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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Obama busted for drug possession

Oh dear, things aren't getting much better for poor George Obama.

You may recall I previously discussed George's plight as an unemployed drug addict living in a Nairobi slum without any help from his famous half-brother before.

Now, George has gone and got himself arrested for marijuana possession.

Two thoughts occur to me:

Firstly, have the Kenyan police, in a country rife with corruption and where tribal violence is rampant, genuinely got nothing better to do than hound a troubled man with a famous name over smoking a joint?

And secondly, even if he is a hard-hearted cunt who feels no bond with his brother, surely there comes a point when the President of the United States recognises that his caring, sharing image is taking a hit as long as he does nothing for poor George?

I mean, we're not talking Roger Clinton here. We're talking about the brother of the POTUS living in a shack in a slum next to a dollar-a-hooker knocking shop, suffering from illness and drug addiction.

The optics are terrible. Even if I loathed my brother terribly and wished him dead, if I was POTUS and he was living in a slum, I think I'd have the political sense of self-preservation to intervene and make a deal of it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Congrats to the Irish Whiskey Society

Who had their inaugural founding meeting this week in a packed Bowes' pub in Dublin.

(Off on a tangent: I've been loathe to add my voice to all the others gabbling incessantly about the recession. After all, I'm not an economist, and it's all pretty obvious what's going on and how it's going to get worse in the months to come.
Instead, I've been trying, in these dark January days, to find something to be positive about. It hasn't been easy, which is why I haven't been posting much. But at last there's something to be cheerful about. Ireland's finally getting it's very own whiskey society! End of tangent.)

It's been a long time coming, but the response has been staggering, especially when you consider that all advertising of the society was done solely by word of mouth.

People from all over the world have inquired about joining. I mean all over. We're talking India, North America, Sierra Leone even.

People came to the inaugural meeting from Hungary, Belfast, Galway and plenty of other places. It just goes to show the massive interest and passion there is for Irish whiskey.

And fair play to the two of the four Irish distillers (Cooley and the Porterhouse) who showed up. No doubt once the society is established and on its feet the big two will come in behind it as well. After all, it's a society founded on a devotion to their industry!

Anyone interested in finding out more should contact (Scottish!) founder of the society Michael Foggarty via the society's website.

In the meantime, David Havelin's excellent blog about Irish whiskey is available to keep anyone who loves Irish whiskey informed about all the latest developments.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Get there early if you want a good seat

My mum always used to say that you should always go early if you want to be sure of a good seat.

Looks like Denzell Washington's ma told him the same thing. Either that, or he got the day of the Obama inauguration wrong.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sick of Northern European winters

I'm fed up to my back teeth and beyond with this whole Northern European winter thing.

You'd think I'd get used to it after 30 plus years of experience, but you don't ever, do you?

Not like the Scandinavians, with their dry cold that plummets to eyeball-freezing temperatures. They've been able to adapt by wrapping up like the Michelin Man and learning to slide down mountainsides on smooth planks.

Nope, we don't get that sort of weather. We get the niggly, wet, 'cold snap' instead, which is a euphemism for someone upstairs switching off the light and heat and turning on a cold shower in November and letting it run for five months solid.

And this year, I truly think I may be cracking. Last year, I cracked in February, and I sold pints of my own blood and pawned my firstborn for the price of a ticket to South East Asia for a week.

This year, I'm low on the blood and the firstborn refuses to be sold into slavery for the benefit of my mental well-being.

I spend morning and evening in at best a dank twilight punctuated only by the rhythmic sweep of the windscreen wipers, momentarily making the licence plate of the completely stationary car in front legible through the rain.

In short, I need a holiday, but I can't have one because it's only just after Christmas and it doesn't matter if I only got a few days off and couldn't leave this godforsaken climate because I was ill. So was everyone in Ireland, down with some infectious lurgy or other.

There's no sympathy out there for my quest for sunshine and warmth.

Every year I swear it will be my last unbroken Northern European winter. Every year, around the time when more constructive people think of resolutions to improve their lives, I fret and daydream preposterous plots which would enable me to circumvent another cold, damp season.

