Monday, December 31, 2007

Trabant Alive and Well in Limerick

Its not often that a parked car in Limerick makes me stop and look again. However this vehicle achieved that rarity, and prompted me to at long last get to grips with the complexities of the camera embedded for some reason, (probably for occasions such as this I suppose) in my mobile phone. The photo remained embedded within the memory of the phone, until I worked out how to get it out, and that involved emailing it to myself. Oh how things have moved on since the days of the humble Trabbi, with its two stroke engine and its minimalist interior comforts. I undertook a trip from Berlin to a far away destination in the DDR in a Trabant, and I was struck throughout that it was unlikely to afford any significant protection in the event of a collision of even the most minor sort. Thankfully this did not occur, although the lady driving this vehicle at one point did seem to be hell-bent on sending us both on to the big politburo in the sky, when she raced to overtake an NVA (National Volks Armie) lorry on what I recall was a sort of pontoon bridge.Meanwhile, a large soviet made lorry bore down with relentless and undoubtedly utterly unstoppable speed in the lane we were now occupying for what seemed an aeon. The two-stroke engine of the Trabbi reached a screaming pitch of insane hysteria, and we just swerved in front of the NVA lorry in a split second before we were splattered on the huge radiator of the oncoming Russian lorry. Now that Trabant's first cousin seems to be living in Limerick here in Ireland, and is apparently much loved by its student owner for its extreme fuel economy, although the noise of its engine is still something of a shock. Astonishingly the owner did not know,where the car came from, so I started to tell the astonishing story behind her remarkable little car...'once upon a time a long long time ago in a country now almost forgotten, under a socio-economic system now replaced by capitalism....'
Happy New Year to you all, peace, health, and prosperity to all for 2008.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Greetings from Ireland....


The photographs on this post are of a ruined early Christian church in Kerry in Ireland, and are reproduced here to show the beauty of such places at this time of year, and perhaps allow some exiles from Ireland to glimpse their homeland, and to be reassured that not all that makes it so special has gone . They are also chosen deliberately to take us for a short moment away from the frenetic bustle of shopping malls and high streets, it is in such places you can regain a serenity that should also be part of this time of year. And it really is upon us again this festive season called Christmas.
Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.In the 4th century AD , Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians. The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, the Christian hierarchy of the time named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be the birth date of Jesus’ Christ.

Now the festive period has returned somewhat to its saturnalian origins, except that now what is worshipped is consumption and excess. The purpose of this post is not however to cast a scrooge-like bucket of cold water on what for so many people, for whatever reason, is a special time of year. So I hope that all the readers of this weblog have a Happy Christmas, and a healthy and peaceful 2008. I hope that these images from rural Kerry evoke some sense of the timelessness, tranquility, and quiet remembrance of times, people and places, which was traditionally part of this special time of year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Columbia Three- Jail Journal

I have just completed reading 'Columbia Jail Journal' by James Monaghan, the most senior member of the group of Irish Republican's, whose detention in Columbia led them to be dubbed the 'Columbia Three', more details of the case are to be found on http://www.troopsoutmovement.com/columbia3.htm
I must say that this book is an impressive account, Monaghan delivers a precise and well written book covering the full story of the groups travails in the Columbian prison system. His account is devoid of cliché and is very human in the way that he observes the behaviour of his captors, and fellow prisoners. He observes perhaps surprisingly that there were good and bad characters to be found amongst all the various prisoners they encountered, not all of their FARC/ELN comrades are portrayed as heroes nor are all the right-wing paramilitaries they had to share their imprisonment with cast, as villains. Though in reference to the latter it is made clear by Jim Monaghan, that given the right circumstances and direct orders, then these guys would have had very few qualms about cutting the three Irishmen's throats. It is evident too that it was in no small part their collective discipline and good humour that got the men through their ordeal, and of course in this context the support and contact they received from friends and comrades both abroad and in Columbia itself were crucial to maintaining their morale. There are lighter moments, too, in this fascinating account, as James Monaghan struggles with his lack of Spanish and tries to avoid the attentions of a homicidal fellow inmate, while Martin McCauley bargains all around him for cigarettes and matches. Although found not guilty on the charges of training FARC rebels, and released, an appeal by the prosecution saw them sentenced in December 2004 to 17 years in jail. Meanwhile, however, they had gone into hiding, and by August 2005 they had made their way back to Ireland.
Another impressive aspect of this book is the care which with the author takes in explaining the byzantine complexities of the Columbian political situation, its peace process and its progress or lack of progress, was clearly integral to their own fate. The deep understanding of the political situation in Columbia displayed by the author certainly added a depth to the account which was enlightening. The direct and blatant involvement of the USA in the political and judicial process in Columbia was even to this reader a total surprise. I had of course fully understood that the USA would be influential in the background, but the extent of its overt power in this and other central American states astonished me. This was perhaps most amply illustrated when, the initial forensic tests, which proved utterly flawed, were actually undertaken on the men and their possessions by an operative from the US embassy in Bogota. What other country in the world would have its embassy staff so directly involved in the investigative functions of another state?
The account is also greatly enhanced by Monaghan's own line drawings of various people and places they encountered throughout their time in Columbia. Its a good read and a story that needed telling, and I am delighted that Jim was in a position to create this account for posterity. It is clear that on a number of occasions these men could easily have been 'disappeared' as so many others have in the Columbian conflict. The high profile that their case attracted, and the subsequent attention of Irish people and other progressives throughout the world,was in all likelihood the crucial factor in ensuring that they lived to tell the tale.


Columbia Jail Journal is available in most good book shops, further details are to be found on the Brandon Books webpage http://www.brandonbooks.com/book_info.php/cPath//products_id/185/authors_id/134?PHPSESSID=9b91705a3d0cee3e7491ff8adfbb5a3f

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bon Secours - "Good Help to those in Need"

I have'nt contributed a posting to the site in the past 12 days and the reason was that I fell victim to a relatively minor but nevertheless utterly debilitating health malfunction. We take our usual state of rude good health as pretty much a given, but when things go wrong its then that you realise just how essential excellent health care is. I am fortunate in that in my position a health policy provides me with access to that very precious commodity, outstanding medical care. How I wish that the standard of care extended in the hospitals of the Bon Secours foundation was attained in all the hospitals of the world.
I also became rather intrigued by the origins of this unique hospitalling order of catholic nuns which has now evolved into a large health foundation, still it must be said based upon all that is best in the Christian tradition, namely reflecting the fact that one of Christ's practical activities on earth was to heal the sick, ergo the duty of Christians today is to be concerned with this very same project fundamental to all our well beings regardless of creed colour or social status. But there lies the problem, not all can avail of this sort of health care due to social disadvantage and that surely is an evil.
The origins of this unique order lay in the years just after the French Revolution, a handful of young women began to nurse the sick and dying. The twelve young women stayed in the sick person’s home day and night, demonstrating the healing presence of God through their compassionate care.
They chose one of the group as their leader – Josephine Potel- - and in January 1824 were professed in the Church of St Sulpice. The word spread. People began to hear about the spirituality of the tiny group, and about the ‘good care’ (‘bon secours’) they offered to rich and poor alike. Other young women joined them. Even Josephine Potel’s death in her early twenties did not deflect the group from their mission. Led by her successor, Angelique Geay, the Congregation spread throughout France, driven by a belief that their foundation had been an act of compassion and that they must continue to show that compassion in action.The work and spirituality of the early Bon Secours Sisters attracted the attention of an ex-patriate Irishwoman, Catherine O’Farrell, who persuaded them to come to Ireland.In 1861, the first foundation outside of France was made in Dublin, when four sisters came to the city to care for the sick and dying in their homes. From Dublin, the sisters expanded their work to Cork, Belfast, Tralee and Galway. A decade later, Bon Secours had set up in London and another ten years later were working in Baltimore, USA. By 1900, healthcare was changing and Bon Secours changed with it. Care of the sick was moving from the homes of patients to hospitals, and so Bon Secours began to set up hospitals, together with nursing homes for elderly patients.In 1966, when Bishop Lucey of Cork and Ross asked Bon Secours to take part in the Cork Diocesan Mission in Peru, four Irish sisters opened a mission in Trujillo, a coastal Peruvian city. They faced a grim and complex challenge. Because no hospitals served the poor, diseases went untreated and many – particularly the young and the old – died each year as a direct result. Because vital operations were not provided for children, deformity was widespread.The Sisters developed a wide range of community health programmes, operating both in medical clinics and in the homes of the poor. But they widened their scope to respond to community need, teaching, taking care of and educating people with mental disabilities. To help improve the quality of life, they undertook home economics and pastoral care, becoming deeply involved in the life of the local community. Today, thirty eight Peruvian sisters, together with five Irish sisters, continue the work initiated in the sixties.
I was a direct beneficiary of that organisations mission, and it has led me to consider that whatever the source of the motivation, religion, or altruism, or ideology, there is a deep seated desire in humanity to assist one another, there are of course other traits present in humanity, destructive and evil inclinations. I still hope that a world can emerge one day, when the commitment to 'Good help to those in need' as expressed by orders such as the Bon Secours becomes the paramount value in all societies, that is what I still consider to be the fundamental concept underlying socialism, since selfless dedication to the needs of the unwell is not provided for within the parameters set on society by capitalist values and the pure exigencies of the market system . Whether the motivation towards doing good unto our fellow human beings is derived from religion, philosophy or politics, it is most likely to flourish in societies which reflect that the core values of human existence does not have to be greed and consumption. As Nick Lowe put it so well in the song Elvis Costello performed an exemplary version of , " Whats so funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding"?..... Quite.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Right..Lenin, Keir Hardie, James Connolly, AJ Cook, and you George on t'banner, I think that'll Scotch the 'Lurch towards Reformism' Rumours"


