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

Thursday, 30 November 2006

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Sectarianism occurs throughout Scotland, but ...

... overwhelmingly (i.e. 90.4 per cent) in west central Scotland. I write about this only because I read this article in Shuggy's Blog. This is a subject where we have 'crossed swords' on previous occasions. It is simply not true to say that Scotland is 'consistently' sectarian; it occurs overwhelmingly in a few areas, mostly in west central Scotland.

The Scotsman article is broadly correct in that sectarian incidents occur across Scotland, but its suggestion that the report 'confounds' the belief that it is overwhelmingly a problem in west central Scotland is simply not borne out by the facts as detailed in the report given to the Scottish Executive to which it refers; Appendix B to that report gives the lie when diligently analysed - which is what I have spent the past hour doing. There is, by the way, a minor error in the statistics quoted in the Scotsman, probably because a researcher added the figure for one part of Scotland to another 'unrelated' area by mistake.

Anyway, here is what I found:
- of the 532 charges brought, 481 or 90.4 per cent occurred in what I would broadly speaking describe as 'west central Scotland' (I have included Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, Dumbartonshire, Stirling, Renfrewshire); the first two named areas account for 437 charges or 82.1 per cent. Of the 635 persons accused, 437 (63.3 per cent) resided in these first two named areas. Pretty 'overwhelming'.
- these areas represent 41.9 per cent of the resident population of Scotland (based on an analysis of the 2001 census - figures laboriously collated from here); the first two named areas represent 23.7 per cent of Scotland's resident population.
- some areas, including one within 'west central Scotland', have no recorded instances of such alleged/charged crimes (Aberdeenshire, Angus, East Renfrewshire, Highland, Scottish Borders, Western Isles); most as can be seen are not in 'west central Scotland'.
- the only areas where the percentage of those accused of a crime exceeds the population of that area as a percentage of the total population of Scotland are Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Stirling, although the excess for Stirling is only relatively marginal whereas for the first two the excess is dramatically higher.
- I have not analysed the parameters included in Appendix A of the report in great detail; other than the seeming importance of religion in a significant proportion of these incidents, the other striking (but expected) feature is that they involve men in about 90 per cent of cases.

In summary, the problem of religious bigotry in Scotland is certainly not limited to 'west central Scotland', but most incidents do occur in that area - a much higher proportion even than of that area's population.

Those are the facts. Sorry to be blunt.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

One law for all in England? It seems not...

... this story really startles me; I had no idea the use of alternative legal systems was so widely entrenched in England and it would appear entirely in compliance with the principles of English law. Amazing.

I have no idea whether Scots law is similarly tolerant of such legal diversity; if it is, then I find it very disturbing.
(thru Jae at come back to what you know)

Monday, 27 November 2006

"You're best just to do the sensible thing, know what I mean?"

The title of this post is a quote of our pusillanimous charlatan of a Prime Minister side-stepping a very pertinent question posed to him today at a CBI conference by the Chairman of BA, Mr Martin Broughton. Of course I think, like most people it would seem, that BA has been really silly in its initial efforts to stop a female employee from wearing a visible and very tiny cross as a symbol of her Christian faith, before commencing a full review of its policy in the light of the furore its actions caused. Now I am not a Christian, but it certainly does not offend me to see someone wearing a cross, or indeed when I see a Moslem or a Jew wearing a scull-cap or when I used to see saffron-clad Hare Krishna adherents on occasion when I lived in London.

But none of the present controversy can be completely separated from the mess of red-tape, legislation and attempts at moral blackmail indulged in by our beloved Prime Minister and various of his headline-grabbing ministerial associates and Cabinet colleagues. A few of Mr Blair's political 'comrades' have sought to take a more measured and sensible position - as expressed here by DPM John Prescott and Scottish Communites Minister Malcolm Chisholm.

So I have to say, Mr Blair, that my response is 'No' to your question "Know what I mean?". The truth is that you and your Party have got yourselves and many in our country into a terrible state of confusion about what is and what is not 'legal', far less what is 'acceptable'. It is simply no good you attempting to swerve away from a direct response to a pretty simple question such as you were asked today by Mr Broughton of BA. Personally I think you and Mr Straw were very foolish in your recent comments about veil-wearing Moslem women; really it is no business of an MP to question the perfectly respectable attire of a constituent who comes to her constituency MP for information or advice; the MP is merely the constituent's employee, not her 'Seigneur', just as you, Mr Prime Minister, are merely the employee of all the citizens of this country. It is time you and your interfering colleagues recalled who pays your salary! And give a proper answer to Mr Broughton's question! Just what is the 'sensible' decision, compliant with the laws you have put in place, which you want Mr Broughton and his colleagues at BA to take?

