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The Fiona MacCarthy

What pleases and annoys

Instinctive, impulsive, and logical but always passionate and reflective of what I feel here and now.

Individual blogs are in most recent, first sequence and are also grouped in various "categories" which are just to the right & down a bit should you prefer to search that way. Please feel free to add a comment.

Blog restarted June 2018

Middle East

World affairs Posted on Sun, August 24, 2014 08:48:22

We in the West no longer have a policy for the Middle East. Well that’s true other than that we have unblinkered support for Israel and an active arms sales policy for about half the countries from whom we like to buy oil. Ane we love to meddle with the conflict pawns.
I strongly suspect that our support for Israel is based upon a collective sense of guilt as to how we were not proactive in protecting Jews during World War 2 and yes it is a democracy too: rather rare. That makes them the “good guys” at least to the political elite.

Our confusion of thought is compounded by how it is the borders that are often a source of conflict and these were drawn up by the West without respect for regional identities, religious affiliations nor the oil under the ground.

And so having laid the foundations for a mess, we compound by meddling and hypocrisy of dealing.

The Arab nations reflect closely defined self interest with poor respect for human rights. The Palestinians are divided politically and geographically and their factionalism is their own making which they can resolve and without which they cannot move forward. The Palestinians are in my opinion entitled to a geographically sensible viable land upon which to base their economic political nation state. Nationhood brings right and responsibilities and is not a smorgasbord for select choices.

My greatest sense of pity is for the Palestinians in Gaza who as civilians have been sacrificed literally on the ancient altar of revolutionary cause. It is the leaders of Hamas that I call out as the first sticking point. The response of Israel is entirely out of proportion for because of the death of every Gazaian another 2 or 3 will step forward in the future. You dont tackle weeds by killing so many flowers too.

A solution to this particular problem can then be brought about by the Palestinian leadership (West bank & Gaza) sitting with Israel to agree on the new Palestinian state which will respect the right of Israel to exist in peace. That is the core topic.

Sadly that will not happen as the leadership of the Palestinians, Israel, the USA and Europe have not one iota of respect for civilians preferring their diplomatic games. I used to be optimistic but passing years have made me painfully less so when I listen to the lack of empathy in all political statements. Without empathy there will only be more suffering

why Davos is a horseshit

World affairs Posted on Fri, January 31, 2014 00:58:44

A former neighbour of mine and a few years ahead of me in school was invited to present a scholarly text at Davos a few years ago. His name Brian Havel.

You yourself probably did not get an invite this year and nor did I even with influence. Only some 2650 approx got invited from the 7 billion on the planet. (Stick to your sad lottery).

With thanks to the Economist (last week) they admitted to sending a total of 4 journalists to the many journalists who were there. In total ; One journalist for every 10 non journalists. No wonder you could hear so much waffle. (if you wanted) Only 15% of the invites were women such is our importance.

Scarily the business people invited represented 20% of the worlds stock market companies by value.

Major scarey fact from the Economist was that these companies who went to Davos have significantly underperformed the stock markets of the world. Anything between 30 and 50% of leading indices.

Its not surprising as the semi failed companies seek to prop up their struggling companies by hob nobbing with the government for favourite laws. Such are the ways of the corrupting and the corruptible.

Its best to stay away from Davos. Only the failed go (with respect to Brian (who is NOT a failure))

The latest Islam v West

World affairs Posted on Sun, January 12, 2014 10:53:27

Let us consider 4 zones of the world where conflict between the west and Islam prevails.

Our active involvement in Afghanistan is drawing to a close with nearly 450 UK fatalities and over 3,400 coalition forces dead (many more scarred physical and mentally) and over 15,000 civilians have been killed. The US alone has spent £390billion in a country of 33 million people, which is about £12,000 for every man woman and child. The result is an average income of only £450 per person per annum in a state whose leaders are corrupt, elections flawed, infrastructure broken and where the Taliban are as strong as ever. Please don’t even raise the question of education for women in a country that is heading right back to the stone age. Year after year we are told that the enemy are on the run but they only withdraw to regroup due to the seasonal weather. In the last 150 years the British when at their peak failed to subdue the rebels of the time, the Russians failed and now we have failed. Only the industries of war have won. Chine will get interested if its mineral wealth is significant and maybe they too will get their fingers burnt.

We have already withdrawn from Iraq and civilian deaths are over 120,000 and the government of national unity is neither united nor governing. We in the West replaced a brutal dictator (Saddam) who we supported sometimes when it suited us with a corrupt self serving administration.

In the Middle east we nearly went to war recently on a limited surgical strikes tactic against Assad of Syria because he or his people and there is an important distinction in the expression “or his people” as suspicion that his control not absolute, and all because he used chemical weapons on civilians, killing about a thousand. The death toll in total is over 130,000 now of whom approx 50,000 are civilians at least. Another example of failed Western thinking and UN in action as Russia still childishly miffed at what the west did in Libya.

