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

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Day 2 - visit to Scottish Parliament and a minor 'Blogger' meet

Amongst other things I visited the Scottish Parliament this afternoon and sat through part of the 'Transport' debate in the Public Gallery. Very interesting the hear the truth behind the normal sanitised versions one sees on television from the edited highlights; lots of foot-stamping and desk-banging, not to mention some sotto voce asides when some particuarly outrageous remark was taken objection to by a political opponent!

Earlier in the day I had spent several hours, several enjoyable but tiring hours, trudging around the National Museum of Scotland. This was only my second visit, but to do the place justice one really needs to spend at least a week, although not more than two or three hours a days as after that'overload' and fatigue sets in. Following the visit to the Scottish Parliament it was just a short step across the road to the Queen's Gallery at Holyroodhouse for the third 'visit' of the day. The exhibition currently on display included several ink drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, and paintings and drawings by a number of other artists of flora and fauna - in fact paintings and ink drawings of flora are particular favourites of mine and I have quite a few at home by a local artist and friend who employs exactly the same technique of almost phtographic exactitude in capturing the detail of plants, leaves and flowers - it was only a visit of an hour, but it was an hour packed with content!

About fifteen minutes ago I just got back from a 'Blogger' meet, where I had the pleasure of meeting David from the Freedom and Whisky blog. We had a very enjoyable two or so hours discussing a great many subject of interest; unfortunately no other bloggers turned up, but it was still a very worthwhile experience; indeed it is the first time that I have met a fellow-blogger 'in the flesh' (as Nairn is not exactly blogging central!).

Tomorrow amongst other things I shall be visiting the Museum of Flight and various other places in East Lothian.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Day 1 - visit to Falkirk Wheel

The main event today, apart from the drive down from Nairn to Edinburgh, was a visit to the Falkirk Wheel - although I had seen lots of photographs of it in operation it is difficult to visualise until you actually see it. Well worth the visit and as it was the first day in at least a week that we have had blue skies it made for an attractive visit.

Checked in this evening at the Halls of Residence (Pollok Halls, aka 'Edinburgh First') close by Arthur's Seat, where I had stayed about four years ago. Very comfortable and there is fairly decent (and inexpensive) wine in the bar so that's always a good start! Tomorrow it's the Scottish Parliament following the Museum of Scotland, then onto the Queen's Gallery at Holyroodhouse.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Away for a few days ...

I'm going to be away from tomorrow morning until late on Friday as I shall be spending a few days based in Edinburgh, possibly meeting up with a few Edinburgh-based bloggers on Wednesday evening (I hope to make it to the Cloisters no later than around 7pm, possibly a little earlier), to mark the departure of Tony Blair (hurrah!) and try and blot out the reality of a Brown Premiership. Until Saturday, then ...

Like I'm supposed to care?

Harriet Harman becomes deputy leader and Chairman of the Labour Party.

A lot of people seem to have been following this non-election (for the deputy leadership) very closely over the past few weeks and news bulletins on Sunday were full of anticipation for who might win. For myself I couldn't work up any enthusiasm - I really didn't see what difference it would make to anyone which of the six nonentities standing for the job that the Labour Party chose to fill this non-job.

Next non-event? Dateline Wednesday, when Gordon Brown accedes formally to the title of Prime Minister after having become leader of the Labour Party on Sunday. Will there be a general election this Autumn or next Spring? Frankly I wouldn't be at all surprised if, as has been surmised, he has a whole raft of goodies (probably more apparent than real, knowing this chancer) up his sleeve with which to entice a new generation of the electorate to vote for his fraudulent policies, to assure himself of an early 'bounce' in popularity. The real question, though, is will be have the courage to call an election before he absolutely has to; whilst this ultimate control-freak has never struck me as being a courageous type he may yet surprise us all.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Nairn kids rally in support of Children's Hospice charity

I'm not exactly sure what this event was all about, but through my binoculars think it was something do do with a children's hospice charity, so a 'good cause'. I'm not sure though what purpose this morning's colourful rally served, though - was it to raise money for the charity, or simply to raise awareness of it amongst children? As I wrote earlier today, something about this event struck me as just a little unusual. At any rate, here are a couple of photos as promised; I was still breakfasting at the time so didn't get along to take closer shots of the bandstand with the Provost speaking.

Click here to see larger images.

