Archive for the ‘Britain’ tag
A book that I’ve been meaning to read as well…
I finally read John Kelly’s troubling The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People (iBook) Our problems feel small. Ireland lost one in three people in the late 1840s. At least a million died in the famine and its related illnesses; another two million fled for England, Canada, the United States or other ports of refuge.
But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?
In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief, “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey.
And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.
(click here to continue reading When right-wing blather killed – Salon.com.)
and Joan Walsh’s thumbnail review:
A brief overview is necessary: Kelly fights the notion that the British famine response was “genocide,” or even, as I put it in my book, “ethnic cleansing.” It was more benign and commonplace, he argues, though still cruel and deadly: An effort to use a tragedy to advance a political agenda, and to imagine God’s hand at work advancing that agenda, in matters that are well within the realm of human action to prevent or correct.
Famine Ireland combined the worst of feudalism and capitalism. Anglo-Irish landlords, given their land in “plantations” after decades of war in the 16th and 17th centuries to displace conquered Irish Catholics, were a big part of the problem. At least a quarter were absentee and only wanted the highest rents they could gouge; resident landlords preferred “conspicuous consumption” – Ireland enjoyed a million acres of deer parks and gardens – to building the infrastructure of modern agriculture.
So British leaders wanted to use the famine “to modernize the Irish agricultural economy, which was widely viewed as the principal source of Ireland’s poverty and chronic violence, and to improve the Irish character, which exhibited an alarming ‘dependence on government’ and was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new industrial age, such as self-discipline and initiative,” Kelly writes. Trevelyan told a colleague: God “sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson…[and it] must not be too mitigated.”
Sometimes I felt like quibbling with Kelly over his effort to refute charges that the famine response was a deliberate form of ethnic cleansing, given the way it was driven by centuries of crippling prejudice against Irish Catholics. But he’s right: It isn’t genocide when we don’t act to stop the deaths of people we don’t care about in the first place. Certainly some Irish leaders veered into crazy anti-British conspiracy theories. The famine even had its version of Jeremiah Wright: Irish revolutionary John Mitchel, who claimed the British government created typhus in laboratories and deliberately infected the Irish, much as Wright accused the U.S. government of spreading AIDS in poor black communities. I guess centuries of oppression can lead to some crazy, intemperate ideas.
Laura Miller adds:
The Irish economy was backward and precarious, but for Trevelyan the failure of the potato crop presented not a life-or-death crisis but an opportunity to forcibly modernize it. He agreed to a limited public works program (in which out-of-work laborers were paid a pittance to build roads to nowhere) because he believed it would break the peasant class of its reliance on barter and subsistence farming. The idea was to sell them corn imported from overseas because the grain couldn’t be cultivated in Ireland, thereby accustoming them to using money. However, when Ireland’s mercantile men objected to the price-depressing effects of government-funded grain, Trevelyan vowed not to sell it too cheaply, claiming that high prices would promote foreign imports.
These strategies amount to the 19th-century version of what Naomi Klein has dubbed the “Shock Doctrine”: an attempt to force economic reforms on a population reeling in the aftermath of a disaster. Kelly intersperses the nitty gritty of the shifting Irish economic situation with horrific glimpses of its human toll: streets jammed with gaunt, half-naked wraiths who had sold their clothes for food, families gathered mutely in miserable cottages to die, unburied corpses by the roadside, entire hamlets razed by landlords seeking to evict “dead weight” tenants they’d otherwise have to help. If only these unfortunates could have sought comfort in “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity”!
Recognizing that the British handling of the famine was “parsimonious, short-sighted, grotesquely twisted by religion and ideology” rather than deliberately genocidal is important because while powerful, paranoid, racist madmen like Hitler are relatively rare, our own time is replete with men like Trevelyan. The Moralists saw the famine as a combination of divine judgement on the Irish people and the market working itself out in accordance with God’s plan, an equation of brutal capitalism with pseudo-Christian piety that can be just as destructive as outright malevolence. That version of the story may not be as satisfying dramatically and morally as the one with the evil, homicidal Englishman, but it does do what history does best, which is to show us how not to repeat it.
(click here to continue reading “The Graves Are Walking”: Was the Great Potato Famine a genocide? – Salon.com.)
MITT ROMNEY is not the “bumbling toff” he’s made out to be, wrote Daniel Gross, an American journalist, in a recent Daily Beast article. The latest iPad is a “lovely piece of kit,” in the words of John Scalzi, an American science-fiction author writing in his blog, Whatever. The Chicago Bulls were mired in uncertainty less than a “fortnight” after their star player Derrick Rose went down with a knee injury, according to an article in The Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper, last spring. Crikey, Britishisms are everywhere. Call it Anglocreep. Call it annoying. Snippets of British vernacular — “cheers” as a thank you, “brilliant” as an affirmative, “loo” as a bathroom — that were until recently as rare as steak and kidney pie on these shores are cropping up in the daily speech of Americans (particularly, New Yorkers) of the taste-making set who often have no more direct tie to Britain than an affinity for “Downton Abbey.”
