Tuesday, December 13, 2011

MUSINGS ON THE NARROW DEFEAT OF THE BALD HEADED BAGMAN SEAN GALLAGHER

Just stumbled upon this one too. I obviously wrote it late at night around the time of the count and promptly forgot about it. But there's no harm in kicking a man like Sean Gallagher especially - given his martial arts prowess - when he's down.

Sean Gallagher And The National Sport: Playing The System


It remains to be seen whether Sean Gallagher is an actual crook.

But, decent liberals that we are, let's be generous and take the bald bag man at his word.

We'll accept, for the moment, that he merely runs a sloppy ship instead of a crooked one.

And we'll not stop here to question the wisdom of paying such a man, not just for access, but for advice.

There is, however, one thing about which there is no ambiguity: Sean Gallagher is the poster boy for the once national sport of "Playing The System"

A big "bucker" for the Fianna Fail team, Sean and has helped the "family" maintain its clammy hands on this quasi criminal game's Sam Maguire

Thankfully this coarse sport of "Playing The System" is dramatically on the wane in the more evolved areas of country and rarely ever seen in those bastions of civilisation where inbred natives never got a foot, or boot boy, hold such as Dun Laoghaire.

The immoral, adolescent idolising of the shysters who play the system is still most prominent trait in those banjo playing counties where canoe trips are as unadvisable as the local sisters who say "YES" to their brothers' proposals are numerous.

Laois/Offaly Longford/Westmeath. It seems that nearly a century after independence the inbred denizens of these cursed counties cannot see what is dawning on the rest of the country.

Whilst re-education camps have been posited as a solution, this presupposes the existence of education in the first place.

These people still cling to the primitive notion that it is all about "getting one over" - be that a leg over the sister, a pint too many over the bar or a scam over the authorities.

One might despair but let's not indulge in further "negative campaigning."

The election of Michael D as President or more importantly, the defeat of this bog bagman, this inarticulate mouthpiece of ill-understood vacuous self-help mantras, does give grounds for "positivity."

It shows a growing awareness of that which should be obvious to all decent and civilised spectators: that the game itself is founded on a 'foul.'

Playing The System

The system that one plays, the system that you have to get "one over on" is not some foreign entity.

It is ourselves.

To those who question the veracity of this, well, in the absence of a soul, just look in your pockets.

If they are not actually empty, they are probably lacking - to use your own lingo - in wedge.

And why is that?

Cos you have been trounced by the top team in the game.

Fianna Fail.

Fianna Fail - and their latest 'star' player Sean Gallagher - have 'played the system' so well that they scored the mother of all own goals.

The George Best of shysters, the Pele of pilferers, Fianna Fail 'broke' the system.

Leaving you and I and all the spectators of this outdated sport stoney broke.

Apart from the above embarrassing exceptions, this election has shown that the people don't want to play this game anymore.

It's like bungee jumping without a bungee.

And Ireland has just said "that's it, no more."

The ref has told the shyster to get off the field.

The people want him and his ilk put out to pasture.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Arab Springs Highlights The Backward Nature of the Jewish State

Israel has ceded the mantle of modernity to the Arab Spring

Kevin Barrington


The theocratic nature of Israel has for too long been concealed behind the empty slogan “the Middle East’s only democracy.”
The idea of a Jewish state is tolerated and defended by the same 'progressives' who shiver at the mention of an Islamic one.
And while the US railed against the brute nature of the Taliban's Islamic state it rallies in defence of the anti-democratic idea of a Jewish one.


Worldwide indignation was aroused by the insult
to modernity that was the Taliban's use of the chador.
Yet somehow the world is supposed to find acceptable
Israel's use of that appalling medieval phenomenon: the siege.
Afghani woman were 'imprisoned' inside the chador. A whole Palestinian people is imprisoned inside Gaza.


Israel’s true anti-cosmopolitan nature - a feature of all religious states - has
rarely been debated. Ironically, it's the secular, democratic desires
of the Arab Spring’s protests that have thrown an
unforgiving spotlight on both the Jewish State’s backwardness and its fears
of change to the region's retrogressive status quo.

