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An INDEPENDENT review, please note.

Overshadowed to some extent by the recent furore over Brexit, this Wednesday the long-awaited Chilcot report into the Iraq war will finally be released to public gaze.

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Social media comment on Blair has been savage.

Predictions of its contents have varied from assumptions that it will prevent any serious re-examination of the decision by obfuscating on the key facts, to speculation that it’s criticism of British Government behaviours will make very painful reading indeed, both for MPs, MPs advisors, and civil servants.

As the Guardian reports, there is a very strong likelihood that a number of MPs will use the report to conduct a very rare parliamentary process to impeach Tony Blair for his role in launching the war, which would see the former Prime Minister theoretically jailed, but would more likely be an inglorious and embarrassing end to Blair’s public career, and a permanent blight on his legacy. There might well be cross-bench support for such an action, given that Blair is viscerally detested by the left-wing of the Labour Party (and has been criticised by its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for his role in the invasion), the Lib Dems were the only major party (at that time) to oppose the Iraq invasion, and the SNP will take any opportunity to embarrass Labour. A Tory or two might join in just to enhance the embarrassment factor.

What will not be happening, despite being thoroughly warranted in our view, is any appearance by Tony Blair (and George Bush, and John Howard) at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, as the court has ruled that it can only try cases based on the conduct of a conflict, not the decision to go to war itself.

This bizarre circumlocution will see the very real prospect of individual British soldiers and commanders being dragged before the court, but not the men who sent them to Iraq. Perhaps one smart move arising out of all this mess would be to reconsider the role of the court.

The ICC  has begun a preliminary examination of claims of torture and abuse by British soldiers, after receiving a dossier from human rights lawyers acting for alleged Iraqi victims.

In the statement, the office of the prosecutor at the ICC said: “We will take note of the Chilcot report when released in the context of its ongoing preliminary examination work concerning Iraq/UK. A preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process aimed at determining whether reasonable basis exist to open an investigation. As already indicated by the office in 2006, the ‘decision by the UK to go to war in Iraq falls outside the court’s jurisdiction’.”

The prosecutor’s office said the ICC was looking at introducing a “crime of aggression” which would cover illegal invasions but that “has not yet crystallised and in any event, will not apply retroactively”.

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Meanwhile the slaughter generated by the insane decision to invade Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein with no clear idea of how to replace him or what “success” might look like continues to wreak its toll, as the power vacuum left behind continues to stoke the fires  of internecine hatred in what was always an artificially-constructed country which should have unquestionably been divided into a Kurdish, Sunni and Shia state, with Baghdad as an international city housing a confederated EU-style parliament of sorts.

To add to the approximately 500,000 Iraqis who have died violently since the invasion, a further 125 innocents (including 25 children) were blown to pieces overnight in an IS attack on a Shia community in the Karrada neighbourhood, likely to be in retaliation for the loss of Fallujah to government forces, less than an hour down the road from the capital. At least 147 people were wounded.

As people congregated, shopped and watched soccer matches, the bomb-laden truck plowed into a building housing a coffee shop, stores and a gym. Firefighters rescued wounded and trapped people in adjacent buildings.

ISIS promised an uptick in terror attacks during Ramadan. The Baghdad assault came just days after massacres at a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, and security targets in Yemen. There have also been recent suicide attacks in Jordan at a border crossing near Syria, and suicide attacks in aChristian area of northern Lebanon.

Last month, a gunman shot up a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people before he was killed, and an attacker killed a police commander and his partner in France.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Bangladesh and Yemen and there are news reports that ISIS claimed responsibility for the Jordanian attack. Experts believe the group might have conducted the attacks in Turkey and Lebanon.

Omar Mateen, the killer in Orlando, and the attacker in France both pledged allegiance to ISIS.

A second bomb exploded Sunday at an outdoor market in the Shaab neighbourhood of southeastern Baghdad, killing one person and wounding five others, police said.

Both Baghdad strikes are a sign of the Sunni-Shiite tension in the Muslim world. Sunni-dominated ISIS claimed it was targeting Shiite neighbourhoods. Karrada and Shaab are predominately Shiite.

Cedric Leighton, a CNN military analyst and retired Air Force colonel, thinks the attacks will worsen and said that is ISIS’ game plan, essentially, to generate instability.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 11.06.21 am“They are trying to create enough chaos in Iraq itself so that the Iraqi forces will find it very difficult to actually take advantage of the forward momentum they have achieved because of their victory in Fallujah and that is a very serious issue that the al-Abadi administration is going to have to address.”