Thanks to my old pal Dr. Don Watson for sending on this little gem to the "Unrepentant Communist" site.

"Follonsby Lodge of the Durham Miners Association, at Wardley near Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, was one of only three in the British coalfield to feature Lenin on its banner.It was also the only one to include the Irish revolutionary James Connolly, executed after theEaster Rising. The other figures on it are Keir Hardie, 1920's miners' leader AJ Cook, and FollonsbyLodge Secretary George Harvey. A syndicalist before 1917, Harvey was a founder member of the Communist Party who later became a Labour Councillor. In 1935 he led a long and successful strike against victimisation. In 1936 his Lodge gave much practical support to local men taking part in theHunger March to London to protest against joblessness and the treatment of the unemployed. After the second world war when the British coal industry was nationalised, Lenin and Connolly were replaced on the banner by images of Durham Miners Association officials." (picture from W.A. Moyes, 'The BannerBook', Frank Graham, Newcastle-on-Tyne 1974)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Iraq's Mercenaries...Trained in Ireland?


Jean McBride, featured in the photo above, is the mother of unarmed 18 year old Peter McBride who was shot dead by the British Army in September 1992. Reports of trigger happy mercenaries firing on Iraqi civilians is of particular interest to Jean McBride, since one of the largest firms operating in Iraq which has come under particular scrutiny is Aegis Defence Services Ltd. The connection with the McBride families tragedy is that the boss of Aegis is a certain Tim Spicer. This gentleman was in command of the two soldiers, Mark Wright and James Fischer, who fatally shot Peter McBride at a checkpoint in Newlodge after he had been searched. Paul O'Connor of the Derry based Pat Finucane centre has been following the case for more than a decade. "Tim Spicer was the first senior officer to have access to the soldiers at a time when the RUC was denied access, he testified at their trial and said that his men had done no wrong and should not have been charged" O'Connor explains.
Despite Spicer's active support the two soldiers were convicted of murder in 1995. Spicer rejected the verdict (upheld on appeal) and continued to agitate for the release of Wright and Fischer, "after they were convicted he helped organise a campaign involving present and and former army officers, it was run from the HQ of the Scots Guards in London" O'Connor adds. Spicer according to O'Connor "made a number of claims that were totally and utterly untrue, he claimed that Peter McBride probably did have some kind of device. He claimed that local people probably ghosted away the device after he was shot." The campaign to release the soldiers was successful in 1998 when the release of the two soldiers was ordered by the British government. They were allowed to resume service in the army.
Since then Tim Spicer has moved into the world of private security, starting off as the CEO of Sandline. In that capacity he was embroiled in a number of high-profile controversies, including a brief spell in a jail in Papua New Guinea after Spicer was arrested by the Papuan army. Sandline was eventually wound up, and Tim Spicer became involved in setting up Aegis. The new venture did well and attracted a $293 million deal under Paul Bremers Coalition Authority (CPA) charged with providing security for the CPA. Since the contract was awarded Aegis has been the subject of severe criticism. In 2005 an audit carried out by a US government agency found that many Aegis employees lacked the training required to handle the weapons they had been issued with, including AK 47's and M4 assault rifles.This was quickly followed by allegations that its contractors fired on Iraqi Civilians. A video was posted on the internet by a former Aegis employee, which apparently showed automatic fire being directed from the back of an SUVagainst civilian cars. Aegis describes the clip as "a malicious attempt to discredit Aegis" in which "the incidents displayed had been taken entirely out of context". A US army investigation cleared the company, but the Pat Finucane Centre was contacted by the man who posted the video, Rod Stoner, who told them that the inquiry had not interviewed key witnesses -including Stoner himself.
"We asked for a meeting with US officials. In reality this sort of thing happens every day and the government does'nt really give a toss-they said that they would go off and investigate and come back to us," says Paul O'Connor. The Pat Finucane centre is reported to believe that the shooter , a South African, was ghosted out of the country until the investigation was over. "We asked if they had interviewed any Iraqi civilians-they had'nt", adds Paul O'Connor.
O'Connor notes that all private security firms operating in Iraq were granted immunity from prosecution by the CPA.It is of course merely a coincidence that Tim Spicer's name crops up in both of these stories, and I am sure that were any of the Aegis contractors ever accused of accidentally harming anyone, he would be able to draw upon his experience in Ireland to ensure that no one involved would become another victim of a miscarriage of justice. Sadly, there is no such recourse for the family of Peter McBride.
With Acknowledgements to Hot Press http://www.hotpress.com/archive/4187704.html 25/10/2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Murder by Crown Forces of Eddie Carmody of Ballylongford, County Kerry, on November 22nd 1920

