Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Hidden Menace - sterotyping Arabs and glamorizing Israelis

The following originally appeared on my website

When Mossad operative Dov Shamir kills an al-Quaida terrorist in London, his face is captured on a webcam, turning a routine elimination into a nightmare.

Branded a “rogue operative” and abandoned by his own people, Dov takes refuge in the home of the one man he can count on to help him – a Palestinian intellectual who was his professor and mentor at the School of Oriental and African Studies where he did his PhD. Though Dov and Rahman are divided by politics, Rahman is a man of immense personal loyalty and a staunch opponent of anything that will bring the Palestinian cause into disrepute (as well as being Dov’s former SCUBA diving partner).

But it becomes particularly important to help when Dov reveals the terrorists’ plan to blow up the sunken wreckage of an old World War II munitions ship packed with high explosives. And when the terrorists ambush them, Dov has to form an uneasy alliance with Salima – Rahman’s feisty and distrustful 24-year-old daughter.

Unable to convince the skeptical authorities that the attack on the ship is anything other than a desperate fabrication by Dov, their only hope is a junior police officer. But he has motives of his own. And with the net closing in on the fleeing Israeli operative, Dov and Salima find themselves caught in a race against time to stop the attack before hundreds of innocent people are killed.

I have to confess that I had reservations about Hidden Menace, because on re-reading, it does seem to stereotype Arabs somewhat. I say "stereotype" rather than "demonize" because the book does have some "good" Arabs too - i.e. those who oppose terrorism. But I still can't escape the feeling that I have created stereotypes and effectively sold my soul to the realms of Hackdom, as it were.

This is not what I am about - normally. I like to think that I possess a modicum of literary sophistication. To this end, I try to avoid stereotypes in my characterization, just as in my use of language I avoid cliches like the plague. On the other hand, controversy sells. Look at good ol' Jeremy Clarkson raising hell by suggesting that public sector workers who go on strike against unilateral attempts to breach the pension provisions of their contracts should be shot. A silly off-the-cuff comment that is quintessentially Jeremy Clarkson. In other words, the kind of low-brow, man-in-the-pub macho talk upon which Clarkson has built his stag-party reputation.

And guess what? All of a sudden, everyone's talking about Jeremy Clarkson just when his star was fading. It seems that just as being outrageous can buy the untalented their proverbial 15 minutes, it can also breathe a new lease of life into the talented but erratic.

And while we're on the subject of talented but erratic, let's get back to talking about me! My new book may not be a literary masterpiece. As with cars that's my other book. But it is what I would call an excellent Velvet Underground piece - in other words, a Loo Read.

And as for that cheap shot at publicity.... well here's my contribution to the debate: Jeremy Clarkson should be shot! Now would somebody kindly report me to the Director of Public Prosecutions - PLEASE!!!!!!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Christmas (commerce) is coming

So with halloween over and Guy Fawkes night almost upon us, we are now entering the Christmas rush, when shops start selling like mad as frantic customers venture out into the cold, dark streets to buy presents for family and friends, big gifts, little gifts, special gifts for that special person and stocking fillers.

A few years ago, a survey showed that the Scots are actually the most generous people in Britain but that Yorkshiremen lived up to their miserly reputation.  Then a couple of years later another survey showed that the people of Yorkshire are the most generous but that the Scots lived up to their reputation.  So is this just a case of you-can-prove-anything-buy-surveys?  Well actually, no.  The surveys contained a lot of useful information once you actually looked at their methodology.

The first survey - in which the Scots came out on top - looked at how much people spent on Christmas presents.  The Scots led the country at £401 (this was quite a few years ago) whereas our friends from Yorkshire averaged a mere £80.  But in the second survey, the basis of comparison was how much they gave to charity.  And here the roles were reversed, with the Yorkshire people showing as the most generous and the Scots coming out as misers.

But this all serves to illustrate a very good point made many years ago by James (the amazing) Randi when he dismissed palmists, astrologers, dowsers, tea leaf readers and phrenologists et al over their alleged ability to discern human traits from unscientific and obviously irrelevant "evidence."  He pointed out that it is meaningless to say that some one is "generous" not only because it was most people want to hear, but also because people can be generous in some respects and mean in others.  The same can be said of intelligent, friendly, courageous, introvert, extrovert or any other human characteristic.

