Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Government 'spin' disallowed by advertising watchdog

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned an advert by the Training and Development Agency for Schools, for implying that a newly-qualified teacher could earn substantially more (70 per cent more!) than the pay-scales allow for. Whilst the Agency says it will abide by the ruling, it disputes the ASA findings although the justification it offers is not particularly convincing. Government departments need to know that their advertising campaigns (i.e. propaganda) must abide by certain minimum standards, unlike and very unfortunately a lot of the pre-election promises of political parties.

Friday, 25 July 2008

SNP take Glasgow East!

In a stunning result the SNP have managed to overturn a Labour majority of 13,500+ in Glasgow East to snatch victory with a swing of 22 per cent. They may have a tiny majority (of only 356), but that's the way 'first past the post' elections work and Labour will just have to suck it up.

If this result were to be replicated at a general election then Labour would face political oblivion, a prospect (frankly) it might even be worth a sharply increased SNP presence at Westminster to witness. The question for Labour now seems to be: do we soldier on with 'albatross' Gordon Brown as the Leader or do we ditch him and hope we can salvage some of the wreckage his policies have had a large hand in creating before the next general election? I suspect nothing will happen at least until the Party conference in the Autumn and probably not even then, but perhaps if Labour do badly (again) at next year's local elections in England they might then ditch him. Whatever they do now though I'd be surprised if Labour can win the next general election.

Is this result, however stunning, a good guide to what mght happen at a general election, though, or is it really just a 'protest' vote and the Labour faithful will largely return to the fold in 2009 or 2010? Well, as I got the prediction for this bye-election result so badly wrong (although I'm not enormously unhappy that I did) I'd have to say all bets are off. 'Interesting' times are ahead of us in Scottish and British politics.

PS/ Family problems have come up, not entirely unexpectedly I'm afraid, that may preclude me blogging more for a while. I'll do so when I can.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

"The Moral Maze" and "Torture"

I've just been listening to this week's episode of The Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4 - for the next week you can listen again to this evening's episode by visiting The Moral Maze homepage here and clicking on the 'Listen Again' link on the right. I must say I am somewhat dazed by the attitudes of most of those who took part and the arguments they used to justify those attitudes.

Only two of the panel, Clifford Longley and Claire Fox, and the second guest, seemed to me to have a leg to stand on morally. The first guest (an American professor) used some pretty tortuous logic, which I can just about follow (but not agree with), to seek to justify his 'pragmatic' conclusions.

All western governments and many other advanced countries say they oppose torture and indeed most have signed a very high-minded convention outlawing it under any circumstances. Article 2 says:



1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Article 1 of the same convention says:



1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Many of the participants seemed to say, in essence, yes they are opposed to torture and it should never be legalised, but add that there may be circumstance in which it would be morally wrong not to torture if the information extracted by such means would save many lives - the classic 'ticking bomb' scenario. What they are saying is that sometimes the law must be breached 'for the greater good'.

Why is torture wrong? There are a number of reasons, but here are three:
- it degrades the person who does the torture;
- it leaves the person doing the torture, or others on the 'same side' liable to reciprocal action by the opposing party should one of their number be captured by that opponent and deprives them of the argument that torture is always wrong;
- some opponents of torture say it is wrong because it does not work as any information extracted must be suspect, which as Clifford Longley pointed out seems to say that if it was effective in providing accurate information then that would therefore justify torture, that's to say the 'utilitarian' argument.

If torture is always wrong, and I believe it is, then there are no circumstances in which it should be authorised, justified or accepted even as a very necessary evil. That includes, just to be clear, making use of information resulting from use of torture by someone else and passed on to us. Nobody ever said life is easy and that having certain principles to live by is always comfortable or convenient.

If we are not prepared to accept such strictures on our own policy and actions then we have no business ratifying treaties such as this and seeking to take some kind of 'moral high ground' when convenient, but then quietly ignoring our own laws when it proves inconvenient.

Site stat trivia

Most of the visits to this site (there are not normally a huge number in any one day, unless I happen to write something that triggers a relative 'avalanche', which has happened on a few occasions) are from fairly predictable locations around the world, although occasionally I notice one from a country or location in a country that I don't recall ever having seen before; today was such a day - I noticed a visit earlier this afternoon which appears to have originated in Vladivostok in the far eastern part of Russia. To whoever you were - a belated welcome! I'm pretty sure I've seen an even more remote part of Russia before, curiously enough - Kamchatka (also in the very far eastern area), as well as of course some more familiar and populous parts of that vast country.

No Regret - Korean 'boy meets boy' gay movie

I just came across a post at Kenneth in the (212) about a new gay movie from South Korea, which sounds as if it will be very worth watching if it comes to the UK, or becomes available on DVD (I don't see it yet on either the US or UK Amazon websites); there's also a very full review of the movie at Oasis Magazine here:

Whoa. I just finished watching what is considered the first “true gay film in Korean cinema,” and if this is how they mark their entrance to world cinema, they are more than welcome to make as many gay movies as they want.

Similar to the gay Japanese movie “Boys Love” that I recently reviewed, this is a movie that doesn’t have that cultural take on an old story feel to it. It is a modern, worthwhile movie that depicts the characters’ lives in Seoul, but the emphasis is on story above all else.
- read the full review at Oasis Magazine, link above. The official movie website is here and a pre-release video-clip is already on YouTube so here it is:


It's only coming out in New York, Los Angeles and San Fransisco at the end of July and in August, so presumably it will be a while before a few selected cinemas (probably in London and other places such as Manchester or Brighton) show it over here - I'll just have to hope it becomes available on DVD in due course.

Glasgow East - my tentative prediction

(Please see UPDATE at end)

A few caveats first; all I know about Glasgow East from personal knowledge could probably be written on the back of a postage stamp and could probably be read by someone with moderately impaired eye-sight (the typeface would have to be reasonably large, in other words); I understand that the consituency is bisected by one of the motorways which criss-cross Glasgow so I have presumably passed through it occasionally, blissfully unaware. I do have a certain knowledge of Glasgow having spent many weekends there as a child (to visit my Glasgow-born parent's own parents and a few other relatives who live there) when we lived in Edinburgh and I have of course visited it from time to time as an adult, most recently last month.

My 'research' for this has been to try and look at the 2005 Westminster results and compare them with the 2007 Scottish Parliament results; in the former, the Glasgow area remains almost wholly 'red' (i.e. Labour), broken only by a speck of 'orange' (LibDem) whereas in the latter a speck of 'yellow' (SNP) has entered the scene (instead of the 'orange'). Four 'yellow' also became regional MSPs for Glasgow and in the surrounding regions there were 4 or 5 'yellow' regional MSPs in each.

