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

Saturday 30 July 2005

Uzbekistan kicks US out of base - alternative views

This is what Smash writes on the matter; a somewhat idiosyncratic analysis, I'd say, but useful to read what an American with military experience has to say.

A rather more believable analysis of the background to this rather dramatic development (let's face it, it's not often you hear of the most important economic and military power on the planet being unceremoniously ejected by a tinpot dictator) is given by Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, here.

Both Smash's article, and another post in Craig Murray's blog, link to the same Washington Post article - it's startling how different people can draw rather different conclusions from the same facts, although this is not really a criticism, so much as an observation; I doubt if many British commentators had particularly objective analyses of the developments in Egypt over Suez in 1956 after all, so I think one can forgive Smash on this one.

Friday 29 July 2005

What this story is actually about ...

... is a young foreigner who, seemingly, was murdered by a young local in a small Scottish town; but you don't get to know this unless you read right to the end of this whitewash of an article.

The real problem is his idiotic policies

Robert Kilroy-Silk, a former Labour MP, a former chat show host and a former MEP for UKIP, has announced he is stepping down as Leader of Veritas, the political vehicle he created when he realised he could not foist himself upon UKIP as its Leader. Bizarre and eccentric as UKIP policies are, even they were not foolish enough to be mesmerised by the perma-tanned one.

Whether or not the electorate is "content with the old parties", as Mr Kilroy-Silk would have us believe is the reason for his party's singular lack of success at the recent General Election, I leave it to readers to decide. For myself, I think it is simply that the British electorate is far too level-headed and moderate to be seduced by the ideas of a crackpot opportunist such as him.

The right to live and the right to die

Ethics. Who decides?

A man with a degenerative brain condition, Leslie Burke, has lost to the General Medical Council (GMC) in an appeal they lodged against an earlier ruling in his favour which guaranteed his right to prevent artificial hydration and nutrition being withdrawn by doctors against his will, in the [very likely] event that he loses the power of speech in due course. Undoubtedly this kind of case is extremely difficult, as are those where a patient wishes to be allowed to die by having hydration and nutrition withdrawn, against the wishes of doctors, coupled with the machinations that determined terminally ill people may have to resort to, to have their way (i.e. travel to Switzerland, where voluntary euthanasia is permissible).

My firm belief is that the final decision needs to be in the hands of patients or, where they are incapable [any longer] of making their views known, in the hands of trusted family members. Such life and death matters should not be left to the discretion of doctors. I regard the ruling in favour of the GMC yesterday as a monstrous diminution in the rights of patients. The comment by Joyce Robins of Patient Concern that the decision is "a huge step backwards for patients" is absolutely spot-on.

What particularly angers me, though, is the weasle argument of counsel for the GMC, Philip Havers, QC, that the original ruling 'had fundamentally altered the nature of doctor/patient relationships and was not in the best interests of the patient'; it really is no business of any health professional, far less a paid legal hack, to arrogate to himself the right to decide what is in the best interests of the patient when that might involve a decision to allow a patient to die by the withdrawal of hydration and nutrition. The ethics of allowing such a concept to form the basis of any part of our laws is an obscentiy; quite rightly such arrogant nonsense is disallowed in the case of dumb animals, who obviously cannot verbalise their views, but it seems to be acceptable for humans. Completely crazy!

Wednesday 20 July 2005

Bill takes a break (another one) ...

I am going to be away for about a week, so am unlikely to post anything further here until about Thursday 28th July.

I had meant to post a number of articles before departing:

- about Gordon Brown and his 'shifting of the goal-posts antics' relating to his so-called 'economic cycle';

- about the ridiculous notion of suggesting that pupils who fail exams should instead be informed they have instead achieved a deferred success;

- and about the farce that is the Conservative Party and its choice of a new Leader, coupled with some remarks about Alan Duncan having announced he will not put his name forward for the job, citing the probably obvious fact that he has insufficient parliamentary support, but adding that he thought the party's 'Taliban wing' (on social issues) is holding the Conservatives back, an analysis disputed by Michael Howard, the current Leader. Whilst I would agree with Mr Howard, and indeed with Mr Duncan himself, that things have become better I would have to ask Mr Howard - "what planet are you living on?" - every time someone like Ann Widdecombe, Lord Tebbitt, Lady O'Cathain, Eric Forth, etc. make a negative comment about subjects such as gay rights, or abortion, it alienates a lot of people in the country, even some who are not homosexual or indeed likely to become (or make anyone else) pregnant. The Conservatives need to elect a Leader who can lead the Party into the 21st century by making one of the occasional modernisations of policy that has characterised, and made successful, the party over a very lengthy period. Until then the Conservatives will most likely continue to drift;

but I have quite simply run out of time. I have quite a lot to do this evening, before commencing a long car journey tomorrow.

Right, that is it, I've already gone on longer than time admits with prudence so I shall stop. Do have a look at some of the excellent blogs in my blogroll (at left) if you get a moment, though.

