Ho, the Quartermaster’s $hoppe is open. We fooled you and opened a day before April 1st!
Have you noticed the shopping cart sign at the top of the page? Maybe you’ve even clicked on it. If you did, nothing happened. But something will be happening soon — our online bookshop, selling DRM-free ebooks in every e-reader format, will be open on April 1. No fooling.
by Greum M. Stevenson
It didn’t take the jury long to decide whether Alex Salmond was guilty of rape, attempted rape, and the other sex crimes he was on trial for at Edinburgh High Court. Deliberations began last Friday, and on Monday Salmond was acquitted of all 13 charges.
Since then, there has been talk of a conspiracy against Salmond. But, in all the news reports and opinion pieces, one thing has been glaringly absent: any mention of Craig Murray, and his being removed from the courtroom the day before the trial ended.
Murray is a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, turned whistleblower and columnist. He is also a friend of Alex Salmond’s. While Murray is a fine journalist, he tends to embarrass himself when writing in defence of his friends. He covered Julian Assange’s recent extradition hearing, and his portrait of Assange was such cringe-inducing hagiography that anyone who had read Andrew O'Hagan's reporting on Assange’s incompetence, grandiosity and dishonesty would be inclined to question anything else Murray wrote.
It got worse when Murray wrote about Salmond’s trial. In his fervour to praise Salmond’s record as First Minister, and trash Nicola Sturgeon’s, he praised Huawei, and, without offering evidence, cast doubt on Russia’s poisoning a former spy and his daughter in the UK.
But he wrote respectfully about the judge, Lady Dorrian, and had to admit his friend was getting a fair trial.
And then, the day before the trial ended, police removed Murray from the courtroom and told him he was banned for the duration of the trial. The prosecution had asked the judge to remove him because of a “possible contempt of court.” No further explanation was given.
To be excluded from a public trial on the basis of something I have “possibly” done, when nobody will even specify what it is I have “possibly” done, seems to me a very strange proceeding. I can only assume that it is something I have written on this blog as there has been no incident or disturbance of any kind inside the courtroom. But if the judge is genuinely concerned that something I have written is so wrong as to necessitate my exclusion, you would expect there would be a real desire for the court to ask me to amend or remove that wrong thing. But as nobody will even tell me what that wrong thing might “possibly” be, it seems only reasonable to conclude that they are not genuinely concerned, in a legal sense, about something I have written.
It was clear from the start that someone wanted to keep Murray out of the courtroom. First, it was announced that only “accredited media” (i.e. corporate and state media) would be allowed in — no independent or “citizen” journalists. Even though Murray’s blog has a bigger readership than some newspapers, and he has been praised by such journalists as John Pilger and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, this criteria excluded him. When the prosecution had finished making its case and it was time for the defence to begin, the public gallery was opened, and Murray sat there.
Until the police came for him.
Sources say Murray was so depressed by his banning — and the threat of a charge of contempt of court, which can get you two years in prison — that, during the weekend Salmond spent waiting to find out his fate, he was so worried about Murray that he called him to see if he was all right.
When the verdicts came in, Murray was so happy he got too drunk to write about it in any depth. So… not an impartial reporter, and not pretending to be. But, whether you think he’s a truth-teller, a friend blinded by loyalty, or a conspiracy theorist, why has there been nothing about his banning in any mainstream media? Both The Herald and The National have given copious space to theories that there was an SNP conspiracy against Salmond, but Murray’s existence hasn’t been acknowledged.
It’s enough to make you wonder if there’s a conspiracy.
Also posted on Notes from the Northern Colony.
by Johnny Shaw
“That motherfucker right there.”
“He cover his mouth?”
“What do you think?”
“Does he look Chinese to you?”
“Are there blond Chinese?”
“He coughed though.”
“What should we do about it?”
“We should be heroes.”
“Did you get any on you?”
“I don’t think so.”
“That was messier than I thought it would be.”
“A stuck pig.”
“Was that the right thing to do?”
“You sure you didn’t get nothing on you. It was messy.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Don’t matter. Clean up.”
“Remember to wash your hands for twenty seconds.”
“I don’t think I got nothing on me.”
“Twenty seconds. Flirting With Disaster until ‘I choose my destiny’.”
“I know the song.”
“Just wash them. Better safe than sorry.”
“Twenty seconds. Molly Hatchet.”
“I need to clear my throat.”
“The fuck do I care?”
“It’s going to sound like a cough.”
“You don’t think I can tell the difference?”
“I don’t know if you can. Better safe than sorry, right?”
“Right. Why do you need to clear your throat?”
“I just do.”
“You getting sick?”
“How do you know?”
“I don’t feel sick.”
“I don’t like it. Sounds fishy to me.”
“Fishy? What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Nothing. Don’t clear your throat until I’m in the next room.”
“Should we do a jigsaw puzzle?”
“I’ve been thinking.”
“Yeah? About what?”
“How we decided to ride this out together.”
“What about it?”
“It was a mistake.”
