we can aspire to be a shining village. Brand Scotland has never enjoyed such widespread recognition. And acclimation.

Nobody beyond our shores has the slightest interest in what the likes of Ruth Davidson or Katie Hopkins have to say about anything. They couldn't care less. Instead we are seen as a brave little country determined not to be dragged down into the xenophobic swamp by our big bully neighbour.

And they like it.

We need to live up to their expectations and stop listening to anything the Unionists have to say. It is time to act like a people who know our time is coming and the 300 year long era of 'London First' is all but done.

As the support of the world swings behind us, the petulant ranting and raving of the dummy spitting right wing press will seem ever more pathetic. If you doubt this, just take another look at the cartoon at the top of this blog. Unlike the image below, the cartoon from the top of this blog was not from the 1930's. It was from the last week.

It really was.

The Mail printed the cartoon because they seriously believed lots of their English readers would like it. Find it funny. Make their Cornflakes taste just that little bit better. Oh how priceless! Look at this Harriot! Those jolly chaps at the Mail are comparing refugees fleeing for their lives to monkeys. Bloody classic.....

They print this filth to sell papers. Just like they accused me and my fellow Liverpool fans of urinating on the dead to sell papers.

It saddens me to see the likes of Nigel Farage are leading England down such a dark path. Every day I thank my lucky stars to have got out of Dodge in time. What appears on the front pages of the British press does not go unnoticed abroad. The fact that our second best selling rag compared boat people to monkeys won't have gone unnoticed.

Thankfully most of the world now sees very clearly this is an English thing. Thankfully they now see just how different we are to our Southern neighbours.

Thankfully the rest of the world is more and more on our side with every passing week. And that is a really, really big deal.


When I bang on about Brand Scotland next time around, something tells me everyone in the room will get it.   

This WAS the Daily Mail in the 1930's. Oh for the good old days!


Monday, April 3, 2017

WE'VE ASKED NICELY FOR INDYREF 2 AND LONDON HAS SAID 'NO'. LOOKS LIKE IT'S TIME TO UP THE ANTE

Image result for gandhi salt march
So here we are. We have had our vote in our very own Parliament and we've won it by 69 to 59. We have followed all the rules and we have ticked all of the right boxes. We have been polite. In fact we have been absolutely as nice as ninepence.

Excuse me London. It's Scotland here. I wonder if you have a moment. You see, we have just had a vote. In the Parliament. Our Parliament. And by a majority of 69 to 59 our elected Parliamentarians have made a decision.

We would like another Independence Referendum please. Here is our letter. We've checked all of the spelling and everything. 

So can we?

No,

Not now. Now is not a good time. We're not saying never. Just not now. In case you hadn't noticed, we have rather bigger fish to fry. So maybe it would be a good idea if you stopped being such a bloody nuisance and got on with your own frying. I do believe Mars bars are a particular favourite of yours........?

But.....

No, there are no buts. We're in charge in case you hadn't noticed. Do as you're bloody told.

Oh Lord. After all the excitement of the vote and those pictures of Nicola with her shoes kicked off and......

But there is no 'and...'. We asked nicely and they said 'No' with a trademark sneer. 

Excuse me, but haven't you seen the poll? Here. Have a look. It says 61% of Scots believe the decision about a second Referendum should be made in Edinburgh.

Oh do shut up. 

So what next? There is talk of cards up sleeves. Maybe there are. Or maybe we have been firmly put back in our box.

Is this a new situation for a small country living under the thumb of Whitehall? Maybe we might be able to find some inspiration? Well this is where we are kind of lucky. You see, this isn't any kind of new situation. Countries have been dragging themselves away from London's clutches for over 200 years. Some were huge like America and India. Others were our size: Ireland and Israel. Some were home to black and brown people who didn't speak English. Others were full of white people who did. They came in all shapes and sizes and one way or another they all made it. Surely we can find some clues about what to do next if we have a dig through their old playbooks.

To be honest, the lessons of history are hardly crystal clear. Some ploys worked and other ploys were an absolute disaster. Getting really, really mad and kicking off doesn't tend to be such a good idea. The Boers tried it in 1900 and 30,000 of their women and children wound up dying in Kitchener's concentration camps from disease and starvation. The Irish went for broke in Easter 1916 and ended up with a bombed out Post Office and some great rebel songs but no freedom. 

