Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The joys of Airport Extreme

Reconsidering that previous post caused Malcolm to review his own activities and practices:
  • He was sat, with iBook, in dining-room (front of the house).
  • Daughter three, with MacBook, was in kitchen (back of the house).
  • Daughter two, with MacBook, was in Yorkshire (two hundred miles away).
  • Daughter one, with MacBook Pro 17 inch (for which all others despise her, out of envy), was in from New Jersey, on couch in sitting room (back of house) and adjacent to:
  • Wife, with MacBook, at desk in sitting room.
All were communicating by broadband and wi-fi, using mac.com and me.com addresses.

So, rather than a shout from room to room (or even sitting in the same space), e-mails were winging from North London to Cupertino (or wherever) and back again.


And they said it would be television that killed the art of conversation. Sphere: Related Content

The (dubious) joys of an iPod Touch

Malcolm has (count them!) three iPods:
  • a second generation 20Gb metal block, still going strong (and currently devoted to the life and works of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings);
  • a fourth generation (60 Gigs!) which, on Shuffle mode, bridges the half-alive world -- thanks to noise-deadening 'phones -- of Virgin Atlantic's LHR-EWR route; and
  • a newish iPodTouch, on which are installed Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hours. Of which, doubtless, more anon.
Now, the problem.

The iPodTouch (can that be the approved capitalisation?) insists on downloading and preserving all those e-mails that Malcolm instinctively deleted from his main machine. Which means he regularly finds he has several hundred to delete, for a second time.

Some of these can be quite odd. No: he is not speaking here of Nigerian multi-millionaires with a banking proposition. Nor all those invitations to extend his penis or to add Viagra to his daily diet.

Far, far more bewildering.

Consider Harley-Davidson of Los Angeles' offering of a seasonal special: gift-wrapping.

How does one gift-wrap an Ultra Classic Electra Glide in black? (As if. But, oh, pu-leeze!)

Which neatly links to the greetings card Malcolm saw in his local book-shop:
The saddest thing in the world
is to wake up on Christmas morning,
and not be a child.
Sphere: Related Content
This chew cud change your life!

Malcolm cracked up, helpless with laughter, when the BBC website brought him news:

Marinating a steak in red wine or beer can cut down the number of cancer-causing agents produced when it is fried or grilled...
This, at second-hand but none-the-less welcome, from the New Scientist.

Think of the benefits this culinary insight will bring to -- say -- the great State of Wyoming. For there it was that Malcolm recoiled from a breakfast menu and waitress pressing on him the delights of a 160z steak. At 8.30 a.m.

There remain three niggles in Malcolm's mind:
  • Only a month ago, the same BBC was reporting that even a rasher of bacon was carcinogenic. This worries Malcolm because, while he likes his bacon butty (and particular recalls one at the Glasgow railwaymen's cafe, in the company of the great Bob Mitchell), his wife insists on frying the bacon to armour-plating. Therefore, he foregoes the pleasure, except when it's part of an Ulster fry (a.k.a. "death by cholesterol"), cooked by his mother-in-law.
  • He cannot work out how marinated steak counts against his alcohol-intake numbers. Yeah, he regularly deducts the odd double-figure from his weekly total, but the advertising is insidious and worrying. London bus adverts even piggy-back it onto recycling: bastards.
  • The research was done at the University of Oporto. Now, just possibly, could Oporto have a vested interest here?
Sphere: Related Content
Post-prandial reading

Malcolm has regular on-sets of reading block. The period after Christmas is, inevitably, one such. On this occasion it is exacerbated by his cold.

His traditional remedy (for the block: the cold has to take its course, aided on its way by spirituous liquors) is something light. The oeuvre of Carl Hiaasen has been a sure-fire road to recovery from previous bouts. This year, though, he will try something else.

Back in 2004, Giles Milton opened (at least for Malcolm) a new vein of revisionary history. Milton's White Gold tells the story of Thomas Pellow, captured by Salee rovers slave-raiding on Cornwall, who then spent two decades as a Muslim convert in the service of the Sultan of Morocco, before escaping home. As a piece of romantic fiction, Milton's account would stretch credence. Yet it has a solid basis in factual research.

