Monthly Archives: December 2012

Shooting the messenger?

Here’s one that will have after-shocks:

A police constable with the diplomatic protection group has been arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, Met Police say.

The officer was arrested late on Saturday and bailed on Sunday to return in January. He has been suspended.

The arrest was made by officers investigating how national newspapers came to publish police records of an incident at Downing Street.

In other words, the Met have thrown thousands at an internal investigation and pay for a suspended officer. Mitchell (a miserable non-apology for a ‘gentleman’) largely got away with it. OK, he lost office, but he was over-promoted, he owned his elevation to Cameron’s need to keep his right-wing ultras in line, and the nation is not greatly at a loss for dispensing with his services: in Sir George Young the Tory Party, parliament and the country have the better man.

Presumably the Met is still racing to catch up with its own serial failures (at far higher levels than any mere police constable) and complicities with the Murdoch press.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

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Filed under BBC, broken society, David Cameron, London, Metropolitan Police, Murdoch, sleaze., Tories.

What’s in a name?

… That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Juliet’s soliloquy, (II, ii, 44-45), of course and now so clichéed as to need an occasional reference for respectability.

And then there’s the vexed question of the Six Counties of Northern Ireland. In English, this is “Northern Ireland”  — though the most northernly part of Ireland is Malin Head, which is in Donegal — and so, in the parlance, paradoxically in the “South”. Nor, of course, is a Northern Irishman exclusively an “Ulsterman” — because Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan are in the ancient province of Ulaidh, but are not in Northern Ireland.

My passport’s green

MorrisonMotionEven among the northern (missing capital deliberately so — see more on this below) Irish there is no agreement on what one is: British? Irish? Northern Irish? Ulster Scots? When Penguin Books included Seamus Heaney with Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Medbh McGuckian and Paul Muldoon, in the The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry, he was the one who famously objected:

Don’t be surprised if I demur, for, be advised
My passport’s green.
No glass of ours was ever raised
To toast The Queen.

He made up for it, though, at Dublin Castle in May 2011.

The People with No Name

k7173That is the title of a fine book by Patrick Griffin, in Malcolm’s view the best account of the Ulster protestant diaspora who occupied and extended the Western frontier of the American colonies. It is subtitled: Ireland’s Ulster Scots, America’s Scots Irish, and the Creation of a British Atlantic World, 1689-1764.

The opening paragraph of that book illustrates the nominal confusions with a variety of names:

BETWEEN 1718 and 1775, more than 100,000 men and women journeyed from the Irish province of Ulster to the American colonies. Their migration represented the single largest movement of any group from the British Isles to British North America during the eighteenth century. In a first wave beginning in 1718 and cresting in 1729, these people outnumbered all others sailing across the Atlantic, with the notable exception of those bound to the New World in slave ships. By sheer force of numbers, this earliest generation of migrants had a profound influence on the great transformations of the age. Even before they left Ulster, they contributed to the triumph of the Protestant cause in Ireland, paving the way for an unprecedented extension of English power into the kingdom. They also figured prominently in the British transatlantic trading system by producing linen, one of the most important commodities exchanged throughout the empire. Sailing when they did, Ulster’s Presbyterian migrants played a formative role in the transition from an English to a British Atlantic. Before their migration, Puritans and adventurers leaving England during the seventeenth century for the North American mainland and the Caribbean dominated the transatlantic world. After men and women from Ulster boarded ships for America, the cultural parameters of the Atlantic broadened, as they and thousands of land-hungry voyagers from the labor-rich peripheries of the British Isles sought their fortunes in a vast, underpopulated New World. In America, Ulster’s men and women again had a hand in a number of defining developments of the period, including the displacement of the continent’s indigenous peoples, the extension of the frontier, the growth of ethnic diversity, and the outbreak of religious revivals. In the abstract, therefore, the group contributed to the forces and processes that dwarfed the individual but yoked together disparate regions into a broad Atlantic system.

The editor of Gaelscéal, Ciarán Dunbar, has picked up Griffin’s essential thesis, inverted it, and now puts up a ruminative thread on Slugger O’Toole:

Whilst working on Gaelscéal on Tuesday last I realized that I did not know the correct Irish term for ‘Northern Irish,’ so I quickly checked, the ‘National Terminology Database’ for Irish.

That was a fruitless journey for they had no such term, I requested they provide one.

The term was one I have strangely never needed in Irish and I have never thought about it to date.

On the day, we simply used the English term in single speech marks.

