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

Sunday 26 April 2009

On the courting of controversy - or how David Starkey operates, most amusingly

Many of my fellow Scottish bloggers have been rather exercised in the past couple of days by some, ahem, 'undiplomatic' (but, as usual, accurate if over-dramatic) utterances by historian and TV personality David Starkey in relation to Scotland. I did not watch Question Time on Thursday, as I had guests staying with me last week, but his appearance on the show seems to have enlivened the proceedings considerably. My own attitude is that at least some Scots need to calm down - he is after all entitled to his views, however grandiloquently he chooses to express them and I don't get the impression that too many in the audience were cheering him on, rather there was some slightly embarrassed tittering. For context, do please remember that the broadcast went out on Thursday, which happened this week to be 23rd April, which is St George's Day in England, so some hyperbole from an Englishman is perhaps to be expected on this of all days. Mind you Saint George has about as much connection with England as Saint Andrew has with Scotland.

For myself I think a far more interesting segment of Thursday's show was the one below where Starkey dismisses John Denholm (who he? - well, he's a Minister in our sorry excuse at present for a Government) and his efforts to justify Labour's latest sound-bite policy, supposedly in an effort to dig the country out of the hole they have dug for us, but in reality a crude device to appeal to the worst instincts of 'old' Labour ahead of the European and local elections (in England) and next's year's General Election. Even though he is eventually told to 'shut up' by David Dimbleby, what Starkey is saying is [again] absolutely correct:

(I have replaced the link to the video-clip, as the earlier one has been removed by YouTube)

It's to be expected that some of the wilder elements of the SNP's supporters have latched onto Starkey's remarks, but that someone speaking on behalf of the Scottish Executive (aka 'Government') chooses to join in somewhat defensively, even whilst attempting to retain some balance, is in itself a reflection that David Starkey's reflections, whilst expressed in somewhat offensive terms, do have some merit. No doubt this has only added to the fury of some SNP supporters (and of a few supporters of 'unionist' parties who really should know better).

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Paul Flynn MP on the 'Today' programme spinning away

Why was this nonentity of a timeserving Labour backbench MP interviewed in the prestigious 8.10am slot just now on BBC Radio 4's flagship Today programme (i.e. about 2 hours 10 minutes into the 6-9am programme)? And why was he given such an easy ride by Evan Davies, who has grown into the role since he joined the programme and has a more laid-back style than the attack-dog John Simpson or even the sometimes querulous James Naughtie? Davies can however get points across and make his 'guests' open up when he wants to. Today (pun - geddit!?) his heart seemed not to be in it, as he allowed Flynn to waffle on with only the most token attempts to interrupt, but never halt, his flow. Flynn was allowed to continue to peddle the spin that McBride was some 'unknown' and did not represent the Labour Party - rather than being called on it with the truth, the fact that spin has been at the very heart of Labour since before it came to power in 1997, with the Blair/Brown duo running the show and that both McBride and Derek Draper have been closely involved with furthering this agenda for years. How can an MP supposedly there to represent his constituents act as a mere propaganda mouthpiece for his political masters? His assertions that he knew nothing of the machinations involved in Brown's pursuit of power and retention of it stretches my credulity to its limits. And it is highly unimpressive that 'Today' allowed itself to be used (or connived at being used?) in this piece of naked propaganda and damage-limitation on behalf of a very tarnished Government and Prime Minister.

In a phrase filched shamelessly from this excellent blog: Really. I mean it.

Monday 13 April 2009

You can choose your friends, your family ....

... well, you are born with them, for good or sometimes ill.

Hannan has interesting take on McBride/Draper affair

Daniel Hannan has an interesting personal observation on how the sleaze-masters of our governing Party, Labour, operate. Amusingly the implicit snobbery and racism of an arch-leftwing journalist, Kevin Maguire, is a part of his report; for a party that says it believes in 'equality' it often displays a remarkable closed-mindedness and seemingly willful ignorance about the wider world.

Sunday 12 April 2009

A Labour MP tries, unsuccessfully, to distance the Party from Damien McBride

Labour MP Paul Flynn publishes a video-clip seemingly intended to advance the agenda that Damien McBride is some 'unknown' and not, in fact, a central cog in the Brown spin-machine!

