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

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Peter Mandelson and the "Digital Economy Bill"

A most illuminating YouTube dissection of the Digital Economy Bill being piloted through Parliament by Lord Mandelson by someone called Dan Bull - a pretty professional effort and ejoyable, too:

(thru the Spectator 'Coffee House' here - main page here)

FMQs in the "wee pretendie Parliament"

I rarely watch Thursday's First Minister's Questions from Holyrood (shown on BBC2 in Scotland), but there isn't an episode of 'Poirot' on ITV3 rights now (a joke, or perhaps a revealing glimpse of how exciting my life is!), I thought I'd give it a whirl. What strikes me though it that I am not alone in paying this make-believe 'tribune of the people' little heed - for the chamber seems to be pretty empty of MSPs, you know those folks we pay to be there! There seem to be as many (or more) spectators in the public gallery as in the chamber! Mind you, flicking across to the BBC Parliament Channel to see what's happening in the House of Commons shows a similar almost deserted chamber - but usually the folks at Westminster can be bothered to turn up for PMQs on a Wednesday.

"This programme may upset some people"

This is the 'cover yourself legally' warning which is usually trotted out when something upsetting and/or violent is going to be shown on television. I'm just watching a recording of Channel4's pretty good documentary, shown last evening on More4, to mark the first anniversary today of the Mumbai terrorist outrages last year and this is the warning that was issued before the programme and after each ad-break before the programme resumed.

Who would not find such a programme disturbing? Being shown at 10pm, it was way after the 'watershed' when younger children should certainly not be watching. No, it's really often just used as a blanket 'watch your back' legal 'out' in case some viewer claims it has traumatised him/her and tries to sue the makers of the programme for the distress caused. I don't really blame Channel4 for trying to protect themselves in these circumstance, but still it strike me as a bit odd - but that's the society that we live in.

Similar rather idiotic warnings are shown on some packaged food products - one of the most extraordinary being the warnings which often appear on packs of nuts which say something like "Warning - May contain nuts.". I know nut allergy sufferers can become seriously ill, or even die, if they consume products containing even trace amounts of nuts or nut oils so some products where these ingredients may not be obvious do require to bear a warning, but on a pack of nuts? End of rant ... (for now)

NB/ My permament memorial pages in respect of recent terrorist events are linked to fairly near to the top of the right column under the sub-heading 'Memorial Pages', or you can visit the first page in the series here, or go to the Mumbai page direct.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Four decades after the Sexual Offences Act this kind of nonsense still happens?!

We are told often that life is so much easier for homosexual people in the UK now than it was pre-1967 when the Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised homosexual acts in private and I am sure it is, even if I don't have relevant personal memories of the period before this, having been only about 15 years old at the time. However, every so often something happens that brings me up with a jolt. Some joker in Portsmouth thought he could make a 'fast buck' by pretending to be an undercover police sergeant and making blackmailing married men 'cruising' in a gay haunt a lucrative proposition, by extracting 'instant fines' from them. The apparently genuine threat of the 'shame' of a court appearance on charges of 'gross indencency' made some of the men involved willing to hand over several hundred pounds each. Presumably one of his potential victims decided to go to the real police (who mostly react somewhat differently now than they would have 40 years ago), leading to Lee Creamer (aka 'Sergeant Perry') being gaoled at Portsmouth Crown Court for three and a half years. Judge Peter Henry correctly summed-up this despicable individual:

"The people you were targeting undoubtedly would have been in that frame of mind where they weren't going to think straight. You were relying on the fact they were going to panic and pay the money."

Even though homosexuality was decriminalised quite a long time ago, many gay men (and women) are still reluctant to 'own' who they are, so leaving themselves open to this kind of nonsense. To some extent this is understandable because however 'right on' we may like to kid oursleves that Britain is today, there are still a lot of prejudiced people around who don't hesitate to make life difficult for gay people if they think they can get away with it (just remind yourself how successful a number of major religions are in having their prejudices accepted and in a number of cases enshrined in law). Whilst this is in some respects a depressingly familiar type of case, at least it has a 'happy' outcome - the culptrit has been brought to book.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

What did they do wrong?

I must confess to being startled when I first heard that Gordon Brown and David Cameron had felt it necessary to apologise for visiting the Field of Remembrance on Armistice Day. What exactly has either man done that is wrong?

It all seems to boil down to the fact that a) they didn't ask prior permission of the Westminster Abbey authorities (although David Cameron said this morning on the Andrew Marr show that he had, but only on the day at the last minute) and that b) they both used it as a 'photo opportunity'.

I don't wish to be rude (be honest, you do - Ed.), but I really do think the Westminster Abbey authorities need to get over themselves! The Church of England is the 'established' Church and by virtue of that status receives a lot of benefits, both material and in terms of the influence it wields (and that's the right word in this context!), far beyond what its current levels of membership nationally justify. Like all churches (as charities), it receives significant tax breaks. As for the photographers, well I think there may be a slight case to answer, but only a minor one. Does anyone really think it is credible that either Brown or Cameron coould have carried out a low-profile visit to such a nationally-symbolic spot, specially if they had already arranged it as a major feature with the Westminster Abbey authorities?

It is really sad to me that this non-story has been talked-up by the Westminster Abbey authorities, naturally enough gleefully taken up by the ever-hungry 24-hour media machine. Brown and Cameron have obviously been left with no choice but to apologise, because it would be political madness for either man to do anything else, given the media-driven and changing (i.e. fickle and easily-manipulated) public opinion that we all have to live with. However in my view neither man had anything to apoligise for - I'd have been far more upset if they had simply toddled off and not bothered to visit the Field of Remembrance.

PS/ It perhaps needs to be said that if this so-called 'gaffe' had been made by Gordon Brown alone and not by David Cameron as well, I would still have formed the view of the kerfuffle that I have; I don't care for Brown at all (that's no secret), but fair is fair.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Labour and the 'truth' - not if you believe in 'fact'

Thanks to GuidoFawkes and his 'video production team' we have an excellent dissection of the eliding of truth and fiction that the Labour Party habitually tries to pass off as history, focussing on their 'Budget Day' party political broadcast earlier this week:

- as one of the first commenters in Guido's article, someone who styles him-/her-self 'jgm2', observes correctly:

"It really is pure 1984. It’s on a par with Kim Jong Il claiming to have invented manned flight.

"It’s beyond parody. Emily Pankhurst banned from joining the Labour party ‘cos she was a woman? Yet Labour claims credit for the universal franchise and women’s votes?"

- as 'jgm2' observes in his final sentence, I too will be very surpised if left-leaning MSM outlets The Mirror and The Guardian have (or ever will) run a similar story lampooning the outright lies!

Wardog - now an "ex blog"

(Please see UPDATE at end)

I just read an article in the Wardog blog tonight in which he indicates that he is hanging up his 'blogging clogs'. Unfortunately I haven't been reading his, or any other, blog much in the past few days because I have my own family concerns right now and besides been very busy with setting up a new website and these matters have been consuming more or less all of my waking houurs (not to mention giving me sleepless nights of late), but his final message indicates that he has been going through a rough time and has had various pressures exerted upon him which he says have left him with no alternative but to cease blogging. All his earlier articles have now been removed, as well as all his links, etc. (NB/ Note added 21NOV09 19.25 GMT - the 'Wardog' blog has now been taken down completely. Let's hope the writer is resurrected elswehere.)

To be clear, I always found Wardog a stimulating read. I rarely agreed with anything he wrote - he being what I would call a 'rabid' Nationalist and me being unapologetically in favour of Scotland continuing as a partner in the United Kingdom. I have absolutely no truck with the aims of the SNP, nor really the Devolution disaster that Labour has saddled us with, even if I've come to accept reluctantly that there is no going back to the status quo ante. In the greater scheme of things, Labour have more serious things to answer for - just as an example they have trashed the economy, just as every Labour government before it has done; Mr Brown is the very last person I ever, and not just in the past couple of years, could associate with the term 'prudence'.

However, I don't need people to agree with me before I am happy to acknowledge that they have worthwhile (if in my opinion often misguided) things to say. I certainly don't like people being coerced into silence because of what sound like the tactics of a Police State. But as I have been writing here for quite a few years now, that is just what the UK is becoming, or indeed may well have become if this latest incident and a number of others in the recent past are any indication; I've been writing as much for several months now. Freedom of expression, however objectionable some of the opinions expressed may be, is a vital thing and not to be surrendered lightly.

I have never made any secret here of the contempt in which I hold Labour (and the 'New' variety is just as objectionable as the traditional version of that noisome Party), nor frankly do I have a higher opinion of the fantasists in the SNP, or their sympathisers such as I think it safe to say Wardog numbered himself. But that does not mean to say I am not outraged when I learn that he has felt threatened both personally and professionally by what seem to be the actions of people who take have taken exception to what he has been writing. It is truly, truly outrageous!!

UPDATE: (Sunday 22NOV09 21.30 GMT) I've just come across an amusing, and pretty accurate, commentary today on Wardog's woes in the Nationalist Mythbusting blog (written by someone who operates under the perplexing of name 'sm753') - you can read it here. Incidentally, and I should have mentioned this when I was writing this article a few days ago, but in some of the articles in the Nationalist Mythbusting earlier this month there are many of what can only be described as 'obsessive' comments from said Wardog. I always try and be fair to people when I write my articles, but it's only fair to point out that Wardog often came across in his online persona as a bit of a 'nutter'; my view is simply that even 'nutters' should have the right to express themselves verbally within reason - and if someone has a genuine grievance that they have been libelled then they can take the matter to law. However the behind-the-scenes threats that evidently have been made against Wardog are noisome in the extreme.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Child migrants and the 'apologies'

I've known about the programme to transfer 'British stock' from the UK to Australia, at least partly in support of Australia's 'White Australia' policy at the time, for quite a few years. It always seemed to me to be, when I first heard with incredulity what had been done and made an effort to find out a little more about it, a discreditable period in the history of both the UK and Australia. As I write this, we are just waiting in the next hour for an announcement in Canberra from Australian Prime Minister Rudd, in which he is expected to issue an apology to the migrant children on behalf of the Australian Government and nation. Other countries in the 'white Commonwealth', for example Canada, were also recipients of these children I gather.

It is thought that our own Prime Minister may issue a similar apology on behalf of the British Government and nation in the near future, too. It is possible also that the claims for compensation from some of the now middle-aged to elderly migrants may be granted. It seems clear that at least some of the children were lied to at the time when they were told that their parents had died so there was no home for them to return to; the children involved were I understand almost entirely inhabitants at the time of orphanages in the UK, for various reasons. It is certainly clear that many of the children did not go to the 'better lives' that had been held out to them as their future, but to be treated as little better than indentured labour in low-grade jobs in remote spots of a strange land from which they had no way out; some were also abused in various ways, it seems. The educational opportunities afforded them were also, at best, mediocre in many cases it seems, thus consigning them to the likelihood of limited futures.

I've read in a few blogs today varying opinions about the merits of issuing an apology, mostly negative, on the basis that any apology of this nature is hollow because the present government and Prime Minister is certainly not responsible for what was done in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. This is undoubtedly completely true; I don't like Labour or Gordon Brown, but even I would admit readily that it has nothing to do with today's Labour Party or our current Prime Minister persnally. Any more than Australian PM Kevin Rudd can in any way be considered responsible at a personal level, nor can the present Australian government.

Some recent apologies issued in various countries have indeed been largely meaningless, because they touched on matters which are now so far back in history that no one living today has any personal memory of the activities for which the apologies were being issued - for example slavery in the US, or the treatment of some native Americans by the US government.

However, many of the 'victims' of the child migration policy are still very much alive, as are one imagines many of the public and elected officials in both the UK and Australia who were responsible for putting the policy in place, as well I expect as many of those organisations, such as charities in both countries, who were charged with carrying out the policy. So an apology by both governments is not in any way meaningless to those involved, particularly the children affected by the policy. The same might be said of the apology some years ago by the US government in respect of US citizens during World War II who were of Japanese origin and who were, after 'Pearl Harbour', interned by the US authorities; many of the US citizens of Japanese origin were 2nd or 3rd generation US-born.

In summary, my view is that an apology today by Rudd and/or Brown is not a hollow gesture, but a necessary correction of a seriously defective, cruel and fundamentally wicked policy even if in theory it was not totally 'evil' in intent, whilst accepting (as I do) that it was undertaken with motives which rest on somewhat shaky moral ground. Mind you such politically-motivated migrations have occurred often in human history, some in quite recent times (e.g. the encouragement given to Metropolitan French to colonise Algeria when it was under French control, or the similar encoouragement given by the British Government for British citizens to colonise Kenya when it was a British colony. Today there is an even greater ongoing migration of people which has been going on for some years with the migrants concerned being strongly encouraged (not to say shoved on boats and planes) to move - I am speaking about the policy of the Indonesian government to ease the over-population on the island of Java by shipping large numbers of people to the much less densely-populated islands of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi as well as various other islands in the Indonesian archipelago; Sumatra for example, being much closer to neighbour Malaysia is in theory at risk, over the longer term, of territorial incurson because of its abundant natural resources, as well as of internal political dissension because of the ethnic make-up of its own population. There are many sources of information about this - see here and here for example, not to mention the related potential extraordinary project discussed here.

To come back, though, to the child migration from the UK to Australia I am currently (16NOV 00.15 GMT) watching the live apology from Australian PM Rudd in a large hall before a great number of the affected migrants and their families; a very moving occasion indeed.

Finally, I have absolutely no personal stake in this issue, but ever since I first became aware of this UK-Australia child migration project in the post-war period I have been troubled by some memories from my early childhood. At the first primary school I attended, which was in the Newhaven area of Edinburgh (we, my brother and I, lived in a distant part of Edinburgh, but made the journey across the city each day to attend this school for reaons we needn't go into here) and one of my class-mates and friends from when I first went there (a few months before my 5th birthday) until I was about 7 1/2 was a boy who was an orphan and who lived in a Barnardo's home not far away from the school. Occasionally I would visit the home with him after school (they were apparently encouraged to have friends visit) and as a child I thought no more about it; he was simply a class-mate and someone whom I liked as a school-friend; without being immodest we were probably the two cleverest boys in our class. Anyway, one day he didn't turn up at school and I asked the teacher where he was - she said he had 'gone away'. A few days later I decided to visit the home to ask after him and can still remember (I was less than 8 then) the seeming 'evasion' in the response I got. Of course he may simply have gone back to his real family, but I have occasionally wondered, since I heard about the migration policy sometime in the 1980s, if he might have been one of those involved. I'm afraid I do not even remember my friend's name, so it is unlikely I would ever be able to find out what did happen to him. At the time, of course, I had no real idea of anything to do with such matters - I doubt if I really had any idea about where places I had seen on maps, such as America, Canada, India, South Africa or Australia, were. Happy and generally contented as my childhood was, this is one minor niggle that I occasionally ponder on - today's apology in Australia has brought this whole subject back into my consciousness; the time-frame I am recalling is the period from about mid-1957 to late-1959, so it is certainly within the relevant dates when this policy was in force.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Quote of the day, re the BNP

(Please see UPDATE at end)

Most amusing remark this evening in CoffeeHouse about the likely change in the BNP's constitution to allow non-white Britons in addition to those indigenous to these islands to join the Party:

"The Spectator has maintained that the party’s domestic policies are inspired by racial supremacist ideology and that its economic policies are like Dagenham – that is, three stops beyond Barking. The membership’s decision, forced on them by a court order with which they must comply, changes nothing."

- "its economic policies are like Dagenham – that is, three stops beyond Barking." Marvellous! And pretty accurate too, of course - and they're still racist scum, whatever this cosmetic change might be intended to con people into believing.

UPDATE: (Sunday 15NOV09 22.45 BST) It seems somehow to be appropriate that BNP leader, Mr Nick Griffin MEP, is to stand as the PPC for his Party for the Barking constituency at the next Westminster election. One wonders if rumours of this development were not what prompted the CoffeeHouse article that stirred me into writing this article earlier today, else it is a remarkable coincidence - even more remarkable if it was that Griffin, having heard about the article, thought well 'why not give it a go?'.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Randy Wearside woman told to cut the noise during sex

A couple in Washington on Wearside (near Newcastle-upon-Tyne) have been making a nuisance of themselves with the VERY LOUD noises they make when having sex on a very regular basis and for hours on end. Caroline and Steve Cartwright are obviously a very 'compatible' couple, with voracious sexual appetites - but Newcastle Crown Court is not impressed, any more than are the postman, neighbours or a woman taking her child to school. Dismissing her claim under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act (concerning "respect for her private and family life"), Recorder Jeremy Freedman said:

"We are in no doubt whatsoever about the level of noise that can be heard in neighbouring properties, in the street and in the back lane.

"It certainly was intrusive and constituted a statutory nuisance. It was clearly of a very disturbing nature and it was also compounded by the duration - this was not a one-off, it went on for hours at a time.

"It is further compounded by the frequency of the episode, virtually every night."

These folk are obviously veritable athletes in the bedroom! It's not over yet - she'll be up in court again in December in connection with the alleged breaches of her ASBO 'awarded' because of the racket.

(This marvellous story came to me courtesy of an article in the Gay Banker blog)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

In Flanders Fields ...

Today is the 91st anniversary of the Armistice which took effect on the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918 and which brought to an end four years of bloody conflict in what has become known to history as the 'Great War', or 'World War I' - or more optimistically the 'war to end all wars'. Unfortunately the last was a forlorn hope, for just over twenty years later another 'world war' came along to cause yet more deaths, bloodshed and destruction, not to mention the expenditure of further huge amounts of wealth. Whilst we have so far been spared another 'world war', there have been many regional conflicts in the years since, as well as numerous civil wars - all of which have added to the score of human suffering. Perhaps one day wars will exist only in the history books, rather than being the daily reality for far too many people around the world.

'In Flanders Fields' written by Lt Col John McCrae
'For the Fallen' (excerpt) written by Laurence Binyon

In respectful memory of all those killed so needlessly in war then
- and tragically those whose lives are lost in war to this day.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Apprentice USA - well, just wow!

I like to watch the British version of this show, with Sir Alan Sugar in charge, but the original show from the US, with Donald Trump, is I think marginally better. There's a ruthlessness and a can-do spirit in American business which is starker than even Sir Alan and his potential candidates often manage to achieve.

What we're watching in the UK just now is actually the 4th series of the US version, which was aired in the US 4 years ago. I'm pretty sure it hasn't been aired here before on terrestrial television, although it may have been shown before on satellite here, for all I know, because of course we've been having the British version instead.

Donald Trump is a fascinating character. Crass, vulgar - and very successful; and of course he has his golf course project underway in Aberdeenshire, so his name seems never to be out of the news (in Scotland, at least). The American candidates, even when they have no idea what they are talking about, can 'talk the talk' with business school jargon flowing easily, but it all boils down to whether they can 'walk the walk' and perform either in creativity or in sheer revenue-generating ability. The two shows tonight (episodes 5 and 6) showed both these business elements - and there really was no doubt about the result of either show, although the result of episode 6 produced a 'shocker' in the boardroom!

Episode 5 ('Lost in Space') involved producing a parade float to publicise a soon-to-be-released movie. Trump had started this series off a few weeks ago by having one team of 9 women ('Capital Edge') and one of 9 men ('Team Excel') and for the last few episodes the women have been losing, seemingly because of friction within the team fouling up their ability to achieve success - and their numbers had therefore become somewhat depleted. So before this episode got underway he let the women choose one of the men to join them and they chose Randal, an African-American from Philadelphia and the eventual winner of the series. The women's team lost handily, because they hadn't fulfilled the brief and the Sony studio people much preferred what the men's team had done. Randal seemed to work well with the women's team, though, and offered a pretty good analysis of where they were going wrong.

On to Episode 6 ('Take Me Out to the Boardroom'); this involved producing an 'event' in a sporting goods store to see which team could increase sales in their chosen area by the biggest percentage. For this epsiode he got the team leader of the women's team to choose 3 women to go across to the men's team, the 3 women she most wanted to lose. Then he got the team-leader of the men's team to choose the 3 men he most wanted to lose to transfer to join the women's team. Basically the notional women's team (now of course with 4 men in it) won because they increased sales by a huge 74 per cent, with most of the women and the men in the team coming up to the plate and achieving good results. Similarly the notional men's team now of course had 3 women in their number, but in my view the real reason they fouled up was because the team leader allowed one of the men to take over and dominate their effort because he had a favourite sport and he and the rest of the team forgot the object wasn't to show off at the sport or to teach kids to play it, but to push product sales!

Now the shocks started - and illustrated why Trump has been so successful. Trump overrode the right of the losing team leader to choose whom to bring back into the boardroom. Instead he told 2 of the women and 1 of the men (the one who was exempt from the previous episode) to go straight back to the penthouse apartment, as all were thought to have performed well by the whole team. Trump wanted 4 back in the boardroom - the male team leader, 2 men and 1 woman. After an acrimonious boardroom scene, which descended into all 4 bickering and shouting across each other, Trump then fired all four! Undoubtedly the correct decision, although the male team leader and the woman stood out for being in their different ways completely hopeless - he ineffective at managing the team, she not living up to her own estimation that she was a killer salesperson. The other 2 men lost sight of the objective being to sell, sell, sell. Definitely one of the best episodes I've seen, from either the US or British series of the programme; it's just a pity that it has been shunted off to such a graveyard time-slot, particularly the 2nd episode each week.

Beyond this, I'm wondering if the reason the BBC is showing Trump again is because they are dropping/shelving Sir Alan Sugar until after the next general election because of his involvement with the Labour Party as a so-called 'business czar'. Whatever the reason, I'm certainly glad to have the opportunity to see more of 'The Donald', because whether you love or loathe the man he does make a good television personality and his business acumen and judgement aren't in doubt, as was certainly in evidence tonight.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The destruction of the Berlin Wall twenty years on

Twenty years ago today the Berlin Wall was opened and East and West Berliners could mingle with each other freely for the first time in very many years. Although most people in the capital of the now-defunct East Germany welcomed the new freedom it gave them, not everyone there was so sanguine, as the linked article mentions; whether that nostalgia for a failed systen is simply viewing history through rose-tinted spectacles is perhaps not for me to judge (although I do think it completely idiotic). Undoubtedly, though, many former East Germans have suffered economic hardship, even with the support provided by the newly-unified Federal Republic, but I surmise that the greatest damage remains pyschological - however bad the old Communist regime was, it provided a framework (or a prison) for life and there was certainty of a kind; I accept that the self-esteem of many people there took a severe hit in the aftermath of the disappearance of a State many of them will have been born into. All that, and secure (if badly-paid) employment, disappeared. However I confess I cannot work up much sympathy for the man in the linked story whose firm was acquired by a West German company which asked him to move 120 Km - he preferred to lose his job; well tough, that's life, get used to it! If Angela Merkel (a former East German citizen, too) had adopted that attitude she certainly wouldn't be Chancellor of Germany today. The initial doubts that many East Germans expressed about the possibility of re-uniting the two parts of the country soon evapaorated, and their desire to retain a 'socialist' system (which is what they had been brought up to consider as the norm) soon disappeared, when they became accustomed to the practical benefits which their new political freedoms allowed them to aspire to .

I don't imagine that even President Reagan could have imagined that his 1987 speech in West Berlin, against the backdrop of the Brandenburg Gate, could have brought about the end of the discredited East German puppet regime so rapidly and that it would be followed only a couple of years later by the break-up of the Soviet Union itself:

US President Ronald Reagan:
"Mr Gorbachev. Tear down this wall!"

- Helmut Kohl, West German Chancellor at the time, beams and claps in approval.

Naturally a lot of people have been drawn to Berlin in the days, weeks, months and years since those heady days 20 years ago (I was in Dubai/Abu Dhabi at the time - I travelled frequently between the two and lived in both then, but have not been to Berlin so far), and apart from Berliners there were obviously a lot of others there at the time I suppose and not just foreign journalists, but it seems that [now President] Nicolas Sarkozy wasn't amongst their number for the 'big event' as his 'Facebook' entry apparently said he had been, although he may well have been there a day or two later; no doubt the memory plays tricks [ahem!] after so many years.

During the roughly 28 years of the wall's existence most people were trying to get out of East Germany, but just a very few were headed in the other direction, including this British person [and Communist 'fellow-traveller']. Having joined the British Communnist Party on his 18th birthday in 1948 and working as a Party organiser for 18 years, he moved to East Germany in 1976, where he acted as a Stasi (secret police) informer on British citizens there. John Tarver, who is now 79, says he regrets supporting Communism with such zeal [and I suppose it is good that he has learned this lesson at long last], but his explanation that as a person brought up in the Catholic faith he needed "a strong belief system" is a poor kind of excuse. Apparently he has now gone back to his Catholic roots. Good luck to him and I hope he lives out his days peacefully; it is just a pity that his personal 'crisis of faith' caused him to live his life so despicably for so many years by making life unbearable for those whom he chose to inform on. But that is 'socialists' for you, full of excuses and self-justification for their outrageous behaviour! If anyone is offended by my blanket categorisation of all 'socialists' and 'socialism' as odious, I really don't care - they can get lost(!), so far as I am concerned.

To end this article on a more cordial note, I look back on today twenty years ago as a very positive development, not just for Germany, but for the whole of Europe.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

David Haye beats Nikolai Valuev

The British boxer has triumphed in Germany in the WBA heavyweight boxing championship against his Russian opponent and title-holder.

I can't say I'm particularly interested in boxing (the sight of two grown men pummelling each other doesn't appeal to me), but I have to confess to some surprise - I had been doubtful that Haye would survive, never mind win, when I saw their pre-match 'spar' a few days ago.

Moral of the story ... Never judge a book by its cover.

Lest we forget ...

("For the Fallen", Verse 4, by Lawrence Binyon)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Rest in Peace

- and British casualties of war are still occurring today, with all the personal tragedies that result:

Friday, 6 November 2009

BBC relaunches Highlands & Islands website

The BBC has a 'news story' to announce its revamped Highlands and Islands micro-website.

It seems nice enough and prettily laid out - but you will look in vain for any mention of Nairn in it. By the way, if you want to find the weather in Nairn, your best bet is to choose 'Cromarty' from the drop-down weather location menu.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Highland Council - rubbish telephone information from Nairn 'service point'

(Please see UPDATES at end.)

I decided to call up Highland Council's 'Nairn Service Point' at the telephone number given in the telephone book (01667 458500) to ask for a couple of pieces of information and spoke to a lady who, it transpired during the conversation, is not actually in Nairn - I assume she was speaking from the Council's HQ in Glenurquhart Road in Inverness, but I'm not absolutely certain.

Nairn Recycling Centre
The first item of business was to find the opening times of the Nairn Recycling Centre, located a few miles from Nairn on the Granton-on-Spey road - from the relatively few occasions I have visited it in the past, I am aware that it is closed on some weekdays and don't want to make a wasted journey. But I think I'm going to have to make an[other] exploratory trip to make sure, before wasting time loading up the car with all the bulky items I want to dispose of. The lady on the telephone line seemed pleasant enough, but I suspect may have been confused by my mention of Nairn, but that it was on the Granton-road. She told me the opening times are 9am-3pm on Saturday and Sunday only; I asked her to check and she went and asked someone, but came back and repeated what she had already told me. I've now gone into the website and eventually found this page, which shows the winter opening times as 10am-4.30pm Wednesday through Sunday, and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays; this sounds more believable. (Please see the 'PS/' at the end.)

Time on clock on tower of Nairn Townhouse
Graisg of the 'A Gurn from Nurn' blog pointed out last week that the time on the clock had not yet been adjusted to show GMT instead of BST, now that we have gone back to winter time-keeping. I can see the clock-tower from my home and it still shows the wrong time, one hour ahead of current actual time. I asked the lady on the telephone when it would be changed to show the correct time; she asked me to confirm which town I was in. I asked her if she was in Nairn and she said no, but she would pass the message on. She asked me for my postcode, which I gave her. Then she asked me for my address and name; I asked her why she wanted to know. She simply then repeated her question. I asked her why, again. She then said "You mean you don't want to tell me?" - I said, no I didn't mind, but I wanted to know why she was asking as I am simply a Nairn-resident and a Council Tax payer who was pointing out that their clock is wrong. She then said she would pass on the message to the relevant people in Nairn.

I will probably take a drive out to the recycling centre this afternoon to see whether the information given me on the telephone is accurate, or whether that shown in the website is better. I'll be observing the Nairn clock-tower to see how long it takes Highland Council to 'get with the programme' and adjust the Nairn clock to show the correct time.

I'm left decidedly unimpressed by Highland Council.

PS/ I took a trip out to the Nairn Recycling Centre this afternoon, to prepare for a journey back there in a few days time with items for disposal, and as expected the timings shown in the Highland Council website are the ones to take notice of, not what I was told on the telephone this morning by the so-called 'service point':

UPDATE: (Friday 6NOV09 16.55 GMT) As the clock on Nairn Townhouse still shows the incorrect time (although perhaps my telephone message to the 'Nairn Service Point' yesterday hasn't yet reached the relevant person) I decided to try and make sure that my message would definitely reach the appropriate people by contacting Nairn Provost Liz MacDonald. Accordingly this afternoon I have sent her an email through the Highland Council website and, as her telephone number is also listed in the website, I took the opportunity to telephone her to let her know, in case she had not spotted the deficiency herself; in the event she had not. We had a brief, but very cordial, conversation and she confirmed she would let the relevant people know next week. Obviously nothing will happen this weekend, nor would I expect it to, but I do hope that during next week the clock will finally be brought into line with the current time in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

2nd UPDATE: (Monday 9NOV09 19.30 GMT) I just checked and the clock on Nairn Townhouse remains one hour ahead of the rest of country.

3rd UPDATE: (Monday 9NOV09 23.10 GMT) Graisg has just left a comment about the latest information appearing in this week's Nairnshire. It seems it may, for technical reasons, be some time before the Townhouse clock can be adjusted.

4th UPDATE: (Friday 13NOV09 02.15 GMT) The Nairn Townhouse clock was finally adjusted to the correct time yesterday. I was away from home for most of the day yesterday, so became aware of this development only late-ish in the evening and of course I've been watching the Glasgow North East by-election result for the Westminster seat - Labour won with a pretty healthy majority of 8,000+, so there's no real surprise, except perhaps to some SNP zealots (aka fantasists). If Labour hadn't won here then they really would have been finished, but there's still the hope/expectation that they'll be 'slaughtered' at the next GE. Anyway, well done to Highland Council for getting the clock adjusted, even if it was a mere(irony alert!) 18 days late.

Vladimir Horowitz - Rest in Peace

Twenty years ago today Vladimir Horowitz passed away; luckily we still have many recordings available to us of his superb and sometimes idiosyncratic piano performances.

Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz
1 October 1903 - 5 November 1989
~ Rest in Peace ~

Vladimir Horowitz plays "Träumerei" (Robert Schumann)
Moscow - April 1986

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Response to petition to Gordon Brown to resign

Some months ago I signed a petition at "" for the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to resign. This evening I received an email with his 'response'; just as with Prime Minister's Questions on a Wednnesday at midday, Brown almost never answers the questions he has been asked and he doesn't do any better with his response to the online petition, which has been signed by 72,234 people:

We received a petition asking:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to resign."

