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

Wednesday, 30 April 2003

Scottish Parliament and Local Government elections - 1 May 2003

Elections for the Scottish Parliament and all Local Government regions in Scotland will be held tomorrow. It is important that as many people as possible exercise their right to vote - there are fears that the turnout may be relatively low. However you vote, please don't waste this opportunity by not using it. (PS/ I already voted last week, using the 'postal vote' option introduced prior to the last UK parliamentary elections)

This BBC Interactive Map will allow you to find out a little more about each parliamentary constituency or electoral region.

For information about local election wards in Highland Region (the area where I live), you can visit the Highland Council website.

Above all - use this opportunity to cast your vote! Don't waste it by not using it!

Wednesday, 23 April 2003

New Link Added

I've been reading Pejman Yousefzadeh's blog for a few weeks now and my initial impressions of him as being an insightful and level-headed American voice (with an Iranian twist) have largely been confirmed.

Tuesday, 22 April 2003

British Labour MP George Galloway "in Saddam's pay, say secret Iraqi documents"

The Daily Telegraph today prints serious allegations against George Galloway, MP regarding payments he is said to have received from the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Mr Galloway has issued strenuous denials of being the recipient of any such payments and has stated he will be consulting lawyers with a view to suing The Daily Telegraph.

One imagines The Daily Telegraph and its own lawyers must be pretty sure of themselves to have printed such allegations, but we will just have to wait and see what develops. Mr Galloway may be absolutely innocent, or he may be adopting the same 'deny everything' policy as the former Iraqi Information Minister, Mohamed Said as-Sahaf.

Sunday, 20 April 2003

Just a reminder – don’t vote ‘Conservative’ in May!

As a former member of the Conservative Party, I watch with interest what it is up to. The latest outrage concerns Scottish parliamentary candidate for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh, John Smart, who has described homosexuality as "morally wrong” and called for the banning of gay pride marches, which he considers "absolutely abhorrent".

Of course, if Mr Smart had made the same kinds of comments about racial or ethnic minorities, or women for that matter, he would rightly have been condemned, even (one imagines) by the Conservative Party. It says a great deal about the real position of the Conservative Party on equality issues that it is willing to allow a parliamentary candidate standing under its name, and who holds such views, to continue to operate under its auspices. If this is what being a ‘broad church’ means, then I want no part of it. Read the full story in this Scotland on Sunday article.
The corpse of a 65-year old Muslim grandmother has been found covered in bacon in a hospital morgue.

This sick news might at first have been considered as a kind of perverted, and belated, “April fool’s joke”, but it apparently has really happened. The body of the lady who had succumbed to cancer was discovered by a relative, visiting the mortuary to view the body prior to the funeral, to have been desecrated in this horrifying and deeply offensive manner.

The police have been asked to try and trace how this cruel action can have occurred whilst the body was in a hospital mortuary. Is there no depth to which those who seemingly hold such hatred for their fellow human-beings will hesitate to stoop? Read more in this Daily Telegraph article from yesterday.

Thursday, 17 April 2003

Further problems with Enetation 'commenting' script

As mentioned yesterday, I have experienced some problems with page loading after installing Enetation 'commenting' script. I had thought I had resolved the problem, but have continued to experience sporadic problems throughout today and as my query in the Enetation discussion forum has not produced any helpful comment I have decided to delete the 'commenting' links at least temporarily - you can still let me have FEEDBACK using the link at right, though, to access my Guestbook or Forum.

Because I like to contribute to the services I use, although I do use some 'free' services occasionally, I had already donated a small amount (£20) to Enetation - so I still hope to get it to work in due course. On the other hand, I'd rather write-off the small sum involved to avoid having further disruption to my 'weblog'.

Wednesday, 16 April 2003

Scottish Parliament elections - Thursday, 1 May 2003

At the beginning of May there will be local government elections throughout the UK, and in Scotland (and Wales) there will be elections for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly respectively.

