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

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Will he stay or will he go? Miliband D answers at last.

David Miliband has told his brother [Red]Ed that he is bowing out of 'front-line' politics to give him maximum chance of success without any inference that there might be dissention between them over any issue (and one can be pretty certain that there ARE significant differences between them on some matters - his reaction to Ed's speech yesterday was less than cordial at some points). A cynical person might say David is leaving Ed to 'stew in his own [even more left-wing] juice'.

David Miliband's record in politics is somewhat cruelly summed-up here; when he had the chance to topple the premiership of the walking-disaster that was Gordon Brown he flunked it. The nicest thing I can think of to say about him is that perhaps he is just not tough enough for the rough-and-tumble of front-line politics; I hope he finds something to do that will make better use of whatever his talents may be.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Claymore Dairies, Nairn, to be acquired by Graham's

(Please see UPDATE at end)

It seems the longer-term future of Nairn's largest employer, Claymore Dairies, has been secured with the acquisition agreement for the business to be taken over by Graham's Dairies of Bridge of Allan. Graham's is a major supplier of dairy products to many large supermarkets and perhaps not uncoincidentally has Sainsbury's as its largest customer (the supermarket chain planning to open its first Highlands outlet in Nairn next year). This sounds as if it is a very positive step for Nairn and Claymore Dairies.

UPDATE (Monday 29JAN2012 14.23 GMT) Please see my later article dated 26 January 2012 titled Graham's Dairies profits plummet.

2nd UPDATE (Friday 11MAY2012 10.30 CET) Graham's Dairies downgrades Nairn plant to distribution unit - I've written about this latest development here.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Verbiage blocks road

It is reported that almost 15 tonnes of journalist Andrew Marr's book, 'The Making of Modern Britain', have been spilled when a truck 'came off the A4 Bath Road in Theale, Berkshire, late on Tuesday night spilling boxes of the books'. As the linked BBC article comments: The book is said to "paint a fascinating portrait of life in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century as the country recovered from the grand wreckage of the British Empire". Now folks, do you think this is a publicity stunt by agents for Mr Marr in an effort to improve sales of the book? Fortunately the driver was unhurt.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Blogrolls - work in hand

Because of problems with the code used to embed my blogrolls (resulting apparently from problems experienced on some browsers with using links to the blogroll host company) I am having to migrate all my blogrolls to a new host. There is quite a lot of work involved so it will take me some time to complete it. I hope to get my blogrolls up and functioning again within the next couple of weeks - I'll do a follow-up post when the work is done.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Taking heed of media pundits' opinions on any topic at all is a dodgy practice

I've held the view for quite a few years that paying too much atention to "media pundits" (amongst others journalists, comedians, television presenters, etc) when they expound on matters well-beyond their chosen method of earning a living or 'supposed expertise' is an unwise course of action. Indeed I've occasionally written about this phenomenon in my blog.

Today in The Sunday Telegraph, the affable Terry Wogan serves up his views on this very topic, so on the surface I should not have too much to quibble at, were it not for the irony that Terry Wogan is himself a 'much-loved' (by many, if the tabloid press and televised media is a guide) media-pundit expressing his views [or more accurately 'prejudices'] on topics which those outside his family and friends have no obligation to take any notice of, unless they stand up to intellectual rigour - which in this case I don't think they do. Today the object of his criticism (if one may dignify his naked polemic with that word) is his fellow generally equally-affable media-pundit Stephen Fry. Wogan is rather oblique in what is in reality a feeble side-swipe at the opinions expressed by Fry on the merits of Pope Benedict XVI being invited to perform a 'State Visit' to this country:

"Try telling that to Stephen Fry, who, this week, has joined a multi-skilled band of protestors to object to the Pope's visit being treated as a State occasion. Fry's opinions on anything and everything are positively revered, in a way that those of, say, Michael Winner, never can be."