It’s hard to say “when and where they are going to strike,” he said of ISIS.

“This is a very, very difficult time. It is a very risky time, just because the political fissures are so great within Iraq that they are so easily exploitable by ISIS and its fellow travelers.”

Such attacks, like the one in Baghdad will serve to drive a wedge between the government and the people, in particular the Shiites.

“The wedge was already there and its fairly easy for them to exploit this,” he said.

There is no question, of course, that the divide between Shia and Sunni has been going on for centuries, but what is rarely said is that on occasions in the past both of the major Islamic factions have lived together peaceably for long periods as well. The invasion of Iraq set off a chain reaction of events that has now embroiled almost the entire Middle East in sectarian conflict, as well as seeing major attacks on the West.

One satisfactory response to Chilcott would be a commitment from all political leaders in the West to abjure from military interventionism and adventurism in the future, and for them to concentrate, instead, on the growth of inter-cultural confidence building and civic structures in countries that a struggling with massive problems and the difficulties of transitioning to a post-colonial environment.

Don’t hold your breath. It’s so much simpler to just bomb the shit out of somewhere. And the pretty fireworks look so impressive on TV.

Boris Johnson
INDEPENDENCE DAY ROUNDUP

The UK’s first day of “independence” has gone just swimmingly, though, eh?

1. Nigel Farage went on the tele and retracted the (false) claim that we send £350 million per week to the EU that would now be re-directed to the NHS and said Vote Leave should never have made that commitment to voters in the first place. Yesterday, this commitment was on the side of Vote Leave busses across the country. Exit polling indicates additional funding for the NHS was cited as a reason for leaving by nearly 80% of leave voters. Voters ignored thousands of Remain spokespeople trying to explain it was a lie.

2. Daniel Hannan MEP retracted the (false) claim that leaving the EU will lead to drastically reduced immigration into Britain. Exit polling indicates this was the second most cited reason voters gave for leaving the EU. Would have been nice if Vote Leave had bothered to be honest with voters about both of these matters before today.

3. S&P, the only rating agency still giving the UK a AAA credit rating, confirms it has placed that rating under review for downgrade. It appears a downgrade is much more likely than not. Borrowing costs to fund Britain’s large deficit are set to increase markedly.

4. Sterling collapsed to its lowest level against the USD in three decades, the biggest single day drop in the history of the currency. It is the third biggest single day drop in any currency ever. It is currently $1.36, down an incredible 13 cents against the dollar in less than 24 hours from a high of $1.49 yesterday.

5. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has said a second independence referendum is “highly likely”. Scots will likely vote on dismembering the United Kingdom in the next few years, which will fuel further uncertainty and economic turmoil. But who could blame them?

6. Sinn Fein and various others in Northern Ireland call for a border poll on reunification. The border with Ireland, which has all but vanished, will now need to be re-established.

7. Spain calls for co-sovereignty over Gibraltar.

8. More than £1.5 trillion in wealth was wiped out across global markets in just a few hours this morning, the single greatest wealth destroying event in stock market history. That’s 187 years’ worth of British contributions to the EU. Seems worth it to get that money back from Brussels though, eh?

9. The FTSE 100 (largely multinationals) fell more than 8% and the FTSE 250 (which reflects mostly British firms rather than multinationals) fell more than 12%. Both steadied after Mark Carney declared that the Bank of England would not hesitate to intervene to instil stability, the same sort of intervention that Mario Draghi had to make to save the Euro during the Greek crisis and that the G7 had to make to save the global economy after the collapse of Lehman. Brexit is an event that ranks alongside those crises in terms of effects on global markets. Anyway never mind, because the Bank of England will fix it. With your money, of course.

10. Ultimately, the FTSE 100 finished down 3% and the FTSE 250 down 7%. Hundreds of billions of pounds has been wiped off people’s ISAs and pension funds. Banks in particular have been hammered.

11. David Cameron resigned without mapping out any plan for implementing the results of the referendum. Boris Johnson is odds on favourite to be our next Prime Minister. In October. You heard that right. Boris Johnson. Clown mayor of London and never even been a Minister.

12. Labour MPs have moved for a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn which will be considered by the party on Monday.  

He’s for the high jump too.

13. The presidents of the European Council, Commission and Parliament told us to invoke Article 50 and leave as soon as possible and the settlement negotiated by David Cameron earlier this year is now void. The head of the Berlin Stock Exchange summed it up. “We’ll still be friends. But we’re not on the same side now.”

14. Nigel Farage, who earlier claimed that independence was achieved “without a single bullet being fired”, just called for UK gun laws to be relaxed, one week after Jo Cox was murdered on the street in broad daylight. With a gun. Slimeball.

