Monday, 29 October 2018

UKIP MEP Nathan Gill Weighs In To Defend Pro-Kremlin Media From Action By Ukrainian Parliament

Regular readers of EU Today will be aware that there have been many questions raised over the four years since Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian sovereign territory, Crimea, and the continuing Russian “backed” military activities in the Donbass region, concerning the involvement of individual Members of the European Parliament with Russian state controlled media.

Very famously, Nigel Farage of UKIP was once described by Russia Today (RT) as their favourite British politician. The feeling appeared somewhat mutual as in March 2014 Farage had described Putin as the world leader he most admires.
It was even rumoured at one point that he might be given his own show on the Kremlin controlled station.
Now another UKIP MEP has apparently succumbed to the flattery of the pro-Russian media, Nathan Gill, who sits in Farage’s political group in the European Parliament, the EFDD.
There is currently a controversy in Ukraine concerning two TV channels: 112 and News One because of the intention to close them down in response to their direct and clear pro-Russian and pro-Kremlin positions. 
A draft law on “Approval of recommendations to introduce personal special economic sanctions and other restrictive measures (sanctions)” on the two channels came into force earlier this month.
The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament, stated that “there are systematic signs of imitation of discourse practices of Russian propaganda in the activities of a number of legal entities, permanent demonstration of propaganda and spreading of the ideology of terrorism”.  
These sanctions are to include, amongst other things, asset freezes on the two channels and their subsidiaries, and cancellation of their broadcasting licences.
The two channels are believed to be under the control of Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch and chairman of the pro-Russia political organisation Ukrainian Choice.  He is an opponent of Ukraine’s expressed desire for future membership of the EU, and was claimed by Newsweek to have been identified as a former Russian intelligence agent (23 Nov 2017). 
After one of his December 2013 meetings with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, it has been reported that Medvedchuk publicly promised to "deal with" pro-European protesters in Ukraine.
On 24 June 2014, the Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic informed the OSCE that Medvedchuk was appointed their representative in the negotiations with the Ukrainian Government. He was to become one of the first to be placed on the US sanctions list following Russia’s Legal Annexation of Ukraine.
He was one of the mediators in the bidding process that gave Russia the right to host the 2018 World Cup, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is godfather of his daughter Darina, who was born in 2004.  
The Independent newspaper has referred to him as “Putin’s best friend in Ukraine” (Aug 30 2018), and in his book “All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin” (2006) Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar claimed that Vladimir Putin believed that no question involving Ukraine could be solved without Viktor Medvedchuk.
"The fact that the channel (112) has gone under Medvedchuk's control is evidenced not only by connection with him of the new management. In the summer of 2018, the politician's 'presence' on 112 shows has grown significantly. A man behind the scenes of the Ukrainian politics, Medvedchuk does not personally give interviews, at least for the time being. But the channel's broadcast is full of his quotes, while statements of his political power make separate news.

UNIAN Information Agency (Ukraine) 21 August 2018
And so where does Nathan Gill enter into this narrative?
In fact, he weighed into the debate very shortly after being elected to the European Parliament in 2014 when on September 16th of that year he delivered a speech in Strasbourg telling fellow MEPs that the “EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is leading us into war”. When the European Parliament voted on this on the same day of Gill voted against the Agreement along with his UKIP colleagues.
On November 13th that same year he told MEPs in Brussels that the “EU-Moldova agreement risks deepening crisis in Ukraine”
On his website, on October 15th of this year, under the headline “Why Moldova should NOT join the EU” Gill writes “At the end of September 2018 I was invited to the Moldo-Russian Economic Forum held in Chisinau, Moldova. We discussed issues such as trade development, economic cooperation and membership of the European Union”.
This was the first such forum; next year’s event will take place in Moscow.
Whether unwittingly or otherwise, Gill is consistently echoing the Kremlin line precisely.
Now, with attention focussed on Putin’s "best friend in Ukraine", who should come to his defence but none other than Gill himself.
On October 23rd,  just days after the draft law calling for sanctions on the two Ukrainian TV channels, Gill was to table a written question to  the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. 
“The Ukrainian Parliament has voted in favour of sanctions against various news broadcasters, such as NewsOne TV and 112, which may now be forced to terminate their activities. Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are fundamental commitments of the Ukraine under the terms of the Association Agreement signed with the EU. How will the EU ensure that there is freedom of the press in the Ukraine and that the terms of the Association Agreement are honoured?”
Note that Gill is asking the EU to ensure that the terms of the Association Agreement, which he personally voted against, are honoured.  Astonishing hypocrisy, one might say. 
In tabling this question, which has no legislative value whatsoever, not to mention the answer, which will be written by a staff member in the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels and will be of little interest to the world, Gill has, either unwittingly or otherwise, handed Zyagar’s “Kremlin's Men” a propaganda coup.
EU to consider issue of Ukrainian authorities' pressure on 112 Ukraine and NewsOne TV channels”, screamed the headline on the 112 website on October 24th. 
“Federica Mogherini will assess the actions of the Ukrainian Parliament in relation to free media in Ukraine” it continued to misinform its readers, courtesy of Gill’s naivety. Or otherwise.
Lobbyists from these channels - often posing as journalists or human rights activists - are known to be operating in Brussels trying to find support from European politicians claiming violations of freedom of speech and media persecution in Ukraine. It appears they are finding their targets. This is an issue the European institutions might better use their time addressing.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Peggy Sue has passed away....