This was followed up by Des Ekin's The Stolen Village, an interpretation of Morat Rais's 1631 raid on Baltimore, West Cork:
... altogether fifty youngsters ‘even those in the cradle’ were abducted, along with thirty-four women and nearly two dozen men.

Today the ‘Sack of Baltimore’ has been virtually forgotten by the world.

Of the 107 abducted from Baltimore, only two -- both women -- returned. Ekin's is not the best-written book in sight, and his first-hand accounts are far slighter than those available to Milton. It's a worth-while effort, all the same.

In defence of his desired reputation of being, occasionally, serious, Malcolm is anxious to add that this led onto some serious reading. The history of the attempts to suppress North African piracy focus on the noble actions of the new United States Navy in bringing that about. European governments were prepared to pay the equivalent of Danegeld. Several writers, in different ways, have thereby added their weight to Malcolm's shelf problem: Gregory Fremont-Barnes, Frederick C. Leiner, Richard Zacks and Ian W. Toll are examples. Zacks seems particularly relevant in his narrative of how a handful of US Marines, under William Eaton, sorted the problem on land: compare what the spokespersons for the US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, are saying about the present Somali pirates.

Now Malcolm aims to overcome his reading-block with a double-helping of swash and buckle: the "Hector Lynch" novels of Tim Severin (a Doctor of Letters of both TCD and UCC, so give due respect). The starting point here is 1677, and a raid on an unnamed Irish village, in which Lynch, aged seventeen, is taken captive. There can be little coincidence in Severin's home being Timoleague.

Doubtless, Malcolm will report in due course on the efficacy of the remedy. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Solstitial salutations

Ave atque vale!

Yesterday, Malcolm recalled his father's annual ritual, before Christmas Dinner, of beginning the unauthorised version of George R. Sims's epic (and the equally ritual intervention by Mum before the fruity bits).

This morning Malcolm recalled a twice-yearly moment. The old man would look out the window, suck sagely on his pipe, and (depending on which solstice it was) note that "The nights are creeping in/getting shorter." So, this morning, after an exhaustive scan of the football scores, down to the most minor leagues, it would have been:
  • Go through the tasks of cleaning bowl, rodding out pipe, inserting 'baccy.
  • Light up.
  • Suck sagely.
  • Turn to window.
  • Make appropriate comment.
Now Malcolm, a non-smoker since fags went up to 4/6d a packet of 20, has to do the monologue for himself.

Had he his way, Malcolm would have been on, above and even under the chill plain of Meath this morning, in the Boyne Valley, at Newgrange, one of the select score with a chance of catching the view above (December 21st 2003, by photographer Fran Caffrey).

Instead, he had to try the next best thing, and catch it on the Web (replays available). Even that went wrong: the Redmond Fourth Reich had invited only users of Windows Media Player to the party. Bastards.

The edited highlights of 2007, with music (inevitably) by Clannad, are on YouTube:

Anyway, at 12.04 pm, Greenwich Mean Time, today, the days started getting longer.

Part 2: the politics of Newgrange to follow.
Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mark Felt the right thing

The death, at the age of 95 no less, of Mark Felt should not and does not go unmarked.

It had to be done properly, and it had particularly to be done at and by the Washington Post. It falls to Mark Stuever, on the front page of the third section of today's paper, to do it justice:
He was Deep Throat, ya know? Without a single byline he inspired thousands and thousands of campus misfits to get journalism degrees, each one of them in pursuit of bad haircuts, smoking habits and the next Deep Throat, the next huge story. Any "-gate" that followed or may yet follow feels incomplete without its own Deep Throat.
Stuever makes the essential link: it wasn't just what Felt did:
Bernstein [was asked] whether he considered Felt "an American hero," as Felt's family claimed when their father and grandfather "came out" in May 2005. "Look," Bernstein said, "Watergate was a constitutional crisis in a criminal presidency. And he had the guts to say: 'Wait. The Constitution is more important in this situation than a president of the United States who breaks the law.' It's an important lesson, I think, for the country and for people in our business, as well."
Bernstein, of course, will forever be Dustin Hoffman, as much as Woodward has to share space with Robert Redford.