The next time an American “mate” asks you to “ring” her o
America’s Slippery Slope Into Britishisms – NYTimes.com
“Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company”, couldn’t have said it better myself. Fox News should lose their broadcast license, and News Corporation should lose their corporate charter. If corporations are “people”, they should suffer the same penalties…
LONDON — A damning report on the hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers concluding that Mr. Murdoch is “not a fit person” to run a huge international company has convulsed Britain’s political and media worlds and threatened a core asset of Mr. Murdoch’s American-based News Corporation.
The parliamentary report, issued Tuesday, found that three senior Murdoch executives misled Parliament in testimony. It also alleges that the company sought to cover up widespread phone hacking that Mr. Murdoch’s News of the World, a tabloid newspaper now shut down, used to gather information about politicians, celebrities and other people in the news.
It has opened deep divisions between the main political parties, accentuated the challenge Prime Minister David Cameron faces in explaining his past ties to Mr. Murdoch and some of his top executives in Britain, and added new momentum to regulators’ scrutiny of Mr. Murdoch’s controlling interest in the British Sky Broadcasting network, or BSkyB, which is one of the most lucrative Murdoch investments.
It also offers new details that suggest further damaging revelations may lie ahead. Sprinkled through its 121 pages are tantalizing references to potentially damaging sealed documents in dozens of lawsuits from the scandal, and an audio recording in police hands of a conversation between two News of the World journalists that may implicate an unnamed Murdoch executive.
The members of Parliament rejected the defense of Mr. Murdoch, 81, that his executives kept him in the dark about the hacking, saying he “exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.”
It said the use of illegal reporting methods and the efforts to thwart inquiries into the practice came from a culture that “permeated from the top throughout the organization and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International,” its British newspaper subsidiary.
“We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company,” the report said.
(click here to continue reading British Panel Criticizes Rupert Murdoch Over Hacking Scandal – NYTimes.com.)
Wow, that’s amazingly brazen, if true. The tough part will be proving it, seems as if News Corporation used the mafia model of having a guy tell a guy to suggest to another guy he might do something illegal…
Part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation empire employed computer hacking to undermine the business of its chief TV rival in Britain, according to evidence due to be broadcast by BBC1’s Panorama programme on Monday .
The allegations stem from apparently incriminating emails the programme-makers have obtained, and on-screen descriptions for the first time from two of the people said to be involved, a German hacker and the operator of a pirate website secretly controlled by a Murdoch company.
The witnesses allege a software company NDS, owned by News Corp, cracked the smart card codes of rival company ONdigital. ONdigital, owned by the ITV companies Granada and Carlton, eventually went under amid a welter of counterfeiting by pirates, leaving the immensely lucrative pay-TV field clear for Sky.
The allegations, if proved, cast further doubt on whether News Corp meets the “fit and proper” test required to run a broadcaster in Britain. It emerged earlier this month that broadcasting regulator Ofcom has set up a unit called Project Apple to establish whether BSkyB, 39.1% owned by News Corp, meets the test.
…James Murdoch, who is deputy chief operating officer of News Corp and chairman of BSkyB, was a non-executive director of NDS when ONdigital was hacked.
(click here to continue reading Questions for News Corp over rival’s collapse | Media | The Guardian.)
and meanwhile, the noose tightens on James Murdoch:
In a continuing effort to distance himself from News Corporation’s embattled British newspaper unit, James Murdoch has stepped down from the board of Times Newspapers Holdings.
The group, established by Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corporation and James’s father, was created to safeguard the editorial independence of The Times of London and The Sunday Times after the media conglomerate bought the British newspapers in 1981, according to public filings with the British government.
James, the youngest son of Rupert Murdoch and once the heir apparent at the $50 billion media company, has over the last several months resigned from a string of corporate boards, both with ties to the British papers and unrelated.
Last week, the auction house Sotheby’s said in a filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission that James Murdoch would not return to his board position. Earlier this year he gave up his position on the board of the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.
It remains to be seen whether Mr. Murdoch will hold onto his role as chairman of the British broadcaster BSkyB, of which News Corporation holds a minority stake. The company dropped its $12 billion bid to take over BSkyB last summer when a phone hacking scandal thrust News Corporation under increased government scrutiny.
(click here to continue reading James Murdoch Resigns From Times Newspapers Holdings Board – NYTimes.com.)