A couple of new links - June 2007

Just a couple of new links this time:

Granite City - Mark McDonald is a recently-elected SNP local government councillor in Aberdeen. I came across his blog a month or so before the recent elections, but then his blog went dormant for a while so I didn't add a link when I did my last links update. However, a recent post clarifies the reason for his silence, which is tragic. Very much a partisan political blog, but as with an earlier link to BellgroveBelle (a Glasgow local government recently-elected councillor for the same political party) I think it is useful to 'keep an eye on' what our new politcal masters are getting up to throughout the country (*).

Aberdeen Blogs - this is an aggregator for blogs in the Aberdeen area and the link has been added to the 'Aggregators' blogroll at the top of the left column, just above my regular 'Blogs you may like' blogroll. I noticed this in Granite City's blogroll and thought it would make a useful addition here, too, for those who may be interested in blogs from this corner of Scotland, specially as A Big Stick and a Small Carrot seems to have gone quiet of late, although I haven't come across any blog through the new aggregator so far which comes close to matching Garry's style and quality of writing in his heyday; however, one must work with what's available, I suppose.

(*) Later today I shall try and post a few photos I took this morning of what I can only describe as a 'rally' of schoolchildren (in aid of a children's hospice charity) singing and dancing on the cricket pitch in front of my apartment, presided over of course by our new Nairn Provost, SNP councillor Liz McDonald. I didn't get a close-up picture of her, but through my binoculars I saw she was wearing a black outfit today, which set off her chain of office nicely. However, the way the loudspeakers were set up led to a pronounced echo when she was making her short speech - it reminded me very much of the 'Angkor needs you' speech to the Cambodian proletariat in the paddy fields in one of the pretty harrowing segments of the film The Killing Fields; not, I hasten to add, that I intend to equate in any way the message being put across there with what our good Lady Provost was saying this morning, no indeedie no; a most unfortunate connotation, which I am sure was in no way intended by Laurie Fraser (the electrician and Independent councillor who always does this kind of thing in Nairn).

Thursday, 21 June 2007

'Comrades' announce plans to increase Highland tractor production over coming four years ...

... well, not quite, but you get the drift.

UPDATE: (Saturday 23JUN07 21.28 BST) Obviously I am not the only one who wonders just how 'Independent' Highland Council is now, with a policy document that reads like an SNP manifesto.

Barroso's grasp of elementary psychology is pretty mediocre

José Manuel Barroso is urging the UK not to hold a referendum on any treaty signed at the imminent EU summit:

"Britain is the country that exported Parliamentary democracy to the world. Do the British people consider Parliament the backdoor?

"Do the British people who killed their king to protect the rights of Parliament consider it the back door?

"Is that the respect some people show their Parliament , maybe the greatest Parliament in the world? I don't consider Parliament the back door."

All of this is true, but it has been shown on subsequent occasions that the British, when roused, will do some pretty amazing things, against all the odds, when they perceive themselves threatened; we can be amazingly stubborn when pushed too hard. Barroso's attempt at the smarmiest form of flattery is wasted on me and I hope very sincerely on both Blair and Brown. Even for someone as pro-EU as me, albeit opposed to our ratification of the EU Constitutional Treaty as originally agreed (as the development of my views is illustrated by a few of the posts I have written, here and here and here) and who would have voted against it if a referendum had been held (just as a majority of French and Dutch voters chose to do in their referenda), I feel pretty irritated that some jumped-up appointed EU official (unelected by anyone) should presume to tell the UK how it should deal with its own democratic institutions and its own future. I remain basically pro-EU, but Barroso needs to butt out of our internal affairs and not get 'ideas above his station'! We'll deal with our own government in due course if they make the wrong decision (and agree to Merkel/Sarkozy's attempted stitch-up) and choose not to allow the British people a referendum to ratify what they do if they allow themselves to be rail-roaded this weekend.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Bernard Manning: "I'm not that fond of queers."

The title is a quotation taken from Bernard Manning's obituary in the Telegraph yesterday. Paradoxically I found his humour refreshingly honest; of course it was completely awful in any formal sense, but he was pretty 'equal-opportunity' in those he targetted for his very special brand of humour - I think the Telegraph obituary gives a fair and balanced assessment of his life and his, to use a very grandiose term , oeuvre, or 'body of work' (and appropriately enough this Wikipedia article is in French, as this fits in quite nicely with the rather whimsical sentiments I had when I heard of Manning's death).

