Saturday, January 27, 2007

Read, mark, and inwardly digest.

Malcolm has been busy of late ( is music to strip wallpaper by). He has not, however, been neglectful of his studies.

For instance, there was the curious posting from the curiously-taciturn yourcousin. Eighteen months, and not a single public utterance: what a waste of bandwidth.

So, for all the Hillary-phobes out there, here's a couple of quick tips:
  1. Learn how she spells her forename. There are over a million "hits" on to exhibit your carelessness or ignorance.
  2. Take the trouble to read the Economist's Lexington column. It is an exemplary statement of where Malcolm and his ilk stand.
Meanwhile, back to the "project". Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, January 21, 2007

News! Latest! Malcolm declares!

Sphere: Related Content

"To begin at the beginning..."

Well, well, says a reasonably-lubricated Malcolm. Let's see what Auntie Beeb is saying:
Police have warned senior Labour figures to stop putting "undue pressure" on officers investigating "cash-for-honours" claims.

Several senior Labour MPs have called the arrest on Friday of Number 10 aide Ruth Turner, who denies any wrongdoing, unnecessary and "theatrical".

But the Metropolitan Police Federation said this was not an "appropriate moment" to make such comments.

The Liberal Democrats said police were acting professionally and normally.


Ms Turner was questioned on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and was later released.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said she was "slightly bewildered" as to why the arrest had happened early in the morning, with four policemen knocking on the door of Ms Turner - who was then released without charge.

"She has fully co-operated and she is a person of utter decency and conscientiousness and I am surprised," Ms Jowell said.

Former Downing Street aide Lance Price said: "It does look a bit theatrical.

"Ruth Turner has co-operated with the inquiry all the way through up until this point. There's been no suggestion that she wasn't willing to give police any help that they asked for.

"So it does seem pretty extraordinary to do the sort of dawn raid that we associate generally with people who are about to abscond justice and fly on a plane to Bermuda or something."

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett said he wanted "thoroughness, not theatre".

Mr Blair gave Ms Turner, who as director of government relations is one of his closest aides, his full backing.

'No-one above the law'

However, Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Glen Smyth told BBC News 24: "You get government ministers and senior members of the Labour party criticising the inquiry, which has frankly not even given a report to the Crown Prosecution Service yet.

"What sort of undue pressure are they trying to bring? If that's not what they are intending, it's certainly the impression that they are leaving for the officers involved and, I suspect, many other people.

"They should wait for the appropriate moment."

Len Duvall, the Labour politician who chairs the Metropolitan Police Authority, called on others not to try to "manipulate or pressurise" officers.

In a statement, he told critics that "no one in this country is above the law".

Liberal Democrat spokesman Lord Thomas of Gresford said: "Once the police had formed a reasonable suspicion of her perverting the course of justice, as they must have, it was their duty to act swiftly and professionally to preserve any evidence.

"That is commonplace, as any criminal lawyer knows.

"Pressure put upon the police by people in high places suggests that they want the investigation stopped."

Oh, yes.

Good show.

Well done.


Four police officers demand entry to your home at 6.30 in the morning. Your property is rummaged. You are taken to the local station. You are interrogated. You are, eventually, not charged with anything. You are released on "police bail" (which actually means that, if they subsequently ask for you to turn up at the station, do so tout suite). You are, suddenly, on every front page.

Who won that encounter? Who had the right of reply?

And yet, and yet ...

The LibDems (the self-proclaimed defenders of truth, honour, individual rights and FREEDOM) believe this is "reasonable" and done "swiftly and professionally". Or, as any Dublin Jackeen might spit, "Mar Ya!"

Any reasonable complaint is met with a response from:
... the Metropolitan Police? No!

The Commissioner? No!

The Officer in charge? No!

Answer: the coppers' trade union, who winge about "pressure", saying criticism must wait until a report is made (or not: when will we know?) to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Oh, shit, says Malcolm. I must have missed something there.

Now, thinks Malcolm: here's an interesting conundrum. It seems that, after any arrest, pretty well every policebod leaks to the local (or national) press. There is, apparently, an understood tariff. At the bottom end, it's worth a drink. If it's a"celebrity" and the Red Tops, then serious money becomes involved. This is "professional". Or is it "pressure"?