15. Numerous reports of immigrants, and native Britons who happen to be brown, being told to “go back home” in the street and on the Tube, the vote to leave apparently having been taken by some as an indication that most of the country now thinks this sort of thing is acceptable, rather than profoundly un-British and utterly awful.

Lies. Madness. Insanity. Oh, England, my England, what have you done?

Meanwhile, those Britons who are horrified by yesterday’s events might care to note that a petition to Parliament calling for another election is already the fastest growing petition ever, with over 500,000 signatures, and will be debated by the Parliament. If you’re a British citizen and wish to sign you can find it here.

Farage
And also, don’t forget that Nigel Farage said that 52-48 wouldn’t be an adequate margin to settle the matter of Britain’s membership. 

Of course, that’s when he thought Leave was going to lose …

It’s time we had another F*** Up. This one’s a doozey. I suppose we could call it a Suck Up.

Dear Marketing Manager – please remember that watching EVERYTHING about your brand is important, even where you stick the sign on the new delivery vehicle.

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For more advertising and marketing F*** Ups, just put F*** Up in the search box top left: there are LOADS of them to enjoy.

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Oh, while you’re at it, make sure you tell your media buying company to think about WHICH ad (or news story) your ad runs next to.

D’oh!

 

  
Here’s a few tips: for all those men who are confused by recent well publicised calls by a complete dickhead with a flair for publicity, calling for rape to be legalised on private property.

If you see a woman walking down the street, don’t rape her.

If you can’t trust yourself, use the buddy system so your friend is always with you to make sure you don’t rape anyone.Don’t enter through unlocked doors or open windows and go to a woman’s bed while she is sleeping to rape her.

Be honest straight up: when asking a woman on a date tell her there and then that after dinner you are going to rape her, otherwise she might get the wrong idea and think she is going out to dinner with you without ever thinking you are planning to rape her. 

Carry a rape kit at all times so if you get the urge to rape a woman who is getting into her car, blow your rape whistle until someone comes to stop you from raping her.

Take your mace can from your rape kit and spray in your eyes to blind you so you won’t be able to see any women to rape when the thought crosses your mind.

Hope these handy hints help. You’re welcome.

The Huffington Post on Friday reported on a new study out of The University of Alberta that shows that drinking a glass of red wine may have the same effect on the body as an hour at the gym.
  
A component in the wine, resveratrol, was seen to improve physical performance, heart function and muscle strength similar to the affect exercise has on the body.Principal investigator Jason Dyck says, “I think resveratrol could help patient populations who want to exercise but are physically incapable. Resveratrol could mimic exercise for them or improve the benefits of the modest amount of exercise that they can do.”

“It is very satisfying to progress from basic research in a lab to testing in people, in a short period of time,” Dyck said.

Right, we’re off to pour our third hour’s gym work for the day right now.

A-Board outside a new shop.

“24 Hour Gym. Open Now.”

Glad to have the clarification. Sadly, Ms Junior Wellthisiswhatithink was past the location before realising she should have taken a photo. But she assures your indefatigable correspondent that it was true.

Apart from the packet of peanuts that said “Warning, may contain peanuts” this may be our favourite F*** Up of some time. 

As always, to read the entire sorry catalogue, just put F*** Up in the search box top left on this page …

Bodycam shows chilling moments before deadly traffic stop

Newly released bodycam video reveals the moment a murder-accused police officer pulled a man over for a routine traffic stop before ‘purposefully killing him’.

The officer has been charged with murder, with a prosecutor saying the officer “purposely killed him” and “should never have been a police officer.”

University of Cincinnati campus police officer Ray Tensing initially told investigators that he shot Sam DuBose in the head after DuBose tried to drive away and dragged the officer along with him. But a review of the officer’s body camera footage showed Tensing was never in danger during the July 19 incident. Tensing, 25, had been a police officer for four years, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

“You will not believe how quickly he pulls his gun and shoots him in the head. It’s maybe a second. It’s incredible. And so senseless,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters said as he prepared to release the video. “I think he lost his temper because Mr DuBose wouldn’t get out of his vehicle.”

Newly released bodycam video reveals the moment a murder-accused police officer pulled a man over for a routine traffic stop before ‘purposefully killing him’. Photo: LiveLeak

The video shows Tensing approach the black car and ask DuBose for his license and registration.

DuBose calmly asks why he was pulled over and eventually tells Tensing that he left his license at home.

Then – less than two minutes into the exchange – DuBose reaches for the keys and Tensing can be heard shouting “STOP! STOP!”

