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

Wednesday, 30 November 2005

"Can you can ever be just a little bit gay?"

This is part of the sub-heading of a rather amusing article in the Guardian today about the recent announcement of an explicit policy relating to gays becoming (remaining?) priests in the Catholic Church. One of the better quotes from this somewhat irreverant take on what is, for the Vatican, evidently a very serious subject, which seems to encapsulate the Holy See's bizarrely-skewed moral (not to mention logical) compass:

Or, to put it another way, homosexuality is very much like smoking - a few years off the fags, and you're all nice and pure again.

- I wrote a little while back about leaks of what would be in this policy document, but when it was published it seemed to be so similar to the earlier leaks that I hardly thought it worth commenting upon again. The Guardian article places it in its proper context - akin to that of a rather 'dotty' elderly relative.

Conservative leadership contest - gosh, have I really got it so wrong???

Ever since the latest bout of soul-searching began in the Conservative Party, I've thought that David Cameron (even though we know relatively little of his detailed ideas for policy changes) would be a vastly better bet than his rivals, especially including his remaining opponent David Davis.

However, the news that Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) has revealed that he supports David Cameron did make me sit up straight. If this complete nonentity, whose election to Leadership of the Conservative Party in 1991 was the main catalyst for my resignation as a Conservative, now tells us he supports Cameron, then I begin to wonder if I have got it badly wrong.

Maybe I shouldn't read too much into what IDS has said, though - perhaps he, mediocre individual that he is, has finally come to realise and now tacitly admit that the Conservative Party does in fact need to change if it is not to wither away, something his own catastrophic Leadership brought that much closer to being a possibility.

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Grrrr ... Broadband problems

I lost my Broadband network connection a couple of hours ago and have spent a pretty frustrating evening trying to establish whether it was my PC or ADSL modem, or any of the connections here that was at fault. I had come to the conclusion that everything was fine here, but then discovered that the ISP technical help telephone lines were either busy, or cutting out - it seemed clear that their telephones were swamped, so I began to realise that the problem must be a network one and nothing to do with me ....

.... and with that, after about two hours, my Broadband connection suddenly fired up again. Eventually I got through to the ISP technnical help service and a recorded message to tell me they are aware of connection problems with the network in my area and are in process of trying to sort them out, so at least things seems to be getting back to normal. Now, though, I am hungry and am going off to get dinner.

This message has been brought to you by a somewhat frustrated (!!) ....

UAE to attempt 'cure' for gays using hormone treatment ...

... if this wasn't so serious, you think it must be a particualrly surreal sketch from Monty Python or The League of Gentlemen.

Of course I had read about the actual arrests before and assumed those arrested would be punished, but this nonsense about trying to cure them of something that is not even an illness is just too silly, and frightening of course. As someone who lived in the UAE for a while in the late 1980s and early 1990s I have to tell the UAE authorities that homosexuality has ALWAYS existed there amongst both the local and the expatriate populations; they know this, I know this, everybody knows this. They'll have to inject a pretty large number of people on an indefinite basis with this voodoo cure, because it ain't never goin' to go away completely - not until there are no more humans left on Earth, at any rate.

Who is this 'bozo'?! Equality ain't negotiable!

Trevor Lunn, an Alliance Party member of Lisburn city council (in Northern Ireland - again!), took a decision to keep gay civil partnership ceremonies, when they become possible next month, out of the city council room reserved for wedding ceremonies, stating that "We have a wedding suite. And as a council, we decided to keep that room for weddings, and not allow civil partnership registrations there."

However the Alliance Party did not agree with his stance and his reaction was to step down as chair of his Party, stating: quoted as being:

"How can I chair an organization hinting at disciplinary action against me? The campaign against Lisburn from within the party has continued to the point where I thought it would be better if I wasn't chairing the organization. I always thought the Alliance Party was a broad enough church that we could support some difference of opinion, but it appears that, in terms of equality issues, we just can't. The party has managed to make a major issue out of something trivial. "

- well it is obviously not quite broad enough, Mr Lunn, to accommodate bigots such as your goodself. Equality isn't about "some difference of opinion", Mr Lunn, it is about a change in the law in the UK (of which Northern Ireland is a part) taking effect next month which permits, at long last, the registration of civil partnerships between same sex couples - get used to it!