Details of Petition:
"There are many reasons why we might want Brown to resign, but rather than having lots of narrow petitions on this topic (most of which have been rejected), I wanted one for all of us."

Read the Government’s response
The Prime Minister is completely focussed on restoring the economy, getting people back to work and improving standards in public services. As the Prime Minister has consistently said, he is determined to build a stronger, fairer, better Britain for all.

Why can't he just go!?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Britain and the EU - and the "Lisbon Treaty" non-referendum

The UK was promised a referendum on the now-defunct "EU Constitutional Treaty" at the 2005 General Election by all the major UK political parties. Since then the "EU Constitutional Treaty" has been rejected by both France and the Netherlands in referenda and superseded by the "Lisbon Treaty" which is said by its fervent supporters to be something very different from the rejected constitutional treaty, but by everyone else is said to be almost the same and to copy more or less verbatim much of its text.

I remain, despite everything, a strong supporter of the UK remaining an active participant in the EU, but at the same time it sticks in my craw, in a major way, that the British people have been denied any say in whether we should have ratified the Lisbon Treaty or not. Today the 27th country, the Czech Republic, finally ratified the treaty so it will become law effective 1 December 2009. End of ... (as they say)

Tomorrow it is expected that David Cameron, Conservative leader, will announce what will be the formal reaction of his Party to this fait accompli by our sad excuse for a Government, the Labour Party and its Leader and our current Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In advance of this the Shadow Foreign Minister, William Hague, has said that with the Czech ratification and entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty that the campaign to have a referendum on the matter is no longer possible or relevant and that the Conservative wish to hold a referendum ended today:

"What has happened today means that it is no longer possible to have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

"We have campaigned for that referendum for many years, we believe passionately that there should have been a referendum so that the British people could be consulted.

"But now that the treaty is going to become European law and is going to enter into force, that means that a referendum can no longer prevent the creation of the President of the European Council, the loss of British national veto.

"These things will already have happened and a referendum cannot unwind them or prevent them - and that means that our campaign for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty therefore comes to an end today. We think that is a bad day for democracy.

"Gordon Brown and the Labour Party promised people a referendum at the last election and people have never been consulted in a referendum or a general election."

The actual Foreign Sectretary, David Milliband, is quoted as saying:

"So much for David Cameron's cast-iron guarantee to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

"But he is still not being honest with people. The fact is you can't simply opt out of treaty obligations because to do so you need the agreement of the 26 other member states.

"David Cameron's position on Europe is false and dangerous. He is willing to risk Britain's standing and the rights of British people because he is still not prepared to stand up to the right of his own party."

That's the "fait accompli" I referred to earlier.

We must wait to see what David Cameron comes up with tomorrow (in the "we won't let the matter lie there" strand), but meanwhile I have a few questions of my own.

Granted that this country generally observes the terms of commitments it enters into, unlike many of our fellow EU-members (who seem often to 'nuance' their legal commitments to suit their own convenience) what can realistically be done? I have a suggestion. A new Conservative government, assuming one is elected next year (as seems highly-probable), should simply declare it is withdrawing our ratification of the Lisbon Treaty pending a referendum of the British people. What, in practice, is the EU going to do about it? I would submit - nothing! Naturally, there would be a great deal of huffing and puffing, but beyond that very little. Are they going to send an army across the Channel to thwart the will of a newly-elected British government? I very much doubt it! And in any case, no country in Europe (other than the British or perhaps the French) would be capable of mounting an operation, and I don't think the French (who are nothing if not pragmatic), if push came to shove, would even consider participating in such an operation. I reiterate, I am basically strongly pro-EU (I am in no way a 'euro-sceptic'), but I just don't believe that if the British people decide they don't want to be, and won't be, bound by a treaty over which they have had no say, that anyone is going to take any practical measures to stop them/us. And I remind any sceptics that this country is one of the major net-contributors to the EU budget. In practical terms threats against us are just so much bluff. This country stood up, alone, against much stronger odds in 1940 so I do not see how or why anyone should be overly-concerned with what a bunch of pampered Brussels bureaucrats in 2009/2010 might come up with. Bring it on, I say!

I will observe with interest what my namesake David Cameron has to say tomorrow. I hope he will demonstrate the resolve and courage the situation requires.

The value of Boris

Some people find it easy to mock the 'faux-oaf' Boris Johnson (although in reality he is the very antithesis of what it is to be a fool), but the present London Mayor is probably a good man to have around in a crisis, as one Londoner found (who as it so happens says she did not vote for him, but no matter). Naturally Boris is refusing further comment on the matter, as in my experience is often the case when decisive action and innate courage are involved.