A Licence to Kill…with Impunity


I’m five days late on my ‘sobriety report’ but better late than never and I’m now pleased to tell you that my period of continuous sobriety now stands at 1 year and 1 month. I think that the longer I remain sober, the stronger I feel about remaining so.

The rainy season seems to have started unseasonably early around the lake and we have been having some horrendous, daily thunderstorms – both locally and in Pattaya – almost every day for the past week.

The dogs hate the thunder, but I love the rain as it waters all trees, flowers and grass and keeps the ambient temperature down to more tolerable levels. I guess it is the ‘storm before the calm’ as we slowly edge towards the hot, dry season in April when everyone will retreat into their air-conditioned rooms to get away from the 40+ degree centigrade afternoon highs.

‘A licence to Kill with impunity’

I guess there’s no particular reason why I should single out the blatant self-seeking hypocrisy on the part of Russia and China with regards to the latest showdown at the United Nations over Syria, as this kind of action is no better than we have come to expect from all nations –both east and west, when they feel their personal interests are in some way being in some compromised.

Yet somehow it sticks in the gullet more than most. Here we have the Arab League no less, unanimous in deploring the daily slaughter that is being perpetrated by the vicious Assad regime and we are told by the UN agencies have that ‘crimes against humanity’ are being committed on a daily basis; but because Russia and China hold strong trading relationships and positions of influence with the Syrian government, they have used their veto and refused to join the condemnation.

Let’s face it, even if the UN security council resolution had been passed, it would have had little or no effect on the crimes being committed in Syria – the imprisonment, torture and massacre of civilians, including women and children – but at least it would have laid down a marker. It would have sent a strong message to the Syrian authorities that they were on their own and that the UN strongly deplored what they were about

But instead of this, Russia and China used their veto on what was a fairly ‘toothless’ resolution, and even tried every diplomatic trick in the book to try and derail the tabling of the resolution, putting their own interests first and refusing to acknowledge that the events in Syria were tantamount to wholesale slaughter; all this because they want to maintain an inside edge in any future dealings with Syria and Assad.

And what have really achieved by this cowardly, self-serving act?  Many are saying they have handed the Assad regime ‘A licence to Kill with impunity’

Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that the USA, UK, and the other western nations are bastions of virtue and haven’t ‘dirtied’ their own diplomatic hands when the occasion has demanded it, but this blatant demonstration of self-interest by the Russians and Chinese in the face of the daily deaths of innocent civilians has got to be a new low, in the world of diplomatic machinations.

Consider this: Even Brazil and Pakistan, who are currently members of the UN Security Council, supported the resolution….

Trouble is a brewing in The Falklands

…and we all know why; for the very same reason as that which seems to dominate so much of the diplomatic tensions throughout the world : OIL.

It’s a bit like having yet another elephant in the room, this time, a large, very black one. Our little skirmish with Argentina, which was settled 30 years ago has suddenly been stirred up again, as soon as the oil companies started oil exploration in the territorial waters around the Falkland Islands.

Argentina, being a nation that has lurched from economic crisis to economic crisis has latched onto the current South American, Chavez–led hostility to the old colonial powers, and have seized their opportunity to raise these Anglo/Argentinian enmities yet again.

A good part of me says: why doesn’t the UK just sit down with the Argentines and come to some kind of compromise settlement, whereby Argentina receives an agreed percentage of the oil revenues and everyone goes home happy. All this constant conflict, with its associated stirring up of old enmities and hatred – to say nothing of the costs of sending expensive aircraft carriers to the other side of the world to defend our territories, would be a thing of the past.

It just seems tome to be somewhat ridiculous for so-called civilised nations in the 21st century to still be fighting over the sovereignty of small parcels of land.

Of course, ‘pigs might fly’.

The Falklands conflict brings to mind the age-old argument about when is a conquering power entitled to lay legitimate claim to a territory? How many years must go by before a ‘de facto’ occupation becomes legal in the eyes of the world?

