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

Monday, 29 April 2002


Last week, the Holy Father met with the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church from the United States of America, to discuss with them the growing disquiet felt by many in the Church in the US and elsewhere concerning the revelations of child abuse by priests in the United States and in other countries and the cover-ups perpetrated by the Church hierarchy. This is a public relations disaster for the Church, and the efforts by the Vatican to bring some semblance of order to what has been going on must of course be seen as welcome, although some consider the Pope’s actions to be both dilatory and inadequate. It is probably too soon to form a proper judgement about what the Church is doing to purge itself of the sickness at its heart, but the following Vatican press releases seem to give an indication of the way the Church’s policies are veering:

- Press release VATICAN CITY, APR 23, 2002

Pope John Paul II said, in part: "Because of the great harm done by some priests and religious, the Church herself is viewed with distrust, and many are offended at the way in which the Church's leaders are perceived to have acted in this matter. The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by Society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God. To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern. …. It is true that a generalised lack of knowledge of the nature of the problem and also at times the advice of clinical experts led Bishops to make decisions which subsequent events showed to be wrong.”

The last sentence above seems, to me, to beg a great many questions and to seek to confuse the issue – namely, that senior personnel within the organisation of which the Holy Father is the effective ‘CEO’ covered up, over many years, flagrant criminal activity by members of staff.

The Holy Father also said: “The abuse of the young is a grave symptom of a crisis affecting not only the Church but society as a whole. It is a deep-seated crisis of sexual morality, even of human relationships, and its prime victims are the family and the young. In addressing the problem of abuse with clarity and determination, the Church will help society to understand and deal with the crisis in its midst."

I beg your pardon, Your Holiness, but society understands very well what has been going on in your Church and the flagrant cover-ups which you[r personnel] have hitherto participated in.

The Pope continued: "People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.” To read the full text of this press release, please click here.

- Press release VATICAN CITY, APR 25, 2002

This followed on from the discussions held two days earlier and a lunch held on 24th April, and the statement said, in part: “1) The sexual abuse of minors is rightly considered a crime by society and is an appalling sin in the eyes of God, above all when it is perpetrated by priests and religious whose vocation is to help persons to lead holy lives before God and men. 2) There is a need to convey to the victims and their families a profound sense of solidarity and to provide appropriate assistance in recovering faith and receiving pastoral care. 3) Even if the cases of true paedophilia on the part of priests and religious are few, all the participants recognised the gravity of the problem. In the meeting, the quantitative terms of the problem were discussed, since the statistics are not very clear in this regard. Attention was drawn to the fact that almost all the cases involved adolescents and therefore were not cases of true paedophilia.”

Excuse me? What is this ‘true paedophilia’ nonsense all about? Crimes have been committed by priests, and such crimes have been covered-up by the Church. End of story. Paedophilia is paedophilia – let’s not try and indulge in this attempt at minimising the gravity of what has happened, shall we?

The statement continues, in part: "We will propose that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recommend a special process for the dismissal from the clerical state of a priest who has become notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory, sexual abuse of minors.” To read the full text of this press release, please click here.

This seems to imply that a first offence is acceptable, and that it is only a repetition that will cause dismissal. What disgusting nonsense! There appears also to be an attempt, pretty explicit, to conflate paedophilia with homosexuality – I refute this utterly. Many commentators have reported that most cases of child abuse occur within the family and are perpetrated by married (and presumably in the main heterosexual) men. Paedophilia is the crime, not homosexuality.

I think the Church still has a long way to go before it ‘owns’ the crimes committed within its own organisation and is prepared to accept fully the implications of this for its own future – time will tell.

Monday, 22 April 2002


This evening Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the 'Front National', has won through to the second round of the French Presidential Election by pushing Lionel Jospin, the Socialist Prime Minister, into third place. The current President, Jacques Chirac, came out in top position and it is assumed he will win easily in the second round of voting in two weeks time - I hope to God this assumption is proved amply justified.

Not so long ago we had Jorg Haider elected to government in Austria, then we had Silvio Berlusconi elected to lead Italy.

