Monthly Archives: July 2007

The ins and outs and boobs of military intelligence

Going in!

In one of those curious foot-notes to history, the United States laid plans for an invasion of Britain. No joke: straight up. Here’s the version from American Heritage, “History’s Homepage”:

A more aggressive example of our Anglophobia was declassified in November, 1975, by the Pentagon, over the protests of the State Department, which called it a “very embarrassing item diplomatically.” The embarrassing item was a set of secret plans for the American invasion of Britain that had been drafted in Washington’s war plans division in 1928-29.

At that time the general staff believed that American inroads on British foreign trade might trigger a war between the two countries. According to the plan, whose color-keyed maps labeled Britain as “red” and Canada as “crimson,” American forces would “Destroy red armed forces in North America and the western North Atlantic, including the Caribbean and West Indian waters; isolate crimson from red; deny red the use of bases in the western hemisphere; occupy such territory in crimson and other red possessions as may be necessary and gain and exercise such control of sea communications as will contribute towards red’s economic exhaustion.”

Finally, an invasion of the British mainland—the first since William the Conqueror’s—would be launched from Ireland with the aid of “irreconcilable elements in the Irish Free State.”

This fantasia needed a cherry on the top, and it is that final nonsense: who were the “irreconcilable elements”? De Valera’s Fianna Fáil, on the cusp of elected power? Or Frank Ryan’s IRA?

Getting out?

Today’s American military is immensely bigger, stronger and better-resourced than in 1928. Today there are one-and-a-half million Americans in uniform: the budget is $505 billion. That lot must cover every possible contingency, perhaps even an invasion of Britain if we don’t behave. Well, every contingency except one.

That one is withdrawal from Iraq.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote to the Defense Department on 23rd May, asking whether there were such plans. Actually, what she wrote was:

… to request that you provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress—including the Senate Armed Services Committee [of which, of course, Clinton is a member]—with briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Alternatively, if no such plans exist, please provide an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning…

The Under Secretary for Policy, one Eric Edelman, responded that her question:

reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia…such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.

Which presumably means no plan, not now, never, ever … Or something.

Edelman is a career diplomat, and a close buddy of Condi Rice and Messrs Cheney and Rumsfeld. He was whisked back to Washington, from being US Ambassador to Turkey, when Douglas Feith, Rumsfeld’s bag-carrier, opted out. Al Kamen, in the Washington Post of 3 December 2004, noted he was

… seen as someone—perhaps the only one on the planet—who can comfortably straddle all the relevant political worlds. He’s a career foreign service officer, a former ambassador to Finland who also worked for then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz and for Clinton Ambassador-at-Large Strobe Talbott. But he also worked for Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney from 1990 to 1993 and for Vice President Cheney from 2001 to 2003 and with Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice frequently when he represented Cheney at top-level meetings.

Quelle galère!

So Hillary wrote her letter. And then the roof fell in.

The New York Post, founded by Alexander Hamilton but now fallen on hard times in the Murdoch stable, saw it as:

The Pentagon yesterday launched a blistering attack on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for boosting “enemy propaganda” by demanding the U.S. military whip up plans for withdrawal from Iraq. (“a fuller spectrum of news”) headlined their piece:

Pentagon rebukes Clinton on Iraq
Says the candidate’s talk of troop withdrawal reinforces the enemy

and accompanied this with a picture captioned: “Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., is being criticized by the Pentagon for her anti-war rhetoric.”

Predictably, Fox News (“We report. You decide.”) took a similar line:

Pentagon to Sen. Hillary Clinton: You’re Aiding the Enemy With Iraq Withdrawal Questions

Hillary 1, Pentagon 0

Now all this was a big mistake: Hillary is not so easily put off; she went for the organ grinder, not the monkey. By the end of the week, most media recognised she was scoring points:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton seems to be getting some anti-war street cred on the left, with a little help from the Pentagon’s No. 2.

Clinton is ratcheting up a spat with Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman by going to his boss, Robert Gates.