In the blink of an eye, a gun pops into view and DuBose slumps over in his seat. The video bounces as Tensing chases after the car as it rolls down the street. DuBose died instantly, Deters said.

“He wasn’t dealing with someone who was wanted for murder – he was dealing with someone with a missing license plate,” he told reporters.

“This is in the vernacular a pretty chicken crap stop.”

The video shows Tensing approach the black car and ask DuBose for his license and registration. DuBose calmly asks why he was pulled over and eventually tells Tensing that he left his license at home. Photo: LiveLeak

Deters continued: “If he started rolling away, seriously, let him go. You don’t have to shoot him in the head.”

The case comes as the United States grapples with heightened racial tensions in the wake of a series of high-profile incidents of African Americans being killed by police in disputed circumstances.

Deters said he hopes the swift action by his office will show that justice is being done in this case.

“I feel so sorry for his family and I feel sorry for the community,” Deters said.

Tensing should never have been allowed to carry a badge and gun, Deters said, adding that the University of Cincinnati should hand policing duties over to the city’s force.

A prosecutor said University of Cincinnati campus police officer Ray Tensing “should never have been a police officer”. Photo: AFP

“This is the most asinine act I have ever seen a police officer make,” he said.

“It was totally unwarranted and it’s an absolute tragedy that in 2015 anyone would behave in this manner.”

The university shut down its campus and placed barricades at entrances out of concern that the news could lead to protest or even violence.

City officials pressed for peace and said they were prepared “for any scenarios that present themselves.”

A series of sometimes violent protests have broken out across the United States in response to other high-profile police shootings over the past year.

Cincinnati was struck by days of violent unrest following the police shooting of an unarmed black man in 2001.

 

University of Cincinnati campus police officer Ray Tensing initially told investigators that he shot Sam DuBose in the head after DuBose tried to drive away and dragged the officer along with him. Photo: LiveLeak

 

“There is obviously reason for people to be angry,” Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley

“Everyone has the right to peacefully protest, but we will not tolerate lawlessness.”

With great dignity, DuBose’s family asked people to respect his memory by responding peacefully as they vowed to continue to fight for justice in policing.

“My brother was about to be just one other stereotype and now that’s not going to happen,” Terina Allen, DuBose’s sister, told reporters.

“I’m as pleased as I can be that we’re actually getting some kind of justice for Sam.”

One can only wonder at such restraint.

#blacklivesmatter

A fellow blogger, the wonderful Miss Snarky Pants, challenges the world to create something meaningful (or just good) in just Four Frigging Lines.

Needless to say, we could not resist. Can you? Just put your effort in the comments section of one of her (so far) five uniformly excellent efforts.

 

Tuna-Can

 

In the gutter, on its own, a single empty can of tuna in lemon and cracked pepper.
Mouth open, like a gasping fish, staring at the sky.
I hardly know whether to rail at its former owner for his callous discard
Or to take it home and bin it safely, like burying the dead goldfish no one wants to hold.

 

readMeAnd as we constantly remind you (the house reno is expensive) to buy all our poems (well most of them), plus a short story, head to 71 Poems and One Short Story, available in soft cover or as a download.

 

farageOuch. There will be a few of these, no doubt, as the UK election progresses to its climax next month.

One has to feel a little for politicians and their minders, sometimes. Even when they are about as far across the political divide from ourselves as it is possible to be.

Not only do they have to watch what they say, but as Nigel “UKIP” Farage discovers here, they even have to watch the signs they are walking next to as well.

Cue some poor media adviser flack being sacked for not predicting the photo, one suspects, and a bonus from the media proprietor to the photo-journalist who we bet stood there for a while to get the shot.

OK, yes, it’s utterly trivial, but it’s fun. And it’s Friday.

slipperyPerhaps more worryingly for Farage and his party, and the Tories, both of which constantly rail about the cost to the National Health Service of “health tourists” chewing up NHS resources in Britain, stats have just been released showing that holidaying Brits cost five times as much to Spain, Italy, France etc etc as incoming tourists cost the Brits.

The gap is largest in the cases of Austria and Germany. Austria’s health service spent 43 times more – £5.6m – on treating British travellers than the NHS did on those from Austria – £130,000. Germany, which is visited by 2 million Britons every year, had to pay 34 times more than the NHS – £22m compared to £643,000. Still, they’ve both got pots of money, so who cares, eh?

One of the joys of following an election is when a few facts interpolate themselves into the bullshit.

Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, center, arrives in Pretoria, South Africa Tuesday, April 7, 2015 for a state visit to the country.. Mugabe will be in the country until Thursday and will meet with South African president Jacob Zuma - photo AP.

Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe arrives in Pretoria, South Africa Tuesday, April 7, 2015 for a state visit to the country. Mugabe will meet with South African president Jacob Zuma – photo AP.

We will bring more to you as we go along.

Meanwhile, on the same theme, we sincerely hope the photographer who snapped this shot of Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe in South Africa has already fled to somewhere safe, as this photo has gone viral worldwide, and the afro-fascist doesn’t have a reputation for a very vibrant sense of humour.

The Daily Think

I didn’t get to switch the radio off in time this morning. She heard, and understood (it seems). This was her response. charlie Hebdo

View original post

The wit of the common man

Posted: January 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

So you know how the iPhone offers you various Wi-Fi networks from people’s houses as you drive past?

That little screen that comes up? And how you – if you are a reprehensible cad – can experiment and see if you can nibble some free internet access off them?

We just drove past a house in Adelaide where the name of their little domestic network was “Fuck Off”.

#stilllaughing

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Summer exhibition in Melbourne – exciting!.

The beauty of nowhere

Posted: November 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

It’s not really nowhere of course. Someone here grows our daily bread.

But they are nowhere to be seen. Just an endless gently curving field and the burning late-afternoon sun being sucked at hungrily by the million-fold ears of wheat. The tumbledown barn built by a grandfather long gone stands sentinel over a family’s industry, and when you face south the endless bitumin ribbon snarls by unseen and ignored.

Between somewhere and somewhere, in South Australia.

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Ironic photo of the week

Posted: November 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

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We often think of how much Orwell wrote has come true. Newspeak. Mind crime. Universal supervision. Rewriting history. Maybe 1984 should be reissued as 2014?

forgotten- irish slavesThey came as slaves; vast human cargo transported on tall British ships bound for the Americas. They were shipped by the hundreds of thousands and included men, women, and even the youngest of children.

Whenever they rebelled or even disobeyed an order, they were punished in the harshest ways. Slave owners would hang their human property by their hands and set their hands or feet on fire as one form of punishment. They were burned alive and had their heads placed on pikes in the marketplace as a warning to other captives.

We don’t really need to go through all of the gory details, do we? We know all too well the atrocities of the African slave trade.

But, are we actually talking about African slavery?Fascinatingly, in this case, no.

King James II and Charles I led a continued effort to enslave the Irish. Britain’s famed revolutionary Oliver Cromwell furthered this practice of dehumanising one’s next door neighbour.

The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.

Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.

From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children most of whom died. Britain’s solution to their penury was to auction them off as well.

During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England.

In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.

Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish, and it is true that some were, and were held under less onerous regimes than the slaves. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle. They never became “free”, and they never returned home.

Meanwhile, the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period. And it is well recorded that ironically African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.

African slaves were very expensive during the late 1600s (50 Sterling). But Irish slaves came cheap (no more than 5 Sterling). If a planter whipped or branded or beat an Irish slave to death, it was never a crime. A death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more expensive African.

The English masters quickly began breeding the Irish women for both their own personal pleasure and for greater profit. Children of slaves were themselves slaves, which increased the size of the master’s free workforce. Even if an Irish woman somehow obtained her freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her master. Thus, Irish moms, even with this new found emancipation, would seldom abandon their kids and would remain in servitude.

mulattoIn time, the English thought of a better way to use these women (in some cases, girls as young as 12) to increase their market share: the settlers began to breed Irish women and girls with African men to produce slaves with a distinct complexion. These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. Some mulatto children obviously were born as a result of rape or consensual sex between owners and black slaves. Many more were the result of a deliberate breeding programme.

This practice of interbreeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.

England continued to ship tens of thousands of Irish slaves for more than a century. Records state that, after the 1798 Irish Rebellion, thousands of Irish slaves were sold to both America and Australia. There were horrible abuses of both African and Irish captives. One British ship even dumped 1,302 slaves into the Atlantic Ocean so that the crew would have plenty of food to eat.

It is hardly ever spoken about, but there is little question that the Irish experienced the horrors of slavery as much (if not more in the 17th Century) as Africans did. There is, also, very little question that those brown, tanned faces you witness in your travels to the West Indies are very likely a combination of African and Irish ancestry. In 1839, Britain finally decided on it’s own to end it’s participation in this highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves. While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded at least this chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.

As we look ever more clearly at our past, Irish slavery is a subject worth remembering, not erasing from our memories. Or is their story to be one that their English pirates intended: to have the Irish story utterly and completely disappear as if it never happened?