But to return to generosity and Christmas, I would venture to suggest that it is a time when lonely people yearn not for others to be generous, but for the kind of human company that would enable them to be generous - i.e. some one to buy Christmas presents for and some one to go Christmas shopping with.  Of course one can treat oneself to an iPad, iPod or iPhone or an amazon Kindle or any one of the countless gadgets or celebrity books or cookbooks that flood the shops at this time of year.  or even go on a holiday abroad.  But it's not the same as having some one to share it with.

At least if your a Scotsman.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The junkie, the drug-dealer and the innocent man

This is a story about the murder of an innocent, vulnerable man called Kevin Tripp (right), by a heroin-addicted, professional shoplifter and slag called Antoinette Richardson and her career-criminal boyfriend Tony Virasami (below), who has criminal convictions stretching over thirty years for robbery, shoplifting, criminal damage, handling stolen goods, drug dealing and driving offences.

The facts of the case are that on the 10th of June 2008, the slag Antoinette Richardson tried to push in front of a young man called Adam Prendergast and his eight-year-old stepdaughter in a branch of Sainsbury’s. Prendergast chided Richardson for her rude behaviour and she responded like the foul-mouthed slag that she is, calling him a “little tramp.” At this point Prendergast lost his temper and told Richardson to “f*** off out of my face.”

Because Richardson was unused to some one standing up to her, and desperate for revenge against the young man who had not allowed her to get away with her pathetic attempts at bullying and intimidation, she phoned her jungle-savage, junkie boyfriend, Tony Virasami, summoning him to the scene.

When he arrived, she incited him to assault Prendergast. Unfortunately because the drug-addicted Richardson slag had difficulty communicating, the scum-bag Tony Virasami – who has not yet mastered such basic skills as understanding human speech – went up to another man, Kevin Tripp, and struck a vicious, murderous blow to his face, killing him.

After the ugly jungle savage had struck the blow, and while Kevin Tripp lay dying on the ground before her eyes, what did the evil, murderous Antoinette Richardson do? Did she make some effort to give first aid to the man whom she knew to be dying as a result of her malicious incitement? Did she summon help for him. Did she show any remorse or regret? Not a bit of it!

Instead, the cheap little junkie slag called out to her boyfriend that he had got the wrong man and said “We need to find the right guy.” Then, like the spineless backstabbing bitch that she is, she fled the scene, leaving Virasami to face the music for the murder that she had incited. So in addition to being ill-mannered, arrogant and vicious, she is also cowardly and treacherous. Fortunately, she was later arrested by police at her home in Sedgehill Road, Catford.

If you’re thinking that she’s a cheap slag who has forfeited the moral right to life, you’re right.

The victim, Mr Tripp was a good man who left behind him a loving partner and a five year old child.

Now when a person assaults another with the intention of either killing or causing grievous bodily harm and thereby causes death, that person is guilty of murder, not manslaughter. And from the force of the blow it is clear that Virasami INTENDED to cause grievous bodily harm. Therefore Virasami was guilty of murder. Richardson must have known Virasami's strength and by inciting him she was knowingly encouraging him to commit grievous bodily harm. therefore she too is guilty of murder.

Yet for some reason the Crown Prosecution Service allowed Virasami to plead guilty to manslaughter. Worse still, the Richardson slag tried to perjure her way out of it altogether, despite video and witness evidence showing her urging the jungle savage to hit Prendergast. In the event she too was found guilty – but again only of manslaughter.

However, the worst was yet to come. Because the criminal-friendly judge – who could have handed down sentences for life-imprisonment even for manslaughter – sentenced Virasami to only four years and Richardson to only eighteen months. These are the kind of sentence one would give if one were a friend of the criminals. Indeed because of time already served and remission, they were soon out on the streets again. No honest judge could think that such sentences are adequate for the crimes they committed.