Elections to the Scottish Parliament, which began its modern-day functions in 1999 and hold elections every four years, are in two parts:
- In the first, a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) is elected for each of the 73 parliamentary constituencies; these are almost the same as the constituencies for the House of Commons at Westminter, for the 'UK Parliament', although the constituencies for the latter (at least)will soon change. This part of the election is conducted on a 'first past the post basis';
- In the second, 7 'Regional List' MSPs are elected for each of 8 regional constituencies, corresponding to the regional constituencies used for the purposes of the elections to the European Parliament. This part of the election is conducted on a modified proportional representation basis;
- the objective of the second part of the election is to try and ensure that Party representation is approximately equivalent to the broad support a Party has across the whole of Scotland, rather than just in individual constituencies; this tends to favour Parties whose support, although relatively low, tends to be spread across the whole country, rather than in high concentrations in specific areas. For details of candidates across the whole of Scotland, please click here.

For the area in which I live, the candidates in the first and second parts of the election are shown below:

Conservative: Mary Scanlon
Labour: Rhoda Grant
Liberal Democrat: Patsy Kenyon
Scottish National Party (SNP): Fergus Ewing
Scottish Socialist Party (SSP): Steven Arnott
Independent: Thomas Lamont

LABOUR: 1. Peter Peacock, 2. Maureen MacMillan, 3. Rhoda Grant, 4. Hugh Raven, 5. Eilidh MacDonald, 6. Iain MacDonald, 7. Harry Hattan
SNP: 1. Jim Mather, 2. Fergus Ewing, 3. Margaret Ewing, 4. Rob Gibson, 5. Alasdair Nicholson, 6. David Thompson, 7. Angus MacNeil, 8.Jean Urquhart, 9. Willie Ross, 10. Allan Sillars, 11. Brian Nugent.
LIB DEM: 1. Michael Foxley, 2. Patsy Kenton, 3. Linda Gorn, 4. Jamie Paterson, 5. Paul Johnston, 6. Polly Martin, 7. Jermaine Allison, 8. Dan Farthing
CONSERVATIVE: 1. Jamie McGrigor, 2. Mary Scanlon, 3. David Petrie, 4. John Firth, 5. Christopher Zawadski, 6. Alan McLeod, 7. Frank Warren, 8. Tim Wood.
SSP: 1. Steve Arnott, 2. Norma Anderson, 3. Anne Macleod, 4. Des Divers, 5. John Aberdain, 6. Shona Laughland, 7. Barbara Whibley, 8. Dan Murray.
SOCIALIST LABOUR PARTY: 1. Claire Watt, 2. Colin Muir, 3. Zane Carpenter, 4. Kai Anderson, 5. John McDonald, 6. John Watt, 7. Thomas Appleyard
GREEN: 1. Eleanor Scott, 2. Donnie Macleod, 3. Murray Falconer, 4. Gale Falconer, 5. Lizbeth Collie, 6. Irene Brandt, 7. David Gallant, 8. Judith Jardine, 9. David Jardine, 10. Roger Humphrey
UKIP: 1. Philip Anderson, 2. Peter Hindley, 3. Christine Anderson, 4. Neil Scobie.
SPA: David Walker
THE RURAL PARTY: Kenneth McIntosh
INDEPENDENT: Arthur Robertson
INDEPENDENT: Robbie the Pict

For details of candidates for Local Government elections in Highland Region, click here and follow the 'election' link.
Blame it on the Vikings

According to a report in the British Journal of Cancer, Genes that contribute to cancers in Scotland and Northern Ireland are different from elsewhere in the UK, researchers claim. Read more here.

Problem with 'commenting' script solved

After installing 'commenting' script (from Enetation) last week, I noticed some problems when loading my blog page on occasion. I think I have now resolved the problem. Let me know if you have difficulty accessing my page or adding comments - thanks!

Friday, 11 April 2003

A brief 'Hiatus'

I will be having guests this coming weekend until late Monday, so probably won't be able to post here again until about Tuesday next - have a great weekend!
One more pleasure deemed bad for health - luckily summer is a comin' in

The British Medical Association reminds us that sunbed use ain't particularly good for the health .... ah well.

Thursday, 10 April 2003

Can the US/UK coalition stop Iraqi politics spiralling out of control?