A long, long time ago.... as Don McLean sang....

Buddy Holly was working on a ballad that he could not quite get together: it was provisionally titled 'Cindy Lou'. He ran it past the band, and his drummer, Jerry 'Ivan' Allison, picked up on it straight away.

Jerry was courting a young lady by the name of Peggy Sue Gerron, and he felt that he might win her heart more easily if Buddy was to release the song under a different title. He also persuaded Buddy to make it a more up tempo rocker, and he added a frenetic drum back beat.

And so the song was released as 'Peggy Sue', and was to become one of the best selling records in Rock n Roll history.

Sadly, Peggy Sue passed away a few days ago at the age of 78, in her, and Buddy's, home town of Lubbock, Texas.

Her name will live forever, thanks to Buddy Holly.

Friday, 5 October 2018

The death of British comedy... Johnny English Strikes Out!

I love comedy. It is my great passion. I particularly love Jewish comedy (the best!) and the unashamedly 'naughty' British comedy of the 50s & 60s (think about Carry On movies and seaside postcards) and I have been totally unaffected by the disease of political correctness.

Tonight I watched the new Rowan Atkinson movie Johnny English Strikes Again.

Credit where credit is due, I think this is the first movie I have watched at a cinema where I haven't either fallen asleep or simply gotten bored and wandered out in about two years.

I did chuckle once or twice during the film, but to be honest just one hour after the end end of this screening I have no recollection of any single line in the script. Nor do I recall the plot, if indeed there was one.

Rowan Atkinson is one of our greatest comics, without doubt, but he deserves better material then this. 

Monday, 19 March 2018

Up Pompeii!

I remember when, whilst enduring Primary School, I first learned about the events of some 2000 years ago at Pompeii. This detail of ancient history really caught my imagination.

And so I was enthralled by the current Pompeii exhibition in Brussels, which I wholeheartedly recommend.

I am often critical about such expos in Belgium, as they have a tendency towards replicas. Replica dinosaur bones, replica terracotta warriors, replica governments, and so on. But this one really delivers.

More than 100 of the artefacts on display are from Pompeii, and how fascinating they are. I had the feeling that I could pick up any of these ancient relics and use them for their intended purpose; and so many of them are very personal - they were actually held and used on a daily basis by the men and women who perished so long ago.

The highlight for any political obsessive such as myself is what is believed to be the skull of Pliny the Elder. Displayed alongside a Gladio - the ancient Roman sword - found by his remains, this is a glimpse into the very beginning of classical European history.

The expo runs until April 15th.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Daily Mail: Leading The Race To The Bottom

I first realised that something was wrong in 2004 or 2005 when I picked up a copy of the Daily Mail and on the front page headline the word "marriage" was spelled incorrectly.

 Since then, I have noticed an accelerating decline in the use of the English language in all media. But it is not only a grammatical problem: this is from the Mail on Sunday today (11 Feb).

"Over the past century, photography has emerged as perhaps the most accessible and influential art form, allowing us to bear witness to some of our planet's most formative moments in recent time. 

Whether it be the the scenes of devastation on 9/11 or the aftermath of nuclear fallout in Vietnam, many of us are able to instantly recognise the most iconic and controversial photographs ever taken." 

Nuclear fallout in Vietnam?

Newspapers now appear to expect journalists to work for nothing. We have a saying "pay peanuts, and you get monkeys”.