Sunday, 26 November 2006

An MP talks common sense about homophobic bullying

Stephen Williams MP (Lib Dem) talks a great deal of sense about homophobic bullying in schools:

- the website referred to at the end of the video is; don't let the fact that this is a campaign by a Lib Dem MP put you off (I am no Lib Dem!), but the topic of bullying in general, and homophobic bullying in particular, is far too important to allow oneself to become hung up on which political party an MP high-lighting this issue happens to come from.
(through, bizarrely, - but without this internet link from the other side of the planet I might never have come across this useful contribution)

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Rest in Peace - Nick Clarke

Broadcaster Nick Clarke died early today, finally succumbing to the cancer which first struck him viciously late last year and necessitated amputation of a leg. He returned to 'The World at One' on BBC Radio4 this summer adding his characteristic politeness and brevity to interviews, whilst maintaining his dogged determination to get his interviewees to reveal a lot more than many wished to. He similarly added a tone of civilised reasonableness during his all too brief return to hosting 'Any Questions' during the brief absences of the somewhat querulous Jonathan Dimbleby; a breath of fresh air which I looked forward to whenever the 'other' Dimbleby brother took time off.

Tragically both Nick Clarke's parents died of cancer too. He will be much missed, not just by his friends and family, but by the many tens of thousands of Radio4 listeners, such as me, who appreciated his fine qualities.

Rest in Peace - Nick Clarke
1948 - 2006

Sunday, 19 November 2006

What Milton Friedman represented ...

... is clearly and surprisingly eloquently discussed in this 'sales pitch' by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for a US television series featuring the economist talking about Free to Choose, a 'personal statement' he published in 1990:

(thru Andrew Sullivan)

I particlularly like a few of his comments and wish that our own dear Government would ditch the socialist nonsense that has plagued our national affairs for far too long, all of my life in fact:

Arnie on Milton Friedman, Socialism and Communism

"Being free to choose means being free to make your own decisions, free to live your own life, pursue your own goals, chase your own rainbow, without the Government breathing down on your neck ..."

"I came from a socialistic country [Austrial] where the Government controls the economy..."

"Individualism [like that] is incompatible with Socialism ..."

"the more [the] Government interfered and interfered and inserted itself into the free market the worse the country [his adopted homeland, the USA] did , but when the Government stepped back and let the free enterprise system do its work, then the better we did, the more robust our economy grew, the better I did and the better my business grew ..."

"I think it's crucial that we all keep moving in the same direction, away from socialism and towards greater freedom and opportunity."

"... the miserable failure of communism ..."

Yes, that is indeed a very fair sampling of what Milton Friedman represented. My own small tribute to him is here.

Friday, 17 November 2006

Raw 'whatever' ...

... and it's 'Haka' to you:

(thru Andrew Sullivan)

To learn more about this traditional Maori 'greeting', click here, then on the 'Launch the Haka Feature' link where you can learn how to do the Haka and see it performed with a translation into English of the Maori.

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Milton Friedman - Rest in Peace

Milton Friedman has died in San Fransisco, aged 94.

Milton Friedman
31 July 1912 - 16 November 2006
Rest in Peace

A very nice tribute from Lady Thatcher:

"He revived the economics of liberty, when it had been all but forgotten. Never was there a less dismal practitioner of the dismal science. I shall greatly miss my old friend's lucid wisdom and mordant humour."

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Innocent it ain't. Hilarious it is.


(thru High Mainenance Hags - I had already seen this video several days ago, but the 'Enjoy' post I link to above makes it a worthwhile repeat watch.)

Worst video of the 'Noughties'?

Well, I think it will probably rank up there in the top three at any rate! You be the judge:

('After' Andrew Sullivan, but via Freedom and Whisky)

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Democrats may have won House but gay rights have suffered setback

Now that some more detailed analysis of the US midterm elections is coming through, it is clear that, whilst President George W Bush has suffered a setback, his core supporters amongst right-wing 'Christinaists' have succeeded in having amendments against gay marriage adopted [easily] in 7 of the 8 States where the matter was on the ballot: Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin; similar legislation banning gay marriage already exists in 20 other States. The sole exception was Arizona where the amendment was narrowly defeated.

In particular note that whilst the Senate race went 'down to the wire' in both Tennessee and Virginia, the amendments to ban gay marriage in both States passed with overwhelming voter support. In other words it is way off-beam to be considering breaking out the champagne [*] based on a superficial interpretation of this midterm election if you are homosexual and American.

[*] - which I tend to do on the flimsiest of excuses and may do this weekend to celebrate the fact that I live in a somewhat more enlightened country in this respect at least.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Rumsfeld to reisgn !

Yes! It's just being reported that Donald Rumsfeld is to resign, in the wake of the results of the US midterm elections! Marvellous news!
(He should have been sacked, Mr President. It is a pity you had to wait until the American people had expressed their views quite plainly before you were prepared to act. This does not reflect badly on the US politcal system, with its checks and balances, it reflects bady on you Mr President. Basically you are now a lame-duck President.)

