Monday, October 25, 2010

Ireland's Greatest

I was absolutely delighted that John Hume, former leader of the SDLP was voted Ireland's greatest person of all time. There were five contenders. Over the last five weeks a one hour documentary was shown on RTE Television each week making the case for one of the contenders. The Irish public voted by phone and by text.

The five contenders were

Bono was the only non political figure on the list. I like Bono. I admire him. I have never been a Bono basher (like so many begrudgers) but he clearly should not have been on the list. Bono would have been my number 5.

James Connolly
James Connolly was one of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of the Republic. He was the military commander of the Dublin rebellion. He was executed for his role in the rising. Connolly was not a typical Irish rebel. He was a Trade Unionist who founded the Irish Labour Party. In 1913 he founded the Irish Citizen Army, a militant organisation who protected striking workers from the Dublin Metropolitan Police. I am not big into the trade unions today. But that's because they get away with murder. But any democratic country obviously must have them. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were no workers rights at all. The Trade Union movement was an extremely noble cause. Connolly led it, and he died for it. The reason I did not vote for him is because I believe his legacy in the rising is sometimes overstated by his followers. The 1916 Rising was organised by the Irish Republican Brotherhood and carried out by the Irish Volunteers and Connolly's Citizen Army. However, Connolly himself did not plan the rising. In fact. he only became aware of it in January 1916 when he was approached by the IRB leadership who convinced him and his ICA to participate in the rebellion. This is why he is 4th in my list.

Mary Robinson
The former Irish President and UN High commissioner for Human Rights is a remarkable figure. She was the first to aggressively confront the Catholic Church in Ireland for its ultra conservative views. It is forgotten by many in my generation that up until the 1980's in Ireland, women did not have an automatic right to serve on Jury's, nor could they purchase contraception, homosexuality was a criminal act and divorce was not permitted. Mary Robinson led the charge against these archaic ways. As UN high commissioner for Human Rights she worked tirelessly to put human rights at the center of international foreign policy. I don't agree with everything she has said on Israel but frankly, I was outraged by some from the pro Israeli lobby in the United States who attempted to smear her as an anti Semite, just so they could throw a cheap dig at President Obama. For her bravery, and her ability to stand up to a bully, Mary Robinson gets my no 3 vote.

Michael Collins
It is truly remarkable what this man fitted into his short life. He fought in the GP0(HQ of the 1916 Rebellion) during the Easter Rising. He was elected MP for Cork in the 1918 general election. Along with the rest of the Sinn Fein MP's he refused to take his seat in West Minster, opting instead for the underground revolutionary parliament in Dublin instead. He became Minister for Finance in that under ground government (January 1919 - December 1921) where he organised its finances with amazing efficiency. He combined his role in the cabinet with his most famous role on the GHQ of the IRA, as it Director of Intelligence. His role in the War of Independence centered mainly on the Intelligence war in Dublin, which was fought against the Political Division (or G division) of the Dublin Metropolitan police operating out of Dublin Castle. His philosophy was simple. They spy on us and they use spies and informers against us, so we are going to do the same back to them. He was highly successful. But the real reason he gets my number 2 is because greatness comes from the tough decisions one has to make. After the truce ending the war with the British Collins led a delegation to London to negotiate a Treaty. He did not succeed in negotiating a republic. He got dominion status instead. This was much more than Home Rule but less that a Republic which most of the IRA were only willing to settle for. This caused a brief but bloody war in which Collins was killed. He had always argued, that dominion status provided the new Free State with the means to democratically become a republic. He was proved right. It was this selfless act, this brave and bold step that was very dangerous politically and personally for him that showed true greatness.

John Hume
I voted for John Hume. He is a great great man. The 1998 Nobel Peace Prize winner did more for peace in Northern Ireland than any other person. Like Collins, he was a man confronted with exceptionally difficult decisions in his life. But he always had one consistent theme running through his politics. He detested violence in all its forms. Unlike so many who claimed to be opposed to violence he never gave in on this. His greatest ever quote was something similar to this.