Was there not a sub-editor in place to pick this up?

Well, I suspect that I know the answer to that. No, there wasn't. I wonder even if the typesetting (is it still called that now?) is outsourced to a country where English is not the native language, but labour is cheap.

It is not just the Daily Mail, of course. As a publisher myself I follow my competitors carefully. 

It may be that the Daily Mail simply reflects the academic level of its readership, which I think is quite likely the case. But that is no excuse for editorial incompetence and illiteracy.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

John Mahoney Has Left The Building

I love comedy, and one of my great indulgences, when I have the time, is to watch Channel 4 on a weekday morning when 3 episodes of Frasier are screened over 90 minutes. It is my absolute favourite on every level. I am particularly fond of the episodes written by Christopher Lloyd.

And so I was saddened to learn this morning of the passing of John Mahoney, the English-born and highly esteemed actor who played the role of Martin Crane, Frasier's father. Like every character in the show, Martin was indispensable to every plot. This was the most beautifully written and played character.

Interestingly, Mahoney didn't even want to read for the part; he had bad experiences with tv sitcoms in the past. However, when he did read the first script he realised that this role would define his career.

I tend to analyse comedy somewhat, and the beauty of Frasier is that it rewards repeat viewings. There are episodes I have watched at least 3 times, and always I find something new. Funnily, when Frasier Crane first appeared as a character in Cheers I didn't like him at all. The character was somewhat out of place, and I found him an irritating distraction. I would now say that I would consider Frasier to sit alongside Fawlty Towers as one of the greatest comedy series of all time.

The dynamics between Martin, a disabled former police officer, and the other characters were just wonderful. His dog, Eddie, was a prop utilised to perfection. But what I have always enjoyed most of all is the relationship between Martin and his housekeeper, Daphne, played brilliantly by Jane Leeves.

An intensely private man - even his co-stars knew nothing of his personal life - he passed away in a Chicago hospice after a short illness. He will be much missed, but he will continue to make us laugh for decades to come.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Did Gerry Adams Set Up His Own Men For Ambush?

Irish Republican leader Gerry Adams was rumoured to have set up a notorious terrorist gang for ambush, according to newly released files from Irish National Archives.
Eight members of the Provisional IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade were shot dead in May 1987 after they loaded a 200lb bomb on to a stolen digger and smashed through the gates of police barracks in Loughgall, Co Armagh.
The resulting explosion destroyed half the building. The gang had also planned to murder three off-duty police officers who were due to leave the station at that time.
British Army Special Forces were lying in wait and killed them all: in terms of the number of terrorists neutralised this was the most successful operation of its kind to be carried out by the security services during ‘the Troubles’.
Declassified documents released through the National Archives in Dublin revealed that ballistic tests on weapons found on the dead were used in 40-50 murders.
Three civilian contractors had been murdered in the counties that year along with officers in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the British Army's Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).
The rumour about Mr Adams was passed on to Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs by respected priest Fr Denis Faul about three months after the Loughgall operation, who had attended school in Dungannon with Padraig McKearney, one of the IRA gang, said the theory doing the rounds was that 'the IRA team were set up by Gerry Adams himself'.
Fr Faul, a school teacher and chaplain in Long Kesh prison, where terrorists were incarcerated during the Troubles, said the rumour was that two of the gang - Jim Lynagh, a councillor in Monaghan, and McKearney - 'had threatened to execute Adams shortly before the Loughgall event'.
It was being claimed that Lynagh and McKearney 'disliked Adams' political policy' and that they were leaning towards Republican Sinn Fein.
Three days after the operation, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Lenihan wrote to Northern Ireland Secretary of State Tom King urging him not to triumph over the killings.
Mr King wrote back over a week later and revealed: 'My advice is that that group had at least 40-50 murders to their score over the years.'
Notes from briefings by the British Government to Irish officials in London revealed the security forces claimed the IRA fired first; that the gun battle lasted two to three minutes; that the SAS fired 'no more rounds than were necessary' and that every IRA weapon had been fired.
This particular operation has long been associated with speculation about an informer having tipped off the RUC and British Army. 
The 1987 archives offer some indication as to why such suspicions might fall on Adams, generally accepted to have been head of the Army Council of the Provisional IRA.  Files also suggest that Adam privately believed the IRA's campaign would not succeed, and that terrorism was hampering his own personal ambitions and attempts to win support for the party at the ballot box.
The revelation was passed on to a diplomat by senior Catholic cleric Bishop Cahal Daly who commented on Mr Adams' 'deviousness and fundamental untrustworthiness’.
The report said: 'The Bishop has picked up a rumour that Gerry Adams is currently trying to put together a set of proposals which would enable the Provisional IRA to call a halt to their paramilitary campaign. 'He has reached the view that the 'armed struggle' is getting nowhere, that it has become a political liability to Sinn Fein both North and South and that, as long as it continues there is little chance that he will be able to realise his own political ambitions.' 
If the suggestions do in fact have a basis in fact, Adams would not be the first IRA leader to fall under suspicion. In July 2015, the Belfast Telegraph reported on claims made by a former British Army agent that Adams confidant and fellow IRA Army Council member Martin McGuinness was himself an informer with the codename ‘J118’.
McGuiness is believed to have fired the first shots, with a Thompson sub-machine gun, that sparked off violence at a demonstration in Londonderry on January 30th 1972 that led to 14 deaths.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