Stuever's other point is equally valid: it was important that the "Woodstein"/Deep Throat story emerged though newsprint. There is a mystical link between the best (and sometimes the worst) of the daily prints and the popular consciousness:
Things have changed. Perhaps too much has changed. But not everything has changed. There was, after all, a line of people around the block at 15th and M streets in November, desperate to buy a copy of the newspaper after Election Day. True, they wanted it as a souvenir, as a thing to stow away in cardboard boxes in closets. The point being, they wanted it.
And that is why, in boxes in Malcolm's attic are relics of past times: British General Elections over forty years, 9/11, and -- most recently -- the Obama election. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On the take. On the make.

Several excellent recent reports by The Economist on corporate corruption (graphic above from a previous item), most recently the full skinny on Siemens:
On Monday December 15th Siemens pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and corruption and agreed to pay fines of $800m in America and €395m ($555m) in Germany, in addition to an earlier fine of €201m.

There is something almost touching about the candour and trust with which Siemens went about a very dirty business. Take the three “cash desks” it set up in its offices, to which employees could bring empty suitcases to be filled with cash. As much as a €1m ($1.4m) could be withdrawn at a time to win contracts for its telecoms-equipment division, according to America’s Department of Justice (DoJ).

This article cites Mark Pieth, chairman of the working group on bribery at the OECD, who:

thinks about half of the 30 biggest German and French companies are being investigated or prosecuted for bribing foreign officials.

The numbers go off any scale of reason:
Some $805m was handed over in bribes to foreign officials to help Siemens win contracts over about six years after the firm’s American listing, according to the DoJ. And the brazenness of the firm’s bribe-paying points to a rotten corporate culture pervasive across Germany at the time. “The great majority of companies operating in the international market were well aware that German law—and the law of most OECD countries—allowed foreign bribery and even subsidised this,” says Peter Eigen, the founder of Transparency International, an anti-corruption campaigning group.
The Economist concludes that Europe needs to up its rules to (recently-discovered) US standards.

Who could argue with that?

Well, Europe learned its lesson from the masters: Lockheed got away with it for a quarter of a century, in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Japan. The company seems to have controlled a fair number of right-wing politicians and the odd Royal. Salt Lake City bought the 2002 Winter Olympics with $1M to two dozen IOC officials. For twelve years DaimlerChrysler ran slush funds in Africa, Asia and east Europe. Enron kept it domestic, bribing officials to fabricate tax documents. Last year, Baker Hughes was bribing the officials of Kazakhoil.

Not just the giving either: Halliburton executives were rumbled taking bribes in Kuwait. American Honda executives took kick-backs for favours given.

And so on.

Shall we count the number of US officials caught on the take? Randy “Duke” Cunningham took $2.4M before he went down. Jack Abramoff seemed to own two, three or four Congressmen (and Bush Administration officials who conspired to block the cases coming to Court) in the name of promoting betting on Indian reservations. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska is in denial over his convictions for not declaring "gifts". Earlier this month, William J. Jefferson lost one of the safest Democratic districts because of the miasma of corruption that clings to him.

And so on.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, December 15, 2008

A triumph for Tina and Sarah

Malcolm is banned from the annual family game of Trivial Pursuits (even though he is useless on the popular culture rounds).

This is a corollary of his addiction to the inconsequential, and a couple of fathoms length of bookshelf occupied by "Dictionaries of ...". The internet has supplanted many of these for instant access, but he retains many for , ahem, bathroom use.

Essential are dictionaries of quotations. The megaton rating is, of course, reserved for the OED, once the user has mastered the on-line access. OUP's proper books, flagshipped by Elizabeth Knowles' tome, are more portable. Penguins are a delight: quirkiness guaranteed. Bartleby for transAtlantic enrichment. The new kid on the block is Fred Shapiro's Yale Book of Quotations.

Which, at last, brings Malcolm to his point.