I think the world will be a much blander, sadder place now that this maverick has gone. He seemed to pander to the baser instincts of his audience, and he did, but the brilliance of his technique was that he shone a very bright light onto the prejudices everyone has and I think most of the audiences at his club must have known this very well; quite why mothers-in-law and the disabled should apparently have been the only two categories he did not 'poke fun at' (i.e. pour scron and abuse on) is anyone's guess. The nearest equivalent I can think of is Coluche (there is a briefer article in English here), whose style of provocative and seemingly crude humour I found riotously funny, as did many, many people in France until his untimely death in a motorcycle accident, even if I always felt rather guilty that I did find it amusing. Like Manning, Coluche devoted considerable efforts to charity.

I have only a very slight hesitation in writing my usual phrase when posting an obtiuary:
Bernard Manning (1930-2007) - Rest in Peace

Bill's infequent blog updates lately

I very rarely write here about truly personal matters (reasoning that who could possibly be interested), but a few words of clarification are perhaps necessary to explain the extreme paucity of my more than usually sporadic posts here of late.

The two principal reasons have been:
- the necessity of dealing with some pressing matters involving a member of my close family; whilst the way ahead is becoming somewhat clearer, I'm afraid this will in all probability require my continuing close attention for some time to come and will at the very least certainly place emotional demands upon me which are likely to affect the time I have available for blogging;
- my close involvement in the resident's committee of the apartment block in which I reside has over the past few weeks been a major pre-occupation in the run-up to our AGM; this took place earlier tonight and whilst there will be continuing close involement for me, unfortunately, this is likely to be less intense after the initial 'fall-out' is dealt with in the next few weeks.

Whilst I have gone through periods of low enthusiasm for blogging over the 5+ years I have been doing it (as have most longer-term bloggers) this has not really been one of those times - it is simply that I have had too many important matters to deal with lately. I hope to do a little better over coming weeks, bearing in mind the first point above, in particular.

Friday, 15 June 2007

It begins - steps to 'muzzle' the blogosphere in Scotland

(Please see UPDATE at end)

A former supermarket worker (for Morrisons in Falkirk) has been found guilty at Falkirk Sheriff Court of "committing a racially-aggravated breach of the peace between June 2005 and 16 January, 2006" as a result of material he published in his blog (which I have never seen and do not know the URL for). Sentence on Andrew Love, 22, an economic graduate, has been deferred for a social background report and an assessment of his suitability to perform community service as a possible direct alternative to a jail sentence; he was released on bail pending sentencing.

Apparently his blog contained items which were found to be objectionnable and also denigrated people based on disablement, homosexuality or being Muslims as well as being black. However there is no law to prevent someone insulting someone else for disability, homosexuality of being a Muslim, so the only law that could be used to 'get' and 'silence' this person relates to his insults directed at black people. Only the 'laws of good taste' are inhibitors for these other things.

It is difficult to take a definitive view of what is really going on here without knowing what the content on the blog included, but one wonders if this whole episode is not merely a mechanism by [yet another] employer, in this case Morrisons, to silence the online writings of an employee when these might become commercially negative to the company. There is a clear danger here that laws against racial discrimination (which I support - the laws that is, not the racial discrimination, just to make it clear!) are being called into service to limit freedom of speech on matters which the court has no business commenting on, as the law stands at present.

I speak as a gay man of course, but I would rather allow people the freedom to voice whatever negative thoughts they may have about homosexuality than add yet one more item to the list of things which one is not permitted, by law, to talk about. I'm afraid my basic view of this whole topic is the old childhood nursery rhyme: 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me'! Provided there are laws in place to protect people from material or physical harm because other people happen not to like something about them, then I shall be content. If we're not careful we'll soon hardly be able to open our mouths for fear of causing 'emotional distress' to someone. The immature ramblings of this young man must not become an excuse to muzzle freedom of speech.

(thru Pete at West Brom Blog)

UPDATE: (Saturday 16JUN07 0906 BST) There is a comment posted by Mark Kerr, the person in the supermarket who brought the action. I have posted a further comment in the light of this. No doubt it will become clearer in due course the effect this case will have on 'freedom of speech' if any; I await sentencing of Mr Love with interest.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Pro-EU as I am, I find this quite deplorable!

According to José Manuel Barroso, Tony Blair needs to follow this plan:

"You know about the UK, and the respect I have for your country. We have to stand up in front of our national public opinions, not give up to some of the populisms we have in our member states."

This is his encouragement to member states' leaders to sign the 'mini-treaty' which some wish to replace the Constitution (or more precisely the 'Constutional Treaty') rejected by France and the Netherlands.

