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

Friday, 29 January 2010

Gates Foundation pledges USD10bn over 10 years for vaccine research

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has today pledged to provide USD10bn over 10 years for vaccine research, in a speech at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. Amazing - and pretty wonderful, too. It is good to know that there are positive things going on the world.

I'm currently watching (as I have been since 9.30am) former Prime Minister Tony Blair give his evidence before the Chilcot Inquiry; I'm not so sure any of this exercise is particularly 'helpful', other than as a political 'point-scoring' exercise.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Hell becomes Paradise - memories of the Holocaust

I've just been watching a very moving testimony from one of the survivors of the Nazi Holocaust of WWII on BBC4. Told she was about to be shot, then told to return to the ghetto (which she had hitherto considered 'Hell' - one can only imagine the conditions she had already experienced there), this was instantly transformed into a 'Paradise'; the stark and calm way in which she expressed her feelings at the time was tremendously impressive. How thankful I am that I have never been faced with such Hellish (and I use the word advisedly) choices and experiences. The lady in question, Holocaust survivor Alice Sommer Herz, is now 106 years old, although the programme was filmed when she was 98 years old. This lady, still playing her piano wonderfully at age 98, is a living testimony that evil does not triumph.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Labour never worked, "Labour isn't working", Labour never will work!

Watch the latest amusing video-clip from Guido News (courtesy Guido Fawkes) with some harsh facts about the economic competency (not) of the Labour government. I knew all these facts already, indeed any person who is not a totally-blinkered Labour 'drone' cannot be unaware of them either in my view, but it still startles to see it all laid out quite so explicitly:

Thursday, 21 January 2010

"Brothers & Sisters" - new run starts tonight on More4

(Please see UPDATE at end)

I started watching Brothers & Sisters two or three years ago and quickly became 'addicted' to it - series 4 of the show is about to begin this evening on More4 at 9pm (with repeats at midnight, next Monday at 11.05pm and on Tuesday at 3am). It's great to see it is coming back!

In fact a couple of weeks ago, before this week's issue of Radio Times came out (geddit? - lol) I had already been searching around on YouTube for clips of the new series, which has already aired in the US, and there are quite a few to choose from, but I won't spoil it for other fans by including any of those here, but here's one of my favourite scenes from an earlier series, when Kevin (Matthew Rhys) goes down on one knee to propose to Scotty (Luke Macfarlane):

- I kind of knew already that Luke is Canadian, and a jolly attractive one, but it had inexplicably escaped my attention that Matthew is not American, but Welsh, until I read a preview of the show today in the Telegraph; according to the interview with both actors on which the preview is based, Luke said that Matthew is a very talented mimic and is able to pass himself off not only as American, but as several different kinds of Canadian, too, with their different regional accents, even down to specific hockey teams - perhaps there was a little hyperbole there? No matter, they are both talented actors and very 'pleasant on the eye'. Apart from this 'gay' interest, there are a lot of other talented and well-known actors in the show - Calista ('Sex in the City') Flockart, Sally Field as the 'mother hen' of the Walker clan, Rob Lowe as the [erstwhile] love-interest for the character played by Calista Flockart and Rachel Griffiths (who plays 'Sarah' - formerly of the equally-magical 'Six Feet Under').

Unlike 'Sex and the City', which I found wet in the extreme (sorry to its many fans out there!), I think Brothers & Sisters has a somewhat wider audience appeal. Of course everyone in the show, male and female, is attractive or charismatic and it deals with people in a comfortable middle-class setting, basically obsessing about themselves - although their finances have been on a roller-coaster at various times none of that sordid detail is allowed to get in the way too much of their fundamental narcissism. Basically it's a great deal closer to my life-experience than some other shows I might mention, if of course shallow. But I don't, frankly, want to see how people live on 'sink estates' in an entertainment show as I really don't have anything in common with the people they portray - I'm happy enough to watch shows featuring such realities in documentaries or 'reality' shows, but on my time off I want something easier to identify with - and which gay man would not want to identify with 'Kevin' or 'Scotty'? Sigh ...

PS/ I neither know, nor do I care, whether Luke Macfarlane and/or Matthew Rhys are 'gay' in real life, but I do think they play the roles assigned to them very well, whatever their personal circumstances - they are actors. No-one should confuse a TV show with real life.