Yale/Shapiro has recently put out his top quotations for 2008. It is heavy with economic hubris:
5. "The fundamentals of America's economy are strong." — [Senator John] McCain, in an interview with Bloomberg TV, April 17
One that was subject to an instant revision.

The top two spots belong to Mrs Mooseblaster's twin manifestations:
1. "I can see Russia from my house!" — Comedian Tina Fey, while impersonating Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live," broadcast Sept. 13

2. "All of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years." — Palin, responding to a request by CBS anchor Katie Couric to name the newspapers or magazines she reads, broadcast Oct. 1
In that order.

This is further evidence of the Fey/Palin conundrum: distinguishing the fact from the fiction. Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury regularly points up this problem (see above), which bodes to persist through the next electoral cycle. With any luck.

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, December 14, 2008

An Internationale whinge

You can sing the words of the Internationale to the tune of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Well, according to a commenter, fishcanoeski, on the marvellous Wonkette site, you can.
A Malcolm aside:
This sounds like a task Humph would have set for I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, but ... who cares? In passing, if true fame is being recognised by a single name, what about superstardom needing only a single syllable?

Even more bizarre, this musical confusion is a spin-off from an article by Philip Adams in the Australian, pointing out that Christmas is all a Communist plot, and reminding us of the dubious links (as in "links, rechts, links") between Karl Marx and Santa Claus.

Even after a second reading, Malcolm is not convinced that Wonkette entirely appreciates that Australians received a double helping of irony, largely at the expense of Americans. The previously-mentioned pert piece, Malcolm's daughter, believes it's an engrained genetic thing: the emigrants to Australia were hard-cases recruited from the gaols of the United Kingdom, whereas those to the American colonies were good-living Puritans and Presbyterians. Hence the difference in world-view.

If there's any doubt of that observable fact, Malcolm asks for an explanation of Utah: why did the Almighty (in whom so many Americans trust) put all those tourist traps in a State where alcoholics like Malcolm suffer have to suffer root-beer and withdrawal symptoms? That's not irony, it's vengeance.

Any other gripe, Malc?

Yes, indeedy.

Years back, Malcolm went to the memorial service for a well-loved local parson. The suffragan Bishop told the painful story of visiting the dying man. Together they tried to recite the Lord's Prayer. Unfortunately, the modernisers had cocked that up as well. So, the dying man went for the politically-correct "modern" version: the Bishop, deferring to age and tradition, went for the approved Prayer Book version. The Bishop, from the pulpit, reflected poignantly, on how two aged men were unable to connect at such a moment.

That's the anecdote. Now, the point.

Why is the Internationale not?

Well, when it annoyed the CIA and the Red-baiters, for a start. Back in December 1943 we were all palsy with the Soviets. Toscanini conducted the NBC Symphony in New York, doing Verdi, for a film sponsored by the Office of war Information. The concert began with the first verse of the Internationale, sung in Russian no less, followed by the American anthem. In course of time, RCA reissued the recording as an LP, and the Internationale disappeared, to be replaced by The Star-Spangled Banner.

Then, there are several versions, in English, of the Left's most important theme tune. It is, after all, one of the few matters on which anyone left of centre should be able to concur. Yet, even in English, it has a variety of lyrics.

The version that Malcolm caroled to Dublin's College Green, on Friday 16th October 1964, after an extended evening in O'Neill's, Suffolk Street, celebrating the UK General election results, went like this:

The best American doing it is, inevitably, Pete Seeger doing it multi-lingually, and critically:

Billy Bragg has had a go at updating it:

Which leaves only one question:

Can we agree on one thing, comrades?

... but no bloody reindeer! O.K.?
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Louisiana One takes Two:
a good deed in a naughty world.

The British right-wing have had it hard in recent years. Their distraction therapy has been to live the Great Bush Experiment (until it became the Greater Bush Disaster).

That meant there were howls and yippings whenever it looked as if, first, Hillary and, then, Obama were on the slide. Yelps of delight hailed each time Governor Sarah Mooseblaster's intellectual and ideological incisiveness could be applauded. In this world-view, she walked free, with her True Conservative "get out of jail free" card, when Senator McCain was shown to have failed because of lamentable liberal tendencies. At least, that's Malcolm's take on the whole thing.