What IS going on in Europe? Have we learned nothing in the past fifty years?

Friday, 19 April 2002


The propaganda war continues; now that Secretary of State Colin Powell has left the region, it appears as if things are getting back to ‘normal’ – not, of course, the kind of normality that most of us (certainly not me) would want to live with – it is reported that IDF troops have now moved out of Jenin, but are surrounding the town ‘to prevent suicide-bombers from Jenin travelling to Israel to cause more damage’.

Here in the UK, prominent politicians in both major political parties have been expressing differing views; it appears that amongst those senior politicians who happen to be Jewish, there is a split along political lines – whatever one may think of their individual views, I think that none of them can be considered ‘anti-Jewish’, although apart from their Jewishness, it is not absolutely clear that their views are any more relevant than anyone else’s – except for the fact that one of the three I mention below, by virtue of his senior position within the British government, undoubtedly has access no intelligence material not generally available to ordinary citizens. The other two are senior politicians in the governing Labour Party and the official opposition, respectively.

Some weeks ago, Gerald Kaufman spoke publicly of his growing disquiet about what the IDF was doing in the West Bank; he claimed that Israel was losing its rightful spot on the moral high-ground by conducting what he described as ‘brutal’ policies against ordinary Palestinians. This view has been echoed, in spades, in the past few days by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary – in the light, from the little he felt he could reveal publicly, of visits made by British diplomats based in the region to some of the major areas of conflict in the area, amongst which Jenin.

Last evening, as last week, ‘Question Time’ on BBC1 devoted a large part of the hour to discussing the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict, with vociferous support from both sides in the audience. Last evening, Michael Howard, Shadow Chancellor, expressed his views on the matter, the first time I have heard him speaking about it in recent times. His view, to paraphrase (I hope fairly), is that whilst he deplores terrorist activities perpetrated by Palestinian ‘suicide’ bombers and others, he regrets equally some of the more heavy-handed treatment that the Israelis appear to have been engaging in – whilst he made the additional point that if Israel did not now, and in years past, make strenuous efforts to defend itself against such ‘terrorism’, there would probably be no State of Israel today.

All these points of view have some validity, I think, but I repeat what I have said before – if Israel wishes to live peacably with its neighbours, it must change its current policy of bulldozing the homes of mainly innocent people; undoubtedly amongst those who have been rendered homeless recently in places such as Jenin there were Palestinians who have, or who would like to, conduct terrorist activities against Israel and its citizens, but unless Israel plans to eliminate physically all Palestinians (which I can hardly believe, even of Ariel Sharon in his wildest fantasies, surely – I hope), such policies will not be conducive to bridge-building and eventual peace.

Much is made of the offer about 18 or so months ago by the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, of a peace settlement to the Palestinians which would have offered them ‘95%’ of what they want; this is hotly-disputed by the Palestinians, from what I can gather. The trouble with conflicts like this is that there is propaganda on both sides, which tends to obscure the ‘truth’, whatever that may be – and I do not pretend to understand the different arguments in detail.

Anyway, after all this rambling, some recent BBC reports have highlighted the following:
The Israeli army says it is has left the West Bank town of Jenin and its refugee camp, but will continue to surround them to prevent "terrorist attacks". The withdrawal from Jenin - scene of the fiercest fighting during Israel's military operation in the West Bank - began on Thursday, as a UN envoy visiting the camp described the situation there as "horrific beyond belief". In other developments, a Palestinian suicide bomber exploded his car near the entrance to the Israeli settlement block of Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip on Friday, killing himself and injuring a soldier. Read more by clicking here.