So, Malcolm retires to bed early ... just in case he is the next recipient of the Solzenitsyn pre-dawn knock.
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Malcolm believes that no rose should bloom to blush unseen. So, he offers to his massed audience the following anonymous "comment":
How surprising that RTÉ's 'Hidden History' series should falsely accuse de Valera of being a Nazi sympathiser (see T. Ryle Dwyer's article in which he rejects this notion here. In a recent episode, they rationalised the actions of an actual fascist, Eoin O'Duffy, who tried to lead a coup against de Valera's government. Distortion is not a typical RTÉ tactic at all, at all. Malcolm has already drawn attention to the — ahem! — ambiguous attitude of De Valera to fascist and totalitarian régimes (as on last 29th August, in regard to Brian Girvin's book on The Emergency). Girvin was the only historian the programme could get to promote their "distortions", as T. Ryle Dwyer puts it. Any other Irish historian will laugh at the idea that de Valera was a closet fascist. Unlike Churchill, he never expressed his admiration for Hitler and Mussolini, and stated his opposition to fascist regimes.
[Warning: neither Malcolm nor his little elves could get this direct link to work. Your mileage may differ. There also seems to be no immediately-obvious access to this article through the main Irish Examiner webpage. Further advice welcome.]

This is, in all truth, one of the more printable responses that Malcolm's recent posting provoked (most have emailed abuse directly, so no need to search the "comments" for the filth). Quite why the use of the substantives "De Valera" and "Jew" in the same posting should cause such general aggravation and abuse escapes Malcolm totally.

Anyway, Malcolm (who is currently busy re-reading his biographies of De Valera) wants the record put straight, even for those who cannot read the whole posting:
  • He does not, and has not accused De Valera of being a Nazi sympathiser (and, quite honestly, does not believe that RTÉ have done so). Anyway, Malcolm is edgy about any accusation beginning "They ...".
  • He has no intention, at this stage, in getting involved in the notion that Churchill was an admirer of Mussolini or Hitler. However, it bewilders him that any mention of De Valera creates this curious need to make a parallel with Churchill.
  • Or, quite frankly, that ODuffy could be "rationalised".
  • What Malcolm does fret on is the way De Valera, and those around him, were attracted to the totalitarianism of, par example, Salazar and ["Not the nuclear option, Malcolm!"] Pius VI.
  • His memory is that , above all, De Valera's Ireland in the late 1950s was a pretty dismal and philistine place.
Anyway, Malcolm is currently occupied. Throw your abuse this way. When he's finished his current book-pile: he's up for you. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, January 12, 2007

As available on, Village Voice and other dissident free-sheets. Sphere: Related Content
A spoonful of sugar:

Malcolm scans today's on-line Washington Post and splutters over this:

This month alone, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent more than $1 million on full-page newspaper ads touting the success of the existing Medicare drug system.

Drug companies spent more on lobbying than any other industry between 1998 and 2005 -- $900 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. They donated a total of $89.9 million in the same period to federal candidates and party committees, nearly three-quarters of it to Republicans.

To recapitulate:
  • The Drugs firms have putsched the Republican Party (and, therefore, the US Congress over recent years).
  • Their suzerainty over the elected government has been such that an act allowed Big Pharma to fix prices, and nixed the US Government from even negotiating prices for prescription drugs dispensed under Medicare.
  • The incoming Democrats have pledged to overturn this.
  • Apparently, the Dems considered (and rejected) direct federal involvement as purchaser and provider. A milder option, to authorise the private insurance corporations to negotiate with the pharmers, is now the preferred option. The question remains: what clout will this have?
  • By no coincidence, pharmer money has smartly followed the shift in political advantage, being used to bring Democrats on board.
  • Bush (who got £600,000 of pharmers' contributions to his 2004 campaign) has said he will use the presidential veto on any bill, maintaining it interferes with the "free" market and competition between the pharmers.
  • In any event, the ban on importing cheaper drugs and generics from (mainly) Canada will stay.
Malcolm does not have any formula for sorting out this shambles. His instinct is, if ever there was a point of confrontation, a ne plus ultra, this ought to be it. What have the Dems, in the longer term, to lose by pushing the issue? Why not challenge, nay provoke a Bush veto? Does anyone outside a few pharmer boardrooms and K Street lobbyists believe a stand would cost Democratic support and votes, now and in 2008?

