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Harry Flashman has commented 1,818 times (20 in the last month).

  1. Comment on Come on BBC NI give us the bad news on our beaches…?
    on 16 April 2014 at 1:53 am

    I am always very sceptical of these reports especially when they say UK beaches are dirtier than anywhere else in Europe (as they frquently claim).

    Who conducts the research? Why environmental officials of course, whose jobs and funding depend on there being an environmental problem that only they can sort out. Thus they will pore over the beaches determined to convince us how filthy they all are and how they need more “resources” to solve the problem (which they never will of course, in the same way that the anti-poverty and anti-racism lobby will every year tell us how much worse the problem is getting).

    My cynicism dates back a few years while on holiday in Italy. I was on a beach that proudly flew its blue flag telling the world how clean this particular beach was. I well remember the grey cloudy murk that I suddenly found myself swimming in that had a distinctly familiar smell when the tide turned one afternoon.

    A few weeks later I was strolling along Magiligan Strand, the great white breakers were rolling in fresh and green from the North Atlantic pounding on the white sand. There was of course bits of detritus washed up by the sea, the flotasm and jetsam that is a feature of our seas today but the water was clear and fresh.

    The next day I heard the shocking news that Magiligan had been found to be dirty and was likely to lose its blue-flag status, it was part of a general report on the disgusting nature of British beaches complied by British environmental officers. I noted on further investigation that their Italian colleagues had passed all that nation’s beaches with flying colours.

    I have been a sceptic ever since.

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  2. Comment on Hunger Strike: Margaret Thatcher’s Battle With the IRA (1980-1981)
    on 4 April 2014 at 12:00 pm

    The Mountbatten and Warrenpoint attacks didn’t cause they security revolution but they were a point when the ongoing “Ulsterisation” process, ie police primacy, could have been set back.

    Apparently the Army were very unhappy with their change in status from being the main security service to one of being back-up to the RUC. Immediately after the attacks Maggie visited Northern Ireland, at a meeting with the police and Army high command a very senior officer indulged in a piece of grisly theatre by removing the bloodstained epaulette of the Lt. Colonel killed in Warrenpoint from his pocket angrily saying that it was all that was left of one of his finest officers. The implication being that the RUC couldn’t handle what was a military situation.

    To her credit Maggie, who had a soft spot for the boys in khaki, resisted this piece of shroud waving and continued with the policy of police primacy.

    The public launch of police primacy by Ken Newman, if I am not mistaken, occurred in August 1976 (or was it 77?) when after the annual Apprentice Boys march in Derry the usual riot started. The riot kicked off with a McCourt’s meat van being hijacked and driven to Waterloo Square, immediately out from Victoria Barracks rushed a couple of RUC Land Rovers to retrieve it. There was an audible gasp of surprise at this soon to be normal scene as it was the first time the police had been deployed to handle a riot in Derry since the Battle of the Bogside. The Army just stood watching the scene with bemusement although they were still to get plenty of experience in Derry riots over the next 20 years.

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  3. Comment on The Scottish referendum. The British identity that dare not speak its name
    on 31 March 2014 at 3:34 am

    Of course neither side will revert to old-fashioned nationalist rhetoric (at least until it gets close to the actual vote and it seems like the gap is narrowing). The Mainlanders are not like us Provincers, they feel rather uncomfortable with all that flag-waving stuff and like religion they don’t “do” nationalism.

    Given that the pro-Union brigade in Scotland is led by the Labour Party who are dependent on the Catholic vote I don’t expect to see them wrapping themselves in the Union Jack any time soon.

    On the other side the Nationalists know that Scotland like the rest of the UK is made up of ethnic minorities, the biggest of which is the English and going all Braveheart might frighten some of the more wavering voters.

    So in a vote on national sovereignty, nationalism won’t enter the equation and all we will hear about is economic issues.

    Probably just as well really, we’ve seen what happens when protestants and Catholics of Gaelic/British origin in post-industrial corners of the Celtic fringe get too hung up on nationalism, and it ain’t pretty.