Lieutenant Eddie Carmody was born in Moyvane, Co. Kerry and at a very young age moved to Ballylongford to work on a local farm. He was an outstanding Gaelic footballer and an all round athlete. He was a man of great courage, honesty and innate chivalry. He was one of the first local men to join Óglaigh na hÉireann becoming at first the Quarter Master of his local company and then a Lieutenant within the IRA. While on his way to an arms dump outside Ballylongford on the 22nd November 1920, he was ambushed by a patrol of Black and Tans. He was severely wounded after being fired upon several times, but still managed to struggle away a few hundred yards. The Black and Tans following his trail of blood found him after a brief search and dragged him onto the roadway, where he was kicked and beaten with rifle butts. After being stabbed by the soldier’s bayonets in a frenzied attack he was shot several times in the face resulting in his death. His body was then put onto a cart and dragged through the village to the local barrack's, where he was left outside in a turf shed till his father collected his body the following day. Eddie Carmody was unarmed at the time.
Lead Up to Murder
The local events leading up to the murder of IRA Lieutenant Eddie Carmody can be traced back to 1919, when Ballylongford IRA volunteers successfully defended a Feis being held in the village in mid-summer. Posters announcing the date of the Feis were distributed far and wide, and sensing a political aspect to the proceedings, a company of Welsh Fusiliers were sent to Ballylongford from Limerick, and arrived around noon and took over what was known then as the Big Store, They issued a proclamation banning the festivities. It was decided by the IRA to create a diversion, so a few horses and sidecars and ponies and traps were ostentatiously loaded with known IRA volunteers in full view of the British Army company. The convoy then took off, followed by the Welsh Fusiliers who found themselves at Craughdarrig, surrounded and detained by the Volunteers they had been following. The British Army men were detained whilst the Feis proceeded successfully in an alternative venue at McNamara’s at the Building in Tullahinnell. In the evening, after the Feis was more or less too late to stop, the British soldiers were permitted to return, no doubt somewhat chastened by their welcome to Kerry. It was then that a disturbance broke out at the rear of Collin’s public house in Ballylongford between some young men who had drink taken. Brian O’Grady one of the local IRA officers and Lieutenant Eddie Carmody, were called to bring some volunteers to eject the troublemakers from the village. Shortly after that a British officer arrived and asked if everything was under control, and added ‘We don’t want any trouble and anyway we are clearing out in the morning’ which suggested that he was less than concerned that the IRA seemed to be in de facto control of things. Incidentally, and perhaps of interest for those aware of Ballylongford’s strong literary links , the British officer who enquired that all was ‘under control’, was none other than Captain Robert Graves, the English poet who would later become famous for his novel ‘I Claudius’.
This humiliating failure to assert control over the area indicated that Sinn Féin and the IRA were in a strong position in this area. This was followed in late 1919 by an incident where an RIC man was fired on by the IRA in Bridge Street and wounded for insulting a young priest not long ordained. All throughout this period Eddie Carmody was a pivotal figure in the local IRA. In early 1920, Eddie Carmody took part in a successful and peacefully transacted raid on Kilelton house, which secured a small amount of arms for the IRA but also a lot of kudos for the raiders, it being carried out unmasked and in full daylight to prevent a shoot-out occurring. The raid resulted in a number of reprisal burnings by the British army, including Boland’s garage where the IRA party had acquired the vehicle for the raid.
The Tans
It was inevitable that the level of conflict would intensify in January 1920 when the Black and Tans were deployed in the area, no doubt in an attempt to bring ‘to heel’ this rebellious village. The ‘Tans’ as they were known locally were ex-British soldiers and ex-convicts recruited to be a paramilitary quasi-fascist terror force in Ireland, whose primary purpose was to intimidate the local people into submission. Things were hotting up in the area, with IRA activity against the British forces intensifying, with shooting incidents and sabotage of British rule increasing enormously. The reaction was a much higher degree of reprisal and terrorising of the locals by both the RIC and the Tans, things had moved on a lot from the days of the Feis in 1919. This culminated in a situation where the local IRA took prisoner an RIC man and a Black and Tan, who had been captured by the IRA in the avenue leading to the church in Ballylongford. The RIC man and the Tan had been involved in a vain attempt to detain the parishioners after devotions. The two would be detainers, were themselves detained by the IRA. But they were, after some negotiations, released unharmed, after being held overnight in Moyvane. This represented another damaging humiliation for the British forces in the Ballylongford area. It was obvious that a strong response would soon follow. In the aftermath of this action, the local volunteers were ordered by the IRA Kerry HQ to place their arms in a dump temporarily, and out of harms way, since Ballylongford was to be swamped in a search for arms. According to the former IRA officer Brian O’Grady, this meant that the volunteers were not able to resist effectively when the Tans did come looking for revenge.
So it was in reprisal for these earlier actions, that on the morning of the 22nd November 1920 Ballylongford was flooded by a force of Tans and police which arrived in four or five Lorries. There then followed a day of searches and intimidation by the RIC and the Tans throughout the village, interspersed with numerous visits to pubs, where copious quantities of beer and spirits were consumed at the unfortunate landlords (enforced) expense. In the early part of the evening a large number of Tans emerged and started firing their guns and smashing windows in the Tea lane area, and then proceeded to do the same in Bridge Street. A group of unarmed IRA men were dispersed around the village to advise people to avoid where the Tans were congregated. At some point a patrol of Black and Tans proceeded up Tea lane again, and fired on Eddie Carmody. Seeing how things were deteriorating it is thought that Carmody was making his way, in his role as an IRA quartermaster, to retrieve some hand guns from the nearest dump to the village. He never made it to the arms dump; he was spotted and wounded somewhere near the Doctors gate. Shortly afterwards a further fusillade of shots was heard from near the Rusheen Grove, where Carmody had got to despite being wounded. It appears that his pursuers followed him by observing where the trail of blood led them. On capturing him it is reported that he was beaten with rifle butts and then shot in cold blood, his final shooting being marked by much drunken cheering.
Eddie Carmody was laid to rest in Murhur graveyard, and was accorded full Irish Republican Army military honours despite the continuation of repression and terror throughout the area.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

November 7th 2007- Moscow- 40,000 March to Mark the Russian Revolution

Congratulations to all those who braved the minus 5 degree temperatures to march through Moscow on the evening of November 7th, the march was organised by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), and the video attached illustrates that for a substantial number of Russian citizens the Socialist Revolution of 1917 is still an event to be commemorated and celebrated.It is good to see that communists from other countries were also in attendance.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Madeleine McCann..The Daily Express....& Robinson Crusoe

As the time since Madeleine McCann's disappearance draws past the 6 month mark, the ever greedy British middle-brow press, represented by titles such as the Daily Express and the Daily Mail, grow ever more desperate to keep the pot boiling and interest maintained in a case that seems to be able to sell their papers as readily as Princess Diana's story in both life and death used to. Its now open season on any person or agency which seems to be genuinely puzzled by the inconsistencies in the team McCann version of what happened on that fateful night in May. The Portuguese police are portrayed as sleazy lazy greasy fat dagoes who spend their time quaffing wine, chewing their toothpicks removing congealed sardines from their dentures, and smoking foul smelling cigarettes scheming to imprison the brave British medics whose only crime was that they went out for a few drinks.....( leaving their toddler in charge of twin babies in an unlocked apartment two hundred yards from their restaurant ) ....{er remove the last bit.. Ed}. Another target of the Express in particular seems to be the denizens of the country of Morocco which seems to possess a morbid fascination for the journos at the Daily Excess. The latest rash of 'sightings' of 'Maddie' , as she has now been tabloidly re-christened, seems to be quite regularly in Morroco. This has the perfect combination of dusky skinned natives, Islam, and some kind of vague association with slavery and sexual skulduggery. Although it must be said that the historic perpetrators of most paedophilia in Morroco have largely been derived from European male paedophile visitors, who historically preyed upon poverty stricken youngsters in Morroco, a practice testified to in numerous literary memoirs over the decades. The latest serving from the Express is a classic of its kind, under the header ' ‘MADELEINE WILL BE USED AS A LITTLE MAID’ Thursday November 1st 2007 By Nick Fagge ( ho ho ) in Morocco and Martin Evans in Portugal... we discover, thanks to 'Nick' and Martin, that " MADELEINE McCann may have been condemned to a life of slavery working as a “little maid” for a rich Arab family in Morocco, child trafficking experts claimed yesterday. But as a child slave, Madeleine could be regularly abused by her host family or by visitors invited to meet the blonde-haired “curiosity”....."Collected by rich families as “curiosities” as well as domestic servants little maids can live with their host families their whole lives, receiving a pittance in wages which is sent directly to their family. And without the protection of family members these young girls are often abused – physically, emotionally and sexually. " Hang on where have we heard this before? There's something familiar in all this talk of 'curiosities' and 'domestic slavery', and no I am not talking about the thousands of Morrocan women working as 'au-pairs' in London, Paris, Berlin, and Madrid....No its older than that, as old as 1719 in fact, when 'Robinson Crusoe' by Daniel Defoe was published in England, Robinson Crusoe amongst his many misadventures is captured by Moors and made a personal slave....as described in Defoe's classic prose below,
"However, to cut short this melancholy part of our story, our ship being disabled, and three of our men killed, and eight wounded, we were obliged to yield, and were carried all prisoners into Sallee, a port belonging to the Moors.
The usage I had there was not so dreadful as at first I apprehended; nor was I carried up the country to the emperor's court, as the rest of our men were, but was kept by the captain of the rover as his proper prize, and made his slave, being young and nimble, and fit for his business. At this surprising change of my circumstances, from a merchant to a miserable slave, I was perfectly overwhelmed; and now I looked back upon my father's prophetic discourse to me, that I should be miserable and have none to relieve me, which I thought was now so effectually brought to pass that I could not be worse; for now the hand of Heaven had overtaken me, and I was undone without redemption; but, alas! this was but a taste of the misery I was to go through, as will appear in the sequel of this story.
As my new patron, or master, had taken me home to his house, so I was in hopes that he would take me with him when he went to sea again, believing that it would some time or other be his fate to be taken by a Spanish or Portugal man-of-war; and that then I should be set at liberty. But this hope of mine was soon taken away; for when he went to sea, he left me on shore to look after his little garden, and do the common drudgery of slaves about his house; and when he came home again from his cruise, he ordered me to lie in the cabin to look after the ship."
It is interesting, depressing, but frankly unsurprising, that the British press is digging into reservoirs of cultural memory, derived from a world view which was probably quite out of date within a century of its publication in 1719. Digging into veins of racism and prejudice which only need the slightest of prompting for it to come oozing out of British middle class opinion. Meanwhile it is widely reported that the Portuguese police are continuing along a definite line of enquiry, a line of enquiry that posits the notion that in common with 70% of all child homicides, no abductor at all was involved, no abductor , neither Morrocan, nor Muslim, in fact no dirty greasy foreigner of any description appears to be in the frame at all. Instead the Portuguese police are annoyingly insistent on investigating issues such as DNA traces, employing almost 100% foolproof UK based 'cadaver dogs' , and questioning the existence of an 'abductor' who quite apart from having no facial features at all was only 'seen' by a close friend of the McCann's and not by one single other of the thousands of holidaymakers thronging the resort of Praia de Luz that evening in May. I suppose eventually they will see sense and search instead for 'Corsairs' in Dhows with turbans, beards, and an unspeakable appetite for the strange and previously unseen and unheard of curiosities spoken of in the hareems of Araby as 'the blond haired ones' .