UPDATE (Friday 14JAN2011 16.00 GMT) Series 5 will begin its run in the UK on Thursday 20 Janaury 2011 at 10pm on More4 - read more here.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

So inflation is kicking-off is it? Not a surprise given the idiotic policies of our Government!

Today it has been revealed that there has been an 'unexpected' rise in inflation. Unexpected by whom? Certainly not by me! And in my view this is merely the beginning of what will be a VERY difficult period, probably several years in length, when real values are going to be savagely eroded. I'd like to believe the underlying not-too-terrifying (i.e. a very different thing from being in any way 'optimistic') message which this Bloomberg article postulates, but I'm afraid I really don't.

As I have written here before, none of this is accidental - it is the whole purpose and and planned-for result of the mad policy of 'quantitative easing' that our mad Labour Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Excehquer and Government has been championning for the last 18 months or so as the coup de grâce to follow on from the reckless borrowing they have been indulging in since they came to power in 1997 to fund their redistributional policies and various kinds of credits in order too buy the loyalty of their increasing client state, not to mention the deliberate sabotaging of one of the soundest private pension industries in Europe and probably the world. This is the only way that individual and national debt can be reduced to less-dramatic proportions, given that neither Labour nor indeed the Conservatives seem prepared to confront the fact that public spending needs to be slashed much more severely than either is prepared publically to suggest is required, for fear of the electoral consequences one presumes. If you work for the 'State' the effects have been quite different - because, let's face it your salaries and pensions are paid by the taxes and skills of the productive part of the economy and if that part of the economy fails to keep up the payments, well then the 'State' has the law and all that backs it up on its side to force the issue. Private sector pensions have mostly been destroyed for anyone under 50 and for many over that age and nearing retirement age the effects of Labour's spiteful policies have either left them with a heavily-reduced pension or none at all. In contrast, this April Basic State pensions are likely to increase by about 2.5 per cent (just in time for the General Election), whereas anyone receiving a pension not from the public payroll is likely to receive (to borrow a phrase from our illustrious [not] Prime Minister) a "0 per cent increase", if they are lucky - some will probably be awarded a 'negative increase' - boom, boom! See, I haven't lost my sense of humour entirely, even if it is of the gallows variety!

Well, now the chickens are beginning to come home to roost.

Naturally enough politicians from the Labour Party (and shamingly from the Conservative Party too) will be attempting to promise the majority of the electorate that they will be 'protected'. Stuff and nonsense.; Inflation is going to destroy a lot of lives in the next decade, just as it did in the 1960s and 1970s. And just who do you think caused the problem then? Why Labour of course, which was in power for most of those two decades (1963-1970 and 1974-1979)!

It's going to take a Conservative government many years (assuming they are elected in May/June this year) to begin to sort the problem out, but the folly and myopia of the British electorate must never be underestimated. It took the Thatcher/Major governments almost 20 years to put the UK economy back on a sound footing and it was painful and ended up by leaving them deeply unpopular amongst a majority of British people, who fell for the old Labour lies once more and elected them in 1997, since when Labour has succeeded only in reversing, in spades, most of the gains the Conservatives had so painfully coaxed the British public into accepting.

It gives me no pleasure at all, indeed I am filled with considerable apprehension, when I write - I told you so!

For perspective, a few articles from this blog from the past few years:

18 June 2005 - We're all doomed ... at least potentially ... no, seriously!
16 August 2007 - Investment markets - to stay in or to sell...
16 July 2008 - The financial 'crisis' - to blog or not to blog
16 September 2008 - Bill's off again ... back to Spain (the title is relevant, trust me!)
30 October 2008 - What's really going on in the economy
10 November 2008 - Interest rates cut. Tax to be cut? Borrowing to go up?
15 December 2008 - Far from alone
28 February 2009 - The inflationary bubble that is being constructed
2 April 2009 - G20 result in summary - 'global quantitative easing'
1 July 2009 - Mr Gordon "0% increase" Brown
8 September 2009 - Labour forced to come clean over budget deficits

Friday, 15 January 2010

Batteries, watches and other matters

Am I very unusual? I happen to have four or five 'good' watches (most powered by batteries, a couple powered the good old-fashioned 'clockwork' way), plus roughly a dozen or so other watches of the Swatch brand (mostly powered by battery, but several are self-winding, powered by the motion of the body whilst they are being worn). I tend to wear my 'best' watch only very occasionally, partly because it is a little 'flash', but mainly because whilst the case and strap is largely gold there are a few stainless steel alloy links in the strap which contain nickel (apparently) and as a sufferer from eczema (*), I prefer to limit skin-contact with this metal.