None of the Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their ordeal. These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and history books conveniently forgot. It is time they were remembered.

Abdullah ElmirA Sydney teenager who ran away to join jihadists in Syria is the pawn of terrorists who “groomed” him just like pedophiles groom their child victims, a terror expert says.

Abdullah Elmir has turned up in a propaganda video for the IS group, also known as ISIL, after disappearing from his Bankstown home in June, saying he was going fishing.

The video is the fourth in a series called “Message of the Mujahid” which features foreign fighters, with previous releases showing British, French and Moroccan jihadists.

Grand Mufti quick to condemn "Islamic" extremists

Grand Mufti quick to condemn “Islamic” extremists

The Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, urged Muslims to reject calls from abroad tocommit violence against Australia and said it was “utterly deplorable for violent extremists to use Islam as a cover for their crimes and atrocities”.

In a joint statement, the nation’s peak Muslim organisations expressed “profound concerns and sadness” over Abdullah’s appearance in the Islamic State video and said there was an “urgent need” to examine how and why the teenager felt the need to leave the country and fight with a terrorist organisation.

In the clip, the 17-year-old threatens Australia and any nation that would try to stand in the group’s way.

Professor Greg Barton from Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre says Elmir was recruited by wanted terrorist Mohammad Ali Baryalei, an Australian based in Syria.

He says terror recruiters lure targets by making friends through social media, like many sexual predators.

“It’s like sexual predation,” Professor Barton told the media.

“Somebody might strike up a friendship in an online chat forum and present themselves in a different fashion – to try to get them into their web. By the time they actually meet the people they’re speaking with, they may be in too deep to know better.”

He says the boy appears as a “pawn in the machine” in the chilling video.

“He thinks he’s the star … but the reality is, his new friends have got him a one-way ticket,” he said. “He’s not in charge of his own destiny at all, he’s being used.”

Prof Barton says young people are the easiest to radicalise.

“Teenagers, 20-somethings, particularly young men more than young women, are vulnerable to making rash judgments,” he said. “And they tend to be more rebellious toward (older) generations and sceptical of establishment figures.”

It is believed former Kings Cross bouncer Mr Baryalei, 33, recruited Elmir through western Sydney street preaching group Parramatta Street Dawah.

“He’s said to have recruited 30 plus young people – mostly in western Sydney through Street Dawah” Professor Barton said.

We agree with Professor Barton. What we are seeing is teenage braggadocio. No 17 year old understands the geo politics behind the likes of IS, they have no idea what the reality of death and injury is on the battlefield, they do not yet have an understanding of the terrible implications of the violence they may wreak on other families or what it really means to take another life, nor do they have the discretion to understand varying views of their own religion. What we are seeing here is the sophisticated internet version of the gathering of child soldiers by unprincipled militia in Africa and elsewhere.

abdullahThis young man will, one day, without any doubt, die a bloody death unknown, unmourned and unmarked in the conflict in Iraq. Those who recruited him as a footsoldier will not bat an eyelid at his passing.

Even if he does not, his life is effectively ruined, as he will no longer be welcome in his home country. The very best outlook he probaby has is to become a stateless refugee, in hiding.

It is all very sad, and a huge burden of guilt lies on the souls of those who recruit our innocents. The cases recently of two young Austrian women who travelled to join IS only to find themselves pimped out to fighters, impregnated, and now unable to leave after becoming utterly disillusioned, is yet more evidence that these people deserve our unflinching condemnation.

Meanwhile,  Abdullah’s family have said they are shocked and devastated. They believe he has been “brainwashed” and they want to know who paid for his air ticket and encouraged him to go. They have described him as academically bright and caring: and it is often so – those with intelligence, compassion and passion are the easiest to turn to the darkness.

We should all pray this young man somehow survives and is reuinted with those who can care for him. That, however, is vanishingly unlikely.

fallenA very sad story in the newspaper in Melbourne today, noting that over 104 people over the age of 50 died in their homes in 2011, and lay there dead for a week or more before their bodies were discovered.

Even sadder is that some of those people – victims of heart attacks, strokes, and falls, for example – might have survived if found sooner. And saddest of all is that the same litany of little tragedies are surely repeated every year in every city in the world.

We live in a world which is theoretically more connected than ever. And yet, as more people live alone – especially more older people – any sense that we all live in a village with an eye on each other’s welfare is receding into distant memory.

We recall growing up in a typical middle-class street, with friends and neighbours in abundance in all directions.