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  4. Comment on Russia, China, Crimea, Xinjiang and Putin’s Risky Gambit
    on 30 March 2014 at 1:58 pm

    “Harry can I just point out that Japan is now the oldest population in the world, but others are catching up. The reasons others are snapping at Japan’s heels for the dubious title are not only improved living and health conditions but rapidly declining birth rates. Singapore has reached 1.2 births per woman … (and) South Korea has the lowest fertility rate in the world – slightly less than 1.1 births per woman. China may not be far behind, already boasting an anemic birth rate of 1.6, and “it will soon begin to experience rapid aging … just how rapid is unknown and will depend in part on how quickly China moves to relax the one-child policy.
    It’s not just a European problem you know ”

    Indeed, Japan is right royally screwed, China’s crazy demographics will lead to some serious problems in the near future, South Korea will go the way of Japan, Singapore will do alright because immigration is key to its survival and they are somewhat picky about who they let in.

    But on the whole I take your point that the developed world is in a death spiral. So who does that leave?

    Well on the basis that the future belongs to whoever shows up for it, the future belongs to SE Asia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Middle East and the Maghrib along with parts of the rest of Africa and Latin America.

    Now as we have always been assured that all cultures have equal worth and western European culture is no more worthy of esteem than that of anywhere else I am sure that will not be a problem.

    As we know all cultures are equally worthy of respect and everyone in the rest of the world is just dying to live in a multi-cultural, tolerant, liberal, sexually diverse, democracy where all faiths, genders and sexual identities are equally to be cherished and made welcome so I am sure that everything will be tickety-boo in the future.

    I have got that right haven’t I?

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  5. Comment on Russia, China, Crimea, Xinjiang and Putin’s Risky Gambit
    on 29 March 2014 at 11:46 am

    “If Russia is ever going to be a major power again it has to reverse the cultural, fiscal and social decline of a weak birth rate.”

    True but I am always amazed at how people can zero in on Russia’s dreadful demographics and blithely ignore that Europe is in precisely the same situation with the difference being that Russia isn’t saddled with the unpayable welfare bill that western Europe has.

    It’s weird how progressive Europeans based an entirely unsustainable welfare system on continuously rising populations and then dismissed actually having babies as an irritating diversion from living the good life.

    In Germany 70% of female graduates never have any children (Frau Merkel being a good example), in Greece four grandparents have two children who have one child and then wonder why their economy has gone tits up.

    Like so many other unpleasant chores Europeans outsourced having babies to the Third World. Europe is only kept going through importing warm bodies from poorer overseas nations. I am assured by fans of mass immigration that this is a good thing, I remain to be convinced.

    You don’t need a time machine to see Europe’s future, it’s already here. Go to an old people’s home and observe the old white Europeans being spoonfed and having their bums cleaned by fit young Asians and Africans.

    That is not merely a fitting analogy for Europe’s future it is actual European society today where the white indigenous population lives a pleasant life doing non-jobs which involve tapping keyboards for the government or for big corporations dependent on government spending while outside brown people clean the toilets and grow the food.

    What could possibly go wrong with that scenario eh?

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  6. Comment on Russia, China, Crimea, Xinjiang and Putin’s Risky Gambit
    on 28 March 2014 at 2:29 am

    “Harry, my goodness, I actually agree with two things you’ve said! It’s taken over a decade on this blog.”

    I’m like a bus, you wait ten years to agree with me and then I say two things at once that you concur with.

    When I say Russia returns to its back yard I don’t for one minute believe the Red Army will be revving up its tanks and rolling over borders a la 1956. But as you rightly say, there are areas that are regarded as Russia’s “sphere of influence” (and isn’t that a marvellous old 19th Century high diplomatic term?) just as there are Chinese, Australian, and yes British and German, spheres of influence.

    The world’s policeman has just retired, the old certainties that have existed since 1945 are over. We can expect lots more “Crimeas” in the coming years, all over the world, and we need to get used to it.

    I agree that the “west” isn’t quite finished yet but the writing’s on the wall, it’s more like the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Turkish or British empires; decadent, bankrupt and soft, they hung on for a hell of a lot longer than anyone expected and were still able to pack a surprising punch every now and again but the end is certain. Europe is currently circling the bowl.

    The result is inevitable; demography, which certainly doesn’t look good for China and Russia, is simply unsustainable for western Europe. Remember Russia and China don’t have the crippling welfare bills based on the world’s biggest Ponzi schemes that western Europe and the United States has.

    The future isn’t necessarily Russian and maybe not even Chinese but the one certainty is that western Europe, and the US if it isn’t careful, is very much the past.

    Enjoy the twilight of empire.

