30 May 2006

The Passion of Sinned John

It looks as of John Prescott's political number is up. Hot on the heels of last months's Two Shags expose and his subsequent political castration, we were treated last week to a photograph of him playing Croquet of all things.

The croquet picture was intended to whip up outrage at the idea of him playing games when he was acting Prime Minister (well it was the Daily Mail a paper not exactly renowned for being a hotbed of progressive thought!) and it seems to have had the desireed effect as we now see understandably jittery backbenchers calling for his departure.

Being brought down a game associated with the aristocracy is utterly ludicrous but Prescott's exit now seems to be inevitable. Much as it galls me to say so I don't see any other option but to let him go. This will of course precipitate a potentially divisive deputy leadership election but what can we do? Watch the party sink further in the mire?

Better still in my view would be to couple the Deputy Leadership election with one for the Leadership at the earliest opportunity. As I have said before, we DO owe Blair an enormous debt of gratitude but his time has passed and he is increasingly a liability to our further fortunes. A double election now (or as soon as possible) would give the new incumbents time to bed down and hopefully guide the party in a direction that will regain our popularity and permit a fourth election victory.

Ahmadinejad - Der Spiegel Interview

Last weekend Der Spiegel carried an in-depth interview of President Ahmadinejad covering such topics as nuclear weapons, football and the Holocaust. The interview is now available in English on the Der Spiegel international site.

I have set out below an extract below where he considers the Holocaustwhich in my view gives a measure of the man, but the interview is worth reading in full. While I would not support an attack on Iran on the basis that it would be counter productive (Any attack would more likely galvanise support for him) , the sooner the people of Iran rid themselves of this fool, albeit a dangerous and cunning one, the better.

Ahmadinejad (A): I know that DER SPIEGEL is a respected magazine. But I don't know whether it is possible for you to publish the truth about the Holocaust. Are you permitted to write everything about it?

SPIEGEL(S): Of course we are entitled to write about the findings of the past 60 years' historical research. In our view there is no doubt that the Germans -- unfortunately -- bear the guilt for the murder of 6 million Jews.

A: Well, then we have stirred up a very concrete discussion. We are posing two very clear questions. The first is: Did the Holocaust actually take place? You answer this question in the affirmative. So, the second question is: Whose fault was it? The answer to that has to be found in Europe and not in Palestine. It is perfectly clear: If the Holocaust took place in Europe, one also has to find the answer to it in Europe. On the other hand, if the Holocaust didn't take place, why then did this regime of occupation ...

S: ... You mean the state of Israel

A: ... come about? Why do the European countries commit themselves to defending this regime? Permit me to make one more point. We are of the opinion that, if an historical occurrence conforms to the truth, this truth will be revealed all the more clearly if there is more research into it and more discussion about it.

S: That has long since happened in Germany.

A: We don't want to confirm or deny the Holocaust. We oppose every type of crime against any people. But we want to know whether this crime actually took place or not. If it did, then those who bear the responsibility for it have to be punished, and not the Palestinians. Why isn't research into a deed that occurred 60 years ago permitted? After all, other historical occurrences, some of which lie several thousand years in the past, are open to research, and even the governments support this.

S: Mr. President, with all due respect, the Holocaust occurred, there were concentration camps, there are dossiers on the extermination of the Jews, there has been a great deal of research, and there is neither the slightest doubt about the Holocaust nor about the fact - we greatly regret this - that the Germans are responsible for it. If we may now add one remark: the fate of the Palestinians is an entirely different issue, and this brings us into the present.

A: No, no, the roots of the Palestinian conflict must be sought in history. The Holocaust and Palestine are directly connected with one another. And if the Holocaust actually occurred, then you should permit impartial groups from the whole world to research this. Why do you restrict the research to a certain group? Of course, I don't mean you, but rather the European governments.

S: Are you still saying that the Holocaust is just "a myth?"

A: I will only accept something as truth if I am actually convinced of it.

S: Even though no Western scholars harbor any doubt about the Holocaust?

A: But there are two opinions on this in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most part. Hence, an impartial group has to come together to investigate and to render an opinion on this very important subject, because the clarification of this issue will contribute to the solution of global problems. Under the pretext of the Holocaust, a very strong polarization has taken place in the world and fronts have been formed. It would therefore be very good if an international and impartial group looked into the matter in order to clarify it once and for all. Normally, governments promote and support the work of researchers on historical events and do not put them in prison.

S: Who is that supposed to be? Which researchers do you mean?

A: You would know this better than I; you have the list. There are people from England, from Germany, France and from Australia.

S: You presumably mean, for example, the Englishman David Irving, the German-Canadian Ernst Zündel, who is on trial in Mannheim, and the Frenchman Georges Theil, all of whom deny the Holocaust.

A: The mere fact that my comments have caused such strong protests, although I'm not a European, and also the fact that I have been compared with certain persons in German history indicates how charged with conflict the atmosphere for research is in your country. Here in Iran you needn't worry.

S: Well, we are conducting this historical debate with you for a very timely purpose. Are you questioning Israel's right to exist?

A: Look here, my views are quite clear. We are saying that if the Holocaust occurred, then Europe must draw the consequences and that it is not Palestine that should pay the price for it. If it did not occur, then the Jews have to go back to where they came from. I believe that the German people today are also prisoners of the Holocaust. Sixty million people died in the Second World War. World War II was a gigantic crime. We condemn it all. We are against bloodshed, regardless of whether a crime was committed against a Muslim or against a Christian or a Jew. But the question is: Why among these 60 million victims are only the Jews the center of attention?

29 May 2006

In the garden again

Red Campion (Melandreum rubrum) plus an aphid by looks of it

The weather has been far too changeable to do any real gardening over the weeked; one minute the sun is out an all is cheerful, the next we have a hail storm. I thought I would play around with the macro fucntion on my camera and try to get some close ups of some of our flowers

Bearded iris (Iris barbata)

Pity I didn't do this a little earlier as the Irises are already on the turn and looking a litlle raggy. Never mind there will be plenty of things in bloom over the next couple of months

Attacking Rusesabagina

This article, which was written by Terry George the co-writer and director of the film Hotel Rwanda, appeared in the Washington Post on 10 May. It records a major change in attitude in Rwanda towards Paul Rusesabagina whose acts to save 1200 Tutsis and moderate Hutus from death that the hands of genocidaires was filmed as Hotel Rwanda.

Sad Revisionism over 'Hotel Rwanda'

Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hero of the movie "Hotel Rwanda," is being denounced by some in his country as a traitor and a criminal. Perhaps he helped bring some of this abuse on himself, but none of it is deserved. As director and producer of the film, I'd like to explain.