The murder today of two Iraqi clerics brings to mind why, in my view, the 1991 Gulf conflict ended when it did, rather than continuing on until Saddam Hussein could be removed – a fear of the ‘anarchy’ that might have followed the power vacuum created on his removal. Equally indicative is a suicide bombing today in Baghdad which has killed a number of US marines.

We now seem to be seeing just such a power vacuum developing. Very quickly the US/UK authorities must try to ensure that civil order is restored. Whilst it seems that the bulk of the looting in al-Basrah and Baghdad has been confined to offices and homes of the former government and its personnel, it seems clearly necessary to me that this ‘energy’ be channelled, and quickly, into rather more productive activities. A police force of some kind seems an urgent requirement.

I have been a strong supporter of the recent action to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and whilst there were one or two relatively minor problems along the way the objective has been achieved remarkably quickly and with only minimal loss of human life. Of course the loss of one life is too many, but it would perhaps have been unrealistic to wish for quite such a favourable outcome. However, there do seem to be a number of ‘factions’ within the US administration, each promoting its own candidates from amongst Iraqis, inside and outside Iraq, for a role in the future interim government of Iraq. Whilst this debate is going on, quite normal in a democracy such as the US, the US/UK military forces are presumably not permitted to go beyond their main role of liberating the country to ensure some degree of civil order. Quite apart from probably not having the bodies to do the job in a territory as large as Iraq, not all of which is [yet] under their nominal control, they very probably do not have the skills (for example, language) or perhaps the training to do it effectively. At the very least, though, Iraqis whom the US/UK authorities have already encouraged to return to the country (or who have been in Iraq), with the objective of being involved in discussions to create an interim government, need to be given adequate protection to try and ensure that there are no more assassinations such as occurred earlier today.
The toppling of Saddam’s statue and the REAL significance of the flags, US and Iraqi

I watched spellbound (see my articles further down this page) as a US marine contingent, watched by a cheering, happy Iraqi crowd, prepared to fell the tyrant’s symbol, and a few moments later the unleashing of the anger of the newly-liberated Iraqi upon the inanimate form of the fallen leader.

There has been much talk of the ‘gaffe’ of a US marine in wrapping Saddam’s face in the ‘Stars and bars’ of the US, comparing it with a brief interlude earlier in the war when a US flag was briefly raised. Something troubled me about this glib analysis when it happened, and now that I have had a chance to think about it overnight I believe there is a much better, and very plausible, explanation.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, I think that US marine, perhaps aided by some of his colleagues and some of the Iraqi and/or journalist onlookers, played out a very subtle and highly-symbolic ritual, directed mainly at the US home audience and partly (should he have been watching, which is doubtful) Saddam Hussein or any of his close supporters.

I am not an American, obviously, but one feature of the American psyche that shouts out is their love of their country, coupled with an enormous reverence for their national flag – because of what it represents for them. People who mess with this particular American symbol do so at their peril as the reaction may be delayed, but there will ALWAYS be one, usually very finely calculated. And so it was, I believe, yesterday.

For years, Americans have had to endure the desecration of their flag, seeing it being burned or walked upon by people who hate America. This has been particularly common in countries that were in one way or another the enemies of the US and its supporters, for example, Iraq and Iran, or countries such as Libya or North Korea. In Iraq, walking on the US flag had become a sort of ritual and there was I understand a mosaic of the 41st President, George Bush, who was president during the time of the previous Gulf conflict.

No, the US flag was not ‘displayed’ yesterday, by being hung and flying free, but instead it was wrapped around the model of Saddam’s face to symbolically ‘rub his face’ in the fact of his comprehensive defeat at the hands of his great[est] enemy.

Immediately this gesture had been achieved, the US flag was removed and the old Iraqi flag was put up, but hanging free, to symbolise for Iraqis the liberation of their country from the tyrant. Equally symbolically it had to be removed before the statue was toppled – it would hardly do for the Iraqi flag to be seen falling to the ground.

Whatever semantic gymnastics may be going on in much of the Arab world’s media, the truth is that most Iraqis, at home or abroad, are delighted to be [almost] rid of the Ba’ath Party and the thug Saddam Hussein. With US and British help, the nightmare will I hope soon be over – then the work of rebuilding their country can begin in earnest.