What this seems to show is that whilst the whole central/west of Scotland remains overwhelmingly 'red' (as it has been for decades), its position is gradually being eaten away by others, mainly the SNP (since the 2007 Scottish election). But the reality is that the 'yellow' party remains a 'fringe' party of the north and east of Scotland, so far as first-past-the-post elections are concerned. Which is what counts, so far as Westminster elections are concerned.

I've also been observing as much as I can (or could stomach!) of the almost wall-to-wall coverage of the Glasgow East bye-election in the past couple of weeks, both in the media (written and broadcast) and in the 'blogosphere'.

So, my conclusions:
- the SNP have almost certainly no hope whatsoever of taking this seat from Labour, with its 13,500+ majority in 2005;
- some other predicitons I have read say Labour will retain the seat with a much reduced majority of 3,000 to 3,300 or so, based (at least the latter) on presumably a much more detailed analysis than I would claim to have done;
- I think that whilst a great deal will depend on what is the precise turnout tomorrow, it seems clear there is enough sentiment within the constituency to give Labour a 'bloody nose', largely because of its low standing nationally and the low standing of Gordon Brown;
- Until the SNP can make real headway at a Westminster general election, which they have signally failed to do so far, then the party remains ultimately one of 'protest'; there is no sign of this changing anytime soon, however much supporters of the SNP may tell you otherwise;
- in summary, I think Labour will retain the seat, but with a considerably larger majority than some others predict, but still a lot less than it achieved in 2005. Forced against the wall for a precise answer, I'd say somewhere between 5-7,000 based on a 30 to 35 per cent turnout, which is what many seem to think will be the case.

All this is only a matter of opinion and I don't claim my view is as well-informed as some of those 'closer' to what is going on. Any 'brickbats' can await Friday morning, when we will ALL know what actually happened.

PS/ My own view of what I would LIKE to happen? As someone who supports Scotland remaining as part of the UK, my instinct (through gritted teeth worn down to the gums!) is to want Labour to win, but with a savagely reduced majority of no more than 500; that would be a pretty strong signal to Labour just how poorly they are thought of and particularly their current Leader. This particular constituency has precious little to show for its long-term loyalty to Labour, both in government and in opposition FOR DECADES. I'm not going to waste my time thinking that anyone other than Labour or SNP will win, as the likelihood of that happening is less than negligible - it is zero.

UPDATE: (Friday 25JUL08 09.00 BST) In a stunning reversal, the SNP pip Labour to the post in Glasgow East. So my 'tentative predicitons' were entirely wrong - well done to the Glasgow East voters for sending Labour on their way! I'm not over the moon that the SNP have won of course, but for the moment I must simply say 'Well Done!' to them. I've blogged about this a little more fully here.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The gold's a little tarnished ... sigh

I'm sorry to learn that Estelle Getty, one of the Golden Girls, has died shortly before her 85th birthday. I used to enjoy her sassy one-liners directed at her co-stars a lot! Here she relates her tall-tale of a date she had with Pablo Picasso:



Here we see her way of handling family disputes. Don't mess with that lady! But Sophie's human side gets a look in at the end:



Estelle Getty died this morning at her Hollywood home and suffered from severe dementia in recent years.

Rest In Peace.

Monday, 21 July 2008

A decent spell of weather forecast for Nairn

At last! Today was one of the first really decent days weather-wise here in Nairn and the inner Moray Firth since I returned home to Scotland from wintering in Spain in early May. Admittedly the week immediately after my return here was pretty good too, but since then it has been a lot cooler than usual, at least that's my impression. However, today was good and the forecast is that the weather will continue to be fine for the rest of the week, becoming somewhat warmer toward the weekend. Today we had 21 degC at one point in the afternoon, so if we get 24 or 25 degC in a few days I shall be a happy boy!

Despite the reasonably high temepratures today it was quite breezy from the west, but it was a very pleasant breeze, and there were quite a few people down on the beach today and at the Links Kiosk, both less than 100 metres from where I live. I took some photographs toward the end of the afternoon and there were quite a few youngsters in the water, but I expect most adults would still find the water too cold without a wetsuit (I certainly would). Here are a couple of the photographs I took from my apartmeent today:



Nairn Beach - 21 July 2008
(click on images to see enlargements)




Earlier in the afternoon I did a lovely long circuit on foot, from here along the path toward the swimmingg pool and on along the shore-path past almost to Nairn Golf Club and up around Seabank, Albert and Thurlow Roads before turning back down onto the links and putting pitch area and home - a very pleasant walk at a brisk pace in short-sleeves; the warmish breeze off the sea was lovely. I'll be doing similar walks most days this week if the weather holds up as promised.

PS/ I'm watching the Prom on BBC4 until 9.30pm; Saint-Saen's Symphony No. 3 is being played just now by the French Radio Philharmonic Orchestra (Myung-Whun Chung conducting) and it's a real treat. However, as it's still about 16 degC here at 9pm with no wind I shall take myself down on to the beach again immediate after it ends to watch the 'gloaming'.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Call to ban tobacco products in EU by 2025

Irish MEP Avril Doyle wants to see a ban on tobacco products across the EU within 15 years:



"I would be happy to see a long-term target date, say 2025, when it would be illegal to sell tobacco products in the EU," she said to an applauding crowd of parliamentarians and global health experts.

"That would give them 15 years' notice for all our citizens to realise just how serious we are about not allowing their continued sale in the EU, and hopefully elsewhere," she added.

She was speaking at a conference she had organised, as a member of the steering committee of the EPP, the largest political group in the EU, to discuss 'ways for the EU to comply with what anti-smoking campaigners call the most important article of the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Article 5.3, which requires its signatories to prevent lobbying by tobacco companies on any public health policies.'

The final two paragraphs of the linked article are also quite 'interesting', for what they reveal of the European Commission's long-term intentions; remember these are the people who brought us the [now defunct] EU Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty, the one which the irish people rejected in a referendum and which is somehow not quite dead yet:



Talk of banning tobacco and tobacco lobbyists came as the commission unveiled plans to make Europeans pay a lot more for cigarettes by hiking excise taxes.

The commission wants to harmonise tobacco taxes across Europe in order to discourage smoking and clamp down on smuggling.