It is almost inevitable that such sentences will inevitably encourage similar scum to commit similar crimes. Moreover Richardson and Virasami will be emboldened by these sentences. Indeed those scumbags probably think they have a monopoly on deadly violence. But what goes around comes around. They will soon find out that they don’t.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Richard Silverstein exploits Haitian earthquake victims

Once in a while I like to slum it by reading Richard Silverstein’s attempts to demonize the Jewish state in which he uses the kind of unscrupulous methods that all decent people would rightly find repugnant.  I’ve just fallen into the cesspool of his belief  system yet again, reading an article he wrote on Israel’s prompt and effective disaster relief in Haiti after the earthquake there – relief which apparently bothers Silverstein immensely.  In an article called “The Zionization of Disaster Relief” he subjects his hapless readers to the anti-Zionization of Disaster relief.  That is, he uses an article that is ostensibly about disaster relief in Haiti as a peg on which to hang his anti-Israel beliefs.

Not content with limiting himself to the dishonest accusation that the Jewish state gave this assistance for purely publicity reasons (an accusation that is false but wholly in character for Silverstein) it seems that Silverstein has now set himself up as an expert on aid and has decided for others what is best way to help them – even as he sits on his toochas not actually lifting a finger to help them himself.  Specifically he claimed that in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, portable toilets and digging equipment were needed more urgently than a field hospital and doctors.

The one thing he omitted was evidence to support this assertion.  He also didn’t mention that these other things were also available from other sources more locally based.  Nor did he take into account that the Israeli medical team was dispatched before the situation on the ground was clear.  Under those circumstances, it was only natural that medical aid was deemed to be the highest priority.

Now Silverstein’s defense would no doubt be that he was actually quoting an article by Yoel Donchin, a former Israeli relief worker who by then worked as Director of Patient Safety at Hadassah hospital.

But Silverstein made no effort to interview or read anyone other than this one disgruntled former employee of the Israel army to get anything like a balanced picture.  He simply seized upon words that he knew lent themselves to the demonization of the Jewish state, quoted them freely and looked no further – thereby showing his low regard for the truth and his determination to advance his anti-Israel agenda.

Some facts contained in the article are in fact pro-Israel in their import, but they are so cleverly camouflaged as to effectively negate their pro-Israel connotations.  And of course Silverstein makes sure to avoid pointing this out, although he editorializes freely before and after quoting the article to stir up negative feelings towards the Jewish state.  Take for example the following passage:
“I understood the purpose perfectly when the head of one of the delegations to a disaster zone was asked whether oxygen tanks and a number of doctors could be removed to make room for another TV network’s representatives with their equipment. (With unusual courage, the delegation head refused!)”
So the Israeli head of the delegation refused.  In other words he placed the treatment of the injured above the wishes of the press or any public relations considerations.   But that cuts no ice in the biased eyes of Silverstein or his equally mendacious source.  Because it was “unusual courage.”  So there we have it.  When Israel does good it’s all for the wrong reason and when their behaviour doesn’t confirm the anti-Israel propaganda it’s “unusual.”

And Silverstein doesn’t stop there.  He publishes a comment from a woman claiming that the Israel medical team didn’t even stay a week.  He replies that they stayed 11 days, but does not take her to task for her dishonesty.  He then claims, without offering any evidence, that they would have had to stay longer to make a difference – conveniently ignoring the fact that by then, many others had come.  Next he publishes a comment from another woman claiming that “Zionists have control over the news media.”  This woman is a well-known supportive contributor to Silverstein’s blog noted for her rudeness.  On another occasion she described a Jewish contributor  as having “reptilian skin” without public comment or warning from Silverstein.  In contrast he is quick to warn or ban supporters of the Jewish state who use language that he claims to be impolite, as indeed he did a short while later in the thread about Israeli aid to Haiti.

Finally he allows an off-topic posting accusing Israel of selling arms to the Duvaliers in Haiti (going back a bit).  Why this historical alleged information is any more relevant than weapons sales to other dictators by Arabs or Communists, he doesn’t say.  But let’s not forget that this is the Jewish state and so it suddenly assumes a great relevance to a posting about recent earthquake relief.