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

MOSUL DAM....AMERICA'S IRAQ 'JINX' WORSENS.

The largest dam in Iraq is at risk of an imminent collapse that could unleash a 20m (65ft) wave of water on Mosul, a city of 1.7m people, the US occupation forces in Iraq have warned.
In May, the US told Iraqi authorities to make Mosul Dam a national priority, as a catastrophic failure would result in a "significant loss of life". However, a $27m (£13m) US-funded reconstruction project to help shore up the dam has made little or no progress. Iraq says it is reducing the risk and insists there is no cause for alarm, However, a US watchdog said reconstruction of the dam had been plagued by mismanagement and potential fraud.
In a report published on Tuesday, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) said US-funded "short-term solutions" had yet to significantly solve the dam's problems. SIGIR found multiple failures in several of the 21 contracts awarded to repair the dam.
Among the faults were faulty construction and delivery of improper parts, as well as projects which were not completed despite full payments having been made. The dam has been a problem for Iraqi engineers since it was constructed in 1984. It was built on water-soluble gypsum, which caused seepage within months of its completion and led investigators to describe the site as "fundamentally flawed". In September 2006, the US Army Corps of Engineers determined that the dam, 45 miles upstream of Mosul on the River Tigris, presented an unacceptable risk. "In terms of internal erosion potential of the foundation, Mosul Dam is the most dangerous dam in the world," the corps warned, according to the SIGIR report. "If a small problem [at] Mosul Dam occurs, failure is likely."
A catastrophic failure of the Mosul Dam would result in flooding along the Tigris River all the way to Baghdad . The corps later told US commanders to move their equipment away from the Tigris flood plain near Mosul because of the dam's instability. The top US military commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, and US ambassador Ryan Crocker then wrote to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki urging him to make fixing the dam a "national priority".
"A catastrophic failure of the Mosul Dam would result in flooding along the Tigris River all the way to Baghdad" the letter on 3 May warned.
"Assuming a worst-case scenario, an instantaneous failure of Mosul Dam filled to its maximum operating level could result in a flood wave 20m deep at the city of Mosul, which would result in a significant loss of life and property." If that were to happen some have predicted that as many as 500,000 people could be killed. Iraqi authorities, however, say they are taking steps to reduce the risk and they do not believe there is cause for alarm.
However, despite these reassuring noises, the SIGIR review found that a Turkish company, which was paid $635,000 for a contract awarded 19 months ago to build storage silos for cement, had done so little and such poor-quality work that its project may have to be restarted. One company contracted to design grout-mixing plants instead submitted plans for unusable concrete-mixing plants. High-tech equipment meant to help grouting is gathering dust because it won’t work, according to investigators.
Embassy and Army Corps officials noted that it has been difficult to conduct oversight of the project because it is in a dangerous area. They said that contracts with the worst businesses have been terminated and that steps have been taken to ensure better management of the project in the future.“Our focus is on whether the project that the Corps undertook got carried out and the answer to that question is no,” said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general. “The expenditures of the money have yielded no benefit yet.”
The more one hears about the United States occupation of Iraq, one is increasingly drawn towards the conclusion that the US occupation has been marked by an extraordinary amount of wasted resources and incompetence. True this dam has been fundamentally flawed since its construction, but the complete inability of the US occupation forces and the largely irrelevant Iraqi 'government' to cope with these huge problems is demonstrating that whatever this occupation was about, it seems to have utterly failed to bring about efficient and transparent governance. Instead it appears that the billions of dollars being spent by the US administration in this foolhardy adventure, seems destined to be siphoned off by every huckster, mountebank, and con man with the temerity to tender for reconstruction related projects in Iraq, of course this trend was set in the earliest of the days after the invasion of Iraq, when corporations with particularly close ties to Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush dynasty seemed to be particularly succesful in getting their noses into the trough.
The revelations about the real state of the Mosul dam contrasts sharply with the anodyne optimism of this relatively recent report about the self same project published by the US Department of Defence 'DefendAmerica'website
If the discrepancies between this report and reality about the Mosul dam project is reflected in every aspect of the USA's reporting of its occupation of Iraq, then its little wonder that the US adminstration are simply desperate to find a way of getting out of Iraq without it looking like a retreat. Oh and lets not forget that this is the country that is intent on poking its nose into Iran next, have'nt they done enough damage?

Friday, October 26, 2007

California Refugee...New Orleans Refugee..Spot the Difference.

Surely the difference in the quality of response from President George W Bush to the plight of citizens made homeless in California, as opposed to New Orleans two years ago (see photo above) is purely down to 'learning from experience'.....yeah, sure it is George. The descriptions of the aid operation in Southern California, and Bush's fervent promises of his prayers, and more practically, his directing of immediate and urgent aid, suggest that the welfare of the well heeled, mainly white residents of Malibu and San Diego, may be closer to Dubya's heart than the poor inner city, mainly black, residents of New Orleans after Hurricane Katriona. The description of the aid operation in Southern California ( see photographs below) does seem remarkably different to the chaotic shambles which occurred in New Orleans. According to 10News, and illustrated well in this photograph belowfrom the Qualcomm stadium in San Diego, for example these two guys look more like they are going to a football game, as opposed to commencing a lengthy period of homelessness and misery.
"The evacuation operation was going smoothly Tuesday afternoon, and National Guard troops sent to maintain order were described as polite and helpful.AT&T provided Internet access to the evacuees and charged their cell phones for free. Volunteers offered massage therapy, yoga, kosher food and art projects for kids."There was a call for artists last night," said Brian Patterson, who manages community programs at the San Diego Museum of Art. "And I thought, 'this is what I do, anyway,' so I came down here," he said.Evacuees also had access to information on insurance and got medical help. They were given snacks and drinks and necessities such as baby wipes, tooth brushes, toothpaste and hand sanitizers."
Wow!....Yoga and Kosher food. It took the Bush Administration five days to get a fresh bottle of water into New Orleans, but in San Diego they have Yoga classes and their taking account of religious dietary restrictions. The Associated Press also noticed the difference, "Like Hurricane Katrina evacuees two years earlier in New Orleans, thousands of people rousted by natural disaster fled to the NFL stadium here, waiting out the calamity and worrying about their homes. The similarities ended there, as an almost festive atmosphere reigned at Qualcomm Stadium.Bands belted out rock 'n' roll, lavish buffets served gourmet entrees, and massage therapists helped relieve the stress for those forced to flee their homes because of wildfires. "The people are happy. They have everything here," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared."
Its good to see that the response in Southern California has been SO much better, and credit must be given to the emergency services and Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, otherwise known as 'The Terminator', in that regard. The super-rich of the Californian hills will not be camped out in the Qualcomm Stadium in any case , and thats for certain. However the speed and urgency displayed by George Bush in this case, does rather suggest that he may have a stronger 'psychic' connection with the residents of Malibu than those of the 9th Ward in downtown New Orleans.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Recalling An Old Friend..Frank Graham, International Brigade Officer and Noted Publisher