Last May I had the chance to meet Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Rwanda. I sat beside him as he and his wife and most of Rwanda's parliament watched the movie. Afterward he leaned over to me and said the film had done much good around the world in exposing the horrors of the genocide. The next evening, I screened the film at Amahoro Stadium for some 10,000 people. It was the most emotional screening I have ever been at. I spent close to an hour afterward accepting thanks and congratulations.

But there was one empty seat at both screenings -- the one reserved for Paul Rusesabagina. Two days before, as I waited for him to join me at the boarding gate in Brussels for the flight to Kigali, he called to say he had decided not to travel to Rwanda. On his speaking tours around the United States and Europe, he had begun to criticize Kagame's government, saying that the last election in Rwanda, in which Kagame received 90.5 percent of the vote, was not democratic and that true peace would come to Rwanda only when it had an inclusive government. Because of his criticism, Rusesabagina said, he had been advised that it would not be safe for him. I could not persuade him to come.

Last fall his fears were borne out when Rwandan journalists and politicians began a smear campaign against him. On Oct. 28 a reporter for the Rwandan daily newspaper the New Times ran a long story on the "true nature" of Rusesabagina, which quoted a former receptionist at the hotel as saying that he had saved only his few friends, and that he had charged people to stay in the rooms (a fact we had highlighted and explained in the film). Buried at the end of the piece was probably the true fear of the Rwandan authorities: that Rusesabagina planned to form a political party.

The newspaper attacks on Rusesabagina have steadily escalated. In November he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush. Six days later a New Times editorial said he would "go down in the annals of history as a man who sold the soul of the Rwandan Genocide to amass medals."

In February Kagame joined the campaign -- cryptically at first. In a speech at Amahoro Stadium to mark National Heroes Day, Kagame said Rwanda's heroes are not made in America, Europe or in Asia; cinema or film stars have no place on the list of national heroes. He went on to make several veiled comments about "a manufactured hero."
A few days later Rwandan Radio ran a two-hour live talk show about Rusesabagina. The speakers included genocide survivors and, sadly, some old friends of Rusesabagina's. Francois Xavier Ngarambe, the president of Ibuka, the umbrella body of genocide survivors' associations, ended the show by claiming: "He has hijacked heroism. He is trading with the genocide. He should be charged."

I called Rusesabagina in Brussels to discuss what was going on. He said he saw the smear campaign as confirmation of his previous fears and of his reservations about the Kagame regime. His new autobiography, "An Ordinary Man," will only make things worse, as in his last chapter he writes, "Rwanda is today a nation governed by and for the benefit of a small group of elite Tutsis. . . . Those few Hutus who have been elevated to high-ranking posts are usually empty suits without any real authority of their own. They are known locally as Hutus de service or Hutus for hire."

On April 6, the 12th anniversary of the genocide, Kagame launched his first attack on Rusesabagina, saying, "He should try his talents elsewhere and not climb on the falsehood of being a hero, because it's totally false." I pray that this situation can be resolved. The millions who saw "Hotel Rwanda" and received its message of hope ought to know that they were not duped.

I understand Paul Rusesabagina's desire to foster inclusiveness in Rwanda. I understand, as well, Kagame's legitimate fear that the country has suffered too much, too recently, to allow divisions to be fostered. There are many politicians here and abroad who could mediate this clash. "Hotel Rwanda 2" is a sequel I never want to make. Article ends

What do we see here? Is Rusesabagina a self-serving fraud? Have we in the west manufactured a hero to salve our collective guilt over our disgraceful inactivity during the Rwandan genocide? Is the attack on Rusesabagina in part response to his criticisms of the current Rwandan government?

Objective analysis of an event often requires time and distance. While there is hardly a single hero or heroine who does not at least have a toe made of clay, it is my earnest hope that Paul Rusesabagina’s actions stand the test of time. This is not to diminish the actions of others who took terrible risks to save lives during that appalling period. These too deserve similar recognition but in world that generates the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot we need examples such as him (or the Rosenstrasse women, Sophie Scholl and many others) to show us that there is still hope for our species.

Country Disowns Hotel Rwanda Movie Hero Kampala Monitor 26 May posted at AllAfrica

Rwandans in the UK Protest Rusesabagina Kigali New Times 23 May posted at AllAfrica

Observer review of An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina

28 May 2006

I've been Tagged

If you have been tagged for the first-time:

1) you must credit the person who tagged you; and
2) name ten of life’s simple pleasures that you like the most; and
3) you 'may' then choose other bloggers to tag.

I have been tagged by Obokun who asked me to name ten of life’s simple pleasures that I like the most:

Here goes in no order

1) A bottle of Chateau Musar from Lebanon. A veritable thug among red wines!

2) Robyn Hitchcock, an acoustic guitar and a small venue like the 12 Bar Club in in Denmark Street London

3) The company of my four cats Robyn, Ted, Bebe and Mimi

Felis hirsuta var. bebe

4) My garden on a summer evening when the night scented flowers are in bloom

5) An oat cake topped with Manchego and Quince cheese, an Almond Croissant and a cup of Skybury Estate coffee. All of this followed by second helpings, the fat sod I am!

6) A good pub, good company, good conversation and a pint or six of real ale

7) Spending time with the not-wife. We may have known each other for nearly 25 years but I never tire of her company.

8) Lying on the sofa with the lights off and Hawkwind on the cd player.

Hawkwind's finest hour

9) A bloody good read - Flann O’ Brien naturally springs to mind!

10) Wandering at my leisure through the Tate (Britain or Modern), the Cortauld or one of London’s other galleries

Who should I tag? Here goes.. Check out:



All roads should lead to Euston

In todays Observer Nick Cohen wrote:

“Last thursday, I chaired the official launch meeting for the Euston Manifesto, which I played a tiny part in writing. The Euston what? Come now, surely you must have heard of it. There have been 300,000 mentions of it on the internet and it has provoked rave reviews and splenetic denunciations in the mainstream press. If you don't believe me, type 'Euston Manifesto' into Google and see if your computer can cope with the workload.

“Yet its success is puzzling. Academics, journalists and bloggers, who met in a pub in Euston, produced it and, at first glance, their work seems nothing more than a straightforward restatement of obvious leftish values. You should not allow cultural relativists to persuade you that brown-skinned women should not enjoy the same rights as white-skinned women, for instance. There should be no excuses made for fascistic religious movements and totalitarian states.

“Yet you only have to look at the Liberal Democrats, read the liberal press or turn on the Today programme to realise that these values are no longer obvious.
“It is not at all clear that modern, middle-class, liberal-leftists are either liberal or left wing in the old senses of the words, although they will always be middle class to their bones. Many of them are becoming little Englanders, all for human rights and democracy at home but not abroad.