Now, apart from the fact that Wogan offers no basis for his dismissal of the views of Fry other than that he thinks they are not worthy of attention, I'm not sure I agree with dear Terry on his analysis of the relative levels of influence accorded to the views of Fry or Winner, or indeed those of Wogan himself. I disagree with some of the opinions expressed by Fry of course, but Wogan's not-so-subtle attempt to belittle the highly-justified criticism of the 'State Visit' granted to the leader of what is merely a religious cult [the Roman Catholic Church currently led by Pope Benedict XVI] expressed by many people (me included) as being the mere parrotting of opinions formed by 'media-pundits' such as Fry is laughable, any more than those who may take a contrary view might like to be told by a smug media-pundit such as Wogan that their views have been influenced by what he writes - although of course I hesitate to surmise how anyone else's opinions are formed.

My final question on Terry Wogan's article is this: Why doesn't he come out and say what he really thinks, rather than trying to couch his criticism of the opinions advanced by Stephen Fry in such 'mealy-mouthed' terms? Frankly his seeming blandness does not fool me or I suspect anyone else.

To be clear, I have no idea what Wogan thinks about 'homosexuality', nor do I accuse him of thinking any specifically 'negative' thoughts about that topic in general. However, as a mere 'media-pundit' himself I don't think his views merit any more attention than those of Stephen Fry (or Christina Odone or Richard Dawkins, to mention just two), except that he is of course free to express his views as an indiviual, just as I am, but they have no other special validity.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Protest The Pope - Day 2

Another excellent article in the series from the Made in Scotland blog here, to mark the second day of the 'State Visit' of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK.

Need a reason to protest the Pope - aside from the child-abuse excuse?

Reason #3 - he actively promotes discrimination, seeing homosexuality as "an intrinsic moral evil".

Read more here.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Protest The Pope - Day 1

Another excellent article from the Made in Scotland blog here, to mark the first day of the 'State Visit' of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK.

Need a reason to protest the Pope?

Reason #2 - he spreads HIV/AIDS.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Protest the Pope - the day before

(Please see the UPDATE at the end of this article)

Ever since this blog began in April 2002 (the article
THE VATICAN RESPONSE TO PRIESTLY PAEDOPHILIA appeared here on 29 April 2002 and an earlier article The Sickness at the Heart of the Catholic Church appeared on 20 March 2002 in the comment area of my main website, before I began this blog), I have been writing about the scandal of paedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church and the efforts of the Church hierarchy to cover-up the criminal behaviour of a very significant number of its paid agents (priest and other clerics) in many of the countries in which this 'cult' operates. The Church protests that it has now changed its ways and perhaps it has, to a very limited extent, but if so this change is solely the result of the draconian financial penalties that have been imposed upon it by the civil authorities in particular in the US. But I remain to be convinced that the ethos of the Church has changed fundamentally whenever it thinks it can 'get away with it'. The Roman Catholic Church remains basically an international criminal conspiracy in my view.

Of course paedophilia is only one of the Roman Catholic Church's faults (far too mild a word of course); amongst a litany of evil doctrines, high in the list of 'also-rans' must come the Church's policy of forbidding contraception, even in countries where the transmission of HIV/AIDS is endemic, or of forbidding abortion even in the case of rape (child or adult). It is totally sickening. The leader of this sick institution, Pope Benedict XVI, begins a State Visit to the UK tomorrow so as a Head of State he will be afforded much more respect and consideration than he has any right to expect or deserve. Why was he ever invited?

To commemorate this shameful episode, I am reproducing the whole article which appears today in the blog Made in Scotland; he lives in London so will perhaps be able to attend the 'Protest the Pope' demonstration and march there on Saturday 18 March 2010, but even though I cannot do so I am with the protesters in spirit:


Pope Benedict XVI begins his four-day Papal state visit to the UK tomorrow.

Need a reason to protest the Pope?

Reason #1 - the international criminal conspiracy to cover up for mass child rape.

From Saturday's Guardian.