A strange frisson hunts through the Tory tribe, in constant search of some backbone to run up.

So Tim Montgomerie's cheerleader site is featuring Dan Hamilton having conniptions over the strange events concerning the -- err -- peculiar Governor Rod Blagojevich.

And, also chez Montgomerie, there are the glad tidings, borrowed from America in the World, that Joseph Cao is now elected as Congressman for the Louisiana 2nd District (the election was delayed because of Hurricane Gustav).

A note of warning must intrude here: America in the World looks remarkably akin to one of those CIA-fronts that popped up all over the 1950s and 1960s. So, when Malcolm looked at its credentials, he found it had been launched as recently as October, with a featured photo-op of David Cameron, and its director is ... one Tim Montgomerie. Small world.

Let's stick to Cao. He was an underdog, barely registering on the clapometer a couple of weeks ago. He had certain advantages: for one, his odious and odorous opponent was the sitting Rep. Bill Jefferson.

Jefferson had scrambled to the Democrat nomination, despite growing clamour over his "business" practices. He had been arrested for corruption even before his 2006 re-election: the FBI had set up a sting with known bills, which turned up stuffed in lunch-boxes in the freezer in Jefferson's congressional office. Fans of the recent Damian Green affair might note that this was "the first-ever FBI raid on a Congressional office". Republican Senators and Congressmen went ape. In June 2007 Jefferson was indicted of sixteen counts of corruption.

Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House and Democrat leader, had Jefferson offed from the Ways and Means Committee. The Louisiana Democrats tried to squash Jefferson. He was supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, however, and ploughed blithely on.

Jefferson's family have (or had) a very effective local machine, the Progressive Democrats. Hurricane Katrina was one disrupting force. Jefferson did himself no little harm during Katrina, having the National Guard and a helicopter to rescue himself and his belongings, while others were considerably less well-catered for.

The Louisiana 2nd is most of the city of New Orleans and is 64% Black. Jefferson ran his Primary campaign on an explicit appeal to those Black voters and narrowly saw off a strong challenge from a moderate Democrat, with links to the Black Organisation for Leadership Development, the main intra-party opposition to Jefferson's Progressive Democrats. Throughout the whole messy business, Obama personally kept well away, though (like the Democratic Party's central and State organisation) indicating distaste for Jefferson and his baggage.

Even so, Cao's victory was a close-run thing: 1,826 votes out of a valid poll of 66,846. But that's enough: vox polui, vox Dei. Suddenly, he is a Republican star. The Times-Picayune swallowed hard and opined:
In electing Anh "Joseph" Cao to replace indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, Louisiana voters have delivered an undeniable message: that our state's tolerance for the cynical and corrupt politics of the past is waning.
To make the point, that can accessed via a pungently-phrased link to the AP story on Blagojevich:
Are our politicians no longer the most corrupt?
Cao is a very untypical Republican. He was a Jesuit seminarian, remains a devout Catholic, and has an honourable record in civic leadership and as part of the lay mission. He is a lawyer, specialising in immigration. He taught and has a doctorate in ethics. He entered politics in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; and gained further kudos by campaigning against land-fill. All-in-all, he is precisely the Republican of whom Malcolm can substantially approve.

And yet, the whole press emphasis is that Cao is the first Congressman of Vietnamese origin.

Not so fast, says Malcolm. That was Congressman Peter Lien, in the double-episode which began the fourth series of The West Wing. The newly-elected Congressman for the Texas 22nd comes to the White House as the first part of 20 Hours in America concludes:
CHARLIE: Congressman Lien.

President BARTLET: Could somebody get Leo for me, please? Peter, you hear that? He called you "congressman."

Congressman Peter LIEN: Yes, sir.

BARTLET: You think when your folks got you out in '74, they imagined they were taking you to a place that'd be willing to make you a Congressman?

LIEN: As a matter of fact, sir, I think that's exactly what they imagined.


LEO: Good afternoon, Mr. President.