In 1954 the Mau Mau decided it was time for no more Mr Nice Guy. They arrived in the night at isolated farms in the Aberdare Mountains of Kenya and started slicing and dicing white settlers with their machetes. London went predictably mental and a couple of years later over half a million Kikuyu were banged up in disease ridden concentration camps.

The lesson to be learned? Oh that is simple enough. If you pull out an old Lee Enfield rifle, London will send in the tanks and start rounding up your people and putting them in camps. It's probably worth remembering the grand opening of the Long Kesh internment camp was only forty or so years ago.

So kicking off and going full on William Wallace isn't the best idea. But putting up and shutting up is an equally bad idea. So is there a middle way? 

Absolutely. In spades. The middle way is all about taking London to places they really, really don't want to go. We need to take them to places where they feel really, really awkward and unsure of what to do. 

And to do this we need to take a few leaves out of the playbook of the absolute master when it comes to this kind of stuff. Of course I am talking about the great Mahatma Gandhi.

Lets head back to the mid 1930's. This was very much the time when the British Empire had reached its high water mark. It was the time when the whole sun never setting thing was all the rage. And of course India was the Jewel in the Crown. Lots and lots of promises had been made over the years. Only twenty years earlier London had said if the Indians would volunteer to dig our trenches in Flanders the King would be well disposed to take a proper look at their Independence claims. To be honest, it didn't go so well. The Indian troops came home with Spanish flu and over 20 million wound up dying. And all the talk of being favourably disposed to granting Independence.....?

Now is not a good time.

Ghandi knew only too well kicking off and getting violent was a truly lousy idea. The Indians had tried it 80 years earlier in 1857 and it hadn't turned out well at all. As the dust settled on the Indian Mutiny, London embarked on a blood soaked decade of revenge which would have made Hitler purr with pleasure. Unsurprisingly the exact records of just how many million Indians London killed by way of payback have been mislaid. It was certainly more than ten million.

The Mahatma was a peace and love kind of guy. So he did himself some out of the box thinking and came up with an idea of pure genius. In the mid 30's Indians were not allowed to produce their own salt. To make a bit of salt could land you in jail. Why? Because there were vital votes to be had in those Cheshire swing seats and the salt mines needed the massive Indian market to be viable. 

So Ghandi wrote out a press release. He said he would be walking across Gujarat to the sea and once he reached the sea he would make some salt. At first nobody took much notice. But as the miles rolled by, more and more people joined him and by the time he reached the coast he had 20,000 in his wake and the world's press were waiting to take the pictures for their front pages. He became a rock star all over the world.

All of a sudden London found itself between a rock and a hard place. Of course the cheeky little wog was breaking the bloody law and needed a jolly good thrashing. Obviously. But on the other hand there were an awful lot of reporters kicking around....

What to do? In the end London did exactly what Gandhi wanted them to do. They decided to crack the whip. They locked him up along with thousands of his followers whilst the world press took lots of pictures. It didn't take London long to wake up to the fact they had been well and truly played. They let Gandhi out and changed the salt making law but it was all too little, too late. He had shown them for what they were and it wasn't a good look. And within thirty years the sun had well and truly set on the an Empire which was supposed to have been good for another thousand years.

Others have dipped into Gandhi's playbook with great success. In 1955 at the very same time as hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were festering in the British concentration camps, a dignified lady called Miz Rosa Parks took the Washington Government to a place they really didn't want to go. Rosa was the smartly dressed black lady who took a seat in the white section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Over the next ten years the press from all over the world took pictures of American policemen beating the living daylights out of peacefully protesting black citizens. It wasn't exactly the image America Plc was looking to beam out across the globe. Within ten years the new Civil Rights laws were on the statute books and burning crosses was no longer deemed to be an acceptable thing to do.

So what can we do? Right now. How can we take London somewhere they really, really don't want to go? Well it seems very clear we need to leave the claymores in the cupboard. As a white settler myself living in rural isolation, I very much hope Nicola doesn't choose the Mau Mau machete approach! The last thing we want to do is to give Theresa May an excuse to build herself a 21st version of Long Kesh in Falkirk.

We need to find a way to be civilly disobedient in a way which will make London squirm. I have a couple of ideas I think the Mahatma would approve of.