Let’s hope by this summer, or even autumn, the House Corrupt of Rupert Murdoch begins to fall. Just in time for the 2012 election, and Fox News’ ramp up of lies, damn lies, and false statistics…
Nick Davies reports:
On Saturday morning, the police arrested four journalists who have worked for Rupert Murdoch. For a while, it looked as though these were yet more arrests of people related to the News of the World but then it became clear that this was something much more significant.
This may be the moment when the scandal that closed the NoW finally started to pose a potential threat to at least one of Murdoch’s three other UK newspaper titles: the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.
The four men arrested on Saturday are not linked to the NoW. They come from the Sun, from the top of the tree – the current head of news and his crime editor, the former managing editor and deputy editor.
Nothing is certain. No one has been convicted of anything. The four who were arrested on Saturday – like the 25 others before them – have not even been charged with any offence. But behind the scenes, something very significant has changed at News International.
Under enormous legal and political pressure, Murdoch has ordered that the police be given everything they need. Whereas Scotland Yard began their inquiry a year ago with nothing much more than the heap of scruffy paperwork seized from the NoW’s private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, Murdoch’s Management and Standards Committee has now handed them what may be the largest cache of evidence ever gathered by a police operation in this country, including the material that led to Saturday’s arrests.
They have access to a mass of internal paperwork – invoices, reporters’ expense claims, accounts, bank records, phone records. And technicians have retrieved an enormous reservoir of material from News International’s central computer servers, including one particularly vast collection that may yet prove to be the stick that breaks the media mogul’s back. It is known as Data Pool 3.
(click here to continue reading Mysteries of Data Pool 3 give Rupert Murdoch a whole new headache | Media | The Guardian.)
and D.D. Guttenplan adds:
The US Department of Justice, on its website, helpfully offers links to the text of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in fifteen languages, from Arabic to Urdu. The English version is sixteen pages long, and probably ought to be in Rupert Murdoch’s iPad so he can skim through it during his flight this week from New York to London, where the British branch of his media empire made more headlines on Saturday.
…But as the Guardian’s Nick Davies, the reporter who broke the hacking scandal this summer, explained last week, what makes this handover particularly dangerous for the Murdochs is that this data, “which was apparently deliberately deleted from News International’s servers,” might also “yield evidence of attempts to destroy evidence the high court and police were seeking.” Destroying such evidence, or perverting the course of justice, as it’s known here, is a felony in Britain. But it is also a crime under the FCPA—§ 78m (b) 5, which states: “No person shall knowingly circumvent or knowingly fail to implement a system of internal accounting controls or knowingly falsify any book, record, or account.”
Although Davies’s reporting exploded the “rogue reporter” defense, until now the Murdochs have just about managed to maintain plausible deniability for themselves. But the traditional prosecution strategy of picking off the guilty underlings and then flipping them up the corporate ladder has gotten uncomfortably close to James Murdoch—and that was before the company started throwing employees off the train, which is how even longtime Murdoch minions like Trevor Kavanagh, the Sun’s former political editor, see this weekend’s arrests.
As the evidence mounts that much of Murdoch’s journalism was built on illegal invasions of privacy and corrupt relationships with police, three questions remain in urgent need of answers: Why should British authorities permit an in-house News Corporation committee, regardless of how fragrant its members may be, to serve as gatekeepers of the company’s records—especially when there is abundant evidence of efforts to destroy or delete incriminating evidence? In light of the latest arrests relating to corrupt payment to government officials, and bearing in mind actor Jude Law’s claim that his phone was hacked on his arrival at JFK airport, when will the Justice Department get serious about its own investigations? (There is also the lesser question of whether we are really to believe that methods which consistently delivered tabloid gold for editors and reporters in Britain would be too sleazy to tempt the high-minded hacks at the New York Post?)
And finally, what did the Murdochs know and when did they know it? Unlikely as it might have seemed in July, we may be about to find out. As more News Corp. executives come to believe they are being sacrificed to protect Rupert’s succession plan, the probability increases that someone who knows the answer will decide to cooperate with authorities. This gives the Justice Department, in particular, enormous leverage. In 2009 Siemens paid $800 million in fines for violating the FCPA—which also provides for possible prison sentences of up to five years. Amid the steady drumbeat of revelations from London it is important to keep an eye—and ear—on Washington. That’s where you’ll hear the sound of the other shoe dropping.
(click here to continue reading When Will the Justice Department Get Serious About Murdoch? | The Nation.)
A nice stiff fine would be nice, or even better, take away their FCC license…
Lois Beckett reports:
This weekend, five more journalists from a Rupert Murdoch-owned British tabloid were arrested as part of an ongoing bribery investigation.
The arrested journalists, all from the The Sun, were later released, and have yet to be charged with any crimes. (As the Wall Street Journal explained this summer, arrests in the U.K. are often made early in a criminal investigation, and may not be followed by any charges.)