I have been campaigning against social injustice all my life. I have been campaigning for civil rights for Catholics since the early 1960's. I continue to campaign against these injustices. But the greatest injustice in Northern Ireland today is the murder of people by paramilitary organisations like the IRA, UVF, UFF and INLA. Other injustices can be righted. People can come out of prisons but people can never come out of their graves. These murders are a far greater injustice than any any form of discrimination that exists in Northern Ireland.

The above quote absolutely nails it.

The culmination of Hume's work was the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. However it concerns me deeply that history is being too kind to those it took the longest to see sense. Ian Paisley of the DUP and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein finally came together in 2007 to lead a power sharing government. Seeing two former enemies sitting together talking and laughing became a source of amusement for the media. At times it almost seems that Hume's role was being edged out. And while there are times when I admire both Paisley and McGuinness, the hard truth is, for most of Ian Paisley's life he was a sectarian pig, and for most of McGuinness's life, he was a murdering butchering bastard. I hope very much that history does not give these two men credit at the expense of the real heroes like John Hume. At times it almost seems that Hume's role is being edged out of history. Not that he would care, I don't think there has ever been anyone less vain in politics than John Hume. But sometime you are given the impression that Paisley, Adams and McGuinness were the principal peace makers in Northern Ireland. That upsets my stomach. For his endless campaigns against the institutional sectarianism of the Northern Irish state, for the Civil Rights movement, for his campaigns against internment without trial and other unjust British policies, for his unwavering unconditional opposition to violence specifically the armed republican struggle, for his 25 year dedication to the peace process, for his endless efforts at reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants (the most noble political goal in Ireland) and for never giving up, I concur that John Hume is Ireland's greatest person of all time.

Attack Ads

The US Mid Term elections take place in 8 days. The attack ads are flying about the place. Frankly, I find the dramatic style and cinematic technique to be quite hilarious.

In the Californian Senate race, Republican Carly Fiorina attacks incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer.

Barbara Boxer strikes back.

Just love the evil voice narrating.

And then there is the sarcastic voice.

Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle gives it a shot.

Pumpkins !

Last weekend, a bank holiday in Ireland, I ended up at the Pumpkin Festival in Virginia Co Cavan. I'm not sure how this happened but it did. Anyway, I had a great time in what was a very vibrant local festival. Good to see such things happening, lifting peoples spirits in the process. A few of my pics !

Pumpkin farmers from all over the world competed to produce the heaviest pumpkin.

Some seriously big pumpkins.

A pig on a spit

The highlight of the festival, the great Jazz singer Imelda May.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bertie in the closet

Bertie Ahern, our former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and architect of the economic car crash pops up in the strangest of places. The latest, a kitchen cupboard. By the way, the guy is still a TD (MP).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Greatest War Movies No 3, The Great Escape

It is on every Christmas. Its theme tune is famous. It is a classic piece of British cinema. But that is not why I have chosen The Great Escape as my third greatest was movie of all time. I have chosen it because The Great Escape brilliantly tells the true story of the mass break out in 1944 of allied airmen from the Prisoner of War camp Stalag Luft III in East Germany. Although the characters in the movie are fictional, the general story line is accurate including the final statistic of 76 escaped, 3 made it home, 74 were recaptured, 50 of whom were executed by the Gestapo. The film also constantly reiterates the point that the objective of the escape was in many ways achieved. At a time when the German armed forced were stretched to the extreme, and anticipating an allied invasion of the Atlantic wall, more troops were required to hunt down 76 highly skilled allied officers that were dispersing through out Germany. In other words, it caused chaos behind enemy lines, a mere 3 months before D day.

The story is a remarkable one that is fascinating by itself. But in truth, it is the Hollywood dramatization of it and the magnificent performances by the exceptional cast that make it such a great movie. They are as follows.

Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett (Bix X) played by Richard Attenborough. The principal organiser of the escape Attenborough is arguably the best thing about the movie. His character epitomizes the British doggedness that we associate with the second World War. His best scene is during the escape itself when things start to go wrong. Every time I watch it, the tension is unbearable. Like all great movies The Great Escape has a sad ending. I think sad endings leave a longer lasting impression on the audience no matter what the type of movie. Attenborough's character Bartlett symbolises this. In the movie he is one of the 50 captured officers executed by the Gestapo.

Captain Virgil Hilts played by Steve McQueen. The scenes with McQueen trying to jump the Swiss border on a captured German motorbike (Top Picture) whilst being pursued by scores of German soldiers, are probably the most iconic images of the movie. It was entirely fictional but it was a truly memorable piece of cinema. The fact that he came so close to making it only adds to the drama of it. McQueen's character also shows in a humorous way the cultural differences and social awkwardness that existed between the British and American servicemen.

The most heart warming and wrenching story in the movie involves American Lieutenant Bob Hendley (James Garner) and his British bunk mate Lieutenant Colin Blythe Played by the great Donald Pleasance. Garner'scharacter is the scrounger, whose job it is to obtain useful documents among other things by extorting them from the prison guards. Pleasance's character is the forger, a former air reconnaissance photographer whose job it is to forge documents that the escapees will need to travel through Germany. The two men develop an unlikely friendship. When Blythe's eyesight begins to fail, Hendley takes him under his wing, over the objections of Bartlett who sees it as an unnecessary risk. The two escape together but it ends in tragedy when after steeling a plane which crashes, Blythe is shot while fleeing. Hedley is returned to the camp.

Then there is big Danny played by Charles Bronson. Danny is a Polish officer who escaped to Britain "when Warsaw fell" to fly with the RAF. Danny, nick named the tunnel king is the main digger of the tunnels. An immensely strong man he is the most valuable person in the tunnel. But it soon turns out that he has been fighting claustrophobia and has come very close to cracking before his friend Willy played by John Leyton intervenes to prevent him from losing his cool. Danny soon becomes a favourite of the audience and when he and willy make it all the way home, it is the happiest moment of an otherwise tragic story line.

One of my favourite characters is Sedgwick, played by the late great James Coburn. Sedwick is an Australian officer who is deeply involved in the planning of the escape. He is one f the few who make it all the way by steeling a bike before hiding on a train to France. In France he makes contact with the French resistance who help him into Spain and safety. His story is closely based on that of actual escapee, Dutch man Bram van der Stok. As I have said what makes this movie great is the characters. The audience grows very attached to each of them. Other great characters include Ashley Pitt played by David McCallum who is in charge of dispersing displaced earth and MacDonald (Gordon Jackson) who is intelligence chief. Nobody who has seen the film will ever forget MacDonald's "Good Luck" "Thank You" blunder.

The Great Escape has plenty of cliches. It is such a family movie that I know some people will object to it being on this list. But as I have said before it is my list. And I cannot leave it off. It is brilliant on so many levels. War movies have changed in recent decades, but the dialogue, casting and drama of the The Great Escape will never be matched.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Islamic Flag to fly over the White House

The final phrase uttered by British Jihadist Anjem Choudrey in this recent clip was the one which caught international attention, where he stated that the Islamic flag would be raised above the White House. However it was his first comment that grabbed my attention the most. "Islam has the solutions to all of the problems that man kind faces" is how he opened his rant. What a perfect indication of how mad and dangerous some of these people are. The pursuit of perfection is something that links all the great tyrannies of history together whether they be fascist, communist or religious fanatics. Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Khomenini all had that in common. They all knew how to make the world perfect and how to solve all our problems, even our personal ones. In my opinion only the free societies, as practised in the western liberal democracy, allow people to live their own lives and make their own mistakes as it should be. It is not always easy, in fact it is sometimes more difficult, but it is living in a free country.