How good would it be if the Scottish Government unilaterally declared its intention to take in the 3000 refugee kids London has U turned on. By the way this isn't my idea, it belongs to Lesley Riddoch. You see, we are absolutely not allowed to do this. Showing humanity and decency is not a devolved power. Just like the Indians were not allowed to make their own salt. And were we to do it, London would once again find itself between a rock and a hard place. What are they going to do? Send a detachment of the paratroopers to arrest Nicola and her Cabinet? Take us to the European Court of Justice? The right wing press would of course call us every name under the sun for being traitorous swine. And the rest of the world? Oh I am pretty sure the rest of the world would be very much on our side. 

Just imagine how much Theresa May would hate it. Would she find a way to show a bit of class? Or would she choose instead to pander to the Daily Mail and make a complete mess of it? 

So we ask the question once again. Can we have a referendum please? And if London continues to dig in the heels and and tell us to bugger off, then we will have to crank up the pressure another notch. This one is my idea.

The Government in Edinburgh makes an announcement to an increasingly fascinated world. No longer will we allow any nuclear bombs to be transported on Scottish highways. Police Scotland will therefore be instructed to set up and man permanent roadblocks outside the bases at Faslane and Coulport and no vehicles carrying nukes will be allowed through. 

And if a few hundred protesters choose to turn up to give the boys in blue a helping hand, then all the better.

Over to you Theresa. What do you do? Stick or twist? Send in the SAS to clear the way? Go all out and invade us? Or maybe you might find the easiest thing to do is to back down and start wiping the egg off your new Thatcher face?

It's time to up the ante guys. It's time to make their lives a misery.   

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

NOW IT IS GAME ON FOR INDYREF 2, MAYBE YES NEEDS TO BE A LITTLE LESS NICE THAN WE WERE LAST TIME.

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So, that's it done. The starting gun has been fired, There were no unforeseen nightmares in the Scottish Parliament. The vote for Indyref 2 was comfortably carried by 69 to 59. Which means it is time for all of us on the YES side to get our game heads on.

Once again the Unionists couldn't have done a finer job of making our argument for us. They seem so very convinced the way to keep their beloved Union together is to be be as arrogant and nasty as possible. Well, best of luck with that one guys. Please carry on.

Now the phoney war begins in earnest. We will hammer home our right to have a referendum at a time of our choosing and they will look down their patrician noses and tell us to go and sit on the naughty step. Do they really think this is a stance which will play well up here? I doubt it. Surely they cannot possibly be that stupid? 

It seems clear to me this determination to shoot themselves in the foot as many times as possible is driven by pure desperation. We all know it is a lousy idea to try to ignore those nasty letters from the credit card company. Does this mean we always open them and face up to the unpleasant truth? Of course we don't. Instead we hide the nasty letters under a pile of junk mail and pretend they don't exist. It is a truly lousy idea but we do it all the same. I think the ludicrous Unionist reaction to the prospect of Indyref 2 is much the same. Oh my God, this is a nightmare! Just put it off for Christ's sake.....

The smart move would be to show a whole lot of class and say of course the people of Scotland have the absolute right to determine their future at a time of their choosing. We wouldn't dream of denying this. How could we? We are the very cradle of democracy after all. The mother of all Parliaments. We have nothing but respect for our Scottish brothers and sisters and this is why we will try as hard as possible to persuade them not to desert us.

Think about it. Such a reaction would give us a few headaches. Such a reaction would firm up the resolve of instinctive remainers. Such a reaction would make the UK feel like the kind of place where everybody's voice is heard with consideration and good manners. Had Theresa May taken time out to think before she spoke, she might have recalled how a smiling Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in London and told Thatcher how he was about to become her worst nightmare. How? He told her he was going to take her enemy away. 

Ever since 2014 the Unionists have squandered opportunity after opportunity to hang onto the British Empire's last significant colony. On 19 September 2014, Cameron might have walked out of Downing St and said something along the lines of 'we promised the nearest thing to Federalism and by God we are going to be true to our word.' Imagine if they had actually delivered the dreaded 'Vow' and kept their promises. The prospect of Independence would have been pretty distant. 

But he didn't do any such thing of course. Instead he pandered to the right wing nutters in his party and rabbited on about English votes for English laws. 

Once again the unionists have blown a golden opportunity. Had they been gracious and happily allowed a referendum at a time of the Scottish Parliament's choosing, our job would have been a great deal harder. But they didn't because such a course of action would have meant upsetting the Daily Mail and it is now abundantly clear that pleasing the Daily Mail is the only thing Theresa May cares about.

So they are going to play out their tough guy Tory act. The Daily Mail will cheer them to the rafters and the people of Scotland will hate it. So carry on guys. Carry on and on and on. The more the merrier.