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  7. Comment on Russia, China, Crimea, Xinjiang and Putin’s Risky Gambit
    on 28 March 2014 at 12:26 am

    An interesting analysis but its flaw is the basic premise that the world and world affairs are two dimensional. Thus either China will be “for” Russia or “against” Russia and that this will apply in all matters.

    I think this is a bit of a western conceit where everything is black or white, east versus west, you’re for us or against us. In the newly emerging world such simplistic analyses are outdated.

    China will make deals with Russia when it benefits the Chinese and the Russians will make deals with China when the Russians feel they are doing well. Other times they will oppose each other, simple as that. These guys have been playing the Great Game for centuries, they can make and unmake alliances in a heartbeat as and when circumstances demand it.

    What we are seeing is the end of western, and of late US, world hegemony. For those permanent adolescents around the world who have made a living out of shouting “Yanqui do home!”, well as they say, be careful of what you wish for. The US is downsizing its army to pre-WWII levels, it is technically the brokest nation in history. The post-American world is already here, the return of 19th (18th? 16th? 14th?) century world politics has arrived. The super-power era is over and the great powers are back (minus the western European nations).

    Look at regional issues, the Russians will return to their back yards not only in eastern Europe but also in their old stomping grounds of the near East and Central Asia. As the Americans leave Afghanistan pretty much as they found it after expending a decade of blood and treasure, the Russians will move back in.

    We’ll see if the Iranians, looking at an emasculated America, obsessed with healthcare and gay rights, stick to the nuclear treaty. Syria’s Assad has already notched up a solid victory against the US with Russian support.

    In Asia Chinese warships take detours around the southern coast of Java, just a few miles from Australian territorial waters, on their way home from the Gulf, Malaysian and Philippine fishermen get warned off their fishing areas, Japan is rearming, who knows what the hell is going on in North Korea?

    In Africa the 21st scramble for Africa is on again and it ain’t Brits, French and Belgians who are leading it.

    In the US back yard of Latin America, left-wing governments are sprouting up like mushrooms.

    As the Chinese cliche goes, we may be living in interesting times. The only thing we can be sure about is that the western Europeans won’t be playing much of a role.

    And Ireland will go back to being a sleepy backwater, I’ll keep me passports handy, just in case.

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  8. Comment on Between a rock and a hard place it is the Garda Commissioner who resigns…
    on 26 March 2014 at 4:56 am

    Thanks Mick, like CS I have been a bit bewildered by this whole scandal.

    The news that taping Gardai phones was common practice for years must surely be a bombshell, there will be many hearings at the appeal courts to have convictions overturned methinks.

    By the way lest anyone believe the original part of the scandal, getting let off traffic offences by friendly cops was confined to the Gardai it wasn’t. I have personal recollection of the RUC doing precisely the same thing back in the day.

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  9. Comment on And about that ‘Happy’ Fermanagh video (with the dancing minister)…
    on 23 March 2014 at 2:45 am

    I have very happy and fond memories of a few Fermanagh girls (cutties?) in my youth, protestant and Catholic, and pleasant visits to that fair county to meet up with them *sigh*.

    Fermanagh will always have a very soft spot in my heart, lovely place and people.

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  10. Comment on Ivor Bell charged in connection with Jean McConville abduction and murder
    on 23 March 2014 at 2:37 am

    “All the forensics in the world can’t beat a solid confession.”

    Balderdash, “confessions” are frequently thrown out of court as they are often the most worthless piece of evidence provided. Check out the history of Northern Ireland where hundreds of “confessions” were dismissed without forensic support.

    Even were it the case the Paras would be bang to rights, they all made clear statements to their officers immediately after the shootings in which they said they fired “aimed shots”. Match those aimed shots up with the ballistics tests and the forensic and autopsy reports on the bodies of the dead, unarmed, fleeing victims, along with witness testimony and video evidence and bingo! you’ve an unshakeable case. Most prosecutors would think all their Christmases had come at once if they got a case as easy as that.

    But apparently so desperate are the police for a clue in this totally baffling unsolved crime they had to put up billboards in Derry seeking information about what happened. It’s a complete mystery I tell ya.

    Here’s a suggestion; collar Col. (ret) Derek Wilford and half a dozen of his former NCOs, bring them down to the local nick and question them under caution, you know the way ordinary suspected criminals are treated, and ask them what they know.

    If they were wise they’d reserve the right to remain silent of course, but at least it would be a start. Again however the finest minds in the Crown Prosecution Service and Scotland Yard have never considered this blindingly obvious idea.

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