Yes, I am broadly in favour of the EU, but these folks really have a peculiar way of trying to garner the support of my already pretty-sceptical fellow country-men/-women if the polls are to be believed!

Now, as a person who has never smoked, but is not a 'militant' anti-smoker either (that's often, I find, the province of former smokers), I have no personal stake in this and would certainly find a tobacco-free world a much more pleasant place. However, quite apart from the fact that I believe in more liberty, not less (although whether I would really wish to see the 'hard' drugs which are currently illegal become legal is something I'm not totally sure about, to be quite honest), I do wonder if Mrs Doyle and those who think like her have forgotten all they might ever have learned in their history classes at school, about how disastrous that other great attempt at banning a formerly-legal substance (alcohol) was in the US? Do we really want to see tobacco driven underground and become the province of drug-pushers, with all the crime and corruption that this causes? Tobacco is, remember, an addictive substance and people aren't just going to accept meekly the total ban she proposes, any more than those who wished to consume alcohol during 'prohibition' in the US accepted it; the [18th] amendment outlawing alcohol remains the only amendment to the US Constitution ever to have been repealed [by the 21st amendment] and that after only 14 years. No, Mrs Doyle, I doubt very much whether this utopian idea has a chance!

A Caribbean vacation with a difference

I've been to the Caribbean a couple of times and enjoyed it hugely, but these two (a gay couple from Seattle, WA) have taken the experience to a whole new level, not with anything flashy or extravagant, just an enjoyable both active and relaxed week's vacation in St Maarten. There is some nudity involved, but it is all very tastefully done (in my opinion) and their video-compilation is a pretty good effort for amateurs, matching appropriate music throughout. I enjoyed viewing it this Sunday morning; I hope you will too!



(thru the very amusing and naughty Aussielicious)

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Facebook

Statement:

- I have read an article in today's Daily Telegraph magazine about 'Facebook' and about its founder;

- as a result I have now deactivated(*) my 'Facebook' account;

- earlier this year I considered deactivating(*) my account after reading about a second firm the founder had set up to exploit members' contacts and personal details listed in their 'Facebook' profiles for advertising purposes, without the consent of 'Facebook' members, but when that enterprise failed as a result of protests from members and the founder apologised, I decided not to;

- I cannot imagine any circumstance that I shall participate knowingly as a member or customer of any enterprise with which the founder of 'Facebook' has any managerial input in the future.

(*) There does not seem to be an option to 'delete' member accounts on 'Facebook'; I do recall reading about this a year or so back and thought it was somewhat unusual at the time; in retrospect it no longer surprises, after having read the Daily Telegraph magazine article.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Happy 90th Birthday to Nelson Mandela!!


Nelson Mandela's Inaugural Speech
as President of South Africa
in 1994

-


Undoubtedly one of the greatest human beings at present alive.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

If true this is appalling homophobia!

The employment trubunal hearing in Edinburgh continues, but if the allegations being made by a dismissed employee are found to be believable then it is an appalling case of homophobic bigotry. The details published in the linked article seem pretty damning on the face of it. I will be trying to follow this case to see what decision is reached.

Police hypocrisy over disclosure of information

The police often tell us, when the subject of ID Cards comes up, and the centralised database apparently necessary to make the system viable, that "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

Now we see clearly the hypocrisy of the police when it comes to the police themselves being required to reveal operational information, by no less a person than the Scottish Information Commissioner.

The case involves Northern Constabulary, the force responsible for policing my part of Scotland and relates to the death of a man in Wick in February 1997. His body was found in the harbour and the police stated that his death was accidental. The family did and do not accept this conclusion. A review of the police investigation conducted by Central Scotland Police Chief Constable Andrew Cameron, published in February 2007, criticised some procedures followed by Northern Constabulary; only parts of the report were published, however, with sensitive parts being 'blanked out' at the request of Northern Constabulary.

Now the Scottish Information Commissioner has ruled that Northern Constabulary must reveal the names of officers based in Wick at the time and the force is appealing against this decision on what seem to me to be the most far-fetched, wrong-headed and vexatious grounds:



"The appeal is based on the grounds of the law, in relation to the disclosure of personal data, covered by the Data Protection Act 1988 and requests that the decision should accordingly be quashed."

How can it be in conravention of the Data Protection Act to reveal information about who was on duty? The strong suspicion must be be that the police do have something to hide.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Evangelism and academic rigour in the Highlands

There was a very interesting letter in Tuesday's Inverness Courier which I reproduce in full:



Little chance of training in intellectual rigour

Sir,

Like Graeme Mochrie (Courier 4.7.08) I became an increasingly concerned member of the audience at the recent Eden Court Lecture by Rev Prof Andrew McGowan, Principal of Highland Theological College.

This is clearly an Evangelical Christian Institution first, and, an academic one very much second. Prof McGowan's honest answers to questions on attitudes within the college to creationism and to homosexuality, together with the heated debate at the 2006 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, prior to approval of the college to provide the academic training for Church of Scotland ministers and readers, all suggest a college unsuited to a future as the equivalent of the divinity faculty of a fully functioning UHI.

Last week I was privileged as a guest to attend a graduation ceremony at the University of Aberdeen where one of the main academic speakers referred to the new graduates going out into the world with minds trained to be "sceptical, curious and intellectually rigorous." Not much chance of that at the Highland Theological College I fear.

Floris Greenlaw (Mrs), Knockchoille, Druimkinneras, Kiltarlity, Beauly

It so happens that I too have attended a talk given by the Rev Prof Andrew McGowan a couple of years ago, although the subject wasn't principally about theology (he was giving a light-hearted talk about his experiences as a Chaplian on board cruises run by The National Trust for Scotland [of which I have for decades been a member]), I have to say that at the time some of the supposedly humorous comments he made left me feeling distinctly unamused.

What is interesting about the letter, though, is that it states loud and clear just what the principal focus of Highland Theological College is and the writer's worries about the academic rigour to be expected of such an organisation in its projected role as a 'divinity college' of the future UHI (University of the Highlands and Islands). On the other hand, why this is a surprise to anyone is a surprise to me; I have long considered this part of Scotland (and particularly those parts of the country north and west of Inverness) to be the 'bible belt' of Britain - you know, the part of the country where a hotel owner made a terrific fuss a few years ago about renting a room to a gay couple (see also here). It's not only in the north of Scotland that this kind of thing happens, unfortunately. The poor old Rev Prof Andrew McGowan is merely reflecting the rather squalid religious pond in which he swims. And for anyone who reads this and takes offence at my blunt remarks - tough!

