Monday, January 31, 2005
Coupled with that a political party that is, at least, a partner of the paramilitary goup is now supported electorally by around 10% of Southern voters and over half of the nationalist population in the North. It is (or should be, surely?) well known that many of the members of this party actively took part in terrorist acts i.e. deliberately inflicted death and destruction on the civilian populations of Britain and Northern Ireland, deliberately struck terror into their hearts, in order to achieve a political objective (for the sake of the point I must differentiate between the lives of soldiers/policemen and civilians - much as it pains me to do so).
Whatever excuses can be made for the Troubles themselves and the existence of the IRA, this paramilitary grouping, or members of it, are still clearly using their power and resources to engage in criminal activity, and have been on an ongoing basis since they stopped blowing things up and killing British soldiers in 1997. Yet we have reached a situation where an amazing 19% of people polled by the Irish Times do not believe the IRA carried out the Northern Bank robbery before Christmas (approx. STG£26 million stolen, if you have to ask) despite both the (democratically elected) British and Irish governments insisting they did and senior police officers on both sides of the border insisting that both circumstancial evidence and the intelligence gathered so far point to an IRA masterminded plot.
For me, personally, there has never been a shadow of doubt in my mind that it was the IRA who carried out this robbery. The planning and logistics of the operation must have been massive and they are, quite simply, the only show in town capable of managing such an act. Even the kidnap of staff relatives is an IRA tactic going back to the '80s. What is it that is making my fellow Irishmen so blasé about IRA activity? Is it the relative peace we now have? The fear of a return to the bad old days?
For ten years we, as a nation, have been tip-toeing around the Republican movement as they deny, counter-accuse and slither their way around punishment beatings, drug dealing, smuggling, racketeering and robbery. It's always "what about...". I so bloody hate Irish whatabouterry. Even the other day Gerry Adams was on the whatabouterry path when he said that "[Bertie Ahern had] cleverly defused the Ray Burke affair by opening up a full frontal attack on Sinn Féin." This was after the Taoiseach had accused republicans of turning on and off punishment attacks to suit the negotiations in the Northern Ireland peace process. Just one part of the standard Republican rhetoric - "we may have actively supported and prolonged an ethnic conflict for a generation but all their politicians are corrupt..." so that's all right, then.
Anyone with a brain in their head knows that Republicans whip up inner-city riots and carry out punishment beatings whenever it suits their larger agenda and stop them just as quickly. But it seems the gormless idiots I share this country with are a) unconcerned by this, b) totally ignorant of this or c) so swamped in anti-Britishness that their own whatabouterry allows Republicans to get away with (literally) murder.
Why do we still make excuses for them? Why do we unquestioningly believe everything they say when they have been proven to have lied before and when ordinary politicians, Gards, businessmen and officials are routinely accused of lying or corruption by the same people as a matter of course? Why would anyone say "innocent until proven guilty" without the slightest hint of irony about the alleged involvement of an illegal paramilitary organisation that has a history of kidnap and robbery (if you're prepared to temporarily ignore the mass murder) in a robbery that involved kidnap?
I am delighted that robbery took place, because I am convinced it was a miscalculation of massive proportions and the only way out for republicans is to deny, deny, deny. They wanted to prove they were still a threat when the DUP collapsed the negotiations without blatantly breaking ceasefire. However all they've done is given the rest of the political parties an endless supply of ammo - and they seem to be using it effectively. Hopefully they can keep it up. The tide might be turned yet...
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
What a shame Gary Johnston hasn't been given a best actor nominee. Any Broadway actor that can convince Islamic terrorists that he is one of them...
"I was just a boy when the infidels came in their black hawk helicopters. The infidels fired at the oil fields and they lit up like the eyes of Allah. Burning oil rained down from the sky and cooked everything it touched. I could only hide myself and cry as my goats were consumed by the firey black liquid death. In the midst of the chaos I could swear that I heard my goats screaming for help. As quickly as they had come the infidels were gone. It was on that day I put a jihad on them. And if you don't believe it you better kill me now cause I'll put a jihad on you."
just HAS to win a gong, if only to give this speech to the world again...