“But we bought all that beer.”
“That wasn’t a mistake.”
“We got all the TP before anyone else.”
“Essential, man. I need a thorough wipe.”
“We bought nineteen pounds of cheddar for nachos.”
“Then what was the mistake?”
“Not doing this alone.”
“What do you mean?”
“There ain’t enough for both of us.”
“Nineteen pounds is a lot of cheddar.”
“Yeah, but nineteen is better than nine and a half.”
“You know I suck at math.”
“Hey, what’s that over there?”
As so many people are self-isolating, and are consequently short of cash, all Dockyard Press e-books will be free for a month. You can get them anywhere but Amazon, because seriously—and especially now that they’re running warehouse staff ragged without any meaningful additional support while we’re in the throes of a pandemic—the hell with Amazon. All of Barry Graham's books, all of Bart Lessard's, and the latest from Tony Black, Icy Thug Nutz, and daishin stephenson. The entire list is here.
by Mickey Batts
I write this in Split, where I do not live. I’ve been here since the start of January and due to border closures I will stay well past the date I meant to leave. The Croatians will forgive this, given that the outside world has caught a bug. As of Thursday morning all nonessential businesses were closed. The only places open are grocery stores, bakery counters, pharmacies, and doctor’s offices. I won’t be seeing a cafe or a bar for a month at least.
One place that has remained open, and daily, is the fish market. I have never gone inside. The smell is, to my expat nose, strong, but everything for sale is fresh caught and put on ice. Also, aside from tuna I can’t cook fish worth a damn. Shrimp, though—shrimp I can manage. Garlic, olive oil, a dash of Old Bay, a jot of mustard, a baguette—one can do no wrong. Soon I may brave the stink: it is a pleasant place. The Croatians are only happy to be there. They greet each other, they laugh, they tell jokes, even through a paper mask and a pandemic.
Wintering in a milder climate like this is nice but was never my ambition. Glasgow and Scotland are what I call home—though the Home Office in the UK would disagree—and home is where I would rather be. Twice now, visa limbo has forced me out of Scotland. A stay in Croatia, among other places, was how I made the best of that pisspoor turn. Resources and flexibility like mine are rare. I could never gripe or gloat about that, nor the comforts here, the Croatian welcome.
A friend of mine has been forced to leave Scotland, too. But hers is another rabbit hole, and that one led back to the United States, where both of us were born. Her husband is editor-in chief at Dockyard Press, and marriage to a UK citizen is, in premise, a clear-cut chase. By the rules a spousal application can only be made abroad—whence you come—and it takes time. The US is a bad place for such a wait—far, far worse than where I find myself—and it would have been even before the illness struck.
Croatia was only a lucky choice. Here SARS-CoV-2 is not rampant. Present cases number 113, and 47 of those are in Zagreb, inland and far north. The number cured (5) beats the number dead, at the time of this writing a big beautiful zero. The European outbreak started in Italy, right across the Adriatic. There 33,190 people have caught the virus, 3,450 have died, and 4,440 have recovered. The Italian site lists the dead before the cured, unlike the site for Croatia. This might say something about the prospects, but not about the quality of the Italian response.
It gets luckier. The first cases sprang up in Lombardy and Veneto, and these were promptly closed. I avoid air travel, so bus, train, and ferry were what brought me to Croatia. Guess which way I came? While I bummed without cares in Turin, Milan, Venice, and Murano—sampling the cuisine, climbing the Duomo, drinking too much—the bug rose up in China. Soon people were dead. Less than a month after I had gone, the bug had made the long flight and the same rounds.
The sweep in Italy helped stem the spread elsewhere, particularly here in Croatia. I simply outran it—never knowing it was on the heel—and only just. The response here has been no less mindful, no less kind.
Scotland has that kindness, that capacity for reason, which is a good part of why I love it so. The United States does not. Neither does the class that holds power in the UK, a cadre of braggarts that drowns out the national conversation and sees all the turf as English.
American and English rule have a lot in common. Wane of empire; the rump-state mindset; fear, geopolitically speaking, of a shrinking dick—better commentators have gone there already. No less similar is the response to COVID-19; that is, criminally negligent on either part, though worse across the Atlantic. My friend’s dispatches evenly divide the picture between hoarders and truthers. Neither point of view is any less sick. Here in Croatia there has never been a crush for groceries, an empty shelf. There have been no fistfights at the pump or in the aisle at the megastore. Nor is there any downplay of the problem, much less a pundit’s denial that it exists at all, save as a fiction to make a spray-on president look dumb.
In the US, make-believe prevails. Fact cannot beat opinion, and the political culture is sectarian. It was why I left in 2016 and why, despite visa troubles, I am glad that I did. We have begun to hear stunning stories—stunning foremost in their inability to surprise. ProPublica and other sites will spell it all out, but I can touch on three.