Tuesday 19 July 2005

Is Hitler alive and well and living in .... SanDiego?

Faintly amusing 'conspiracy theory' type thingie - scroll down here to see the aerial photograph of a seemingly swastika-shaped building in a US naval base.
(thru linkbunnies)

How to live a healthy life ...

... or at least how to tell yourself that however you do live is healthy.
(Thanks to Brian at Shadowfoot for a good laugh)

Execution, the ultimate punishment, but what if it was a mistake?

It seems there are now serious doubts, even amongst the victim's family, that the man executed for murder may not actually have committed the crime. There have been a number of cases in the past where alleged murderers held on 'death row' have been exonerated prior to the punishment being carried out, but according to this New York Times article this is the first occasion that major doubts have arisen post-execution. The case occurred in St Louis. I'll be trying to follow the progress of this investigation.

I have always been opposed to the death penalty, simply because it is impossible to rectify errors. Another factor is that I believe firmly that if murder is wrong, then judicial murder (for that is what executions represent) is wrong, too. On the other hand I think custodial and other punishments can often be too lenient and/or not geared effectively to rehabilitation, for those whom this is thought to be a feasible option, even if there are some convicted criminals who should never be released (in my opinion).

It's going to be a pink Christmas this year

Forget boring old white! This year, from 21 December onwards, there are very probably going to be quite large numbers of civil registration ceremonies around the UK between couples of the same sex, under legislation that will take effect on 5 December. That'll be an excuse to open a bottle (or two!) of pink bubbly, instead of the normal kind; if anyone wishes to gift me couple of bottles of 'la bonne Veuve' (Veuve Clicquot), my favourite brand, to add to my existing stocks, feel free!

Sunday 17 July 2005

Sir Edward Richard George Heath (1916-2005) - R.I.P.

Sir Edward Richard George Heath
9 July 1916 - 17 July 2005

Rest in Peace

Former Prime Minister Sir Edward Richard George Heath has died aged 89 at his home in Salisbury. I had heard earlier today on the radio an announcement by a spokesman that "he is near death" and am therefore not unduly surprised. Indeed, the last time I recall seeing him being interviewed (quite a few months ago, may even have been one or two years ago) it was clear that his life would soon draw to a close.

Here is the BBC news report about his passing, with their obituary here. Wikipedia's biography is here.

His lasting legacy as Prime Minister was to have strongly supported the United Kingdom's accession to the Treaty of Rome in 1973, as a member of the European Economic Community, forerunner to the European Union. His attempts to reform the unions in this country were not met with great success, indeed my abiding memory of my final months in the country prior to my departure to live in Morocco was of the 'three-day week' and the attendant electricity cuts and being cold.

Edward Heath was a decent man, immensely courageous throughout his life and a considerable patriot, in the very best sense of that word. He was my kind of Conservative and I mourn his passing.

UPDATE: (Monday 18JUL05 12.10 BST) It seems only fitting to link to the Telegraph obituary for Sir Edward, as it is often referred to as the Conservatives' House Journal. Their obituary is, when you read the whole thing, reasonably balanced overall, although there are parts of it which lean a little far toward acerbism, reflecting I suppose that newspaper's reputation for advocating a much more right-of-centre (even if not precisely right-wing) agenda than many conservative-minded One-Nation Tories (such as me) would ever feel entirely comfortable with, even if I am probably rather more right-wing than your classic one-nation conservative and found many of Thatcher's ideas not only attractive, but essential for the regeneration of Britain.

God, how I loathe arrogant little 'holier than thou' would-be dictators!

I've just been reading an amazing post on A Big Stick and a Small Carrot by CuriousHamster (aka Garry Smith). Garry usually has posts which I find interesting, amusing and sometimes informative, specially because normally written from a political perspective very different to my own.

But just because he and Stuart are setting up a review of Scottish political blogs, a worthwhile and quite possibly useful idea (depending upon its execution) in itself, seems to have gone to his head. Now he is not just criticising what some other blogger is writing, fair enough (that's after all exactly what I'm doing right now with regard to Garry's post), but he is going a lot farther than this, he is actually telling some other blogger (Anything that defies my Sense of Reason, aka 'The Antagonist'):

"I don't mean to sound unkind but this does seem to be the perfect illustration of the TinFoil Hat phenomenon. My friendly advice to the Antagonist would be to stop posting for a few days. Try to relax, go for some long walks, think nice thoughts about those around you, perhaps read some Nosemonkey or Chicken Yoghurt or Bloggerheads posts. These three almost always have something intelligent to say. But please stop posting that particular conspiracy theory. It's clearly a nonsense and it's doing no-one any favours."

In other words, I don't like what you write so stop writing it (that's the inference I take from his rather arrogant-sounding "These three almost always have something intelligent to say," followed by the pretty stark "But please stop posting that particular conspiracy theory.").