Why, for heaven's sake, do politicos consistently, almost instinctively, run for cover; and neglect the supreme good of their voters and supporters? Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien [The best is the enemy of the good], wrote Voltaire (and, incidentally, Eisenhower once cited): he had it the wrong way round.

Malcolm can only mutter his habitual mantra: "It was ever thus"; and draw on the opening paragraph of Barbara Tuchman' s pacy read The March of Folly:
A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Twice in a day! Malcolm again rethinks: this time about puffing the RTÉ1 programme on Ireland's Nazis by relying on pre-publicity in "news" items. This led Malcolm to reflect more widely on Irish anti-semitism.

First, though, Malcolm accepts the main thrust of Cathal O'Shannon's argument (that post-war Irish Governments chose to turn a blind eye to some dubious immigrants). However, he would also wish to draw attention to the comment now attached to the end of Tuesday's posting. Dan Leach, a PhD candidate at Melbourne University (not, as Nicola Tallant attributes, a "professor") feels he and the subject have been substantially misrepresented. Malcolm wants a balance for Leach's correction, rather than it being tucked away in a footnote.

Tallant quoted "research" on Nazi atrocities perpetrated by
Célestin Lainé (who also bretonised his name as Neven Hénaff), leader of a Waffen SS unit, the Bezen Perrot. Notice that the wikipedia article is prefaced by a "neutrality" warning: it does seem to depend more on asseveration than attribution. Here, repeated from that "comment", is Leach's telling complaint about Tallant:
This is my actual quote from the script of Ireland's Nazis (Programme One), courtesy Tile Films:

"The former head of the Breton nationalist party Raymond Delaporte reportedly had an interview with De Valera in which De Valera advised him to continue using the aliases with which he’d entered Ireland so that then if the French asked De Valera is this man in the country De Valera could truthfully answer “NO”."

That became this in The Sunday Times article:

"Dan Leach of the University of Melbourne reveals that the former head of the Breton Nationalist Party met de Valera to discuss Lainé. 'De Valera advised him (that Lainé should) continue using his alias so that if the French asked him if Lainé was in the country he could truthfully answer ‘no’,' Leach said."

Two different people; two different subjects of discussion. There is no evidence De Valera ever met Bezen Perrot leader and militant Breton collaborator Célestin Lainé (aka Neven Henaff). The discussion was between De Valera and Raymond Delaporte, and 'Dev's advice was for Delaporte alone. I certainly did not mention Lainé in this context, as can be plainly observed.

Delaporte was a moderate nationalist, so obviously his meeting with De Valera lacks the kind of sensationalist verve Tallant requires to beat up her story.
'Nuff said. Malcolm has warned Leach that apologetics and corrections are not common for either the Sunday Times or the Indy. So far that warning stands.

However, that does not undermine O'Shannon's case. The sad truth is that neither Saorstát nor new-fledged An Phoblacht were squeaky clean. And Catholic orthodoxy, especially in regard to intermarriage, ensured Jewish (and other minority) emigration over the years [see below].

Let Malcolm have a run at it, with some of his "guilt-by-association" notions.