Connections were not made because people were nosy and inquisitive, but simply because people were polite and caring. It would be unusual not to greet the people who lived nearby with a cheery “Good morning” when walking past them. Indeed, more so: to nod, smile and utter a greeting to complete strangers, who often became, in due course, acquaintances, and then friends. Nowadays, likely as not, people would shy back, concerned you were a nutter or from a religious cult.

We live in a colder, harder world, where the idea of a harmless conversation over the fence or sharing a quick cuppa on the back step seems immeasurably quaint.

Do yourself a favour. Do the world a favour. Go knock on their door. Any excuse will do – or just ‘fess up. “I thought we should know one another.”

Especially if they’re old, and alone. Just do it.

 

MRS TURKINGTON

She used to stand, proud and erect, the Colossus of Assembly.
Headmistress of St Catherine’s Church of England Primary
Concentrating Camp
For David and Gareth and Julie and Helen and Me.

Talons grasping the eagle-winged lectern
she would gravely announce
“All God’s Creatures Here Alive
Ancient and Modern, Number 35”
,
and God help you if you didn’t sing.
(Except he wouldn’t.
because he was silenced by a glance
from Mrs T, as well.)

She had a cane, but never used it.
If found running in the quadrangle
she just pinned you to the blue breeze-block walls
with Yorkshire-steel eyes and asked you what
exactly it was you thought you were doing?7
And whatever it was, you stopped it.

Bubble-gum swallowed, marbles pocketed.
Prize conker? Dropped it.

I heard some time ago Mrs T had died.
They found her on the floor.
No-one called, no more.
So no-one saw.

Been there for days, they said.
All thin, and gnarled, and very dead.

In later life, she’d mellowed.
Her skin had yellowed.
I used to see her in Church, a bit
when time had pushed her shoulders up in the middle.
She just got all bent, when the rheumatics hit.

Always sent me a Christmas card,
even when her life got hard.

Mum used to shove one under me nose to sign for her
so I suppose she’d always got it,
and then thought I never forgot it.

I never thought I would, but
I felt sorry when they found her,
fallen and forgotten at the bottom of the stairs.

She had a cane, you see.
But she never used it.

beaver lodge

Beaver Lodge, then home of the Attenboroughs, where we momentarily shared the high life.

So Dickie Attenborough is dead, at 90.

We knew him. Well, not so much knew him, you understand, as “We met him once”.

Back in 1987, there was an election on. The Liberal Party, for which we campaigned, had entered an uncomfortable “Alliance” with a new political grouping called “The Social Democratic Party”, which was essentially a small group of right wing rebels from a Labour Party that had been temporarily overwhelmed by the irritating forces of the trotskyite Left. The new “SDP” appealed to a sort of vaguely left of centre middle class consensus type – they’d be called “soccer Mums” in America or “doctor’s wives” in Australia.

Anyhow, for some bizarre reason lost in the mists of time deep in the last millenium, the leaders of said Alliance decided to hop on a barge and meander down the River Thames one Sunday afternoon, ending up at Dickie’s pile in Richmond. The vague plan was that there were a string of Liberal-SDP Alliance target seats in a row along the river, and this was a spiffingly good wheeze to make a news impact on all of them in one hit to try and shake loose a few of the seats that had voted Tory since time immemorial in that area. Needless to say, as a photo op it simply made the Alliance leaders look like a bunch of middle class numpties and it was largely ignored.

Attenborough and his equally well-loved brother, documentary maker David, share a happy moment.

Attenborough and his equally well-loved younger brother, documentary maker David, share a happy moment.

It is why, though, late on a lovely summer’s afternoon, we came to be standing around in the Attenborough’s charming little pied-a-terre, and standing around very uncomfortably to boot, given that we were unquestionably in the presence of the great and good … a sprinkling of theatre people, some famous politicians, a clutch of local grandees … and as we (and by we, we mean a bunch of local campaigners who had been invited to turn up to rub shoulders with the glitterati who had descended upon us) were dressed almost universally in jeans, odd t-shirts covered in campaign buttons and sporting scraggly beards, we felt somewhat out of place.

Since that time we have become more familiar with the questionable joys of small talk, clinking crystal and nodding with glazed eyes while not really listening. At that stage, however, the art form was unknown to us. So we stood near the front door of what was undoubtedly the grandest room on the planet, exquisitely furnished, and shuffled uncertainly from foot to foot, muttering darkly to one another about how we’d rather be out canvassing for votes on council estates instead of all this wank.