I still haven't cracked it. But each day like today, I like to think I'm one day closer to doing so.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Let's all stop denying the holocaust

The Irish holocaust of the 1840s, that is.

Our gombeen government has decided, a mere 160 or so years on, to finally commemorate the fact that half of the country died of hunger or were forced to leave their homeland due to a deliberate policy of forced starvation.

They've decided to call this commemoration of the dead a 'Famine' memorial day. The commemoration is long overdue.

But it's not a famine we should be commemorating. Because there was no famine. A famine is when there is not sufficient food to feed the population. What happened in Ireland in the 1840s was attempted genocide.

Let's look at the evidence, and I don't mean the mounds of dead, some containing the remains of over 10,000 people, that dot our landscape. Nor do I mean the ghost towns of the West of Ireland. I mean the documentary evidence of genocide.

What is a genocide? In common terms, it is the attempt to murder an entire race of people. But the United Nations has a legal definition. In fact, it has an entire convention on genocide. The relevant part is section 2, which defines acts of genocide.

As a single reading of 2c reveals, what happened in Ireland in the 1840s was a genocide. This has been confirmed by international legal expert F.A. Boyle, Professor of Law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who wrote:

"Clearly, during the years 1845 to 1850, the British government pursued a policy of mass starvation in Ireland with intent to destroy in substantial part the national, ethnic and racial group commonly known as the Irish People.... Therefore, during the years 1845 to 1850 the British government knowingly pursued a policy of mass starvation in Ireland that constituted acts of genocide against the Irish people within the meaning of Article II (c) of the 1948 [Hague] Genocide Convention."

But some people object to the suggestion that there was intent on the part of the British government of the time. They suggest that the famine was an act of God, of nature, a tragic accident caused by a fungus on a tuber which had nothing to do with any human action or intent. To demonstrate the intent of the British colonial administration of the time, it is important to look at their own stated documents on the matter.

Firstly, let's consider what Robert Murray, writing in his 1847 book "Ireland, Its Present Condition and Future Prospects" had to say about the alleged famine:

"The surplus population of Ireland have been trained precisely for those pursuits (unskilled labor or agricultural) which the unoccupied regions of North American require for their colonization. That surplus is an overwhelming incubus (demon) at home, whether to themselves or others. Remove them and you benefit them in a degree that cannot be estimated. Precisely as you do so, you raise the social condition of those who remain."

In other words, a policy of clearing Ireland of its 'surplus' of people and driving many of them to America would be of benefit to the American economy and to the easier administration of Ireland by Britain! Bear in mind this was written at the height of the horror - Black 47. This isn't some sort of 'Modest Proposal' type of joke. This is a genuine policy proposal.

But perhaps Murray did not represent mainstream British opinion? Let's consider instead the London Times, which crowed:

"They are going. They are going with a vengeance. Soon a Celt will be as rare in Ireland as a Red Indian on the streets of Manhattan...Law has ridden through, it has been taught with bayonets, and interpreted with ruin. Townships levelled to the ground, straggling columns of exiles, workhouses multiplied, and still crowded, express the determination of the Legislature to rescue Ireland from its slovenly old barbarism, and to plant there the institutions of this more civilized land."

In other words, the newspaper of record in England records with glee the imminent demise of the Irish as a nation in the hope that its land can be cleared for plantation by Britons. But again, perhaps it is unfair to attribute these mainstream British opinions to the government itself? Let's look at what they had to say.

On April 26th, 1849, one hundred years before the Genocide Convention was signed, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Clarendon, wrote to the then British Prime Minister, John Russell, expressing his feelings about the lack of aid from Parliament:

"I do not think there is another legislature in Europe that would disregard such suffering as now exists in the west of Ireland, or coldly persist in a policy of extermination."