The financial 'crisis' - to blog or not to blog

Like some others (many others) I have been, in my case for at least a few years, observing with some apprehension likely developments in the global economy. In the UK these developments have become more obvious to 'the man in the street' for roughly the last year when domestic financial bad news began to hit the headlines. Whilst I have blogged about this from time to time over the past four or five years, I have not felt it wise, or useful, to keep up a running commentary on every new 'disaster' - it has seemed clear to me for some time that a global economic re-adjustment, long predicted, is now finally underway - it is not going to happen overnight and in my view we are only near the beginning of what is going to happen over the next few years, but it is not going to be pretty or commfortable for many of us, specially in western countries which have been relying for many years (decades) on increasing levels of borrowing to sustain our national and individual economies. One day the bill has to be paid and that day is upon us, except it won't be over in one day. There will always be survivors, though. How individuals manage their own resources can make a big difference to how badly they will be affected, but it is probably true to say that for those (the vast majority) who have done little or nothing so far to rein in their indebtedness, by continuing their profligate practices of acquiring more and more goods and services (cars, houses, clothes, expensive vacations, etc.) by increasing their borrowing to fund them, are going to be facing difficult times. The same goes for national economies of course. Our own government has breezed ahead with its redistributional policies, by squandering our national resources and by increasing borrowing levels dramatically. Only the US government has been more reckless.

However, one day the holders of debt paper begin to realise that the real value of their assets may be a good deal less than the face value. The situation is even more toxic when the economies of the main lenders (whether individual, corporate or national) have been able to grow hugely rapidly solely as a result of the consuming nations historic high credit ratings being assumed to be 'good' for the debt. In other words the whole global economy has been based on 'confidence' and it is that confidence which is in process of undergoing a massive re-evaluation. Naturally in this situation the hunt is on for people to 'blame', but the only people to blame are ourselves - rather too many have been willing to give their votes to political parties who have promised nirvana in the short-term and the politicians who have peddled this story are, through a mixture of ambition, incompetence and venality, going to be the obvious targets. The truth is, though, that a large part of our historically-high standards of living in western countries is built up on unsustainable bases. It all comes down to the old saw: total income one pound, coupled with total expenditure 99p, happiness, but let total expenditure creep up to 101p whilst still having income of only one pound and you will have misery. A lot of people are going to have to adjust their expectations - that food must not be squandered, that clothes should be expected to be used until they are worn out and not changed simply to stay in fashion, that vacations will probably have to be briefer and less epxensive, etc. Those are only the cosmetic changes though - what really needs to happen is that the State is reduced to a much smaller role and the safety-net which it provides, with our taxes and our national borrowing, will have to be similarly reduced. And of course people in countries which are already poor and with economies which don't amount to much (large parts of Africa, parts of Asia and Latin America) are going to see their sometimes already pitifully low standards of living fall, with the so-called 'rich' nations no longer in a position to, or willing to, help out in any substantial way.

Now, I think I have rambled on for quite long enough. I read with interest this blog post some days ago, followed up by this one today - I'm afraid that what is speculated on there is not at all far-fetched. However, being of an optimistic nature, I would say that ultimately a lot of the changes which are in process will be good for all of us, but it is undeniable that along the way many are going to suffer. Our individual and national task is to ensure that we are on the right side of history by taking appropriate action - it is too late for many, probably, but who said anything about life being fair? I have been preaching this in a low-key way here and elsewhere for years, as have some others; it is not my problem if some are only now waking up to the mess they've got themselves into. I hope the government, in its [hopefully short] time remaining in power does not try and 'help' by raising taxes to sustain its profligate levels of public spending in the hope of bolstering its chances at the next election; if the British people fall for that one again, then they really deserve all they get!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Italy, a lovely country, but ...

An Italian court has had to overturn a Government decision to force someone to re-take a driving test because he is gay, claiming that he suffered from a "sexual identity disturbance". The court has also ordered the government to pay Danilo Giuffrida €100,000 compensatory damages for its "evident sexual discrimination" and the damage caused to his constitutional rights as homosexuality could not be considered a "mental illness".
(thru Jae at Dreaming of Chong Nonsi)

Civil partnerships and registrars' personal beliefs

A few days ago a registrar in Islington, London, won her case before an employment rights tribunal that she had been harrassed by her employers, Islington Council, because of her refusal to officiate at civil partnership ceremonies between same-sex partners, because of her strong religious convictions. When her claim was raised last January I wrote here my view that her claim was ridiculous and should be thrown out - my views have not changed.

When the tribunal's decision was announced I wanted to wait a few days to digest what had happened. Some blogs have written about it already, and surprisingly some news-media commentators and even some gay bloggers have expressed doubts as to whether it would have been wrong for the registrar to lose her case, based on the fact that Islington Council had somehow changed the terms of her employment without consulting her and that when she had first become a registrar there was no requirement to conduct civil partnerships because the law which authorises them only came into force after her employment began. I find this a bizarre point of view - and profoundly wrong.

I daresay there are still employees of firms and various public bodies throughout the country who were in post when the Race Discrimination Act came into force who sincerely believed that their religions justified/supported discrimination on the grounds of race and who carried out their jobs in accordance with their beliefs. Some countries operated a legal system based on such beliefs until relatively recently - the US until the Civil Rights Amendment was passed in the 1960s and South Africa until apartheid was abolished. However, anyone found today to be discriminatiung on the grounds of race in this country would be in contravention of the Race Relations Act and it would not be tolerated.

A registrar has always potentially been obliged to conduct marriage ceremonies between heterosexuals who would not have been eleigible for a church/mosque/temple wedding on religious grounds, indeed a Christian registrar such as the complainant may have been obliged to conduct marriage ceremonies in the past for persons of other faiths or of no faith - and for a Christian with so-called 'orthodox'beliefs this must have been very difficult. In any case, the whole point of a marriage conducted in a Registry Office is that it is not a religious ceremony, but a secular one authorised by the State in which religion, legally, plays absolutely no part.

For me the recent case is quite clear. Parliament has the right, sometimes unfortunately in my view (some recent terrorism laws, for example), to pass any law it sees fit into statute and such laws are enforceable throughout the whole country and must be obeyed by us all, however much any particular individual may disagree with the content of a particular law. Parliament has chosen to authorise civil partnerships and councils are obliged to provide civil partnership facilities. Registrars are public officials and are employed specifically to provide various services to the public in terms of Acts of Parliament (for example, births, marriages and deaths - and for a few years now civil partnerships). No citizen, far less a public employee, has the right to ignore laws they happen to disagree with. The fact that she was employed as a Rgsitrar prior to the Civil Partnerships Act becoming law is irrelevant, in my view. The decision of the employment tribunal should be challenged and over-turned. If the kind of reasoning the tribunal used to reach its decision is allowed to stand, where will it all end? Is the UK a secular democracy or a theocracy? That is the real issue here.