Wednesday, 9 April 2003

'Commenting' script added

I've added 'commenting' code from Enetation - let's see how it looks. 2nd try - to make it look bolder.
Tranquility, and equilibrium regained, during a walk on the beach

Although not in any way religious, I adore listening to choral music. Every Wednesday afternoon, BBC Radio 3 has a live broadcast of Choral Evensong from 4pm to 5pm, this week from Blackburn Cathedral. Today’s broadcast ended with a real treat – the organ voluntary was the Fantasia and Fugue in C minor (BWV537) by J S Bach, and Blackburn Cathedral seems to have a very fine instrument on which to play it.

After watching the exciting television images from Baghdad, culminating in the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firduus (Paradise) Square in Baghdad at 3.49pm (BST), I decided to go down on to the beach, which is just about 50 metres from my home, to have a very pleasant walk for a few miles at the water’s edge – no-one else on the beach at all. The weather here today is very sunny and bright, with a light and quite sharply cold breeze. Whilst walking along and listening to the choral evensong broadcast through ear-phones on my little pocket radio, I was able to reflect on what I had just been watching on television and to realise once more just how lucky many of us are here, and me particularly, living as I do in a stable and reasonably prosperous society. I hope today will see the beginning of a better future for Iraqis, too.

You can listen to today’s choral evensong on the net, for the next week until the next broadcast, by going to the BBC Radio 3 website and clicking on the choral evensong link under ‘Programmes on Demand’ at the right-hand side – a glorious sound awaits you.
.... and the statue of Saddam falls!!!

At about 15.49 BST (14.49 GMT) it is pulled down by an American tank, with an Iraqi crowd cheering and laughing.

Wonderful!! Wonderfull!! And the old Iraqi flag is being held aloft!!
Saddam Hussein falls - or at least his statue is about to

I'm just watching live on the BBC the attempt by US marines to topple a massive statue of Saddam, in a square just in front of the Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad. Extraordinary sight! Read what Rageh is saying about it 'live' in the BBC Reporters weblog - link at right.
The BBC and HMS Ark Royal

I wrote yesterday about the BBC having been replaced by SKY aboard the Royal Navy flagship HMS Ark Royal as the regular source of satellite television news coverage, because of alleged 'bias' toward Iraq.

Nothing has been mentioned about this by the BBC, that I have seen or heard, but on today's BBC1 lunch-time news at 1pm there was a segment of a message recorded by a young female rating for her family, pictures I think from BFBS (British Forces Broadcasting Service). The young lady was interviewed and asked how she felt about being where she was and naturally said what she missed most was her family.

Obviously having been cut off on board the flagship must have been a shock for the BBC, hence (I suspect) the prominence given the very next day to this 'human interest' story.

Today I've also been hearing/seeing various of the BBC reporters on the ground in Baghdad and they seem, to me, to continue to give a fair assessment of what they are actually seeing and hearing (not what someone is telling them is happening elsewhere and which they cannot themselves verify). I accept there is a fine line here, but the more I look at this aspect of BBC news coverage I consider that the criticism levelled at them, specially by (reportedly) crew-members of HMS Ark Royal, may be understandable, but whether it is in any way justified is a quite separate matter.

Sullivan (link at right) today has a quotation (from an Israel-based blogger) of someone saying that the BBC Arabic service is full of "Egyptian fundamentalists" and that he wonders why the BBC allows this. I occasionally llisten to the BBC Arabic service myself and I must say that whilst I can understand that some 'comment' on the service is perhaps questionnable, the bulk is quite neutral and factual - and certainly the news bulletins themselves are. It's all a matter of perspective, I think - whether in time of war it is appropriate to continue with objective reporting of ALL points of view, or whether it is appropriate to adopt a more partisan stance based on what the British government might prefer it to be saying, or what British military personnel might prefer to hear when they are risking their lives for us to liberate Iraq.