In the same region the slow starvation stranglehold on Palestine continues fuelled by the 2 major factions of Palestinian Arabs failing to agree a common talking front, whilst Palestinians living in Israel are better off. Tony Blair is still working on an outcome for this.

Imagine now yourself as a teenage Muslim looking at how the West has involved itself often on dubious legal grounds in these zones and I at least understand the grounds for anger. It is inevitable that many will be very angry and become foot soldiers for terrorism.

Our politicians fail this first test of empathy. Our motives for involvement and our moral creed is inconsistent and lacks credibility too. Democracy cannot work without an infrastructure of democratic institutions including freedom of expression and of belief, independent judiciary and press, property rights and microlending. Long term spending plans on infrastructure (physical and communication), security and education. A small self serving political elite are but a cancer which will rot away the rest. It is complex and not like an instant meal as often proffered by our own governments.

West and Islam

World affairs Posted on Sat, December 28, 2013 11:03:00

Islam is like many other religions based on subjugation of authority and wealth transfer by the many to the few in return for some form of eternity. Religions in general fail to meet the criteria for protection of consumers afforded under the Sales of Goods Acts. But if that is what you want to do then go ahead. It is important that if you change your mind and opt out or opt in to another religion that you are free to do so without violence. On this account Islam is rather nasty towards lost customers.

Islam suffers another serious flaw as to when it switches from a minority to a majority religion in its treatment of others, or when it gains control of teh levers of state powers. Even Saddam Hussein recognised this in Iraq where approx 50% of the Christian population have since emigrated as two factions of Islam slug it out.

Islam is rather fractious when it comes it interpreptation of a man written book one a half millenium old. Like the bible you can get out of it enough to justify what you want. The contrast between old and new testaments has been enough to split and divide christianity many times.

The actions of the West on amoral basis around the world has been flawed and self serving. We supported the Shah of Iran who provided stability and self enriching dictatorship in preference to encouraging democracy. We supported Saddam when he used chemical weapons on the Iranian mullah led armies and then ditched him like in a lovers tiff or was it oil. We have supported the Israelis confusing religion and country although they are the most divided faction riven parliament when not threatened by outsiders, encouraged a split and weakened Palestinian movement which has never been supported by its Arab brothers. We marched into Kabul with many promises towards the women of the country only to be in the final stages of withdrawal having been bitch slapped many times by a bunch of terrorists. Wwe supported military dictators in Pakistan and developed our drone technology by killing more civilians than terrorists. We have improved our application of technology but lost the support of the people.

In summary we lack moral fibre and consistency of application. We are weak, corrpt and cruel. And then we wonder why a bunch of citizens from our Saudi “friends” fly into a few buildings killing far less than dies last year in Iraq alone.

We need to develop and apply a moral compass of shared citizenship, and equality of opportunity, under a democratic umbrella and applied consistently. We are so far away from that situation or even start of journey that I foresee continual strife and struggle. But we should not be deterred.


World affairs Posted on Sat, December 28, 2013 10:42:07

He opened our eyes to the fact that we were sleepwalking into a blind surrendering of our privacy.

The response of the UK oversight committees has been pathetic and worryining in their weak acceptance of spin and lack of controls.

The USA has been more vigorous with corporations leading congress in demands for more oversight and regulation.

“I have nothing” to hide is often served up as a mantra for “so what” opinion. This ignores the cost of surveillance, its lack of success in preventing actual terrorism and most importantly prevents a proper reply to the question who watches the watchdogs. Our politicians at the controls of the political parties and Im talking higher than the average MP are corrupt and self serving. Their hunger for power and the money it brings will encourage them to stifle questions from the media and citizenship and transparency of government will be compromised.

Litvinenko, Arafat Polonium & Russians

World affairs Posted on Thu, December 26, 2013 18:57:44

I was amused (cynically) to read today via the BBC that a group of Russian forensic scientists had concluded that the Palestinian leader Arafat who had died 9 years ago in November 2004 had succumbed to natural causes. Their conclusions conflicted with a Swiss investigation a year ago that found Arafat to have had high levels of polonium on his personal affects at death but unable to advise whether it had in fact caused his death. A murder investigation was then held by the French but this in my opinion was flawed as no post mortem had been carried out at the time at the request of his wife. The BBC reported, saying ..
results “offer moderate backing for the theory of poisoning””. Reports here from BBC. In my opinion this was as good as it can get without a body to examine. The Russians have not released details of their studies.