I do not share William Hague's views about the EU (or indeed about much else, even if he is probably the finest parliamentary speaker today), but what he says here is a very necessary re-stating of what Mr Balir's obligations are:

"Tony Blair shouldn't be standing up to British public opinion; he should be standing up for it: the Prime Minister's job is to stand up for Britain in Europe, not stand up for Europe in Britain."

And our so-called Prime Minister 'in waiting', Gordon Brown, needs to make it very clear to Tony Blair what the political limits on his freedom of action are when the matter is discussed later this month by EU leaders.

NASA comes to Nairn

Well, not literally. However NASA scientist, Dr Neil R Pellis, and a former astronaut, Bruce McCandless, will be in Nairn on a visit to Nairn Academy next Monday 'as part of the Careers Scotland Festival of Science 2007'. Mr McCandless has participated in two Shuttle missions, including the one which launched the Hubble Telescope. This story almost makes me wish I was young again and studying at Nairn Academy - it's not often you get to meet people closely involved with space exploration; the closest I ever got was a guided tour around Cape Kennedy about 20 years ago and a couple of days later I was able to watch a Shuttle launch from nearby Daytona Beach. I hope some of the pupils are inspired by this visit to take their education as far as their abilities will take them, whatever field they choose to specialise in.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Good news in French legislative elections ...

... the far-right Party of Jean-Marie le Pen gets a drubbing.

The first round results seem to presage a victory for the UMP and its allies in the second round next Sunday, which could see President Sarkozy's Party win a decisive majority in the National Assembly.

Flap over sporrans

The army's tendering proceudre is being called 'flawed' a a result of a GBP1.3m contract to produce 5,000 sporrans for the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The English firm, based in Birmingham, which was awarded the contract has sub-contracted it to a Parth firm which actually makes sporrans, whereas the Edinburgh firm which claims to be the biggest manufacturer of sporrans in the world says it had no knowledge of the contract. The MOD, for its part, says it followed 'European public procurement rules throughout and the contract was advertised properly' and that 'the work was advertised in both the EU Journal and the MoD Bulletin'.

Well there are several things to say here:

- Scott and Sons, the Edinburgh firm needs to update its ideas and realise it is no longer in the cozy world where the purchaser contacts a few favoured suppliers direct and that public contracts must be open to public tender; it is surprising that a sporran manufacturer, presumably used to dealing with Scottish regimental requirements, does not get a hold of the MOD Bulletin - presumably this is how the Birmingham firm, which makes metal fittings for sporrans, got to know about it.

- The MOD saying it has published its requirements in the EU Journal is fine, so far as it goes, but is a little like the Vogons (viz. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) protesting that they had published notice of the imminent demolition of the earth a year in advance, but this was found to be hidden in the basement of an obscure public authority building behind a pile of unused furniture. Do a lot of people spend their lives reading the EU Journal? Maybe it's necessary for them to start, but I'd want hazard pay (for the tedium) for that particular job!

US military in Baghdad patrols with insurgents ...

... whom it has now comveniently re-designated as 'freedom fighters' and is re-arming these group of Sunnis in an effort to put more pressure on al-qa'ida. It is accepted some may "have the blood of US soldiers on their hands".

It is too soon to know whether this is the purest madness (in the words of one senior military commander they "have made a deal with the devil") or whether it is a belated recognition of the folly of having completely disbanded the former Iraqi army (largely dominated by Sunnis as a reflection of the Ba'ath policies of the Saddam Hussein regime aimed at controlling Shiite radicals). Alternatively it may be just one more signal that the US Administration has no clear strategy and is simply trying something it has not tried before. The 'surge' obviously is accepted now not to have been effective.

Monday, 11 June 2007

New DNA samples to be sought in Nairn murder inquiry

Through an article tonight in the Inverness Courier website I am alerted to a Press Release (dated 8JUN07) on the Northern Constabulary website about letters being sent to 'a large number of men asking them for a voluntary DNA sample as part of the investigation into the murder of Nairn banker Alistair Wilson'.