Free speech is often fragile and objectivity is difficult to achieve, specially at times of high emotion and sharply contrasting viewpoints, as at present. On balance I think the reporting from within Iraq by the BBC remains pretty good - as I think is shown by the fact that even in Sullivan's biased quotations, it is stated that many Arabs listen avidly to the BBC in Arabic, preferring it to their own local broadcasters in many cases. No doubt some listen to VoA or other foreign broadcasters, too - the freedom to listen without fear to foreign broadcasts is something to be cherished, and Iraqis will no doubt be doing so, assuming there is electrial power, for the first time in decades, now that the coalition seems to have made its presence felt in many of the major population centres.
Search my 'blog' with key-word queries

I have added a tool to allow you to search my 'blog' using key-word queries. The service is provided by 'FreeFind' and as its name suggests, the service is available for free (with some advertising). If you have surfed here as a result of a web search engine query, the article you want to find may already have been moved to the 'archives'. The search box should make the job of finding the right article that much easier. Try it out! (see the 'Archives' section in the right-hand bar)
Joy in Baghdad at collapse of Saddam's regime - but there's anarchy, too

I'm just watching images on television of Baghdad where the US military has extended its control to much of the city. Scenes of people running around, cheering and smiling - and looting. This seems to duplicate what has been happening in al-Basrah in the past few days. This BBC report gives some more of the background to what is happening.

The US military is warning that the fighting may not yet be over as the situation remains in considerable flux.

It will be necessary very soon to try and re-establish some kind of civil order - the vacuum left by the regime's collapse could quickly turn from joy (and looting), to violence - and retribution.

Tuesday, 8 April 2003

Did the US get Saddam in the attack on the al-Mansuur district of Baghdad?

This is not yet clear, but this is apparently how the intelligence was obtained allowing the raid to go ahead.
Is a re-think in order about allegations of BBC bias?

Whilst I continue to believe that the BBC is merely 'neutral', rather than 'biased', I cannot deny that this story from Ananova worries me, when it reports that HMS Ark Royal has replaced the BBC by SKY for its on-board satellite news coverage, as a result of complaints by crew members. One assumes it must have been the pretty over-whelming view of many/most of the crew for the flagship vessel of the Royal Navy to take such action.

In the biased-BBC 'blog' there is extensive discussion about where the BBC is alleged to be falling down and I think it makes some fair points. I still believe that the reporters on the ground report as fairly as they can, but where I tend to have some sympathy with the arguments in this 'blog' is in its contention that the news analysis back in the studion leaves something to be desired. I quote one paragraph from a lengthy article:
Bias increases as the square of the distance: during the first fortnight of war, the BBC's coverage could be expressed by this formula. If you listened to embedded journalists describing the action where they were and did your own analysis of it, you got an acceptable view. If you listened to those journalists' responses to leading questions from the studio, you might be somewhat misled, but arguably within legitimate discretion of the BBC's charter of impartiality. If you listened to the BBC 10 o'clock evening news' analysis, you would be very seriously misled.

To this I'd add that some of the questions posed to reporters in Iraq by anchor-persons in the studio betray a complete lack of any 'feel' for what is going in a war-zone - a particular problem with one of the people on the 'Breakfast' programme. My view tends to be that it displays the ignorance, rather than the bias, of the anchor concerned as the war seems to be treated as a kind of video-game rather than a deadly-serious reality for those on the ground.

To summarise - I'll be watching this with a slightly different eye from now on.
The bizarre nature of some Google searches

I just noticed, when scanning through some of the IPs of those who have surfed to my little 'blog' (for which many thanks!), that amongst the most popular searches at the moment is 'Rageh Omaar', a BBC journalist currently reporting from Baghdad. Amongst the searches, however, is one that struck me as particularly curious as the search engine (a marvellous tool) was asked the query 'Rageh Omaar gay'; I expect Google alighted on me because in my self-intro at the top of this page I indicate I am gay.

For the record, I neither know nor care if Rageh Omaar is gay - frankly, I'm amazed that anyone has got the time to put such pointless searches into 'Google' or that they care one way or the other. I do think he is a pretty good reporter, however, and whilst like every other journalist I expect he makes bad judgement-calls from time to time, it is my view he tries his best to be objective in his reporting, telling viewers just what he sees and hears, no more and no less.