Gates went belly up:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he is personally engaged in developing contingency plans for a drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq and emphasized that those efforts constitute a “priority” for the Pentagon…

His letter—delivered by courier to Clinton’s office on Wednesday evening—sought to smooth over a series of tense exchanges between the Democratic presidential front-runner and the Pentagon.

Edelman has form

Edelman had misjudged, and needed his boss to cover for him. Collapse of various stout parties.

But Edelman? Why? Did he not realise the folly of his tone? Was he put up to it by Gates? Or Cheney? Or whoever?

The mystery is that Edelman is, or should be wise in the dark arts of dealing with the Press. For it was he who came up with the idea of outing Valerie Plame:

Take Eric Edelman, Libby’s former deputy. According to the indictment, Edelman suggested leaking information about the fact-finding trip to Africa undertaken by Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson, to rebut Wilson’s allegations just days before Libby first leaked Plame’s identity to Judith Miller.

Getting it off your chest

None of all this will be of great news to transatlantic news-wonks.

The pity is that a significant issue (and yet another Administration cock-up) was drowned out by an even more important matter:

More than a week after The Washington Post‘s Robin Givhan’s devoted an entire column to Hillary Clinton’s alleged low-cut outfit, the controversy over the piece reached new heights this weekend as Sunday talk shows and numerous newspapers referenced the piece.

Among them was “Meet the Press,” on which the column drew complaints from NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, but support from John Harwood of The Wall Street Journal, who said, “When you look … at the calculation that goes into everything that Hillary Clinton does, for her to argue that she was not aware of what she was communicating by her dress is like Barry Bonds saying he though he was rubbing down with flaxseed oil.”

On CNN’s Reliable Sources, host and Post colleague Howard Kurtz cited the piece, saying “Now, you’re probably thinking, why are we in the media wasting our time on such sartorial nonsense? Maybe because we care so much about how we look, so we assume politicians must have the same obsession.”

But British bosoms are bigger and better!

That Givhan story (which is still being recycled even in the New York Times) has extra British inches:

Not so long ago, Jacqui Smith, the new British home secretary, spoke before the House of Commons showing far more cleavage than Clinton. If Clinton’s was a teasing display, then Smith’s was a full-fledged come-on. But somehow it wasn’t as unnerving. Perhaps that’s because Smith’s cleavage seemed to be presented so forthrightly. Smith’s fitted jacket and her dramatic necklace combined to draw the eye directly to her bosom. There they were . . . all part of a bold, confident style package.

“There they were”. So much for the sisterhood. Now, if the piece were by-lined to a male

It’s all unhealthily reminiscent of the classic dialogue from Yes, Prime Minister:

Hacker: “The Mirror is read by people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country. The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country and the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who do run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who own the country, the Morning Star is read by people who think the country should be run by another country and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.”

Sir Humphrey: “And what about people who read The Sun?”

Bernard: “Sun-readers don’t care who runs the country so long as she’s got big tits.”

But (back to the top) will the Pentagon recommend invasion if we Brits insist on running our country? Or inviting the Iraqis to run theirs?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What caused Gordon’s guffaw?

The Washington Post (one of Malcolm’s other journals of choice) has Michael Abramowitz reporting on Gordon Brown in Maryland and Washington.

Readers are urged to make it all the way to the very end for the gem in the piece:

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said he detected little effort on Brown’s part to distance himself from Bush…

Lantos said he joked with Brown that he had the good fortune to be coming to power with new leaders in Europe — German Chancellor Angela Merkeland French President Nicolas Sarkozy — who are more congenial to Britain and the United States than their predecessors. “He burst out laughing, and he indicated, in an inimitable English way, that he agrees with me on his luck,” Lantos said.

That, presumably, would be the humorous Home Counties banter habitually enjoyed by the gossoons and colleens amid the sun-dappled Cotswold stone of the Tuscan hill-village of Kirkcaldy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Green and rank as grass

The most depressing handicap of Irish ultra-republicans is monocular vision. This can be adequately, and inelegantly revealed by any chance scan of 1169 and Counting:

An award-nominated Irish blog on Irish history and Irish politics – from today and yesterday : all 32 Counties!

