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

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Strokes and how to recognise the signs

The NHS has been running a couple of advertisements over the past week or so to highlight recognition signals for when someone is having a stroke. I've never seen a stroke happen, but I have seen the results on a number of occasions and, quite frankly, it can be terrifying, specially when the person involved was well-known to me before as someone who was bright, intelligent and quick-witted. I don't mind saying that having a major stroke, which didn't kill me outright, would be my own special idea of hell. I hope these two advertisements may help someone who witnesses one happening to recognise quickly what is going on and to give the sufferer the best possible chance at prompt medical treatment.

I am intrigued to know how they got the two actors to display such realistic facial traits - I imagine there is some element of image manipulation involved, but it is very clever. And frightening.

The inflationary bubble that is being constructed

The video below is Peter Schiff's common sense reaction, as usual, to the US President's stimulus package.

But it could equally apply to the UK, with Gordon Brown and his 'quantitative easing' mumbo jumbo. People need to cut down their spending, not increase it. They need to save what they can in instruments which, history has shown, are immune from inflation. Basically that means gold and a few other commodities.

The current UK low inflation, erroneously called 'deflation' because we haven't actually seen any of that, however much Labour may huff and puff and try and spin it, will quickly (I'd say in 3 to 5 years) be replaced by the most awful bout of inflation when most people's wealth will simply be swept away. It's not an accident - it is what is being actively connived at by our malodorous government for purely selfish electoral reasons, which won't save it of course, but will leave the most awful mess for a successor government to try and resolve, i.e. the 'hated Tories' (TM Gordon Brown). It also has the 'advantage', in Labour's twisted logic, that it will push much of the remaining productive parts of the economy into the dead hands of the State - it's what socialism is all about. Please don't act all surprised - they may have got rid of 'Clause 4', but the basic agenda has never altered.

(thru AngloAustria)

Friday, 27 February 2009

"Blogrolling 2.0" finally promised for 2nd March

Yay! After about 4 months when it has been impossible to update blogrolls hosted at, we are now promised that the updated version will FINALLY be launched this coming Monday, 2nd March.

I've been adding quite a lot of new blogs (to me, at any rate) to my feed readers over recent months, but have been unable to incorporate them into my two most important blogrolls embedded in both my blogs; I must apologise to a number of blog-writers for not yet being able to do this, some of whom (who do not use Blogrolling themselves) who have kindly added me to their own blogrolls. There are also quite a number of blogs included in my blogrolls which have either become dormant or disappeared altogether, sadly, so some pruning is required as well.

The reason I prefer to use Blogrolling rather than Blogger/Google's own blogrolling system is that it is a lot more flexible in the way it may be displayed and blogrolls may be embedded in different blogs without having to laboriously re-enter the same informatiion mutliple times in each blog.

We'll see how it all works out on Monday, then if all goes well I've a lot of 'updating' work to do.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

What's politics for?

Two completely different stories today (yesterday now) seemed to me to encapsulate the good and the bad side of contemporary politics in Britain (and both stories incorporate a bit of both).

David and Samantha Cameron - a family tragedy. Their eldest son has died at the age of six. At one level I find it entirely understandable that PMQs were cancelled this week as it would have been unthinkable for David Cameron to have been expected to 'perform' his role of holding the Prime Minister to account, having just spent several hours in a hospital the night before with a seriously ill child who did not survive his sudden worsening of health, which was already very poor. On the other hand, for the politics of the country to be halted in their tracks by the tragedy which has befallen one family, however prominent, seems somehow to be unfortunate - I know I will be regarded as callous by some for having these thoughts, far less expressing them. What I suppose it boils down to is that politics is ultimately about human interactions and how we organise our civic life and if it cannot accommodate the personal on occasion, then it would be a sign that we had somehow lost touch with what really is important in this life.