My interest was caused by recalling the death of a Russian in 2006 by the name of Alexander Litvenenko in London from Polonium poisoning. Fingers were pointed at a pair of Russian secret service agents now back home who will not be questioned or extradited. The terms of inquest by the coroner were restricted in May 2013 reports from Guardian The scope of the coroners work is still being discussed six months later in November 2013. More from this official website which notes costs to date of £1.8 million. Dates of future hearings are “to be confirmed”. No rush then.

Two very different cases except for Polonium, Russians and failures by Western governments to act promptly. Makings of a good movie perhaps!.

In my opinion the French who were Arafat hosts at the time should have performed an autopsy as a matter of public interest. The British should have held an inquest into the death of Litvinenko promptly rather than procrastinate as they continue to do.

It suited the West for Arafat to die as since then Palestinian cause has been weakened and divided, and for Litvinenko it suits them too to have a card to play with the Russians. Such is the value of human life. Most sad.

Media silence

World affairs Posted on Wed, December 26, 2012 10:06:06

You’d think the prospect of peace between a group of Western democracies, a war that is about a decade old and a nasty terrorist group whose motto could be summed up as submit to our ideas or die would warrant a few headlines in the press.

The talks began again about a week ago in Chantilly near Paris between a delegation from the Afghan Taliban and the official government of that very corrupt country whose fraud we are blind to (Kabul Bank where approx 5% of the country’s GDP not much to shout about has disappeared).

There have been several attempts to get the 2 sides together as all in power realise the war has been a strategic failure and the Taliban’s grip on power in the provinces as strong as ever. We are told we are winning but I don’t see any debate on this in our media and the war has no end, ever. The only losers are the civilians caught in the crossfire or in drone attacks or in bomb blasts orchestrated for headlines. Those adults and children are the real victims in terms of body counts.

These last few days we are shown pictures of our troops trying to catch some of the festive spirit whilst a few tabloids glamour write the exploits of a Royal helicopter pilot as if this a boy war comic magazine. Scarey how we try to make war pretty and simple in the popular press.

It is good that peace talks are under way although the outcome may be worse than current. It is good that our troops are being removed in a planned withdrawal although without air-power and drones the replacing national army is useless and its politicians more self serving than most. It is however a disgrace that we cannot be trusted to talk about the peace talks. A snippet

South Africa

World affairs Posted on Sun, November 18, 2012 09:11:31

Having lived there for 12 years until 1995 I retain an interest in the people, progress and problems of South Africa.

An article in today’s Independent (link at end) prompted this reflection.

The good things have been that the country has not descended into anarchy (it was predicted) and has upgraded electricity (where none), housing and sanitation for many millions.

The bad aspects are sadly more numerous.

Education standards are appalling with poorly qualified teachers working in poor quality schools. This has got worse.

Approx 25% of the Black population do not have proper access to electricity housing and sanitation.

Talk on the emotive issue of land redistribution has ignored the fact that unless you want poor subsistence farming with land-soil degradation, one must invest in irrigation (rain not as regular as Europe), finance providers and education of the farmer.

The politicians have bought off the Black middle class leaving a large part of society stuck on the bottom of the economic ladder.

The country is still largely dependent on mineral exploitation without moving up the value chain.

South Africa was once seen as a gateway to Africa but this is been replaced as other countries exert themselves and realise they do not need to rely on SA as a middleman to prosperity. In this regard China has been a generous colonial (self interested) benefactor.

The future of SA is dependent on the political elite focusing on the basics of economic growth in the form of education, minimum living standards for all, and clarity on the future of ownership of the mining industry. That is a 10-20 year plan; minimum. Corruption gets ruthless treatment in China and the gentle swish of a big holed fly swat in SA

For more please see Independent

An African perspective of Euro-fools

World affairs Posted on Sun, June 24, 2012 10:00:31

The headline “Europe eats itself” sends a cool chill through my body this morning but its correct and to the bone.

The attached article in the South African “Mail & Guardian” is a good perspective of how we in euroland are failing in our resolve to sort out the problem in Greece and to do so decisively. Endless summits are sucking in and damaging the economies of other countries.

Suu Kyi and Burma

World affairs Posted on Sun, April 01, 2012 09:30:24

It has taken decades but at last a sprig of democratic hope is visible in the land of Burma where by-elections take place today and 17 parties plus a few independents compete for the 45 seats on offer in a parliament that will remain tightly controlled by the military self enriching junta.

Its a fantastic day for the Burmese people but my concerns today are for the health of Suu Kyi at 66 not just because of her age but for what she has endured physically and mentally. Her journey is only now at the end of the beginning but her symbolic power is immense nationally and internationally. Now she must make her power real.

I hope the international observers are extra vigilant, the junta non greedy and that the 17 parties can soon unite to no more than 2 groups. Its a country I visited in 1994 when it was already lagging badly behind the other countries in South east Asia and I still remember the expressions of joy on faces when they saw pictures of Suu Kyi in a guide book that was travelling with me. The people deserve far better.