Now I, having been directed to 'The Antagonist's' post by Garry, am honour-bound to state plainly my total agreement with his analysis of the merits of what 'The Antagonist' has written. Indeed what Tim writes on the matter:

"I’m glad to be able to announce that the UK now has it’s very own mindless twit. Yes, the Antagonist, continuing to claim that all the bombs were, in fact, set off by the authorities as part of a rehearsal. Or something. Perhaps the phases of the moon. Either that or he’s a damn good satirist."

hits the nail very squarely on the head. But Tim does not proceed arrogantly to suggest that the writer 'cease and desist'.

The internet, and 'webloggiedom' (I think I just coined that word, or perhaps not), remains one of the few areas of human existence that is relatively free from outside interference, even if people sometimes have to live with the legal consequences of what they write, or perhaps so far as their intellectual reputations are concerned. But I would far rather have eccentrics such as 'The Antagonist' continue to write whatever nonsense comes into their heads (or those of the commenters to the post in question, too, who seem equally eccentric), and let their readers make the judgement about the merits of what they write and whether ever to visit such blogs again, except for the purposes of anthropological research. Much to be preferred than having some jumped-up internet self-appointed policeman such as 'CuriousHamster' telling someone else to "please stop posting that particular conspiracy theory".

I daresay I shall be like the uninvited guest in the Bateman cartoon after having written my little tirade - ho, ho. But at least it has got my Libertarian juices flowing.

If science says it, then it must be true ...

When I first read this article, I quickly scrolled back up to the dateline to see if 1st April played a part in it, so unless there is something specially significant in the real date (2 October), even if it seems to be a couple of years old, it is probably just a date chosen at random. Anyway, what am I rabbiting on about? Well it seems that researchers at North Carolina State University have found that the risk of breast cancer in women can be significantly reduced if they "perform the act of fellatio and swallow semen on a regular basis". This seemingly genuine report on what seems to be the CNN website even has an amazing quote from one of the researchers, Dr Helena Shifteer:

"Since the emergence of the research, I try to fellate at least once every other night to reduce my chances."

- it was really this allegedly genuine quotation that made me even more certain that this whole article is a made-up spoof. For example note the URL for that link above - it seems to be a blog hosted on the server, by someone whose username is nikkienikks, and this itself adds to my belief that this is all a (superficially) elaborate hoax. I did a little research on the genuine CNN website for articles on breast cancer and, as you may imagine, found no such article currently appearing on it - here is the link to the list of articles I found.

It gave me a laugh anyway!
(Thru Gavin at The Whiskey Priest)

Saturday 16 July 2005

Not 'in a jam', but making jam ...

'Jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam today'
(Lewis Carroll - Though the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There)

... it's berry fruit time again and this afternoon I've been making up a batch of raspberry jam, for giving as gifts to various people. Since I have been following the Atkins Diet I no longer eat jams (far too high in sugar, hence carbohydrates), but to keep friends and family placated I still make smaller quantities (than formerly) of various kinds each summer - I see that last year in early August I made up a batch of blackcurrant jam and posted about it here, so I expect in a few weeks time I'll be making some more; at present all the blackcurrants are rather expensive, of 'dessert' quality, but in a few weeks there will probably be a 'glut' so will be better value for jam-making. If you do eat jam or marmalade, homemade is certainly the best. The image is of the label I'm using this time (with the same background image of the Nairn shore as before). As mentioned previously, I think part of the fun is having reasonably professional-looking labels to decorate the jars (open as I am in this blog, I've of course taken the opportunity to obscure the final line on the label, which contains my personal contact information, as the jam-maker).

Thursday 14 July 2005

A charming news report from Tampa, Florida - not!

Daddy thought his little boy might be gay. So what does he do? Why, he pummels the toddler (only 3 years old) to death. Perfectly normal, no? The father, Ronnie Paris Jr, has been charged with capital murder. Now I don't hold with the death penalty, of course, but that is likely to be the punishment (eventually, after all the appeals are over) if the defendant is convicted.

However gratifying it may be that the State of Florida is prosecuting this alleged murderer, it is not so gratifying when one realises that this is one State, amongst many, that demonises being gay by passing laws banning meaningful relationships between same-sex couples being recognised in law. To coin a phrase:
Ye shall reap what ye sow

Bi now, gay later?

I filch, quite shamelessly, an article heading on the website of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Community Publishing Limited and leave it to those who care to follow the link to read the article in question to make their own minds up on the matter. The title amused me, though, as does the quote by Phoebe from Friends:
"Sometimes men love women. Sometimes men love men. And then there are bisexuals. Though some just say they’re kidding themselves."

It'll be a gay day in Brighton & Hove!

The 21st of December 2005 will see three same-sex weddings celebrated in Brighton & Hove, under the Civil Partnerships legislation which will come into effect from 8am that day. I'll enjoy seeing the television news bulletins that evening!