As is mentioned in the new Press Release, an earlier round of DNA sampling, from witnesses known to have been in the area at the time of the murder, was carried out in February 2005 and it seems eliminated all but one of the 19 DNA profiles identified at the crime scene in Crescent Road. The aim of the latest effort is to identify the remaining DNA profile. DCI Peter MacPhee, the man leading the murder inquiry, said:

"Obviously we are looking to identify this one remaining profile and using the names from the HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System) database, we wish to extend the previous DNA screening with a view to eliminating this final profile. Letters will be sent to selected male members of the public inviting them to attend specific premises to give a DNA sample, which will be checked against the outstanding profile. Once checked the volunteer will be informed his sample has been eliminated, within four weeks of providing it. The sampling process, which consists of a swab being taken from the mouth, is totally pain free and should take no longer than 15 minutes. This whole exercise is geared towards identifying this profile and eliminating it from the inquiry. I am hoping that I will receive the same level of support from the public that has been evident throughout this difficult investigation."

My most recent previous article on the murder is here. There are links to all my posts on this murder, so close to where I live, in the right-hand column under the heading 'Murder in Nairn' articles.
(It is good to see that, although the murder inquiry has now been scaled back, it has not been put entirely on the 'back burner' and that there is at least some continuing activity; time will tell how worthwhile this proves.)

Inverness and supermarket corporate manoeuvring

Asda is enlisting the help of local councillors to try and overcome an expected veto by planning officials on its plans to develop an outlet in Inverness.

There have been complaints in the local press in the last few weeks that Tesco is once more exploiting its quasi-monopolistic position in Inverness, amongst large supermarket outlets, by charging higher prices for petrol than in nearby Elgin (about 40 miles away); in my personal experience this has been an off-and-on phenomenon for at least 10 years. Elgin has both a large Tesco and a large Asda outlet.

Tesco now have three outlets in Inverness - a very large 'extra' store, a quite large store not very far away in the former premises of the Co-op (*) and a smaller (but still of a decent size) outlet on the other side of the river in what were formerly the premises of William Low, the Dundee-based superkarket chain which it acquired some years ago.

Personally I think that Inverness could do with some real competition for Tesco in the supermarket field; currently the market is split between the three Tesco stores, one quite large Morrisons (formerly the Safeway store) and two largish stores (a Lidl and a Co-op), but both are located in parts of the city with relatively poor transport infrastructure, near the road out to the canal and Beauly.

According to one of the people quoted in the first article I link to above, people travel from areas such as Darnleigh in Inverness to Elgin so they can shop at Asda; I myself used to make a trip to Elgin at least on a monthly basis for just this purpose when I lived at Culloden, a suburb of Inverness and now that I live in Nairn (fifteen miles closer to Elgin) I still make the trip at least on a monthly basis.

Since the new southern by-pass has been built in Inverness a few years ago it is now much easier to get to the area where Asda hope to build their new store and it is significant that local councillors for districts in the vicinity say they are in favour.

There is a meeting of Highland Council's Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey planning applications and review committee tomorrow, Tuesday 12 June 2007, at 10.30am at Highland Council headquarters where Asda will apparently give over part of its allocated time to community council representatives. I have no especial love for Asda, but I do believe that this area (not just Inverness as people in the surrounding towns often travel to Inverness to do a 'bigger' shop) needs some more robust competition for Tesco than Morrisions is able to supply.

(*) Many people think, me amongst them, that a major probable reason for Tesco acquiring the former Co-op store at Inshes some years ago was with the specific intention of trying to keep Asda out of Inverness.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

A night a young gay man will never forget!

Enrique Iglesias performed on 2nd June at G-A-Y nightclub in London, and had one of the audience up on stage to get the 'treatment' whilst he sang one of his trademark songs. Lucky boy!

(thru Bill at Tottyland)

Nairn Book & Arts Festival 9-16th June 2007

Today saw the start of the fourth annual Nairn Book & Arts Festival, which runs until Saturday 16th June. Earlier this afternoon I attended part of the first event, a performance of various artists, dancers, bands and street performers at the Bandstand (just across the cricket pitch from my home), which began soon after the opening parade from the High Street.

9 - 16th June 2007

Nairn Provost, Councillor Liz MacDonald, introduces an act

Belly-dancers dancing to rather nice middle eastern music

Nairn Provost, Councillor Liz MacDonald,
with one of the belly-dancers

The opening concert at the Bandstand seen from my apartment

This year's Nairn Book & Arts Festival is part of Highland 2007

Click here to see larger images.

Although the photographs I took show a cloudy Nairn, soon after the event ended at about 4pm the sun started to shine brightly, as was forecast - this is all part of the joy of a Scottish summer!