Knife crime and 'shock tactics'

Knife crime has become the latest 'bogeyman' issue to whip up the British masses. It certainly seems that the incidences of this type of criminality have increased of late, or perhaps it's just that the reporting of these incidents has become more extensive. I don't know. What is clear it that the two main political parties are falling over themselves to identify remedies for it. The latest big idea from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is to 'force' those caught carrying knives to visit A&E wards to see the victims of knife-crime. Oh, the good lady also wants to 'force' pubs and clubs associated with knife-crime to search customers on entry. Conservative ideas aren't much better - see the end of the same linked article. See also this Sunday Telegraph article discussing the soon-to-be-released (apparently) statistics that violent crime has gone down and whether they are believed by anyone who lives in the real world.

I have a few more radical ideas, naturally they are bonkers, but I suspect very strongly that my ideas would solve the problem within a week; they sound a little too much like former Prime Minister Tony Blair's somewhat messianic (aka 'bonkers') idea to try and check children before birth (watch the embedded video at top-left of this blog to see how the fool was led into making that mad statement, eyes 'glinting' with the true zeal of the possessed (of madness). So in this illustrious company, possibly being denounced as 'bonkers' has ceased to alarm me.

So, what are my 'radical' suggestions if we really want to tackle knife-crime:

- David Cameron wants to lock people up who are found to be carrying knives; as the Telegraph shows (see article linked above), however, there aren't the prison places to allow this. I suggest that we start shooting people found carrying knives - let me be clear, I am not suggesting trying them and convicting them, I am suggesting shoot on sight, summary justice;

- Jacqui Smith wants to force pubs 'associated with knife crime' to check customers under threat of removing their licences to trade. My solution is much simpler; simply remove the licences of any pub 'associated with knife crime' and for that matter where drugs are traded, the first time such things occur. No appeal;

- one of the audience members on Thursday evening's Question Time on BBC1 (the audience made up on this occasion exclusively of younger people) suggested metal-detectors for all schools. We do this already at airports and various other public venues. Implement this idea immediately. Any person attempting to enter a school with a 'blade' to be summarily shot; if the parents complain, shoot them too.

Do I really want to see all these things done? No, I don't. I don't want to see this country turned into a Judge Dredd style of police state; the police state we have aleady is quite enough. However, I think that about a week after we started doing these things the problems would melt away. And we wouldn't need to squander yet more resources building even more prisons.

I have become tired of reading about crime waves being treated by politicians as 'tabloid' policy issues - both main political parties coming up with more ideas which are not likely to solve whatever problems really exist, but are designed simply to try and show they are doing something, when it is quite obvious these are substitutes for simply wringing their hands in impotent frustration, without much likelihood of effectiveness.

Do I believe what I have just written? You decide.

Friday, 11 July 2008

PPDA s'en va

The end of an era on French television. The speculation is that he 'spoke truth to power' just once too often. It's a shame - and shameful.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Labour's statist NHS policies inadvertantly exposed at PMQs

Not the greatest PMQs ever - neither Harman nor Hague scored any major points, although Harman was nowhere near as good as last time; her responses were mostly confused non sequiturs, of an even more formulaic 'party line' nature than is usually the case, and she didn't seem to believe half of it herself.

However, one of the questions from a Labour MP hit me in the face; I only half-listened to the response from Harman and indeed think it was relatively unimportant (and certainly menaingless). What I found interesting was the mind-set which allowed a question with that content to be asked in the first place.

Anne Snelgrove MP, Labour, Swindon South, asked this question:



Will my Right Honourable Friend join me in thanking the hard-working staff of the Great Western Hospital in Swindon who have used extra funding from the Government to cut C-difficile cases to well below target and will she ensure that the Matrons throughout the country have the resources to keep the NHS sparkling in its 60th anniversary year?

Harriet Harman MP, Labour, Leader of the House responded with a perfectly-standard formula, albeit grotesquely padded-out to disguise the platitudes she was mouthing, whilst not forgetting a gratuitous swipe at the last government, which left office more than 11 years ago:



I congratulate the staff at Great Western Hospital and throughout the National Health Service in tackling hospital acquired infection; it's important work and I think it's an opportunity on the 60th anniversary of the National Health Service to pay tribute to the entire staff team of the National Health Service who have kept it going even when it was under-resourced and struggling and to pay tribute too to their work under the leadership of Arad Darzi [sp?]. Two thousand clinicians have been involved in shaping a consultation paper for the way forward and I hope that all staff in the NHS - not only can we thank them for their work, but invite them to help us shape the way forward for the future for the NHS.

- bizarre sentence structure there toward the end (and I've done my best to type exactly what she said from my recording) and much of it meaningless verbiage, but that's not unusual with responses at PMQs.

No, what interests me about this exchange was one small part of it, the bit I've high-lighted in red and focussing in on the few words that I've underlined. Is it really the case that the target for C-difficile infection is so far above 'zero', that success can be said to have occurred when infection levels have been held to well below that target, whatever it is? Personally I believe that the only acceptable target should be 'zero' infections, even if I am perfectly prepared to concede that this is never likely to be achieved, or certainly not consistently oner a lengthy period.

It's the whole language of debate on the subject of the NHS in general that I take great exception to. The self-congratulatory tone of much of the discussion on the NHS, particularly [but not eclusively] from the Labour side, is so depressing. Regarding as a success a level of C-difficile infections 'well below' a target which is set some way above zero is just one small example of the poverty of ambition which surrounds conventional thinking on how to manage health-care in this country.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The smoking ban ... and Parliamentary hypocrisy

Through the good offices of the enterprising Trixy we have a fabulous example of Parliamentary hypocrisy in relation to the smoking ban; apparently when passing the law to ban smoking, our parliamentarians conveniently voted themselves an exemption! And these jokers wonder why they are held in such contempt by most of the rest of us?! The location is the Strangers' Bar - be sure to read the scrolling captions as they emphasise the extent of the parliamentary treachery involved:



(thru the devil's kitchen, but read also this fabulous parody on the Resistance is Useless blog)

PS/ Full disclosure: I am not a smoker. I have never smoked. I never will smoke. I was oppposed to the blanket ban on smoking on 'libertarian' grounds. I might have supported it had the ban been drawn up with flexibility and choice in mind and not just, as this exemption shows, the completely hypocritical manoeuvrings of our parliamentarians for their own benefit.