Confessions of an Israeli reservist -
The killing of 13 reservists in an ambush on 9 April in the Jenin refugee camp shocked Israelis. Parents of the dead soldiers complained that their sons were sent unprepared into "a hornets' nest of terrorism". Yoni, a reservist serving in the West Bank, told BBC News Online: "We have become cannon fodder. We are reservists. Many people are asking why we don't just go in and carpet bomb the place." Yoni did not advocate the bombing of refugee camps because of the civilian casualties. But he said that even regular Israeli soldiers, let alone reservists, should not be sent into the alleys and tightly packed buildings of the Palestinian camps. Yoni, who is probably in the minority in Israel, argued that he saw no military solution to the conflict because "it is about people". "Take this for an example," he said. "There is a village where we have intelligence that someone is planning a terrorist attack. We surround the village and move in but there is a 17-year-old shepherd in a field on the edge of the village. He could be a terrorist, or he might warn them. Do I arrest him, blindfold him, tie his hands? Do I tell him to get inside quick. We are trained to fight armies and soldiers, and yet we have to deal with people in this situation." The whole principle of Operation Defensive Shield was questionable, Yoni said. Later he says: "We are serving here because it is our duty. But I don't know where it is leading and we would all rather be at home."
Read more by clicking here.

Jenin 'massacre evidence growing' -
Israeli tanks have begun to pull out. A British forensic expert who has gained access to the West Bank city of Jenin says evidence points to a massacre by Israeli forces. Prof Derrick Pounder, who is part of an Amnesty International team granted access to Jenin, said he has seen bodies lying in the streets and received eyewitness accounts of civilian deaths. The Dundee University expert said the Amnesty investigation has only just begun but Palestinian claims of a massacre were gaining foundation as the team continued its analysis. He said: "The truth will come out, as it has come out in Bosnia and Kosovo, as it has in other places where we've had these kinds of allegations. I must say that the evidence before us at the moment doesn't lead us to believe that the allegations are anything other than truthful and that therefore there are large numbers of civilian dead underneath these bulldozed and bombed ruins that we see." He said post mortems on two bodies had "given cause for suspicion" and there was "extensive damage" to Jenin.
Read more by clicking here.

Some people, such as Andrew Sullivan (see link at right), believe things are much simpler – that the Palestinians are ‘thugs’ and that anyone who criticises Israel has ulterior motives – he does not quite come out and say that they are ‘anti-semites’, but there is a clear undercurrent in his rantings that seems to imply this. Of course, Arabs are Semites too, so any claim of ‘anti-semitism’ in this particular context is nonsensical.

I am no supporter of Gerald Kaufman and Jack Straw (I can imagine few worse futures that a future under ‘socialism’), but their views on the current conflict at least merit some respect, just as do those of Michael Howard of course – and I recently resigned from the Conservative Party, when its current leader was elected to that position, because of what I see as the bigoted and homophobic views of far too many Conservatives (although I agree with much else that Party says).

As with all internecine squabbles, outsiders need to keep a level head and avoid become partisan to one side or the other – and we need to look at further ‘evidence’ of what has occurred over the past few weeks fairly, when it becomes available.

Saturday, 13 April 2002

Today, at long last, Yasser Arafat has broadcast in Arabic on Palestinian television a condemnation of suicide (aka 'homicide' pace Bush, it seems) bombing, at the insistence of US Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell had 'postponed' his meeting with Arafat, earlier tentatively scheduled for today, and it was widely interpreted as indicating his fury that Arafat had delayed broadcasting such a condemnation of terrorism, despite repeated calls to do so by President Bush over the past couple of weeks.

Now it is announced that the Powell/Arafat meeting will take place tomorrow (Sunday), and it is to be hoped that this won't prove a complete waste of time. Powell's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon does seem to have have been a pretty complete, if not a total, waste of time. The pretence that the Israeli authorities had US approval for what they are doing in the West Bank now seems to have been dropped, fortunately.

Most Israelis, one assumes, wish to live in peace and harmony in a country which is recognised to have a right to exist in the middle east, and it is perfectly clear that, until the recent peace proposals from Saudi Arabia, many Arab nations (including Saudi Arabia) did not really accept that Israel had a right to exist. However, it is extremely difficult to understand how this agenda can be advanced by the military activities of Israel in recent weeks. If Israel is in fact conducting its operations with due regard for the safety and dignity of most Palestinians, whilst 'going after' terrorists, it would be a great deal more persuasive if it stopped attempting to prevent impartial reporting of what is going on by the foreign media - firing stun grenades at journalists from respected foreign news media is definitely not the way to persuade people like me, generally sympathetic to Israel, that what it is doing is justified.