One of the events I shall be attending during the Nairn Book & Arts Festival will be a performance by Raphael Wallfisch next Thursday at nearby Clifton House, when we will be treated to a performance of Bach Suites for solo cello; this will be the inaugural performance of the final season of Nairn Performing Arts Guild (of which I am a member) during which concerts are being held at Clifton House, as the owners will move early next year to a home they are building in the countryside near Nairn; it promises to be a wonderful finalé season there.

If you are planning a visit to Nairn, then you might be interested in visiting the visit NAIRN website.

'Hallelujah' by Leonard Cohen

I much prefer classical music, but some more recent music is absolutely stunning and 'Hallelujah' by Leonard Cohen is certainly one of those. I first heard it, I think, at the end of the first series of The O.C. and I made it my business soon afterward to get a copy of the Jeff Buckley version, the one used in The O.C.

Jeff Buckley - very moving (soundtrack only)
... see him singing it here

Rufis Wainwright - a strong and very distinctive voice

Leonard Cohen - the man himself sings it

... and finally from The O.C. Season 1 Final

A dog's life with Paris Hilton

I have a lot of sympathy with this poor mutt!

(thru Andrew Sullivan)

Thursday, 7 June 2007

'Second Lives' - radio adaptation review

I've been listening to a radio adaptation (Radio4 9.45am - FM only) every morning this week - there is one more episode tomorrow - of a novel by Tim Guest called Second Lives and have found it a fascinating glimpse into a 'world' I know very little about, even if I've heard of the Second Life eponymous website; apparently there are many other similar websites. In any case I've just ordered a copy through Amazon here. Also available through the RadioTimes website here (main access page here), although it is cheaper at Amazon.

So far this week I've been taken through:
- nine cerebral palsy sufferers inhabiting one body to 'experience a life they could only dream of in the real world' (text from RadioTimes article);
- a trip in a hot air balloon to se what this new life has to offer ( - ibid - );
- as the economies of the virtual world have grown so has the demand for an "online mafia" ( - ibid - );
- with developments in computer technology, the American miltary have adopted the concept of virtual worlds for their own practical purposes ( - ibid - ).

Tomorrow we are promised:
- some of the world's largest corporations are seeing new business opportunities within the online craze, and are keen to establish their presence on the other side of the electronic looking-glass ( - ibid - ).

I have found it so far to be a fascinating, possibly frightening, glimpse into a completely new kind of world and I hope that by getting the book I will be able to understand it all a little bit better. I did look at the Second Life website a few months ago, with a few to setting up a profile for myself there, but so far haven't taken the plunge. I suspect, however, that this kind of thing is not going to go away and may eventually come to have a pretty direct influence on how we all (at least in the richer countires) live our lives; maybe the kind of existence imagined in the Matrix films might eventually come about, even if I hope it won't arise from such malign influences - although the attacks on our own personal freedoms by our own governments in the past few years in the guise of combatting terrorism leave me a lot less than sanguine.

'Police State' Britain - serial liberty-taker strikes again

(Please see UPDATE at end)

Soon to disappear ('ex'-communist) Home Secretary John Reid issues yet another headline-grabbing plan to diminish our liberties, in the name of 'protecting' us. I think the word 'protection' as he uses it has been gleaned from movies about the Mafia!

I hope enough voters will remember what attitude their own MPs have taken toward these attempts at increasing state control over our lives during the past ten years when it comes to the next election, and will react by 'rewarding' them accordingly!

UPDATE: (Sunday 10JUN07 08.30 BST) SpyBlog has launched a new sub-blog to monitor the government's latest controversial Counterterrorism Legislation proposals - this is likely to be another useful resource provided by whoever is behind this blog for those who (like me) are deeply alarmed by the sinister quasi-totalitarian trend of government in the UK.

This is not news! Bribery to get contracts is as old as time!

Yet another 'splash' story carried by the BBC about corruption when getting contracts abroad, spearheaded naturally enough by Labour and LibDem MPs.

Whilst I agree that bribery and corruption is 'wrong', I'm not a fool and I've seen enough in my own life to tell me it is very common. Who amongst us has not felt obliged to give a generous 'tip' to some rascal in order to 'protect' our car when parked in the street? Perhaps not common in the UK, but I can assure you I've done it often in certain places I lived. Or if you are in New York and want a restaurant meal to be served decently and not spat onto then you are obliged to give 17 or 20 percent as a tip if you ever plan to visit the same restaurant again, or if you don't want to have insults hurled at you as you leave. Different in scale, certainly, from the 'bungs' being reported, but there is little difference morally so far as I can see. I have personally had to hand over a large US dollar bill just to ensure I got through a security check at the airport without being beaten up or worse in a country where the government had recently been overthrown in a coup.