Luckily, he sees it as his job (I suspect) not just to mouth what it would be convenient from a US/UK government point of view for him to say. The same can be said for the other BBC reporters covering Iraq at present, and I would add the same for the excellent coverage from Iraq at present by the other main British news gathering broadcasting service, ITN/ITV, for example by John Irvine (also an excellent reporter) - I've just been watching him on the lunchtime news, telling us about the current situation in Baghdad, as he sees it.
New MiniPoll added: How should Iraq be administered once Saddam and the Ba'ath are gone?

Please vote in my MiniPoll or let me have FEEDBACK with your own ideas. Thanks!

Monday, 7 April 2003

Reports in the UK that the body of 'chemical' Ali has been found

Television reports just now in the UK, from reporters in Iraq, say that Ali Hassan Al-Majid's body has been found in the grounds of his home in al-Basrah, which was over-run a day or so ago by British troops.

I do not rejoice in the death of anyone, even someone such as 'chemical' Ali, but I cannot pretend to be in the slightest degree sad that he seems to be dead. The liberation of Iraq is just that little bit closer, it seems to me.
Iraq - are we seeing the 'endgame'?

Television pictures are showing live images of US troops in central Baghdad - facing opposition, but seemingly not any more than they are perfectly capable of coping with.

Same story with the British military in al-Basrah.

It's beginning to look as if this stage of the liberation of Iraq may be over relatively soon. However, I expect that unfortunately many more US/UK personnel will be killed or injured before they achieve their full objectives - the blow-by-blow coverage on television may perhaps be counter-productive, though, and if I was a US/UK troop on the ground I think I'd prefer to be able to get on with my job without this to some extent gratuitously intrusive journalism.

Nevertheless, a good day so far - I wish all the US/UK troops good luck in the hours and days ahead.

Sunday, 6 April 2003

“J’accuse Jacques”

I’ve just watched an extraordinary demolition job on Jacques Chirac, President of France, shown on British ‘independent’ (see below) television station Channel 4. Writer and broadcaster William Shawcross wrote and presented this marvellous short programme (only about 15 minutes long).

None of it was particularly new to me, although it offered some fresh insight into the cosy relationship going back over many years between Chirac and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, indeed pre-dating the latter becoming President of Iraq.

Under French law the President cannot be indicted for crimes whilst in that job. Until just before last year’s Presidential election, there was a serious risk Chirac would be defeated by his Socialist rival Lionel Jospin and it is likely that had this happened there would have been serious efforts to indict Chirac for various alleged frauds (mainly defalcation of public money). However, the humiliating defeat of Jospin in the first round of voting, coupled with the strong showing of the Front National of Le Pen, gave most moderate French people a severe shock. As a result even Socialists chose, against all their instincts, to cast their votes in the second round for hate-figure Jacques Chirac. The spectre of another European democracy voting in a ‘fascist’ regime (the others are Austria and, possibly, Italy) was thus averted – the price paid was another period in the Presidential Palace for ‘super liar’ Jacques.

Whilst many French people seem to support his policy of keeping France out of the ‘coalition of the willing’ currently active in Iraq, and his policy of threatening to veto any further resolution on Iraq placed before the UN Security Council, there are French people who consider his policy at the very least short-sighted, if not outright ‘bonkers’. Chirac is a wily politician who has survived many setbacks and scandals throughout his long career – it remains to be seen how he is going to get out of the ‘flak’ which will rightly be thrown at him once the present Iraqi regime is no more.

Note: Channel 4 is an autonomous public corporation owned by the British government and funded by advertising. Its role is to provide a wide range of ‘minority’ programming and represent all points of view. It was set up in the early-1980s under Mrs Thatcher’s first Conservative administration as a way of counter-balancing the BBC (funded by a compulsory licence fee on all television owners) and the commercial channels, which like Channel 4 are funded by advertising. The Labour Party objected at the time to the competition it was expected that Channel 4 would offer to the BBC (specially BBC2), just as they had objected when commerical television was launched in the 1950s. They wanted the BBC to retain its monopoly (just as they objected to all the privatisations spearheaded under Thatcher).