Lord Ahmed has been gaoled for three months - for texting whilst driving. Technically his texting was not directly responsible for him hitting Martyn Gombar, involved in another motorway accident earlier, but it is probably the case that Lord Ahmed's mind was on other things when he ploughed into the Slovak, who was trying to return to his car stranded, after the earlier accident, facing the wrong way in the third lane of the motorway from the hard-shoulder where he had earlier taken refuge; obviously Mr Gombar was very unwise even to attempt to return to his vehicle in these circumstances. Assuming the law banning use of a non-handsfree mobile telephone whilst driving is sensible (which I tend to), then Lord Ahmed's flouting of the law requires a powerful sanction and it is useful that the justice system demonstrates on occasion that the law applies to all of us, even to members of the House of Lords. On the other hand it is clear that he has been made a 'scapegoat' and that the man who was killed was not blameless either, at least in what followed his earlier accident, whatever the original circumstances of it. I think the relative leniency of Lord Ahmed's sentence is, whatever Mr Golmar's family may profess to believe, a clear indication that Lord Ahmed's public life is over; it is his "Profumo moment" if you will, although that gentleman went on to live a worthwhile life even after his public disgrace. One must hope that Lord Ahmed has the grace to accept his punishment, without appeal, and go on to lead the rest of his life with greater humility - and be thankful that he remains alive to do so.

(I heard about both rather late in the day, because I was without power for most of the day and therefore internet and television/radio access.)

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Vaclav Klaus spells out some home truths to the European Parliament

... and they don't like it one little bit. The Czech Republic currently holds the 6-month rotating Presidency of the European Union (EU), so when the President of the Czech Republic addresses the European Parliament (EP) on what should be pretty basic principles of democracy and how the lack of effective governing and opposition groupings within the EP reduces its effectiveness in deciding the affairs of the EU, one would at least have thought that the man could be given a respectful hearing. However, after the rather patronising lecture he received toward the end of last year from then then EU Presidency, France, that was probably a forlorn hope.

A comment President Klaus made quite calmly, that those who dare to think outside the EP's 'consensus' box and propose introduction of proper democratic accountability are denounced as 'enemies of European integration', was eloquently borne out by the reaction from the quite large numbers of hecklers in the EP chamber, even though some appeared to be applauding what he was saying. One might say therefore that whilst there appears to be diversity of viewpoints (what democracy is about in many ways), there is little effort to harness these diverse opinions into coherent strategies, outside of what is considered the current orthodoxy, that furtherance of 'integration' should over-ride democracy. Watch this short video-clip to see just how bizarre are the workings of the EP, if democracy is considered to be of any importance at all:

To me it is particularly poignant that this brief address on what might be called 'Democracy 101' should even be necessary at all [and it clearly is!] and even more remarkable, and sad, that it should come from the President of a country which until quite recently was no more than a Soviet puppet state and what passed for democracy there at the time was a mere travesty of what that word means. For the Czechs, and many other eastern European countries, know the value of democracy and struggled to achieve it over many years and I expect it perplexes then greatly that western European countries, for so long looked at enviously from the east, now seem so disinclined to maintain proper democratic accountability.

(thru GavPolitics - whilst he takes a quite different view from me about the merits of being in the EU [I am strongly in favour], we seem to share a common view on the current 'democratic deficit' within both the EP and EU generally)

Friday, 20 February 2009

A safe and pleasant journey to Spain

I arrived in Spain Wednesday evening after a pleasant and completely trouble-free two-leg flight from Inverness; the flight down to Bristol left on time and we landed about 10 minutes early. I'd never been to Bristol airport before; it is busier than Inverness, but not bigger. Check-in for the Murcia flight was done within 10 minutes of me collecting my baggage (half an hour before check-in for the MJV flight was due to open officially) and I then proceeded straight through immigration and customs. Although it has many more cafes and restaurants than Inverness (most places do) it is still quite a small airport and was not at all busy so I had a relaxing lunch in one of the upper eating areas. The flight took off on time, or shortly ahead of time and we touched down in San Javier 15-20 minutes early. I was able to pick up the key for the hire car about five minutes after entering the terminal, well before I collected my luggage and that only took a further 10-15 minutes, too, so within about 20 minutes of entering the terminal I was heading for the car. I now know the routes from San Javier to Mazarrón pretty well so did not bother with SatNav (I still feel more comfortable using it to/from Alicante airport though) and used the 'toll-free' route described in my website here. It barely took the 55 minutes I mention as the estimated time for this journey as the roads were not at all busy.