And it is not "something trivial", you jerk!!

Monday, 28 November 2005

One year ago today, Alistair Wilson was shot dead on his doorstep in Nairn ...

(Please see the UPDATE at the end)

... at about 7.15pm one year ago today Alistair Wilson, a married father of two young children, was shot dead at the front door of his home, just a couple of hundred yards from where I live.

At the time, and over the months which have followed, I have written numerous articles about this slaying and there are permanent links to these in the right column under the heading 'Murder in Nairn' articles. My most recent article, prior to this one, is here. (see * below)

As yet, Northern Constabulary have established no motive for the murder and contact details for anyone who might have information to report which might lead to the apprehension of Mr Wilson's killer is here. Today, notices have re-appeared along the A96 highway as it passes through Nairn, reminding those passing through the town of the events of a year ago and seeking assistance in resolving this case. Veronica Wilson, widow of the murdered man, has made an anniversary appeal for help in finding her husband's killer.

UPDATE (27NOV2015 13.00 GMT) I have just become aware that I missed one development in early November 2005, probably because I was away in Spain at the time, looking to buy a holiday home (arranged during that visit). Anyway, from today's Press and Journal, in an article published to mark the 11th anniversary tomorrow of the murder of Mr Alistair Wilson and in a helpful 'timeline' included in the article, I learn that a transcript of the emergency '999' call made by Mrs Wilson immediately after her husband had been shot on their doorstep had been released - the P&J article is here. A quick 'Google' search then revealed, as expected, that this development had been covered at the time by the BBC in an article here.

(*) PS/ Note added on 27NOV2015): I have also realised that I have neglected to include this article in the list of 'Murder in Nairn' articles in the right column of this blog, so I have now rectified that by showing it there as article '14a', so it is in the correct chronological order.

If you're into 'Astrology' (no, not 'Astronomy')

Here's what I'm told about my birthday:

Your Birthdate: June 3

You are more than a big ball of energy - you are a big ball of hyper.
You are always on the go, but you don't have a type a personality.
Instead of channeling your energy into work, you instead go for fun and adventure.
Witty and verbal, you can have an interesting conversation with anyone.

Your strength: Your larger than life imagination

Your weakness: You tend to be pretty scattered

Your power color: Lime

Your power symbol: Lightening bolt

Your power month: March

How true is this? Beats me ...
(thru timrollpickering)

Royal Marines employing Spartan training methods?

During Sunday many televised news broadcasts in the UK showed a video purporting to be clandestine video footage of some unusual hazing rituals allegedly being carried out by soldiers of the Royal Marines, a part of the Royal Navy.

The video footage had been obtained by the News of the World, a Sunday newspaper well known for its sensational reporting style, and formed the subject of a report which it published this Sunday - there are links from this report to allow the video to be viewed at various speeds.

The substance of the report and most (perhaps all) comment about it has been that the methods displayed in the video are shocking and repulsive. 'Repulsive' was certainly the word used by one interviewee on a BBC televised news report during Sunday evening, apparently a former officer in the Royal Marines. There is no question that the scenes shown in the video were pretty strong stuff and shocking to someone like me who has absolutely no personal experience of a military existence.

However, after thinking about this for a little while I have come to slightly different conclusions about this whole episode. It seems to me to be somewhat disingenuous to throw one's hands up in horror when confronted with this kind of thing. The Royal Marines and the Commandos have the reputation for being a well-trained bunch of pretty tough people whose mission is to get the job done. No excuses. This is what we expect them to do and, generally, they do it rather well. Just how do we think they acquire the skills to allow them to perform so well? It is certainly not, I would imagine, by having its personnel learn such skills as embroidery and cake-making! War is a tough, vicious, risky business and people kill and get killed.

What this whole scenario reminds me of is some of what I have read about the uncompromising methods used in ancient Sparta to train its military - because the whole state apparatus was devoted to military activity. Obviously the same is not true of our comfortable, modern, Western-style democracy, but we still require our military to do our dirty, or simply difficult and dangerous, work for us and it seems to me to be completely unrealistic to expect them always to behave in the way that most of us are expected, and choose, to behave.