Choudrey also follows the classic line that 9/11 was a response to American attacks. In other words, the 1998 bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan angered Muslims so much that they had to respond. Just like the London bombings were a response to Iraq, and the Bali bombings a response to Afghanistan. This is nonsense, and any westerner who believes this fundamentally misunderstands the motives of those carrying out these attacks. As I have said many times before on Gubu World fundamentalist Islamic terrorists would not stop attacking the west if foreign troops pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan, nor would they do so if Israel withdrew from Palestine, nor would they do so if Israel was dismantled altogether, nor would they do so if we gave them back Andalusia. They will only do so when the Islamic flag flies over Downing Street, Dail Eireann and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Muslim Terrorists, is it PC ?

In this clip below Bill O’Reilly reacts last night to the controversy surrounding his appearance on The View. He articulates his position on why he believes it is appropriate to refer to the 9/11 attacks as an atrocity carried out by Muslims, while not making the distinction that they were extremists.

My View
America was attacked by Muslim terrorists on 9/11. Madrid was attacked by Muslim terrorists in March 2003. London was attacked by Muslim terrorists in July 2005. Of this there is no doubt. But I do understand how the constant reference to Muslim and Islamic terrorism can alienate moderate people. By alienate I mean it can disenchant, I do not except that it is any kind of rational for a moderate person to be pushed toward extremism. I can understand because I am Irish and the IRA committed many acts of terrorism in my name. I always opposed the armed struggle unreservedly but the phrase Irish terrorism does not sit well with me on the rare occasion that it is used. My home town Dublin was attacked in the 1970’s by loyalist protestant terrorists. They are generally referred to as loyalist terrorists. I could understand how decent protestant people might resent if the emphasis were continually put on the word protestant even though they were, and even though they committed savage acts of terrorism in the name of the "protestant state" of Northern Ireland. Regarding Muslim terrorism, there is no need to make this point continuously. It is never wise to unnecessarily (unnecessarily being the important word) anger the Muslim masses particularly if it is just for flag waving cheer leading right wing pundits on fox news , who love a bit of controversy for ratings purposes and who will never have come face to face with the consequences of terrorism, that is left for the allied soldier. I simply don’t buy this line being put forward by the right that, “if we cant identify them we cant fight them”. To me language is not that important when it come to confronting Islamic extremism, all right thinking people know what it is.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Lions Den

In fairness to Bill O'Reilly, he has never been afraid of debating in a hostile environment. This discussion between the conservative Fox News Anchor man (whose family hail from Cavan) and the largely liberal hosts of The View is a classic "define the enemy" debate. Enjoy !

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Obama's Wars

I'm looking forward to reading this book. But I have overriding thought, if you are President of the United States, why would you let Bob Woodward anywhere near the White House.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

90 Years Ago This Week

Regular readers of Gubu World will know that I have a great interest in 20th Century history. Hence my regular posts entitled 70 Years Ago Today which detail the events that occurred on the 70th anniversary of World War Two. Readers will also know that I have a keen interest in the turbulent years surrounding the foundation of the Irish state from 1916 to 1923 which include, the 1916 Easter rebellion, the 1919 to 1921 War of Independence (or Anglo Irish War) and the 1922/23 civil war. It recently occurred to be that we are passing through the 90th anniversary of the bloodiest final year of the War with the British and that all those interested in this time period would enjoy reading about the military details of that conflict. So here is my first installment of what happened 90 years ago this week in Ireland's struggle for Independence with Britain.

06 October
Two British soldiers were killed in an ambush at Drumcondra bridge in Dublin.

Two Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) men shot in Bishops Street in Derry City. One died from his wounds.

In Kanturk Co Cork, an IRA flying column attacked a lorry carrying British soldiers. One is killed, several were wounded.

In Feakle Co Clare, six RIC men are attacked by an IRA flying column. Two are killed.

