Posts Tagged ‘News’

Ireland decides: perhaps hardened criminals should not drive cabs

January 23rd, 2013 No comments
Plans announced to clean up Ireland’s 6,000 taxi drivers with criminal convictions astonish Angela


In Ireland, after you’ve hailed a taxi, the driver who takes you home might be a sex abuser (convicted), or a thief (convicted) or violent (convicted).

Just when we living on the Emerald Isle thought we couldn’t be shocked about the incompetence of the authorities (two and a half years into our economic bailout, each of us paying €14,000 to make up to rich speculators) – along comes the news that 6,000 licensed taxi drivers here have criminal convictions. That’s about one in six.

Read more…

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Were the Nazis mad? No, says Tel Aviv academic

October 15th, 2012 No comments

The old chestnut of Hitler’s mental state has re-emerged. Angela heard some interesting takes on it at a London conference

WERE THE Nazis mad? Was Hitler possessed by some demon of the mind, which enabled him to carry a nation with him in his genocidal campaigns?

The answer is often a lazy ‘yes’. Collectively we cannot accept that such inhumanity to fellow creatures could be a sustained campaign for a whole nation.

But Jose Brunner of Tel Aviv University begs to differ: madness would have undermined the project. An incompetent or weak mind could not have sustained the huge undertaking which was the Second World War, and the extermination of whole races of people.

“Why do people say the Nazis were mad?” Brunner challenged a conference on totalitarianism in London. ‘They could not have prosecuted a war of that magnitude, over all those years, if madness was the prevailing condition.”

Likewise, says Brunner, a philosophy professor, the comfortably dismissive notion of Hitler as a madman distinct from society does not wash with his career. “If Hitler had been just mad, he would have lived his life in a garret, would never have been able to do what he did.”

Also director of the German history institute at Tel Aviv, Brunner was addressing a gathering of historians, philosophers and psychoanalysts at the Wellcome Centre in London. They had come together to consider the links between totalitarianism and psychoanalysis.

The Holocaust and the Nazi regime were major themes. The 20th century history of psychoanalysis – and in particular how it took root in the United States due to the arrival of many Jewish analysts, fleeing the storm in Europe – was largely seen through the prism of the Holocaust. A key organizer, Daniel Pick of Birkbeck College and the British Psychoanalytical Society, has just published a book on the conundrum of the Nazi mind and the motivation for the Third Reich.

 The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind uses, naturally, the case of Rudolf Hess as one key to the thought processes behind Auschwitz. (Hess was the senior Nazi who was captured after he parachuted into Scotland in 1943, and spent the rest of the war at   Spandau prison camp. There was little doubt that he was mentally ill, with even Churchill weighing in to comment that Hess was a “medical not a criminal case”).

Pick’s book also contains some fascinating material assembled by the OSS, one of the precursors of the CIA, who ‘profiled’ leading Nazis from a distance during the war. Some studies were done at closer quarters during the Nuremberg trials.

But were they certifiably mad? You’ll have to read Pick’s conclusions, but there is certain merit in Jose Brunner’s argument.

On the subject of a more contemporary horror, the debate raged both inside and outside the Norwegian court-room where Anders Behring Breivik stood trial for the murder of 77 people in July 2011. An eminent London psychiatrist told this writer, “Breivik is not necessarily mad because of what he did. He just made different choices.” And the court, in the end, decided that Breivik was sane.

There has been a recent manifestation of interest in Hitler, the Nazis and their inner workings. As well as Pick’s work, Laurence Rees’s book and BBC series, The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler, has just been published. It’s not immediately obvious why this has re-emerged at this time. It is 73 years since the Second World War was under way, although coming up to a tidier 70 years, in December, since the attack on Pearl Harbour which sanctioned the US entry to the conflict.

Whatever the immediate cause, the fascination with the evil of Hitler and his henchmen will remain. The darkness lurks within human beings: we crave to know what causes it to escape.