More from the BBC

Browser history

World affairs Posted on Sat, February 25, 2012 10:46:12

A couple of years ago in a marketing lecture class a senior executive from a consumer goods company (Unilever) said that half their advertising spend spend was wasted. A quick comment from one of the class was “then cut it out” to which his reply was “we dont know which half”

Advertisers want to influence us and we have the right to say “no” to their suggestions. To influence us however they need to know more about us not as a collective group but as individuals. Internet advertising is ideal is ideal where technology can be used to track our unique interests, our likes and dislikes.

Google which I rely on heavily for my browsing gas been signing us up in recent weeks to their new policies and the other browsing companies are doing similar. This article by Stephen Foley in today’s “Independent” looks at the wording of these changes.

I like the article but not the implications that even the so called opt out clause to allow tracking has enough planned holes in their wording to allow a continuation of current practises.

There are benefits to targeted advertising but I want the choice to opt in or not when I want it eg opting in when searching for a holiday; opting out when reading online papers. That would be a far better consumer led choice. At the same time I find Im automatically switching off from the intrusive sites with pop up screens, blinkering out the side adverts on the news websites and not reading or even seeing many adverts. My eyes are learning not to read, but I still want the choice to opt in or stay out of tracking.

Whitney Houston

World affairs Posted on Sun, February 19, 2012 09:08:03

Tragic death beautiful voice and the press are raising questions about where the “friends” and family were at a time when perhaps she needed help.

The cause of her death is unknown and speculation fills column inches and even column feet galore.

We live in a world where personal contact and human interaction is less personal, more hurried and paradoxically where it is easier to remain in contact with those we care for. But contact alone is not enough. We will always see in our friends what we want to see unless we take the time to listen and talk with them. A tweet free, phone free, social network free, disturbance free time is too much a rarity. How much of that do we indulge ourselves with?. Sadly too little.

Until we restore human interaction to a level it deserves, talk and listen in abundance (listen twice as much as we talk too) then we will remain “surprised” by the actions of those we claim to love.

Nigerian problems

World affairs Posted on Sun, January 01, 2012 12:14:57

Nigeria has wandered into the news in the past week and not for the kidnapping of western oil workers nor for pollution in the oil regions.

A state of emergency has been declared by the President in certain areas and the border with 3 countries closed as reported by the South African Mail & Guardian today.

There has been a long running problem in the north of the country which benefits less from national oil revenues and where Islamic law has gained legal standing in many states (the political model is based on the USA) which have significant powers. From my time in the country over 10 years ago there have been factions trying to stir trouble and I recall Gaddafi being blamed as a major instigator back then. But that excuse is no more and the troubles which have recently flared are now internally driven.

Nigeria has made progress to reduce corruption since Abacha and his stolen billions but its economy is still too reliant on oil. As a country it produces about 10% of the electricity of South Africa but with a population two and half times bigger, it still imports too much, produces too little and squanders potential . It is currently on trend to double its population in 20 years one of the fastest growths in the world. This will contribute to rising internal tensions in the year and decade ahead. Sadly more bad news expected.

Its a shame to see potential ignored.

Straits of Hormuz

World affairs Posted on Fri, December 30, 2011 17:31:49

In July 1988 an Iranian civilian jet IR755 was shot down by trigger happy American warship: Vincennes. An internal USA inquiry attributed it to “scenario fulfillment”. The USA reached a financial settlement with Iran for the 290 passengers and crew most of whom if not Iranian were from the immediate region although without admitting liability. Such can be the twisted outcome of deals.

Some would argue that this incident was the trigger for the Lockerbie bombing five month later. I believe so, and that Gaddafi was but a smokescreen. My opinion is based on reports from Syrian and German security services of the time whose evidence did not match the desired target to blame as well as the largely circumstantial and paid for information used for a show trial.

My concern at the moment is that we may have another silly accident that may trigger a conflict. Hot heads and the recognition that war can be fought from afar with missiles are too much of a temptation. The West should not seek to escalate this matter without the involvement of Russia and China. Any action should be from the United Nations and not another concoction of western self interest.

Hope for Burma

World affairs Posted on Sun, November 20, 2011 12:02:21

Hilary Clinton is due to visit Burma following a surprising warming of relations between the west and a weird dictatorship.

No one seems to know what sparked this change but it is most welcome. My memories of travel there (1994) are good. A beautiful and patient people enduring hardship in a country surrounded by growing economies.

For a long time it seemed that Burma was only interested in its big brother, China. But recent development have changed that. It seems comparable to the time in the early 1990’s when South Africa realised that its isolationist siege mentality no longer worked. That led to the release of Nelson Mandela and democratic elections for all. I hope something similar is afoot.

More from today’s Telegraph

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