On the need to celebrate our 'Britishness'

Boris Johnson has a thoughtful article in today's Telegraph about the need to re-evaluate our interpretation of what it means to be British and our need to reassess suitable ways of displaying our pride in our nation, all this in the wake of the shocking events of last Thursday (yes, it's a week ago today) in London. I suggest you read his article in full.

It so happens that I posted on the day following the terrorist outrages in London (and whatever the BBC says, however much I may admire that organisation most of the time, they were terrorist outrages), a post entitled I feel like flying the flag! and indeed since that day a Union Flag has appeared, fluttering proudly in the breeze, in my blog. It will very probably continue to fly here indefinitely - or at least for as long as this blog exists.

We do not have 'communities' in this country, we have one national 'community' and it is time we took on board the full implications of that singular word. All British citizens, whatever their racial origin, their religious beliefs (if any) or their sexual orientation, are and must be treated exactly the same as any other British citizen. The one aspect of the rule of law in this country where, from what I have read and tried to understand, I differ strongly from the view apparently held in the United States of America, is the level of rights which non-citizens have before our laws. All persons in this country, with a few exceptions in the case of diplomats, should be subject to exactly the same laws in whichever part of the United Kingdom they happen to be (i.e. under either English or Scots Law) and all must be treated strictly in accordance with these same laws. There should be no place in this country for any person being treated differently before the law because of his/her nationality, as evidently is the case in the US itself and in areas where it excercies effective control (e.g Guantanamo Bay, Cuba). We have a lot to celebrate in this country - we need to start emphasising this, specially in the case of young people during their time in full-time education; naturalised British citizens or those from non-indigenous ethnicities wherever they happen to have been born, are simply British citizens - no more and no less. It is a great good fortune to be British - let us learn to celebrate this fact again, not with any degree of beligerence, but with simple pride.

Stephen Byers lied. Not a surprise.

Under close questionning today in the High Court in London Stephen Byers MP, former Transport Minister admitted:

"It was not a truthful statement and I apologise for that. I can't remember the motivations behind it."

This was in regard to his earlier protestations before a House of Commons sub-committee that he had been unaware of a change in Railtrack's status being discussed before 25 July 2001. The barrister acting on behalf of the [small] shareholders of Railtrack challenged this version of events and, for good measure, presented documentary evidence to the court that this was no more than a pack of lies - which is why Byers, finally, admitted what many had long suspected. The likelihood of him ever admitting the truth had he not been forced into it by being faced with incontrovertible proof is 'probably' [as they say about a certain beer being the best in the world!] negligible. As for his second comment about not being able to "remember the motivations behind it [i.e. the lie]", well this weasily obfuscation ain't foolin' no-one Mr Byers!

One thing is clear though; the question I posed in an earlier post about whether Byers is an honest politician has been answered. The answer is "No".

CO2 Offset - tree planting pledge

I agreed, with some reservations, to participate in Simon Holledge's pledge campaign to have a certain number of trees planted to offset the estimated carbon dioxide produced as a result of my daily existence. Although my calculations show that my 'impact' in CO2 terms is rather lower than the 10 trees estimated (it worked out at about 6.4 trees, according to the calculator at Trees for Life) I have gone ahead and made a donation of GBP50.00 (based on a figure of GBP5.00 per tree) toward the work of 'Trees for Life'.

To clarify what are my reservations about this kind of pledge, about which I have already commented directly with Simon Holledge, they are these:
- I support unreserveredly, in principle, the notion lying behind the wish to 'offset' one's estimated environmental impact in terms of CO2 productioon;
- the wording of the pledge itself "I will have 10 trees planted to offset my total carbon dioxide emissions for 2005 but only if 99 other people will too." is wrong-headed in my view; whether 99 other people choose to sign up to this pledge, or not, will have no impact whatsoever on my environmental impact in terms of CO2, so whether or not other people support this pledge should make absolutely no difference to whether I, or Simon, or anyone else who accepts (without necessariuly being able to verify the details as an 'expert', which of course I am not) the theory that planting trees is a 'good thing' to do to help protect our environment, from making a donation for this purpose;
- the wording of the pledge implies, no it states, that pledgees bind themselves only to fulfil their pledges if others sign-up (fallacious logic as discussed above), but signing-up to a pledge is very different to actually coughing-up the funds when called upon to do so. Pledges of this kind, in my opinion, seek to make people feel good about themselves by making a public statement about some subject or other thought to be 'good', but in reality impose no obligation upon pledgees to honour pledges other than their own sense of 'honour', but (cynic that I am) I suspect that a proportion of people, when signing-up to fine-sounding petitions go no further than making the public statement.