Maybe the South and North American nations should hand back sovereignty of their nations to the indigenous Indians. Ditto, the Australians to the aborigines, or the New Zealanders to the Maoris, and so on. I mean, none of this ‘new world’ colonialism happened that long ago, in terms of world history.

Then, of course we have the Middle East conflict where the Palestinians rightly claim that the Israelis occupied their home land and threw them out. But then the Israelis can point to much further back in history when they – the Jews  – had previously occupied the area that is present day Israel, for thousands of years.

Who has the better claim?  I think you will find that in general terms it will always be the ‘de facto’ occupier who has legality on his side, provided they have been there for at least a few generations. This is especially so when the local population, who have also lived in a particular territory for many generations, express a desire to belong to the ‘occupying’ nation rather than another, as is the case with Gibraltar, The Channel Islands and the Falklands.

The fact remains that although there are conflicting claims as to which nation first discovered the Falklands, the British first ‘occupied’ the then empty Falkland Islands territory in the seventeenth Century, laid claim to it soon after, and have have had a presence there and governed it continuously since 1833.

Argentina did not even exist as sovereign state during the period that The UK first occupied and populated these islands. Also note that there never did exist an indigenous population on the Falklands. When Britain ‘discovered’ it, it was devoid of all human habitation. Most of today’s Falkland Islands citizenry claim British ancestors, in much the same way as, for example, most Australian citizens do in Australia – but with one notable difference – there was, and still is an indigenous Australian population. (I’m not having a ‘go’ at  the Aussies, just pointing out how ridiculous the whole Argentine claim on the Falklands is…)

Today, The Falklands are a self-governing British Overseas Territory, with the United Kingdom responsible for defence and foreign affairs and the Falkland islanders have reaffirmed over and over again that this is the way they wish to remain.

Consider this: the Falkland Islands are some 250 miles off the South American coast. The British Channel Islands are a mere 14 miles of the coast of France.  Yet you don’t hear the French continually bleating about us handing back ‘their islands’ – and this from a country that detests the English probably more than any other nation, having been at war with us for a majority of the past thousand years, (See last week’s blog).

Why? Because the population of the Channel Islands prefer to be governed by Britain – it’s as simple as that, and the last thing the French want, is to govern a territory where the local population are hostile to the French and their culture and prefer to live a British way of life.

Mind you, as far as I am aware –there is no suggestion of any oil deposits existing in or around the Channel Islands, so there is no question of  ‘black gold’ rearing its ugly head to further harm Anglo/French relations; for if there was, who knows what the Frogs may be saying….

A Miscellany of Reviews.

For my sins, I have had to re-learn a lesson that I should have remembered from a long time ago: that if a movie doesn’t appear to be your ‘cup of tea’, and if it hasn’t had good reviews, then don’t ever dream that you will enjoy watching it.

So, completely forgetting this rule, I watched two films recently that were so bad that I wish I had done something completely different with my valuable time. To be fair to me, the first one did seem to have one or two good reviews – including one by The Daily telegraph, (who is usually quite reliable),even though it wasn’t my kind of movie.

It was the ‘The Inbetweeners the British, teenage ‘coming of age’ comedy which had started life as a hit BBC sitcom and had been transformed into one of the most successful box office British movies of 2011. I read the positive reviews, but still had no particular desire to see it until a good friend of mine told me he had seen it and it was hilarious.

Not being one to reject any genre out of hand, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. As it commenced, I was fully prepared to be entertained and amused by the silly antics of a bunch of testosterone-filled teenage boys on their first trip abroad. Indeed I confess that for the first five minutes, I really thought that this might indeed be the exception that proved the rule.

But unfortunately, an early scene when one of the spotty kids masturbated naked in front of a live sex web cam and was interrupted i9n mid -shoot by his mother and sister with the news that his Granddad had just died, turned out to be the high point of the film.

After that, it was downhill all the way, with barely another mirth–provoking antic throughout the remainder of the dire film to redeem it from being a banal, badly acted, badly-scripted, decidedly unfunny garbage. But maybe I am just a grumpy old sod…

The next film was ‘Hangover 2′, an American offering, which cost probably 100 times more than the ‘In Betweeners’ to make and also did amazingly well at the box office. At least with this movie, I could have no excuse for watching it, as every single review panned it mercilessly; and well should they have done.