The only 'excitement' on the trip was that coming off the A30 (Cartagena-Murcia) autovia to join the RM-2 heading for Alhama de Murcia, there was a big police presence before the exit ramp warning people to slow down and at the 'glorieta' (roundabout) over the A30 all cars were being slowed down almost to a standstill with torches shone into every car. Obviously the police were looking for one or more specific individuals - however, I was not one of them quite obviously (I can only assume I was the 'wrong colour') so I was waved on.

Oh yes, the next morning (Thursday) I did the usual grocery shop - Mercadona (Puerto de Mazarrón) - and on the sail-boat roundabout most cars were being stopped and asked to show driving licences. All very polite and once he had taken a look at mine I was waved on. Moral of that story - car your driving licence and ID/Passport at all times (I wasn't asked for the latter though, as my licence already has a photo of course).

Now to the really important stuff! The lady who looks after my house (holds keys, etc) had kindly visited earlier in the evening before my arrival to switch on a light, the heating and plug in the immersion heater - so I had hot water to take a wash and of course for a shower the following morning. Life always looks better after a hot shower! The electricity problems here at MCC are not over yet, of course, but for the moment it works. Let's see what happens next week when we go over to direct funding (through the CoO) of diesel for the generators - fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

24-hour countdown begins for my departure for Spain

I have just updated the header message at the top of my blog in anticipation of my departure tomorrow, almost exactly 24 hours from now, for about three months in Spain, to escape the tail end of the British winter and enjoy the early Spring-like weather in Murcia over coming weeks.

I'll be blogging here as usual during my time in Spain of course, at least after the next few days when I get myself settled in to the house there (stock the refrigerator, put out garden furniture, etc).

Then it'll be back to the splendid long daylight hours in the north of Scotland in mid-May for the summer.

¡Hasta Luego!

Labour spinner spun

All-round Labour bore and general embarrassment, spin-merchant Derek Draper, gets the 'Downfall' treatment. Most amusing, and uncannily well-judged:

(thru Blaney's Blarney)

Police State Britain - Day 1 - 16 February 2009

Britain is now to all intents and purposes a 'Police State'; it is not a grim reality for the future. It is here and now.

Why do I write this? Well, as from yesterday (16 February 2009 - 'a date which will go down in infamy', as the US President said when apprised of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941) you are open to criminal charges under the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 if you 'attempt to solicit' the name or address of a serving or former police office, or photograph them. Naturally there is absolutely no provision in that Act to limit police powers to photograph ordinary citizens. I have written before about this iniquitous legislation here and here.

Even this is not the worst part of this legislation worthy of a Fascist state! As the second linked article above makes clear, the new Act permits in addition that agents of the State may use official burglars or undercover agents to steal property in an effort covertly to sample your DNA or fingerprints.

As the illegal killing of the innocent Brazilian Jean-Charles de Menezes has demonstrated, the police can kill an innocent person in our capital city, lie about it, and not be held to account or anyone punished for the crime. If this were to happen to someone you know and love how would you react? Well tough, this is Police State Britain and there is probably very little you could do to obtain justice, any more than could the family of Mr de Menezes.

Quite apart from sending our economy down the tubes, our Labour Government has undone centuries of struggle to obtain protection for the citizen against the capricious powers of an over-weening State. I hope those who voted Labour in 1997, 2001 and 2005 are proud of what they have achieved. I hope that the electorate will not make the same mistake at the next general election. It will require determination on all our parts to ensure that a future government repeals or amends much of the legislation which now forms the foundations of Labour's Police State - it is unlikely to be done voluntarily.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Now back online!

After wasting many hours on Thursday trying to cope with a very defective internet connection (it became clear to me it was not my own connection that was at fault, but was obviously a fault in the internet itself, as I could easily get into some websites, but not others), it came back to life at around midnight on Thursday/Friday.

This allowed me to do two specific things I NEEDED to do urgently - the first was to book my hire car online for the three months in Spain which I shall be commencing in the middle of next week. The second was to make an urgent payment from my bank in Spain to a beneficiary with another Spanish bank.