I make a certain number of donations on a regular basis to a variety of organisations whose aims I consider worthwhile. Obviously I am happy if others support some of these organisations too, because that will increase the total funds they have available to them for their work, but my continuing willingness to donate is in no way dependent on those other donations occurring. It is on this basis, and this basis alone, that I have made a donation for 10 trees to be planted in my name. If others wish to do so they can either do it through Trees for Life or one of the other organisations that Simon mentions - see links at the top of this message.
(NB/ I have twice attempted to, and apparently 'succeeded' in, sending trackbacks of this post to Simon's relevant blog post, but these do not seem to show up on his website, yet at least.)

Tuesday 12 July 2005

Latest on UK terrorist outrages

(See UPDATE at end of this post as well)

A lot can happen in the short(ish) time it takes to have lunch.

- Switching on BBC News24, I learn that a car parked at Luton railway station has had a 'controlled explosion' carried out on it.

- The Tavistock Square bus explosion last week in London: the suspected bomber is thought to have died on the bus. You may recall that the bus explosion took place about 50 minutes after the three explosions on the London Underground. It was identifying this person that led police to Leeds, it seems.

- There have been arrests in Leeds in connection with the bombings (see my earlier report).

UPDATE: (Tuesday 12JUL05 16.40 BST) Frank Gardner, BBC Security Correspondent, has just been quoted on BBC News24 as revealing that he has been informed by security officials that all four bombers are thought to have been UK-born and that more than one of the bombers is thought to have been killed in the explosions.
- (16.55) Margaret Gilmore, reporting for the BBC, is quoted on BBC News24 as having been advised that all four of the bombers are now thought to have died in the explosions and it is thought that the three on the London Underground were suicide bombers, but Police apparently remain open-minded about whether the bus-bomber intended for the bomb to go off, so that may not be a suicide outrage.

Police search several Leeds houses after London bombings

Five homes in Leeds are being subjected to detailed forensic examination as there is apparently evidence to link them directly with the bombings in London last week.

As I write this it has just been announced on the 1pm news on BBC1 that a 'controlled explosion' has been made at one of the Leeds addresses (Burley Roard, if I got that right?) - no further details of this at present.

13.47 - BBC News24 is now showing aerial pictures of parts of the cordoned-off area. The controlled explosion was carried out by robot. 500 people have been evacuated from the area. One of the houses is apparently undergoing particularly close scrutiny, now that the controlled explosion has been carried out.

Monday 11 July 2005

New blog banner - 'bubbles for the summer'

I've been thinking of updating my header banner for a good while now (there are some really smart ones out there, for example PooterGeek and backword), but hadn't got around to it. However, this morning I saw that Garry (aka the CuriousHamster) had modified his banner so I decided today was the day I would do it, too. Now that I've ironed out the technique of loading the header banner image into the template to get it to appear the way I want, I expect over the coming months I'll be experimenting further with my banner design. If you have comments about the change, I shall as ever be interested to read them.
(As I am obviously a complete 'numptie', I foolishly made a silly spelling mistake in my fancy new banner image - I have now done a patch to correct the fault, but will do a proper revision of the whole image in due course - [Ed. slaps wrists])

UPDATE: (Tuesday 12JUL05 13.30 BST) A modified banner is now up on all the main pages, but I'm not bothering changing some of the 'subsidiary' pages until I do yet another revision to improve the latest version a little.

2nd UPDATE: (Tuesday 12JUL05 23.10 BST) The final version of the header banner, for the moment, is now up on all pages on this site. Although I may put up other versions from time to time, they will likely follow broadly the same format until I carry out a major design revision of the site (colour scheme, etc), ideas for which are now beginning to germinate in my mind. The present colour scheme has been broadly what I have been using for about two years and has the merit of being 'neutral' in terms of UK politics, something I think is important, however I have begun to think the whole site design is rather 'cluttered' looking so a future version is likely to [aim to] be less cluttered and 'cleaner' looking.

"Low-level security alert in Whitehall"

This is what the BBC (BBC News24) is calling what is currently going on in London's Whitehall - the pictures they have been broadcasting show Whitehall completely closed to traffic, although a single-decker bus can be seen.

More as situation develops ...

12.20 - They are just now saying that security personnel are checking a 'supsicious package' on a double-decker bus, close to the end of Downing Street, but this bus is not visible on the screen Nothing on BBC website yet, though.

12.25 - Latest I am hearing is that it is thought that the security situation may be about to be cleared as the security alert is in its 'final stages'. Some official traffic now seems to be moving away from scene.

12.30 - Ordinary traffic now moving up Whitehall and it is being announced by the Police that the 'security alert is over'.

Sunday 10 July 2005

Luxembourg votes 'yes' to EU Constitutional Treaty

56.92 per cent of Luxemburgers who voted in their referendum today supported ratification. Interesting as an academic exercise, no doubt, but quite what this achieves is a mystery to me. As both France and the Netherlands have rejected ratification, and the Dutch PM has stated that Dutch voters will not be asked to vote on the matter again it really makes little difference. As the guidelines for ratification state that unanimity in favour is required before the EU Constitutional Treaty can take effect, the Treaty as currently written is dead. Period.