“I guess this is why an obscure manifesto has created such a fuss, not only in Britain, but in the United States and Europe. Many people have had an uneasy feeling that the mainstream liberal-left is going badly wrong. The manifesto explains why and, in doing so, puts its finger on a very raw nerve.”

I must admit I often find Nick Cohen’s column a bit irritating but on this point I feel he hits a spot. Although I certainly consider myself to be on the Left I find myself increasingly at odds with much of the intolerance, cultural relativism and anti-Semitism I see spouted by my fellow travellers.

Although I have some reservations about the Euston Manifesto - I certainly did not support the war in Iraq (although and I appreciate it may show a degree of hypocrisy I am very glad to see the end of Saddam’s vile regime) – but I found there is a lot to support and I was therefore happy to sign. Time will tell if it will have any impact but if it goes some way to taking the left/liberal agenda from the totalitarian apologists then it cannot be a bad thing

Some Family History

The Last Absolution of the Munsters
Furtunino Matania

Sadly I know very little about the history of either side of my family, a fact not helped by the early death of all of my grandparents (Only my maternal grandmother was alive when I was born and she died before I was old enough to take an interest in such matters) and my parent’s own rather fragmentary knowledge.

What I do know about my family beyond my parent’s generation is:

- A maternal great uncle was a fairly successful middle distance athlete at the turn of the 20th Century

- A maternal cousin fought in the IRA during the original “Troubles” (1919-21) and then in the ensuing Civil War

- My paternal grandfather served in the Second Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers (2nd Munsters) and was apparently taken prisoner at the battle of Mons in 1914. That he survived that terrible conflict is probably down to his spending over four years in Germany as a “guest” of the Kaiser! The only photograph I have ever seen of him was taken in a POW camp in what used to be East Prussia.

All in all this is not an awful lot to show for two fairly sizeable families. Virtually every document or personal item that would help me trace my family history has vanished over time. Yesterday, however, I searched the WWI service medal database at the UK National Archives website and I was delighted to find a medal record for a private in the Munster Fusiliers bearing the exact same name as my grandfather who arrived in France on 13 August 1914.

This piece of information would place him in the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) at the start of WWI. It is a matter of record that on 23 August 1914 the BEF engaged the German First Army around Mons but the 2nd Munsters were held in reserve and did not participate in that battle. In addition the 2nd Munsters did not participate in the battle of Le Cateau on 26 August.

The 2nd Munsters’ contribution to the Mons Campaign took place on 27 August at Etreux. At the time the BEF was in retreat and in extreme danger of being surrounded and destroyed by advancing German forces. Three companies of the 2nd Munsters under Major Charrier along with a troop of the 15th Hussars, and two guns of the 118th Battery, R.F.A., held off a full German Corps for a day taking appalling casualties in the process. This action allowed General Haig’s I Corps to put twelve miles between itself and the front almost certainly ensuring its survival as a fighting force.

The Action is a tiny footnote in a conflict that took millions of lives but it is a textbook example of the function of a rear guard force. I cannot demonstrate absolutely that my grandfather was actually taken prisoner there and I may never be able to but this must be a prime candidate.

Further reading

There are two excellent websites concerning the history of the Royal Munster fusiliers:

James O Sullivan’s Royal Munster Fusiliers website;

Tadhg Moloney’s Royal Munster Fusilier Association website;

Both carry the account of the Etreux action from The 2nd Munsters in France by Lt Col H S Jervis;

wikipedia entry on the Battle of Mons

27 May 2006

Garden Time (at long last)

The Yucca, the not wife. the Yew and her weeding. Also some painting needed

Now the Late Spring Bank Holiday weekend is here it is high time I got my finger out and joined the not-wife in doing the garden chores. By our standards it was a cold, dry winter and as a result things were late to get going. However, Mother Nature is like a coiled spring and as soon as it started warming up the garden blasted into life. That means the grass needs cutting and there is a fair bit of weeding to do.

Warts and all but the grass looks worse than it really is

Our garden is not large (about 30 something metres long by about 4 metres wide) but we were lucky that the previous owners were keen gardeners and had an eye for the unusual. The main framework was therefore already in place with a range of quite large shrubs and trees including a Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) a large Photinia and to my great delight a Tibetan Tree Peony that is now over 3m tall (Paeonia lutea var. ludlowii)

Tumbling Ted (Saponaria ocymoides)

We have added our own plants including a monstrous Cardoon, Several Echinops (the Globe Thistle), a Cephalaria Giganticum (basically a scabious on steroids) and, to remind me of my many holidays in South West Ireland as many hardy fuchsias as I can find space for. In addition we have many self seeded foxgloves and teasels.

Felis hirsuta var. robyn

We tend to use smaller perennials as filler plants and a few easy to grow annuals. The emphasis is on a lot of green, and attractive, but not overly showy blooms. Our planting also reflects our wish to attract butterflies, bees and other friendly insects and being mindful that we live in one of the driest parts of the UK, we try to choose plants that require little watering. We do not use pesticides or weed killers.

26 May 2006

The Origin of HIV?

Today’s Guardian (and just about every news source on the planet) carried the story that scientists searching for the origin of HIV may have tracked its source to chimpanzees living in southern Cameroon.. Their findings may well provide the link between HIV, and the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a similar virus that infects monkeys and chimpanzees.

Cameroon has two subspecies of chimpanzee, separated by the Sanaga river. North of the river, the chimpanzees are free of SIV, but it was present in colonies immediately on the southern side. Further south tests on chimpanzee faeces here revealed an SIV strikingly similar to the HIV that causes Aids in humans. In some communities they detected SIV specific antibodies and viral genetic information in as many as 35% of chimps.

Researchers have various theories on how the virus jumped to humans but the most widely held view is thatsome times before the 1930s hunters became infected when they caught and butchered infected chimps. Trade along river routes could then have spread the virus, which slowly built up in the human population.

For scientists this may well prove to be an important piece in the HIV puzzle even if many unanswered questions remain. It unlikely, however, to satisfy those who choose to believe less prosaic theories. Those who subscribe, for example, to the ludicrous belief that HIV was created by the USA to kill off africans and homosexuals will probably continue to wallow in this delusion.