The essence is to select and scan long-past documents and thereby reveal the horrors British imperialists impose, minute by minute, over the centuries, on one noble but oppressed people. “History”, in any objective form, it is not.

The one big lie …

George Orwell nailed the “Big Lie” technique in 1984:

To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has became inconvenient, and when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed.

The ultra-republican “Big Lie” depends on one inflexible notion: imperial “Britain” somehow wills and maintains a ruthless police state in the Six Counties, contrary to the will of the mass of the Irish people. Everything must be framed into that perspective; and nothing is further from the reality.

… is the father of other lies

Malcolm takes as the shibboleth the word “Protestant” (and its variant grammatical forms). This is not, primarily, because of any denominational commitment on his part, but because it shows up a critical flaw in nationalist/republican thinking: the need to conflate religious demarcations with political ones.

1169 and Counting seem unrelentingly to use “Protestant” as a pejorative. So, in last November‘s put-down of the Workers’ Party (borrowing from a 1983 article lifted from Fortnight magazine):

… some support centred around the academic world which has contributed to a small but growing new Protestant (sic) membership – there is , however , a considerable gap between the political rhetoric which has attracted such new members , and the reality of the party’s organisation.

The (sic) is in the original, by the way. Malcolm is not aware that religious affiliation ever was a disclosure required for membership. This aperçu must, therefore, derive from assuming academics are Prods. Hmmm.

Then again, there is this, from a 2005 rip of a 1984 “History of Armagh Jail”:

The women’s prison in the North of Ireland is situated in the centre of the Protestant/Loyalist city of Armagh.
It was built in the 19th century , a huge granite building which today sports all the trappings of a high-security jail such as barbed wire, guards, arc-lamps , and closed circuit television cameras.

The accuracy of that can be checked against the Census: in 2001 there were 14, 509 residents of the city of Armagh: 68.3% declared themselves to have a Roman Catholic background. Nor is Malcolm, whose knowledge of Armagh goes back to the 1960s, aware of any mass conversions among its populace.

Whose nationalism?

In the history of Irish nationalism, it was the Anglo-Irish who got there first.

Significantly for the history of the next two centuries, the irritant was taxation without representation. In 1576 “the inhabitants of the English pale” are petitioning the Queen’s deputy, Surrey, against the taxes “whereby we are reduced to great decay and poverty”. When the new Deputy, Sir John Perrot, called a Parliament in 1585-6:

the speaker Walsh, himself a nominee of the Government, delivered a long address setting out the constitutional position. No Government could be autocratic, using power in an arbitrary fashion, king, lords and commons legislated together in parliament. The subject was protected by his status under the crown and there could, therefore, be no discrimination against one in favour of another.

That, by the way, is James Lydon in The Making of Ireland.

A century later, in 1698, William Molyneux challenged the right of English statesmen to make laws for Ireland:

To tax me without my Consent is little better, if at all, than down-right Robbing me.

That was an argument that would be heard an ocean and another century away. And, of course, it was one Swift would refine in Drapier’s Letters.

Those precedents, and their natural successors over three centuries, quickly are lost in the miasma of identifying Catholicism as the only true nationalism.

Historical inevitability

Let’s persuade Malcolm to leave that long recitation, as least for this posting. Be warned: he will not be cheated of his detailed exposition for ever.

Let’s get closer to now, and consider the other falsehood: the great British Imperial plot.

As Malcolm has repeatedly argued in these postings, if there is one constancy of “British” (increasingly a worrying term in itself) governments over decades, since the end of the “economic war”, it has been a wish to be out of Ireland, north, south, east, or west. Once Malcolm MacDonald had managed to convince the British Cabinet that de Valera meant what he said, and that Britain’s western flank was, literally, neutralised, only the boneheads and self-appointed “Spycatchers” of Margaret Thatcher’s honour guard have diverted from the chosen path.