The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuses by Geoffrey Robertson
(Terry Eagleton welcomes a coolly devastating inquiry into the Vatican's handling of child abuse)

The first child sex scandal in the Catholic church took place in AD153, long before there was a "gay culture" or Jewish journalists for bishops to blame it on. By the 1960s, the problem had become so dire that a cleric responsible for the care of "erring" priests wrote to the Vatican suggesting that it acquire a Caribbean island to put them on.

What has made a bad situation worse, as the eminent QC Geoffrey Robertson argues in this coolly devastating inquiry, is canon law – the church's own arcane, highly secretive legal system, which deals with alleged child abusers in a dismayingly mild manner rather than handing them over to the police. Its "penalties" for raping children include such draconian measures as warnings, rebukes, extra prayers, counselling and a few months on retreat. It is even possible to interpret canon law as claiming that a valid defence for paedophile offences is paedophilia. Since child abusers are supposedly incapable of controlling their sexual urges, this can be used in their defence. It is rather like pleading not guilty to stealing from Tesco's on the grounds that one is a shoplifter. One blindingly simple reason for the huge amount of child abuse in the Catholic church (on one estimate, up to 9% of clerics are implicated) is that the perpetrators know they will almost certainly get away with it.

For almost a quarter of a century, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man who is now Pope, was in supreme command of this parallel system of justice – a system deliberately hidden from the public, police and parliaments and run, so Robertson maintains, in defiance of international law. Those who imagine that the Vatican has recently agreed to cooperate with the police, he points out, have simply fallen for one of its cynical public relations exercises. In the so-called "New Norms" published by Pope Benedict this year, there is still no instruction to report suspected offenders to the civil authorities, and attempting to ordain a woman is deemed to be as serious an offence as sodomising a child. There have, however, been some changes: victims of child abuse are now allowed to report the matter up to the age of 38 rather than 28. If you happen to be 39, that's just tough luck. As Robertson wryly comments, Jesus declares that child molesters deserve to be drowned in the depths of the sea, not hidden in the depths of the Holy See.

How can Ratzinger get away with it? One mightily important reason, examined in detail in this book, is because he is supposedly a head of state. The Vatican describes itself on its website as an "absolute monarchy", which means that the Pope is immune from being sued or prosecuted. It also means that as the only body in the world with "non-member state" status at the UN, the Catholic church has a global platform for pursuing its goals of diminishing women, demonising homosexuals, obstructing the use of condoms to prevent Aids and refusing to allow abortion even to save the life of the mother. For these purposes, it is sometimes to be found in unholy alliance with states such as Libya and Iran. Neither is it slow to use veiled threats of excommunication to bend Catholic politicians throughout the world to its will. If Pope Benedict were to air some of his troglodytic views with full public force, Robertson suggests, the Home Office would have been forced to refuse him entry into Britain.

In fact, he argues, the Vatican's claim to statehood is bogus. It dates from a treaty established between Mussolini and the Holy See, which Robertson believes has no basis in international law. The Vatican has no permanent population, which is a legal requirement of being a state. In fact, since almost all its inhabitants are celibate, it cannot propagate citizens at all other than by unfortunate accident. It is not really a territory, has no jurisdiction over crimes committed in its precincts and depends for all its essential services on the neighbouring nation of Italy. Nor does it field a team in the World Cup, surely the most convincing sign of its phoniness.

"Petty gossip" is how the Pope has described irrefutable evidence of serious crimes. His time as the Vatican official in charge of overseeing priestly discipline was the period when, in Robertson's furiously eloquent words, "tens of thousands of children were bewitched, buggered and bewildered by Catholic priests whilst [Ratzinger's] attention was fixated on 'evil' homosexuals, sinful divorcees, deviate liberation theologians, planners of families and wearers of condoms".

Can he be brought to book for this? As a widespread and systematic practice, clerical sexual abuse could be considered a crime against humanity, such crimes not being confined to times of war; and though Ratzinger may claim immunity as a head of state, he is also a German citizen. The book comes to no firm conclusion here, but the possibility of convicting the supreme pontiff of aiding and abetting the international crime of systemic child abuse seems not out of the question. The Vatican, in any case, is unlikely to escape such a fate by arguing, as it has done already, that the relations between the Pope and his bishops are of such unfathomable theological complexity that no mere human court could ever hope to grasp them.