‘New historian’ Israeli Benny Morris relates how an
ethnically-cleansed religious state was Israel’s aim from the very
outset. When global awareness started to render unacceptable the
policy of ‘transfer,' a more subtle, but equally evil, policy of
'politicide' was adopted. Politicide is an attack on any of the
constructs that define people as a nation. Its aim is to deprive
people of hope and to encourage emigration through despair.

The leak of the Palestine Papers – diplomatic correspondence about
Arab-Israeli peace talks 1999-2010 - further undermined Israel's
pretence at being the rational peace-seeker faced with a
delinquent, intransigent partner. Predictably, the bulk of the media
supported this pretence. Most coverage told us how a corrupt
Palestinian Authority was prepared to sell its people's aspirations
short while the leaders lusted for the perks of power. But what the
leaked papers really revealed was the flip side of this tale of treachery and greed. And that was the fact that the
Palestinians were prepared to bend over backwards for a peace deal.
Yet still they got nothing. And the world was spun the
fallacious rehash of the Palestinians "never missing an opportunity to
miss an opportunity".

Neither the democratic challenge of the Arab Spring nor the truths
revealed by the Palestine Papers has curbed Israel's backward
ambitions. Instead the world witnessed Benjamin Netanyahu getting 29
Congressional standing ovations whilst bluntly rejecting Obama's call
for a ‘‘67’ based peace deal - a plan which Israel's continuing policy
of creating facts on the ground has rendered nearly redundant.

Like a true zealot, Netanyahu treated us to a paean to old-fashioned
greed and territorial expansionism which if uttered by an Ayatollah
would have made many a young Iranian blush.
But Netanyahu, can't even hear the supposed 'sense' of the Israeli
left as they currently proclaim that a ‘67 based plan is the best deal
modernity will offer to that ultimately offensive and outdated
concept: the religious state.

A democratic deficit, to put it mildly, is
the hallmark of all of Israel's Arab neighbours. But, despite
oppression, it's the citizens of those countries who are out on the
streets bravely demanding that they be granted
the decency of a modern democracy.
The Arabs leaders may now quake at their people's demands.
But they are not alone in their fear of democracy.

"More and more Palestinians are uninterested in a negotiated,
two-state solution, because they want to change the essence of the
conflict from an Algerian paradigm to a South African one. From a
struggle against 'occupation,' in their parlance, to a struggle for
one-man-one-vote. That is, of course, a much cleaner struggle, a much
more popular struggle - and ultimately a much more powerful one. For
us, it would mean the end of the Jewish state."

That is the former vice prime minister in Ariel Sharon's government,
Ehud Olmert, talking to the Israeli paper Haaretz in 2003.
Olmert was recommending Israel impose a unilateral solution to
safeguard the Jewish state and protect its religious status from the
fatal threat of one-man one-vote. Olmert shows us that Israel, safeguarded by nuclear weaponry,
sees its real existential threat not in Arab Armalites but in the ballot box.

Olmert told Haaretz that his "formula for the parameters of a
unilateral solution are: To maximize the number of Jews; to minimize
the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border and not
to divide Jerusalem" .

The newspaper noted that Olmert's language was that of “long ago”
adding that the former vice prime- minister hankered "unabashedly for
those more hopeful times." It seems those more “hopeful times” were
back when the ethnic cleansing implicit in 'minimising' Palestinians
was a more acceptable pursuit.

Olmert's language does indeed hark back to "long ago”.
Because in the 21st century, when it comes down to a choice of
religion over democracy, the answer must be quite simple.
And when religion involves the complete abnegation of democracy, the
question ceases even to be legitimate

Fear and Laughter on Route 10

In Memory of my friend and colleague Sambath Reach



I was in Sicily on a vacation and happened upon a computer in bar where I discovered the tragic news of Sambath's stroke and death. Some young reporter called Julia Wallace from the Cambodia Daily had left me a message on Facebook asking me if I had any recollections of my time with Sambath. Needless to say I had many. The message had been there for a day so the deadline may have passed. But I couldn't not respond to a request to jot down something about Sambath. Especially since he showered me with generosity when I returned to Phnom Penh. I think he thought the scholarship to the States, for which I had spent quite some time writing him a sterling reference, was partly responsible for putting him on the road to other scholarships and further success.