Any real foot-shuffling has been because Dublin, from de Valera to the present day, has shown no wish to take on the “North-east Ulster” business. Even at the moment when “England’s difficulty was Ireland’s opportunity” that policy did not vary. There is, at the very end of Tim Pat Coogan’s De Valera, Long Fellow, Long Shadow, a “Most Secret” internal memorandum addressed to Patrick Kennedy in the Department of the Taoiseach. Dated 24 May, 1941, it lists the myriad ways in which strict “neutrality” was being circumvented to the advantage of Britain. Behind that document lurks the reforming zeal of one Seán Lemass, itching to get out from under the dead hand of de Valera’s economics, and seek a rapprochement with a post-war Britain.

A fresh future?

The ultra-republicans are also history. The few remaining firebrands may not yet be capable of eyeing that truth. Today we see greater unity of purpose, across four provinces and the four home nations than was conceivable even a few months ago. Even First Minister Salmond, watchful of his subventions from the Exchequer, is losing his shrillness.

The purblind nationalism issue is dead, and as extinct for all time as the diplodocus.

What matters now is using both eyes, and both sides of the brain in defining a mutual post-nationalism.


Filed under Uncategorized

Gordon goes to Camp David, and says ….

Surely to goodness, someone, somewhere in the Foreign Office has an exit strategy? The one that lets Britain off the Iraqi hook, and allows a proper focus on the Afghan issue. Well, it increasingly looks so.

Malcolm is prepared to put up a few bob that there is such a thing, and it looks not dissimilar to the concoction proposed by Senator Joe Biden (pictured right) and Leslie Gelb last year. [This is in a New York Times article, 0f 1 May 2006, and requires registration.]

The proposal started from observing the way settlement had been brought to Bosnia, through the Dayton accords:

which kept the country whole by, paradoxically, dividing it into ethnic federations, even allowing Muslims, Croats and Serbs to retain separate armies. With the help of American and other forces, Bosnians have lived a decade in relative peace and are now slowly strengthening their common central government, including disbanding those separate armies…

Biden and Gelb suggested applying the same approach to Iraq:

maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group — Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab — room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests.

The result would be a loose confederacy:

… three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.

The main problem would, of course, be getting the Sunnis on board. As always, subtle bribery would be needed:

… running their own region should be far preferable to the alternatives: being dominated by Kurds and Shiites in a central government or being the main victims of a civil war. But they also have to be given money to make their oil-poor region viable. The Constitution must be amended to guarantee Sunni areas 20 percent (approximately their proportion of the population) of all revenues.

Three small print items would include:

  • using US aid specifically to protect and develop the rights of women and ethnic minorities;
  • getting US troops out, except as a “small but effective residual force to combat terrorists and keep the neighbors honest”, but doing so in a way to avoid “national meltdown”; and
  • achieving a UN guarantee for Iraqi integrity and this new constitutional dispensation.

Cynics, with some good reason, thought Biden was having a laugh. He was about to put his head above the parapet for the Democratic nomination (which he isn’t going to get; but he needs traction for a post in Hillary’s Cabinet), and he chose a strange day to do it (three years to the day from Bush flying into the USS Lincoln to announce “Mission Accomplished”). George Hishmet, of was particularly acerbic, and made the valid point that “partition” stank to the highest heaven because of Palestine and 1948.

Biden’s outline seems to have been accepted by the State Department, which:

has stressed a proposal to build up provincial reconstruction teams out in the Iraqi provinces, with the goal of strengthening local tribal leaders. That, in itself, points toward greater decentralization in Iraq.

The missing ingredient is the lack of any overt activity on First and 42nd to 48th (the UN compound … D’oh!).

Which may well be what is in Gordon’s breast pocket.

Whatever happens at Camp David is not going to be a group hug. By this stage of the game, in private, the Brits must be demurring from the Cheney/Rumsfeld game-plan … and even the Emperor must be realising that his new imperial clothes are a big threadbare. Brown will be at least as interested in the next President as the present lame-duck (defunction at noon, EST, 20th January 2009, and counting).