Richard Burr represents the people of North Carolina, Kelly Loeffler those of Georgia; Burr is also chair of the Senate intelligence committee. From all appearances, these two senators used inside knowledge not to protect constituents but to dump stock and warn rich friends of the pandemic. A week earlier, news had come that a bloc led by Mitch McConnell tried to veto emergency aid—this because passage of the bill might, maybe, a little bit, thwart some small part of an anti-abortion agenda. McConnell, what a hero, also delayed passing the coronavirus aid bill by keeping the senate in recess. And for what?
Violence is underway. Such heads as these belong on pikes. This is where my friend is stuck, and where—to no credit of my own—I am not. I get to park an arse and drink Croatian beer, and she gets to search six grocery stores for an eight-ounce can of beans. One of these is a land of plenty.
Eat up, Americans. You voted them in, these blatant cunts. They have no agenda but to rob you. And you have kept them just where they are. You allow the evil, and now, since we’re talking about the spread of a disease, you do so even at risk of your own health and lives—and the health and lives of those nearest to you. A pandemic is beyond “individual choice,” which you tout so much and do not understand at all. National choice—world choice—is where the stakes are now. In due time, and that means soon, Scotland will go its own way, and my friend will come home, rid forever of your deny-or-hoard wasteland.
Some talking heads like to blame what has come on Chinese cookery. They cast it vividly, wet markets full of horseshoe bats on drippy hooks. What strange people those Chinese are. Since we’re talking about food, consider Hannibal Lecter. His cocky screws thought “some damn thing from a zoo” would follow the bribe paid out in the third act—lamb chops, extra rare. Say a bat went to slaughter all you like. Your own mouth is where you put the meat.
GLASGOW MAN WITH CORONAVIRUS SYMPTOMS DENIED TEST, CALLS OFFICIAL INACTION AND CONTRADICTIONS “A JOKE”
by Greum M. Stevenson
A man in Glasgow's Wyndford Housing scheme has coronavirus symptoms, but has been refused a test and told to self-isolate.
The man, who lives with his wife and two small children, said today, “My daughter had a hacking cough last week. On Monday I developed the same but thought nothing of it as there were no confirmed cases at that point so I assumed it was too early. On Wednesday I phoned the doctor about it and was told it can't be because there isn't community transmission. By the evening of yesterday the government admitted there must be at least 5000 infections, and six people in Shetland were being hospitalised for it, none of whom had any contact with people from affected countries.
“I'm extremely angry. My symptoms have matched the virus, but they are only testing people who present at hospital with breathing difficulties or have been to one of the worst hit countries. The advice is self-isolate for seven days. I've been doing that as best I can, but I can't properly self-isolate until they shut the schools. It's a joke. You can't carry on with a market economy and also expect everyone to just bunker down. I'm keeping my distance from everyone, avoiding crowds and using self checkouts etc and washing hands and surfaces religiously. At the moment I don't know what else I can do as nobody is taking it seriously.”
His daughter, who would no longer be infectious, is back at school. His son now has a hacking cough, and stayed at home today. His wife has a temperature and symptoms of a cold.
Also posted on Notes from the Northern Colony
by Xeno Albannach
Imagine if, during the fight for the abolition of slavery in America, some slaves had said, “Before we can be free, we have to decide what kind of free people we want to be. Will we be capitalist, or socialist? Do we want a republic or a monarchy? What style of clothes do we want to wear?”
Imagine if a person living with an abusive, violent, controlling partner would not consider leaving until they had decided exactly what they wanted to do with their life after leaving. “Before I can get away from being battered and belittled, I have to decide what job I’ll do, what I’ll read, what media I’ll watch, what I’ll wear, what I’ll do in my leisure time, who I’ll be friends with…”
If this seems absurd, it is. But it is a line of thinking that people in Scotland — including such writers as Gerry Hassan and Ewan Morrison — subscribe to.
In the 2014 Independence Referendum, Morrison switched from Yes to No, saying he had changed his mind because the SNP had offered no plan for Scotland after independence. Since then, Hassan has made the same argument, saying “Political and social change cannot just be about abstracts such as ‘independence’.”
Try replacing that with, “Ending slavery cannot just be about abstracts such as ‘freedom’.” It’s not really a replacement, because it’s the same thing.
And it’s an argument that misses the point in every way.
First, it would be presumptuous of the SNP to try to set policy for a country that might not choose it as its government. While at this point it is likely that the SNP would be re-elected, it would be antidemocratic to base a nation’s entire policy or constitution on such an assumption.
Second, and more important, independence is not an abstract, any more that freedom from slavery is an abstract.
In 1992, the late Alasdair Gray published a short book called Why Scots Should Rule Scotland. Some reviewers were surprised that the book never mentioned the answer its title suggested it would give, but instead gave a short history of Scotland. Some of us, however, understood that the history of Scotland was all the answer that was relevant or needed.
What will Scotland be after independence? Whatever Scotland decides to be. And that can only be decided when Scotland is independent. When asked, “What do you intend to do after I take my boot off your neck?” there is only one sane answer:
Take the boot off my neck.
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