He has previously pointed to the totalitarian, even Nazist, sympathies of some of those around De Valera, in particular Joseph Walshe and Frank Aiken. Now for a couple more gargoyles:
  • Let's start with Charles Bewley. Yes, it's coffee time, but this was the black sheep of an honourable family. Bewley converted to republicanism and catholicism, was Irish ambassador to the Holy See, and most significantly (1933-39) representative in Berlin. Under Bewley's control, Irish visas for fleeing Jews were minimal (one estimate says just 60 were issued between 1933 and 1946). His commentaries back to Dublin are very revealing. He defended the Nuremberg race laws; knew of no "deliberate cruelty" to Jews; and regarded Jews as the "wrong class" for admission to Ireland. De Valera dismissed him only at the outbreak of War. Bewley then functioned as one of Goebbels' PR-men. In 1945 (this is a good story, and also on wikipedia) he fell into the hands of the British Army in north Italy. He showed his expired Irish diplomatic papers. This made him a major embarrassment to Dublin and London (the "Lord Haw-haw" business being current). The solution was to issue him a new Irish passport, with the description "a person of no importance". Bewley's vanity meant he never felt able to cross another frontier. He was effectively marooned in Rome for the rest of his days, where he improved the idle hour by penning a biography of Goering.
  • Bewley was, alas, not alone. As James Lydon (once Malcolm's tutor) has pointed out:
... prejudice was evident when attempts were made to persuade the Irish government to offer asylum to Jewish refugees. When the Irish Coordinating Committee for Refugees was established in November 1938, at a time when many Jewish refugees were desperately trying to escape from Nazi persecution, it decided that only Christian refugees were to be accepted into Ireland.
  • Another ball of wind was Oliver Flanagan, later a Fine Gael Minister. He got himself elected to the Dáil on a blatantly anti-semitic ticket. He compounded this with his maiden speech [Proceedings of the Dáil, 9 July 1943]:
How is it that we do not see any of these Emergency Orders directed against the Jews who crucified Our Saviour 1,900 years ago and who are crucifying us every day of the week? How is it that we do not see them directed against the Masonic Order? How is it that the IRA is considered an illegal organisation while the Masonic Order is not considered an illegal organisation? There is one thing that Germany did and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country it does not matter a hair's breadth what laws you make. Where the bees are there is honey and where the Jews are there is money.
And even De Valera himself? Let's leave aside unseemly doings of 2 May 1945:
I have noted that my call on the German Minister on the announcement of Hitler's death was played to the utmost. I expected this. I could have had a diplomatic illness, but, as you know, I would scorn that sort of thing. ... During the whole of the war, Dr Hempel's conduct was irreproachable. He was always friendly and invariably correct — in marked contrast with [US Ambassador] Gray. I certainly was not going to add to his humiliation in the hour of defeat.
Malcolm liked the well-written, wry put-down in John Cornwall's Hitler's Pope. This passing mention at the "no expense spared" 1939 coronation of Pius VI borrows from Douglas Woodruff, editor of The Tablet, but is otherwise unhelpful:
Two by two, the princes, ambassadors and distinguished representatives of the nations then processed down the south nave in glittering regalia to take up their positions on the left of the high altar. Among them the Prince and Princess of Piedmont; the Count of Flanders; the Duke of Norfolk, representing the United Kingdom; two ex-kings, Ferdinand of Bulgaria and Alfonso of Spain; Joseph Kennedy, American ambassador in London and foremost Boston Catholic, representing the United States; Paul Claudel, the poet and dramatist, representing France; and "rather oddly", as Woodruff noted, Eamon De Valera, the prime minister of Ireland, walking in step with Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law and foreign minister, who later caused a rumpus at having been placed below the Duke of Norfolk in the procession.
The general impression is that De Valera himself was free of antisemitic prejudice. Indeed, prejudice sometimes went the other way: John Devoy, whose US Clan na Gael financed the IRB, the Easter Rising and the War of Independence over decades, disliked De Valera:
Devoy wrote of de Valera, "This half-breed Jew has done me more harm in the last two years than the English have been able to do during my whole life."
De Valera included an acknowledgement of the Jewish community in the famous religious clause of his Constitution. Indeed, let it be remembered, he had reasons for gratitude. Chief Rabbi Herzog took De Valera in at 33 Bloomfield Avenue, Portabello, repeatedly, when he was "on the run": this was fundamental to a continuing friendship. As an aside, Malcolm recollects one morning, still bleary, he switched on BBC's Today programme, to hear a well-modulated, mellow, bourgeois Dublin voice (for Malcolm, the essence of good English enunciation). It took a while to untangle the accent from the topic: it was the voice of the President Chaim Herzog of Israel, Belfast-born, Dublin-schooled son of the former Chief Rabbi Isaac.

Which brings Malcolm to Dublin's most famous Jew, Leopold Bloom, now given sociological status with an academic tome, Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce: A Socioeconomic History by Cormac Ó. Gráda (a very recent review on-line here). He also has a walk-on part in Professor Dermot Keogh of UCC's Jews in Twentieth-Century Ireland: Refugees, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

And Bloom brings us to Ireland's blackest bits of anti-semitism. Bloom (Chapter 2, part 2) is in Barney Kiernan's pub. The ultra-nationalist Citizen asks him, "What is your nation?" Bloom answers: "Ireland... I was born here. Ireland." The situation quickly deteriorates:

Gob, the citizen made a plunge back into the shop.
--By Jesus, says he, I'll brain that bloody jewman for using the holy name.
By Jesus, I'll crucify him so I will. Give us that biscuitbox here.