Monday, 7 July 2008

It's a Spanish cock and ball story!

A 28 year old transexual from Jaén province has had his application to join the Spanish military turned doing owing to ... ahem ... the complete absence of his 'bits'. The examining doctors cited a regulation in justification (Resolution 542/3802/2007 of the Armed Forces Exclusion Code). Apparently his female breasts were removed last year and he awaits a full male genitalia transplant.

Diversity indeed. Let's hope he fulfils his ambitions eventually.

Brown's "don't waste food" campaign

A lot of fun is being had in the blogosphere, mocking Gordon Brown's latest initiative, launched partly as the usual Sunday/Monday 'new policy' designed to fill the airwaves for half a day or a day and be soon forgotten, and partly to give him something important-sounding to say at the G8 summit in Hokkaido (Japan).

It's quite amusing to visit this year's G8 website because it has a very important announcement on the homepage that the image sizes are controlled to reduce electricity consumptiopn - fair enough - but the welcome video then proceeds to show various of the political leaders arriving in large aircraft. No doubt each of the Leaders has quite a large entourage, who will all need lodging, feeding and no doubt entertainment (geishas anyone? - not for Mr Merkel, I supppse, maybe she'll get a sumo wrestler). Have these people never heard of video-conferencing?

Anyway, to get back to Gordon Brown and his lectures to us on food. Whilst I think his latest effort at 'spin', as a subsitute for actually running the country even moderately effectively, may in theory have some small validity, his cack-handed presentational efforts don't fool anyone. On the other hand I know that many people, particularly younger people, are in my view overly-sensitive to 'best before' and 'use by' dates and other features of the health & safety mania that has infected our civilisation in recent years.

The flaws in planning ahead when buying food suppplies for a whole week ahead, which he suggests, have been outlined by others. A few examples:
- you do your 'big' shoppping at the weekend for the coming week or so and plan this or that chiiled pre-prepared dish for each evening meal, however later you decide to eat out rather than consume the lasagna or lamb shanks you had pencilled in for Wednesday and on Thursday or Friday you decide to have a take-out meal rather than eat the pizza waiting in the 'fridge;
- both go in the waste bin.

My system for many years has been to buy durable items (tinned or dried goods) irregularly, but in sizeable quantities. I buy fresh items (meat, fish, vegetables, fruit etc) in much smaller quantities, but much more regularly. I do not eat pre-prepared food. Ever. It is a simple matter to make an omelette or a salad, for example, and takes no longer than heating some pre-prepared muck in a micro-wave. It is also, in my view, less likely to be over-laden with salt and other questionnable chemicals, added purely for the convenience of the manufacturers and their profit margins.

As for 'use by' and 'best before' dates, I know what each of these terms means. I tend to obey the 'use by' warnings, specially where these appear on dairy products, although I do not believe that certain dairy items (blue cheeses, for example) need to be thrown out the moment the 'use by' date comes around. I positively ignore warnings on fresh meats, other than chicken or pork. I prefer my beef to be well-aged and trust my own judgement not to eat items which really are 'off'. I rarely if ever wash fresh fruit, such as cherries, strawberries or blueberries - possibly I occasionally (but almost never, in reality) have a slight tummy upset, but I think this allows my body to acquire some beneficial immunity to future infections. The most I do is rinse things briefly under a running tap. I'm still alive.

I rarely throw much away except around Christmas, when I probably over-cater in a fairly profligate way and have to throw quite a lot away afterwards, and if I am catering for larger numbers at other times of the year (for the occasional dinner parties or buffets I hold).

Whilst the Prime Minister may have a point, though, he makes himself look foolish by seeming to lecture people, specially when he could actually be doing what we pay him to do - manage the country effectively - something he has signally failed to do.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Rafael Nadal wins the Men's Singles Title at Wimbledon!

¡Felicitaciones!

Rafael Nadal


Throughout the late afternoon until 9.30pm (British time) this evening I have been watching the 'battle' for supremacy this year at Wimbledon between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. After being 2 sets down to Nadal, Roger Federer of Switzerland succeeded in clawing his way back to parity with the Spaniard. In both the third and fourth sets he achieved this only as a result of tie-breaks.

The first and second sets, in both of which Rafael Nadal won 6-4, were in reality equally close, although after the second set it looked as if Federer might go out in straight sets. That wasn't to be, of course.

Play had to stop twice because of rain, the second occasion was during the final dramatic set. However, when they returned the level of tennis only rose to greater heights and Rafael finally achieved a hard-fought and nail-biting victory over Roger with a score of 9-7.

Roger Federer fought hard throughout the match in an attempt to win a sixth straight win at Wimbledon, even if (in my view) Nadal seemed always to have the edge. Rafael Nadal is a very worthy winner.

¡Felicitaciones!

Rafael Nadal

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Not all Scots are dour

Kenneth Sutherland's final remark about the merits of having his marriage in the supermarket where he works, as does his wife, is either uncompromisingly down-to-earth or hides a very deadpan humour:



"Definitely, because you can watch the ceremony and then go do your shopping afterwards."

Hearty congratulations to the newlyweds!

"For the greater good" ...

... and if a few (*) people get hurt along the way, then that is regrettable.
(thru Chicken Yoghurt)

(*) 'A few' in this context means 680 lives disrupted, at the very least, and quite possibly ruined. Obviously a mere detail in the greater scheme of things.

Labour to announce its Glasgow East candidate

... on Friday night, or so it was predicted.

Didn't happen though - the man thought to be a shoo-in for the role, George Ryan, chose not to turn up for the selection meeting, apparently having decided at the last minute not to stand for that old stalwart of motives, 'family reasons'.

That the governing political party of this country is unable to come up with a candidate in what has historically been a very safe seat, when the sitting MP has resigned for health reasons (which were known some time before), is quite extrordinary. Let's hope they can get their act together for Monday, as is now being predicted - it would be grimly amusing for the rest of us, not to mention excruciatingly embarrassing for the Labour Party and its embattled Prime Minister, Gordon Brown (for those who might have forgotton, or be trying to forget it), if they cannot identify a genuine candidate before the nominations close.