For my sins, last year I also watched Hangover 1, which although fairly banal,  did contain some good, original humour and was well acted by the main protagonists. As those who have read about Hangover 2 or have had the misfortune to watch it will know, the sequel simply uses all the gags from the first movie and transplants them to some kind of crazy, make-believe Asian state, occasionally referred to as Thailand, (although the local people are referred to as ‘Asiatics’ not Thai), but which bears no resemblance to any country that I have ever had the misfortune to live in.

Not that this would matter if the film was entertaining; but it isn’t. It is total, unadulterated crap without a single redeeming feature. It is worse – much worse – than the ‘In Betweeners’ and trust me, that’s saying something.

Next time, I will remember my rules and trust my instincts.

Contrast these two pieces of  rubbish, which both made millions for their studios, with some of the excellent – nay, superlative fare  – that can be seen on television these days, and I sometimes wonder why I bother with feature movies at all.

Some time ago I wrote a critical piece about Australian TV dramas, and received a fair amount of flak from my Aussie readers for so doing. Well rightly or wrongly, I stuck to my guns over this view, but I am delighted to report that the Aussies have totally redeemed themselves by making a programme which I can honestly say is one of the finest pieces of TV Drama I have ever seen.

I am referring to ‘The Slap’, an 8 part Aussie mini-series based on the book of the same name.

The series was recently broadcast on Channel four in the UK and is deservedly up for multiple awards. If you haven’t seen it yet and you like your drama to be gritty, thought provoking, edgy and sometimes so realistic it is painful to watch, then go no further than ‘The Slap’.

It follows the lives of several characters who attend an otherwise innocuous 40th birthday party, when one of the guests controversially slaps a four-year old who is misbehaving. The resulting court proceedings blow apart lifelong friendships and family relationships and the ensuing story covers virtually the whole gamut of present day social controversies, including rape, infidelity, substance abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, breast-feeding, cultural ethnicity, interracial marriage and so on.

I am sure my Aussie readers would be familiar with some, if not all, of the actors in this piece, but they were all new to me, and I have to say that the entire ensemble cast – including the kids – acted their socks off, without exception.

I will be picky and offer one criticism. I hated the intermittent comments made by a hidden, unknown, ghostly (ghastly!)narrator. The lines narrated were undoubtedly taken from the novel, where ‘omniscient narration’ can be an acceptable literary device; but in a piece of TV visual drama, it is simply a lazy, very old fashioned cop-out. Everything told to us by this ‘mystery’ narrator, could just have easily been included in the script and acted out by the players.

But I am being picky – good on yer Oz – I take my hat off to you, for a brilliant piece of relevant 21st century drama.

By way of total contrast, I also commend the wonderful HBO series, ‘Treme’, to my readers. I have previous written about Series One, and I can now happily report that Series Two is even better.

Treme is a totally different viewing experience to a drama like ‘The Slap’, although it can be every bit as thought provoking and on occasion it can also work on your deepest emotions. But Treme, first and foremost, is a story of modern day New Orleans, its unbelievable music and the magical characters who inhabit it.

If you love music – from Cajun to blues to bluegrass to ‘bounce’ to every kind of imaginable jazz and God knows what else, then just relax and luxuriate in one of the greatest TV series ever made. It is quite unlike any other drama series you will ever watch, as more often than not, the myriad plots and lives of the inhabitants seem to go nowhere – but it just doesn’t seem to matter.

Because that is the true nature of life, especially in places like New Orleans, where most of the folk are dirt poor, where the crime rate is going through the roof and despite all the earlier promises of aid made to them following the devastation of their city by Hurricane Katrina, they have effectively been deserted by the Federal government,  .

At its core, Treme is about its music and the people who love it and make it – and music is at the heart of this incredible show.

If music is in your soul, then watch ‘Treme’ if you can.

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a hoot…

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