UPDATE: (Wednesday 30NOV05 08.48) I just noticed that this post has been referenced, as have those of a few other 'bloggers', by a part of the MSM, namely the Daily Telgraph - see here.

Saturday, 26 November 2005

"In Terror Cases, [US] Administration Sets Own Rules"

I haven't written about the so-called 'war on terror' in quite a while and specifically some of the ways in which the [current] US administration is waging this 'war', but this excellent article in today's New York Times essentially reaches the conclusion used as its title, which I quote above.

It makes sobering reading, but it is (very sadly) completely unsurprising. The current US administration seems to lurch from one euphemism to another and is becoming increasingly bankrupt morally; I wish I could convince myself that I am guilty of hyperbole.

Friday, 25 November 2005

News British-style - "Alcoholic ex-footballer not yet dead"

What a bizarre country this is! For the past several days EVERY news bulletin has had copious 'reporting' on the medical condition of ex-footballer George Best. Everybody from his hospital consultant, giving press briefings outside the hospital (advising us, if you please, that he is not expected to survive another twenty-four hours - that was over twenty-four hours ago), to other footballers, ex-footballers and football managers telling us how much they love George Best.

Now, I admit it, I have no interest in football whatsoever, but I accept that once he has died his death will be important news for many and even I will probably feel sad. But really, do we have to have this seemingly never-ending reporting on and quasi-deification of someone who, apparently, was a great footballer, but who was and seems to have remained an alocoholic, even after having had a liver transplant a few years ago, necessitated by his long-term excessive consumption of alcohol?

Please, please BBC, ITV, SKY et al - give us a break!!

UPDATE: (Friday 25NOV05 14.25) Second item on the BBC1 main news at 1pm - George Best has died. For the next couple of days, at least (groan ...), there will undoubtedly be further very copious reports of this man's death, with tributes, etc, etc, etc. Sorry for my curmudgeonly attitude, but despite this I am happy to say:
Rest in Peace - George Best.

Thursday, 24 November 2005

"A weekend with the family is a missed marketing opportunity."

Now I don't know that I could ever agree with this kind of statement even partially, never mind wholly, but I do admire the forthrightness and singlemindedness of a certain kind of person who might say this kind of thing.

I don't recall ever having heard the name of Bill Harrison before, but this obituary in today's Telegraph certainly justifies the title "Colourful financier who was known as 'Attila the Brum' " which the newspaper employs in its print edition.

Rest in Peace Mr Harrison, I think you probably deserve it. My sympathies to his family.

Let freedom reign! Silencing the press is NOT the solution ...

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, has threatened the press with action under the Official Secrets Act if they reveal the contents of a document which allegedly provides details of an alleged dispute between Tony Blair and George W Bush (POTUS 43) concerning operations in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East 'theatre' - the alleged dispute relates to allegations published in the Daily Mirror in this article that President Bush had last year planned to attack the Doha (Qatar) headquarters of media broadcaster al-Jazeera and had only been persuaded against this action by Tony Blair; these allegations have been hotly disputed by the White House.

My view was, and remains, that military action against Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime from power there was justified, but like many people I have become disillusioned with the conduct of operations there and associated operations elsewhere in the wake of this action. Some people were always against military action in Iraq, such as Garry at A big stick and a small carrot, but I share his general analysis as he writes it here, including his scepticism/disbelief that even Bush43 could not, surely, have been crazy enough to have seriously entertained the notions alleged, against which must of course be weighed the participation of Frank Gaffney in Tuesday's edition of BBC2's 'Newsnight' programme when he, watched by me and many others, was heard to say that such an attack, even if the allegations were unproven, would have been entirely justified if it had indeed been contemplated.

Against which must also be weighed the fact of Lord Goldsmith's threat of action against any newspaper which publishes any document which purports to give credence to the allegations published by the Mirror in its article. If the allegations are indeed completely unfounded, and so weird as to be unthinkable on the part of the world's major economic, military and political power (surely, or am I being naive?) then why has the British government made this pretty crude threat against such alleged documentary proof being published?

Probably my own view of this sorry series of events is best mirrored by Boris Johnson MP. His article today in The Dail Telegraph encapsulates these rather well. I hope that, should the alleged document fall into his hands that he will indeed publish it, even at the risk of a period in prison - if he does carry out this brave act, then I will gladly salute it for the principled stand which it would be. (And I suppose my writing this, if the gtovernment wished to make an example of me, could be read as some kind of incitement to Boris Johnson to flout the law, although I doubt very much that my writings come to the attention of Mr Johnson - anyway, so be it!) I don't, quite obviously, subscribe to the somewhat hysterical view expressed at The Devil's Kitchen when he wrote "Personally, I'd send in the SAS and quietly garotte the lot of them." - this is the same kind of nut-job view expressed by Frank Gaffney on the Newsnight programme and I deplore it.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

Conservatives still have some way to go on 'gay rights' it seems!

What has provoked me out of my rather lengthy absence from posting here? No surprise really, but the Conservatives still seem to be intent on identifying themselves as unreconstructed bigots when it comes to gays and lesbians. Surely these idiots can't still be rabbiting on about the details of whom we should be granting full human rights to in this country when there are so many more important things for them to be getting on with - not forgetting bringing their 6 month search for a new Leader to a conclusion?

Eleanor Laing, the Conservatives Equality spokeswoman is quoted here as opining during a debate in the House of Commons on the Equality Bill and its clause which will ban discrimination against people in the provision of goods and services due to their religion or their sexuality, that:

"a small hotel with two or three rooms should not be treated in the same way in legislation as a large central London hotel with 100 rooms."

- if the Conservatives were to have their way it would mean that small boarding houses could continue to discriminate against persons desirous of finding lodging (sorry to be so pompous in my phraseology) purely on the basis of their sexuality or their religion. Just as happened here in the west of Scotland last summer in the case of two gay tourists.

And of course the Conservatives want to repeal or emasculate the Human Rights Act - the Act that forced the British government to end its discriminatory policies against gays regarding service in the military and the equalisation of the age of consent. Changes which the Conservatives vociferously opposed. Just as, until Howard became Leader, they were equally vociferously opposed to allowing civil partnerships between same-sex partners.

Gawd give me strength! Can these Conservatives not put a new disc on the player! I am basically a Conservative by instinct, but these idiots seem determined to alienate me and a lot more like me with their silly, nasty policies. It irritates me, no it angers me, that the Conservatives seem determined to force me into agreeing with Labour policies when I despise so much of what the Labour Party stands for.

Will it be any different if David Cameron (or David Davis) becomes the Leader shortly? I will be watching, listening and observing closely ...

UPDATE: (Thursday 24NOV05 19.15 GMT) Pink News has very creditably given Eleanor Laing a 'right of reply' and their article including a letter she sent them, which they reprint, is here. It is important for gays and lesbians to be scrupulously fair when highlighting [what some, me included, call] vicious and bigotted policies; linking to her reply in Pink News is my small contribution to this effort. I will continue to watch, listen and observe closely not only what the Conservative Party, and the other political parties, says and more importantly does [or attempts].

Sunday, 6 November 2005

Blair loses it - big time!

Tony Blair has finally accepted, it seems, that he will not be able to ram through Parliament his plans for detention without trial to be extended from the current 14 days to 90 (!!) days, but we have undoubtedly not heard the last of this pernicious idea. Rumours are that a period of 20, 28 or even 30 days will be attempted. Fourteen days is already far too long - the old period of seventy-two hours is where we want to get back to.

Mr Blair rabbiting on about the police 'needing' this time is just so much hot air - and dangerous nonsense, which is the really sinister part. Does Tony Blair really want his legacy to be having turned this country into a 'police state'. A lot of people disliked Margaret Thatcher intensely (I was never one of those quite obviously), but I think it fair to say that not even her worst enemies ever thought she would have liked to emulate the worst excesses of petty and not-so-petty tyrants everywhere, as our present Prime Minister seems increasingly determined to do.

A small mercy is that the latest addition to the incitement to terror laws were defeated by one vote in the House of Commons last week. Although I have been away, I have been following what has been going on in Airstrip One quite closely, although weaving one's way around the constant government propaganda announcements about new 'policy initiatives' has gotten so boring - do they really take the average citizen for the complete morons their agitprop methods imply? Seems very like it!

(As you can see, I'm plunging straight back into more serious matters without preliminary - my trip went well and I'll probably write a little about it here in due course.)