If and when it is decided to end the compulsory licence fee currently funding the BBC, then I think the formula under which Channel 4 was set up is a strong contender to replace the licence fee and ensure a balanced core media. I shall certainly be keeping my recording of William Shawcross's programme in my video archives - it will provide horribly fascinating viewing for many years to come, I suspect, whenever the name of Jacques Chirac comes to mind.
New Nairn Community Centre - proposed location on Viewfield

Highland Council have published outline plans for a planning application to build a new Community Centre on Viewfield in Nairn (the town where I live) and this is likely to cause considerable debate locally over coming weeks and months. Read my comments and see more photographs of the area by clicking here.

A few years ago (before I came to live in Nairn) another project near the centre of town (the ‘Showfield’ site) was halted only as a resulted of huge local protests. It seems like this latest project will have to be subjected to the same kind of public scrutiny.
Broadcasting, Impartiality, the BBC – and Sullivan’s boring monomania

Sullivan quotes from an e-mail he has received; I re-quote a small portion of what he includes on his front page:

And, to make matters worse, the whole of British broadcasting is hamstrung by “impartiality” rules that prevent the likes of SKY News and other independents from saying what they really should (want to be?) be saying. I very much hope that one of the "casualties" of war will be the BBC.
Yours, a very fed-up Londoner

Frankly, I don’t disagree with the ‘fed-up’ Londoner that paying a forced ‘tax’ (for that is what it is) to the BBC, whether one watches it or not, is a complete pain. However, if the best criticism that one can come up with is that it is ‘impartial’ then I do believe that the argument for abolition of this particular symbol of modern Britain is pretty weak. Impartiality is particularly important at times of crisis, such as the present war to oust Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party from Iraq. I am completely in favour of the military action currently underway, and was in favour of it long before the conflict began, but what we are fighting for (at least partly) is the freedom to say unpopular things – a freedom singularly lacking in Iraq.

It is ironic, to put it no stronger, that ‘fed-up’ Londoner refers to SKY as a bastion of free speech. It may be commercial, but it is not ‘impartial’ – any more than are the other media organs owned by News International. Nor of course is the ‘Telegraph’ group of publications; I tend to read ‘The Daily/Sunday Telegraph’ as my main daily newspaper, but I am well aware of just how ‘slanted’ is some of their reporting, even in what are supposedly straight news stories. The same can be said of papers such as ‘The Guardian/Observer’ and most other newspapers.

I’m not ‘against’ any of this, of course – it’s all part of what having a ‘free’ press and media is all about – just don’t confuse it with ‘impartiality’.

Of course, Sullivan (by implication), and his ‘fed-up’ Londoner correspondent, seems to consider that impartiality is somehow a bad thing. Go figure! (as Sullivan himself might say)

Saturday, 5 April 2003

Kuwaitis in no mood to be labelled poodles

Read this BBC report about different Kuwaiti reactions to what’s going on just across the border and what's being said about Kuwait in the rest of the Arab world. Fair and balanced, I’d say.

I got this link from LIVE FROM KUWAIT - A Civilian War Diary, written by a fellow called Ziad in Kuwait – I’ve added him to my links as he seems to write with humour and sanity from a moderate Arab perspective.
Link added

BBC Reporters' Weblog - reports by BBC on-the-spot reporters; they seem to report just what they see and hear, no more, no less.

Thursday, 3 April 2003

“Mary Queen of Scots got her head chopped off”
by Liz Lochhead

This is the title of a modern play I saw yesterday evening; after the first ten minutes or so, which I found a little hard to follow, it turned out to be a most interesting and amusing recounting of the interplay of politics, love (and lust) which led to her eventual execution.

The play was spoken in a mixture of Broad Scots (that was the bit that was a little difficult to follow until I got used to it), English, French and Italian and switched back and forth between Mary’s Court in Edinburgh and Elizabeth I’s Court in London and showed both in a sympathetic light without in any way glossing over the glaring character defects of both. The main players, apart from Mary and Elizabeth, were second husband Henry Stuart (Earl of Darnley), secretary Davide Rizzio and her lover James Hepburn (4th Earl of Bothwell). Altogether a very pleasant interlude, without a thought of what’s going on elsewhere in the world.