24 May 2006

De Valera,, Neutrality and That Notorious Visit

Irish neutrality during World War II remains a highly controversial subject and there have been numerous accusations over the years that Eire took a highly pro German stance, citing inter alia:

• The refusal to allow the Royal Navy to use the former “Treaty Ports” at Lough Swilly, Berehaven and Cobh. These were sovereign bases retained by the United Kingdom after the Irish Free State gained independence

• The provision of refueling facilities for U Boats

• The use by the Irish Army of German Coal Scuttle style helmets

• The condolences offered by DeValera on the death of Hitler

The first three points can be dismissed easily:

• The Treaty ports were returned to Ireland in 1938 and for Eire to offer them for use during wartime would have been a breach of their neutrality. There is no doubt, however, that they would been of use to the Allies during the Battle of the Atlantic.

• Eire was utterly dependant on Britain for oil products during the war. Any suspicion that the oil was being used to aid the Axis war effort would at the very least resulted in the cessation of supplies. The Spanish government on the other hand did turn a blind eye to the clandestine re-provisioning of U boats in Vigo.

• The Irish Army did make use of the Coal Scuttle helmet from 1927 until about 1940 when the British style helmet was adopted. It is of interest that the “German” helmets were made in the UK by Vickers!

The last item is a matter of historical record and has been used to paint De Valera as a Nazi sympathizer ever since.

On 2 May 1945, Eamon de Valera called on Eduard Hempel, German Minister to Ireland, to express his condolences on the death of Adolf Hitler. The visit created a storm of hostile coverage in the American and British press. While De Valera's protested that his action was consistent with protocol requirements he found himself in the unsavoury company of Franco and Salazar who also expressed condolences.

Why did De Valera do it? Germany had lost the war and such an act was certain to antagonize the victors. While he certainly showed appalling political judgment, rigid adherence to protocol seems to been the main motive: Given that he had had suspended the Dáil (the Irish parliament’s lower house) as a mark of respect on the death of President Roosevelt, he seems to have considered the forms had to be observed for the sake of balance.

Essentially De Valera’s act was not that of a pro-Nazi; it was more the act of a pedantic little man for whom the niceties of protocol took precedence over common sense.


Irish National Archives has an excellent section dealing with the De Valera visit including a range of cintemporary doucuments

In time of War: Ireland, Ulster and the Price of Neutrality 1939-1945. Robert Fisk

The Irish Mark 1926 Helmet

23 May 2006

Iranian Art - Elahe Heidari

from kargah.com

Two years ago I knew little about Iranian culture. My thanks go out to Redwine for drawing my attention to the depth of quality of Iranian art, in particular the work of Elahe Heidari and and Minoo Emami (more on Minoo in a later post). Elahe lives and works in Tehran and has exhibited extensivley in Iran and more recently has contributed to group exhibitions in India and Portugal.

From Kargah.com

When I first saw her work I was taken by its sheer power in particular her protrayal of women - you will often see that the mouths and the eyes are indistinct. The reason for this seems obvious to me but the frequent use of blue in her work does n0t appear to symbolise despair.

On a wall in Romford

I could go on at great length but suffice it to say that I love Elahe's work and I have taken every opportunity to draw people's attention to it( even using her paintings as wallpaper on my work computer - given that my monitor is quite large given the fact that my eyesight is crap they do get noticed!) . It is heartening to that most are deeply impressed and more than a few feel as strongly about her work as I do.

More examples of her work can be found at Kargah and the Gallery Etemad. I would strongly advise browsing the kargah site at length as it is a treasure trove of fine art.

Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi

Naznin Mahabad Fatehi is an 18-year old Iranian girl sentenced in January to death in January by hanging. Her crime was killing a man who ambushed and tried to rape her.

In March 2005, when still 17, Nazanin and her niece were spending time with their boyfriends in a Tehran park when three men started harassing them. The boyfriends fled and the men tried to rape Nazanin and her niece. To protect herself, she stabbed one of the men in the hand.The girls tried to escape, but the men overtook them, and at this point, Nazanin stabbed one of the other men in the chest, who subsequently died.

According to reports she broke down in tears when she told the court: "I wanted to defend myself and my niece. I did not want to kill that boy. At the heat of the moment I did not know what to do because no one came to our help." Nevertheless, the court sentenced her to death by hanging.

As she was 17 when the incident took place Nazanin would have been tried as a minor in most other nations and would not have been liable to face the death penalty if found guilty. In Iran, however, the minimum age for the death penalty is 15 years for males, and 9 years for females (although there is no record of any girls so young being executed). It is worth noting, that had Nazanin let herself be raped then at worst she could have been arrested for extra-martial sex, which carries a maximum penalty of 100 lashes.

Her case is due to be reviewed imminently by the Iranian Supreme Court. If the sentence is upheld then her sentence is likely to be carried out very soon after.

Nazanin’s case has been taken up by Amnesty International. It has also been taken up by former Miss Canada Nazanin Afshin-Jam whose petition can be accessed here

More information on Nazarin’s case can be read here. This site also describes the hanging method used in Iran (It is not the “long drop” method that was used here in the UK prior to abolition) and details other cases where minors were sentenced to death.

I am grateful to the Bitch PhD blog for drawing this case to may attention.

22 May 2006

While on the subject of Hawkwind....

Having previously left it over eight years between studio albums (1997's Distant Horizons and 2005's Take me to Your Leader) the Hawks will be releasing a mini album called Take me to Your Future in July. I have no idea yet of the tracklisting but it may well feature some of the songs recorded for but not included on TYTML. Of equal interest is the news that it will be dual format release (one side CD, the other DVD) which will feature live archive footage.

In addition there are plans to release their live set from last month's Roadburn Festival (Tilburg, Holland). If you are unfamiliar with the band or if you have heard Silver Machine and little else, the Dutch web radio station VPRO 3VOOR12 has the first 74 minutes of the set and it's a blinder! Well worth a listen I assure you.

Hawkwind Official Site

Hawkwind photos

I have created a new flickr Flickr account which I will update from time to time. The first set of photos uploaded were taken last September when I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the release party for Hawkwind's latest studio album Take me to Your Leader. More photos, mainly of cats and my garden, will surely follow.

All hail the Aristocrats

George Carlin during a rendition of the Aristocrats

Over the weekend the not-wife and myself decided to watch some wholesome family entertainment. Then we thought “bugger that” and we watched the Aristocrats instead. We meant to catch it at the cinema but being the idle sorts we are we left it until it was available on DVD, a big mistake on our part.

Apparently the Aristocrats is a joke that is said to have been told between comedians since the days of Vaudeville as a way to show their mettle. Essentially it follows this basic format:

i) A man goes to a talent agent who says he is not interested in family acts. The man persuades the agent to hear what the act is about

ii) The man describes the act in extremely graphic terms. The content of the act varies from telling to telling but generally includes scatology, bestiality, incest and violence

iii) The agent is stunned but asks the man what he calls the act to which he replies: “The Aristocrats”

The film features about a hundred of (mainly American) comedians including George Carlin, Robin Williams, Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard, discussing, telling and deconstructing the joke to hilarious effect. For us the funniest rendition was by Billy the Mime.