The significance of this is the Citizen is carrying copies of The United Irishman. In January 1904 (six months before Bloomsday) Arthur Griffith had approved the Limerick Pogrom. Limerick, low, grey and damp, is one of Malcolm's least favourite towns, an impression going back way before Frank McCourt (sometime teacher of English at Stuy to Malcolm's son-in-law) put the boot in. However, "pogrom" is giving the event, a sad, even tragic event, greater significance than it deserves. A young priest, a product of French antisemitism at the time of the Dreyfus affair, preached a sermon (pace Oliver Flanagan above): this provoked a two-year boycott of Jewish traders, who eventually moved to Cork (intending to ship to New York) where they were made welcome. Hence, a story from Robert Tracy:
... a prominent Jew from Cork [Gerald Goldberg, Lord Mayor of Cork], a descendant of the Limerick diaspora, ... was interviewed on Irish television in the 1970s as part of a series examining the treatment of minorities in the Republic. Asked if he had personally experienced prejudice, he replied, "Oh yes. Yes indeed," and then, after a pause, added, "In Dublin, you know, they always have the knife out for the Corkman."
The Limerick Pogrom could easily be forgotten, except ... for one Stephen Coughlan. As Lord Mayor of Limerick, Coughlan (cue voice of Neil Kinnock: "A Labour Mayor! A Labour Mayor!") twice in a month showed an incredible brutality of mind. Here's Coughlan (as in The Irish Times of 13 March 1970) reacting to a gun being fired at Limerick's Little Red Bookshop:
Limerick has always been known for its Christian outlook, its charity, but anyone in Limerick could have seen this trouble coming. The Maoist bookshop has been a deliberate provocation. The people of this city abhor the introduction of these people who are completely opposed to our Christian tradition.
That's to be taken in connection with a speech a month later (quoted in The Irish Times of 20 April 1970):
I remember when I was a very young boy ... the problem of the Jews in Limerick. A Father Creagh, in his courageous way, declared war on the Jews at Killooney Street which is now Wolfe Tone Street. The Jews at that time, who are now gone, were extortionists ... I remember an unfortunate woman was having a baby and they came getting their five shillings a week ... scourging her ... they took the bed from under her.
Well, murmurs Malcolm, it's all water under the bridge. Ireland, North and Republic, has far greater issues of prejudice and integration today.

The end-note must be the terminal (?) decline in Irish Jewry: like the other religious minorities (Protestants have declined from 10% of the population before Home Rule to just 3% in 1991), their numbers shrunk over the years. Dublin's fine Greenville Hall, once a synagogue, now houses a technology company (image at the head of this post).

In the first instance the attrition was because the Catholic Church effectively enforced conversion on marriage. Moreover:
The founding of the State of Israel in 1948 prompted an exodus from Ireland. "Irish Jews have always been very Zionistic," explained [Raphael] Siev, [the Jewish Museum in Dublin’s founder and curator]. "In fact, today there are more Irish-born Jews living in Israel than in Ireland." The third hemorrhage, ongoing from the 1960s, is emigration for better economic and social opportunities. "The young leave because there's no Jewish life for them here, and because the good jobs are overseas," said Siev. Parents practically force their children out of Ireland, to England, Israel or the U.S., so they can meet and marry other Jews.
Siev puts the Jewish population in all Ireland at no more than 1,200. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Regurgitated gas:

Here's Malcolm, last November 17th on "Unnatural gas":
...the price of domestic gas and electricity shows little sign of reducing. We are now paying 90% more for gas, and 60% more for electricity than 2003. There are further price increases due in the near future. Scottish and Southern is upping tariffs next January by 12.1% for gas and 9.4% for electricity. In the name of all decency, why?

Last January, the wholesale price of gas was 71.25p per therm: this year it is being offered at 61.7p (a fall of nearly 15%). The “spot” price is just over 40p per therm (half the peak price reached last Spring), though this is not significant because most suppliers are locked into long-term contracts. However, suppliers, to justify price increases, repeatedly quoted the “spot” price.
And, strictly for comparison, here is the second leader, "Flagging Energy", in today's Times:
While wholesale gas prices have fallen by about 40 per cent in the past six months, householders’ bills have risen an average of 30 per cent in that time. Average gas bills have risen by 94 per cent in three years and electricity bills by 60 per cent, pushing the average household into paying more than £1,000 a year for energy.