I first heard about Frank Graham when a friend and comrade of mine was researching an aspect of Labour movement history for her final year dissertation at the University of Birmingham around 1980, her description of their encounter was memorable, since it was clear that Frank still held very fast to the beliefs and principles which had informed his view of the world all his life. I suppose he was the original 'Unrepentant Communist'. I did not know then that I too would encounter this memorable individual face to face on numerous occasions both in a political context and through research undertaken with my co-author Dr Donald Watson on the Spanish Civil War and the North East of England, which culminated in the publication of 'An Inspiring Example- The North East of England and the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939' (Watson and Corcoran 1996). That publication is still available for purchase via Abe Books , see link,http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=Watson+and+Corcoran&sts=t&tn=An+Inspiring+Example&x=44&y=11 When we heard of his death both Don and I felt that we had lost both a good friend and an irreplaceable link with the past. The photograph reproduced here is quite a rare find, and I like to think that Frank would be particularly proud of this image as he leads the North East's returning volunteers into the mass rally in honour of the returned International Brigaders in Newcastle City Hall in 1939. There has also recently appeared an article in the Sunday Times about the by now dwindling band of living Spanish Civil War International Brigade veterans...see http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article2688486.eceAlso Reproduced below in full , is Don's excellent appreciation of Frank's rich, varied, and highly successful life. Salud ! Gabriel
An Appreciation of Frank Graham ......
Frank Graham, who died in a Newcastle nursing home aged 93 on April 30th 2006, was an International Brigade soldier who later became one of the most successful local publishers in Britain since the Second World War.
Francis Moore Graham was born in Sunderland in 1913, one of five children. His father worked in a draper’s shop. Academically gifted, he won scholarships to the Bede Grammar School in Sunderland and then to King’s College at the University of London. His course – Classics – did not prove to his taste and neither did the College. He spent more time in lectures at the LSE and became active in the student politics of the early 1930s. He threw himself into anti-fascist work, including the famous fight during Oswald Mosley’s rally at the Olympiad in London, and through this he joined the Communist Party.
Money pressures forced Frank to abandon his course and he returned to Sunderland, by then a town devastated by unemployment. He was active in the National Unemployed Workers Movement in the town and helped to organise local contingents for the 1934 and 1936 NUWM Hunger Marches to London. A police report to the Special Branch on the 1936 March described him as ‘one worth watching’. He was always scathing about the more famous but ‘non-political’ Jarrow March in the same year.
At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Frank was instrumental in organising volunteers from Sunderland to join the British Battalion of the International Brigade. Around twenty Sunderland men served but Frank and three of his comrades from the local NUWM were the first of them to arrive in Spain at Christmas 1936. Frank fought through the ferocious battle of Jarama in January and February 1937, and in the trench warfare that followed, when British and Irish volunteers played a crucial role in preventing the fascists under General Franco from seizing the main route to Madrid and an early victory. But the casualties were enormous and Frank was deeply affected by the deaths in action of two of his close friends from Sunderland. He helped to bring one of their bodies back, in darkness, from outside the fascist lines. In April Frank toured England to speak at meetings of the various campaigns to support the Spanish Republic. He returned to the Brigade and took part in the battle of Brunete and the fighting around Villanueva de la Canada. By this time he was attached to the Brigade staff and acted as a reconnaissance officer, often on horseback, for British commanders Fred Copeman and Jock Cunningham.
He was seriously wounded at the battle of Caspe in March 1938. After leaving hospital Frank contributed to Republican radio broadcasts in Barcelona until he contracted typhoid; Sam Russell, a fellow Brigader and a journalist, negotiated his repatriation through a hostile British Embassy towards the end of 1938. On return to Britain he was a speaker at the commemorative rally for the North East of England International Brigade volunteers at Newcastle City Hall, which was attended by over 2,000 people.
The wounds Frank had received in Spain rendered him unfit for further military service and he spent the Second World War in manual jobs, including a spell as a Co-op milkman, on Teeside, where he also worked for the Communist Party. In 1945 he trained as a teacher and then taught for 15 years at Wharrier Street School in Newcastle.
Frank realised how little had been published on the history of the north east of England since the Victorian and Edwardian periods when he was teaching evening classes for the WEA. To fill this gap for his class he researched and published a pamphlet on the history of Lindisfarne on the Northumberland coast. Holy Island appeared in 1958 and sold nearly 3,000 copies in 18 months. Frank realised that there was a market in the region for scholarly but popular and accessible accounts of local history and culture. Thus began Frank Graham the publishing firm, and this, capitalised by a shrewdly-run sideline in antiques and old prints, became his full time business between the 1960s and his retirement.
The first books were on the castles, battles and town histories of the area along with a number on the social and military history of Hadrian’s Wall. But the range was always noted for width, and it included railway studies and 17 books on coalmining and the history of the mining trades unions. They included the Banner Book and Ray Challinor’s The Lancashire and Cheshire Miners. Another useful addition to local studies were the various Miscellanies he produced on social and political themes.
His publication of Larn Yersel Geordie by Scott Dobson was controversial. Some felt it just made a joke out of local dialect and culture. But it was also an extraordinary success: the first run of 3,000 copies sold out in 48 hours and a total of 81,000 copies were sold in the first year. Such successes made a number of solid achievements financially possible. These included re- publishing Victorian collections of northeast songs (some with new introductions by Dave Harker), thus preserving invaluable records of local traditions as well as unique social history resources. The unique contemporary illustrations in Thomas Hair’s Sketches of the Coal Mines in Northumberland and Durham (1844), and his facsimiles of engravings by Thomas Bewick are other examples. Frank kept works by local writers Sid Chaplin and Jack Common in print, and published the first studies of Thomas Spence. Publications included two accounts of his own experiences in Spain and a re-print, in 1975, of the official Book of the XVth International Brigade, originally published in 1938 while the war was in progress.
The books and pamphlets were generally illustrated, and to a very high standard, by local photographers and particularly artists such as Ronald and Gill Embleton. The publications received no grants or subsidies and did not take advertising. Wherever possible the printing and binding were also done in the north east - Frank saw no point in producing books promoting the history and culture of the region and then having them printed and bound in the south of England. Further, his pricing policy deliberately put most of them within the budgets of schools, libraries and tourist information offices as well as the general public.
When the firm was sold in 1987 it had published 387 titles (of which 103 were written by Frank himself) with total sales of over three million copies – a British record for local publishing.
Frank was a stalwart member of the International Brigade Memorial Trust and attended their annual commemorative meetings until infirmity prevented him. His views on the internal politics of the Spanish Republic, and on the Soviet Union, remained very much the same as those he had held in the Communist Party as a young man. Like all the surviving International Brigaders Frank felt great satisfaction about the growing interest in the Spanish Civil War in recent years. He was also fortunate enough to attend memorial meetings in Spain after the restoration of democracy and experience the respect and affection in which the anti-fascist volunteers are held there. He left Vera, his wife (and former business partner) of sixty-six years, two sons and a number of grandchildren.
Don Watson
Appreciation of Frank Graham, Published in North East History (Journal of the North East Labour History Society) no38 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bill Maher- US LiveTV Host Gives 9-11 Conspiracy Nuts a Reality Check

I had never heard of this guy before, but I have to admit that I rather enjoyed viewing the reaction of US live chat show host Bill Maher to his discussion on Science and evolution being repeatedly interrupted by 9-11 Conspiracy theorists.I was also quite interested in the context surrounding the disruption of Mahers popular TV chat show, one of the very few remaining pieces of live TV in the whole of the USA. Maher, is known for his political satire and sociopolitical commentary. His commentaries target a wide swathe of topics,from the right-wing to the left-wing, bureaucracies of many kinds, political correctness, Hollywood, the mass media, and persons in positions of high political and social power, among many others. He supports the legalization of cannabis and gay marriage.Maher, who inevitably given his surname is half Irish. his Mother is Jewish,adopted the sort of approach that would be adopted by more than one bar proprietor I know here in County Kerry when confronted by a troublesome customer , namely he got stuck in personally to the ignorant obsessives who had infiltrated his audience, despite the fact that he was discussing a completely different topic. Incidentally the combination of Irish and Jewish genetics would be guaranteed I am sure to produce an interesting outcome,and seeing Maher does nothing to disabuse me of that notion.
He had attracted the '9-11 truthers' ire by being more than a little dismissive of their rather peculiar theories about the attack on the Twin Towers. These people represent a significant minority in the USA who are not convinced that the Twin Towers was brought down simply by hi-jacked jets, or rather to be more accurate they believe that the whole 9-11 conspiracy was actually directed from the Whitehouse in advance, in order to permit an attack on Iraq. Well the bit about the attack on Iraq I find the least contentious, however I do draw the line at suggestions that the buildings were already primed with explosives in order to ensure that they collapsed. Nor do I believe that one of the jets approaching the Twin Towers fired an explosive missile before it impacted the building. Such ideas and notions gain currency in societys where people are partially conscious that they do not really live in anything like as democratic a nation as they are repeatedly told they do. They are aware that dark and mysterious forces make decisions behind the scenes, decisions which are made in the interests of a tiny plutocratic minority. So naturally they feel powerless and alienated, and will in reaction to this sense of impotence and fear sometimes fall prey to some of the more bizarre conspiracy theories which seem to gain such a following in the United States. The reality is less dramatic, less sinister, and for some I suppose, less fascinating. The reality is that the USA funded, trained and armed radical fundamentalist Muslims to fight a bloody guerilla war against the Soviet Union and the Progressive forces in Afghanistan. When these fundamentalist Islamist groups defeated the forces of socialism in Afghanistan, it was'nt long before they became profoundly incensed by the presence of US soldiers, including to their particular disgust women soldiers, in the 'land of the Prophet' (Saudi Arabia). This affront in combination with the USA's role in promoting the goals of Zionism in the Middle East earned their former allies in Afghanistan the eternal ire of the radical islamists. Al Qaeda, a grouping established from ranks of the demobbed gun-happy medievalists who fought with US and Saudi funded weapons to prevent evils such health care and literacy in Afghanistan, took the war to the USA with their murderous terrorist attack on the USA. The power elites of the USA, especially those around the Oil industry and the Bush family in Texas, subsequently used the huge sentiment against Islam amongst the American people, to seize the opportunity to take control of oil rich Iraq by launching a disastrous and ill planned war, which is still dragging on and which it is now widely agreed has been roundly lost. So how about that for a Conspiracy theory? Making noises in TV studios about your pet theory is a pathetic form of campaigning, it is ineffective, individualist, and certainly guaranteed to get the average TV viewers backs up. Mahers reaction may have been somewhat theatrical, but I applauded his candid no -nonsense reaction to these time wasters. If some of these 9-11 'truthers' got off the minutiae of the actual attacks, and focused instead on the underlying roots of 9-11 they would find plenty of conspiracy to consider. They may also realise that they would be better being active in the Anti-War movement in the USA, rather than wasting their time advancing such far-fetched theories in TV studios. The reality of the actions of modern day, 21st century, imperialism is far more chilling and scary than any comic book fantasy about explosive charges in the Twin Towers.