Sambath had applied for the same scholarship under my predecessor Sheri Prasso and got nowhere. But she had written him a pretty mundane reference. She said she didn't think Sambath was up to it. I said that I wasn't sure either but why not give him the chance and let him sink or swim. At least let him see the world.

Perhaps Sheri also had a clearer idea of what I was to find out; it was very hard to find a replacement who would be half as good as Sambath.



Anyhow Ms Wallace from The Cambodia Daily never got back to me and I forgot about what I had hurriedly written in a bar on a sad balmy evening in Sicily as fighter planes took off in the background to bomb Libya, I wrote this about a survivor who had lost his parents to the Khmer Rouge and then through luck acumen and hard work had made a bigger figure of himself on the world stage than I could ever hope to be. That is until his luck ran out.


I just recently spotted it on my computer and, since it is written, thought I might share it with Sambath's friends and family.




When I took over as Cambodia Correspondent at AFP, I encouraged Sambath to get more involved in reporting and saw that giving him his first byline had a dramatic effect. Equally dramatic and difficult for me was his three month absence when he managed to get a Freedom Forum Foundation scholarship to the States.

The only time I ever got annoyed with Sambath was when I asked him to tell a Gov tank commander that if the tank waited 20 mins I would give him 100 bucks for a lift to Pailin.

Sambath duly translated. All fine, so I ran back to our jeep that was stuck about a mile back in a jungle military traffic jam to grab water, food, hammock and mossy net. When I got back the tank was gone. And Sambath was looking sheepishly at me - a look I had never seen before. I said where's the tank. "It's gone."
"I know that! Why is it gone?"
"I didn't think it was a good idea," he replied.
Under pressure as we had been trying to get to Pailin for three days, which the Gov. had now 'taken' some four days previously, I started shouting at him:
"That's not your fucking call, man. I need to get there."
A few hours later the first reports that a tank had hit an anti-tank mine, with a few soldiers dead and the fate of some freelance photographers unknown, came in. The survivors then faced a ground attack at dawn and a mortar attack at lunchtime.
I had to go back to Sambath and half apologise.
"OK you were fucking right...but we make these decisions together in future."
The KR retook Pailin shortly afterwards and chased the Gov. forces back to within 30kms of Battambang, Cambodia's second largest city.
Within days the Gov. in PP said everything was fine, back to the status quo ante-bellum. But nothing ever in Cambodia happened that fast. We were being spun a yarn.
Sambath complained I was making his "head hot" with screams to call various generals in the northwest to try and find out what was really going on. The odd comment we got didn't conform to the line being spun in PP. So I told Sambath we were heading up. We got to BTG late the next day so we only got some 25kms down route 10, the road to the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin. The Gov. said they had retaken Treng - the last governement outpost before the jungle leading to Pailin - but there were still some dead KR on the road and a smoking tank a few kilometers on the Battambang side of Sdau, a good 30 km before Treng.

We also noticed that the soldiers we had given a lift to, dropped into firing position when they got out of the pick-up.

It was getting late so we returned so we returned to the city to file that the government line was dubious to say the least. .
The next morning we retook route 10 in a beat up old taxi. AFP didn’t fork out for 4-Wheel Drives. Near the previous day's smoldering tank, we met a gang of top generals and Sambath engaged them. They too were parroting the PP line that the KR has been pushed back - although they were saying 20km to the capital's 40/50.
I said Sambath "I don't believe them, do you?"
He was skeptical. So I said we’d drive down the road a few clicks and see what’s happening.
But we both agreed that if the Gov. was saying 40 -50 and the generals on the road 20, we could probably safely believe 4-5 kms.
After 500 meters, there were no more Gov. soldiers to be seen. Just empty villages where returnees had recently set up in some of the swathes of land that had been cleared of the copious quantities of landmines.