We're not afraid ...

... give yourself a smile, have a look at this fun photo blog.
(thru InstaPundit)

Saturday 9 July 2005

Grazie, Amici! Grazie a Tutti!

Reuters is reporting: "Supporters of gay rights marching through Rome's historic centre stopped on Saturday for a minute's silence to honour victims of Thursday's London bombings."

Thanks! It's appreciated!

Do these incidents signal further terror attacks in the UK?

The police have evacuated large parts of Birmingham city centre. Birmingham is the UK's second city. (Another report about this incident is here.)

A fire broke out earlier this evening at the Hard Rock Cafe in London.

The second incident might just be a fire (a serious one by the sound of it), with no implications for security, but the Birmingham one sounds rather more sinister, at first reading.

I would rather not live in quite such interesting times (*) as these.

Hey man - let's get 'stoned'!

Of course, I have never been 'stoned' in my life, and have no intention of starting on this path now, even though when I lived in Casablanca there would have been many opportunities had I wished. However, this is not the kind of 'stoned' I'm writing about today.

A gay man in Nigeria has been sentenced to death by stoning. That's bad enough, of course (it would be difficult to think of anything worse for that man, just at present). What is truly bizarre, though, is that he had just been acquitted of having had sex with a much younger man, so really he should have walked out of the court a free man. But this is Nigeria - northern Nigeria, to be precise. The judge, when acquitting the man, asked (innocently or not, you be the judge...) if he had previously had homosexual sex - the man responded 'yes', whereupon the judge sentenced him to death by stoning. Which makes the earlier charge of having had sex with a much younger man sound even more like a pretext for trying to persecute someone for the simple fact that he is gay. Not a surprise in the case of Nigeria of course.

This sentence is as a result of the Sharia law which applies in northern Nigeria. The only ray of hope may be that ten women earlier setenced to a similar fate for having indulged in sex out of wedlock (a 'crime' of which many people around the world are certainly guilty) had their sentences overturned on appeal. I hope the federal authorities in Nigeria have the good sense to ensure that this latest nonsense in their northern region is not allowed to proceed either.

PS/ There were a number of typographical errors in this post when I first wrote it; I hope I have now corrected all of them, but if there are more that you notice, please add a comment below - thank you! (I may not have been 'stoned', but I may perhaps have been 'tipsy' as a result of the wine I had consumed with my lunch)

English as she is writ in a Nairn shopfront ...

... sign spotted a little while ago in front of a small shop, close to where I live:

English, Nairn-style - 9 July 2005

- now I expect I may receive brickbats for all my own linguistic gaffes!

Friday 8 July 2005

I feel like flying the flag!

In mourning for those killed and injured in yesterday's senseless acts of slaughter of innocent people in London

I have always shunned the idea of 'flying the flag' in this blog, except for the occasional use I have made of a Union Flag fying at half staff at specially sad times. However, in the light of yesterday's events in London, I am also adding a proud Union Flag, fluttering in the breeze, to this blog to symbolise just how I feel at present. This is not beligerent in any way, but I feel the need simply to make a clear statement that we in the UK have no intention of changing fundamentally how we live, whatever outrages may be visited upon us; we will survive and prevail.

Thursday 7 July 2005

London Terrorist Outrages - 7 July 2005

London Terrorist Outrages

7 July 2005

My sincere condolences to all those who have lost family, friends and colleagues in the horrifying and incomprehensible acts of terrorism against innocent people in London, travelling on the London Underground and on a London bus, killing several dozen and injuring many hundreds.

Rest in Peace.

Terrorism cannot, and must not, ever be

There are permanent links to this and other memorials to recent terrorist outrages in the Memorial Pages section of my links in the column at right (immediately below Bill's Mini Comment Area) - all such memorial pages are hosted on my main website

PS/A very interesting mobile (aka cell) 'phone blog is here; it has some pretty dramatic pictures from today's events (in the amazing way that the internet works, I found this blog thru a US-based blog here, through a trackback entry to a blog I do visit regularly).
PPS/ Another very interesting photoblog has some good pictures and comment from someone working in the financial district, the City of London - click here.

Prime Minister vows to 'maintain our way of life'

Tony Blair read a short statement from Gleneagles, prior to his departure for London, vowing our determination not to allow today's terrorist outrages in the UK to change our way of life:

"It is important that those engaged in terrorism realise that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world," he said.

"Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world."

- and quite right, too! This country has gone through some pretty difficult periods in its history and it is perfectly clear that whatever else happens our resolve must not weaken - we must maintain our democracy and relatively open way of life.