BARTLET: Leo, meet Congressman Peter Lien, Texas 22nd. Peter, this is Leo McGarry, U.S. Air Force, 144th Fighter Wing.

LEO: Pleased to meet you, Congressman.

Peter's family fishes in Galveston Bay ... Peter's 34 years old.

LEO: I'm sorry it's been two months and we haven't been able to get you up here until now.

LIEN: No, please. It's a bust time. If there's any help I can give you in Texas...

BARTLET: Ordinarily I would tell you that ... you've got big shoes to fill, ... and you do, but obviously you have a bigger symbolic responsibilty then that.

LIEN: Yes, sir.

BARTLET: But you biggest responsibiltity isn't symbolic, right?

LIEN: Yes, sir.

BARTLET: What is it?

LIEN: It's my district, my country, and the Congress of the United States.

BARTLET: Welcome, my friend, to the show that never ends.

LIEN: Thank you, Mr. President.
Malcolm makes two postulations from what has gleaned about Joseph Cao:
  • Cao has the makings of a great Representative, who will do "The Big Easy" very nicely;
  • His commitments and sincerity will constantly disappoint the Right on both sides of the Atlantic. He has already done so by keeping his counsel on stem-cell research (that other sinister shibboleth, alongside being "pro-life").
He's got the odds stacked against him: his District is overwhelmingly and naturally Democrat. The Black interest groups are going to regroup and come after him in two years' time: they are already tagging him a one-term lame-duck. Next time, the sleaze issue may not be there to work in his favour; but, unless someone special comes along, his political demise would be a pity.

Here's to literate, sensitive, Joseph Cao:
"I read a lot of Dostoevsky who wrote works of literature but really was addressing philosophical questions." His favorite is Brothers Karamazov with its story of the "good man [Alexei] who lives a conflicted existence but holds on to his goodness."
Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The problem of Maria has wider dimensions

Malcolm, back home after various alarums and excursions (of which, doubtless, more anon), is catching up with the local intelligence.

One story, dealt with at length by today's Times is:
My journey from IRA gunrunner to Tory lady councillor in Croydon
That story (with a front-page, and very fetching image -- right) has been cooking quite nicely over recent days, until finally making the national dailies. Pretty well everything Malcolm felt about this story was said by Kevin Myers in the Belfast Telegraph:
The Conservative cabinet minister for education in Croydon Borough Council, Maria Gatland, has resigned her post after the revelation that, 35 years ago, she was a member of the IRA.

Back then, she was known as Maria Maguire, the glamour face of Provisionalism, a middle-class girl from Dublin who'd been caught up in post-Bloody Sunday emotionalism.

But a decent enough creature underneath it all, and disgusted by the IRA slaughter of Bloody Friday, she not merely left the movement, but also spilled the beans to British intelligence. And having been sentenced to death by her former chums, including her bed-partner, Daithi O'Connell, she went into hiding.

Well, if that isn't having made amends, then what is? Look at the prime architects of her early decisions in life. Mike Jackson, adjutant of the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday, went on to become head of the British Army, a knight of the realm with a DSO and Bar. Gerry Adams, the most senior member of the IRA in Belfast during the Bloody Sunday butchery, has since been a guest of the British Prime Minister at Downing Street and at Chequers, and of the US president at the White House. His books have made him a millionaire. But poor Maria's political career is in ruins.

I know nothing of Maria Maguire's reinvention as Maria Gatland, Conservative politician, just that she had to go into hiding, to change her name, and to create a new identity, to save her from being murdered by the very organisation whose leaders have since been welcomed on deep-pile carpets in London and Washington.

So by those same rules, she should have been welcomed by the Tory party, and congratulated for the blow she'd struck against the IRA, at grave risk to her own life. Instead, her fellow Conservatives have tut-tutted over her ‘shameful’ past.
Myers is rarely Malcolm's opinion-maker of choice, but in this he is absolutely on the button.