Both done! It is now 1.20am on Friday so I had better get off to bed NOW as I have to drive to Aberdeen (snow/ice on roads permitting) tomorrow for the wedding of a nephew there on Saturday. As I shan't be back in Nairn until Sunday evening, I could ill-afford the down-time of the internet for the whole of yesterday - thank goodness I have been able to get these two operations done before leaving for the wedding as I would have been totally awful company for everyone else there if they had remained undone.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Problems with communications

This morning there seems to be severe disruption of the internet, presumably as a result of the weather (we are having heavy snow in Nairn just at present).

I can get onto a few sites sporadically, but a lot of others simply won't load - for example my email provider website appears to be down, a few blogs seem to be available, at least partially, but the whole thing is very patchy.

I'll try and upload this quickly before my Blogger/Google connection goes down again.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Age-old anti-semitism rears its ugly head in Europe

According to a recent survey, reported on here, a startling near one third of Europeans blame Jews for the economic slowdown and geater numbers think Jews have too much power in the business world.

In Spain, 74 per cent of respondents feel it is 'probably true' that Jews hold too much sway over the global financial markets, the highest in the survey. The survey used a sample size of 3,500, with 500 drawn from each of Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Spain.
(thru Barcepundit (English Edition) )

Worryingly like the 1930s; whilst I think there are undoubtedly self-serving party political motives (*) for Ed Balls having made remarks about the risk of the rise of 'far-right'(*) politics in the next few years, with the recession/depression probably impacting [negatively] on politics for at least the next 10 or 15 years, it is probable that he quite simply has a point that this is what could well happen. I've thought so for quite a while myself, too.

(*) - The spectre of the rise of 'far right' politics is always raised by left-wing socialist/labour politicians when cooking-up scare stories about threats to their own voter base by parties such as the BNP; however, such fascist parties are more accurately described as 'authoritarian-left' in my view and this is why their policies tend to appeal to renegades from left-wing parties such as the Labour Party - just as with the 'black shirts' in Britain in the 1930s and of course with the 'National Socialists' of the time in Germany. This fact bears repeating every time some jackanapes socialist tries to equate extremism exclusively with 'right wing' politics.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Idiotic behaviour at railway level-crossings

This amazing footage of recent idiocies by people running the gauntlet of railway level-crossings was shown on the BBC 6 o'clock news this evening:

- when I watched it on the news earlier I must admit my jaw dropped open at a couple of these near-misses. Idiots!

I quite often have to cross a level-crossing when visiting the 'car showroom mile' in Inverness when having my car serviced and I am always very careful never to follow anyone onto the crossing until I am absolutely certain there are no other cars in the queue blocking my exit at the other side, but I've often seen people dawdling across it behind other cars. Idiots!

First Minister's cringe-making performance

I am indebted to a link in Mr Eugenides' blog to this amazing video-clip of First Minister 'Sir' Alex Salmond singing a duet at the Fife Lodge Hotel (Banff) with singer Sandi Thom (never heard of her, any more than I've heard of 'Sir' Alex Salmond) of an equally cringe-making maudlin' song Caledonia:

Fair play to him is due, I suppose, for being willing to make himself look foolish in what he would regard as a 'good cause'.

Incidentally 'Sir' Alex has form with his infatuation for the singing of Sandi Thom, having sent the advance copy he received of her CD last month onto that other redoubtable Scottish patriot, the (real this time...) Sir Sean Connery, according to Scotland's 'journal of record'.

One comment on the YouTube website page for this video-clip gives a salutary jolt to the mawkishness of this whole occasion:

"biggest load o rubbish ive ever seen she should have gave everyone there money beck after letting him on stage spoilt a good concert and yes i was there and i dont hate mr salmond a special quest should be someone that can sing never again will i go and see her"

Banks and bonuses

I spent my career in one of the world's largest international banks as it so happens. We had bonuses most years, probably every year (to my recollection) and for most people this was a 13th month of pay, usually paid out in December with the salaries for that month. Now whilst most people implicitly 'expected' to get this bonus, I do not think that anyone was under any illusion that it was anything other than discretionary on the part of the Board of Directors; certainly in every office or branch of the bank where I worked, receipt of that crucial telex from head office was eagerly awaited, giving authority to release the extra funds, after the Board had met. We never assumed it as a 'done deal' until that telex was received.

