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

Friday, 30 June 2006

Absolutely shocking - but gut-wrenchingly funny ...

... and you don't need to understand a word to appreciate the very, very sick joke. YouTube, a power for good, but also a medium for very great mischief:

(thru Andrew Sullivan)

Gay anthem 'I am what I am'

Now I said you were only getting four national anthems today - and so you are. But this song is something of a default 'gay anthem' and I like it. Rather than using a link to a performance by 'gay Diva' Shirley Bassey, I thought I would put a link to a version sung by a man 'in drag'. This very powerful performance is by Gary Beachs at a 'La Cage Aux Folles' Revival - I don't know when or where exactly this was sung:

National Anthem - People's Republic of China

China is not competing in the World Cup, but even though I dislike many aspects of the politics of that country I like the tune. However, instead of putting up a very 'propaganda-ish' video, I thought I would put up one which, whilst it is a good recording, does contain a pretty strong political message which I am sure those of you who remember the events of 1989 in Tienanmen Square, Beijing will find appropriate:

Now, four anthems in one day is probably enough. More tomorrow.

National Anthem - Trinidad & Tobago

T&T was a competitor in the World Cup and, for whatever reason, has attracted a lot of support from Scots, including First Minister Jack McConnell. Fair enough, the man has a right to support whichever team he wishes, but I think that in his official position he should have been a little more cirumspect - he could easily have made his comments in a way less well designed to 'get up the backs' of English supporters. This is realpolitik, Jack! England, like it or not, is the only other nation with which we share a land border and we are both constituent parts of the United Kingdom and you are the First Minister of Scotland. Anyway, this is Trinidad & Tobago's national anthem:

Unofficial 'National Anthem' - Scotland

Scotland does not have a team in the World Cup, but to avoid any bricks being put through my window (I say this in jest, I hope!) I thought I would put up the most popular of the 'national songs' sung prior to many sporting events involving Scottish teams - Flower of Scotland - it's not a song I like, but it is certainly the most popular, so I bow to what seems to be the will of the majority of my fellow Scots (NB/ the official national anthem of Scotland is of course ''God Save the Queen''):

National Anthem - England

Over the next few days I shall be putting up links to videos of the national anthems of various of the countries playing in the Football World Cup in Germany; I have no interest in football, but I do find it interesting to listen to the anthems. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find links for all the countries playing and for some the quality is not very high. However, because this is really about the songs, not the sport, I shall quite shamelessly include countries which are not competing in the World Cup, if I'm in the mood (and this lets me include the 'national song' of Scotland, even though its national anthem is in reality precisely the same as England's).

Today, we begin with 'home country' England:

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Judge quashes anti-terror control orders

Mr Justice Sullivan has quashed the government's control orders against six men suspected of terrorism, stating that such orders are incompatible with article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

I heard on BBC2 Newsnight a short while ago that Home Secretary Dr John Reid plans to appeal the judgement.

For my part I find it heartening that a brave judge has been prepared to stand up to our dictatorial government by insisting that laws protecting our liberty are observed. If the six men are truly dangerous then they should be charged and evidence placed before a court so they can be tried and judged - if they are found guilty they can then be convicted and sentenced. It is unacceptable for the government to seek to subvert our own laws.

The British: quiet, reserved, undemonstrative ...

... or not. This appeared in today's Telegraph. Quite remarkable.

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

'Worldwide' Anglican Church may soon be no more ...

... if the proposals outlined by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams are implemented. It seems that it is being proposed to have two classes of membership within the Anglican communion, 'constituent' (i.e. full) and 'associate' status. Because The Episcopal Church in the US declined to "repent" its decision to appoint the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire and has now failed to vote for a moratorium on further gay consecrations it is probable that schism can no longer be avoided.

Those provinces thought unlikely to sign up to the doctrine necessary to achieve full membership status are likely to include, in addition to The Episcopal Church in the US, include the Anglican churches in Canada and New Zealand and even the Scottish Episcopal Church. I have no personal stake in this whole shambles, but it will certainly be a relief to have this sordid squabbling 'resolved', even if it is only to make very clear to the whole world just how much bigotry still exists within what will be left of Anglicanism. I don't imagine that The Episcopal Church in the US will suffer any lasting harm, even if some parts of it continue their recent affiliation with less-enlightened churches elsewhere in the world.

Why Daffyd is the 'only gay in the village'

It's because Wales is "years behind the rest of the UK when it comes to embracing equal rights for homosexuals" according to Stonewall Cymru, a view backed-up by the chief constable of South Wales, Barbara Wilding:

"Perhaps Wales has some way to go yet in comparison with other parts of the country."