But the arrests have once again raised questions about whether Murdoch’s News Corporation might face prosecution for bribery in the U.S. under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Reuters reported last week that U.S. authorities are “stepping up investigations” into the potential bribery by Murdoch employees. An FBI spokeswoman told ProPublica, “We’re aware of the allegations and we’re looking into it.”
As we noted during the unfolding of the phone hacking scandal this summer, the U.S. has stepped up prosecutions of companies for bribery of foreign officials in recent years, and the fines for these violations can be steep. Companies can face prosecution by the Justice Department if they record bribery payments, or be pursued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for fake record-keeping if they falsify documents to conceal the bribes.
The statute of limitations on civil Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges is five years. The New York Times reported Saturday that it was not clear when the allegations that led to the Sun arrests had taken place, “though some of those arrested have told friends that they were questioned on events from almost a decade ago.”
(click here to continue reading New Arrests in Murdoch Bribery Scandal Raise Question of U.S. Charges – ProPublica.)
Weird, and I wonder why Scotland Yard is keeping 123 year old records secret?
Scotland Yard recently turned down a request to release the thick Victorian ledgers that contain the police reports, tips, clues and maybe a theory or two about Jack the Ripper. And that’s fueling a new round of speculation about Jack. Was he just a drifter who left London as authorities closed in, or could he — gasp! — have been a royal? Did police ever get close to figuring it out?
Jack the Ripper slit the throats of five women in London’s squalid Whitechapel district in 1888. The murderer used almost surgical precision.
Retired homicide detective Trevor Marriott is the latest sleuth to try to unmask the killer. Marriott believes Jack was a German sailor. And he says he’s oh, so close to proving it.
But the British government won’t play along.
(click here to continue reading jack the ripper’s identity still a secret – chicagotribune.com.)
A few interesting links collected December 1st through December 3rd:
- BBC News – Fifth of Scots have poor literacy – ha ha, Fifth of Scots…
- Roundup: Domestic Bliss | Wired.com Product Reviews – Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder The difference between just-crushed and preground beans is like the difference between filet and jerky. I need the Virtuoso. Conical burrs mash beans without heating them and dulling the flavor like blades do.
- Pondering Google’s Move Into the D.N.S. Business – Bits Blog – NYTimes.com – Why is Google doing this? There is plenty of money to be made in this layer of the network. Companies pay for premium D.N.S. products that provide extra security, and D.N.S. operators can steer Internet users who mistype Web addresses to sites stocked with advertisements.
- Using Google Public DNS – The Google Public DNS IP addresses are as follows: 220.127.116.11 18.104.22.168 You can use either number as your primary or secondary DNS server.
- Fullundie: 2131 South Michigan Avenue – A totally incredible batch of garage and psychedelic rock & pop singles from the vaults of 60s Chicago label USA Records and the affiliated Destination, the company charted a few hits, but released a ton of killer singles that have been lost for decades.2131 South Michigan Avenue was put together by Sundazed and it’s absolutely one of the most beautiful and rewarding lost 60s rock compilations we’ve seen in ages.
A few interesting links collected October 29th through October 30th:
- Chief drug adviser David Nutt sacked over cannabis stance | Politics | The Guardian – Alan Johnson, the home secretary, has sacked Professor David Nutt as senior drugs adviser after the scientist renewed his criticism of the government's decision to toughen the law on cannabis.
Johnson wrote to Nutt saying he no longer had confidence in him as chairman of the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and asking him to consider his position.
Nutt had accused ministers of "devaluing and distorting" the scientific evidence over illicit drugs by their decision last year to reclassify cannabis from class C to class B against the advice of the ACMD
- Think Again: Obama’s Commie Past Exposed Yet Again – Robert Fox, the millionaire brother-in-law of a GOP congressman, tried to prove the connection. He offered $10,000 to Dr. Peter Millican, an Oxford professor who had developed a computer program to make comparisons between texts. Times of London reported this on November 2, 2008. Millican told Fox that the initial findings made it “highly implausible” that the books shared authors. He also said that if further research was done, then the findings would be made public whether or not Ayers was proven to be the author. Fox withdrew his offer.
- Excerpts From The Book The NBA Doesn't Want You To Read – Tim Donaghy – Deadspin – I'm still fucking bitter about this game six travesty
:"If we give the benefit of the calls to the team that's down in the series, nobody's going to complain. The series will be even at three apiece, and then the better team can win Game 7," Bavetta stated.
As history shows, Sacramento lost Game 6 in a wild come-from-behind thriller that saw the Lakers repeatedly sent to the foul line by the referees. For other NBA referees watching the game on television, it was a shameful performance by Bavetta's crew, one of the most poorly officiated games of all time."