I find it difficult to understand how institutions which now exist only because they have been 'bailed out' with public funds should be paying ANY bonus at all. We are being told by government ministers that some of the banks which have received public recapitalisation and which are now effectively controlled and owned by the State have contractual obligations to pay certain specific bonuses. If so I would like those contracts to be scrutinised very meticulously, because they usually contain specific 'performance' clauses - so I find it difficult to understand how the level of employee who has such a specific bonus clause in a contract, presumably a pretty high-level grade of employee, can be totally unconnected with the issues which have caused these banks to 'implode'. Sure, some of these employees would be disappointed, angry even, if their bonuses were cancelled, but that is life - my personal investments in a number of banks and other types of company have taken a dramatic hit over the past year; they pay dividends when they make money, not when they don't and some have been effectively nationalised or have simply gone out of business. We are all suffering - banking executives within banks which have fouled up for one reason or another cannot expect to be insulated from these financial realities.

At the same time it is absolutely no business of the government to dictate to banks which have not required its assistance and who remain profitable to dictate to these banks how they should remunerate their employees. One of those banks, Barclays, has successfully resisted the government's frankly socialist agenda to try and grab a hold of most of the banking sector and has today announced its results which, whilst a reduction on previous years still remain reasonable and ahead of the market's expectations; it has also, because of the reduction in its profits last years, announced a substantial reduction in the bonuses it plans to pay out - that seems right and proper to me, but it is of course a choice for them to make, not the government.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Sarko estime que Brown a commis des erreurs sur l'économie

French President Sarkozy has no doubt committed a diplomatic gaffe in declaring (BBC here) quite so explicitly what most other people think, including of course one rather loud motorhead pundit. Sarko expressed his view that the recent temporary VAT rate cut 'has not worked'; well, it's true!

However can I just say it is refreshing to know that Gordon Brown's stellar reputation [not] is now a world-wide phenomenon and shared by a very wide variety of people. Including me. When's he going to realise the game is up and either call an election or step down to 'spend more time with his family'?

Police State Britain - ten day countdown begins

In ten days time this country will become a 'Police State'.

I'm mourning for my country.

To see what I am talking about, please see here. The full text of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 is here.

How likely is it, do you think, that a future Conservative government will repeal all the legislation that has led us into this dystopian nightmare?

The video below relates to a period shortly before the new Act comes into force, to demonstrate how other laws are already being used to try and prevent us, you and me, from filming in public places, despite there being a Common Law right to do so. The new law, when it comes into force in ten days time will, quite simply, to all intents and purposes take that and a number of other rights away. And the loss of the right to film in public places is not even the most important or frightening aspect of the new Act - legalising official 'burglary' to obtain DNA samples illictly seems like a pretty conclusive statement of what we as a country will soon become. It is that stark.

I've already included the following video-clip in another post, but include it again without apology because it shows what the police aleady do when they think they are unobserved (this dates from just a few months ago); in future they will have the right to enforce a prohibition on filming of their activities:

Blair takes breakfast with Obama

I have no idea what this is about. Tony Blair, for whatever reason, seems to retain his position of high respect in the US, to the extent that President Obama considers it worthwhile to honour him with a 'prayer breakfast'; maybe Tony Blair is doing good work as Middle East envoy and if he is at least partially instrumental in resolving some of the problems that beset that region, then it will be to his credit and perhaps make up for having [being obliged to have] left the Labour Party in the hands of its current leader and therefore our present Prime Minster. Blair was not a good Prime Minister, but at least in some ways he was plausible in the role, if not effective, which is more than can be said for Gordon Brown.

Unlike in the US, we in the UK are not accustomed to seeing our politicians 'gush' about religion and it was clear throughout his period as Prime Minister that Tony Blair chafed against British political orthodoxy in this respect, a situation he quickly 'rectified' almost immediately he ceased to be Prime Minister. This is undooubtedly a part of the reason why he seems to be so popular in the US, where a strong religious faith amongst politicians seems almost to be a 'job requirement' which few successful American politicians can afford to ignore, at least in the past twenty years or so.