I do think some do-gooder holier-than-thou Labour and LibDem MPs really do need to grow up! Do they want jobs in the UK or do they want to drive all successful companies out of business or abroad?

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

The shambles that is the Olympic Logo

Frankly I am amazed! How did the UK Olympic organising committee neglect to do what, it seems, every advertiser that uses moving images for broadcast has to do?! These jokers have apparently actually contravened OFCOM guidelines in releasing it for broadcast without doing elementary safety checks! Let's hope they have better professional expertise available for the design and construction of all the facilities in a timely and safe manner!

So. One day after the official launch of the ugly logo, a segment of the official brand video has to be cut out. You really couldn't make it up!

If you're a golfer, don't overlook Nairn, says PGA

Whilst doing some research on recent developments affecting the Highlands I came across this very recent article on the PGA Tour official website about Nairn Golf Club, ranked as number 10 amongst Scottish golf courses, located as it is close to the shore of the Moray Firth with spectacular scenery as a back-drop to many of the holes. I'm not a golfer myself, but know that many people visit to play the game here, indeed many people own second homes here purely so they can come to have a game of golf on such a fine links course. However it is apparently not particularly well-known outside Scotland, except amongst the cognoscenti. Golf International organises a number of golf package tours which take in courses in the Highlands of Scotland and Nairn Golf Club is included in many of the tours.

Nairn Golf Club hosted the 1999 Walker Cup (see here also) and will host the female equivalent, the 2012 Curtis Cup.

No, I'm not a paid agent of Nairn Golf Club or indeed of (don't be droll - Ed.), but Nairn is a good place to live and to visit. If you are planning a golfing trip to Scotland, don't overlook Nairn.

PS/ Nairn has another golf course, Nairn Dunbar Golf Club, a fine course, too. Indeed it is joint host this year in August, with Nairn Golf Club, of The Seniors Open Amateur Championship

Even Guantanamo Military Commissions judges won't play ball with Bush's kangaroo justice

(Please see UPDATE at end)

Yesterday military judges dismissed (New York Times) charges against two detainees the administarion had charged with war crimes. The ramifications of these decisions are explored further in this separate New York Times article.

I heard the military defense counsel for one of the defendents acquitted yesterday being interviewed a couple of weeks ago and expressing her firm, matter-of-fact view that the Military Commissions Act, cobbled together last year after the Supreme Court had thrown out earlier attempts by the Bush administration to conduct railroad justice on people it holds in limbo in Guantanamo, that the new Military Commissions were designed solely to result in guilty verdicts. When the interviewer asked her whether these trials could best be described as 'show trials', she responded with a one word answer - 'yes'. It seems as if the judges, even though they are serving military personnel and lawyers (just like the defence and prosecution counsels) are not willing to prostitute their legal training by acquiescing in the shoddy excuse for 'justice' that the Bush administration is attempting to use to get the results it wishes and are willing to defy the clear wishes of their Commander-in-Chief to maintain their professional integrity both as miltary personnel and as lawyers.

Another farcical and horrendous case concerns US citizen and Moslem convert Jose Padilla against whom the major charges have already been dropped as completely unsupported nonsense, with the Bush administration now falling back on legal maneouvres to keep him under detention under civilian custody after the Supreme Court last year considered taking up the legality of his military detention, with only flimsy telephone wiretap evidence to justify their actions.

I have never doubted that the US justice system and its democracy is strong enough to surivive the 'trashing' that the Bush administration has inflicted on them, but a lot of people have been, and are being, hurt along the way in support of the policies of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld clique. It is gratifying to note that their attempts to ride roughshod over fairness and equity are, slowly but surely, being thwarted.

UPDATE: (Tuesday 5JUN07 18.35 BST) There was a further welcome blow to the Bush administration as former aide to Vice-President Cheney, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison and a fine of USD250,000- for perjury and obstruction of justice. He was convicted in March of offences relating to "the White House's attempts to undermine the credibility of critics of the Iraq war". In colloquial parlance the 'chickens are coming home to roost'!

New laptop finally connected wirelessly!