07 October
The Inspector General of the RIC TJ Smith announced an increase in RIC pay in order to counter the difficulties they are having in recruiting new officers.

08 October
A letter appears in the London Times by British MP Brigadier General Cockerill stating that a truce should be called, followed by a conference by British and Irish plenipotentiaries in order to discuss a settlement that would be put before the British parliament and the underground government in Dublin. This would form the basis on which the July 1921 truce and December 1921 treaty would come about.

09 October
In a speech in Wales British Prime Minister David Lloyd George states that "The police naturally feel that the time has come to defend themselves and that this is what is called reprisals in Ireland". The controversial speech is reported internationally as acknowledging and justifying reprisals by crown forces in Ireland.

10 October
Two British Officers of the 1st Essex Regiment are killed in an ambush by the Cork IRA in Newcestown Co Cork.

11 October
A gunfight broke out in a house in Drumondra Dublin between raiding British soldiers and two of the most wanted IRA men in the country, Dan Breen and Sean Tracey of the Tipperary IRA. A British Captain and a Major were killed in the raid. Tracey and Breen escape but the latter was badly wounded. The men were laying low in the house of university professor Dr John carolyn. Carolyn was abducted by British soldiers and killed in captivity. Both Breen and Tracey had gained notoriety by firing the opening shots of the war of independence in Soloheadbeg Co Tipperary on the same day in January 1919 that the Irish parliament in Dublin declared independence from Britain. Dan Breen would later have a long life in Irish politics becoming a TD (member of parliament) for over 30 years. Sean Tracey however was killed in a shootout on Talbot street in Dublin four days later.

12 October
Five RIC men were killed in an ambush by the IRA in Ballinderry Co Roscommon.

13 October
Five IRA men were killed in when a bomb detonates prematurely in Scar Co Wexford.

70 Years Ago Today 13/10/40

London: The capital is being blitzed. On this day 70 years ago 154 people are killed when a German bomb hits a shelter in Stoke Newington during a night time raid.

The Blitz is at its height. This week many famous buildings in London would be hit including St Paul's Cathedral and the houses of parliament. In all, 1567 people would be killed this week throughout Britain in bombing raids.

North Sea: Four Tribal class destroyers sink a German convoy of three ships and two escorts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dubai Changes

I'm just back from a five day trip to Dubai. I lived in Dubai for nearly two years through 2005 and 2006. This was my first time back in over three years. I noticed some interesting changes. Most were connected to the Abu Dhabi bail out of Dubai. In November 2009, Dubai's largest government property developer, Nakheel, announced that it could not honour its debts. It sent the Dubai market, that had been relatively stable since the global recession, into free fall. In December 09, Abu Dhabi, the most powerful of the UAE's seven emirates announced their intention to bail Dubai out to the tune of 10 $ Billion. This bail out has changed the political climate of the UAE.

Some background on the unique political structure of the UAE might be good at this stage. The United Arab Emirates was formed in 1971 by Sheik Zayed, the ruler of Abu Dhabi. The UAE consists of seven emirates (the most well known of which are Dubai and Abu Dhabi) that govern themselves on all matters accept foreign Policy which is reserved for the capital Abu Dhabi. You might argue what is so strange about that. It is not unlike any federal system, even that in the US. However there is literally no federal law in the UAE. The rulers in Abu Dhabi have never passed laws on how the other six Emirates should govern themselves. However the Abu Dhabi bail out of Dubai has changed this to some degree. To put it simply, Abu Dhabi only agreed to bail out Dubai if they were guaranteed more of a say in how it is run. This is the latest manifestation of centuries old rivalry between the different Arab clans of the region. The bail out has resulted in some subtle, and some not so subtle changes to Dubai.