Anyway, in this video-clip Tony Blair waffles about something or other, without actually seeming to say anything (a technique I have observed from that gentleman many times over the years) whilst being deeply squirm-inducing to my ears at least (and I venture to suggest to quite a significant number of my fellow Britons, too), whereas Barack Obama does at least seem to develop his arguments in sensible sentences and with definite objectives in mind:

One cannot help but feel that President Obama will, in practice, depend principally on the good offices of his own mid-east envoy George Mitchell, with Blair being - well, perhaps not actually sidelined - solely of value as some kind of token international element in what will undoubtedly be, if it succeeds at all, a product of US diplomacy managing to reconcile the opposing forces in the Middle East (Israelis, Arabs and Iranians) to tolerating, if not liking, each other. I think that Barack Obama is a very astute instinctive politicians who knows the importance of 'face' in inter-personal relations, as well as the importance of trying to ensure that no-one is potentially working at cross-purposes, even inadvertently. That is I am sure the context in which Tony Blair's presence there yesterday should be seen.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Depressing comment of the day ...

... so far.

I read with pleasure a couple of days ago that blogger Kezia Dugdale has 'returned to the fray' after reassessing the merits of blogging as a 'political person'.

Today, however, I read this in her blog:

I do use the bus a lot though - usually to transport me from one labour party event or campaigning session to another.

The post is about the increasing costs of using buses in Edinburgh. Fair enough, a valid subject to highlight, I'm sure, but I find it very depressing that her use of public transport is mostly limited to travelling from one political event to another; it'd be just as depressing whatever politcal party a person belonged to who made this statement. Doesn't she ever use a bus to take her to Portobello for a candyfloss, or to Cramond for a walk along the beach? I know the 'project' is supposed to be important, but doesn't she get time off for good behaviour? An alternative interpretation is that it's just a pseud comment designed to placate any Labour apparatchiks who may be monitoring her site and to re-assure them that she is not going 'off-message', seemingly one of the worries that caused her to stop blogging before.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Midweek YouTube - what the British voted for in 2005

Or at least some of them did. Does it still seem like such a good idea, 'comrades'?

All political advertising is of course completely over-the-top 'optimism', or for the 'attack' variety it tends to be unrelieved gloom and disaster.

In any case I think it will be interesting to compare Labour's message last time around with what they come up with when they next present themselves to the electorate; I suspect there will be a fascinating change of tone, not to mention a radical rewrite of practically everything they (and those who voted for them) foisted upon us in 2005; the choice of background music and sound-effects will be particularly instructive.

'Cut and Paste' comments

I have had occasion this morning to delete a VERY lengthy 'cut and paste' comment placed in my most recent post, totally out of context with what that article was about. If that comment had been added to a more relevant post (many of my recent posts on the world-wide recession could, at a pinch, have proved a much more appropriate home) then I would have left it in place because whilst I don't in any way share the viewpoint expressed (a very lengthy screed entitled 'Armageddon' and dealing with what might loosely be described as a belief in the 'end times' theory of what might happen in the world in due course), it is a point of view held by many. However, I am not prepared to allow such comments to 'infect' totally unconnected message threads (my article about the possibility of a Nairn 'blog-meet').

I will be updating the Terms of Use for this blog in due course to cover this issue, but meantime this article will have to serve as an an additional 'term of use' until I get round to updating the more complete 'Terms of Use'; a permanent link may be found near the top right column of the blog.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Is it time for a 'mini-meet' of north-Scotland bloggers?

(Please see UPDATES at end)

Some years ago, when I first began this blog (in April 2002), it was kinda lonely up here in the north of Scotland. In those first few years there were hardly any 'serious' blogs in Britain, far less Scotland (and the north of Scotland was but a distant dream!), although there were a few bloggers from Inverness (or nearby) who blogged sporadically for a while, but soon disappeared; now I know of only one Inverness-based blogger who blogs with any regularity (Bernard blogs at The Sound of Gunfire); I've seen another former(?) occasional Inverness blooger in evidence in comments recently in a few other blogs, but apart from that - 'zilch'. Then, for a few years, there was an Elgin-based blogger, but he stopped blogging a couple of years ago and seems to have disappeared completely.

At present, to my knowledge, we have the amazing situation that there are three regular bloggers in of all places Nairn, in the north of Scotland. Maybe there are others in the region, and if so I apologise to them, but I am unaware of them. I am one of the three Nairn-based bloggers of course, and the other two are Graisg, who blogs at A Gurn from Nurn (he blogged for a while a few years ago, then stopped blogging for a while, at least in English, but more recently resumed blogging much more regularly) and thirdly Brian who blogs at My Nairn (also somewhat less frequently at My Scotland).