And let’s not forget that Silverstein started it off by criticizing Israel for giving medical aid to Haiti.  You can draw the appropriate conclusions about his ethics from that.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Justin Bieber - a matter of taste

I have noticed, every time I log on to YouTube to listen to my favourite music from the sixties through the eighties, that there is invariably some disparaging comment, contrasting the music of Justin Bieber with the great music of the past. I have seen this on YouTube videos of a range of my favourites from The Seekers to Jethro Tull to Melanie Safka, from Abba to Jim Croce to Dire Straits, from the Alan Parsons Project to Ace of Base. Whilst I certainly prefer all those acts - and many more - to anything that Justin Bieber has done thus far, I think those critics are being unfair to him - on a number of counts.

First of all, let us not forget that Justin Bieber is very young, barely seventeen, and has not really had the time to develop genuine musical sophistication. In spite of this, he managed to teach himself to play the guitar (left-handed), piano, trumpet and drums - and all by the time he was fourteen. To learn to play even one musical instrument is hard. To teach oneself to play four takes a degree of dedication that your average X-factor contestant, or even winner, simply does not have. It is for that reason that I suspect Justin Bieber has the kind of staying power in the music industry to avoid being a hear-today-gone tomorrow supernova, as well as the self-discipline to avoid the all-too-familiar burnout that plagues the likes of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

But what implication does this have for his music? To answer that question we must look at older musical talent that has stayed the course. They may differ from each in many respects but the one thing they have in common is a tendency to change their styles as they mature, to experiment with different forms and develop new and changing interests in all aspects of music. I am not talking about Madonna reinventing herself every few years, although that is an aspect of the same phenomenon - and she is certain a role model when it comes to an almost Spartan regime of self-discipline. I am talking about people like Tom Jones trying his hand - and vocal chords - at religious music, Bob Dylan risking the wrath of the hippie crowd by picking up an electric guitar or Ricky Nelson moving away from fifties rock-and -oll to become Rick Nelson.

Not every transformation is equally good in the eyes of everyone. I still prefer the old BeeGees in their melodious sixties "Run to Me" style than their pseudo-macho "Staying Alive" era. And I don't like it when sixties or seventies artists re-record their hits at half the tempo, whether it be "Both Sides Now" or "Hello World." But my personal preferences are not the point. It is the capacity to change ones style whilst living by the doctrine "above all to thine own self be true," - as much as Alice Cooper's dictum about separating ones public from by ones private persona - that enables some to stay the course while others fall by the wayside.

And this is the lesson that the old fogies of pop and rock can teach Justin Bieber. As he matures and grows musically, it is inevitable that he will vary his style and experiment with different forms. If he can also avoid the pitfalls that come with being surrounded by yes-men then we can be sure that he will stay the course and enrich the world with his music for many years to come.
NB The picture that goes with this posting is intended as humorous and should not be taken as implying that Justin Bieber has really read - much less endorses - The Moses Legacy or its content.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

My books are available for the Kindle

My  books are now available for the Amazon Kindle.  Check out the Amazon page on my website.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Moses Legacy is a conspiracy thriller of the "ancient meets modern" genre.  The story begins when an archaeological dig led by tall, statuesque, Austrian blonde Gabrielle Gusack, finds fragments of stone bearing writing in an ancient script, known as "proto-Sinaitic."  Excited by the discovery, Gabrielle persuades Egyptian antiquities supremo Akil Mansoor - who bears more than a passing resemblance to Zahi Hawass - to let her call in the aid of Daniel Klein.

Daniel is an expert on Semitic languages, but more importantly a disciple of Gabrielle's uncle.  It is this "past" between Daniel and Gaby that provides the love interest.

Soon however - as is inevitable in thrillers of this kind - things start to "happen".  Happen as in people getting killed, people being tracked via their mobile phones and people going down with mysterious illnesses that produce red lesions on the skin.  Throw in a secretive private organization in Washington DC, a pretty Irish girl recruited by the Mossad, and some ancient secrets held by the Samaritans and Jordanian Bedouin, and you have all the makings of a ruddy-good, fast-paced, ripping yarn.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Only a month till publication of THE MOSES LEGACY

A stunning thriller about archaeologists finding thje original Ten Commandments (or did they?) is coming out on May the 26th.  You can read all about how it came to be written here in a series of episodes that describers a creative process and the world of publishing.  It is almost like a thriller in its own right.