That night I heard two terms used on TG4, ‘Tuaisceart-Éireannaigh’, agus ‘Éireannaigh Thuaisceartacha’, both translating into English as  ‘Northern Irish’ but with a subtle difference in meaning in Irish which the English doesn’t capture.

One implies a mere geographical distinction, the other, perhaps, a clear political distinction.

A meaningless distinction for most but one could argue that constitutional  future of the Northern Ireland state rests on this distinction, whether the Northern Irish are ‘Tuaisceart-Éireannaigh’ or ‘Éireannaigh Thuaisceartacha’ at the end of the day.

Malcolm queries whether English cannot capture precisely the distinction between Tuaisceart-Éireannaigh, and Éireannaigh Thuaisceartacha by doing what he did above: capitalising or not the “n” of “northern”.


Beyond that, the thread provided Malcolm with a bit of further diversion, the Latin version of wikipedia. Yes, indeed: there is one — even if somewhat abbreviated for the present. And here is its definitive statement on the topic:

Hibernia Septentrionalis, quondam (H)ultonia (AngliceNorthern IrelandHiberniceTuaisceart Éireann) est provincia in Hibernia et Regno Britanniarum. Caput est Belfastium et dux gubernationis est Petrus Robinson; ille est dux factionis civilis qui appellatur Factio Unionistarum Democratica. Successit Reverendum Ioannem Paisley, qui abdicavit in Iunio 2008. Proconsul est Martinus McGuinness. Ille est membrum factionis civilis Sinn Fein (Latine: Nos Ipsi), olim dux Exercitus Republicani Hibernici.

Apart from stroking Malcolm’s self-esteem (that even after half-a-century, his TCD Latin, ever so rusty, can still cope), there were several amusements in that.

One was Máirtín Mag Aonghusa transmogrified from the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland into the far more concise, even poetic, ‘proconsul’. Which instantly directed Malcolm’s butterfly mind to Kipling:

Years betweenThe overfaithful sword returns the user
His heart’s desire at price of his heart’s blood.
The clamour of the arrogant accuser
Wastes that one hour we needed to make good
This was foretold of old at our outgoing;
This we accepted who have squandered, knowing,
The strength and glory of our reputations
At the day’s need, as it were dross, to guard
The tender and new-dedicate foundations
Against the sea we fear — not man’s award.

The subject there was originally Sir Alfred Milner, who was the British High Commissioner in South Africa during the Boer War. The “Oh, gosh!” thing is, stripping from one context to the other, the elevation of  Máirtín to ‘proconsul’ almost works.

“Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt”

Moving swiftly on, there is the conceit of Petrus Robinson, dux Factionis Unionistarum Democraticae (3rd declension, feminine: genitive case!). Thus rendering the DUP into Latin gives us the acronym FUD:

generally a strategic attempt to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information. An individual firm, for example, might use FUD to invite unfavorable opinions and speculation about a competitor’s product; to increase the general estimation of switching costs among current customers; or to maintain leverage over a current business partner who could potentially become a rival.

In the case of the DUP, precisely.

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Filed under DUP, Ireland, Literature, Northern Ireland, Northern Irish politics, Rudyard Kipling, Seamus Heaney, Slugger O'Toole, Trinity College Dublin, Troubles, United States

Ex America semper aliquid novum

Malcolm reckons two elements should inspire a good blog offering:

The faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident. Also, the fact or an instance of such a discovery.

Well, so far, there’s nothing ‘happy’ to be extracted from the Newtown CT massacre.

Somewhere in there comes this, from the New York Times:

Newtown, incorporated in 1711, takes its child-friendly, Norman Rockwell ambience seriously. The all-purpose landmark is the downtown flagpole, which dates to 1876. Fat and packed with small-town ephemera, including weekly equestrian news, The Newtown Bee dates to 1877. Scrabble was developed in Newtown by a local lawyer, James Brunot, in 1948, who adapted an earlier version and changed its name from “Criss-Cross Words” to “Scrabble.”

That article is topped-and-tailed by references to a local business selling Christmas trees.

Scrabble, Christmas trees … it all seems so reasonable, so normal in an unreasonable, abnormal context. One has to reach to grasp a vestige of sanity.

For the record, it’s about 75 miles — say, around a hundred minutes driving time — from Stockbridge, Massachusetts (the Norman Rockwell home) to Newtown, Connecticut. Malcolm has to wonder what the late-period Rockwell would have drawn this weekend. It would be telling, caring, gentle, and incisive: it would be infused by some of that quiet anger — liberal angst, if one must —  that went into The Problem We All Live With, the painting of six-year-old Ruby Bridges going to school in New Orleans (and which hung for a while outside Obama’s Oval Office).