Is it not time that we had a meeting of Nairn bloggers? I would certainly be willing, if my fellow Nairn bloggers are at all interested; just let me know so we can perhaps arrange a mutually-convenient time if you are up for it. For my part it would seem like a good idea to invite Bernard from Inverness, too, if he's at all interested. So far as I'm concerned it'd have to be within the next fortnight, however, as I shall then be in Spain until mid-May, or of course it could be later in the year if more convenient. Just let me know.

UPDATE: (Wednesday 4FEB09 09.50 GMT) An email from Brian at 'My Nairn' awaited me this morning expressing willingness to take part in such a 'blog-meet' if one can be arranged. Thanks Brian for getting back to me so promptly.

2nd UPDATE: (Wednesday 4FEB09 17.15 GMT) Graisg has now confirmed (see comments) that he is interested in a 'blog-meet', too and is contacting his anonymous 'sources' to see if any of them wish to be there as well. I've also suggested in the comments a couple of possible dates for the meeting during next week. Let's hope we can firm something up.

Is the Glenrothes result now credible?

(Please see UPDATE at end)

Apparently the marked electoral register for last November's Glenrothes by-election, on which officials in polling stations score out voters as they register to vote, has gone missing, according to a Courier exclusive report. The result confounded expectations at the time amongst all political parties, including Labour, who all expected a very close result and possibly a narrow SNP victory.

My own allusion to the result and my explanation for it were based on an implicit assumption of the integrity of the vote. Whilst there is absolutely no evidence that the result was anything but sound, the inability to trace such an important legal document as the marked election register must inevitably cast suspicion on what happened back in November.

(thru Guido Fawkes story here)

UPDATE: (Tuesday 3FEB09 18.06 GMT) I've just noticed in my visitor statistics that this post was viewed this afternoon from the Electoral Commission server - I hope that this body will take a good look at the Glenrothes result and issue an HONEST appraisal quickly. We do not require a whitewash! And will not believe it if it is clear that this is what it is.

Boris Johnson on the merits of 'Free Trade'

... and the real danger that we are sliding into protectionism, as he worries here:

What kind of British industry do the protectionists think would emerge? Some sort of crazy autarkic system in which we tried to substitute imports with home-made PlayStations and home-made shoes and brassieres once again produced in the cotton mills of Lancashire? We would not only be forcing British consumers to accept second-rate goods; we would be impoverishing them by obliging them to pay more. It is terrifying that some serious politicians – including members of the Labour Cabinet – seem prepared to support these strikes, and to side with the Luddite trades unions and the far-Right BNP. Now is the time to stick up for free trade, and the huge benefits it has brought.

Remember what happened in the Thirties, when they had exactly the same instinctive and panic-stricken reaction, and a recession was turned into a slump. Remember the old truth, that when goods, people and services are not allowed to cross borders, soldiers eventually force the way. It is vital now that we complete the Doha round of world trade talks, not so much because it will liberate a great pent-up wave of trade, but because without it a signal will have been sent around the world that protectionism is winning.

- it is worth a few moments of anyone's time to read the whole article. Note particularly the date in the footnote to the article; a 'typo', or simply someone foretelling where current actions in the US (the 'Buy American Act') and in the UK (the 'British Jobs for British Workers' strikes) are likely to lead? I'm pretty sure it's the latter - an all too believable scenario, unfortunately. I don't believe that history is likely to repeat itself exactly, but there are worrying similarities to the 1930s and the sense that governments now seem to be completely losing control of the situation is a very worrying development, not masked in any way by their frenetic activity.

PS/ There is a useful article, based on the same kinds of premises, in John Redwood's blog here.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Coroners and Justice Bill - a letter from my MP

(Please see UPDATE at end)

I wrote an article here 10 days ago about the Second Reading last Monday in the House of Commons of the Coroners and Justice Bill and that because of what is proposed in Part 8 of the Bill it was imperative to try and mobilise support from MPs to ensure that this part of the Bill never passes into law, at least in the form it currently takes.