"We're dicks! We're reckless, arrogant, stupid dicks. And the Film Actors Guild are pussies. And Kim Jong Il is an asshole. Pussies don't like dicks because pussies get fucked by dicks. But dicks also fuck assholes. Assholes that just want to shit on everything. Pussies may think they can deal with assholes their way. But the only thing that can fuck a asshole is a dick, with some balls. The problem with dicks is they fuck too much or fuck when it isn't appropriate. And it takes a pussy to show them that. But sometimes pussies can be so full of shit that they become assholes themselves. Because pussies are a inch and half away from assholes. I don't know much about this crazy crazy world, but I do know this. If you don't let us fuck this asshole we're going to have our dicks and pussies all covered in shit."
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Among the more bizarre notions... is that there can only be two positions on the Iraq war: a) that it's all good and that the critics are spineless anti-Americans (or, worse, reporters for mainstream media) or b) that it's a calamity from Day One and will surely end in disaster. So those of us who have been critics of aspects of the occupation - from insufficient troop members to deployment of illegal torture, for example - are accused of being fair-weather pro-warriors. Or, because we still back the goals of the original invasion and want Iraq to shift toward democracy, we're deemed Bush lackeys. The problem with this way of looking at things is that the stakes are far higher, it seems to me, than the question of whether you are pro-Bush or anti-Bush. The truth, it seems to me, is that Bush is a very mixed blessing. On the one hand, he gets the fundamental issue - the war for survival against Islamist fascism, and the critical importance of establishing some democratic space in the Arab world to undermine it from within. I've criticized this president for many things. But never for these two vital objectives, which I share and have always shared. But - again - it's perfectly legit to criticize the methods of the war, while supporting its goals. In fact, it's unavoidable if you're being more than a cheer-leader for one side or the other. You can, of course, dismiss the mistakes, ignore them or say they're not a big deal. Or you can argue genuinely that they aren't mistakes. Or you can say that you disagree, say, with the troop level critique but agree with those who want accountability (and not just an "accountability moment") for the use of torture by some American troops. But the notion that our debates have to be about whose side are you on in terms of domestic politics strikes me as depressing.
Apropos of nothing, Richard Perle was interviewed on Today FM's Last Word Wednesday evening(The programme is a current affairs drive-time show here in Ireland, which also invites comments from its listeners, who always seem to be from Cork for some reason). The interview was conducted in light of an interview the previous day with Seymour Hersh. Perle rubbished both the story and Hersh's reportage itself. He also went on to say, in a response to a question asking if the real intention of the Iraq invasion was a domino effect throughout the Middle East, "The purpose was to remove Saddam Hussein's regime... the domino concept is highly mechanistic... [and] was no part of the administraion's agenda". He admits mistakes were made, but that the mistake was to allow a liberation turn into an occupation.
That all sounds like he wanted to leave once Saddam was toppled, which is completely at odds with current right-wing pundit statements about democracy. Then again Andrew Sullivan says after the inauguration "The speech was a deep rebuke to conservative foreign policy realists. Its fundamental point, it seems to me, is that security is only possible through the expansion of liberty abroad... it was an old-style liberal speech, about as far from the conservative tradition in foreign policy as can be imagined. And at its most ambitious, it was a fusion of liberal internationalism with realism - saying that the latter cannot be secured without the former."
Try and listen to the whole thing. Download this and move to 42 mins 20 secs for the start of the interview. The Hersh interview can be downloaded here and move to 1 min 8 secs. I think I'll email Sullivan with the detail.
Matthew Yglesias also has a take on Bush's inauguration speech. Maybe Bush has a principled stand on spreading freedom, but American Realpolitik shows otherwise and Johann Hari describes Bush's speech as a "sugar coated lie" in a fine piece (although he gives too much credence to the 100,000 dead figure and the "death-squad" story).
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Within hours one could hear the air being let out of the balloon as the radio commentators and tabloid journalists realised that their whole little angle was turning out to be way off the mark. All of a sudden it had become clear that maybe there wasn't some sex-monster stalking the children of East Cork and that the fear and loathing they were helping to fuel might have been mis-placed. Confirmation that every parents worst nightmare (and every tabloid editor's favourite bandwagon) wasn't going to come true came with the arrest of a neighbour of the young boy's. He's even been charged with manslaughter instead of murder so (as he gave himself up it is reasonable, if not legally correct, to assume he's responsible) it would appear that Robert's death was a tragic accident following a bit of a row.