Or perhaps it would reflect the earlier, Birthday Surprise:


Here’s to those dedicated teachers who gave their all on Friday.

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Filed under broken society, civil rights, New York Times, Norman Rockwell, United States, US politics

As stunts go …



… Malcolm reckons this one (on Tuesday morning) was a quacker.

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Filed under advertising., London

Grim and grimmer

From the New York  Times’ running blog on the Newtown CT massacre:

Parents were told earlier, according to CNN, that the rule for this evening was simply that if they had not been reunited with their children, they would not be.

Somehow that puts all other “news” into proportion.

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Filed under broken society, New York Times, United States

That old Chinese curse

Be careful for what you wish: you may get it.

There was a cartoon, probably from as far back as the 1970s, when it was considered ‘cool’ to shoulder a Brixton briefcase (a.k.a. jam box, ghetto blaster, boom box — other offences to be taken into consideration).

The cartoon showed a couple passing an electronics shop window. Written across the window-pane are the shrieking come ons:

  • 18 wave-bands!
  • 2 cassettes!
  • 4 loud-speakers!
  • 34 transistors!
  • 37 diodes!

He is obviously taken by this modern marvel.

She caustically enumerates: ‘I reckon that’s 95 things to go wrong’.

Similarly …

Cynics, such as Malcolm, hugged themselves with delighted anticipation when the incoming ConDem government rattled off all the ‘improvements’, ‘reforms’, ‘changes’ and old-fashioned messing-about they intended to inflict on the political system. It was instantly obvious that a fair proportion would go madly, sadly, badly wrong.

Here, courtesy of Nigel Morris at the Independent, comes such another:

MPs dismayed by ‘total chaos’ of £42m lost in translation

A drive to save money on court interpreters degenerated into “total chaos” yet the firm responsible for the shambles was only fined a “risible” £2,200, a withering report by MPs has found.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is facing deep embarrassment after the Public Accounts Committee accused it of presiding over an “object lesson in how not to contract out a public service”. Its chairman, Margaret Hodge, said: “Almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong.”

The farce began when the ministry decided to set up a centralised system for supplying interpreters for trials instead of allowing courts to hire them on ad-hoc basis.

It awarded the £42m contract to a small new company, ALS, despite warnings that it could only handle business on a fraction of that scale.

There is, of course, a silver lining in any cloud:

Dragons’ warning

Gavin Wheeldon appeared on the BBC2 entrepreneur show Dragons’ Den to appeal for financial support for his translation business ALS five years ago. The dragons predicted success for him – but told him his valuation of his company was wrong. Whitehall, however, had no such qualms in handing a £42m contract to the firm.

Last year, Mr Wheeldon earned £7.5m when he sold up to Capita, with more to come if ALS achieves certain financial targets.

Ah! Crapita! What can possibly go wrong now?

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Filed under Britain, broken society, Conservative family values, Independent, Law, Lib Dems, politics, Private Eye, Tories.

The quality of mercy

Good to see that the English legal system is capable of a bit of charity in the proper sense:

The Christian love of one’s fellow human beings; Christian benignity of disposition expressing itself in Christ-like conduct: one of the ‘three Christian graces’, fully described by St. Paul, 1 Cor. xiii.

Whatever Margaret Moran did, it was wrong, and she has paid for it. Now she’s out of parliament, by definition she can’t do it again.

What is intolerable is stuff like this:


That from politicshome, but re-posting a tweet from Paul Staines, convicted drunk-driver (and serially so), former bankrupt, political stooge,  hanger and flogger, mountebank, rabble-rouser and stealer of others’ data.

Let’s leave aside the small detail of whether Ms Moran is actually a “criminal” (though clearly a crime was involved): as Malcolm understands it, the learned and citable judge was acting under some variant of the mental health acts, not the criminal code per se.

  • In Dickensian times (as with that reforming, liberal author’s own father), bankruptcy was debt. Debtors went to prison. Indefinitely. Would Mr Staines see that as fair retribution?
  • In some jurisdictions a third offence, however trivial, has the malefactor sent to prison. Indefinitely. Since Mr Staines has at least two convictions, would he wish that provision incorporated into English law?

Broadmoor, for the record, is a high-security psychiatric hospital, and its inmates are exclusively male. The equivalent establishment for women is at Southall. But then Staines never let a simple bit of research get in the way of viciousness and snidery.

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Filed under blogging, Britain, Paul Staines, sleaze., smut peddlers