I have no idea whether the joke really is the comedian’s version of a masonic handshake or a joke on the viewer. What I do know is both myself and the not-wife spent an hour and a half laughing like drains.

the Aristocrats (film website)

Aristocrats joke Database (Dead-frog.com)

21 May 2006

The Choctaw mite

It is good to come across things that have previously passed me by. This story is particularly uplifting:

On March 23, 1847 a group of Choctaws gathered in Scullyville, Oklahoma., to raise a relief fund. Despite their meagre resources, they collected $170 ( other sources quote a figure of $710 but the amount is not important) and forwarded it to a U.S. famine relief organization to assist the people of Ireland who were of course at the time suffering at the hands of an appalling famine

What makes the donation unexpected and extraordinary was the tribe's recent past: in 1831 their lands were seized and they were forced to undertake a dreadful journey to Oklahoma (the Trail of Tears) during which more than half of the tribe died of exposure, malnutrition, and disease.

The Choctaw acted out of compassion for a people facing disaster. Greater consideration has been given to the Famine which has led to renewed recognition to this action. In 1995 the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, visited the Choctaw nation:

"…. I am here to thank the Choctaw Nation for their extraordinary generosity and thoughtfulness when they learned in 1847 about the plight of poor Irish famine victims,…..” she said “….Thousands of miles away, in no way linked to the Choctaw Nation until then, the only link being a common humanity, a common sense of another people suffering as the Choctaw Nation had suffered when being removed from their tribal land….I believe that we have in common that bond of humanity and it should be an additional reason why we should particularly reach out now to countries who suffer from poverty and hunger….”

There is a plaque in Dublin that honours the Choctaw contribution: "Their humanity calls us to remember the millions of human beings throughout our world today who die of hunger and hunger-related illness in a world of plenty."

the Choctaw gift

20 May 2006

Munster 23, Biarritz 19

Excellent result!!!!

Hitler's Useful Idiot? more on Sean Russell

The notion that Sean Russell’s collaboration with the Third Reich was shameful is not universally accepted. The following is an extract of a letter by Matt Doyle, the Secretary of the National Graves Association, an organisation that seeks to commemorate Irish republicans. The letter is representative of those who take a contrary view

“Over the Christmas period cowardly mindless thugs vandalised a National Monument in Fairview Park. The Sean Russell Monument.

There has been for a number of years a deliberate orchestrated attempt to misinform the public as to the role of Sean Russell’s fight for Irish Freedom……

Sean Russell was no fascist ; he was a proud, dedicated Irish Republican. On board the U-Boat with Russell was the great Irish Socialist Frank Ryan who fought against fascism during the Spanish Civil War.

The dirty tricks used to blemish the good name of this great Irishman are reminiscent of those used to blacken Roger Casement……

The monument not only honoured Russell but the IRA Volunteers of the forties……The National Graves will repair the damage. An appeal fund will be set up to restore the monument.”

I am not sure where this letter was originally published but it can be found on an Indymedia forum discussing Sean Russell (see below).

The letter’s arguments are interesting but are misleading.


That Sean Russell offered his services and those of the IRA to Germany is a matter of fact. Even in 1940 the ugly face of Nazi ideology would have been clear to even the most naïve. Events such as Kristallnacht or the invasions of Poland, Norway, the low countries and France hardly went unreported in Ireland! Brutal as British rule in Ireland was it pales in comparison to the actions of Germany in occupied nations. The pro-German tone of IRA publications during WWII is also a matter of record.

Frank Ryan

Frank Ryan did indeed accompany Russell and there is no doubting his anti fascist credentials. Frank Ryan’s was a republican socialist who led the Irish contingent of International Brigade volunteers in Spain. He was taken prisoner and sentenced to death by the Franco regime but his sentence was subsequently commuted and the Abwehr secured his release in 1940. After Russell’s death Ryan returned to Germany where he died in 1944. I will return to his wartime in a separate post as it deserves far greater consideration.

It is worth noting that Frank Ryan left the IRA in 1934 after a failing to obtain agreement for the creation of a revolutionary mass movement. Doyle also conveniently forgets that IRA members also fought on the Francoist side as part of Eoin O Duffy’s Bandera Irlandesa.


At the time of Sir Roger Casement’s treason trial the British government attempted to stifle support for him by circulating extracts from his “Black Diary” which showed him to be promiscuous homosexual. This was a disgraceful act indeed. The Diary, however, was not a forgery. Drawing comparisons between Casement and Russell is perhaps fair in other respects: both sought assistance from Germany during world wars to advance the Irish cause.

Finally the monument is intended to commemorate other IRA volunteers from the 1940’s. I appreciate that this is a partisan comment on my behalf (it may come as no surprise that I have little love for the IRA or their Unionist counterparts for that matter!) but Russell collaborated with one of the most disgraceful regimes of the 20th century. Imagine the outrage if Germany sought to commemorate its WWII dead with a statue of Hitler.

Sources and further reading

Hitler's Useful Idiot (indymedia forum)

Ireland and the Spanish Civil War This is a treasure trove of information on Irish support for both sides in that conflict.

Frank Ryan(wikipedia entry)

BBC article on Casement's Black Diary

See also my previous post "X’s difficulty is y’s opportunity" for other sources.

17 May 2006

X's difficulty is Y's opportunity

I have been thinking again recently about the attitude of people I have encountered who believe that there is no limit to the means that can be employed to bring down a system they hate (often but not always the USA). In addition I have been reminded a small news story from December 2004 concerning the decapitation of a statue in Dublin, ostensibly by anti fascist campaigners.

The statue in question was of Sean Russell, the IRA Chief of Staff from 1938 to 1940, a man who was willing to collaborate with the Third Reich in pursuit of his ends

In April 1940 Russell made his way to Germany under the auspices German Military Intelligence to receive training in sabotage and guerrilla warfare. While there he had access to senior Nazis including Joachim Von Ribbentrop and following the fall of France, he was able to persuade the German high command to make use of the IRA to strike at British forces in Northern Ireland as part of a general attack on Britain. His plans were accepted and Russell set off to Ireland to in August 1940 by U Boat. Within 100 miles of the coast of Western Ireland he died and was buried at sea with full naval honours

Apologists have explained his collaboration with Nazi Germany as just another example of an Irish nationalist taking to heart the old maxim “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity” and that the IRA was not and never had been a pro Nazi organisation.

While the IRA may have opposed O’Duffy’s Blueshirts (fascist wannabes) during the 1930s the tone of IRA propaganda during WWII was very pro Nazi. In July 1940 for example, the IRA made a statement which made it clear that if ‘German forces should land in Ireland, they would land . . . as friends and liberators of the Irish people’. The public was assured that Germany desired neither ‘territory nor . . . economic penetration’ in Ireland but only that it should play its part in the ‘reconstruction’ of a ‘free and progressive Europe’. The Third Reich was also praised as the ‘energising force’ of European politics and the ‘guardian’ of national freedom

Also in 1940 Sinn Féin leader J.J. O’Kelly was praising Hitler for freeing Germany from the ‘heel’ of the ‘Jewish white slave traffic’.

Anyone who even takes a cursory interest in history or politics will know that this sort of unholy alliance happens time and time and time again. Even Avraham Stern of the notorious Stern Gang allegedly offered to “actively take part in the war on Germany's side" if it were to end British rule in Palestine. Even so one must question the mindset of those who will get into bed with evil or support evil to advance their cause.

Perhaps one day people will act differently but I won’t hold my breath. More of the same or similar will almost certainly follow in subsequent posts.

useful links

News report on the beheading of the statue in the Times

Wikipedia biography of Sean Russell

Here's to Adolph Hitler IRA and the Nazis. Brian Hanley, History Ireland Vol13, no 3. May/June 2005

16 May 2006

Ayaan Hirsi Ali - in her own words

I came to Holland in the summer of 1992 because I wanted to be able to determine my own future. I didn’t want to be forced into a destiny that other people had chosen for me, so I opted for the protection of the rule of law. Here in Holland, I found freedom and opportunities, and I took those opportunities to speak out against religious terror.

In January 2003, at the invitation of the VVD party, I became a member of parliament. I accepted the VVD’s invitation on the condition that I would be the party’s spokesman for the emancipation of women and the integration of immigrants.

What exactly did I want to achieve?

First of all I wanted to put the oppression of immigrant women -- especially Muslim women – squarely on the Dutch political agenda. Second, I wanted Holland to pay attention to the specific cultural and religious issues that were holding back many ethnic minorities, instead of always taking a one-sided approach that focused only on their socio-economic circumstances. Lastly, I wanted politicians to grasp the fact that major aspects of Islamic doctrine and tradition, as practiced today, are incompatible with the open society.

Now I have to ask myself, have I accomplished that task?

I have stumbled often in my political career. It has sometimes been frustrating and slow. However, I am completely certain that I have, in my own way, succeeded in contributing to the debate. Issues related to Islam – such as impediments to free speech; refusal of the separation of Church and State; widespread domestic violence; honor killings; the repudiation of wives; and Islam’s failure to condemn genital mutilation -- these subjects can no longer be swept under the carpet in our country’s capital. Some of the measures that this government has begun taking give me satisfaction. Many illusions of how easy it will be to establish a multicultural society have disappeared forever. We are now more realistic and more open in this debate, and I am proud to have contributed to that process.

Meanwhile, the ideas which I espouse have begun spreading to other countries. In recent years I have given speeches and attended debates in many European countries and in the United States. For months now, I have felt that I needed to make a decision: should I go on in Dutch politics, or should I now transfer my ideas to an international forum?

In the fall of 2005 I told Gerrit Zalm and Jozias van Aartsen, the leaders of the VVD, that I would not be a candidate for the parliamentary elections in 2007. I had decided to opt for a more international platform, because I wanted to contribute to the international debate on the emancipation of Muslim women and the complex relationship between Islam and the West.

Now that I am announcing that I will resign from Dutch politics, I would like to thank the members of the VVD for my years in parliament – to thank them for inviting me to stand for parliament, and -- perhaps more importantly -- for putting up with me while I was there, for this has been in many ways a rough ride for us all. I want to thank my other colleagues here in parliament for their help, although some of our debates have been sharp. (Femke Halsema, thank you especially for that!). I would also like to thank the 30,758 people who in January 2003 trusted their preference vote to a newcomer.

But why am I not remaining in parliament for my full term, until next year’s election? Why, after only three and a half years, have I decided to resign from the Lower Chamber?

It is common knowledge that threats against my life began building up ever since I first talked about Islam publicly, in the spring of 2002. Months before I even entered politics, my freedom of movement was greatly curtailed, and that became worse after Theo van Gogh was murdered in 2004. I have been obliged to move house so many times I have lost count. The direct cause for the ending of my membership in parliament is that on April 27 of this year, a Dutch court ruled that I must once again leave my home, because my neighbors filed a complaint that they could not feel safe living next to me. The Dutch government will appeal this verdict and I grateful for that, because how on earth will other people whose lives are threatened manage to find a place to stay if this verdict is allowed to rest? However, this appeal does not alter my situation: I have to leave my apartment by the end of August.

Another reason for my departure is the discussion that has arisen from a TV program, The Holy Ayaan, which was aired on May 11. This program centered on two issues: the story that I told when I was applying for asylum here in Holland, and questions about my forced marriage.

I have been very open about the fact that when I applied for asylum in the Netherlands in 1992, I did so under a false name and with a fabricated story. In 2002, I spoke on national television about the conditions of my arrival, and I said then that I fabricated a story in order to be able to receive asylum here. Since that TV program I have repeated this dozens of times, in Dutch and international media. Many times I have truthfully named my father and given my correct date of birth. (You will find a selection of these articles in the press folder). I also informed the VVD leadership and members of this fact when I was invited to stand for parliament.

I have said many times that I am not proud that I lied when I sought asylum in the Netherlands. It was wrong to do so. I did it because I felt I had no choice. I was frightened that if I simply said I was fleeing a forced marriage, I would be sent back to my family. And I was frightened that if I gave my real name, my clan would hunt me down and find me. So I chose a name that I thought I could disappear with – the real name of my grandfather, who was given the birth-name Ali. I claimed that my name was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, although I should have said it was Ayaan Hirsi Magan.

You probably are wondering, what is my real name?

I am Ayaan, the daughter of Hirsi, who is the son of a man who took the name of Magan. Magan was the son of Isse, who was the son of Guleid, who was the son of Ali. He was the son of Wai’ays, who was the son of Muhammad. He was the son of Ali, who was the son of Umar. Umar was the son of Osman, who was the son of Mahamud. This is my clan, and therefore, in Somalia, this is my name: Ayaan Hirsi Magan Isse Guleid Ali Wai’ays Muhammad Ali Umar Osman Mahamud.

Following the May 11 television broadcast, legal questions have been raised about my naturalization as a Dutch citizen. Minister Verdonk has written to me saying that my passport will be annulled, because it was issued to a person who does not hold my real name. I am not at liberty to discuss the legal issues in this case.

Now for the questions about my forced marriage. Last week’s TV program cast doubt on my credibility in that respect, and the final conclusion of the documentary is that all this is terribly complicated. Let me tell you, it’s not so complex. The allegations that I willingly married my distant cousin, and was present at the wedding ceremony, are simply untrue. This man arrived in Nairobi from Canada, asked my father for one of his five daughters, and my father gave him me. I can assure you my father is not a man who takes no for an answer. Still, I refused to attend the formal ceremony, and I was married regardless. Then, on my way to Canada -- during a stopover in Germany -- I traveled to the Netherlands and asked for asylum here. In all simplicity this is what happened, nothing more and nothing less. For those who are interested in the intimate details of my transition from a pre-modern society to a modern one, and how I came to love what the West stands for, please read my memoir, which is due to be published this fall.

To return to the present day, may I say that it is difficult to live with so many threats on your life and such a level of police protection. It is difficult to work as a parliamentarian if you have nowhere to live. All that is difficult, but not impossible. It has become impossible since last night, when Minister Verdonk informed me that she would strip me of my Dutch citizenship.

I am therefore preparing to leave Holland. But the questions for our society remain. The future of Islam in our country; the subjugation of women in Islamic culture; the integration of the many Muslims in the West: it is self-deceit to imagine that these issues will disappear.

I will continue to ask uncomfortable questions, despite the obvious resistance that they elicit. I feel that I should help other people to live in freedom, as many people have helped me. I personally have gone through a long and sometimes painful process of personal growth in this country. It began with learning to tell the truth to myself, and then the truth about myself: I strive now to also tell the truth about society as I see it.

That transition from becoming a member of a clan to becoming a citizen in an open society is what public service has come to mean for me. Only clear thinking and strong action can lead to real change, and free many people within our society from the mental cage of submission. The idea that I can contribute to their freedom, whether in the Netherlands or in another country, gives me deep satisfaction.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as of today, I resign from Parliament. I regret that I will be leaving the Netherlands, the country which has given me so many opportunities and enriched my life, but I am glad that I will be able to continue my work. I will go on.

Source: Trouw

14 May 2006

A New Jersey branch of Noraid - the terrorist support organisation that has raised funds for the IRA and Sinn Fein since 1969 – has come up with a novel and perhaps inappropriate way to commemorate the H Block hunger strikes of 1981.

For the low, low price of $25 (plus $7 shipping) they are offering a commemorative plate featuring all 10 hunger strikers….


Needless to say the families and colleagues of those who killed themselves on that protest are less than pleased by the choice of memorabilia.


13 May 2006

Victory for the Chagos Islanders

Diego Garcia

There was excellent news for the Chagos Islanders yesterday as they won the right to return home following a High Court victory. In what was a scathing verdict, the judges condemned as "repugnant" the government's decision to "exile a whole population" from the Indian Ocean archipelago on the basis it was necessary for "peace, order and good government.

The Islanders were removed from their lands between 1965 and 1973 to provide the US with a military base at Diego Garcia and dumped on Mauritius and the Seychellles.

A previous court victory in 2000 was not initially contested but after American pressure the government made an order under the Royal prerogative, declaring that no person had a "right of abode" in the British Indian Ocean Territory. Yesterday’s victory overturns that ruling.

The original action placed a stain on the United Kindgom which needs to be redressed. Under no circumstances should the government place any further obstacles in the Chagossians’ way regardless of any further pressure exerted by the USA. Rather it should give them full support and substantial assistance to rebuild their homes and livelihoods.

UK Chagos Support Association

Genocidaires in Suburbia

Today’s Guardian reports that Charles Munyaneza and Célestin Ugirashebuja who have been named by the Rwandan government in a list of the 100 most wanted suspects for the 1994 genocide are currently living freely in Britain. despite demands that they return home to stand trial.

Mr Munyaneza, who was also the subject of a Sunday Times report in January, currently lives in Bedford. He is accused of coordinating and taking part in a series of large-scale massacres in Gikongoro, southern Rwanda. Witnesses say he wore a military uniform, carried a gun, and paid daily visits to the roadblocks set up to catch and kill Tutsis, often using a loudspeaker to urge Hutus to kill their Tutsi neighbours. After a massacre of more than 50,000 Tutsis at a technical school near Gikongoro in April 1994 he is said to have rounded up survivors and lined up militiamen to kill them.Mr Munyaneza sought asylum in Britain under the name Muneza and was granted indefinite leave to remain in 2002.

Three months ago the Rwandan government issued an international warrant for his arrest, and called for him to be deported to stand trial. Sources in Whitehall said the international warrant had no power because the UK does not have an extradition treaty with Rwanda and police were under no obligation to visit the suspects.

These are extremely serious allegations and must be answered. Continued inaction on the government’s part (especially when they have the facility to try the men here under the provisions of the International Convention against Torture which was incorporated into English law in 1988) is an affront to justice and would invite comparison with the likes of Argentina and Syria which accepted Nazi fugitives with open arms after WWII.

A lot is written our press about the UK being a soft touch for bogus asylum seekers. While the vast majority is sheer drivel, allowing alleged genocidaires to go about their business unhindered is grist to that unpleasant mill.

12 May 2006

Come on You Irons

Okay I am not the hardest of hardcore fans but I know where I will be tomorrow afternoon: in front of the tv cheering on West Ham in the FA Cup final.

After squeaking back into the Premiership the Hammers were seen as prime candidates for immediate relegation but they have had a good season finishing a very respectable ninth. Better still of course is their first FA Cup final appearance in 26 years.

Even if they don't beat Liverpool tomorrow they are guaranted a UEFA Cup place next season which is a pretty good reward but there will be a lot of people celebrating in Romford if they do win, so


10 May 2006

Once a Jolly Hangman

Some farmers supplement their income by offering bead and Breakfast, farmer David Lucas, of Mildenhall, Suffolk, on the other hand has a far more gruesome sideline selling execution equipment to countries including Zimbabwe.

His products range from single gallows costing £12,000 each, to mobile "Multi-hanging Execution Systems" mounted on lorry trailers which have a £100,000 price tag. The latter, apparently, can hang up to 6 people at a time and are thus a boon for the tyrant who wants to combine terror with cost effectiveness.

As far as he is concerned he sees no problem with his trade (business is business) and he considers a forthcoming EC trade regulation which will ban his trade to be appalling.

David Lucas may be small fry but he shows the same level of amorality and self righteousness as other larger arms dealers. I doubt many will be shedding tears when this line of business dries up. Others I am sure will just view him for the sick bastard he is.

Click here to access the BBC report

09 May 2006

Brian Haw

Sadly Brian Haw, whose anti war protest has been a fixture in Parliament Square for almost five years looks, like he will have to pack his banners and go.

Yesterday Appeal Court judges overturned a previous ruling that a recent law controlling protests around the Palace of Westminster did not apply to him as his protest, started well before the law came into force. Mr Haw has been refused permission to appeal to the law lords, but his solicitor, Stephen Grosz, said he would consider asking them for permission to appeal.

Brian Haw and his placards and banners have been a fixture of my journey to and from work for a long time and just for that I will be sorry to see him go. More importantly of course is that he will no longer be a gadfly to our MPs and Peers or provide food for thought to the many tourists who flock around the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.


More information on Brian Haw and his protest can be found Here

08 May 2006

Guillermo Has Only Got One Ball?

In today’s Guardian there is a short article about a Spanish university is conducting DNA tests on a 50-year-old electrician from Granada who is trying to prove he is a descendent of both Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler.

The man, known only as Guillermo, believes Himmler is his maternal grandfather. while his father is the son of Hitler, born in 1931 of a relationship between the Führer and his niece, Geli Raubal. Apparently one of the main intentions for proving his relationship is to demonstrate that leading Nazis stayed in Spain after the War rather than just pass through en route to Latin American......

By contrast the surviving descendants of William Patrick Hitler (Adolf’s British nephew) and Elfreide Raubal (Geli’s sister) do not exactly proclaim their ancestry to the world. As for Nazis in Spain after WWII, the residence of prominent Nazis (eg Leon Degrelle and Otto Skorzeny) is already a matter of record.

Perhaps Guillermo would be well advised just to look in his underpants and check the number of balls present and keep quiet if there s only one

An Excellent Introduction to Flann O'Brien

Anyone wishing to find out more about Flann O'Brien's major works would do well to check out this excellent article by Robert Looby on Truth is an Odd Number and Death is a Full Stop on the Three Monkeys Online website.

Also recommended again of course are Eric Mader-Lin's excellent essays on the Necessary Prose website.

Do as I say, not as I do, Mr Knapman?

UK Independence Party Leader, Roger Chapman is usually an vociferous supporter of buying British…. Except when it comes to hiring builders to renovate his home.

According to today’s Independent, Mr Knapman’s political ideology seems to have given way to a desire for cheaper home improvement. It would seem that he has saved costs by hiring Polish builders.

Although Roger Knapman has done nothing illegal it doen not exactly sit well with his own Party’s policies: UKIP was the only British Party in the European parliament to vote against allowing east European states into the EU warning that enlarging the EU would lead to a "flood of migrants"

Hmm perhaps there will be more than one former party leader scanning the jobs section of the papers in the near future.

07 May 2006

The Workman's Friend

When things go wrong and will not come right,
Though you do the best you can,
When life looks black as the hour of night -

When money's tight and hard to get
And your horse has also ran,
When all you have is a heap of debt -

When health is bad and your heart feels strange,
And your face is pale and wan,
When doctors say you need a change,

When food is scarce and your larder bare
And no rashers grease your pan,
When hunger grows as your meals are rare -

In time of trouble and lousey strife,
You have still got a darlint plan
You still can turn to a brighter life -

by Flann O'Brien

But don't take the strong drink with the same gusto as Flann did!

02 May 2006

Musical Interlude: Robyn Hitchcock

The highlight of my Bank Holiday weekend (such is the fullness and richness of my life) was purchasing Robyn Hitchcock’s new album, “This is the BBC”, a compilation of sessions he did for the Andy Kershaw and Mark Radcliffe radio shows between 1995 and 1999.

This is the third release of material recorded for the BBC (a previous collection of Andy Kershaw sessions was released in 1994 and a live concert from the Cambridge Folk Festival came out in 1998) and there are no real shocks: only two tracks have never previously appeared on a Hitchcock album a cover of Bob Dylan’s It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry and a jingle for Andy Kershaw. That said it is a worthy release with Madonna of the Wasps, Cheese Alarm and De Chirico Street being the stand out tracks for me.

Despite plying his trade for nearly 30 years, Robyn is largely unknown here in the UK and those that do know his work seem to be split evenly between love and hate. I doubt it will bring him a new audience but it will be a welcome addition to any fan’s collection (who if they are anything like me would probably buy an album of him reading extracts from the Falkirk phone book)

Robyn's Official website can be accessed here or from the link on my sidebar.

While I am on the subject of music, I have been criticised by an old friend for not highlighting the prog rock scene in this blog. To remedy this I would like to draw attention to Melodicrock.com which has more poodle-haired pomp rockers than you can shake a stick at.

01 May 2006


Yesterday nearly 15,000 people a rally in Washington to urge President Bush to take stronger measures to end the violence in Darfur, which the American government itself described as genocide as far back as 2004.
The rally was addressed by a wide range of speakers including Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel and Paul Rusesabagina who saved 1200 Tutsis and moderate Hutus from slaughter at the hands of the Interhamwe. story Washington Post

The conflict in Darfur has been rolling on since February 2003, when rebels launched attacks seeking greater autonomy. In response the Sudanese government sent troops and pro-government muslim militias (the Janjaweed) to quell the uprising. The militias commenced a campaign of terror, killing and raping civilians mostly from non-Arab but muslim ethnic groups, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their villages. At present the humanitarian situation in Darfur is worsening with 60,000 Darfur villagers fleeing to neighbouring Chad in the last month alone according to the United Nations. Diplomatic and political efforts have so far failed to stop the violence: even today rebel groups have just rejected an African Union brokered settlement and the prospect for peace in the region looks bleak.
While the African Union has a peace keeping force in the ground in Darfur, it is just 7000 strong and is responsible for an area the size of France. Leaving aside Bin Laden’s recent pathetic rant about resisting “crusaders” in Sudan, can we stand by and let our Governments ignore the plight of Darfur in the same way that they did Rwanda just 12 years ago?
What can we do? There are many organizations we can support that are bringing pressure to bear on our governments to act, including: Save Darfur, Survivors United,Genocide Intervention Network and the Aegis Trust
There are many other sources of information on the internet: A google search on Darfur will bring over 41 million results but the superb Sudan Watch news blog is highly recommended as is My Camera was not Nearly Enough,Brian Steidle’s photo essay for US Holocaust Memorial website. I would also recommend these reports by Medecins Sans Frontieres and Amnesty International