I wish the media in Ireland could be forced to take a long hard look at itself after this. The amount of pieces that have been aired and published that have turned out to be misleading and downright wrong - and that were written to deliberately pull heartstrings and provoke public reaction in a negative way - is a disgrace. Just a few examples from the Irish Independent and Irish Examiner sites (Chosen because the content is free - the former is Ireland's best-selling broadsheet, the latter is a formerly regional broadsheet that is the best seller in the Cork region):
Robert Was Abducted Says Heartbroken Mum. Now I'm not, at all, having a go at the woman considering a tragic loss that I won't pretend to comprehend. But Ms. Holohan is not an investigator and, as she clearly had no idea what had happened her son, her opinions on who may have been responsible for his dissappearence are of no use to anyone except the paper deliberately toying with its reader's emotions.
Worst Fears Of Sex Predator Now Appear Inescapable. They only had to wait one more day to have the results of the post mortem but no, better to get the jump on anyone else who might run with this angle. Not that they care now of course - the story would have had its desired affect on people (parents) at the time.
Killing Puts End To Childhood Freedoms. Contemptible rubbish along the "nothing will ever be the same again" line, which includes this appalling quote for some redneck who didn't deserve to have his small-town views publicised... "It was a terrible thing to happen, and if it happened in England or the US you wouldn't have given it a second thought", the man said. Yes, he's right, most people living in their own little bubbles wouldn't care. That doesn't make it right, though, or worth publishing in this context.
Schools Security Urged To Protect Pupils. Really? From whom. Accuse me of benefitting from hindsight all you want, but I did say the "crime out of control" line was being abused (again) and this was written before the facts were known. Imagine that! People being expected to wait until all the facts are known before reacting!
Mayor Calls For Return Of Death Penalty For Child-Killers. More rednecks. Who made this bloke a mayor anyway?
Delays Will Add To Shock And Outrage. The body was left where it was found overinght because the Garda forensics team wanted to work in daylight rather than artificial light. This shrill editorial, whose writer is either wilfully stoking up an unnecessary controversy or is just downright stupid, simply belongs in a tabloid.
A Familiar Landscape Is Tainted Forever. Blah, blah, blah.
Fear Stalks Streets Of Busy Market Town. Again .
Mayor Predicts Another Murder If Killer Free - "...This person obviously has an appetite for this..." No, seriously now, who made this bloke a mayor anyway?
My little trawls through the newspapers' sites has actually shown the Examiner to be a lot worse than the Indo with its sensationalist reporting. This doesn't surprise me. Despite everyone in the area buying the damn thing it is, quite simply, a rag.
Friday, January 14, 2005
In all honesty, and I'm really struggling to put this properly so that I don't sound callous, I'm unable to share the extent of grief that others seem to be able to summon up. There's two reasons, I think. The first is, obviously, that I didn't know the boy or any of his family and the second is that, as I have no children of my own, there is no point in me pretending to be able to imagine the fear that this murder must be causing for the people of the area.
Do I think, then, that the grief of strangers is false in some way? I really don't know. People react to news like this in their own way (and I doubt anyone is pretending to grieve) but this murder has certainly highlighted again an issue that periodically infuriates me - how and why people value one life over another (I know the deliberate abduction and murder of a defenceless young child is very different to, say, a car accident) but, despite a high profile publicity campaign, there was never the emotion we have seen for young Robert Holohan shown for Trevor Deely (who has never been found) or Philip Cairns who went missing in 1986 and was only 13 at the time. What makes their cases different? Age? The passage of time?...
We have yet to reach the emotion levels of the Soham murders in England in 2002, a "media fuelled trauma", but it doesn't mean we won't. Already on the radio phone in programmes the reactionaries are out with their "crime out of control" lines. It's all "can't let our children out the door", "paedophiles should be locked up and the key thrown away", "people have a right to know when convicted sex offenders are living in their midst", "everyone should have their DNA on file" and, the ultimate cliche, "things will never be the same again" which, as the deaths of Princess Diana and September 11th have shown, is contemptible rubbish.
At times like this, of course, it is very difficult to be rational in the face of grief, loss and anger but the fact does remain that the probabaility of any child in Ireland being kidnapped or murdered is miniscule despite the Holohan family's loss. Already we're in danger of emulating the ridiculous situation following the Sarah Payne murder in England where wrongly identified people and even a paediatrician were hounded and attacked by mobs (again the fault of the tabloid media - the News of the World in this case). As for restricting our civil liberties I was always a "if you do nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear" sort until the Donegal Garda corruption case blew up, which proved that miscarriages of justice aren't just restricted to tinpot police states. Or Britain!