What is going on? Only last month Ofgem, the energy regulator, warned Britain's gas suppliers not to “keep jam on their fingers” by failing to pass on falling costs to consumers, and theatening to use its powers to fine them. There is typically a lag in price changes being passed on, since energy companies tend to pay at least three months in advance for their supplies. But wholesale gas prices have been falling for longer that that, and the retail price seems to be heading in quite the opposite direction. Four gas companies raised their prices again on January 1, in some cases because capped deals expired.
Remember, you read it here first. Sphere: Related Content
Ryanair: 'the irresponsible face of capitalism'

This afternoon, from RTÉ Business:
Asked about facilities at Dublin Airport, Mr [Michael] O'Leary [CEO of Ryanair] said he had no plans to move Ryanair's check-in facilities to a new purpose-built area in the basement of the terminal, which will be up and running by the end of the month. In what appeared to be a challenge to the Dublin Airport Authority, he said he would need to see 'incentives' to encourage him to do so.
That final clause reminds Malcolm of the to-and-froings that Ryanair got into, trying to cover up the financial support (some £1.25M of public money) they demanded (and got) from City of Derry Airport. And, even then, one of their aircraft preferred Ballykelly (six miles east) to Derry airport.

Meanwhile, Malcolm has sworn two solemn oaths for this New Year:

  • that John Barleycorn must die (this, on the strong counsel of his GP, over the matter of imbibing, hypertension and weight); and
  • never, ever, no matter what, to fly Ryanair.
The latter item needs explication. In the late Summer, Malcolm and his dearly-beloved flew from Stansted to Dublin. The journey was made thoroughly nasty by:
  • Ryanair's exploitative interpretation of the regulations on baggage security;
  • Constant nagging advertising on the p.a. system;
  • the squalor of the outward leg (dripping filth in the seat-back pocket, a previous passenger's detritus under the seat-pad);
  • the sheer unpleasantness of the Ryanair facility at Dublin Airport.
Last February, both the Belfast Telegraph and Channel 4's Dispatches looked at Ryanair's procedures:
Two Dispatches undercover reporters spent five months secretly filming Ryanair's training programme and onboard flights as members of the cabin crew . The reporters reveal what really takes place behind the scenes: inadequate safety and security checks, dirty planes, exhausted cabin crew and pilots complaining about the number of hours they have to fly. And watch Ryanair staff speaking frankly about their experiences and attitudes towards passengers.
The "dirty planes" bit included the ploy of spraying aftershave on vomit rather than clean it up.

Anyone who has not had the experience should be aware of what Ryanair at Dublin means:

  • Expect a long hike across the tarmac to a Portacabin.
  • The Portacabin will be solid with bodies, through which one picks one's way.
  • There is now a corridor, zig-zagging several leagues long, to the Terminal proper.
  • Baggage will be dispensed with as much chaos as possible.
  • The return leg will repeat the experience in reverse,
  • with the added discomfort of an extended wait in the Portacabin, with minimal refreshment, toilet or seating facilities.
When Ian Pearson had took a shot at Ryanair, Malcolm cheered:
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, junior Environment Minister Ian Pearson branded Ryanair 'the irresponsible face of capitalism' and described Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary as 'completely off the wall' on the issue of climate change.
Not just "on the issue of climate change", Malcolm feels. Ryanair are unrepentant in running the most down-market operation possible. Malcolm sees this as the epitome of arrogant customer-carelessness, for which nationalisation once was blamed.

Malcolm regrets not following his instinct from previous experience, and not noting the TripAdvisor finding:
Ryanair has been voted the world's least favourite airline as its ultra-frugal approach to flying wins millions of customers but very few fans.
So, next month, it's back to EasyJet: the orange decor is disturbing, the advertising is still intrusive, time-keeping is less than perfect ... but, it's not third-world cattle class.

And Malcolm raises his glass (of fizzy water) to
Michael Coulston, who set up a web site critical of Ryanair's business practices. Sphere: Related Content
David Ervine

On the topic of Ervine's premature and ill-timed death, Malcolm rues his ill-advised excursion into the Slugger O'Toole blogsite, that curious admixture of decent commonsense and splenetic bile, yesterday.

Malcolm finds (now, perhaps, needs to say "found") the character of Ervine one of the more intriguing of the Northern Irish operators. After all, it is not many who earn fond words equally from Blair, Ahern, Reg Empey, Gerry Adams and Hugh Orde: notice, however, the curious absence, at least so far, of DUP Christian forgiveness. [A fair and rounded obituary is on the Irish Independendent website, registration necessary: this may be from the fair Italian hand of David McKittrick, who wrote the accompanying news-piece].