Not much will be said in public, yet. But the various utterances (Douglas Alexander, that classic “deniable denial” gambit) and appointments (Malloch Brown) are straws in the wind. The message has got through to Fox News, fortunately, reading the runes from today’s Sunday Times story by ripping Sarah Baxter’s story in full:

A SENIOR Downing Street aide has sounded out Washington on the possibility of an early British military withdrawal from Iraq.

Simon McDonald, the prime minister’s chief foreign policy adviser, left the impression that he was “doing the groundwork” for Gordon Brown, according to one of those he consulted.

Brown, who arrives at Camp David in Maryland today to meet President George W Bush, said yesterday that “the relationship with the United States is our single most important bilateral relationship”.

Downing Street remains emphatic that he will not unveil a plan to withdraw British troops, who are due to remain in southern Iraq until the Iraqi army is deemed capable of maintaining security. A spokesman said there had been no change in the government’s position.

Behind the scenes, however, American officials are picking up what they believe are signals that a change of British policy on Iraq is imminent.

Movement at last? And complicity with incoming Secretary-of-State Joe Biden? Especially if, together, Joe and Gord present Prez-Elect Hills a “get-out-of-jail-free” card.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Four “most popular stories”

on the BBC News front page:

  • Can pets sense illness?
  • Diabetes drugs “pose heart risk”
  • Cannabis “raises psychosis risk”
  • Potter author “penning two books”

This depressing list had Malcolm consoling himself with the Dorothy Parker piece:

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Time and tide wait for no man

William Hill has opened a book on the next Tory leader. Current betting: Hague 9/4; Davis 5/1; Osborne (ye gods!) 10/1 etc.

Boris a 50/1 outsider.

What fun!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Die Luft der Freiheit weht.

El Camino Real is the old Spanish road that runs up the spine of California, from San Diego, via the chain of Missions to Sonoma. Much of it lies under the modern Interstate 5, Highway 101, and (through San Francisco) Interstate 260.

At Palo Alto it runs past Stanford University (and that’s the University motto at the title of this entry). Someone in the 1960s, observing the local proclivity for hallucinogenic substances, suggested this stretch should be “El Camino Surreal”.

Malcolm now suggests surreality applies also to the fine road (the A31) that leads through the County Derry town of Magherafelt. Magherafelt is a “divided town” (which, in Northern Ireland, tends to imply any place where the local Catholics/Nationalists are uppity and do not know their proper place). In Magherafelt, the split is 52-48 to the RCs. Over the years, that has amounted to eleven terrorist deaths — of which three were probably IRA “own goals”.

An over-arching conceit

Anyway, like so many in Northern Ireland, at this time of year the road is spanned by an Orange Arch. It transpires that the Magherafelt arch is owned, not as is usual by the local Orangemen (which would be Magherafelt District LOL No. 3), but by the DUP. This is significant.

As Michael Shilliday reported on Slugger O’Toole, this year the Magherafelt arch is subtly transformed. Previous years, the arch had featured the photogenic charisma of the Reverend Doctor himself and the missionary Rev. William McCrea. Now, First Minister (and at least quadruple jobber) Ian Paisley is not a member of the Orange Order: he was expelled for non-payment of dues many years ago, and set up his own shop).

A hero of our time: the Reverend Mr McCrea

McCrea serves the community as Pastor of the Calvary Free Presbyterian Church. He employs any spare time left over from being

minister of the Gospel … in a faithful adherence to the old-fashioned message of salvation by faith alone in Christ and an unswerving loyalty to the Word of God

as a District Councillor (indeed, Chairman of the Council), a member of Parliament (for Mid-Ulster 1983-97, and for South Antrim 2000-1 and since 2005), and now as a MLA. If that did not adequately show his mettle,

He was a member of the Shankill Defence Association and in 1971 he was convicted of serious riotous behaviour in Dungiven. In 1975 he led a prayer service at the paramilitary funerals of Wesley Somerville and Harris Boyle, who were responsible for the Miami Showband killings… he shared a platform with the senior loyalist terrorist Billy Wright in September 1996.