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
First, this article by economist David McWilliams is an excellent, concise exploration of why relieving third world debt (especially in Asia) is not as straightforward as people make it out to be. Basically a lot of the debt was bought by private concerns and western pension funds, i.e. the nest eggs of the First World middle classes, and our pension funds are, as such, partially reliant on the proceeds. So it's not necessarily a case of G8 nations cancelling debt but ordinary Joe Soaps, to a degree. I wonder, would that knowledge, if it were widespread, soften the clamour? My own problem with debt cancellation is that a) might it encourage other nations to default? And b) is it too much of a reward for bad governance where money was embezzled, spent on arms or spent on ridiculously unnecessary capital projects? I've linked David McWilliams under my list of Blogs, but his site isn't really a blog at all. However I do admire the man and found him to be excellent at both TV and Radio broadcasting and a fine opinion journalist with Ireland's Sunday Business Post.
Second, I hate Rugby (or Egg Chasing, to give it its proper name). Now hate is a strong word but I don't care - I'm that shallow. I'd like to be just indifferent to it but it's just so pervasive in Ireland right now that I can't. The popularity of the sport among the masses has exploded in recent years for one reason - we have been moderately successful and there's nothing that Irish people like more than a good band-wagon to jump on. Ignore the fact that it's played competitively in only six to ten countries (and that it's a minority sport in all of them) and ignore the fact that the European club structure has allowed virtually the whole Irish national team be split across two clubs (Leinster and Munster) to play in complete mismatches against small Italian villages and ignore the fact that the Six-Nations is a repetitive slog fest where at least three of the six are whipping boys for the rest (usually four whipping boys while France and England contest the Grand Slam); because we beat England, because we won a trophy-less competition in 2004 (the Triple Crown), because the south-Dublin elite running the State broadcaster (RTE) love it and because the south-Dublin wannabes in Cork and Limerick see their team win the vast majority of their matches against the afore-mentioned villages, the sport is reaching ever higher levels of exposure.
So what's my problem with Egg Chasing? Well it's hard to articulate but it grew out of the dislike of seeing people, men and women, in pubs watching a game on television and, kind-of, gritting their teeth and grunting "c'mon" as men fought and struggled over yardage - it's as if they're urging on the troops in a quasi-World War 1 battle to cross No Man's Land and kill the enemy. Football fans simply do not behave that way watching their teams (for all the hooliganism, racism and the rest) because football is not, normally, a game where you have to grind out territory incessantly to succeed. Now, when I look at a game or talk to those who play it, I see men getting off on some kind of modern-day man-to-man combat, "the glory of the warrior" trip. The people who watch the game are far more excited by the physical contest, the big hits and the barely restrained violence than any skill or tactics (whatever they're meant to be). In fact it's almost sexual for some people, I think. Lastly, in the Scrum and Lineout, we have perhaps the two most ridiculous set-pieces ever devised in popular team sport.
And so I look on as ROG (Ronan O' Gara) is lionised for being able to sky an egg into the terraces while standing empty in acres...
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
They have been occupiers for less than 2 years and can hardly be considered to have had the chance either to leave a secure, independent Iraq OR act like colonial pillagers. The insurgency hasn't given post-Saddam Iraq a chance because they are afraid that what develops will not be to their liking. They want to impose their will on the country without giving the people any sort of chance to decide for themselves. That makes them Fascists. To support the insurgency BEFORE the Iraqis were given any chance to build a nation with U.S. assistance is to support Fascism."
As posted by moi on Johann Hari's article A leading Iraqi trade unionist has been murdered. Where is the left? following some seriously heated debate among others. Christopher Hitchens makes a similar (if far broader, more eloquent and better articulated!...) point in today's Slate.
I'm up since 8am and I've had nothing to eat yet, but then I've been dossing on the internet for over two hours at work now as well!
Friday, January 07, 2005
Next, Andrew Sullivan. I love this guy. He is easily the most persuasive, balanced and principled conservative opinion journalist I've read. He supports the "War on Terror", yet has the courage and moral fibre to highlight the mistakes, the abuse, the hypocrisy at work. His most recent posts about torture of prisoners by US forces are heartening. When America descends to these levels it loses the moral legitimacy it has when fighting "terrorist" enemies. But if it acts to stop this barbarity and to punish those responsible (and to be seen to do so) then America proves exactly why it is morally superior to those animals who would saw the heads off civilian workers in front of video cameras. Glenn Reynolds quotes Eugene Volokh "it seems to me that abstract arguments about moral high grounds or stooping to the enemy's level do more to weaken the argument against torture than to strengthen it." Where to begin? Only an American right-wing commentator would ever talk about "weakening" an argument against torture. And as for "moral high ground" isn't that exactly where America has perched itself ever since 9/11?