The emptiness was eerie. No people, no ducks, no hens, nothing. The only sound came from two houses that were on fire.
"Kevin, I don't like this." Sambath said.
"Tell the driver just to go to the top of the hill – about a kilometer away - and we will look down into Sdau."
We continued for max a minute when I thought, "Sambath is right. This is all wrong. This is way too quiet."
Just as I was about to say 'let's turn' I heard the first bang and dived to the floor of the car. The second bang clarified we weren't being shot at. We were being shelled. It whizzed over the roof and hit an adjoining house that burst into flames. I later wondered what would have happened had we been in the high SUV that I was so longing for.

The third shell landed in a mere couple of feet to the side of the passenger seat where Sambath sat. But as the road was on a mound, it blew away from us.
According to Sambath my head appeared back up over the seat amidst a maniacal mantra of “Fuck, fuck, fuck, we gotta get the fuck out of here...tell the driver to reverse.” Sambath pushed shoved and shouted at the driver who had frozen with shock until he came round. But reverse on the then Route 10 allowed a max of 10kph. And the KR gunner meanwhile was doing a good job tracking. I suddenly understood the phrase “walking the shells.”

But it was the sort of comprehension you don't need in life

I screamed to Sambath: “Forget mines, we have to turn around, tell the driver turn in the field."
So we reversed into the field. And like a bad B movie instantly got stuck. This was where a SUV would have been handy.

Automatically Sambath and I jumped out of the car then dived to the ground as a shell landed nearby. As the debris settled, the two of us, pumped with adrenalin, leapt up and pushed the car free. A macho feat that neither of us would have been cast for. Free! The driver then took off ...without us.

Sambath and I ran after the car, hearts banging as loud as the sound of the shells falling in our footsteps. An eternal 200 meters later, the driver slowed down. I managed to jump into the front and turned to see Sambath dive headlong through the open door onto the back seat. Within seconds we were out of range and in hysterics of nervous laughter.

I roared: "Sambath I could fucking live without this!"

And then we cracked up laughing at the inadvertent wisdom of my words.

As the adrenalin receded, I realized I had lost my camera. A minor issue we both decided. As was forgetting my flak jacket in the taxi trunk when we paid the driver three month's wages. He had finally slowed down after all. And no one deserves to die for someone else's ambition. I moaned about the flak jacket though. Sambath rightly asked what would need it for? And pointed out that when I did need it, it was in the boot.

It was our last trip together before I left for LA. And it was 10 years before I was back in Phnom Penh.
Sambath was settled and prospering. On our first night together, he told me that he had been back to Palin within months of our trip when Ieng Sary did his deal with Hun Sen and the Pailin and Phnom Malai Khmer Rouge went over to the government side.

Sambath told me he was in Pailin after the changing of the guard ceremony and went into a restaurant - always fond of his food. Anyhow he starts talking to some local Khmer Rouge guys - as was his capacity both to engage with and animate anyone. Turns out the two guys are tank crew. They ask Sambath what he does and he tells them he's a journalist.
The KR guys tell him that they almost got a camera a short while ago but didn't stop the tank in time and crushed it. Sambath says: "That's funny, my Irish boss lost his camera on Route 10 a few months back." Sambath recalls a moment of silence and then the KR tank gunners said: "You weren't the guys in the blue Toyota Corolla."
Sambath - "Eh yes were in a blue Toyota."
"Achoi Marai! (Motherfuck!) We fired 16 shells at you. We couldn't believe you got away. Especially when your car got stuck in the field. We were sure we had you."
True to form, Sambath burst out laughing and then proceeded to buy a bottle of whiskey and head off to a house of ill repute with the two former guerrrillas.
 "We could have been killed by the same guys I was getting drunk a few months later...how stupid," he said as he clinked my glass and two of us bent over in hysterics.

Sambath...he could not only talk his way out of hell but he could get the devil to buy you drink and leave him thinking he was privileged to meet you.



It was marvelous to see him go on to do so well in life.

Cos he didn't have it easy. He was a gent and a hustler, a bon viveur and a hard worker.

It breaks my heart to think he will no longer be there to see me and -I must selfishly confess - invariably lavish hospitality on me when I revisit Cambodia.


Kevin Barrington.

Sicily, 2011.