One of the principal reasons I like Swatch watches is that most have plastic straps and bodies and I started to wear them around 25-30 years ago when I lived in the Middle East because the plastic straps were more comfortable in extremely hot and humid climates than metal straps (whether precious or base metal) or leather straps. The other main reason for liking Swatch watches is that I can match the colour/style of watch to the outfit I'm wearing on a particular day.

It's amazing, though, how many different sizes of cell batteries various gadgets use - watches, remote controls for hi-fi, car or garage openers etc. Ony a few seem to be available in local stores. A few of my Swatch watches have been out of action for several years because I couldn't seem to get a hold of the correct replacement batteries and local jewellery stores didn't stock the correct batteries either. My current car (as did the last few) has automatic door-unlocking and no-key engine start, based on a battery-powered remote-operator and one of the remote-operators (you get given two with the new car) needed a new battery, which I was unable to find locally. On Wednesday afternoon I went into the local franchised dealer in Inverness, but they did not have one immediately available either - but they said they would have in 30 minutes (presumably from someplace else in Inverness); I couldn't wait because in this weather I wanted to be back in Nairn before dark. So when I got home I thought to myself, I've got at least a half dozen watches which don't work any more because I need several different kinds of batteries and haven't been able to find them locally either and now I've got this car remote control which uses a less-common cell battery (it's easy enough to find CR2025 or CR2032 batteries, which I need for several different gadgets). Could I solve all these problems in a '1er'? Indeed I could - a little research on Amazon (aided by the magical Google) resolved all my difficulties. Amazing! I ordered everything I wanted, 7 different kinds of cell battery (mostly single units, a couple where two were required and one for which I required four batteries), late on Wednesday night through Amazon and 5 types of those batteries arrived today (Friday) from three different suppliers. Pretty amazing, I'd say! I await the two remaining types of battery, plus a larger RAM card for one of my laptops - and Amazon have advised that these are already despatched too, so no doubt they'll be here either tomorrow or early next week. The moral of this story is that I will never waste time hunting around locally for unusual cell batteries in future - I'll cut through all that nonsense and go straight to Amazon. And it works out much cheaper too - the batteries themselves are a lot cheaper than local outlets sell them for, for the few kinds one can find here, and at present Amazon seem to be sending everything post-free for 'normal' delivery - and I think barely 36 hours from the South of England and the English Midlands (Enfield, Birmingham, and Lincoln respectively for the three deliveries so far) is not bad at all!

(*) I first began to suffer from eczema about 18 years ago when I lived in Vietnam and for the first 15 months there lived in an hotel which was basically very good, but I suspect they used Russian or Vietnamese detergent to launder bed-linen and all my clothes and after about 6 months there I began to notice the problem - luckily a locally-based French doctor I was told to go to by the medical insurance company we used (and from whom the company I worked for obtained a 'doctor bag' for me containing all sorts of drugs and medications not easily-sourced in Vietnam, for use in emergencies) told me which item from the 'doctor bag' I should use until my next trip to Singapore or Thailand where I could get additional supplies. Since then eczema has been a recurrent problem for me which requires topical treatment whenever it flares up.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

ECHR judgement against UK government on Terrorism Act 2000 s44 'stop and search' abuses

Where would we be without the excellent Spy Blog which does it usual sterling job of highlighting the failings (and the malign policies) of our current shambles of a government - shambolic and authoritarian to boot!

As Spy Blog correctly mentions (as I have pointed out here and in comments elsewhere many times over the years) the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is NOT a body within the EU (the European Court of Justice fulfils that role). The ECHR has ruled against the UK government for its systematic abuse of human rights by its use of the Section 44 'stop and search' provisions of the Terrorism Act 2000 without reasonable cause and is thus in contravention of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The abuse has occurred against photographers, tourists, trainspotters and, amazingly, Members of Parliament.