US Nuke Flyover...Step Aside Osama Let the USAF Have a Go...


I wonder if something had gone wrong with those errant fully armed nuclear missiles carried over 1,000 miles over the people of the USA's heads, what would have been the default position to explain away the incident? I think the temptation to blame it on 'terrorism' would have proved irresistable. That aside it is simply the mind-numbing stupidity displayed in this case which stands out. The widespread disregard for nuclear weapons safety standards by airmen at Minot and Barksdale Air Force bases led to what has been called the unprecedented “Bent Spear” incident in which six nuclear warheads were mistakenly loaded onto a B-52 and flown from North Dakota to Louisiana on Aug. 29-30, US Air Force officials said on Friday after an intensive six-week investigation. The US Air Force relieved the 5th Munitions Squadron commander at Minot immediately after the incident. On Friday, it announced that three more commanders have been sacked.An “erosion of adherence to weapons-handling standards” at the two bases led to five major procedural errors at Minot, which resulted in a weapons loading crew accidentally loading a pylon of nuclear armed air-launched cruise missiles on the wing of a B-52 bomber. The mistake wasn’t discovered for 36 hours, long after the plane had touched down at Barksdale, said Maj. Gen. Richard “Dick” Newton, deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, and a former 5th Bomb Wing commander, who was tasked to brief the findings.
THE FIVE COCK UPS..... ( well 6 if you count Dubya)
1)The first mistake occurred at the beginning of an operation to transport 12 Advanced Cruise Missiles on a B-52 Stratofortress bomber from Minot to Barksdale, part of a Defense Department program to decommission 400 of these missiles in the U.S. stockpile.
On the morning of Aug. 29, airmen assigned to the Minot weapons storage area were supposed to pick up and transport two pylons to a B-52 assigned to Barksdale. Each pylon is a self-contained package of six cruise missiles that can be quickly mounted to the wing of a Stratofortress. But the pylon had not been properly prepared, and the airmen failed to examine all the warheads on the missiles mounted to the pylons.
Newton confirmed after the briefing that cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads are not stored with cruise missiles armed with conventional warheads. Simply, certain pylons of cruise missiles have nuclear warheads, while others have dummy warheads that are essentially dead weight.
2)The second error occurred when “crews operating the trailer that was tasked with moving the pylons to the B-52 began hooking up while the required pylon inspection was still underway,” Newton said.
3)This played a part in mistake No. 3, when the airmen failed to verify the payload of the missiles mounted on the pylon that they hooked up to be transported to the B-52, Newton said.
Then, before the cruise missiles should have been transported to the aircraft, the munitions control “failed to assess a database, as required, that would have alerted them that one of the pylons was not properly prepared for transfer,” Newton said.
4) Due to the first four mistakes, the nuclear warheads were unknowingly towed out to the flight line at 9:44 a.m. on Aug. 29 without any of the increased security initiatives used when nuclear warheads leave a storage facility.The warheads were loaded onto the B-52 and sat on the flight line, which officials said was secure.
5)Airmen did have one last chance to catch their mistake before the B-52 took off, but “the Barksdale-assigned B-52 instructor radar navigator neglected to check all missiles loaded for transport as required,” Newton said. “The instructor radar navigator performed only a spot check and only on the right pylon, the one that had been properly prepared for transport.” This marked the fifth and final error, according to the Air Force investigation.
At 8:40 a.m. on Aug. 30, the B-52 took off on its 1,100-mile flight to Louisiana, landing there at 11:23 a.m. It sat on the flight line with the nuclear warheads still on its left wing for more than eight hours before munitions personnel, who followed correct procedures, unloaded the weapons and discovered the enormous mistake.
If this is the adherence to safety procedures surrounding deadly ordinance flying over their own citizens of the land of the free, one can only begin to imagine why it is that the USAF's has such a disastrous track record causing civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention some of the many 'friendly fire incidents' where their allies paid the price for their incompetence . The casualness with which the USAF pilots attacked a British army convoy in Iraq killing a British soldier is shown in stark detail in this leaked cockpit footage, shown below.This astonishing catalogue of errors tends to confirm what many have suspected for a long time, that the US military machine has more than its fair share of morons amongst its ranks, whose stupidity and incompetence has resulted in many needless deaths throughout the world, in addition to the multiple deaths they quite intended to occur. The ultimate stupidity is that Nuclear warheads are permitted to exist at all, and this, the longest standing farce of modern times, arises from the fact that mankind has sadly not yet evolved sufficiently politically and economically to render these obscene weapons of mass destruction as obsolete as the cavalry sabre.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Professor Jim Watson- Undoubtedly Highly Intelligent but Utterly Barking

Nobel Prize winning US scientist 79 year old Professor James Watson, was embroiled in an extraordinary row last night after he claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that "equal powers of reason" were shared across racial groups was a delusion. Dr Watson told The Sunday Times that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really". He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".

Professor Watson is not your stereo-typical numbskull racist, in fact he is a titan in his field, sadly there is little doubt that his comments will be seized upon by race-hate groups throughout the world to add a patina of respectability to their abhorrent views. I have little doubt that Professor Watson, has harboured these sort of extreme views for a long time now. He has 'form' as they say in the police, and the fact that he has a Nobel prize should not distract from the fact that he has uttered a considerable amount of complete garbage throughout his long and very successful life.Watson has repeatedly supported genetic screening and genetic engineerinng in public lectures and interviews, arguing that "stupidity" is a disease and the "really stupid" bottom 10% of people should be cured. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn3451

He has also suggested that beauty could be genetically engineered, saying "People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great." He also suggested in one of his many interviews that an expectant mother should be able to abort her pregnancy if she was able to determine that her child would turn out to be gay, it was of course an hypothetical suggestion, but his readiness to sanction such a decision shows where he is coming from.

No group seems immune. For instance, in his 1996 annual report at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he has been based for many years, Watson seems to suggest that prospective parents should use genetic engineering to weed disabled persons out of society:
"The truly relevant question for most families is whether an obvious good to them will come from having a child with a major handicap. Is it more likely for such children to fall behind in society or will they through such affliction develop the strengths of character and fortitude that lead, like Jeffrey Tate, the noted British conductor, to the head of their packs. . . . But we perhaps most realistically should see (the handicap) as the major origin of asocial behavior that has among its many bad consequences the breeding of criminal violence." (Watson's unedited remarks can be found at http://nucleus.cshl.org/96AnReport/essay14.html.