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Naked Prince lacks common sense as well as clothes

August 24th, 2012 No comments

When did taking your clothes off in private become a capital offence? Angela thinks Harry is in the clear as well as in the buff

Prince Harry might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, nor the most mature 28-year-old in Britain.

But then, look at his father – and I’m not talking Prince Charles here.

However, surely he is entitled to have fun with friends in private, as long as nobody gets hurt. And if his friends enjoy games of strip pool, whose business is it?

But the whole world, thanks to our ‘responsible’ media outlets as well as those characters categorized by Australian PM Julia Gillard as ‘the nutjobs on the internet’, has been privy to snaps of the prince enjoying himself in Las Vegas, and wearing….a watch.

A lot of  pompous stuff has been voiced about the prince’s responsibilities as a senior member of the royal family – ooh, only the other week he was the ranking royal at the Olympic Games closing ceremony. Granted, you might not like to think of the Queen au naturelle, or Prince Charles. But would that mean their credibility as a dignitary, a focus for national pride? Would that be forever dented if some media platforms had published photos of them in the nip?

For some, every time they see Harry on TV or wherever for the rest of his life, those blurry but genuine late-night shots will come to mind. And he doesn’t look too bad, quite fit, as proper for a young serviceman whose upbringing has featured every advantage – except a mother after the age of  13.

Harry’s only real failing in this silly affair is how he picks his friends.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, the saying goes, but one of Harry’s group wasn’t listening to that voice in her head. She was listening to the much more hearty and confident one telling her she could make big money selling pictures of a naked prince, especially with an attractive lady somewhere in the frame.

The prince’s security staff have come in for some stick on why they didn’t leap in –perhaps rugby tackle the woman? Confiscate her phone, more likely.

And Harry will have to learn more sense than to invite randomers back to his hotel room for jolly japes. Get the boy married, to someone like Katie Price perhaps, and all this would stop…

But the brouhaha all returns to the ethical question, for the media, of whether public figures are entitled to a private life. If you can’t have a private life – or, like Boris Johnson, seem able to ride heedlessly, so to speak, through all embarrassing revelations – then you might go a little bit mad.

Max Mosley must have read the Harry coverage – and looked at the pictures – with interest. The Formula One millionaire continues to campaign against media intrusion after his success in suing the News of the World (remember that?) over whipping up a ‘Nazi sex orgy’ story about him.

But with the red-headed prince it’s fabulous gossip, delicious gossip, and plays to the fake prudery with which the tabloids, in particular, like to address their made-up world.


Links: OK, to be fair, here’s a link to James Hewitt denying he could be Harry’s father.

And here’s one to somebody seeing Lance Armstrong’s disgrace and Harry’s embarrassment as two ends of the same spectrum. Not sure that I get the point – or, in fact, Harry is particularly embarrassed!


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Let’s not have a debate – let’s DO something about the media!

May 1st, 2012 No comments

Angela suggests that the cliche ‘we need a healthy debate’ should go the way of the News of the World


‘What we need is a proper debate about the media.’ ‘We need a debate about all these issues.’ Boy, am I sick of hearing and reading that. The get-out clause of politicians seems to have leaked into the discourse of the dissenters and complainers, yet they should avoid this phrase like the plague.

The latest instance is in the surprisingly strong judgment of the Murdochs by the House of Commons Select Committee which heard their evidence on phone hacking and associated sins last summer. The ‘not a fit person to run a media company’ was adopted, apparently, at the urging of Tom Watson MP. Watson, a doughty campaigner who has his own history of pain with News International, has used stronger language for the Austral-American media moguls in the past, and not always well-advisedly. Watson calls News Corp ‘the Mafia’

However, the ‘not fit’ quote was not embraced with enthusiasm by half the committee, five out of 11. Surprisingly or not, depending on your degree of cynicism, the split went along party lines. The five dissenters are Tories, featuring the lovely novelist Louise Mensch. ‘We all felt that was wildly outside the scope of the select committee and was an improper attempt to influence Ofcom,’ Ms Mensch was quoted in the noticeably benign story about the report in Murdoch’s flagship paper in his homeland, The Australian. News Ltd story on the report (Australian)