Friday, 4 July 2008

'The Onion' on the legacy of the Bush 43 Presidency

Exceedingly cruel, but scarily realistic, like much of The Onion's offerings:



- a memento of his last July 4th as Supreme Commander and President of the United States of America.
(thru: !! Oh My God !! )

Visit The Onion here.

How revolting!

I am so glad I am not a regular transit passenger at Inverness railway station.

It took me many years, but ...




- it's only in recent years that I have come to the conclusion that as I have only one life to live, I may as well get on with it and enjoy it. In earlier years I never made a particular effort to 'hide' anything, I simply didn't talk about it or acknowledge it, except to a few very close friends (rather in the manner of, for example, Peter Mandelson, Matthew Parris, or Michael Brown - all of whom were 'outed' involuntarily, but have probably enjoyed their lives since a lot better). For the last twenty or so years, though, I have basically ceased to care what others may think - if anyone is unhappy with what I am, it is their problem, not mine. A few friendships have come to an end as a result, but more friendships, and better ones, have come along to replace them. I still don't shout it from the rooftops of course, but one very positive result is that the last time anyone, family or friend, has assured me I'll one day find 'a nice girl' to marry is many years ago.

Whoever and whatever you are, the only advice I can come up with is to, above all,
Be. Honest. With. Yourself.

That's so ... homosexual (said with a disdainful curl of the lip)

This quite amusing story just shows the ridiculous lengths to which some bigots will go to avoid using the sexual deviants' own word for themselves:



THE American Family Association has a strict policy to replace the word "gay" with "homosexual" on its news website - but it created a problem with sprinter Tyson Gay.

The association's computer's auto-corrected the US sprint star's name to Tyson Homosexual.

Here's an extract of an Associated Press story as it ran on the association's OneNewsNow Christian news website
:

Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has. His time of 9.68 seconds at the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday doesn't count as a world record, because it was run with the help of a too-strong tailwind.

Here's what does matter: Homosexual qualified for his first Summer Games team and served notice he's certainly someone to watch in Beijing.

"It means a lot to me," the 25-year-old Homosexual said. "I'm glad my body could do it, because now I know I have it in me."


The embarassing blunder has since been fixed, although it's still visible on the site's search page.

There's a link from that article to a blog at the Washington Post, where the blog post is followed by an absolutely enormous number of comments, rather too many of which (for my taste) are completely wacko, for example this is one of many by one MarkF:



Joe G-A-Y,

I don't accept that to believe that same-sex activity is wrong amounts to bigotry.

I lived the same-sex way for over thirty-years. I know it from the inside, thoroughly, as one who was dedicated to it. I always saw the disgusting and depressing side of it, yet I still believed that somehow I could turn all that around myself. I didn't want to look at the evil that was in my own heart. Of course I never showed that side of me to those outside of the same-sex community, because I was ashamed of it. Now I know that the whole concept of same-sex behavior is flawed and deceptive, just like many things in life are. The same-sex life is a never ending search for happiness that always leads to a sad or un-fullfilling end.

A man cannot be happy if he denies his own masculinity. That's a person at war with himself. I stepped off of and out of the same-sex way and things look a lot different to me now that I have.

We have a lot of problems in the world that are caused by immorality... divorce, broken homes, children with no family, kids having kids, and the most common problem of all is heartbreak that comes from casual relationships. No one can believe that this is good for us. It is hypocrisy to just focus on people with same-sex attraction and to ignore all the rest of our problems. But it is also wrong to let it be thought that the same-sex way is not one of pain and suffering, just the same as adultery is.

- a very pertinent question is posed by another commenter:



So, anybody here want to be the first to have newly-straight MarkF marry their sister?

Anyone?

(thru Bill and Kent)

Police State Britain: No2ID Cards protesters arrested in Edinburgh!!

I'm afraid I have been a little behind the curve with this, but I have just come across these stories published by the ever-excellent SpyBlog over the past few days about the arrests of 9 No2ID protesters in Edinburgh on Monday:

Nine NO2ID arrests at Home Office Minister Meg Hillier's secretive ID Cards centralised State database propaganda meeting in Edinburgh

Support the NO2ID Nine who were arrested in Edinburgh

Some MSM reporting of the incident is here: BBC, Scotsman (later report here), The Herald, Edinburgh Evening News and the Daily Record.

From a No2ID discussion forum comes this plea for help from Geraint Bevan, the NO2ID co-ordinator in Scotland and Glasgow local group organiser, one of those arrested on Monday:



"If anyone would like to contribute to legal costs, cheques made payable to "Glasgow NO2ID", along with an indication of the intended purpose, would be gratefully received at 3e Grovepark Gardens, Glasgow G20 7JB. Any surplus after the cases have all concluded would be sent to London to be added to the legal defence fund (or to start an activists defence fund, whatever)."

Here is Geraint Bevan's account of what happened on Monday, taken from the same discussion forum:



Nine of us have been charged for breach of the peace. Eight for causing "alarm and distress" for walking into the hotel wearing white suits and masks (despite two of them actually wearing unmasked East German border guard uniforms), and me for "alarm and disturbance" for infiltrating the meeting, putting my hand up to speak, taking the microphone when offered, speaking, and refusing to leave immediately while speaking after the minister requested that I do so.

Of the eight, one is a young lady who walked in after everyone else with a young child. The idea that she might have alarmed anyone is ridiculous. Another of the protesters was 17, on his first protest, doing only what I had told him - I'm very annoyed that he has been charged and had to spend a day in the cells at St Leonards.

There was a bit of heavy handed policing (they were responding to a 999 call and didn't know what they were facing) but it calmed down instantly the moment one of them realised they were being filmed by professionals and warned his colleagues. All protesters were entirely peaceful at all times.

I must emphasise that once the police realised that there actually wasn't any danger, they were all entirely courteous and professional throughout for the rest of the day. We still have to decide whether to file a complaint against the officer who ripped a mask of the face of a protester. He seemed a decent and friendly chap when I spoke to him later.

The police have told us that after speaking to groups of people inside, no one has any complaints about our conduct inside, there is no suggestion that we were anything other than peaceful. It is the "alarm" that has led to the charges "masked people in today's climate ...". Given that we had negotiated with the hotel manager to film an interview with STV inside (possibly after the 999 call had been made - that is still to be established), and were on our way out when the police arrived, I am surprised at the charges.

However, STV caught almost everything (except my contribution to the consultation) on camera. They followed the costumed protesters in, filmed them trying to negotiate entry, caught me being thrown out, an interview with me, our attempted departure, followed by the arrival of the police. Apparently we have made the main news programme, but couldn't see it ourselves.