Dear Mr Flynn, you may be sincere in your condemnation of Damien McBride and his political tactics and machinations, but you must be even more ignorant and 'head in the sand' than I imagined if you expect anyone to accept that McBride is some 'unknown'. Give us a break! Let's face it, what really upsets Labour is that this man's (take your pick, applies to both McBride and Brown) sordid machinations have been exposed, not the fact that similar tactics have been used by Labour for years!

Unfortunately the sound-track in Mr Flynn's video-clip is very quiet even with the volume turned up to the max.; I suggest (respectfully), Mr Flynn, that you get this sorted for future video-clips:

PS/ I've just left a message in Paul Flynn MP's blog here:

I've just watched your recently-uploaded YouTube video clip, describing Damien McBride as some 'unknown'. Are you being deliberately disingenuous? Sorry, I can't take such bald propaganda and spin at all seriously.

A simple admission that McBride has brought shame on your Party would have much more credibility. Charles Clarke MP is not my favourite person (I am NOT a Labour supporter, candidly), but I respect his honest acceptance of a massive gaffe much more than I do your own attempt at spin.

Very sincerely
Bill Cameron

The sound of silence

I've just realised I haven't updated either of my blogs in over a week. There's no special reason - I'm just doing other things and quite enjoying it. I did draft a few posts during the week, but couldn't be bothered to finalise them and press the 'publish' button. There's certainly been a lot to record with the government continuing its spiral downward from incompetence and sleaze to mendacity - lots of bloggers are doing a first-rate job of exposing and commenting (too many to mention) on this. Nothing new, it's just the usual from the shambles of a Labour government that is currently (but hopefully for not much longer) still in power, even if it still has the power to surprise with its brazenness.

As for me, well I'm sitting here after lunch contemplating a walk up over the nearby hills. It's a beautiful day, bright blue sky and warm out of the wind, although there is a slight coolness out of the sun - not so much though that I can't sit here quite comfortably on the sofa with the front door open out on to the patio, overlooking the valley in front. The air is quite remarkably clear today (yesterday, too) so the other rim of the bowl/valley (maybe 7-10km away) is extremely distinct.

!hasta mañana!

Saturday 4 April 2009

Cute, gay, sign language interpreter - what's not to like?

Young New Yorker Michael makes good use of his talents by reinterpreting pop videos in his own style - humourous, clever, photogenic and sexy, educational even. He's a sign language interpreter and not deaf himself, but he certainly tries hard to engage with his target group (and others) in a very original way:

Britney Spears' song "womanizer" in sign language

- he doesn't just do videos of sign-language, he also has messages to put across, such as this clever spoof GAYS SHOULD NOT MARRY! which he voices with sub-titles for the hard of hearing. His YouTube video channel is here and is well worth a visit; I've just subscribed.

(thru the l'Homme est un concept blog [relevant post here] - a French blog unfortunately hidden behind Blogger/Google's 'morality wall' through which you must 'click' to get access)

Friday 3 April 2009

Talibanisation grows in Pakistan and is resurgent in Afghanistan

The Guardian has a truly shocking video of a young woman being thrashed violently for not conforming with what the Taliban considers the social norms. According to the Guardian article, one of the men holding her down, whilst she screams and whimpers "Please stop it - Either kill me or stop it now" is her brother, particicpating to restore the family's 'honour'. Warning - it is very difficult to watch and made me retch when I saw it.
(thru The Spectator - Coffee House here)

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, legislation has been signed-off by President Karzai (but has apparently not yet come into effect), under conditions of extreme secrecy (no doubt because of the international outrage it was undoubtedly realised it would cause), which explicitly allows marital rape and imposes upon married women an absolute obligation to provide sexual services for their husbands. I have been completing YouGov online surveys for a couple of years now and there was a recent survey gleaning attitudes towards our involvement in Iraq and our continuing involvement in Afghanistan. I supported the former and broadly-speaking also support the latter - but now I'm not so sure we should be supporting Karzai if this is the kind of appalling nonsense he is prepared to append his signature to in order to obtain the support of extreme elements there in the forthcoming elections; we should certainly not allow our continuing presence there to be used to support this kind of barbarism.

Seven year blog anniversary / 2,730+ articles and counting

Seven years already! With a few breaks along the way, it's on the whole been an enjoyable ride. I have tended to cover a few major topics recurrentlly over the years (for example homophobia, the growing 'surveillance state' and in earlier years the Iraq conflict, but not so much recently, to name just a few, even if a few of the topics which flowed from that still get a mention pretty regularly - the growing authoritarianism of many generally democratic countries' governments, specifically those of the UK and the US with their 'war on terror' and the allegations of extra-judicial methods of pursuing this policy including 'extraordinary rendition' and 'torture'), with added topics for variety from time to time. Some topics I haven't covered though, because they bore me - or more precisely because of the hypocrisy I perceive in a lot of the 'waves' of outrage which flow around the media and the 'blogosphere' - for example the recent brouhaha concerning the Home Secretary's husband and his predilection for video-porn. Frankly it's of no interest to me what this couple choose to do in their leisure hours and I'm sure in the 'greater scheme of things' his/their predilections are relatively innocuous and certainly don't contravene any laws in force; the only feature of interest in this affair is that they tried to get we taxpayers to pay for it! That is definitely not on and would undoubtedly never have come to light if the Speaker of the House of Commons had not lost, at significant cost to the tax-payer, a legal case brought to try and prevent details of our legislators' expenses being available to the public under Freedom of Information legislation; this is certainly an aspect of our public life that deserves to have a bright spotlight shone upon it.

As in previous years, I'd like to thank the gentle readers who visit my little blog from time to time and those who take the trouble to comment on what I have written; feedback is always useful and I am grateful for it, yes even the recent commenters about my views on bilingual English-Gaelic roadsigns in the north of Scotland although it is clear that at least one of those has 'form' as a comment spammer and and perpetrator of some pretty shoddy internet activities as has recently become clear to me as a result of certain search engine queries which have alighted on my little blog; although I strive for 'objectivity' here, I don't pretend always to achieve it, but I don't think that includes pandering to nut-jobs and their obsessions and attempts to hi-jack comments here by extremists of whatever kind will be ruthlessly combatted; people are welcome to comment here positively or negatively, provide that there is a certain level of courtesy which I try to reciprocate. OK, that's enough for now - again, my thanks for visiting if you've got this far.

Roll on the next seven years, or however long this blog continues!

Thursday 2 April 2009

G20 result in summary - 'global quantitative easing'

Naturally this ongoing disaster is being hailed as some kind of 'success'. I'm afraid I view this whole catastrophe of a development with deep foreboding.

The BBC analysis is here and that of the Telegraph newspaper is here.

I haven't been writing about this in recent days, because ... well, what's the point?! It was clear to me weeks ago that 'compromises' would be cobbled together to allow announcement of some kind of Faustian pact. Watch out for rampant inflation in a few years time! This will not be a simple by-product of what has been agreed today - it is the whole purpose of it as it will help to reduce the debt-burden of our profligate governments and many individuals who have run-up debts (over-extended mortgages or 'maxing-out' of credit cards) far larger than was prudent and contributed directly to the rapid rise in property prices, thus pricing many younger 'first-time' buyers out of the market as the price for fooling most people into believing the economy was doing well (and giving their votes to the self-serving morons who directed this policy). Anyone who has been genuinely 'prudent' and saved to provide for their futures is going to see their assets decimated - but they have fewer votes than the majority debtors so even right-of-centre political parties are going along with this nonsense, even if there is token disagreement with parts of it, no doubt as a way of trying to distance themselves from it when it actually does result in even more urgent problems in a few years time.

What should happen? Public expenditure needs to be SLASHED across the board and there needs to be an immediate reduction in the tax burden to encourage the entrpreneurial elements amongst us, initially of a somewhat lesser degree than the reduction in public expenditure night seem to justify, to allow the public finances to begin to be made a little more healthy and to start moving in the direction of balance. Politically disastrous I accept for the political party that tried to do this, because the large 'client state' that successive governments have created (and particularly the current Labour government) has grown addicted to the destructive 'credits' with which the government buys their loyalty. I don't object to those that need it being given a helping hand, I do object strongly to the deliberate creation of a large dependent segment of society which no longer sees the need to strive to try and get themselves into a position where they no longer need State assistance.

I need a drink!

PS/ Samizdata has very much the same reaction to this as me.

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Article heading list for latest 6-month period (October 2008 to March 2009) now up

The archive of 'Article Headings' for the latest 6-month period is now available - click here for the period October 2008 to March 2009.

There are permanent links in the right bar to this and earlier 6-month 'Article Heading' indices, immediately below the standard 'Blogger' monthly archive links.