But still. Today, it is as if someone has pointed up into the sky at night, at the white circular luminous object hanging there, and said “The moon!” The love (or hatred) that dare not speak its name has indeed been named. ‘Not a proper person’ – as I observed on Twitter, the wording has been used in the past about moguls Maxwell and Al-Fayed. Were you under the impression that Rupert Murdoch and co were running all those news organisations out of a desire to make the world a better place? Surely, the old guy loves newspapers, and I cannot fault him for that. I love newspapers, even as I prepare to wave newsprint goodbye from the stage of history. But balanced with love of the print, the sound of the presses – even the lining of the canary’s cage the next day – newspapers, as the press, have to play a central and responsible role in informing citizens about the world around them. This is the role of the media in democracies.

Murdoch senior’s well-judged performance at the Leveson inquiry – far better than the befuddled apologist of the cream-pie attack last summer – showed the flinty charm that has helped him forge a massive business empire. It also revealed a little more of the ruthlessness with which News Corp can treat those who stray from the party line..

But it didn’t indicate someone who was prepared to accept a responsible role in democratic societies – despite the risibly guileless contentions about his insouciance in the face of government changes, and his sunny lack of interest in how power shifts affect the commercial interests of his newspapers.

So…let’s not have a debate that goes on and on and all the windbags wave their bellows around about the media. Let’s get the Leveson report and insist that the Cameron government do something about limiting the power of media owners.

What? Well, maybe we can have a debate about that (only kidding).

Thanks to the Guardian, and other generous sharers, here’s the link to the full report of the Committee:

Commons Report on Murdochs and Phone Hacking

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Babel policy can be counter-productive

April 3rd, 2012 No comments

Angela considers the pros and cons of the comment-rich internet

Who guards the guardian?

Or maybe, The Guardian?

Is it ‘whimsicaleye’, who recently wrote….. ‘It’s time to smash the state.
Summer of Discontent 2012
F*** the olympics.
F*** the c**** jubilee’.

There, loud and proud, on the Guardian’s justly famed website with around 38 million unique users a month. Good stuff, eh?
Over at The Irish Times, are people reading it online for the humour of Frank McNally’s Irishman’s Diary, the polymathic brilliance of Fintan O’Toole, or the robust interventions of his well-behaved interlocutors? On, comments generally appear after Comment pieces, rather than any old bit of news on sites such as

The issue of who is providing journalistic content has gone well beyond the concept of the ‘citizen journalist’. This is the brave, public-spirited individual who reports on events, meetings, injustices, without the benefits of pay or professional training. They then post their accounts of what’s going on for the benefit of all.
But as well as the CJs, there’s a multitude of commentators, aggregators, and responders, who append their comments to news stories on websites. Some also blog and put across their view of the world – whether well-founded or not it’s often impossible to tell.
In last Saturday’s Irish Times newspaper, contributor Stephen O’Byrnes raised the issue of what you might call ‘user-generated content’, and how it should be handled. Here’s a sample…
‘Offering engagement and accessibility to Seán and Mary Citizen
is all well and good (“do keep your texts and tweets rolling in”),
but too often this is becoming a platform for political soreheads
of every hue.’

Although (as I said on Twitter) there was a whiff of elitism in O’Byrnes’ argument, he did raise a point of decision and discussion for ‘big media’ platforms. To what extent do you allow your product – which all news platforms are, if they want to make money – to go open-slather? Over the past five years there has been a mounting enthusiasm, or anxiety, among publishers and broadcasters for using and publicizing the reactions and comments of the audience. (Yes, even audience is a bit of a dirty word now, suggesting the ‘us and them’ structure of the old days of ‘gatekeeper’ journalism, when news was the sacred possession of the narrow and self-elected journalist class.) Read more…

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