We now know the Referendum is coming which means we need to start getting our ducks in an orderly as soon as possible. We came close in 2014, but we didn't win. 

They won.

And this time it can not and it must not happen again. If they win again, our future is seriously dark. Yesterday we stepped into the last chance saloon. This is the last chance we are going to have to hop into a life boat before the Titanic slips under the sub zero waters of the North Atlantic. The world is splitting into camps and we still have the chance of joining with the good guys. If we allow the unionists to win the day, we have to accept a future in the camp of Trump and all the other right wing xenophobes who are inching ever closer to full on fascism. 

If we are to win, we need to take a long hard look at why we lost last time. Whole books have been written on the subject and many very obvious answers have been found. 

Next time there are a few things we need to do differently. 

Better. Smarter. 

Of course we will need to rekindle all of the vibrancy and optimism we unleashed last time. The optimism of the YES campaign won over a significant majority of the under 50's. Sadly it seemed to send the over 60's further into the arms of Better Together. It is a sad fact of life that many older folk resent the sight of younger folk having a good time. When a bunch of teenagers outside a Spar shop to have a laugh on a warm summer's evening, who is it who calls the cops to complain? 

All of us on the YES side will love the sight of huge crowds of optimistic young people asking for a brighter future. Sadly many in the silver haired generation will see things rather differently. And if we don't find new and imaginative ways to talk to our No voting elders, they might well once again carry the day for the unionists.

This of course is a huge problem. We are strong on social media and hated by the mainstream media. Is there anything we can do to persuade the likes of the Mail and the Sun and the Express to give us a fair hearing? Nope. Hell will freeze over first. The tabloid press will tell lie after lie after lie and there isn't a thing we can do about it. These are the papers the older generation read. More to the point, these are the papers the older generation trusts. It is the habit of their lifetimes. Will the BBC step up to the plate to offer proper balance? After last time it seems highly unlikely.

So how on earth are we to get a hearing from the older generation? How do we make the case for a future they have little stake in? It ain't easy but we absolutely have to come up with a solution to the problem. 

I guess we need to start by asking some simple questions. Who do the older generation listen to? Well, there is the tabloid press and the BBC. Can we do anything to get them onside? Not a chance. So who else? Family. Grandchildren. Now here we might just be onto something. Grandparents almost always love their grandchildren. It is one hell of a bond and we need to find as many ways as we can to use this bond.

I was chatting with Joan McAlpine MSP last week and punted an idea. What if we were to commission a range of twenty large postcards. Each would carry a drop dead gorgeous view of Scotland. You know the kind of thing. Lochs and glens and stags. The kind of thing which would look great on any mantlepiece. All of the cards would be pre-paid and on the back they would have a strap line something along the lines of 'Please let me have the future I dream of.' And then? Then we persuade as many youngsters as we can to fill in a card and send it to their grandparents. And not just one. One a week. Two a week. And when they next meet up with their grandparents, there is bound to be a conversation about all the postcards they have been receiving. 

Basically we use modern communications to sign up youngsters to do their bit via the social media. Then we use old school communications by using the Royal Mail to deliver the postcards. And finally we use even older school communications as young YES supporters have a face to face chat with their grandparents. 

How many votes might something like this turn to our side? Who knows? What we do know is every vote we can win from the silver haired generation will count double.

In hindsight, I wonder if we were rather too nice last time around. It is hard not to wholeheartedly agree with Michelle Obama when she says 'if they go low, we go high.' It is hard not to agree because she is so very right. But there is a problem. Last time they went low and we went high and they won. Just like Trump won having plumbed depths nobody ever thought would be plumbed. We are about to be in a street fight and maybe we need to use a few of the techniques of the street fighter.

The other day I heard some interesting stuff about the famous £353 million a week the NHS was promised by the Leavers in the EU referendum. There was an awful lot of thinking behind this very blatant nonsense. They started with the gross annual UK contribution to the EU. £353 million a week. Then they very deliberately decided to ignore all the cash we got back in the form of projects and rebate. They did this because they knew the media would immediately jump all over them. Of course it isn't £353 million a week!! The net figure is actually £200 million!!'

This very deliberate lie guaranteed the £353 million stayed on the front pages for the whole of the campaign. If they had put £200 million a week on the side of their bus, it would barely have got a mention. They rightly calculated the lie would become the story and the story would run and run. And what did the public get from it? Simple. They got the fact we were sending a whole bunch of money to Brussels and they didn't like it.