There isn't much on the newswires yet because I'm just watching Bush speak live at the White House on BBC News24, but here is the first link I have.

Sunday, 5 November 2006

Saddam Hussein has today been sentenced to death

The former tyrant Saddam Hussein is sentenced to death by hanging for crimes against humanity.

Whilst I am fundamentally opposed to capital punishment for anyone, including monsters such as Saddam Hussein, it is pretty clear that a great many Iraqis will be profoundly relieved that the law is taking its course, although it is also likely that the terrorist insurgents will exploit the verdict and its aftermath. An automatic appeal is launched, it seems, whenever a death sentence is handed down in Iraq, probably something that didn't happen to his victims when he ran the country. Assuming the appeal is unsuccessful, under Iraqi law the sentence is carried out within 30 days of a decision being reached. May God, or Allah or whomever Saddam Hussein believes in, protect his soul (if he has one).

Next Church of Scotland Moderator to back gay 'marriages'

Sheilagh Kesting, who is scheduled to take over as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland next May, has said that:

"I would personally have no problem blessing (civil partnerships). I was personally sorry about the way the vote went last year. I didn’t think that was necessary."

Next May's General Assembly promises to be a lively event if this comment by Dr Ian Watson, secretary of Forward Together and parish minister at Kirkmuirhall, in south Lanarkshire is a guide:

"We say the bible is our supreme guide on doctrine and lifestyle. It unequivocally says homosexual (intercourse) is wrong so therefore why are we even having this debate? I’m surprised that the moderator-designate has so quickly shown her hand. The moderator is supposed to be impartial and must respect the will of the general assembly."

The question the Church of Scotland needs to ask is if it wishes to continue to be a diminishing church (in numbers of adherents and regular churchgoers) - personally I long ago gave up on organised religion so am unlikely to develop suddenly into someone for whom this has much practical significance, but given the [entirely unjustified!] influence this cult has on Scottish political and social life one cannot remain entirely neutral about what it says and does.

The Times also has a much lengthier feature article today about the changing attitudes towards homosexuality in Scotland, particularly in the major conurbations although gratifyingly by no means limited to such areas - if Kirkaldy and Galashiels can do it, can Auchtermuchty or Drumnadrochit be far behind?

Friday, 3 November 2006

SNP starts videopodcasting as 6 month election countdown begins

The Scottish National Party (SNP) are launching a campaign to target 25-50 year old voters, the most favourably inclined toward 'independence' for Scotland according to the SNP's own research, by means of podcasting. You can watch the first effort, by SNP Leader Alex Salmond here.

It won't surprise regular readers of this blog to know that I disagree with the basic policy of the SNP, nor that I disagree with almost every word Mr Salmond utters in his podcast, but it is certainly true that it is slickly put together and presented and will undoubtedly find a ready audience amongst those of the target audience already inclined to believe the messages of this snake-oil salesman.

Those political parties interested in maintaining the Union of Scotland with England and the rest of the UK need to get their act together if they are to combat effectively the possibility of the SNP making real gains in the May 2007 Scottish Parliament elections. It is true that the Conservative Leader, David Cameron, already has his webcameron podcast site, but apart from the fact that he has wonderful Scottish name (well, he would say that, wouldn't he! - Ed.), his impact in Scotland so far has been less than stellar, although perhaps not entirely negligible. Both the Conservatives in Scotland and dare I say it the other Parties interested in maintaining the UK (Labour, LibDem) really do need to get their acts together. Not that I believe much of the 'hype' of the past several weeks about the electoral prospects of the SNP next May, but we cannot afford to take the risk that the outcome the day after the election is over is the one the SNP is hoping for - it'll be too late to undo the damage then.

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Madonna and her adoption - interview with BBC2 Newsnight's Kirsty Wark

I'm just watching the interview. I have no comments about the adoption itself - no doubt 'Social Services' have their own views on what is happening and as I know nothing about the 'facts' all I'm commenting on is the interview.

What is the stage set all about? Ruched net curtains on the walls and the floor. Bizarre faux-antique tables with faux-antique candelabras with flickering candles. Is this whole thing not an enormous fire risk? Where did the interview take place? Is it a room in Madonna's home, a 'normal' room as it is usually arranged, or is it a specially staged 'set' for this interview? Is the objective to disguise the whereabouts? Did it actually take place on 'Planet Earth'? Is this whole thing not just another episode in the media phenomenon that is 'Madonna', who I heard earlier today is just about to launch a new record? Is this interview related to that or this adoption? Is, indeed, the adoption all a part of the build-up to the release of this news record? Not that I doubt for one second that David Banda, the child in the case, will have all the privileges and care that the reputedly very large resources at Madonna's disposal can provide and will be cared for well and lovingly. That's really all I've got to say, for the moment.

Well some of the questions I pose are answered here, not that I am ultimately any the wiser. Truly, truly bizarre. Read also the brief article and the comments here.