Will our government pay a blind bit of notice to this ruling (any more than it has to the ruling about the retention of the DNA samples of innocent people, which it lost over a year ago)? We badly need an election to rid ourselves of our dictatorial and, I don't believe I am being in any way melodramatic when I add 'proto-fascist' government, with its [unfortunately rather successful] efforts to turn the UK into a Police State.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Lots of holes in the internet today - or is it just me?

(Please see UPDATE at end)

I've been noticing lots of gaps in the internet today, some involving sites I operate, others involving sites I visit regularly. There was no problem last evening, but since this morning and until now the whole system seems to be decidedly patchy. The only recent news story I can find about this is here. If even major users like have their domain registration in the US and have been cyber-attacked, then people like me who host in Canada with domain registrations in the US may also be affected indirectly - or at least this is what I surmise.

Does anyone have more definite information to offer about what is going on?

UPDATE: (Wednesday 13JAN10 23.55 GMT) Pleasingly I resolved this problem earlier today with the useful suggestion of the hosting company of one of the websites I operate - that I power down my broadband router then power it back up. I have got into the habit of leaving my router switched on 24/7 and this has apparently caused its internal cache memory to become clogged; although there was briefly a more general internet problem yesterday it seems that my problem was unrelated to this. A lesson well-learned for the future - not to leave my router switched on for lengthy periods when I have no immediate need for a broadband link.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Iris Robinson - says it all really!

PS/ Personally it bothers me not in the least that Iris Robinson had an affair with a young man 40 years her junior; both were adults and NO laws were broken in this regard. Good luck to both of them. On the other hand the lady is an unmitigated hypocrite because her own personal beliefs certainly would not condone her 'adultery'. As for the rest, her homophobia, well her personal beliefs are hers and she has the right to hold them - except that her being a legislator (as an MP and an MLA) does concern me a great deal. Then there's her financial probity, or more correctly her lack of it - that I do take GREAT exception to.

Hope she gets better soon ... then she can serve her prison sentence, which is certainly something she deserves.

What are the odds, do you think ...

... that Peter Robinson will return to his role as First Minister of Northern Ireland after six weeks, as stated in his 'standing aside' statement today? Anyone's guess, I suppose, but I tend to believe it's not a completely foregone conclusion. Let's see where we are on 22 February 2010, shall we?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Iris Robinson and the NI political fallout

I had begun to prepare a lengthy article about the recent 'revelations' relating to Iris Robinson, MP MLA and her financial and personal arrangements several days ago. However, I have decided to hold that article in abeyance for the present.

Basically, and not to put to fine a point on it, even though I have no religious faith and certainly do not consider myself a 'Christian', whatever else I may be, I prefer to show more sensitivity and understanding at this difficult personal juncture for Iris Robinson and her husband Peter, currently First Minister of Northern Ireland, than she and some of her co-religionists have shown toward the 'gay community' of which I am a part. I have grown quite tired of hearing over the years the excuses of and for religiously-motivated bigots such as Iris Robinson toward homosexuals and others whom she considers morally deviant, and she is merely the latest in a lengthening number of such people whose own moral failings, according to their own standards, both in the UK and in the US, have been brought by their own behaviour into the public domain, not to mention in this case her own apparent flouting of the law in regard to matters of financial probity.

However, because I do have some human decency, unlike these odious hypocrites, I am not going to write more at this time. I hope very sincerely that the psychiatric treatment that Iris Robinson is said to be undergoing at this time has positive results for her and that she will recover her mental stability in the course of time.

If there are major constitutional developments in Northern Ireland flowing from this in coming days/weeks as seems at present to be a distinct possibility then I will obviously have to write about it, but will endeavour to do so in as sensitive a manner as I can - because I am a decent person, unlike Iris Robinson and those who think like her.

More pledges of support and loyalty for Brown ...

... Err, no, not exactly.

Peter Watt (former Labour General Secretary) in tomorrow's Mail on Sunday here: 'said Mr Brown was not fit to be Prime Minister, had reduced No 10 to a shambles and was derided even by some of his closest Cabinet allies'.

More in the Mail on Sunday here: referring to remarks made to him by Douglas Alexander, supposedly one of Gordon Brown's most loyal political allies -

‘The truth is, Peter, we have spent ten years working with this guy, and we don’t actually like him.

