Brussels Lockdown, Federal Police Cat Meme

That was a weird weekend. Brussels, the world’s 2nd most cosmopolitan city, with 62% of its population born elsewhere, has been a standstill for three days. The metro is still not running. Music venues, bars, cinemas, suburban swimming pools, all closed. Parents have kept their kids home, waiting for news on whether schools will reopen tomorrow. Soldiers and armed, balaclava wearing police patrol empty streets downtown, and in some of the suburbs. On our roof terrace on Sunday afternoon, the cold November air smelled of barbecues and baking apple pies. There's rumours of a baby-boom in nine months time. Across our street, more lights are on in apartments than seems usual. In one apartment, where the television alternates between cartoons or shoot-em-up games non-stop from 6am till midnight, I can spy revolving news stories showing b-roll of Brussels streets, cut with press conferences with the Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel,...

All Stops to the Point, by Suzanne Walsh

All over the city my friends are losing their homes. The ones you think will last forever, passed from one artist to another, a bit crumbly, with uncertain heating but warm in atmosphere, always with stuff left over from previous inhabitants. Bit by bit they are getting sold or renovated for higher rents and more desirable tenants. But then for others it is worse still: families sleeping in cars, families fleeing conflict across land and sea, braving great dangers for a place to lie safe at night. Where are we all to go?

Admit nothing, blame everyone, be bitter

I paused at a crossroads. An image of a postcard flashed into my head. A postcard I received from my friend Donal, years and years ago. A black and white image showing two hands barely meeting across a map, with three commandments in red strips overlaid: Admit Nothing. Blame Everyone. Be Bitter.

Symptoms of the Subterranean

I’m sick again, and so my world shrinks to the boundaries of the house, sometimes to the bedroom walls or the soft edges of the bed. The living room feels remote, but when I’m a little stronger it become safe territory again. The outside world is still too brash, too bright, in its distance.

The beach at Culleton's Gap, Curracloe, Wexford. Christmas Eve, 2012.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a café in Brussels (where hundreds of refugees are camped in parks, understandably turning down government dormitory accommodation). I’m Irish. I live here, for now. I migrated here, but I’m not a refugee. But look at the history of the Irish diaspora, or that of your own country. Look at how many people in your family or friends are descended from or connected someone who was displaced by war or crushing economic pressures, and think, did any of these people - the Syrians stranded on the beaches of Kos, or arriving in Munich ever dream they would become refugees?

The last Of Our Kind

Beautiful and poignant reaction by Suzanne Walsh, to this weeks news of walrus beachings in the Arctic, and the deplorable global loss of our fellow animals: "And yet not completely: the soft top of the head can still twitch with incoming images, like walrus stampedes on melting ice-floes. It's better to be the last of your kind, when you rule the world, because your kind is burning it up, even here under the clear blue skies." Continue reading The Last of our Kind, over on Visual Verse.

The Crossabeg Book: The Slaney and the World by Dave Walsh

or all the travelling I've done, it's always good to come home. I am writing these words 50m away from the River Slaney, in the south east of Ireland, with a a copy of Crossabeg: The Parish and its People (Vol 2) waiting for me. And I'm honoured to be featured in the book. When my neighbour here, Alice Devine, one of the team who put the book together asked me to write something about my travels, I thought the best way was to show how my upbringing in Crossabeg provided the foundation for everything that followed - including my trips to the Arctic and the Antarctic.

JFK Assassination

Rosemary Willis, a girl of ten, in a red skirt and a white, hooded top, runs on the grass alongside the limousine, filmed by Abraham Zapruder. At frame 190 of the film (Z-190), she slows down, and as she comes to a stop, she turns her head, slightly, to the Texas School Book Depository. She's heard a loud noise. At Z-202 (each frame is one eighteenth of a second), her father, Phil, takes a photo, in which the 'Black Dog Man' can be seen at the white concrete wall, holding a blurred object. The BDM will be gone by the time Philip takes his next picture. At Z-207, Abraham can no longer see Jack Kennedy in the limo; his view is blocked by the Stemmons Freeway sign. At Z-214, Rosemary suddenly turns her head, fast, away from the Book Depository; by Z-217 she is facing Abraham and the Grassy Knoll....

JFK and the Unspeakable

'Did the U.S. Military Plan a Nuclear First Strike for 1963?' is the title of an article by James Galbraith (son of John Kenneth Galbraith, JFK's ambassador to India), published in American Prospect vol. 5 no. 19, September 1994, and the subject of it is 'that the military presented President Kennedy with a plan for a surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union...' As the window for opportunity for attacking the Soviets, before their nuclear capability reached parity with that of the US, was before the end of 1963, James W. Douglass in his book JFK and the Unspeakable (2008) ties this in with the assassination, i.e. it gives the military a motive to get rid of JFK, in order to have someone more compliant press the button, and a motive to make Oswald look like a KGB agent (that business down in Mexico), to have an excuse to attack...

Perils of Dominance

Many years ago now, the film JFK sparked the debate about whether Kennedy would have sent troops (combat troops) into Vietnam or not. Had he lived, would JFK have refused to do what Johnson did? Did the assassination alter the course of history in this regard? Was the assassination convenient for the military-industrial complex and the national security state, in that they got the war that they wanted? Or would it have happened anyway, but with JFK at the bloody helm? The best we can do is examine some historical research. Gareth Porter's 2005 book Perils of Dominance - Imbalance of power and the road to war in Vietnam takes a close look at the relevant historical documents. Its fifth chapter, 'Kennedy's Struggle with the National Security Bureaucracy', contains exactly the kind of information that we're looking for. The case of Laos JFK had visited what was Indochina (which included...