I am pleased to report that I have this morning received a letter back from my own MP confirming that his Party (the Liberal Democrats) opposes this legislation and that their shadow Justice Secretary, David Howarth, spoke in the debate last Monday saying that the proposals were "outrageous and should be withdrawn. They alone jusstify rejecting this bill". Danny Alexander MP (my MP) also confirms that this vociferous opposition will continue in coming weeks as the Bill continues its passage through Parliament.

Although I am not a supporter of the Liberal Democrats, I wish to record that on this as on a number of other issues relating to civil liberties they have consistently been on the correct side of the argument (for example their opposition to the introduction if ID Cards).

UPDATE: (Tuesday 3FEB09 18.10 GMT) I noticed through my visitor statistics that this post has been viewed today from the Christian Institute server. My 'default attitude' toward this group is that the people behind it have vile ideas; however, they are just as entitled as anyone else not to have their confidentiality violated as clauses 151-154 of the Coroners and Justice Bill would potentially give rise to if it passes into law, so if this is why they were looking at my site, then fair enough. Otherwise, stay away!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Sunday YouTube - to lighten the gloom

How a typical government department in Britain plans for the future:

The 'headless chicken' has a mind-dump in Davos

Our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has revealed just how directionless, and ineffective his government's recent measures have been during his premiership; the lengthy interview in the linked article with the excellent Christiane Amanpour I'm afraid also reveals how little he understands what has happened, and why - and consequently what to do about getting ourselves out of the mess we are in.

All the political flim-flam on both sides of the Atlantic seeks to mask from electorates a simple fact; living standards are going to have to drop significantly in a number of countries, specifically those countries which have been running significant balance of payments deficits for very many years - two prime examples of this are the US and the UK, both of which at a national and individual level have been living on borrowed money for many years; both have very low levels of individual saving. All this has led to a too-rapid growth in the economies of countries such as China which, because of their traditional low labour costs and large and generally well-educated populations were able to supply the goods the consuming nations wanted; obviously the producer nations (China, India etc) were anxious to raise their own populations' standards of living and in the process these countries have built up massive savings, both nationally and individually - which they have for many years loaned to the consuming nations to fuel their purchasing binge. All based on 'confidence' that the currencies of the consuming nations would retain their values in the light of all this national borrowing to fuel consumption. Of course this could not go on for ever - eventually people began to see that the whole structure was built on nothing more than a confidence based on historic assessments, rather than realistic current valuations.

The current mantra is that markets have failed and that the 'State' must step in to put things right. This is crazily wrong! The markets have been circumvented for so long by government by over-regulation that eventually the power of the market can no longer be resisted. Brown wants to keep public spending (and taxes) high and to fuel a continuing decifit with yet more borrowing, whereas the lenders are becoming increasingly reluctant to go on funding us (the consuming countries) - just look at bond spreads to see what is happening in the underbelly of the market and how it assesses the relative strengths of various economies. The civil unrest that started a few months ago in places such as Greece and in eastern Europe has now spread to France and the UK - not to mention the tensions that are building up in places such as China where many factories have had to close because we are no longer buying.

Brown wants to keep interest rates low to 'kick-start' the economy so individuals and companies can 'afford' to borrow to keep their consumption levels up. As I've written here before this is analagous to offering a drug addict more drugs to stave off the pain of withdrawal symptoms. Short-term relief, but a lot more pain to come in the future. This is all, so we are told, to prevent deflation. How is it going to work, though, if people fear they are going to lose their jobs (and increasingly ARE losing their jobs)? Beats me! How are savers going to be encouraged to continue to save (to do their small part in propping up the financial system)? They answer is they are not.

Unless we reduce our national outgoings significantly, currently funded by high taxes and government borrowing, this problem is only going to get worse. What's going to happen to our political and social stability in a few years time when the bills for this continuing fiscal folly start to come due? Well, I think the answer will be found in the euphemistically-named 'quantitative easing', or running the printing presses for paper money much faster to increase the money supply massively - and the burden of debt will be 'magicked' away by a massive increase in inflation which in the low interest climate the government wishes to maintain will be absolutely disastrous for those who have loaned the money to fuel the party, whether domestic savers or international lenders. Expect further falls in the value of the pound in coming years, too. Social unrest? We ain't seen nuthin' yet!