This is a book that combines moral passion with steely forensic precision, enlivened with the odd flash of dry wit. With admirable judiciousness, it even finds it in its heart to praise the charitable work of the Catholic church, as well as reminding us that paedophiles (whom Robertson has defended in court) can be kindly men. It is one of the most formidable demolition jobs one could imagine on a man who has done more to discredit the cause of religion than Rasputin and Pat Robertson put together.


UPDATE (Friday 17SEP2010 16.45 BST) Commenter James Higham below has, subsequent to his somewhat ironic and 'smiling' comment here, written a very cowardly article in which he refers to me in the most unpleasant terms - because I believe in being open and honest in what I write and believe - unlike the weasel James Higham - I am linking to his article so that anyone inclined may read his rancid thoughts, although my own view is that two-faced bigots like Mr Higham deserve scant attention.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Those aircraft carriers and 'Scottish jobs'

Do we in the UK require new aircraft carriers for our future defence needs? I confess I am totally unable to express an educated view on this topic or whether the current design is adequate should we indeed have a need for such maritime military platforms. I understand however that the Ministry of Defence is carrying out a strategic review designed to evaluate such matters - this is as it should be. Into the mix is probably being fed the country's current economic situation and whether the financial strains we are experiencing permit us the 'luxury' of these new ships. Of course defence is not a 'luxury' at all and if it is decided that this equipment is necessary, perhaps even vital to the country's security, then considerable sacrifices would certainly be necessary to ensure we can procure them.

However, what I am absolutely clear about is that the construction of aircraft carriers or any other military equipment is not primarily about prviding jobs in one part of the country or another. If we need it for our own national requirements, then that is of course a very different matter. It may be too that some military equipment produced in this country is valuable for export to other countries willing to pay a fair market price for it, over and above what we may need for our own requirements. We as a country do purchase some equipment from overseas or produce it in joint-venture consortia with other countries for our mutual benefit. Apart from these arragements it may for longer-term strategic security be considered prudent to ensure that certain manufacturing and design skills remain available within this country.

So much for the general principles as I see them.

Now we come to the vexed subject of the two aircraft carriers ordered a few years back, it so happens under the previous government, but that seems to me to be irrelevant if what we are genuinely talking about is strategic defence matters rather than 'pork barrel' projects put in place in certain parts of the country more for partisan politicial reasons than to contribute fundamentally to the fulfilment of our future defence needs. It is in this light that I believe the current cross-party political 'alliance' amongst political parties in Scotland needs to be seen, not just as the job-creating mechanism that seems to be the focus of much of the current political debate in Scotland.

If it is decided that these aircraft carriers really are required and that the current design does meet our defence [or 'power projection'] requirements, then it is certainly legitimate for Scottish shipyards to tender for the work, perhaps in collaboration with manufacturing facilities elsewhere in the country if all are capable of doing the work in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

There is the slight awkwardness of the position of the SNP, though, as it might affect how such public contracts might be spread around the country in the future. Whilst Scotland remains an integral part of the UK it seems to me it should be a full participant in all aspects of national defence - and that means that the SNP objections to the agreed national policy on Trident are completely unacceptable. Post-separation (aka 'independence') matters become considerably different; Scotland would then be responsible for designing and fulfilling its own defence requirements according to what its government might see as its needs - this might involve forbidding the presence of nuclear weapons, for example, here, unless there was some special arrangment with the remaining parts of what was formerly the UK, principally England. Such arrangements would work both ways of course - the rump of the UK (i.e. England) would be free to choose its own path for its defence independent of any consideration of what Scotland might or might not want and that would of course (I imagine) include the allocation of future English defence contracts. Would a future independent England (i.e. the main part of a rump-UK minus Scotland) seriously consider, other things being equal, awarding contracts for vital defence equipment to a foreign country such as Scotland; it might be possible in the short-term given the close integration of the two countries in the past several centuries, but I think it inevitable that over time England would quite naturally prefer to keep contracts vital to its own future security within its own borders so far as possible.