It amply illustrates a frequent topic of Malcolm's own thoughts: the double-standards applied to those who pass between the two main islands of our home archipelago.
  • Hence, Malcolm's delight that so many liberal cyberspatial voices have sided with Mrs Gatland. She has shown levels of personal honour not generally at large among Tory councillors.
  • Hence, too, the unaccustomed reticence on the matter from one and all of the "usual suspects" (Dale, Montgomerie, Staines) in the Tory blogosphere.
  • Hence, thirdly, the pathos behind this paragraph in the Times piece:
After a sleepless Monday night she contacted the Tory council leader. She admitted that she had been a member of the IRA and offered her resignation. An hour later he called back and accepted. “I am disappointed in the way the local party acted but I do understand it was a great shock to them,” Mrs Gatland said. “Perhaps I should have said, ‘Here is the book, this is what I did, make up your own minds’. They should not have reacted so quickly but I can understand they were worried about their reputation.”
Meanwhile, in Belfast

Diddy Dave Cameron is wowing all of the 700-strong rump of the Ulster Unionist Party with belly-rubs and warm words.

This is either a very trivial event, little more than a photo-op, or it is (for good or ill) a new departure. Fortunately, nobody is paying Malcolm to make predictions.

Except ...

Yesterday’s Irish Times had a summative piece by Gerry Moriarty (who, as their Northern Editor, is paid on the above basis):
Cameron's alliance proposal for UUP raises many questions
The alleged aim being trailed here is the creation of
a new, non-sectarian political dynamic in Northern politics.
In other words, another political whistle-in-the-wind to go the same way as the SDLP and Alliance Parties. The "non-sectarian" middle-ground is becoming a trifle cluttered with relics of previous non-sectarian political dynamics. All of which stumbled, sooner or later, over the inevitable question: are you a Mick non-sectarian political dynamic or a Prod one?

Moriarty has Owen Patterson (Cameron’s representative on earth to this small, six-countied corner of God's own heaven) reported thus:
He isn’t concerned about how [putting up candidates in every constituency] would play with the DUP in the event of both Cameron and Brown needing Robinson’s votes to form a government. He knows it probably would boil down to the highest bidder.
To Malcolm, that may be a fair appraisal of mercenary NI politicos of any shade, but it smacks of cynicism of an advanced kind. It ignores, for two examples, the DUP’s self-serving ability to play the long game and see beyond the next bunker:
  • Putting up a Tory-UUP candidate in two particular constituencies (South Belfast and Fermanagh-South Tyrone) ensures that the DUP will be also be on the ballot paper, splitting the unionist-Prod vote (which, of itself, belies any claim to be "non-sectarian").
  • And, in the context of any hypothetically-hung parliament, everyone -- especially in this case, the DUP -- is looking at and calculating for a re-run election within 12-18 months.
The very best outcome that the UUP-Conservatives can hope for by 2009 or 2010 is to retain the seat held by Lady Hermon, of whom Moriarty says:
what with Lady Hermon and others in the party such as Michael and Chris McGimpsey and Fred Cobain disposed towards British Labour[, ... t]here are concerns that this could play into the hands of the DUP.
Wider ramifications?

Meanwhile, hush-a-while. On one sound-track we have Cameron's cri de coeur that
He insisted he had never been a “little Englander” and wanted to build Conservatism across the UK.

“I passionately believe in the Union and the future of the whole United Kingdom," he said.
Ouch! That reference to "little Englander" comes from the plummy mouth of an architypical English, nay Notting Hill set, politician. It is perilous stuff.

Malcolm wonders if, on the other channel, he can detect the smothered sniggers of the self-basting Salmond, and the sucking of teeth behind the pursed lips of Annabel Goldie. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanks and more

Malcolm's grateful thanks go to all those here, and elsewhere, who expressed condolences.

It transpires that the lady recovered, and is indeed the coolest, calmest and most composed of the whole family. The rumours about her ordeal which have come back from her wider circle of acquaintance are grossly exaggerated.

The loss and damage are minimal.

Three boyos, apparently of local extraction, were subsequently arrested. There are numerous other incursions to be taken into account.

Malcolm apologises for his outburst. He has gained new respect for the PSNI and its operations.

So, today to Nuremberg: one of the few spots on the map with a worse Public Relations problem than New Jersey. Sphere: Related Content
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