One not so subtle reminder of Abu Dhabi's new influence over Dubai is the renaming of the tallest building in the World. I took this picture last week of the Burj Khalifa named after the ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed. The Building was initially to be called the Burj Dubai but after the bail out in December 09, which occurred a mere two weeks before the opening of the building, they decided on a name change. On the first of January 2010, 3 days before the opening, the name of the tallest building in the world was changed from Burj Dubai to Khalifa, after the ruler of the rival Emirate. Ouch, that had to sting.

Dubai has always been the most liberal city in the Arab world when it comes to social issue. This again has been tamed somewhat post bail out. Abu Dhabi and its more conservative nature has clearly been forced on to Dubai somewhat over the last year. Last Saturday my all day bender was interrupted by a new law that I was unaware of which prevents the sale of alcohol between 4 and 6 pm.

Another change and one which will be of more interest to Gubu World readers is the issue of Iran and its relations with Dubai and the UAE. The indigenous Arab population of each Emirate is actually quite small. It is less than 20 percent of the entire population. These locals, known as Emiratis are exceptionally privileged people. They are traditional Sunni Arabs who have always viewed Shia Iran with hostility. The UAE does in fact have some thorny territorial disputes with Iran over islands in the Persian Gulf which they both claim. The Sunni Arab states of the gulf have been particularly angered at Iranian attempts at spreading unrest among the Shia minorities in Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Rumors have been flying about in recent months that they are willing to cooperate with the US, and even Israel in a military strike against Iran's nuclear sites. However the UAE has always tended to be less vocal in their criticism of Iran than their Gulf neighbours. The reason being that perhaps as much as 10% of Dubai's 20% Emirati population are in fact of Iranian decent although not necessarily of the Shia sect of Islam. As a result Dubai has long standing links with Iran, making it a generally pro Iranian city. Dubai has been a place where wealthy Iranians, and indeed the Iranian government have managed to keep money safely, away from the clutches of international sanctions. But once again, post bail out this may be changing. According to people I have met this week, several prominent Iranian companies, particularly those affiliated with the Ahmadinejaad government have found themselves being squeezed in Dubai over the last year. This is clearly the work of Abu Dhabi and its anti Iranian agenda. It is a fascinating issue, any developments in which I will keep Gubu World readers informed of.

Some photos from Dubai
An image of Dubai from Bur Dubai looking toward Deira. The new metro system can be seen on the right.

The Sheik Zayed motorway looking toward Jumeirah.

Another view of Burj Khalifa, taken from Sheik Zayed road.

There are no labour laws in Dubai. Workers, particularly Indian construction labourers are treated in an atrocious manner. Dubai received much negative press over this and I believe there have been some improvements. But still the sight of workers, likely earning about 100 Euro per month being transported to and from their camps in the desert to the construction sites in the city in buses that look more like prison transports, remains a disturbing image.

I have never been a smoker. But during my time living in Dubai I developed a curious liking of the sisha pipe. I t was nice to be at it again.

The Palm Jumeirah is one of the most spectacular developments in Dubai. This image taken from the beach is of one of the "Frongs" containing villas.

Another view from the Palm Jumeirah, the Burj Al Arab seven Star hotel can be seen in the distance.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I'm back

I missed blogging big time. Its a relief to be back. My brothers wedding in Rincon De La Victoria in southern Spain was wonderful. Exams went well and I'm looking forward to getting back to daily posting on Gubu World. Not quite yet though because I'm off to Dubai tomorrow for a short trip which is a mixture of business and pleasure. I will do a few posts from the UAE, probably something on the Iranian influence on Dubai. I will be back on Tuesday.

And here are some random pictures.

The Wedding Party I'm the tall one behind the beautiful bride.

My View of the All Ireland Final

And then there is our poor Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Not long after he received massive criticism for conducting an early morning interview in a very hung over state, Ireland's leader had to find himself the brunt of a Jay Leno joke. On top of the 29 billion Euro cost of the Anglo Irish Bank bail out, he really did not need this. It was funny though. Enjoy !