A Look Over A Phantom!

This is XV424 - "I-India" - a Phantom FGR2 of 56 squadron. I was rather pleased to take a look inside the cockpit recently, for the first time since 1983.

My responsibilities were few, and consisted of taking photographic equipment off the crew as soon as they landed, not a particularly demanding task, but an enjoyable one as I loved being around these aircraft, and in those days the noisier they were the better, which might go some way to explaining why my hearing is not quite what it should be. It was either that or all those Rockabilly gigs.....

The Phantom had a 16mm camera - the G90 - that basically filmed the aircraft's attack radar, allowing the crew to analyse their performance after an exercise, or occasionally, after a QRA intercept on a Russian aircraft over the North Sea.

QRA involved the use of a hand-held camera - a bulky but reliable 35mm Canon F1 - the film from which had to be processed (by hand) and printed (also by hand) very quickly. At weekends there would only be one of us on duty on the photo section, so it was quite an intense hour or so before getting two sets of prints - one for the squadron and one for JARIC (Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre) - out as quickly as possible. The prints had to be of the highest quality.

It was a great joy to see the image appear in the developing tray - often the Russian aircrew could be seen waving at the camera - one of the better parts of the job in a section where, over the years, the avoidance of tiresome duties had been perfected to an art form. The only things that really did any work there were the old B&W TV set and the kettle.

The beauty of RAF Wattisham, however, was that we got heaps of overseas detachments that were never boring.

There were two Phantom squadrons at Wattisham, 23 being the second.

XV424 is now housed in a museum, just another part of the global conspiracy to make me feel old.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Tony Booth 1931-2017

I was saddened to learn today of the passing of an old acquaintance: the actor, comedian, and political activist, Tony Booth. 

He was 85 years old, not such a bad age, but had suffered from Alzheimers.

Our paths first crossed in 1975, if memory serves correct, in Leeming Road, Borehamwood. I was walking home from school, and he was taking a break from filming, and sheltering from the rain in a shop doorway. At that time he was famous for being Alf Garnett's son-in-law, the 'Randy Scouse Git', so I strolled over to wind him up. He told me to "fuck off home".

Tony's character was highly politicised, and reflected his own political views. He was, to put it bluntly, a Marxist-Leninist.

We maybe met half a dozen times, and it was always a great pleasure. I particularly enjoyed explaining to him in the Red Lion in Whitehall in the late 90's that the only half decent economic manifesto that his beloved Labour Party ever produced was the one written by Sir Oswald Mosley. He didn't take that so well - the Labour Party prefers to forget that the facist leader Mosley was once one of their MPs.

I once threw a firework at Tony, at a demo, again in Whitehall. I missed.... He told me to "fuck off" again.

The last time we met was when we both addressed the National Pensioners Convention, I believe in 2002. Bill Morris, the trade union leader, and Jack Jones - a former Communist Party commissar during the Spanish Civil War - were also on the bill. I was in seriously dodgy company that afternoon.

I think my speech went down well, but Tony gave a great one. Having taken his chair about 1 minute before he was due to speak, and despite being totally pissed, he got a standing ovation.

A lot of people suspected that Tony had a drink problem, but he would have strongly disagreed: for him it was no problem at all.

Tony will of course be best remembered for being the father-in-law of Tony Blair, something that will really piss him off. There was a love-hate relationship between the two.

There could not be two people more ideologically opposed than Tony Booth and myself, but he was a great character, and a lovely chap to be around. There are far too few people like Tony Booth in this world.