Truly, this is a man upon whom the Londonderry Air of freedom blew and who followed the Master (Matthew 3:16) until:

lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.

But wait! There is more!

This year the Magherafelt arch is changed, changed utterly! In place of the youthful (the arch had not been updated for some time) and angelic features of these two reverend and revered clerics (who have been painted out) there is Dan Winter’s cottage and a scriptural verse. According to the Mid Ulster Mail:

Magherafelt UUP councillor George Shiels said many in the area have lost faith in the DUP and its members following their decision to enter into devolved Government with Sinn Fein.
“Following the U-turn by Ian Paisley and the DUP many in the district have lost faith in the party and its leadership,” he said.

Ploy and counterploy

The dastardly effacement from the arch of Paisley and McCrea did not go without retaliation. The lights went out. Someone switched off the power to the arch. By one of those coincidences which, as Malcolm likes to point out, often aren’t, the supply comes courtesy of the local Christian book-shop. Which, as you already guessed, happens to be affiliated to Rev. McCrea’s church.

That would be almost the end of the matter, until next year, except for one small after-shock.

Magherafelt District Council has a web-site. Today’s “Quote of the day” is from P.G.Wodehouse:

“At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.”

The Reverend Robert Thomas William McCrea, MP, MLA, alumnus of Marietta Bible College, Ohio (motto: “Study, service”), is 59 years old.

How many U-turns make a tangled web?

Malcolm is constantly aware of the manifest truth:

In William McCrea the people of South Antrim found a skilled and articulate public representative who gave an honourable, professional and active constituency service to all those who sought his intervention and counsel.

Yes, indeed. campaigning for the Assembly elections, this honourable and reverent gent. took a firm line:

William has consistently refused to yield to the IRA’s terms and accurately warned of the ploy to develop the republican agenda through the Belfast Agreement. Now, only 18 months since the DUP gained the leadership of unionism, the pan-nationalist front has been smashed, the IRA is under pressure never experienced before by it and the heat is being turned up on the Sinn Fein leadership to condemn all IRA criminal and terrorist activity.

This determined stand was rewarded by the offer of yet another job! So it was that yet more burden descended onto those broad shoulders: chairing the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, saving souls by keeping a close eye on the potential for “criminal and terrorist activity” by SF’s slimline and multi-tasking Minister, Michelle Gildernew (all that abstentionism must be very time-consuming).

In the Belfast Newsletter last week, McCrea announced victory, and, in a triumph of the will that deserves Leni Riefenstahl herself, crowed that freedom’s cleansing winds now breathe upon God’s chosen:

Let us celebrate our victory over the IRA. After 35 years of murder and mayhem, we are still part of the United Kingdom and the designs of our enemy have failed.
Sadly, there are those unionists among us who speak republican propaganda, suggesting that somehow republicans have won.
They have not won and could only do so in the future if we let them.
The Provos did not carry out 35 years of slaughter against the unionist people of Northern Ireland to sit in a British Assembly at Stormont and a partitionist Assembly under the Crown and the Union flag.
Every time republican representatives pass through the gates of Stormont, they acknowledge their united Ireland ideas have gone up in smoke.
Unionist-elected representatives must unapologetically block every move by Sinn Fein to cover the embarrassment of their failure.
Sinn Fein will seek to advance their united Ireland strategy but it is up to every true unionist to thwart their objectives.
Those unionists that have given up the fight should be ashamed of themselves. Now is not the time for weak livered representatives. We need real Ulstermen of courage with determination to stand against republican plans.

They’ve all got it in for me!

Alas and alack! This was misconstrued by many. Cries went up:

It is time Ian Paisley and William McCrea resigned. They cannot continue as ministers of the Free Presbyterian Church while sitting in government with IRA/SF.
Disgusted Free Presbyterian

Even the great and the good joined in:

SIR Reg Empey has joined those calling on William McCrea to clarify his position on power-sharing.