Inverness - Central Belt train times "could be cut"

Two reports indicate that with an investment in new rolling-stock and GBP55m on other improvements, the journey from Inverness to Glasgow or Edinburgh could be cut by around 45 minutes, to give a journey time of about 2 hours 45 minutes, with additional work in Fife potentially bringing the journey time to Edinburgh down to 2 hours 30 minutes, allowing the rail network to compete better against road travel; for many regular travellers it is certainly an attractive prospect. The improvements would also benefit travellers to Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth and the north-east.

The ignorance of tabloid 'hacks'?

Scanning some very recent site statistics for my little blog, I came across this 'howler' in a Google search whilch led somebody here:

"david cameron island of durer scottish island"

- now I do recall that when someone called David Cameron became talked about last year as a potential Leader of the Conservative Party I was specially interested because we happen to share the same surname so I looked up what I could find out about his curriculum vitae and this revealed that his family hailed, many years ago, from the island of Jura (not 'durer' - he was a painter!) and I think I have read more recently that David Cameron tends to spend at least part of his annual vacations on the island.

Anyway, the site stats. reveal that the visit to my blog originated from someone using a terminal on an Associated Newspapers Ltd server (IP - (Associated Newspapers Ltd); this is the organisation that publishes the 'widely respected' Daily Mail amongst other titles, highlighting neatly (I think) just how much credence should be placed in what they write.

Catholic hypocrisy - Andrew Sullivan finally 'gets it'

'Money quote', as Andrew is wont to say:

"I love my church. Its rules are inviolable and eternal, except when they're not. Kidman was legally married for ten years, had two kids, but, as far as the Catholic church is concerned, her marriage to Cruise did not exist! She didn't even have to seek an annulment. But the stricture against a Catholic's divorce and remarriage is absolute - and a Catholic who obeyed the rules all along, and got married in a Catholic first wedding, would be denied the sacraments and barred from re-marrying in church. I guess because I am deemed objectively disordered by my own church, I haven't been as aware of this transparent nonsense as I should have been."
(Red highlights added for emphasis)

Of course it bothers me not at all that Nicole Kidman is able to marry again, nor indeed that her ex-spouse (or not, as the case may be, according to Catholic doctrine) Tom Cruise is now partnering, and fathering a child by, a woman many years younger than him, she (I read) having become enticed in her turn into the other cult relevant in this case, Scientology. Good luck to them all!

This latest evidence of religious hypocrisy by this particualar 'cult' (The Roman Catholic one, that is) should really be no surprise, though. This is after all the same organisation which for years, indeed decades, covered up the scandalous and criminal misdeeds of some of its 'agents' (aka priests) who could not seem to keep their hands, or other parts of their anatomy, away from young boys and which even went so far as to victimise the victims of these crimes should they have the temerity to speak out against their abusers, until the scandal became so huge that the secular authorities could no longer, or more specifically their electorate would no longer allow them to, turn a blind eye.

Lest people who are not familiar with my little blog be tempted to wonder whether this is simply a rant against the Roman Catholic Church rest assured - I hold most organised religion, of whatever creed, in similar contempt. Whatever good many of them have done from time to time must be weighed in the balance against the evils they have tolerated or, worse, perpetrated and it is not by any means always the case that such scrutiny shows a positive result.

Anyway Andrew, better that you see the light late rather than never.

For those who, inexplicably, have no idea what any of this is about, you can read all about it here.

'Good news' - hope for illiberal regimes everywhere

I am generally in favour of globalisation (I do after all consider myself to be a 'conservative libertarian'), but I hope our own dear government does not decide to follow that bastion of 'liberty and freedom' (Yes, I know, he came off the meds. yesterday - Ed), the People's Republic of China in its latest scheme. The New York Times carries a report about a new draft law there which will impose fines on media outlets which publish news about 'sudden' events which the Communist-led authorities would prefer remained confidential - oh, very probably minor things like 'natural disasters, major accidents and events relating to public health and social safety' - nothing really to worry about, comrades. The Propaganda Department thinks that the existing 'nod and wink' policy of limiting the release of news about major events is no longer a sufficient protection for this disfunctional regime.

'Gays born not made' - research says

It appears that the number of elder male siblings a man has may be a determining factor in him being born homosexual. For the record, I have one sibling - an elder brother. I certainly have never had the feeling that I was 'recruited' into homosexuality so this latest research seems at least as plausible as anything else I've heard over the years.

Monday, 26 June 2006

Bill and Melinda and Warren talk in a question answer conference

I was startled a few years ago when I learned that Bill Gates and his wife Melinda had set up the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with funding that was almost beyond the comprehension of someone who is only moderately 'well off'. This morning I had another of those moments of startlement when I heard that 'The Sage of Omaha', Warren Buffett (the man behind Berhshire Hathaway, one share in which costs - well a lot!), is planning to give 85 per cent of his personal wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further its ends. I've read for some years that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are close friends, but this is a very public and wonderful example of how close that relationship and trust must be. Bill and Melinda have so far given a considerable proportion of his/their own wealth to their foundation and Mr Buffett's donation will roughly double the funds it has at its disposal from what I can gather. Here is a link to a live webcast where Bill and Warren talk before a [presumably] invited audience about what governs their charitable thinking (in case that no longer works, here is a link to a statement on the Foundation website by Bill and Melinda Gates). I know that some people think that great personal wealth is not necessarily a 'good thing' - I am most certainly not one of those people. I think it is quite wonderful that some very wealthy people (particularly in the US, and only partly because of their very sensibly-organised tax regime in this area) consider it not only a duty, but a privilege, to return to the wider world in a practical way some of the good fortune with which their lives have been blessed - and I am just listening to Melinda Gates talking about their gift to Warren of a copy of 'The Wealth of Nations'' by Adam Smith.
(thru, in turn thru QueerFilter.)

UPDATE: (Tuesday 27JUN06 10.10 BST) The New York Times today carries an article on Warren Buffett's donation to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - it makes interesting reading:

'He gets particularly upset at his country club, he said, hearing members complain about welfare mothers getting food stamps "while they are trying to leave their children a more-than-lifetime-supply of food stamps and are substituting a trust officer for a welfare officer."

To widespread applause, he smiled and asked: "Is there anyone I forgot to insult?" '

- not only a savvy investor, but a wit as well.

BBC News 'Editors' blog launched

A new blog has been launched so that editors from scross BBC News can "share issues and dilemmas that surround our services" - visit BBC News The Editors. Sounds like an interesting idea - I already get some feedback on the background to various developing stories in an ironic/amusing daily email put out by Eddie Mair and/or Caroline Quinn about what they are planning for that day's broadcast on BBC Radio4 PM, but this new blog will with a bit of luck allow we viewers and listeners to understand better some of the factors that editors must consider.
(thru Damien Mulley, an Irish blogger, in turn thru QueerFilter.)

IPTV - the next thing in televised home entertainment?

I try and watch click online on BBC News24 every week - it's a half hour programme broadcast at the weekend on several occasions and covers the latest developments in online technology with at the end a regular slot devoted to giving information on useful website links.

This week one of the topics covered was Internet protocol television (IPTV) and the associated BBC website page for what they discussed on this weekend's edition is here.

It is gaining the short name of 'Niche TV' because it seems as if it will be ideal for catering for the very diverse interests of relatively small groups of people with the programmes being delivered over broadband connections - it does require a pretty high-speed and reliable broadband connection, though, which few have at present. My broadband speed was recently increased to 'upto' 8Mb and whilst video is pretty reasonable at this speed it is still subject to brief 'freezes' if the speed drops off a little or, presumably, because of network congestion. From what I can understand, though, we will all eventually be able to watch perhaps many thousands of such 'niche tv' channels through set-top boxes hooked up to a broadband connection.

In its article, 'BBC Click online' links to only two such channels at present - CountryChannel.TV and Cycling.TV. The 'CountryChannel' seems for the moment to be free to access and gives astonishingly good quality pictures on a small screen window and really quite good pictures when I expand it to fill my 15" LCD screen - perhaps not as good as a conventional television, but still very watchable although subject to brief 'freezing' occasionally (on my broadband, at least). The other channel, 'Cycling', gives a pretty good picture as well, although I'd estimate not quite as high-definition as the 'CountryChannel' - it is also not free, only brief 'advertising' previews are available for free, although as the channel says 'nothing good in life is ever free' (in one way or another) - I immediately thought of Blognor Regis as one of the potential viewers of such a channel.

Naturally once this platform becomes more popular and widely-used there will be a proliferation of channels, I expect. What the quality of some of them will be like is anyone's guess, but it is probable that (as with some of the channels carried by satellite and cable channel broadcasters at present) many will be of dire quality - but they will cater for almost every conceivable interest and if there is not a channel which caters for your particular interest then it will probably be possible, at relatively modest cost, for amateurs to broadcast their own material, just as some people already upload short video clips to YouTube where completely at random I picked this amusing travelogue by someone called Matt:

The days of being restricted to just a few television channels are long since over of course, but the development of IPTV will be a whole shift of gear - very exciting, provided one doesn't come to use it as a substitute for experiencing real life.

Sunday, 25 June 2006

Ashley Cole awarded damages for 'gay slur'

England footballer Ashley Cole and a radio DJ have received an apology from that 'journal of record', the News of the World, for wrongly linking them to a "gay sex romp".

What interests me, though, is the very concept that it is somehow a 'slur', or an 'insult', to be or to be thought of as gay. Mnay of us, including me, have in one way or another been brought up (or 'raised' as our American cousins might put it - Ed) to go along with this mode of thinking. I am glad to say I got rid of that particular kind of dead-end thinking many years ago. In my humble opinion one's sexuality, one's gender, one's race or one's ethnicity are neither good nor bad - they just are.

However, what I think the Ashley Cole case, or even more so the bizarre Liberace libel case many years ago or the sad self-delusion played out by Kenneth Williams throughout his life, display are that society has not moved on vary far - just scratch a little below the surface and the same old irrationalities come seeping out, spreading their puss and malignity.

In conclusion I am glad for you, Ashley Cole, that you have got the apology which, presumably, has been so important to you - I am just sorry that you and many others (particularly in the notoriously homophobic world of football) consider this a matter of any importance at all.

Saturday, 24 June 2006

Fourteen Saudis released from Guantanamo

In the opaque language that the US uses to describe such matters:

One was released after no longer being considered an "enemy combatant" and the others after it was determined they could be transferred, officials said.

and the Pentagon says other releases are being considered, in this highly informative (not) official-speak:

"Departure of these remaining detainees approved for transfer or release is subject to ongoing discussions between the United States and other nations."

I think it is pretty clear that this US Administration is squirming and trying to contrive plausible reasons for shutting down this legal monstrosity whilst at the same time pretending it has been justified in holding people there in extra-judicial limbo, without charge or trial, for excessively lengthy periods. Bush's speech earlier this week during his visit to Austria made for very interesting listening - he is on the hook and he knows it, even if he still must placate his support-base (such as remains) back home.

Friday, 23 June 2006

Gay foster carers gaoled over sexual abuse of young boys

Ian Wathey was gaoled for five years and his partner Craig Faunch received a sentence of six years following their conviction for sex offences last month, during their sentencing hearing at Leeds Crown Court. The pair are from Pontefract, West Yorkshire.

It is clear that these men have badly abused the trust that was placed in them as foster parents and I hope that Wakefield Council takes on board and addresses the criticisms of Judge Sally Cahill QC in failing to take action when they first became aware of what was going on. In her remarks to the two convicted men, Judge Cahill QC said:

"Once you realised social services would not take any action and believed your ridiculous story about why you had taken it, you went on to abuse others in your care, believing yourself safe from the authorities."

As I have written before in this blog, gays and lesbians are no different from any other segment of our society - there are some evil and perverted individuals in all groups. I am glad these two have been caught and sentenced to punishment.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland visits Nairn

The 4th Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Scotland ("The Highlanders") are on a tour of their home area, the north of Scotland, following their return in April to their base in Fallingbostel, Germany after a six-month assignment in Iraq (were they were based in Basra and Al Amarah).

Welcome home!

"The Highlanders" at Nairn Links today
The Regimential Band entertains the crowd

The recruiting booth is open!

Please click here to see larger images

Early day motion - "USE OF THE WORD `GAY' ON BBC RADIO"

An Early Day Motion has been signed yesterday by Lorely Burt, MP for Solihull (LibDem), seconded by Stephen Williams, MP for Bristol West (LibDem), as follows:


That this House expresses concern that the word 'gay' has been used by Radio One presenter Chris Moyles to refer to something 'lame or rubbish' on air; notes in particular that Chris Moyles' show is heard by up to 6.5 million listeners, many of them young adults and children; recognises that the use of such language in such a context may encourage or legitimise negative attitudes towards homosexuals; further notes that research compiled by Stonewall found that 51 per cent. of gay men and 30 per cent. of lesbians reported being bullied physically and 82 per cent. of respondents stated that they had been subject to name-calling and other forms of humiliation at school; believes that while freedom of speech is always of immense importance, that wherever possible the best way for that freedom to be exercised is in a responsible, sensitive manner and in full knowledge of the possible repercussions; and calls for the BBC to ensure that all its staff are aware of the possible negative consequences that apparent casual homophobia may have.

This is good to hear. I was rather disappointed ('angry' would be a better way to describe it) by the way the BBC dismissed the matter as of little importance soon after it happened. If one were to substitute the word 'black' or 'immigrant' and pretend that it was acceptable for it to be used now by young people to categorise such people as 'lame or rubbish' then I think everyone would have, quite rightly, taken very strong offence. It is quite simply unacceptable for the BBC to appear to condone such categorisations when they affect homosexuals or anyone else and because of its power and influence give such usages greater currency.

Why should I continue to pay my licence fee to an organisation which feels it can laugh such matters off!?

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Shameful behaviour by so-called Scottish 'patriots'

It appals me that some of my fellow-Scots think it in any way appropriate to physically or indeed verbally abuse people for flying the Cross of St George or for wearing an England football shirt replica in support of their team at the current World Cup tournament in Germany. To misguided 'patriots' everywhere:
Get a life!

'The Sun' newspaper's rampant homophobia exposed ... again expose the misleading and hysterical reporting that The Sun is justly famed for when it gives the true background to an exhibition currently on display at The Architecture Foundation in London.
(thru gay news blog)

More Catholic 'propaganda' about homosexuality

Someone called Peter Kearney, the 'spokesman for the Scottish Bishops Conference' comes out with this nonsense:

"There is absolutely no evidence of a gay gene. People are not born gay, it is something they chose. As a church we would support groups who want to go into schools to put forward an alternative view. The problem is there are those who have their own agenda to promote a gay lifestyle and will simply not tolerate any other opinion."

- as an example of wrongheadedness those four sentences take some beating.

And who can be surprised when that journal of 'logic and impartiality' (He jests - Ed.), otherwise known as the Daily Mail, leaps on the latests bandwagon for bigots.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

I have never ...!

A fun new blog game to play.
I will list 3 things that I've never done at the bottom of this post. They all begin: "I have never..."

You should copy these instructions and my list to your blog. BUT you should remove the top item and add a new item to the bottom of the list - it should be something that YOU have never done, and it can be about anything you like.

You should also go back over the remaining 2 things I listed and highlight (in bold, a different colour, italics, however you want) the things that are not true for you (ie You have done them).

This way, the list is constantly evolving and changing through every iteration.

You can only repost a list to your blog if none of the previous "I have never..."'s that you have answered are there.

PS - Don't forget to post a comment here if you are playing the game and say where you got the game from in your post - thanks.
(thru Reluctant Nomad)

I have never used a dildo.
I have never had an orgy.
I have never had sex with a woman.

Do you [still] trust this man?

US President George W Bush, that is. If this is true, then the answer has to be a resounding NO!

As Andrew Sullivan observes at the end of his article about this:

This shallow, monstrous, weak, and petty man is still the president. God help us.

- quite.

Just discovered - BBC 'Freedom of Information' blog

I just came across a link to a blog by Martin Rosenbaum, a BBC journalist specialising in 'freedom of information', which appears to have begun only in the middle of May - so far I've only read a couple of the articles, but it seems like it could prove a useful resource if it is kept up to date - the 'Open Secrets' blog may be visited by clicking here.

Brown faces Freedom of Information snub over pensions fiasco

Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has fought hard to avoid having to reveal internal Treasury forecasts of what the long-term effect on pension funds would be of his 1997 decision, soon after Labour came to power, to remove tax credit on share dividends. Now the deputy information commissioner Graham Smith has upheld a complaint about the Treasury's refusal to release the documents, saying that the 'Treasury's concerns are outweighed by the need for transparency in the decision making process'. The Treasury has until 6 July to release the information or to lodge an appeal. It is a foregone conclusion what the Treasury will do, in my opinion - delaying tactics will continue until Brown is safely ensconced at No. 10.

Private pensions were generally extremely well-funded in the UK up until 1997, but this one change in the tax treatment of dividends affecting pension funds started the downward spiral which has resulted in the closure to new entrants, or collapse, of so many pension schemes. It is long past time that the myth of Gordon Brown having run a well-managed economy since 1997 be exposed for the lie that it is; there are many of his policies that do not bear much scrutiny.

Monday, 19 June 2006

Two US soldiers captured, say Iraqi al-qa'ida affiliates

(See UPDATE at the end of this post)

A group linked to al-qa'ida in Iraq is claiming to have captured two US soldiers south of Baghdad. The missing soldiers are identified as 'Private Thomas Lowell Tucker, 25, from Madras, Oregon and Private Kristian Menchaca, 23, from Houston, Texas'.

I hope that these two will be rescued quickly and unharmed.

However, Andrew Sullivan (who has become increasingly strident, at long last, on this matter in recent weeks) has linked to another blogger (The Rude Pundit) to echo his very pertinent question:

Two Captured American Soldiers and the Implied "What If":

What will our government do? What could it do? Could it condemn the actions as not abiding by the Geneva Conventions? Could it call the actions "torture"? Could it demand accountability? Could it demand that the soldiers be treated as POWs? Could it simply say, "Well, we don't do that shit ... anymore"?

Indeed. The short-sighted and counter-productive policies of this US administration in how it treats foreign prisoners may be coming home to roost. I take absolutely no pleasure from writing this. It is deeply sad - and frightening.

UPDATE: (Tuesday 20JUN06 17.18 BST) BBC News24 are just headlining that the bodies of the two captured US soldiers have been found. An arabic website is claiming that the killings were carried out, personally, by the man described as the new al-qa'ida leader in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

Differing policies amongst US churches on how to deal with gays

As a break from the usual concentration on the possibility of schism within the worldwide Anglican Church, because of the relatively liberal attitude toward gays within the US Episcopalian Church, here are a couple of other stories on the differing attitudes of other church denominations towards gays:

- In this Out in America story it is reported that 'Churches in the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church are formally opposing a proposed amendment to the Arizona constitution that would ban gay marriage'. This is accompanied by what I find is a remarkably sensible (and open-minded) observation: 'In a resolution passed during the conference's annual meeting in Scottsdale last week, denomination leaders said marriages are threatened by forces such as infidelity, violence, addictions, lack of communication and commitment, and "not how marriage is defined." '

- whereas in this PlanetOut story it is reported that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) wants to maintain its ban on gay clergy, even if it plans to allow some presbyteries 'leeway' (whatever that means!) in how the rule is applied - probably what is meant is that it will quietly be permitted, so long as there is no public fuss about it, but if there is a fuss about any particular case then it is more than likely the errant presbytery will be asked to fall into line. What a joke!

Paradoxically I see this kind of dissension as mildly hopeful (along with the situation in the US Episcopalian Church), simply because it at least shows that the position is not uniformly negative for gays amongst the quite large corps of committed religious believers in the US.

"Chinese police force crackdown on gay Web sites"

The Advocate has an interesting article on some recent developments in China affecting several influential gay websites, all purged for their allegedly 'illegal content' - we're not talking porn here, we're talking about websites which cover such mundane topics as condom usage and HIV. Sigh!

Labour populism from the ridiculous to the dangerous

This Labour government seems to want to run this country solely according to what this or that Minister thinks will play well in the tabloid press. Two of the latest examples, from today's attempt at setting the news agenda:

- The Prime Minister thinks it appropriate to second-guess the England manager in his choice of team for England in the World Cup. Of course I accept that Tony Blair will have his own views on this matter, but his naked attempt to keep himself in the public eye on this hot-topic issue is laughable.

- Home Secretary John 'hard man' Reid is criticised by Dyfed-Powys Police Chief Constable Terry Grange, the child protection spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, for 'surrendering' policy on how to deal with paedophiles to the agenda of the News of the World newspaper; Mr Grange told BBC News that this year alone in the US five people had been murdered:

"by people who have accessed the sex offenders register, gone to their houses and killed them".

"This government has accepted the principle that they are prepared to be blackmailed," he told BBC News.

Mr Grange accused Home Office officials of "attending meetings at the behest of a newspaper to discuss what the newspaper wants and then surrendering to their wishes - altering their whole approach over night".

He spoke of an "abandonment of any real strategic design in the Home Office for the management of sex offenders in favour of trying to find out what one particular tabloid newspaper wants and then complying with their wishes".

"If the officials working at the Public Protection Unit at the Home Office were able to speak, they would tell everyone they are in a state of complete despair as to where the strategic plans, the original intent - a coherent strategy for managing sex offenders - has disappeared to.

"It is impossible to work consistently, coherently when every month or every six weeks there is a policy change or reaction brought about by pressure from the media.

"Most of my colleagues - certainly chief probation officers across the country - find it impossible to do their jobs.

"The only people with any real strategic intent and understanding of where they want to go and the will to be ruthless in getting there is the News of the World."

Of course, this is all according to Mr Grange, but last Monday's attempt at setting the news agenda by John Reid was the quickly retracted suggestion that people should 'have a go' and defend themselves when faced with crime, despite the fact that this can be both dangerous and foolhardy, if the case of Tony Martin and other numerous cases are a guide. So John Reid has recent 'form' in this area.

Mr Blair's brand of populism is ridiculous, pathetic even - that practised by Mr Reid (and predecessors Clarke and Blunkett) is idiotic and dangerous!

French Socialists moving toward support for gay marriage

The front-runner to be selected as the Socialist Party candidate in next year's Presidential election in France, Segolene Royal, has voiced (Reuters report) her support for gay marriage and adoption:

"It is essential that everybody has equal rights and dignities and the chance to express themselves freely. Opening up marriage to same-sex couples is needed in the name of equality, visibility and respect."

It will be recalled that a purported gay marriage two years ago in France was promptly annulled by a court in Bordeaux. It is thought that the issue of gay marriage may become a divisive issue in next year's Presidential race.

Rock Ness drugs warning by police

Northern Constabulary have warned the anticipated 20,000 revellers expected to attend the Rock Ness music festival at Dores on the shores of Loch Ness this coming Saturday that there will be "robust" anti-drug policing. The warning comes in the wake of the Isle of Skye Music Festival held at Broadford last Friday and Saturday where police said "31 people were reported for possession of controlled drugs as well as [making] a number of seizures of cannabis, ecstasy, suspected amphetamines and suspected cocaine". I shall be staying well away from that side of Loch Ness this coming Saturday.

Woman Bishop named a US Episcopal leader

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada has been elected Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church yesterday. Quite apart from the reservations some religious conservatives may have have with the notion of a woman being elected to lead them, the fact that she is also regarded as a 'liberal' on theological matters (she supported the election of the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 and the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada permits the blessing of same-sex unions) is also expected to cause disquiet in some quarters.

Conservative leader Cameron to speak positively about gay partnerships

According to a report by the BBC, previewing a speech scheduled to be made tomorrow by David Cameron, recently-elected Conservative Party leader, to the National Parenting Institute, he will say that 'gay partners who have had a civil ceremony should enjoy the same tax breaks as heterosexual married couples' and will also 'warn against trying to force people into conventional lifestyles'.

If he indeed makes this speech tomorrow then I will begin to believe the Conservative Party, or at least its current Leader, is genuinely intent upon a fundamental reform of its policy agenda - as we have been promised for so long. Whilst I am now increasinlgy optimistic about this I will also continue to observe with interest how relevant votes in Parliament are dealt with by representatives there of the Conservative Party.

Interested in becoming a computer hacker?

If that's you, then Abertay University's the place. The course in 'ethical' hacking at this university in Dundee will begin later this year. Whether the potential benefits of attending this course are sufficient incentive for you to enjoy/endure a sojourn in Dundee is a decision only you can make.

Sunday, 18 June 2006

For 'Star Trek' fans everywhere

The New York Times has a very good article about the recent spate of amateur spin-offs from 'Star Trek' - there has been quite a lot in the news recently about this phenomenon, for example the BBC did one recently too, but the difference is that in the New York Times article there are embedded links to various of the amateur production websites where you can download episodes and trailers of various of these amateur efforts.

It has to be said that the acting and dialogue in almost all of these productions is not of a very high standard, but the special effects are another matter - the ubiquity of digital video cameras puts reasonably professional looking film production within the scope of enthusiasts and some of them have taken full advantage. Most of the productions are US-based, but one is produced by enthusiasts in Scotland and it is quite amusing to hear all of the players speaks with strong Scottish accents. (When I lived in Paris in the 1980s I used to watch re-runs of the original 'Star Trek' television programmes dubbed into French so I grew quite accustomed to hearing Kirk, Spock, etc, speaking in French - in fact I'd say that the quality of the dubbing was very high indeed and all the speakers had very good and interesting styles, at least as good as the US original.)

Friday, 16 June 2006

Two gaoled for homophobic murder

The two murderers of Jody Dobrowski, a gay man kicked and punched to death on Clapham Common, have been sentenced to 'life imprisonment' with a recommendation that they serve a minimum of 28 years in prison. Judge Brian Barker characterised the attack at "homophobic thuggery" and said:

"It was Jody's tragic misfortune to cross your path. You subjected him to mindless abuse and showed him no mercy.

"In those few seconds you took from him the most precious possessions - his life and future."

It is good that these two brutal killers have been dealt with quite harshly and that it is being made increasingly clear by the authorities that homophobia will no longer be tolerated.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Will it be like this on World Cup Final day?

I have no interest in football whatsoever, but a friend sent me this amusing 'round-robin' email a few days ago which shows that some fans of football are more than just averagely devoted and where such devotion might possibly lead.

A man has two tickets for the World Cup Final. As he sits down, another man comes down and asks if anyone is sitting in the empty seat next to him.

"No", he says. "The seat is empty".

"This is incredible!" says the other man. "Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the World Cup final, the biggest sporting event, and not use it?"

"Well, actually, the seat belongs to me. My wife was supposed to come with me, but she passed away. This is the first World Cup Final we haven't been to together since we got married".

Oh.....I'm sorry to hear that. That's terrible. But couldn't you find someone else, a friend or relative, or even a neighbour to take the seat?"

The man shakes his head.

"No. They're all at the funeral".

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Australia's PM Howard confirms his reputation as a homophobe

Australia's federal government has overturned a local law within the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) which gave legal recognition to same sex relationships.

Guantanamo can provoke only shame and revulsion

I have written many times before about my horror, and confusion, about what is being done at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by the US Administration - ostensibly in the name of combatting international terrorism.