Friday, 8 April 2011

My revamped website

I am pleased to tell you all that my website has been completely revamped with the help of my friend Eran and can now be seen in all its glory.  Because I uninstalled Joomla and replaced it with WordPress, I had to lose the content and start afresh.  I had saved some of the old content, but much of it needed improvement anyway, so I took this opportunity to start with a virtually clean slate.

I have put some information about my recent books published by HarperCollins, including sample chapters.  You will also find, on the website, information about the background to the books, how I came to write them, the struggles I faced (I hope I have not been too indiscreet) and the hardships of being a writer.  This of course is a work in progress.  In due course I will also start blogging about my political views, as I do here.  Indeed at some point, sadly, this site may fall into disuse :-(

However, in the meantime, please feel free to visit my old/new site and leave comments.  All comments must be approved, but I will try to do that ASAP

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Prisoners "right" to vote

I came across a blog about the so-called "right" of prisoners to vote that was so misleading in its arguments that I have to comment on it. The blog, by one David Grace (a self-styled "disgruntled liberal"), argues falsely that MP who voted against giving prisoners the vote were showing "scorn for human rights" and "sheer xenophobia."

This utterly false description of those ethical Members of Parliament who voted against giving prisoners the vote cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. The main thrust of Grace's argument is that as the European Court of Human Rights derives its powers from a treaty that was signed by the British government and ratified by the British parliament, it is a matter of "honouring our commitments." He also argues that there is nothing undemocratic about accepting the judgements of the Court. But this argument fails on a number of counts.

First of all the recent parliamentary vote that Grace condemns was just as much a parliamentary vote as the one that ratified the treaty. Is Grace saying that individual MP's must vote in accordance with the Court's ruling and not in accordance with their consciences? That most certainly would be undemocratic. Parliament is as independent of the Courts as the Courts are of parliament. Grace even criticizes some MPs for being absent from the debate and vote, thereby implying that they are not even allowed to abstain, but must vote the way the Court tells them. So much for his commitment to democracy.

Secondly, the ruling that the disenfranchisement of prisoners serving custodial sentences is an infringement of the right to a free and fair election can only be described as a brazen misinterpretation of the Act. No honest judge - and indeed no honest person for that matter - could possibly believe such an interpretation.

When the judges handed down that ruling, they were breaching their oaths of office in which they swore to exercise their judicial functions "honourably, independently and impartially." (That is not to gainsay however that they have complied with the other part of the oath, to "keep secret all deliberations." So much for openness and the rights of the public!)

Grace also conveniently ignored the fact that both victims of crime and taxpayers (who are clearly affected by the decision) were not given any standing to argue their case, despite the fact that its outcome impinges upon them.

There is in fact no conflict between the view that the right to vote is indeed a right and the view that the right can be forfeited by the commission of a crime. After all a person ordinarily has the right to freedom, but that does not mean that the right cannot be forfeited for a while by the commission of a crime.

Grace's logic fares no better then he argues that disenfranchising prisoners has "no value in penal policy."He offers no evidence that granting the right has rehabilitative value.

Having said all of the above, I would also point out that even if one accepts the circuitous logic used by the criminal-friendly judiciary to reach their decision, then one arrives at an interesting conclusion regarding the question of compensation. The “honourable” judges held that the alleged right of (at least some) prisoners to vote, although nowhere stated in the European Convention on Human Rights, is a consequence of the requirement that free and fair elections be held.

But the effect of an election (unlike say health care or humane conditions) is collective rather than individual. Therefore it could be argued, applying the Court’s own logic, that the effect of denying prisoners the right to vote infringes the rights of society as a whole, to a free and fair election!

Accordingly, if one follows this reasoning to its logical conclusion, then the disenfranchisement of criminals must be held to victimize the whole of society and not just the disenfranchised criminal himself.This means that all members of society are entitled to compensation in equal measure. This conclusion may be counter-intuitive, but it is the inescapable consequence of the Court's own logic.