'We have always thought that the longer the British public had to get to know him, the less they would like him as well.'

Charming, eh? Pity they couldn't have voiced these feelings before their Party saddled the country with such an unmitigated disaster for a Prime Minister, without even bothering to elect him as their Leader, but allowing him to succeed to the top job by default!!!

Watt is not finished with his revelations, however, referring to further remarks made by Douglas Alexander, who is quoted as saying:

‘You’d imagine that after ten years of waiting for this, and ten years complaining about Tony, we would have some idea of what we are going to do but we don’t seem to have any policies. For God’s sake, Harriet’s helping write the manifesto!’

The rest of the article is equally extraordinary, specially the bit about the future US Ambassador and his wife and other American guests and the 'hospitality' they received at Brown's table. Utterly bizarre, assuming it's all true - I put that last bit in because I can hardly believe it can be true, but it sounds just too extraordniary that it's all complete made-up fiction - it's a major diplomatic gaffe even to mention it and the Ambassador can hardly confirm or deny it publicly. Read the whole thing - it is just too bizarre, and grubby!

When in the name of God (if there is one) will the embarrassment that is our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, go?! Enough!!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The sincerest (if perhaps underhand) form of flattery ...

... is to confuse buyers into supposing that your product comes from a nation that has proved very successful in producing a very satisfactory product you once thought yourselves uniquely qualified to manufacture. Or, how a French wine sought, subliminally, to pass itself of as a New Zealand produced wine. Sound far-fetched?

Well, click here to read about how Loire Valley-based firm Lacheteau labelled one of its wines as something called "Kiwi Cuvee", mainly destined for export to wine consumers in the UK who, in recent years, have becoome very partial to New World wines, largely because of their consistency and relatively modest cost, when compared with the traditionally superior, but somewhat 'mercurial', wines from France at whatever price level, apart perhaps from those at the very top of the price-tree. Problems arose when the French firm tried to register its product in Australia, outside of the political control of the European Union, and the New Zealand Winemakers Association objected to the registration.

A little bit of internet searching turned up this pretty conclusive 'evidence' from French website

André Lacheteau, négociant en Val de Loire
André Lacheteau, négoce Lacheteau SA à Doué-La-Fontaine (49), est Président de l'AFED (Association française des négociants-éleveurs embouteilleurs distributeurs).

Interview de André Lacheteau

Comment analysez-vous les difficultés actuelles des vins français sur le marché export ?
Tout d’abord, il n’y a pas un marché, mais des marchés du vin. Je crois surtout que le système des Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées manque de crédibilité pour le cœur de gamme. Normalement, ce devrait être des vins de terroir difficilement reproductibles ailleurs. Or, depuis trente ans, il s’est produit une déviation sur les génériques. Les Bordeaux et Côtes du Rhône proviennent d’assemblages de différents terroirs et n’ont pas, au final, les caractéristiques d’un produit inimitable. Il faut donc trouver un statut à ces vins de cœur de marché, afin qu’ils aient des règles de production comme les vins de pays et les vins de cépages. Il est nécessaire d’assouplir la réglementation et les pratiques œnologiques, pour pouvoir lutter à armes égales avec nos compétiteurs étrangers. Sur le plan des copeaux par exemple, je suis favorable à ce qu’ils soient autorisés pour les vins autres qu’AOC. Une réglementation sur l’étiquetage devrait bientôt voir le jour… Pourquoi ne pas en profiter pour libéraliser la réglementation sur les vins de pays et de cépages ?

Vous parlez d’une offre française atomisée et de restructurer les entreprises commerciales…
En effet. Le regroupement des moyens de commercialisation est indispensable. Il faut des aides pour améliorer le marketing et rassembler les multiples petites structures qui "polluent" le marché export. Pourquoi ne pas les réunir au sein d’une grande entreprise ? Cela permettrait d’éclaircir l’offre.