Getting back to the latest comments by Watson about Africans, this type of Scientific racism has been around for a very long time. The last big wave began in 1969 and was tied up with people like Hans Eysenck, (remember his 'test your own IQ' bestselling paperbacks?) as well as figures such as Jensen in the States. There was a powerful campaign among biologists, psychologists, geneticists, alongside activists, which killed the issue. But with the development of the human genome programme in the last 20 years, claims are now being made that you can use genetics to map the entire genetic composition of humans - genes are seen as causing everything, from aggression to male domination, alcoholism and depression. This has given confidence to the scientific racists and came to the fore with the publication of The Bell Curve in 1994 in the USA. As social order has been eroded in the cities of the Western world there has developed a quasi-scientific argument explaining this decline into gang crime, single parenthood, feckless fathers , prostitution, and drug addiction in many inner city areas. Inner-city people are characterised as being genetically stupid and genetically incapable of coping with modern society. It's a combination therefore of bad genes and bad rearing by bad mothers. That is a very attractive set of arguments for right-wing politicians and the theorists of the Adam Smith Institute. Thus the renewed frequecy by which these long exploded ideas are getting a new lick of paint and being dressed up as "new science".The biological concept of race amongst humans is meaningless. It implies that there are sharp genetic differences between populations. The concept of 'race' is essentially a political concept, and as it is applied in this context , a racist concept.The difference, and the problem with the claims that are being made about intelligence, is the question of whether IQ tests measure anything other than what IQ tests measure. It is essentially a social measure, like measuring something with a bit of elastic - it stretches the way you want it. The likes of Brand and Eysenck claim that there is one unifying thing called 'g' - crystallised intelligence, a lump of something inside the brain. But you cannot take all these complex aspects of the way in which we relate to the outside world, in terms of our linguistic skills, how we respond emotionally, or how good we are at music or chess or mathematics , and lock all of these into one single measure of general intelligence. It is an absurd idea for anyone who looks at how the brain solves puzzles; there are many routes in the brain to puzzle-solving, not just one. The psychometricians are locked into a 19th century concept of the way the brain's intelligence is organised.
This latest incident supports something which I have often observed, namely that sometimes the most intelligent of people, particularly scientists, quite often hold views which are deeply reactionary and offensive and so barking mad, that if they were being expressed by some racist moron, you would observe it to be an indicator of their stupidity. This case seems to support the possibility that it is indeed possible to demonstrate indications of crass stupidity and high intelligence simultaneously.I just hope that Professor Watson's scientific credentials do not add credibility to this nonsense he is spouting about racially determined intelligence.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

US Forces Kill 6 Women & 9 Children in yet another 'Successful' Operation in Iraq

U.S. forces claim to have killed 19 insurgents, but also admit that in this action they have also massacred 15 women and children in air strikes north of Iraq's capital in an action thay said was targeting suspected leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq, late on Thursday.
"We regret that civilians are hurt or killed while coalition forces search to rid Iraq of terrorism," said Maj. Brad Leighton, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq.
"These terrorists chose to deliberately place innocent Iraqi women and children in danger by their actions and presence." The irony of the last statement is only clear when one pauses to consider whether when he is referring to the 'terrorists' he is referring to the insurgents or the US military, it would seem that it is with deadening regularity an increasingly sophist distinction. The U.S. military said aircraft attacked a site in the Lake Thar Thar region, about 120 km (75 miles) north of Baghdad, after intelligence reports indicated senior al Qaeda members were meeting there. Four 'insurgents' were killed, presumably you can identify dead 'insurgents' from a military jet.It said suspects from the initial meeting then moved to another area south of Lake Thar Thar and U.S. forces came under small arms fire from a building. Were the US forces at this stage still airborne? Or were they still half a mile up in the air? "Responding in self-defense, supporting aircraft engaged the enemy threat. After securing the area, the ground force assessed 15 terrorists, six women and nine children were killed, two suspects, one woman and three children were wounded, and one suspected terrorist was detained," the U.S. military said. How many times have we been assured that Iraqi civilian deaths only occur as a by-product of actions against various Iraqi insugent groups? How many more children will have to die at hands of the US occupation forces in Iraq? How can we possibly trust this version of events to be anything approaching what really happened? The fact of the matter is that the USA has completely failed in achieving anything worthwhile in its occupation of Iraq, and now the US forces are now flailing around in a blood soaked morass, that does not appear to be getting anywhere.Despite the frantic attempt to con the world that things are calming down, it is clear that this latest fiasco belies this claim. The spin to create the impression that the so-called 'Iraqi' authorities are taking charge of the situation is just another lie being issued as a prelude to abandoning the people and the country, which they have been responsible for destroying. This lie about things returning to normality is however contradicted by the obvious lies being issued to explain this massacre. Lies explaining away lies, the only thing certain is that the women and children of Iraq continue to die.

Che Guevara's Gift to his Executioner.

Cuban doctors working in Bolivia have saved the sight of the man who executed revolutionary leader Che Guevara in 1967, Cuban official media report. Mario Teran, a Bolivian army sergeant, shot dead Che Guevara after he was captured in Bolivia's eastern lowlands. Cuban media reported news of the surgery ahead of the 40th anniversary of Che's death on 9 October.
Mr Teran had cataracts removed under a Cuban programme to offer free eye treatment across Latin America. The operation on Mr Teran took place last year and was first revealed when his son wrote to a Bolivian newspaper to thank the Cuban doctors for restoring his father's sight.
But Cuban media took up the story at the weekend as the island prepares for commemorations to mark Che Guevara's death 40 years ago. "Four decades after Mario Teran attempted to destroy a dream and an idea, Che returns to win yet another battle," the Communist Party's official newspaper Granma proclaimed. "Now an old man, he [Teran] can once again appreciate the colours of the sky and the forest, enjoy the smiles of his grandchildren and watch football games." Wounded Che Guevara, who played a key role in the Cuban revolution of 1959, travelled to Bolivia in 1966 to start a socialist revolution. But in October 1967, the Bolivian army, with assistance from the CIA, captured Guevara and his remaining fighters.
Che Guevara, wounded in the fighting, was taken to a schoolhouse in the village of La Higuera on 8 October where the soldiers debated what to do with him. Mario Teran is reported to have drawn the short straw and been ordered to execute the captured guerrilla. Che Guevara was killed on 9 October and his body taken to a hospital in nearby Vallegrande, where his corpse was paraded before the world's media. In 1997 his remains were discovered, exhumed and returned to Cuba, where he was reburied. Surely the fact that Doctor's from socialist Cuba helped improve the sight of Che's executioner, demonstrates most eloquently, that you may persecute socialism and reverse it in places, but you can not kill the ideas of socialism, which represent the most exalted aspirations of humanity, an exalted humanity which Che Guevara exemplified.

Doris Lessing-Nobel Prize Winner-Congratulations From the Comrades!