Clever, clever, clever...

Could we on the YES side copy some of this? I think we could. Maybe things like this. Imagine if these billboards were to appear all over Scotland.

"LONDON STOLE £100 BILLION OF OUR OIL MONEY TO BUILD THE M25. NO WONDER THEY WON'T GIVE US OUR FREEDOM!"

I don't know the actual figures. They don't really matter. What matters is the Unionists would go absolutely mental and say things like 'It didn't cost £100 billion, it was only £50 billion,...' or  'We didn't steal the oil money because it wasn't Scotland's oil money, it was the UK's oil money...' It would run and run and run. And what would people take from it? Simple. They used our a whole bunch of our  money to build a motorway around their capital city.

Bastards!

Or maybe this.

'TAKE BACK CONTROL! USE THE £50 MILLION A WEEK SCOTLAND SPENDS ON TRIDENT TO PUT PENSIONS UP BY £50 A WEEK!"        

Cue all manner of wailing and gnashing of teeth. 'Scotland doesn't spend £50 million a week on Trident, it only spends £30 million a week.....' 

Oops.

I know it would be nice to always occupy the very highest of the moral high ground, but when the opposition fights so very dirty we might have to do a bit of it ourselves. 

Whenever the next referendum comes around one thing is certain. Winning will be absolutely everything. We can't simply repeat what we did last time. We need to be better. And maybe we will need to be just a little meaner. We know they will have absolutely no scruples whatsoever. It might just be time to drop a few of ours. 

One thing is for sure. The YES side will be deploying a few of the dark arts even though this will be none of our doing. Is this a riddle? Maybe. 'A riddle wrapped inside a mystery in an enigma'. Remember the quote? It was Winston Churchill describing Russia. The rest of the quote runs '...but there is a key. The key is Russian national Interest.' I have no doubt who's side Vladimir Putin will be taking in the coming Referendum. So long as an Independent Scotland plans to evict the Trident submarines, we will be receiving the full support of Vladimir's merry band of cyber warriors whether we ask for it or not!  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

ISIS WANT THEIR OWN THERMOPYLAE. WE'RE GIVING IT TO THEM ON A PLATE

Donald Trump continually assures us everything is on track with his project to make America great again. Well, good for him. And a part of this vision is his determination to see his country start winning wars again. This particular element of the Donald's big dream makes the rest of us feel a tad edgy. Basic logic dictates that to be able to win a war you need to find yourself a war to fight. Of course it is rare for America to find itself in the position when it hasn't got a war going on somewhere. Right now the bad guys are of course those long bearded bad boys of ISIS and in his election campaign the Donald promised his supporters he was going to 'bomb the shit out of them'.

So is this about to be the first evidence of Trump helping America to turn the corner and get itself back on the road to greatness again? Well Donald certainly thinks it is. This kind of language comes straight out of the many 'how to succeed in business' self help books he must have read over his years of borrowing loads of money and losing it all. 

First is first, second is nowhere.

Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser.

You know the kind of thing. It is the beating heart of the American dream which has always worshiped at the alter of winners. Trump is pretty sure his can take the tacky bravado which has served him so well down the years and to succeed where the likes of Hitler, Napoleon and Alexander the Great failed. There will be no lost wars for the Donald. Only the sweet taste of victory.

Because winning is everything, right? We know this. That's why the 1% own more or less everything and the rest of us make like schmucks.

The problem is that what works in the testosterone fueled world of American capitalism doesn't always play out the same in the world at large. Sometimes a heroic defeat can have a much greater potency than an easy victory. The right kind of heroic defeat can be like money in the bank. A canny investment for the future. It can mean the chance to fight and win another day.

I don't think Donald has quite got his head around this. He isn't alone of course. A common feature of many modern leaders is their complete inability to read history. They like to live in the now. They like to live in their own bubbles. Well many, many moons ago I got myself a 2-1 in History and I still think it is a pretty good idea to look back before being too cocky about the immediate future. I vividly recall reading a superb article by Robert Fisk on the day GW Bush rolled into Iraq. Fisk urged readers to get a hold of a copy of 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom' by TE Lawrence. As in Lawrence of Arabia. The book provided a perfect manual on how to get a result in Arabia. It showed how Bush and Blair were sleep walking into a prolonged nightmare which would do for them in the end.