Wednesday, 10 April 2002

Blair at PMQs - we must insist that Israel cease its incursions into the West Bank and remove its forces at once, and we must insist that the Palestinian leadership condemn terrorist outrages and suicide attacks against Israel (this paraphrases what Blair said - it is not a direct quote).

This seems like a balanced approach and I support it.

Tuesday, 9 April 2002

President Bush, speaking in Knoxville, Tennessee on Monday reiterated his demand for Israel to withdraw from the territories it has occupiued in the past few weeks, saying: "I meant what I said to the Prime Minister of Israel. I expect there to be withdrawal without delay." He also called on Arab leaders to "stand up and condemn terrorism, terrorist activity".

It is now reported that Israel is to begin 'within hours' withdrawing troops from two West Bank towns. It is clear that Israel means to continue with its policies for as long as possible, despite the intense pressure coming from Washington. What is also clear is that the Palestinians, and other Arab leaders need to do their bit, too, in de-escalating the level of tension in the region by calling clearly and unambiguously for terrorist activity to cease.

Expect to pay more to fill up your tank with petrol over the coming days and weeks (Iraq halts oil exports for a month - crude prices rise immediately, falling back only slightly a little later).

Sunday, 7 April 2002


Some have tried to say over the past few days that US President Bush was not really asking the Israeli authorities to withdraw at once from the Palestinian territories they have been making incursions into these past couple of weeks. Israeli government spokespeople have said that what he really meant was that they should “clear out” the terrorists, which would take them three or so weeks, and then leave.

One blogger, Andrew Sullivan, said that his reading of Bush’s Rose Garden speech (see below) Thursday 4th April was not a ‘defeat’ for Bush and his fight against terrorism, because he (Bush) had not given a specific timetable for Israel to withdraw. Frankly, no-one but a few people like Sullivan had ever thought what Bush said could in ANY way be called a defeat; rather it was a strengthening of the US policy on combating terrorism, by the most measured and effective means, not necessarily those which would provide the maximum immediate increase in Bush’s popularity – instead he is acting, I think, like a statesman. I agree with Sullivan on many things, but his views on the Middle East are a major exception.

What Mr Bush actually said in the Rose Garden speech 4th April included the following:
“I call on the Palestinian Authority and all governments in the region to do everything in their power to stop terrorist activities, to disrupt terrorist financing, and to stop inciting violence by glorifying terror in state-owned media, or telling suicide bombers they are martyrs. They're not martyrs. They're murderers. And they undermine the cause of the Palestinian people.”
“America recognizes Israel's right to defend itself from terror. Yet, to lay the foundations of future peace, I ask Israel to halt incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas and begin the withdrawal from those cities it has recently occupied.

I speak as a committed friend of Israel. I speak out of a concern for its long-term security, a security that will come with a genuine peace.”
You can read the full text here.

It seems pretty clear to me what the President’s intent was, but to reiterate the US administration’s view, both Secretary of State Powell and the President himself have made even clearer what they wish to see happen; for example in a joint press conference with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in Texas on 6th April, Mr Bush said:
“My administration's -- my words to Israel are the same today as they were a couple of days ago: withdraw without delay. I made the decision to give the speech when I did because I was concerned about the ability for those of us who were interested in a long-term solution to take hold. I was worried about the balance being tipped to the point where we weren't able to achieve a long-lasting peace.

I gave the speech at the right time. And I expect Israel to heed my advice, and I expect for the Palestinians to reject terror in the Arab world. As Israel steps back, we expect the Arab world to step up and lead -- to lead against terror, to get into an immediate cease-fire, begin the implementation of U.N. resolution 1042."
You can read the full text here.

All this seems pretty clear to me – President Bush is giving tough warnings both to Ariel Sharon and to Yasser Arafat.