The Ulster Unionist leader said the DUP man’s involvement in the current status quo at Stormont was at complete odds with his long held opposition to doing a deal with republicans.
“William McCrea’s intervention (in the News Letter) last week, when he claimed the IRA was defeated etc, has caused a big reaction,” said Sir Reg.
“Why is this? Answer, because of Willie’s long standing claims that the IRA were determining government policy and because of his list of demands before he would support the inclusion of Sinn Fein in the government of Northern Ireland.
“Remember, it is not that long ago that Willie was demanding the return of the Northern Bank money amongst other demands.
“No money has been recovered and it’s very unlikely that it ever will.
“But furthermore, it was the vicious attacks Rev McCrea made on fellow unionists who supported the Belfast Agreement leaving him now looking hypocritical following his support for the St Andrews Agreement, which by any measure is more pro-nationalist than the 1998 agreement.”

Let it be said that the hero of the hour was brave against such icy blasts:

… he issued a clarification which seemed to throw into question his support for the agreement he originally voted for during the DUP’s internal debate before deciding to enter government.
“Lest there be any misunderstanding over the issue let me make this clear: at no time did this article (in the News Letter) suggest that I was a defender of power-sharing with Sinn Fein,” he noted.
“I have never changed my mind as to the unfitness of Sinn Fein for government.”

There, Malcolm admits, the situation rests. For the surreal, strong-livered, free-windy moment. And all without consciousness-raising additives.

Anyone totally at a loss by all this can have a taster of the 2006 Twelfth at Magherafelt on YouTube.

And, yes, one of the bands does play the old Fenian song The Rising of the Moon.


The Newsletter‘s take on this developing story (as of 24th July) is on line here.


Filed under Uncategorized

Respec’ where it’s true blue!

The Boy Dave and his cohort are up to their armpits in sawdust and paint at Giribuntu school in Rwanda. Well done those lads!

OK, it was going to be 50 MPs, which by April had come down to a dirty dozen: in fact only eight have coughed up the fare and gone. So what? Celebrate that Dave found two days in his schedule to fit it a bit of classroom decoration, a wreath laying and a speech.

After all, the efforts of these gap-weekenders will see four — count them, four! — classrooms added to the school.

And that’s probably more than Margaret Thatcher’s government managed across the whole of the UK in eleven years.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Made for you and me

The last week has been made purposeful, thoughtful and tuneful by‘s constant side-stream dedicated to the songs of Woody Guthrie.

That’s it, really. Anybody and everybody who might have pursued the rest of this entry should be now have switched. Why haven’t you?

The pretext for this Guthrie stream is a bit tendentious: it is based around last week (14th July) being the man’s 95th birthday (except, of course, he died in 1967).

Hell, who needs an occasion to wallow in the songs? Like the air we breathe: they’re just there. They are the shorthand to a way of clear, clean, decent thinking and being.

Another site, dedicated to Guthrie, will tell you all you don’t know yet about his life and his work. It has a quotation from another of Malcolm’s constant companions, John Steinbeck:

Woody is just Woody. Thousands of people do not know he has any other name. He is just a voice and a guitar. He sings the songs of a people and I suspect that he is, in a way, that people. Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who still listen. There is the will of a people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American spirit.

We still listen, and it’s more universal than “the American spirit”.


Filed under Woody Guthrie

A very immodest confession

Now, look, says Malcolm, blushing fuschia to the hairline, I know it’s expected of me, and all the other politicos (except the Boy David, of course) have come across and put their hands up. But, well, err….

Look, Malcolm, you haven’t done it in years, have you?

Of course not.

So, just come out with it. You’ll feel better, and we’ll all understand.

Well, it was a long while ago. Very early sixties, you know.

Yes ….

Well, you see, … we didn’t.

What do you mean you didn’t?

Well, it hadn’t really started to happen in those days. It was the next generation that got into that whole thing.

You didn’t? Not even once?

No … sorry. I don’t want to feel I’ve let everyone down.

That’s all right, old man. We quite understand.

But I’ve used buses in Wood Green, you know. Stood in the bus shelters, waiting. Does that almost count?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized