Thursday, December 14, 2006

A BIg start

I'm delighted to see Gerry Adams & Co are going to meet the PSNI Chief Constable to discuss policing. This is a good move in the right direction. Also, an interesting comment from Adams: "We will also raise political policing and the need for clear proof that this has ended or will end, an end to plastic bullets and Sinn Fein is committed to law and order and proper and effective policing". Did you get that last bit? Nothing more, and nothing less, than the DUP is requiring to enable power-sharing.

Regulars here know I berate Sinn Féin for not taking their seats on the Local Policing Boards, thus denying their electorate a say in how policing is run. Gerry had encouraging words on that too: "Consequently, we are determined to ensure that the police service operates under the highest standards and is held to account through the most rigorous and efficient accountable and transparent mechanisms and we will also discuss collusion".

Both parts of this statement - the beginning of the first part and the end of the second - acknowledge feelings held deep within the Republican movement, and I think that's fair enough too, even though my personal view is that the issue of political policing is, in the main, a straw issue.

But maybe I, and you, need to keep an open mind.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Big fish

I'm not a fan of political bloggers posting pop videos because I go there to tune my views, not to view my tunes. That said, I'm going to relent this once because your life is not complete until you've heard Walter Trout.

Who? Unless you're a blues-rock afficionado the name will mean nothing. But blues critics rightly put him up there with Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher, Howlin' Wolf and the rest of them, and he's my favourite artist by a factor so high it would make Deep Blue explode.

Delightfully, Walter tours. Not for him the leisurely life of an album every five years and a lot of swimming pools in between. Unfortunately he hasn't yet been booked for the Odyssey, but he tours Britain and the Netherlands twice a year. With Easyjet taking you to Amsterdam for little more than a bus fare, why are you still looking at your computer?

OK, let me make it worth your while. Here's Walter and the Band firing up at the Paradiso Club in Amsterdam in May 2003. Sit back and enjoy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Stretching credibility

Here's a rant on something else, but on-topic in a philosophical sense. Police in England have said many stretched limousines - of the type you see ferrying poor underprivileged tile-hoppers on a Friday night - are a front for money laundering and organised crime.

As I understand it, money laundering is where gangstas have a legitimate business which has its revenue mainly in cash form, then they mix in varying amounts of cash received from non-legit sources and declare it for tax. For example, there's a dodgy-looking hairdresser near my house who's never had more than two customers a week, and I'd love to see his tax return.

Anyway, that's not the point. The point is the BBC news article proclaiming all this. It informs us dutifully that some senior police bod reckons hoods are turning to the stretch limo business. His opinion. No evidence offered. New paragraph. "Some of the limousines were also found to be unsafe". Ah, the old emotional lever, but again without any substantiation.

Then comes the cruncher. "We have seen, on a number of occasions", continues Genghis Plod, "some pretty unsavoury people driving or inside these vehicles who wouldn't normally be in a position where they'd be able to be with young children in party situations".

Who? Where? How many times? And what, apart from a 1kg bag of Silver Spoon, constitutes unsavoury? I am, I admit, fairly generously proportioned. But it doesn't mean I eat doughnuts all day. I have known some people who, to put it kindly, were standing behind the door when God was dishing out beauty. It doesn't mean they don't have fantastic personalities.

Mr Plod may well be right. Society as we know it may indeed be on the brink of ruin because some cars are longer than others. What riles me about this is the cynical way the BBC can publish a 'news' article stating nothing other than the prejudice of some copper and knowing that three quarters of the population will not notice the complete lack of evidence, fall for his diatribe and get swept along in a wave of support for the police who are risking life and limb to protect us all from nasty white cars.

I would hope that, in modern Ulster, we're one step ahead of them. That we can see through prejudice and that we're politicised enough to look for the facts underlying every report so we can draw our own conclusions. A newsflow purely made up of someone else's conclusions is the stuff of dictatorships.

Wherever you're off to tonight, have a good time - and take the bus.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Splintering at both ends

The mortar attack in Craigavon and the recovery of a viable bomb that didn't go off in Newtonstewart are both pretty worrying. As we know, some extremist Republicans disagree with the Provos' decision to disarm and are intent on showing us "they haven't gone away, you know".
This splintering may be at the opposite end of the political spectrum from the DUP, but Paisley's right wing is equally showing its muscle these days, albeit in the rather less-than-frightening form of Willie McCrea and Nigel Dodds.
Annoying though saying 'no' parrot-fashion may be, it's in a different league from killing which deserves to be condemned roundly.
The biggest political headache over the next six months is going to be 'splinter management', or how Sinn Féin and the DUP can respectively manage their support bases at the same time as meeting each other in the middle.