Suddenly, though, Attenborough himself swept through the crowd, making a beeline towards us with a tray of champagnes weaving memorably past the obstacles presented by overweight councillors and gesticulating theatricals. I am reasonably sure there were black-tied waters in attendance too, but for some reason he was doing the honours himself. “You chaps look like you need a drink!” he grinned, and his charm and bonhomie was infectious. We took a glass each and smiled uncertainly. “Yell out if you want another!” he cried, disappearing back into the maw of 200 or so of his closest friends. It was a gentle and kindly act, and perfectly typical of the man, apparently.

Richard Attenborough was one of the most famous and talented actors of his generation, with a string of credits that sound like a potted history of 20th century British and Hollywood cinema. Stolid and honourable in “The Great Escape”. Menacing and psychotic in “Brighton Rock”. Avuncular and deluded in “Jurassic Park”. Pugnacious  in “The Angry Silence”. Utterly chilling in “10 Rillington Place”.

As a director, he made some of the more important movies of the era, reflecting his own progressive view of the world, such as the memorable filmed version of “Oh! What a lovely war!” and in the historically accurate and star-filled exposition of the disastrous military adventure of Operation Market Garden in “A Bridge Too Far”, tackling courage against the apartheid regime in South Africa in “Cry Freedom”, and, of course, with “Gandhi”, the triumphal conclusion of 20 years effort, for which he received two Oscars.

Less well-known is that during the Second World War, Lord Attenborough served with the Royal Air Force, and was seconded to the newly-formed RAF film unit at Pinewood Studios after initial pilot training. He appeared in the 1943 propaganda film Journey Together before qualifying as a sergeant and flying on missions all over Europe filming the outcome of Bomber Command sorties. He saw enough of the horrors of war to imbue “Oh! What a lovely war!” with a heart-rending immediacy, as seen so well in the closing sequence of the film, below. As we remember the 100th Anniversary of the First World War, we could do no better to show respect those who fell than to play the whole film on free-to-air TV in all the combattant countries. It is a theatrical tour de force, and deeply moving.

And when they ask us, how dangerous it was,

Oh, we’ll never tell them, no, we’ll never tell them:

We spent our pay in some cafe,

And fought wild women night and day,

‘Twas the cushiest job we ever had.

And when they ask us, and they’re certainly going to ask us,

The reason why we didn’t win the Croix de Guerre,

Oh, we’ll never tell them, oh, we’ll never tell them

There was a front, but damned if we knew where.

As an aside, and notably, Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim, who though stricken with dementia survives him after nearly 70 years of marriage, also co-starred in the original West End production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap in 1952, which has since become the world’s longest-running play.

David Owen

David Owen

Anyhow, the afternoon drew on towards evening and the champagne grew warm, and then leader of the SDP, Dr David Owen, who it must be reported had looked grumpy and perfectly bored the entire time – an impression he managed to give for his entire career, to our eyes – decided it was time to leave.

He bustled his way towards the door. Attenborough, seeing his star guest leaving, struggled through the crowd waving to get Owen’s attention, seemingly unsuccessfully. In the end, he called out plaintively “David! David! Call you, darling!” but in vain: he was talking to thin air. Owen was gone.

I caught Dickie’s eye, and he smiled and shrugged. He waggled his hand to indicate “Another glass of bubbles?” but we politely demurred. We were heading down the pub for a proper drink. He smiled again, good naturedly, as if in understanding, and turned back to tending to his other more civilised guests. Momentarily, I considered suggesting he join us for a hand of dominoes and a couple of pints, suspecting he might enjoy himself more, but I didn’t dare.

Richard Attenborough may have been a luvvie, my darling Reader, but he was a ferociously talented and genuinely big-hearted version of that uniquely British theatrical caricature.

And that’s why everyone loved him. A decent bloke: a life well lived. Our condolences to his family and innumerable friends.

Footnote

In British use, luvvie is a humorously depreciative term for an actor, especially one regarded as effusive or affected. The reference is to a stereotype of  thespians habitually addressing people as ‘lovey’. When the OED revised its entry for lovey in 2008, this sense, which had by then become established in the variant spelling luvvie, was made a separate entry. The earliest quotation found at the time was from author and actor Stephen Fry, writing in the Guardian in 1988:

Acting in a proper grown-up play, being a lovie, doing the West End, ‘shouting in the evenings’, as the late Patrick Troughton had it.

1988 Stephen Fry in Guardian 2 Apr., p. 17

The off-hand manner in which the term is used here suggests that the word may already have been somewhat established in this sense at the time.

Spoons

Stephen Yolland is a Melbourne poet and author/editor of Wellthisiswhatithink. You can find his book of poetry here. The book is also available as a download from lulu.com.