However one gruesome little 'detail' about the suicides of three of the inmates a few days ago has just come to my attention. I hardly know how to express what I feel about this; I haven't yet eaten breakfast, but in a way I am glad because I'm pretty certain I would have regurgitated it on learning what I did a few moments ago. It seems that one of the three was due to be released, but had not been told of this minor detail by the US detaining authorities, because they had not yet identified to which country he could be sent. The prisoner was Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi, a Saudi Arabian national. The final part of that last sentence requires examination also - "because they had not yet identified to which country he could be sent" - as one presumes that in the normal course of events such a person would be extradited back to the country of his nationality, but in this case this has not been thought possible, or wise, or perhaps the government of Saudi Arabia had declined his return; who knows?
(thru Jon Swift, in turn thru Andrew Sullivan)

... and remember this, the camp commandant, Rear Adm Harry Harris, felt able to characterise the suicides as "an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us" whilst being aware, presumably, of the decision made regarding Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi. The cynicism and perverted logic is simply breath-taking.

Sunday, 11 June 2006

Gay Mounties to wed in Nova Scotia

Two officers in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, based in Nova Scotia, are scheduled to wed (Chicago Tribune article, free registration required) on the eve of Canada Day.

Two good-looking (I don't know for certain, but I bet they are at least quite tall and probably well-built - I can dream, can't I?) scarlet-uniformed Mounties - guaranteed to make me go weak at the knees! Good luck to the happy couple!

UPDATE: (Sunday 2JUL06 10.05 BST) See my later article here, when the two actually got married.

Confused thinking by Irish Presbyterians over matters gay

Naturally I welcome the resolution with which Irish Presbyterians, at their General Assembly last week, denounced the evils of homophobia:

Reverend Henning insisted:

"Homophobia is no more justified in the world or in the church than racism, ageism or sectarianism."

Of course, these fine words didn't prevent the Assembly passing 'a motion categorically forbidding ministers from blessing the union of gay couples who registered their civil partnerships'. Sigh!

Hazards of life in Britain when a heatwave occurs

Adding petrol to a barbecue is NOT a good idea. Despite repeated warnings over the years some people, like the five injured in a barbecue blaze in Southampton, appear not to have taken on board these warnings.

I love barbecues and have learned how to use them safely and wisely over the years, specially during my years living in the Middle East. I repeat, DO NOT ADD PETROL TO A BARBECUE!

The Brown and Blair economic legacy for the UK

Disastrous, in a word. To read a cogent analysis of just why this is so, Niall Ferguson has a fascinating article in today's Telegraph. I don't always care for the Ferguson style of argument, but he seems to me to cover the main issues, of which I highlight what seems to me to be amongst the most relevant, with this article:

"Superficially, to be sure, the British labour market is more flexible than, say, the French. But British Government statistics are deceptive. Officially, only 920,000 people claim unemployment benefits. However, more than five million adults of working age - nearly 15 per cent of the workforce - depend on benefits, and nearly half of them have been on welfare for more than five years. The reason they don't show up in the statistics is that many of them are counted as unfit for work rather than jobless."

"This is the tax-and-spend mentality that has inexorably turned not only Mr Brown's homeland but also Northern Ireland, Wales and the north of England into virtual Soviet republics, with Government spending accounting for somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of GDP."

Ferguson mentions only Gordon Brown in his article, but of course he couldn't have done all he has without the slick marketing and presentational skills of New Labour, personified by Prime Minister Tony Blair. Nor of course without the gullibility and shortsightedness of the British voting public.

Guantanamo suicides 'act of war' says camp commandant

According to the camp commandant Rear Adm Harry Harris the three suicides were an act of war:

"They are smart. They are creative, they are committed. They have no regard for life, either ours or their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

- well I daresay what the good man was trying to say, in standard US bureaucratic 'military-speak', is that the three might become martyrs for those who have aspirations as terrorists, or at the very least are opposed to the policies of the US and its allies. My own view is that it is yet another signal of just of how wrong-headed and counter-productive are certain apsects of US policy in attempting to deal with the scourge of terrorism around the world; a country which prides itself on being, and in general terms is, a bastion of freedom and liberty for those enduring poverty and/or oppression in various parts of the word, has somehow maneouvred itself into becoming a marauding lawless bully. It is tragic and I think is likely to become the lasting legacy of this administration, with whose consequences future Presidents will have to deal.

Saturday, 10 June 2006

"Three Guantánamo Detainees Committed Suicide, Military Says"

The New York Times is reporting that two Saudis and one Yemeni have committed suicide at the US 'terrorist' detention centre in Cuba. I put the word terrorist in quotes because none of those detained there have ever been charged with anything, far less convicted - their detention, if it ever had any justification, has long since passed the stage where it might be considered legal. They are the first reported deaths there.

Tuesday, 6 June 2006

Bill's birthday weekend

I have been away since Friday, returning yesterday, celebrating my birthday (the 54th) in Aberdeenshire. The photograph was taken at Crathes, followed by a visit to Banchory where I ate prodigious quantities of cream cakes, before returning to the friends' house where we were staying for an enjoyable evening of champagne, eating and reminiscing.

Tara stands momentarily still