We have all been bailed to appear before Edinburgh Sheriff's court on 24 July. I fully intend to use the occasion to highlight again how the Home Office are refusing to engage in debate with the public.

For clarification, I was not trying to engage in constructive debate inside the consultation. It would have taken hours to counter the nonsense that Meg Hillier was speaking and would have served little purpose. Instead, I concentrated on the fact that we and the general public had been excluded from the process.

There were a couple of amusing aspects. When I approached the registration desk just after the event started, I was able to see all the remaining badges and list of names - it was easy to select one. I entered the ID consultation with a newly-acquired false identity.

On entering the room, in which a video was playing, I slowly walked around to find the assigned seat for that person. Officials to whom I had been speaking outside appeared not to recognise me. No one challenged my entry as I took a seat. Meanwhile, officials who tackled the costumed protesters that tried to follow five minutes later asked the group if Dr Bevan was among them. So, they were looking out for me, but couldn't even spot me walking in late after I had been talking to them earlier. And these people think they are capable of controlling people's identities. Astonishing.
_________________
Geraint.
3085 D1DD B2A8 15ED 492F E75D 7175 7737 9D10 98D3 - Fingerprint

- a fuller report by Geraint Bevan about the shortcomings of and dangers inherent in the government's policy is here.

What all this amounts to is that the right of peaceful protest is now under very serious threat in this country. This is not new, unfortunately, as this video-compilation reminds us of various shocking mainly real-life occurrences over the past few years under this Labour government. The techniques of intimidation and smear outlined there are exactly those the Home Office used this past Monday in Edinburgh:



This is what totalitarian governments try to do. They try and manipulate reporting of protests against their policies to imply they are:
- violent, when they are plainly peaceful;
- the product of deluded minds.

They also become extremely secretive and guarded in how their policies are explained to the public with little serious effort being made to justify their proposals, except by using 'what if' scare tactics. The realistic gain in 'security' from successive erosions of liberty and free speech is always exaggerated and if challenged is glossed over (i.e. brushed aside).

Unfortunately many people, watching a news bulletin soon after coming home tired from a day's hard work, will rationalise this by assuming the protesters were violent and/or unhinged, just as the government wants them to believe. They may also think that the State's power will only be used against other people, those who 'deserve' it - but this could happen to anyone, and increasingly is happening to patently ordinary people who have the temerity to speak truth to power. Be warned - no-one will remain unaffected by this cancer growing in our country.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

What passes for 'excitement' amongst Scottish LibDems

The words 'excitement' and LibDem don't really go together of course - oxymoronic almost. Anyway, the Leader of the Scottish LibDems, Nicol Stephen, has resigned to 'spend more time with his family'; good luck to them all. There will now be an 'absolutely riveting' leadership contest.

Mr Eugenides puts it best:



"As for the Lib Dems, well... oh, really, who cares? I hereby pledge to write nothing more about it."

I hereby sign that pledge, too.

Boris to be at Pride

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is to participate at London Gay Pride on Saturday and is shown below holding a poster for the Stonewall campaign Education for All:



Boris has also been interviewed by PinkNews.

As a natural 'conservative' and former member of the Party, I would be glad to re-join and support it if I could be really confident that the Party has grown up about the diversity of human relationships. During the campaign for London Mayor, I wrote this about Boris; perhaps he and the Conservative Party are, at long last, 'getting it'!

(thru Unzipped: Gay Armenia)

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Just a little eggie ...

... a Cadbury's Creme eggie:

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor


(thru Andrew Sullivan)

The truth about 'waterboarding' - it is torture

The grotesque pretence that the US has not been practising torture for several years now, despite the baleful misprepresentations and plain lying of the US President, the Vice President and many other present and former members of the current US administration, is startlingly laid bare by Peter Hitchens, not my favourite person on the planet by a very long way, who has bravely subjected himself to a session of 'waterboarding', one of the techniques used during aggressive interrogation by both the current US administration, the Khmer Rouge and many other tyrannical regimes before them, notably Nazi Germany.

This is torture, plain and simple. No amount of jargon and self-serving legal opinions spewed out by the current US admiistration can disguise this fact.

One day, perhaps many years from now, those responsible for these practises in the current US administration, from the President on down, will be held to account for their crimes, if not in their lifetimes then by the judgement of history, which will certainly class this period of US history as a grotesque aberration from what the US has always prided itself on representing - freedom and above all justice and no longer does, at least for the present.

(thru Chicken Yoghurt)

Highland Council edging toward a new coalition?

I haven't yet seen this story online, or indeed in any other printed media than in the Nairn 'journal of record' The Nairnshire Telegraph (no online presence), but they report in their issue of Tuesday 1st July that a new coalition between the largest Independent 'grouping' and two of the other political groupings, the LibDems and Labour, may replace the collapsed Independent/SNP coalition.

A novel idea, apparently, is that the present Convener, Councillor Sandy Park, will more or less retain his title, but will hold the position jointly with local LibDem 'leader' Dr Michael Foxley.

The naivete of Sandy Park never ceases to amaze me; he is quoted several times in the article, but the most surreal quote attributed to him, out of a number of somewhat 'off the wall' remarks is certainly this one:



There was a question of who would be Convener. I was not prepared to give it up. Cllr Foxley will be the political administrative leader. I will chair the meetings and I will still be the face of the council. The only difference will be the political leader.

- although this one is probably at least as startling:



The independent group is now a solid group which will take the administration forward. I am now quite relaxed that we have the blend of people who can move forward.

In an editorial in the same issue, The Nairnshire Telegraph opines thus:



... And while Cllr Park may claim that his independents are now a more cohesive bunch, that boast is only as good as the next political test. Will their new partners find the independents as awkward and uncertain as the SNP appeared to have?

And have the independents, in taking on the LibDems and Labour, not just leaped from the frying pan into the fire? The whole business of party politics via proportional representation was a LibDem wheeze to gain power and look how they made their play at the start of this council. Will this lot not be just as demanding as the outgoing Nationalists? ...

I think that is a pretty fair summing-up of the whole notion that a grouping of nominally-united Independents can ever form a cohesive force when confronted with a group with genuine political interests (however misguided, in my view) in common. I expect there will be more turbulence to come in the affairs of Highland Council!

Important announcement




- the fact that I'm not American is a mere detail that I'm sure my devotees will overlook!
(thru Jae at Dreaming of Chong Nonsi)