Within the wider British military, Scottish regiments, naval and air bases are a significant component - quite apart from their longstanding contribution to the national defence all of them have provided an important source of employment from Scotland for many generations. Undoubtedly an 'independent' Scotland would continue to require some kind of military capability for defence purposes for its own defence far into the future, quite possibly within the context of some multi-national defence grouping such as NATO or with its then former partners within the former UK, but those partners would inevitably first consider their specific requirements, which might not necessarily include the allocation of a portion of their defence contracts to a foreign country such as Scotland. None of this need necessarily be 'bad', far less 'catastrophic' for Scotland or its defence-manufacturing workforce, but it is certainly not a matter that could be taken for granted - specifically that they would continue to be granted equal access to the bidding for future defence contracts from England. Assuming that a future 'independent' Scotland did gain control over a significant part of the present UK North Sea energy resouces, for example, these would still need to be defended and protected against potential enemies in a world increasingly desperate for scarce energy resouces; I hope those who might lead a future 'independent' Scotland have thought about these matters and not simply assumed that no-one would challenge our sovereignty over such resources.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Terrorism in Russia - not much noticed in British media [so far]?

I don't recall having seen this very recent (Thursday 9th September 2010) act of terrorism in Vladikavkaz, capital of the Russian republic of North Ossetia, mentioned in the UK broadcast media - certainly not on the BBC; it seems more interested in peddling non-stories about UK actors and media personalities succeeding in Los Angeles. Perhaps such meaningless media-pap is considered more important than at least 16 people being killed and more than a hundred injured in what is just 'a small country far away of which we know little'? Personally I think the latest incident in Vladikavkaz merits a little more prominence.

(The only UK report Google News throws up on this outrage is this Reuters report carried in the Guardian; the France24 report first linked to above is also an agency report from Reuters, let it be noted.)

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Betty Bowers on "A Bible-based Marriage"

Very amusing, although shocking - but completely based upon Bible quotations. Hypocrisy ain't quite strong enough a word for some Christians' interpretation of their 'Holy Book'. The kicker is of course at the very end of the video-clip:

Friday, 3 September 2010

Couple to fight adjacent constituencies in Highlands

A husband and wife couple, David and Linda Stewart, have been chosen to fight for two adjacent constituencies in the elections for the Scottish Parliament in May 2011 as Labour Party prospeective candidates. He will be standing in the new Inverness and Nairn constituency and she will be standing in the similarly new Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency - both constituencies have apparently been re-drawn to take account of population changes and provide a more even balance.

David Stewart was formerly the MP for the Westminster constituency of Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber between 1997 and 2005, when he was defeated by the current LibDem MP Danny Alexander. Since 2007 he has been a List [i.e. effectively unelected - *] MSP for the Highlands and Islands regional constituency. Linda Stewart was a Scottish Parliament candidate in 2007 for Labour for the Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber constituency.

I think the chances of either being elected next year are pretty negligible (notwithsanding the potential collapse in the LibDem vote if their popularity continues to suffer because of their presence in the current Coalition government). However, I really do wonder if it is sound, from a democratic perspective, to have a husband and wife 'team' potentially in place for two constituncies and even more so when it is two adjacent seats. The other political party that seems to specialise in this kind of incestuous politics is of course the SNP. Both Labour and the SNP have local and national government representatives amongst close family members in various parts of the country. I consider it deeply worrying. This may have been common in the Conservative Party in the past, but in recent years this phenomenon has lessened for them - a very helathy development in my view.

The "People's Party" and the political party aiming for separation of Scotland from the UK seem to be stuck in a political time-warp; they are both left-wing of course - one only has to look at countries such as Cuba or North Korea to see that this phenomenon is pretty common amnongst left-wing politicians worldwide (and of course in the US), but is it healthy and likely to increase democratic accountability? I doubt it.