How right he was. 

The lesson Tony and GW should have learned wasn't exactly difficult. If you go into the Muslim with overwhelming force and all guns blazing, the people who live there will see you as Crusaders and they will fight you to their last breath. No matter how many battles you win, you will never win the war. So we won a bunch of battles and we killed half a million people and we lost the war. Just like TE Lawrence predicted all those years before.

When a war becomes a battle for survival, heroic defeats can be pure gold. They inspire everyone else to dig deeper and fight on in honour of the memory of those who fought with such heroism. A heroic defeat can have a much greater impact than an easy victory. Big victories won by overwhelming force are seldom remembered with any kind of reverence. Heroic defeats are a different matter altogether. They are remembered forever. Statues are erected. Public holidays are called. Movies are made and re-made. 

We've had a few of our own down the years. We all love watching Zulu every Christmas. Most of us have heard of Rorke's Drift. Not many of us have heard of Ulundi where a punitive force of Brits taught the locals a lesson they weren't about to forget in a hurry. We had Gatling guns and cannons. They had spears. Ulundi duly became one of the many forgotten massacres we carried out in the name of Empire which we now prefer to not to talk about much.

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To this day we recall our gallant defeat at Dunkirk with much more fondness than our turning point victory at El Alamein. 

History is filled with any number of examples of heroic defeats which become inspirational for future generations. As things unfold in Mosul, I think it is worth looking at two in particular.

First up is the Spartan stand at Thermopylae. On one side was a monumental Persian army made up of over a hundred thousand infantry and cavalry. On the other side were 300 Spartans who blocked the narrow road to the heart of Greece. We've all seen the movies. The Spartans took the idea of defying the odds to a whole new level. The narrowness of the strip of land between cliffs and sea meant the vast numerical superiority of the Persians could not be made to count. Wave after wave of attackers were sliced to bits as they met the Spartan shield wall. The Persians won in the end. Of course they did. But the Greeks were duly inspired by the heroism and sacrifice of the 300 and they duly united around the magnificence of the defeat and found a way to turn it all around at the battle of Marathon.

Nobody remembers Emperor Xerses and his vast army. Instead we watch blockbuster movies about King Leonidas and his 300 hundred Spartans. Maybe winning isn't everything after all.

Fast forward to 1863. A company of 63 officers and men of the French Foreign Legion were patrolling a forgotten corner of Mexico in an unnoticed colonial war. Their leader, Captain Jean Danjou knew there were enemy forces in the area. He didn't know how many. The Mexican commander, Francisco De Paula Milan, knew all about the presence of the French and he knew exactly how many they were. 

63.

Not enough.

Milan laid his trap and waited. The company of Legionnaires duly walked straight into the trap and found themselves holed up in a hacienda and surrounded by a force of 3000. Danjou gathered his guys about him and got them to swear an oath. The oath? Oh that was simple enough. Fight to the last man. Fight to the last breath. No surrender. And for what? For a few square yards in a forgotten war fought thousands of miles from France. Danjou had been around the block a time of two for the Legion and had a wooden hand to prove it. As it happened, he was killed early in the battle but his guys were true to their word.

They fought on and on and on. After eight hours there were only five men left and the farmhouse was ablaze. For the umpteenth time, Milan called a halt to the fighting and offered the Legionnaires the chance to surrender. When they had been down to 12 men, the officer in command had given a one word reply to the offer of surrender: 'Merde'. This time the French chose a different option. 

They fixed bayonets and charged. All five of them. Not surprisingly it didn't go so well.

As defeats go, Camerone was about as complete a defeat as you could find. Once the dust settled there was only one man left alive.
But it didn't take very long for the legend of Camerone to make its way back across the Altantic to France and to this day the men of the Foreign Legion stop whatever they are doing on April 30 to celebrate their most legendary heroic defeat. Danjou's wooden hand remains their most treasured possession.




For a hundred and fifty years, armies all over the world have been terrified at the prospect of coming up against the men of the Foreign Legion for a very simple reason. Legionnaires never give up. Their reverence to the 63 men of Camerone means they never throw in the towel. The legacy of that particular defeat is still strong and so long as there is a Foreign Legion, it will always be strong.

Which brings me to ISIS. To Mosul. To right now. 

Donald promises to bomb the shit out of ISIS. What does he think his air force has been doing for the last few years? Recent Pentagon estimates suggest at least 40,000 ISIS fighters have been killed care of American airstrikes since the campaign began. I would have thought such a figure is more enough for them to have had the shit bombed out of them. Obviously not as far as the Donald is concerned.