Sensible measures need to be taken to minimise, so far as is possible, the likelihood of a repetition of this kind of incident, but this must not be allowed to develop into a justification for curtailing our traditional liberties in this country - I am thinking specifically of the government's plans to introduce ID Cards and recent legislation forbidding the right of assembly (and, effectively, the curtailment of free speech) in and around Westminster. I do not feel it is in any way insensitive to bring up such matters at this difficult time. It is just at such a time that clear thinking is essential - part of our traditional way of life is that we have tolerated ID Cards, for example, only in times of the very gravest national emergency (during the Second World War) and we got rid of them pretty quickly after this emergency ended. Part of our traditional freedoms is the right to peaceful assembly, the right to peaceful protest and a relative closeness to those whom we elect to rule over us - some of these freedoms have already been curtailed as a result of legislation rammed through Parliament by this present Government. As I have said before, and I make no apology for repeating it now:
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance
(attributed to Thomas Jefferson)

but against this must be set another wise saying, that we all need to remember at this present time:
The greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes
(attributed to Thomas Paine)

- in other words, we must not allow ourselves to destroy our democracy whilst endeavouring to protect it. The beliefs that motivate those who carry out such terrosist incidents as we have seen in the UK today are not 'noble' in any degree whatsoever - they are wicked people who have no respect for the value of human life; we must continue to show ourselves to be much better than them by our determination to maintain our civilised, but firm, standards - this is not weakness, but instead a show of our confidence in ourselves and what we stand for.

London paralysed after transport explosions

Incidents at several Underground stations around London, and explosions on London Buses are still unfolding, but initial hopes that it might simply be 'electrical faults' on the Underground with the nearly simultaneous bus explosions being 'coincidences' are now fading. It seems clear that all these incidents are the result of some kind of terrorist activity - it is far too soon to speculate who might be behind them, so I am not even going to bother to try for the present.

Just as I am writing this I am hearing that there have been some kind of incidents at both Swindon and Brighton railway stations - this is what BBC News24 are reporting just now.

My plan for this morning and early afternoon had been to go to the gym in Inverness and I think this is what I may still do - I hope it's not a case of 'fiddling while Rome burns'!

Wednesday 6 July 2005

London to host 2012 Olympic Games!

Amidst a considerable degree of Hoopla, it was announced in Singapore a short while ago by the International Olympic Committee that London is to host the 2012 Olympic Games. This is an excellent result, although there will be a lot of hard work necessary to make them successful, and it will cost a lot as well. However, I think it is a price worth paying. The vote was quite close - London received 54 votes and runners-up Paris obtained 50 votes. Both seem to have had very strong proposals for the 2012 Games and I would prefer to avoid any kind of triumphalism.

Not everyone thinks it a 'good thing', though - Robin at Giant Grizzly seems to have a thorn in its paw over this one, and a poll run by Stuart at Independence seems to indicate that 'many' are opposed (although, as in all referenda, the person who writes the questions seems to set the agenda for the final vote - ha ha). Luckily these curmudgeonly attitudes did not affect the IOC voting.

Tuesday 5 July 2005

Jacques Chirac on food

I really don't think we need to take Chirac's little outburst particularly seriously; it's not as if this kind of thing is out of character from some people in France.

The most recent deeply unpleasant comment I can recall emanating from l'Hexagone was the charming cartoon in Le Monde at the time of the tsunami in Sumatra last December, when various countries (particularly the US and Australia) were pulling out all the stops to get relief in as fast as possible. Gregory at The Belgravia Despatch has fortunately recorded this for posterity in his blog.

Why, there's even a book about the little mishaps that M. le President has been prone to throughout his life. Chirac is a politician in deep doo-doo, everyone knows it, he most of all. The people I have a certain sympathy for are the many French people who long ago saw through his chicanery. All that will mean nothing, at least temporarily, if Paris is indeed named as the venue for 'Les Jeux Olympics 2012' later today in Singapore. However, let's not fool ourselves, it will only be a temporary respite for l'escroc.

A rare example of religious unity in Northern Ireland

Unsurprisingly it's not the product of genuine efforts to bring communities together, merely the latest effort at marginalising people, this time relating to calls by religious leaders for Belfast Pride, scheduled for 6th August, to be cancelled.

Monday 4 July 2005

Stephen Byers - an honest politician?

Is the truth going to be revealed about what went on in the lead-up to the Railtrack collapse? I certainly hope so! In all the photographs or video footage I have seen of this paragon of Labour virtue in the past week or so I cannot decide whether it is the look of a deeply guilty individual whose chicanery is about to be proved in court, or someone who is simply profoundly embarrassed; he certainly does not look comfortable.

PS/ I have no personal financial stake in the court proceedings currently underway, except that as a taxpapyer I will undoubtedly have to assist in picking up the tab, as usual, if the plaintiffs succeed in proving their case. Accepting personal responsibility for anything does not seem to be part of Labour's code.