Rest In Peace, Tony.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Long Ago And Far Away....

Me and the lads at RAF Luqa, August 1977. Behind us is a Nimrod MR2 of 203 Squadron.

The MR2 was state of the art in its day, and I remember being impressed when a crew member told us that its computer was so sophisticated that you could actually play chess against it!

There were also photo recce Canberras - which I was later to work close to on  Armament Practice Camps in Cyprus just a few years later - as well as Vulcans that had been converted for a maritime radar reconnaissance role.

The same cameras I saw for the first time on the Canberra flight line I was to be training on myself just 15 months later.

Officer's Mess, Hal Far
It was a very busy base, but we were billeted in the old officer's mess at RAF Hal Far, a WW2 fighter base, and home to 'Faith', 'Hope', and 'Charity', three ageing Gladiator biplanes that held the Italian air force back in 1940. Being at Hal Far was liking stepping back in time to a colonial past, and I loved every single second of it.

We also discovered the existence of 1151 Marine Craft Unit (MCU)  - hadn't even known that the RAF possessed such things - and enjoyed a run at sea clinging to the deck of an  unbelievably fast launch.

The Cold War had its downsides, but it did mean we got some great toys to play with!

This was one of two Air Training Corps summer camps I enjoyed that year, spending the following week with 617 Squadron - The Dambusters - with their wonderful Vulcan 'V' bombers. The RAF guys looked after us cadets brilliantly.

The Nimrods and Vulcans and the MCUs are long gone now.

203 Squadron disbanded in December 1977 as we pulled out of Malta, and a disastrous decision by the Conservative government means we have no ariel anti-submarine capability at all. Russian submarines are currently able to lurk off the coast by Faslane with impunity, monitoring our missile subs as they go out on patrol.

617 is in the process of reforming, and is due to 'stand-up' in January 2018 when it will be the first to operate the new f-35 Lightning.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

June 6th - "The Longest Day"

Today, June 6th, marks the 73rd anniversary of the allied invasion, and subsequent liberation, of occupied Europe - D Day.

It was a Tuesday, like today, and the weather was miserable, just as it is in south-eastern England again today. 

England was on lock-down in the weeks leading up to the invasion - the largest seaborne assault in history, but everybody knew something was coming. People who lived through those days witnessed American and Canadian troops camped out everywhere, with tanks and other armoured vehicles streaming towards the coastal towns and harbours. Even by the standards of austere war-time Britain food became harder than ever to obtain, and train stations were often out of bounds to all but essential personnel. 

I well remember my grandmother telling me about the morning. Her memories of the war years were most profound; my father was nursed in an air raid shelter, with the sound of anti-aircraft fire a backdrop to everyday life.

In the early hours of June 6th, as she recalled, there were no air raid sirens, but the deafening noise of heavy aircraft overhead. As dawn broke the sky was black with aircraft heading east, and especially she remembered the strange sight of hundreds of gliders being towed by bombers (she was probably looking at Dakotas, not bombers).

The noise of aircraft did not let up until nightfall, and even then was punctuated by the familiar sound of the bombers on their way to wreak havoc on the enemy.

The landings began shortly after midnight. Official figures state that 75,216 British and Canadian troops, and 57,000 Americans landed by sea
HMS Belfast: The guns behind George fired the very first shots on D-Day.
that day, with 7,900 British and 15,500 Americans arriving from the air. Eventually, over one million troops were to be landed.

Casualties were horrendous; some 4,400 troops died in the initial onslaught, but by the end of the day the beachhead had been established, and the armies were moving inland.

French civilian casualties - and this is rarely discussed - were very high. As the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pounded the coastal defences, entire villages were obliterated. 

The French city of Caen was bombed on the day, with the loss of at least 2,000 civilians.

But to warn the French would have been to betray the entire operation. De Gaulle et al had proven that they could not be trusted, and so the French were kept in the dark until the last minute - there was some time to mobilise the small number of resistance fighters in the area, but tragically no time to evacuate the civil population. 

The German forces were under strength, with very low morale. Many were low quality 'volunteers' from conquered territories, mainly from Russia, and, somewhat bizarrely, Mongolia.

The Battle of Normandy raged on until mid-July: Over 425,000 from both sides were to be killed, wounded, or went missing. 

And we moan about how we may have had a hard day.....  

HMS Belfast can be visited in the Pool of London, she is moored between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, on the south bank of the Thames.