Next, The Economist again and an article about rising hopes for peace in Africa. This after Gordon Brown stated that 2005 offered a "once-in-a-generation" chance to eradicate global poverty. Maybe the world is becoming a better place.
Last, in our European world of Anti-Americanism, just how much credit have we been giving the Americans for spearheading the humanitarian relief effort in the Indian Ocean? The truth is not a lot. Apart from matter-of-fact references to helicopters and planes delivering aid there has been no analysis of just how impotent we in Europe really are in this situation. We may be able to pledge cash, but we're unable to deliver the aid when and where it's needed. So, like jealous neighbours, we insinuate that the yanks are trying to cosy up to Muslim Indonesia instead and, worse, that they're deliberately bypassing the UN (although who takes Clare Short seriously). They did do nothing for the first four days, though.
Back at work after a pretty quiet holiday. Caught 'flu the day after St. Stephen's Day and I'm only really getting over it now. The amount of people who've said to me "I had the 'flu, I was on antibiotics" has been pretty amazing. They're either lying or their doctors should be struck off because, as any fule kno, antibiotics are useless on viruses. Two of these people have Chemistry degrees as well. The amount of people (women mostly, it has to be said) who seem to separate the science they've learned from their own reality baffles me. People... ok, women that earn PhDs in scientific disciplines that then attend faith healers and homeopathy lectures and believe astrology and other guff unquestioningly don't deserve to be taken seriously. All they have proven is that they have learned something, not that they actually know something.
Anyway that was a diversion. The company newsletter includes an "In the News" section where references to the company made in the media are highlighted. This week's includes the following:
The pharmaceutical business behaves like Santa, yet gets treated like Scrooge. That's the conclusion of syndicated political analyst Deroy Murdock in a recent column. "Last year alone, nine major drug companies donated $2.135 billion in products and services to combat HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and other tropical ailments," Murdock writes. (Washington Times, 12/27.)
Fine, except I've seen my company's portfolio and there is nothing there for TB, malaria and other tropical ailments and the only HIV/AIDS drugs are either still in development (one was recently sold back to its patent holder as it was deemed to be not profitable enough) or have been bypassed by other companies' improved drugs.
Still, in fairness, if what they tell us about donations to the tsunami relief effort is true, they are being as generous as some small nations! $10 million in cash and a supply of antibiotics, anti-fungals and anti-inflammatories.
Monday, January 03, 2005
The world is divided into 12 or 13 plates. The movement of these plates over billions of years is how the world, as we now know it, was formed. If the plates move apart we get volcanoes and if they push together we get earthquakes. If the earthquakes are submarine they generate tsunamis. All very violent, but all perfectly natural. Plate tectonics are as integral to the Earth's existence as its rotation around the sun. Now that the energy of the Burmese plate collision has dissipated there is little likelihood of an earthquake in that region for years.
But why did so many people have to die? And Is it God's fault? Well, what would have lowered the death toll? Half decent buildings for the people to live in for a start, an early warning system coupled with good communications, educating people how to react to natural disasters, government departments concentrating on disaster reaction (like mobile health services and the delivery of aid). If the countries of the region were in any way prepared then the death toll would have been much less. But the people of these countries are kept poor by rotten government and western exploitation and now they have been made to suffer. When humans die on a large scale because of natural events it is the human race's own fault and blaming a Deity does not change that.
Saturday, January 01, 2005
A Michael Kavanagh has an article in Slate about my own particular pet global issue - the Congo...
In order to succeed in Congo, the United Nations needs a robust troop presence to disarm the militias, secure Congo's borders and natural resources, and keep the peace. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has requested 23,900 troops. So far, he's received 16,700. It's not clear if the international community (particularly the United States) is still blinded by its guilt and sympathy for the Tutsis of Rwanda, if it can't deal with complexity, or if it just doesn't want to deal with Africa. Congo is a nation-building commitment extraordinaire, one that will take sustained efforts on all sides and one where success could go some small way toward redressing the mistakes of Rwanda. If the United Nations and the international community don't step up to the plate, Rwanda has shown time and again that it will fight the battle on its own.
Will European nations ever stand-up and actually try to make a real difference for good on the world stage? The bloody Belgians caused the mess in the first place.
"Nothing changes on New Year's Day".