By the way, I watched former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on TV this morning (BBC1 ‘Breakfast with Frost’) and he gave his usual masterly performance, but he signally failed to respond to Frost’s repeated questioning on how long he thought Israel can continue to ignore Bush’s warnings; I don’t care for Netanyahu (I remember his daily performances on CNN during the Gulf War), but he does speak a lot of sense, although he does try and side-track the discussion into channels of his choosing – fair enough, he is a skilled negotiator with strong beliefs, but he does need a wily interviewer to keep him on track, and Frost is not that man, whatever his other undoubted qualities.

I hope both Sharon and Arafat will heed Bush’s words without delay.

Friday, 5 April 2002

The Queen's Roller is arriving back at Buck House via the Cenotaph - crowds applauding - sunny day - sad event.
I've just been watching the TV - they're showing the ceremonial movement of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother from St James's Palace to Westminster Hall, where her body will lie in state until next Tuesday morning. Suitably funereal tone from the beeb - all sombre in black too. No doubt an edict has gone out about this - they had heavy criticism on Saturday when the main newsreader had (shock! horror!) a burgundy tie on. (This paragraph has been revised and corrected)

I did notice earlier today though that one reporter, speaking from Aintree (Grand National is on Saturday next - i.e. tomorrow), had on a black suit, but I could see a glimpse of the blouse she had on below the jacket - lilac. To the Tower with her!

No doubt some will remember this when the licence fee next comes up for parliamentary approval - I think highly of the beeb (generally), but do we really need a publicly-financed broadcaster in the early 21st century?
I've just listened to the the 1am (BST) news bulletin on the BBC World Service - they say that a Palestinian spokesman has just announced that they accept Mr Bush's recommendations "without any conditions". It seems that the Israeli authorities have yet to make any official comment on the remarks of Mr Bush.

The 'moral high ground' is generally reckoned to be a piece of real estate that most would wish to occupy, and throughout its existence Israel has mostly been able to lay claim to this territory without enormous difficulty - the two major deviations were during the period 1982-1983 and the past few weeks? The common factor? Unfortunately it is the current Prime Minister of Israel - Ariel Sharon.

Israel is a noble state, a genuine bastion of democracy in a region sadly lacking in this type of government. It is time for the forces of sanity in Israel to regain their voice, and to ensure that the Palestinian officials who have expressed unreserved agreement with what Mr Bush has said are required to live up to their rhetoric.

This was written after rather too many glasses of excellent port - forgive me if my syntax is awry . (PS/ delay in publishing is because of network overload - I have now upgraded to PRO service, which will I hope eliminate most delays in future.)

Thursday, 4 April 2002

Israel / Palestinian Conflict

I've just been watching President Bush's speech earlier today in which he asks for restraint on the part both of the Palestinians and the Israelis. I think this is a particularly welcome development and I hope that both sides, the Israeli and the Palestinian, will take due heed. If there is ever to be peace in that part of the world, then both sides will have to learn to work together - as neighbours at the very least, even if they cannot bring themselves to be friends.

Whether it is due to Bush himself, or to his team of advisors and speech-writers (possibly a combination of all these factors), I think this President is shaping up to be someone in whom one can place a certain degree of confidence when times get tough - a valuable commodity.

Now he just needs to rethink his recent announcement of tariffs on non-NAFTA and a few other countries' steel products.

Wednesday, 3 April 2002

Well Hello,

This is my first post on, so it's not about anything important; that can come later. I have my own website, where I already post a lot of comment (follow the 'comment' link at, and this 'blogger' thingie may, or may not, replace what I already put up there, if I like it and assuming I get the hang of it - and once I get to know '.ftp' better.
(Update: I discontinued posting comment to almost exactly a year after starting this 'blog', effective 31st March 2003. All comment is now posted in this 'blog', although earlier comments from the Autumn of 2000 until end-March 2003 remain online at, for archive purposes and that website continues as my 'main' personal website for all things other than comment.)

As is indicated at the top of the page, I write from a British perspective and with a focus on things affecting the gay community, although I am interested in developments in current affairs and politics in general, wherever they are occurring.

That's all for now.