The first issue to address is Ervine's terrorist past. He freely admitted his long-term involvement with the UVF. He was put away when he was caught driving a bomb-loaded car (and forced to disarm his own bomb, by the simple method of attaching a rope to him, and ordering him to get on with it). He then served sixty-odd months in the Maze.

Inside, he was one of the "progressives" who started to rethink the loyalist approach. This, in itself, goes against the formula. The prison library of the Maze was donated to the Belfast Linen Hall Library. Allegedly (and Malcolm admits no personal experience), the loyalist contribution was largely body-building, while the Provos provided the political tracts.

On his emergence, Ervine became one of the few effective loyalist communicators, notable for his fairness and open-mindedness. His bald head on the screen was a guarantee that some sense would be offered, some engagement made.

He was elected to the Assembly, and then to Belfast City Council, as a member of the PUP. He developed into a useful mouthpiece for his home-turf of east Belfast, and was one of the few coherent leftists in the Northern arena. This made him the legatee of a long tradition of east Belfast radicalism, stretching back to the ILP of Ireland, the syndicalists who espoused James Connolly's Socialism Made Easy. This tradition, Malcolm maintains, is proof positive that politics in the Black North can transcend sectarianism.

By the time of Ervine's death, the PUP had withered to a shell. He had failed to decouple the party from the UVF, or to bring about decommissioning of the UVF. His need to keep credibility with the gang-lords meant that he was less than vocal about their continued resort to violence. Whether he could have overcome these problems, and enunciated a comprehensive ideology remains unknown. His frustrated attempt to switch to Empey's UUP, if only for political advantage in the Assembly, can be read in different ways. The sad truth is that little threatens the nauseating Robinson's and the DUP's hold on this archetypal working-class Westminster constituency (which has been held by Unionists, courtesy of the Orange Card and a sectarian split, since its creation).

Ervine was no Brutus (though both were too close to political murder for comfort) but Malcolm feels the ambiguities of this complex man deserve a eulogy. Allowing a quibble over that obvious adjective:
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world 'This was a man!'
Sphere: Related Content
Anyone with access to RTÉ1 should be looking for this:

Ireland's Nazis

In this two-part series, veteran broadcaster Cathal O'Shannon sets out on a journey across three continents to uncover the true story of Ireland's Nazis.

That's tonight, Tuesday 9th January.

A taster for the programme was Nicola Tallant's piece in the (Irish edition) of the Sunday Times:
De Valera helped Nazi war criminal. The subjects in question will apparently be:
  • Célestin Lainé, leader of a Waffen SS unit, the Bezen Perrot, who adopted the usual methods for suppressing occupied Brittany.
  • Andrija Artukovic, who, as the Nazi gauleiter for Croatia, did for as many as a million in death camps. O’Shannon maintains the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs refuse to release their file on "Alois Annick" (the alias Artukovik adopted to live in south Dublin during 1947-8, before emigrating to California). The subtext here is whether the Vatican had any input.
  • Pieter Menten, a Dutchman war-criminal (and, some claim, art-thief) who had a nice mansion in the County Waterford.
Malcolm assumes that O'Shannon is more than just a namesake of the Ulster IRB-man and Connolly-associate (1889-1969) who was interned in 1916-7, re-arrested and went in hunger strike, sacked from the Irish Socialist Party for opposing the link with the Third International, who served briefly as a Labour minister in the Second Dáil, and had an active lifetime achievement in trade unionism and journalism.

Malcolm has already drawn attention to the — ahem! — ambiguous attitude of De Valera to fascist and totalitarian régimes (as on last 29th August, in regard to Brian Girvin's book on The Emergency).

He also notes that there was quite a contingent of "good" Germans in Ireland after the War. There were, notably, the Bielenbergs farming in the County Carlow. At least one former German Minister was residing in Blackrock, and travelling for the German War Graves commission. West Cork seemed already to have attracted a small contingent (or were they all, as they seemed to maintain, Dutch and Afrikaaner?). All in all, it is hardly surprising that a few less desirables snuck in (or, perhaps, as O'Shannon seems to propose, even were infiltrated by "sympathetic" international spookery).

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