Bear in mind, this is the voice of Britain in Ireland speaking. And he is speaking of a policy of extermination of the Irish people. I call that genocide. But perhaps I'm wrong. So let's look around for other views. According to holocaust historian and expert Richard L. Rubenstein in his book "Age of Triage: Fear and Hope in an Overcrowded World":

"A government is as responsible for a genocidal policy when its officials accept mass death as a necessary cost of implementing their policies, as when they pursue genocide as an end in itself."

Rubenstein is the man who invented the term 'genocide', so I think we can defer to his definition of the word. So it seems absolutely indisputable: under the terms of the UN convention on genocide, Britain was guilty of conducting genocide on the Irish people during the period variously and incorrectly referred to today as the great famine or An Gorta Mor.

Now, I'm not interested in a Brit-bashing exercise. I can't imagine that the British of today would in anyway feel guilty (nor should they) for something committed by an elite that ran their country and ours a century and a half ago. Britain is historically responsible for a number of attempted genocides, at least one committed on their own soil (the Highland clearances.)

Indeed, the 'great hunger' was not the only attempt at genocide on the Irish people. Cromwell's exploits two centuries earlier spring to mind. I can't imagine that it would ruin relations with Britain or indeed the British people if we were simply to pay proper tribute to our own dead.

In fact, I think many British people might find it illuminating to know what really happened. Certainly, given how the 'famine' is taught in our schools, I believe it would be illuminating for a lot of Irish people too. I accept the British apology for what Tony Blair's word is worth. Which is little, in fairness, but I accept it anyway. But that's not the point.

The point is that our own government fails to acknowledge that it was a holocaust, not a famine caused by a lack of available food. The Irish holocaust had little in common with famine or hunger. Should the focus of Jewish holocaust commemorations be on preventing gas poisoning?

What would any self-respecting Jewish person say if people expected them to euphemise away the horror their people suffered, or suggested that they get over it and grow up as a people? The Rwandans and Armenians would not accept anyone else trying to diminish the attempted genocides that happened to their peoples. So why do we accept it?

Sure, some Shinners might want to use the designation of any commemoration for some Brit-bashing. But that in no way invalidates the core point, which is nothing to do with the Brits of today. It's to do with our own acknowledgment of our own history in accurate terminology.

When we can do that, then we can really move on as a nation.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A close brush with death

I'm sorry again for another extended absence from this blog.

This time I have a better excuse than the dog ate my blog post. I was in hospital, in the cardiac ward, after an unfortunate incident earlier this week.

I was rushed to hospital by ambulance by a crew which arrived almost instantly they were called, ushered me quickly but professionally into the ambulance and rallied me safely to A+E.

In A+E, I was triaged instantly and moved to the resuscitation area (though I was conscious at the time.) That's where I had my first brush with death. As I was receiving morphine and being examined, the person in the cubicle next to me (an elderly lady who'd been found in her nursing home room unconscious) failed to recover and passed away.

Later, as I recovered in the cardiac area of casualty, two more elderly patients who had suffered cardiac incidents failed to make it.

I was in the hospital for two days, and I saw up close and personal the tremendous dedication and ability of our frontline medical staff. From consultant cardiologists to porters, and all the student doctors, nurse practitioners and other staff in between, I couldn't fault the professionalism, patience or ability of anyone of them.

These people work in a literally hellish environment. Like the rings of Inferno, the wails of the ill pervade.

In some cases, the patients just do not stop fucking moaning. Sure, they're unwell and they're in hospital. But why add to a difficult situation by moaning your hole off all the time? Especially when the staff are performing superhuman efforts in almost impossible circumstances?

Anyway, my case ended up not being anywhere near as serious as it first appeared, thank goodness. I'm fine and dandy now, and after witnessing the deaths of three people this week, I'm very thankful and grateful to be so.

And it is the staff of our beleaguered health service I have to thank for that. I owe them all a great deal of gratitude.

And on their behalf and on behalf of all patients languishing on trolleys in casualty wards across Ireland tonight, may I just add, I hope Mary Harney dies alone in absolute untreatable agony with alsatians chewing her bloated carcass while she still lives, the fat evil bitch.