Comment, en Val de Loire, envisagez-vous de surmonter cette crise ?
En Val de Loire, on ne ressent pas trop la crise viticole. Hormis sur le gamay, qui souffre du même mal que les vins de table français… Mais correspond-il au goût d’aujourd’hui ? Ne faudrait-il pas planter du cabernet sauvignon ? Les vins blancs et rosés marchent mieux que les rouges, en ce moment. Nous venons de créer une "Kiwi Cuvée" à destination de la Grande-Bretagne. Ce VDP du Jardin de la France, sauvignon, est un complet succès, alors que le marché du sauvignon est assez tendu. L’idée marketing y est pour beaucoup. Son nom a d’ailleurs provoqué un article polémique dans le Financial Times… Mais est ce qu’une certaine viticulture est aujourd’hui capable de faire ces produits destinés à l’export ? En fait, il y a beaucoup d’apporteurs de raisins au négoce. Il faut donc favoriser les contrats et la sécurisation des approvisionnements pour les négociants. Si les viticulteurs vendaient du moût plutôt qu’un produit fini, cela règlerait aussi le problème de la qualité. Car un des drames actuels de la viticulture française est que les producteurs élaborent des vins dont personne ne veut !

- It is of course a very logical and sensible strategy to try to match the product with the tastes of today's consumer. And the strategy of using a name such as 'Kiwi' in the UK market is perhaps understandable, given this country's close emotional and historic ties with New Zealand.

The big irony for me in this whole affair is the focus on the word 'Kiwi' which is, of course, in the minds of many, synonymous with New Zealand. Hitstorically the name referred to the Kiwi, the smallest living ratite and a national symbol of New Zealand, being native to that country. In addition, which British child, and indeed those in many other countries throughout the world, hasn't grown up knowing the name Kiwi shoe polish a product originally developed in Australia (not New Zealand), but given this name by its Australian 'inventor' to honour the home country of his wife. The even bigger irony is that the ubiquitous 'Kiwi fruit', probably the product which most of today's younger people are most familiar with which uses that name and which is commonly-supposed to have some connection with New Zealand, in fact has absolutely no historic connnection with that country except that it was brought there from China by an evangelist preacher. For marketing purposes in the 1950s the original names 'macaque peach', 'melonette' or worse still 'Chinese gooseberry' were not considered suitable, so the completely fictitious name of 'kiwifruit' was coined and is now used worldwide. So the largely-unknown to most people Kiwi bird, genuinely of New Zealland origin, and the much more widely-known 'kiwifruit', which has absolutely no more to do with New Zealand than I do, is being used to to justify a court-ruling in a case brought in Australia by New Zealand interests, with Australia being the home of another false-usage of the name 'Kiwi'. It's about as logical as the case in Scotland many years ago when a cafe-owner by the name of 'McDonald' was taken to court, and lost, in a case brought by the ubiquitous American fast-food firm 'McDonalds', originally started by two US-based brothers called McDonalds, but who sold the firm to a marketing genius called Ray Kroc in 1955; try as I might I have been unable to find out much about the antecedents of Mr Kroc, but I think it safe to say it is unlikely they were Scottish - lol.

The point of all this? What it boils down to is the commercial importance of names in marketing and the perceived need to protect certain names used to sell products, irrespective of the underlying qualities of the products being peddled. In this case the name 'Kiwi' has been found unexceptional in France's back yard, the rest of the EU, but has been black-balled in another spehere of influence on the other side of the planet. Who has 'right' on their side in this case is entirely a metter of perspective; for myself I have no real opinion to offer. I'm sure the wine itself is pleasant enough to drink, but that seems to have been completely side-lined in this particular dispute.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Beauly-Denny power transmission line set to be approved

According to a late-story on the BBC website, the new power transmission line from Beauly (west of Inverness) to Denny (a little north of Glasgow) is about to be approved by the Scottish Executive (aka 'Scottish Government'). No-one who has read much of my blog-'witterings' can possibly confuse me as a natural supporter of anything done by our 'devolved' Scottish administration, far less as a natural supporter of much of anything done by the SNP, the current ruling political party in Scotland, but I am hopeful that this report is true, just as I was similarly pleased a couple of weeks ago that a positive decision was taken by the Scottish Executive (aka 'Scottish Government') to approve a Sainsbury's supermarket in Nairn.