Yes, it's taken me this long since I last wrote about my difficulties here to get both my laptops connecting wirelessly to the internet, although admittedly I became so irritated with the whole thing a few days after the new machine arrived (on 17th May) that I reverted to using my other machine (a 17" wide-screen quite bulky laptop using XP) wirelessly and the new machine (a 12" wide-screen laptop using Vista) with the LAN cable plugged in. OK so far as it goes, but it's not really what I got the new machine to achieve, which was better portability.

A couple of days ago (over the weekend) I launched myself back into further attempts to set it up - and failed. Then I realised I needed outside help so I sent an email to AOL (my ISP) on Sunday evening, as I've never liked using their online 'live' help, and a response came in yesterday evening, which I decided to do nothing with until this morning, as I thought it better to get a good night's sleep first. Anyway, I followed the instructions in their email this morning and got online wirelessly with the 12" laptop very rapidly. But part of the instructions involved changing the settings in the router (one of their recommended models, which I got through their supplier about 15 months ago), so of course now my 17" laptop would no longer connect!

Luckily the email contained a reminder of the telephone help number, however, so I have just spent about 40 minutes speaking with an agent in a call-centre in New Delhi and he took me through the procedures required, which involved changing my wireless network name and encryption key and then getting both my laptops connected up. I have always found AOL telephone help-lines to be excellent, unlike their online 'live' help, altough this is the first time I have spoken to someone in an AOL call-centre in India as it has always been in Waterford, Ireland, until now. However, the person I spoke with in New Delhi certainly knew his stuff, thank goodness, and we had a pleasant few minutes conversation at the end to round off the call

Now the pay-off; I can be online in bed, or in the kitchen, with a very compact high-performance laptop rather than my other much more bulky machine (excellent in it's own way, though, as it has a marvellous screen), which will now be in its rightful place in my study to act as my 'desktop'.

Shameless TV nostalgia

A post over at Blognor Regis this evening, with his ironic comment on the new London 2012 Olympic Games 'branding', prompted me to do a little hunting around on YouTube for some of my favourite ITV regional identifiers of the past. Some of these small regional stations produced very few programmes which were broadcast over the whole network so I used to enjoy seeing them on the rare occasions when they did have a networked effort.


Westward TV


Grampian - my childhood regional channel!

Regional ITV nostalgia-fest!

ITV idents - a classy compilation from the 1980s

Monday, 4 June 2007

London2012 Olympics logo - staggeringly ugly or 'modern'?

(Please see UPDATE at end)

The 'brand' for the London 2012 Olympic Games has just been launched today. Watch a short video presentation about it here.

My initial reaction is that it is incredibly ugly, although the video above does do its best to put it in context. Perhaps it will grow on me? Or perhaps my aesthetic senses will simply be overwhelmed by its ubiquity in the coming five years. Others have likened it to a broken swastika and here it displays an altogether novel interpretation of the word 'togetherness'!

UPDATE: (Tuesday 5JUN07 23.55 BST) One day after the official launch of the Olympic branding it is revealed that elementary safety checks were neglected and a section has to be cut out of the official branding video!

Friday, 1 June 2007

Happy Tax Freedom Day!

Today is that happy day when we can start to do whatever we like with the income we have, rather than paying it across to a squandering government; no change since last year, but a FULL WEEK later than in 2002! Make the most of the coming seven months; it won't be long until Gordon Brown and whoever is to be the new Chancellor will have their claws into us once more.

Reagan Mark II?

(Please see UPDATES at end)

I don't mean in the sphere of political philosophy specifically, athough there may be some congruence there, more in the fact that another actor may try and launch a bid for the Presidency of the US on the Republican ticket.

Reagan was Governor of California before launching his bid to become President (and he was a good President, in my view), whereas Fred Thompson was one of the Senators from Tennessee for almost ten years until a few years ago. However Mr Thomspon, apart from being an actor, is also a lawyer so his possible candidacy is not so improbable as Mr Reagan's seemed at the time. Thompson has the reputation of being a 'social conservative' and this will undoubtedly appeal to parts of the Republican base. The fact that he looks 'Presidential' is probably quite important, too, in the sound-bite politics that characterises most modern democracies and specially the US.

UPDATE: (Friday 01JUN07 09.25 BST) Or not, as the case may be (thru Andrew Sullivan).

2nd UPDATE: (Saturday 02JUN07 21.00 BST) More intriguing details of Fred Thompson's personal life, perhaps not best designed to appeal to core Republican voters? Never mind, Mr Thompson, I've always enjoyed seeing you in Law & Order!