Now the net is being tightened around Mosul. We see it on the days when the home news is quiet. Not much happening today? OK. Nae bother. We'll fill up with five minutes from Mosul. It's always good for padding out.

A couple of weeks ago I listened to a World Service podcast whilst I was splitting some logs. The topic was Mosul and the battle which is taking so long to win. And suddenly I stopped what I was doing and listened a little harder. The presenter described the forces facing each other. 

In the blue corner was a mixed force of just over 80,000 - British and American Special Forces, British and American fighter bombers and drones, The Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerger, and various Shia Militia groups.

In the red corner.....

400 ISIS fighters.

400.

As in 80,000 and two air forces versus 400.

As in a force of just a hundred more than King Leonidas commanded so many centuries ago.

The 400 know they aren't going to win. They are completely surrounded now and they have a simple choice. It is the same choice as the Spartans had at Thermopylae and the Legionnaires had at Camerone. Fight or die? Nobody is in much doubt as to which option they will choose.

We don't hear much about the 400 against 80,000 part of the Mosul story. We hear lots of stuff about how they are filthy terrorists and cowards. We hear how they are nothing more than human cockroaches who deserve to be exterminated. Who need to be exterminated.

And of course they will be exterminated. With extreme prejudice. Because 80,000 against 400 is a foregone conclusion. But does this mean we will win? Or will the legend of the 400 who fought down to the last man go on to sustain ISIS and similar groups in the years to come? It seems to me the guys with the long beards are rather better at reading history books than our leaders. They will capture the heroic defeat on their mobile phones and bequeath it to history. They will become legends among the millions who feel they are being oppressed by the Crusader nations of the West.

ISIS are not looking for victory in Mosul. Instead they are creating their very own Thermopylae. From where I am sitting, it looks like we are playing ball every step of the way. In a few weeks we will beam pictures around the world of a bombed flat city and 400 dead guys. Sadly we seem incapable of understanding how this looks from the other side of the fence. We will see the dead 400 as nothing more than so many cockroaches. Many in the Muslim world will see them very differently. 

I wonder how they will be remembered in a few hundred years? 
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

KEEP ON SENDING ALL YOUR HATE, CONTEMPT AND DERISION NORTH OF THE BORDER GUYS. YOU'RE ONLY GOING TO MAKE 'YES' STRONGER. AND STRONGER...

The last few months have been pretty rough for those of us who like to think we are in touch with what Abe Lincoln once called the 'better angels of our nature.'

Brexit, Trump, Farage, Putin, Le Pen.... 

And for a while the world seemed to be turning darker with every passing week. Those who tried to highlight the alarming similarities between the world right now and the world in the 1930's were screamed down by the rampant followers of Trump and Brexit. Never before had Farage seemed so horribly smug.

And slowly but surely, people stopped uttering that most dreaded of sentences - 'it couldn't happen again.' Those are words which should never be spoken. The next Srebrinica is always waiting around the next corner.

Always.

When Nicola Sturgeon took to the airwaves to throw down the new Indyref gauntlet at the feet of our Westminster masters, there was no dancing in the streets. I watched three different news programs that night. Reporters had been dispatched to the streets of Scotland to feel the pulse of the public. I guess there must have been about twenty pavement interviews and surprise, surprise not a single one of the people they dug out were within a country mile of voting 'Yes' next time around.

All the news channels carried the same message. The good people of Scotland don't want another referendum. They hate the idea. They are frightened by the very thought. They know in their bones their country is far too small, poor and pathetic to even consider cutting the umbilical cord. I turned and said to Carol 'you would never guess the polls are 50/50.'

Never in a month of Sundays.

The common theme of the news that night? Contempt and derision. A lack of patience with an unruly child. When will they bloody well grow up? A jolly good slapping is what they need...

The next morning I wrote a blog and announced to the online world that I was bang up for the fray. And then? Well the 'and then?' bit is always the most interesting part of any blog. In the past, most of my blogs about 'Yes' have been popular. Would it be different this time? Was I throwing out my enthusiasm into an online world of jaded indifference? I tweeted the link to all the usual suspects but not many were much interested in helping my words on their way.

And then....

Well right now the blog is well on the way to being read over 10,000 times. Is that a lot? I have no idea. It is certainly a lot for me.