Important as the Nairn decision is for people in my immediate area, it pales into insignificance when compared with the major project which is the Beauly-Denny power transmission line, designed to transfer major quantities of wind-generated energy from the Outer Hebrides (via an underwater cable under the Minch and a series of huge transmission pylons overland on mainland Scotland) to the heavily-populated Central Belt of Scotland. So a few 'Bollywood' films may no longer go ahead, or at least not be filmed on location in Scotland, because some of the panoramic views may be changed (I don't personally accept they will be 'spoiled' in any way, although it is undeninable they will be altered), but I think the availability of additional effectively-inexhaustible electrical energy is of vastly more importance in the longer-term for both the Scottish and wider UK economy, given the rapid depletion of our North Sea gas and oil reserves. Anything which can reduce our dependence upon imported energy (particularly from countries such as Russia, likely to use every opportunity it can to subject us to both political and economic pressure because of the abundance of its energy resources) is to be welcomed - we have seen in the past few years how ruthless that country is when it thinks it can use the threat of with-holding energy from countries it can dominate, to make it imperative that we reduce as much as possible falling into the same dilemma. Quite apart from this, both energy and food supplies (neither of which we have had to worry over-much about in most of Europe and other 'advanced' countries for many decades) are going to become much more critical factors for most of humanity in coming years. Do we want to return to some kind of pre-industrial agrarian society, which is probably capable of supporting only a much lower level of population than currently exists? And what is to happen to those who can no longer be supported, a question the 'green lobby' is always highly-reluctant to answer, or even admit is the inevitable consequence of the policies advocated? My experience is that the vast majority of such people are 'middle class', members of the 'bourgeoisie' (just as I am), unlikely mostly to be faced with the harsh choices that those in lower income bands, whether in this country or in most of the rest of the world, are daily faced with - or at least have been faced with in most of our lifetimes.

I do not believe in an apocalyptic doom-laden future, but I do believe we will all be called upon, specially in the currently wealthy Western world, to make some uncomfortable choices in coming years; for a lot of people like me this may involve (unfortunately) a reduction in the level of my animal protein intake (i.e. meat), although I accept that many others will be faced with much harsher choices. Whatever, there is probably going to be more competition for energy and food resources, specially from the BRIC countries, and unless we want all to freeze or starve to death in our northern temperate climates, or be forced into a drastic reduction of population, projects which may help us to retain our energy independence are vital.

I look forward to hearing confirmation very soon that the report that the Beauly-Denny power transmission line is definitely approved to go forward is true.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Nairn today - looking out at a bleak scene, luckily I'm cosily inside

The view from my apartment around lunch-time today. The soundtrack in the background by the way is the BBC Scotland lunch-time news on BBC1.

Looking out to sea through the blizzard - it looks bleak and wild

Panning across from the harbour and the cricket pitch with the A96 and Marine Road just visible in the gloom

Panning back from Marine Road to the harbour and sea

- definitely a day when it is much better to be indoors if you possibly can. The cricket pitch looks just like an ice-rink at present and the side-streets looks pretty treacherous, too. Brrrrrr!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Spain's economic bind succinctly outlined

See my article in my other blog 'casabill- the blog' here; Edward Hugh's interview with Paul Krugman covers more than just Spain and I think is interesting for anyone interested in the current economic recession or in the future of the Euro, in particular.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

What a blessing this deplorable, awful excuse for a human being is standing down from Parliament!

I've never particularly cared for Ann Widdecombe, nor indeed for the object of her 'affection', Michael Howard, but I was shocked at the vile nature of this revealing insight into this despicable woman's character. And she calls herself a 'Christian'?! And she seems pleased with herself, too. Words fail me. Awful, awful awful! What a dreadful, spiteful creature she reveals herself to be. And in my opinion a pretty blatant anti-Semite, too (mind you I came to that conclusion about her use of the phrase 'something of the night' a LONG time ago - she knew precisely what she was about then, as her recent admission about her tactics shows quite clearly).

I rarely get angry about the behaviour of others supposedly a part of normal respectable society (I'm not entirely pure in thought or deed myself, after all), but I do feel depressed when I learn that I must share the same country, or even the same planet [frankly] as such disgusting creatures as this person. Mr Howard is, I think, basically a decent person, even if I certainly don't share all of his views. A lot of people don't care for Margaret Thatcher either (I think she is one of our greatest 20th century politicians, 'warts and all'), but I'd stake my life that her ethics, indeed those of most British politicians of whichever political persuasion, are a whole lot more palatable than those of the soon-to-be ex-MP, Miss Ann Widdecombe.

Friday, 1 January 2010