Warmest of congratulations to former Communist Party member, Doris Lessing, for being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, an absolutely splendid choice and most thoroughly well deserved. All Communists, Socialists and Progressives will welcome this recognition one of the foremost writers of the 20th Century. Doris fell out with the organised Communist movement, on principled and well thought through grounds, but unlike many who left the CP in that period, did not degenerate into reactionary thinking.She has also contributed enormously to feminist thought through her literature.Some of her depictions of some of more chauvinist and reactionary attitudes prevalent amongst many men in the Communist movement, were painfully accurate, and still appeared to be relevant when I first encountered her writings in the late 1970's. Doris remains a broadly progressive voice in relation to matters of world peace, and anti-racism and social progress.The Swedish academy's announcement was stunning even by the standards of Nobel judges, who have been known for such surprises as Austria's Elfriede Jelinek and Italy's Dario Fo.
Lessing, less than two weeks short of her 88th birthday, is the oldest choice ever for a prize that usually goes to authors in their 50s and 60s. Although she is widely celebrated for "The Golden Notebook" and other works, she has received little attention in recent years and has been criticized as strident and eccentric.Swedish Academy Permanent Secretary Horace Engdahl was not able to reach Lessing before announcing the prize in Stockholm, but reporters waiting outside her brick rowhouse in North London told her she had won as she pulled up in a black cab, two hours later."I've won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one, so I'm delighted to win them all," said Lessing, whose previous honors include the James Tait Black Memorial Book Prize and the W.H. Smith Literary Award. "It's a royal flush."Later, she told reporters: "I thought you were shooting some kind of television series.
Doris Lessing was born in Persia (present-day Iran) to British parents in 1919. Her family moved to Southern Africa where she spent her childhood on her father's farm in what was then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). When her second marriage ended in 1949, she moved to London, where her first novel, The Grass is Singing, was published in 1950. The book explores the complacency and shallowness of white colonial society in Southern Africa and established Lessing as a talented young novelist.She is now widely regarded as one of the most important post-war writers in English. Her novels, short stories and essays have focused on a wide range of twentieth-century issues and concerns, from the politics of race that she confronted in her early novels set in Africa, to the politics of gender which lead to her adoption by the feminist movement, to the role of the family and the individual in society, explored in her space fiction of the late 1970s and early 1980s.The books in the 'Children of Violence' series (1952-69) are strongly influenced by Lessing's rejection of a domestic family role and her involvement with communism. The novels are autobiographical in many respects, telling the story of Martha Quest, a girl growing up in Africa who marries young despite her desperate desire to avoid the life her mother has led. The second book in the series, A Proper Marriage (1954), describes the unhappiness of the marriage and Martha's eventual rejection of it. The sequel, A Ripple from the Storm (1958), is very much a novel of ideas, exploring Marxism and Martha's increasing political awareness. By the time that this book was written, however, Lessing had become disillusioned with communism and had left the party. With the publication of her next novel, The Golden Notebook (1962), Lessing became firmly identified with the feminist movement. The novel concerns Anna Wulf, a writer caught in a personal and artistic crisis, who sees her life compartmentalised into various roles - woman, lover, writer, political activist. Her diaries, written in different coloured notebooks, each correspond to a different part of herself. Anna eventually suffers a mental breakdown and it is only through this disintegration that she is able to discover a new 'wholeness' which she writes about in the final notebook.The pressures of social conformity on the individual and mental breakdown under this pressure was something that Lessing returned to in her next two novels, Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971) and The Summer Before the Dark (1973). Briefing for a Descent into Hell is about a man who is found wandering the streets of London with no memory of a 'normal' life, while Kate, the central character of The Summer Before the Dark, achieves a kind of enlightenment through what doctors would describe as a breakdown. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Doris Lessing turned almost exclusively to writing fantasy and science fiction in the 'Canopus in Argos' series, developing ideas which she had touched on towards the end of 'Children of Violence' and in Briefing for a Descent into Hell. The first book in the series, Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta, was published in 1979. The fourth, The Making of the Representative for Planet 8, was adapted by Philip Glass as an opera, with a libretto by the author.She made a return to realist fiction with Diary of a Good Neighbour (1983) and If the Old Could ... (1984), sent to her publisher under the pseudonym Jane Somers. They were turned down for publication several times and when published had only small print runs and few reviews. When the truth was uncovered, the books were, of course, reprinted to much greater acclaim. Lessing's more recent novels have continued to confront taboos and challenge preconceptions, generating many different and conflicting critical opinions. In The Good Terrorist (1985), Lessing returned to the political arena, through the story of a group of political activists who set up a squat in London. The book was awarded the WH Smith Literary Award. The Fifth Child (1988) is also concerned with alienation and the dangers inherent in a closed social group. Harriet and David react to the hedonism and excesses of the 1960s by setting themselves up in a large house and embarking on an enthusiastic programme of childbearing and domestic bliss. Their fifth child, however, emerges as a malevolent, troll-like and angry figure who quickly disrupts the family idyll. The acclaimed first volume of her autobiography, Under My Skin (1994), won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for biography), and was followed by a second volume, Walking in the Shade: Volume II of My Autobiography 1949-1962 (1997). Doris Lessing's recent fiction includes Ben, in the World (2000), a sequel to the The Fifth Child, and, The Sweetest Dream (2001), which follows the fortunes of a family through the twentieth century, set in London during the 1960s and contemporary Africa. She was made a Companion of Honour by the British Government in 1999, and is President of Booktrust, the educational charity that promotes books and reading. In 2001 she received the David Cohen British Literature Prize.Doris Lessing lives in London. Her recent books include: the grandmothers (2003), a collection of four short novels centred on an unconventional extended family; and Time Bites (2004), a selection of essays based on her life experiences. Her latest novel is The Cleft (2007).

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"Who is this Big Prick?"..Not a Question You'd Ever Need Ask Willie O'Dea.

"Who is this Big Prick?",this was the genteel interogative allegedly directed by our states Minister of Defence,Fianna Fail's Willie O'Dea, when asked by a pair of aggrieved Shannon airport workers why, he, an elected TD for Limerick had failed to contribute to the Dáil debate on the Airports future.The newly privatised Aer Lingus decision to axe its route to London Heathrow, and shift this connection to Belfast, with staff on lower wages, has created a huge amount of anger in the Shannon Region. The regions Airport workers and also the business community have reacted with dismay and astonishment to a decision which makes connectivity between Shannon and the vital business hub of Heathrow a thing of the past, despite the fact that the route was making a substantial profit.This decision,it is feared, may cost thousands of jobs in the Mid-West region.
John Fahey, chief executive of the Meet Limerick/Shannon conferencing promotion group, and Geraldine Morrissey, spokeswoman for Aer Lingus workers at the airport,would like an apology from the Minister over the remarks they say he made to them in a Pub in Limerick last Saturday night.The row happened after Mr O’Dea called to South’s pub in Limerick last Saturday night with Tánaiste Brian Cowen. Mr Fahey,a prominent hotelier in the mid-west, was there with his wife and Ms Morrissey.
“Mr O’Dea was there with the Tánaiste,” said Mr Fahey. “Then they both left together. As they did, a number of people said, ‘What about Shannon, what about Shannon?’” A short time later, Mr O’Dea returned.Mr Fahey said when Mr O’Dea approached their group,Ms Morrissey challenged him over not being present in the Dáil for a vote on the Shannon issue.“She asked him why he did not take part in the Dáil debate,”. Willie supposedly responded by saying that he was the Minister for Defence and Mr Fahey, who sounded like a most credible witness whilst speaking on Today FM's"The Last Word" said, ‘Well you did not defend the interests of the West of Ireland very well’. At this comment Willie O'Dea, who is somewhat vertically challenged, apparently turned around and said, ‘Who is this big prick?’, bizarrely informing the 6 foot John Fahey that "I would like to hit you". To which John Fahey replied "if you were a little bigger I might let you", a neat riposte if ever there was one. Apparently the Minister, according to Fahey, then turned to Geraldine Morrissey and informed her,(no doubt concerned to put her mind at ease on the matter), ‘I don’t give a fuck about you’.I really don't think that this is what Mandelson and Blair had in mind when they talked about the need for politicians to get into a 'conversation' with the electorate.
Interestingly this particular 'conversation' ocurred in South's bar in Limerick City. Is it possible that anything connected with that most Limerick of surnames, (Sabhat in Irish), South, is destined to get Willie O'Dea into difficulties? Is there a 'South' hoo-doo haunting Willie??
I recall back in the end of 2006 he landed himself in another embarrassing mess over pulling out abruptly from a promotional event for a book commemorating the life of legendary 1950's Limerick IRA volunteer Sean South..(er..yes of Garryowen). The Minister, who is also from Limerick, withdrew from the event claiming he did not realise who the book was about when he agreed to do the launch. The biography by Des Fogerty is entitled 'Sean South of Garryowen....Mr O’Dea rejected claims by the family that he came under pressure from his own officials to pull out of the event.Sean South, whose death inspired a famous rebel ballad, was shot dead along with another IRA man, Fergal O’Hanlon, during an attack on the RUC barracks in Brookeborough, in January 1957.Mr O’Dea said: “I thought the book I was to launch was about somebody else.”However, Owen South, a well-known photographer and nephew of Sean South, challenged Willie's version of events.“The publisher got a call from the Department of Defence saying the Minister would not be attending the launch at Peter Clohessy’s bar next Saturday night,” he said.“It was the department and not the Minister who contacted us to say he would not be turning up. For the Minister to say he did not know at the outset who the book was about is rubbish. He knew all along the book was about Sean South. Obviously there was pressure from his own department or somewhere not to turn up.”Mr O’Dea said that when he accepted the invitation to launch the book, he did not realise it was about Sean South.“I did not realise it was about Sean South until the other day and I did not think it would be appropriate for the Minister for Defence to launch a book about Sean South...It was my own decision. To be honest I assumed the book was about somebody else as I did a book launch some time ago about the city fishermen"(what that is a reference to is beyond me). “I only realised the book was on Sean South when my diary was being checked and somebody got in touch with my office. I don’t think it appropriate for me to be launching a book on Sean South.
Willie O'Dea is the Minister of Defence in Bertie Ahern's Cabinet, the same Taoiseach who would have us believe he is having difficulties 'recalling' the provenance of the odd thirty grand in sterling, in his recent evidence about his finances at the Mahon Tribunal hearings.Is'nt it clear now, clearer perhaps than ever it has been, that these people who govern this nation, are,in the immortal words of East Ender's Phil Mitchell,simply 'Aving a laugh' ?