New links added - July 2005 - batch 1

I haven't written about new blogroll links I've added for a while, although I have slipped a few in to the list without specific mention in a post until now. It seemed about time to do an update. I've also deleted a few links for various reasons, mainly because they seem to have disappeared or have been inactive for three months or longer.
Garry - A Big Stick and a Small Carrot - Garry is another blogger based in the north of Scotland (in Aberdeen) and started to blog earlier this year. He has a fairly witty and left-of-centerish way of writing that both amuses and, for an unreconstructed right-of-centre eccentric (in the context of the politics of the average Scot) such as me, occasionally infuriating but usually thought-provoking style. I added the CuriousHamster to my blogroll some weeks ago, but didn't get around to writing about it before now.
A Lacanian Scottie Does Politics - a somewhat unusual new blog that I have only just discovered [via a comment (s)he posted in Garry's blog, mentioned immediately above]. First of all, I had no idea what 'Lacanian' means, but Lord Bagpiss (for this is the pseudonym that whoever writes this blog chooses to use), although he has a lengthy disquisition on the matter here and there's more here and, prompted by all of this I have now read a very brief synopsis of the life of Claude Lacan. Suffice to say that I think that the refreshing attitudes the writer seems to display will make this blog a very useful addition to the Scottish blogosphere - the quality of the writing is high, a little long-winded, but probably very worth persevering with. S(he) doesn't reveal very much about who is behind this blog, but we can probably deduce that it is a Scot , or where the writer is writing from. Do give it a look. (Richard Bloomfield) - a very recently-discovered blog, by me at least, although he seem to have been writing for almost two years. Richard Bloomfield tells us he is a Yorkshireman by origin, but has lived in Edinburgh for a while and says 'this is now home' (to paraphrase). He seems to write lucidly on a wide range of topics and, from the little I have read so far, seems to take a pretty balanced view of life in general. Well worth being added to my blogroll.
Maidenkirk to John o' Groats - The writer calls him-/her-self Calatrian and lives in Falkirk (Scotland) to which (s)he has returned after a lengthy career in teaching, mainly in London. The blog began only in June and I have been reading it more or less since the beginning, although I am not sure (even now) where it is going exactly, not that this is a criticism of course, just an observation. It is, however, well-written and I share his view that a heightening in the quality of speeches and debate at Holyrood would be a very welcome development. His desire for 'radical change' does, however, make me wonder precisely what kind of radical change he is referring to; I shall be intrigued to glean more details in his future writings.
My Newz 'n Ideas (Rosemary) - the writer reveals that she lives in Los Angeles and she is a Conservative, seemingly with a religious bent and a strong supporter of President Bush. She holds strong views and writes forthrightly about them; I don't agree with all she writes (surprise, surprise), but her views do represent a very major strand of thinking in the US and it is useful to expose oneself to ideas that challenge; I do, however, agree with some of what she writes and the sincerity of her views shines through. I've been reading this blog sporadically for quite some time (found through her occasional comments on Alan's blog) and it is time she was added to my blogroll. Without implying in any way that her inclusion here is some kind of 'tokenism' it is a fact that my blogroll contains very few blogs written by persons of female gender, so I am glad to be able to add one that is well-written and worth reading; I wish there were more (some of the few really excellent ones include far too much profanity, seemingly for its shock-value, for me to consider including them).
Butler, Mike - only just discovered this one, because I seem to have been added to his blogroll. Mike lives in Bryn Mawr, Pennslyvania and seems to have developed an interest in Scottish blogs of late, so I thought I should reciprocate. His blog is often quite personal in nature, detailing his daily activities, but he also touches fairly frequently on international affairs, specially as they affect the US and Iraq and other Middle East and world affairs, and that means the UK too of course. His itinerary seems to take him quite frequently to Canada (Montreal and Toronto). An interesting style of blog-writing that seems to combine anecdotes and comment quite well, and he seems to have the knack (which I might try and learn from - ha, ha) of avoiding long-windedness. Worth a whirl.

Gay Pride - London - 2 July 2005

- click here for more pictures.

MIT weblog survey ...

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

- try it! (click on button above)
(thru Shadowfoot)

Sunday 3 July 2005

The circus comes to Nairn

As well as that other 'circus' going on in Scotland just now, about which David has been writing in the past couple of days, and of which the culmination will of course be taking place at Gleneagles in the next few days, the circus has now returned to Nairn after a gap of MANY years, certainly since well before I came to live here about five years ago.

This evening I have been watching the main tent being raised (whilst eating dinner and supping some rather nice 'bubbly', just because it's Sunday); the final picture of the Nairn Bandstand with fishery protection vessel (?) in the background being taken about an hour ago as I was on my final walk of the evening with the doggette.

The circus gets ready in Nairn - 3rd July 2005

Raising the tent gets underway

It's raised to full height

If you want to book, the final three digits are '170'

Nairn Bandstand as dusk approaches

Next month we will have as usual, I expect, the funfair - to coincide with the Nairn Highland Games, but for July it's once more circus-time!