Almost from the moment I hit the 'publish' button it seemed as if the sun had broken through the clouds and for the first time in ages and the forces of darkness appeared to have been stopped in their tracks.

Over the pond, Trump had his worst day so far. All of a sudden he seems a whole lot more shambling and pathetic and a whole lot less threatening. Check out this link for a magnificent list of all the things that went pear shaped for the Donald yesterday.



Bloody great, right? 

And things just kept on getting brighter as the unexpectedly warm sunshine burnt away the dark clouds. The utterly hideous Gert Wilders was completely humiliated in the Dutch election. The latest Fascist bogeyman was only able to scrape together 13% of the vote. What a sickening blow for all the crowing Brexiteers and their warnings of an EU in terminal decline. 

In France the equally ghastly Marine Le Pen seems to have run into a brick wall and stands little or no chance of doing a Donald. 

Back in London a whole series of cracks started to open up in the seemingly mighty wall of the rampant Tory party. The Electoral Commission went public on fact they are all over the half of Theresa May's backroom team like a metaphorical rash. May herself suddenly seemed less of the ice queen and more of the bad tempered harridan. A few critical paragraphs in the Daily Mail proved to be more than enough to send her into a panicking tantrum. Her answer to having a bad day? She threw her friend and Downing St neighbour 'Spreadsheet Phil' under a double decker bus. It rather looks like Nicola has got well and truly under her skin. 

The most encouraging thing of all for those of us on the 'YES' side of the coming argument has been the reaction to the prospect of IndyRef 2 that has come from south of the border. Last time many said we were 'love bombed' by England. Oh please don't leave us Scotland. We all love you. We really, really do. Look we're even building a cairn in Gretna Green just to prove it. We love your kilts and your Iron Bru and your haggis and and your..... well you know... all of it. And we promise never to laugh at deep fried Mars bar jokes ever again. And we promise never to suggest you are all smack addicts and subsidy junkies. It was only locker room banter. Honest. And of course we have done a few things we regret, but that is what relationships are like, right. Yes, yes, we know we always used Scottish soldiers when we needed some cannon fodder, and yes we probably should have gone a bit easier after Culloden, and in hindsight we maybe shouldn't have used the 4000 prisoners we took at the battle of Braemar as slaves in Barbados. But that is how it is with relationships, right! Good times and bad times. But you can't divorce us now. Not after 300 years. How can you even think about it.....

Love bombing. Tacky, tawdry, toe curling, yes. But I guess they did their best to pretend the passion still burned strong.

Especially with oil at $100 a barrel and the UK balance of payments well and truly up the Khyber.

Well it doesn't look like we're about to get any love bombing this time around. This time carpet bombing looks like the order of the day. We are about to get a lot more of Theresa May fixing us with her best Cruella Deville stare and telling us to stopping playing silly games and to concentrate instead on running our silly little country.

This time around we are about to be put on the hit list of the English tabloids. We will be put in the firing line along with all the other enemies of England's green and pleasant land. We now are the betrayers of Brexit. Stab in the back merchants. Traitors who should be lined up against a wall and shot. We are every bit as bad as the Muslims and the benefit cheats and the EU 27 and the supreme court judges and Michael Hesseltine and the remoaners and the European Human Rights Convention and Polish people and......

Oh it's a long list and we are well and truly on it. 

Just check out this charming chap who took to the airwaves yesterday to let the world know exactly what he thought of the Scots. For those of you of a nervous disposition, I best warn you to brace yourselves for a minute and a half of racist bile.

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/you-fg-jock-cs-englishman-10033610#ICID=sharebar_twitter

There is going to be a whole lot more of this kind thing. And every time this kind of meathead pulls himself out of the swamp to splurge this kind of garbage the 'YES' vote will just keep going up and up.

And up.

It won't be so very long before we start to hear about Scots getting abuse when they look to pay for their goods with Scottish notes in English shops. It won't be a majority. It won't even be anything more than the tiniest minority. But that won't matter. It never does. Instead it will change perception. It will give clarity to the choice on the table. Do you want to be a part of a ghastly club where immigrants are despised and shadowy billionaires call the shots? The world of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage? Or do you want to be a part of something better? All of a sudden the economic questions won't seem quite so overpowering. All of a sudden it will be all about right and wrong. Do we want light or darkness? Do we want hope or hate?

I'm pretty sure the good folk of Scotland will choose the better angels of our nature.

The future is bright guys.