Friday, April 08, 2005

Those of you who remember the article I wrote for Slate about Gerry Adams and the IRA might be interested in the latest in that ongoing story.

The theory I mentioned in that article was that the Northern Bank bank robbery in December was part of Adams' covert strategy to force the IRA to accept peace, c.f. Ed Moloney's A Secret History of the IRA. If that theory is true, then we're now seeing the plan unfold.

Adams gave a speech Wednesday, worth reading in its entirety. It's framed as an appeal to the IRA. Here's the important bit:
In the past I have defended the right of the IRA to engage in armed struggle. I did so because there was no alternative for those who would not bend the knee, or turn a blind eye to oppression, or for those who wanted a national republic.

Now there is an alternative.

I have clearly set out my view of what that alternative is. The way forward is by building political support for republican and democratic objectives across Ireland and by winning support for these goals internationally.

I want to use this occasion therefore to appeal to the leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann [the IRA] to fully embrace and accept this alternative.

Can you take courageous initiatives which will achieve your aims by purely political and democratic activity?
The IRA said they'd think about it and would respond "in due course." I love that phrase.

Note that Adams is appealing to "the leadership" of the IRA to accent an end to arm struggle. More on that in a second.

There's been a lot of talk already about what this means, with some hailing the speech as a major breakthrough, others saying it's just the same old, same old.

Things have gone badly for Adams, what with the outrage over the Robert McCartney murder cover-up, a nose-dive in his own personal popularity rating in the Republic, and not getting invited to the White House. But he appears to be sticking to his script - again, if we buy Moloney's explanation.

Though he officially denies ever having been a member of the IRA, Adams is in fact widely thought to be a member of the IRA's ruling Army Council. This means he sits around a table every week or so with six other guys, discussing and voting on the future of the organization. So when Adams says,
I know full well that such truly historic decisions can only be taken in the aftermath of intense internal consultation. I ask that you initiate this as quickly as possible.
... it is indeed quite a charade. He'd be a key person in that discussion and presumably he's already initiated it.

Is there dissent on the level of the Army Council itself about whether to lay down arms? Unclear. The IRA was ready to decommission in December, but stopped short when they realized their unionist opponents would use it as an opportunity to declare the IRA defeated and humiliated. On the other hand, according to Irish and British intelligence, the subsequent Northern Bank robbery was given the green light by the Army Council. So they don't seem to be gung-ho one way or the other.

Did the Army Council approve of this latest speech? Is this Adams addressing the other six members of the Army Council, or is this the Army Council addressing the IRA's rank and file?

There is clearly some dissent among the IRA rank and file about whether to lay down arms. And even if you don't agree with the IRA's politics or its methods, you can certainly understand the anger that a lot of the volunteers feel toward the Adams leadership. He has lied to them repeatedly, telling them that despite all his public talk of decommissioning, they will never really be expected to give up the guns, bombs and Semtex that Qadhafi gave them in the 1980s.

By now it must appear to many IRA volunteers that either Adams has lied so much to the public about being a peacemaker that he's begun to beleive his own lies, or that he was actually lying to them the entire time.

The seven-member Army Council runs the day-to-day affairs of the IRA. But supreme authority rests with the so-called Army Convention - that is, a gathering of all the volunteers IRA delegates from all over the island. An Army Convention can basically hire and fire the Army Council. (It's actually a bit more complicated than that, but that's the basic gist).

Being a member of the IRA is a crime in both the UK and Ireland; having every such a large number of IRA members meet in one place at the same time is obviously a tricky task considering the security risk. Suffice to say it only happens once in a blue moon. Yet according to the IRA constitution, only an Army Convention can declare peace. Under no circumstances can the Army Council do that on its own. It appears that is what Adams is asking the IRA to do here.

So back to the question - what does Adams mean when he says "leadership"?

This speech might well have been vetted by the the Army Council. The "intense internal consultation" which Adams is asking to be initiated, in that case, could be code for the calling of one last and final Army Convention.

UPDATE: There were some factual errors in this post the first time around, a combined result of laziness and lending my books out. Tom, you done with that yet?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

"This was the first hint I had that the company that had taken us over were comprised of complete morons..."

Oh my. Just in case you were wondering whatever happened to our old friend Wild Soda. Read the part about the non-existent lunchroom, too.
The other day at the travel agency I overheard an employee using the verb "upgradovat." (Or would that be "upgrejdovat"?)

I don’t see any particular problem with this, but I must say the Czechification of foreign (mostly English) words can reach levels of utter silliness at times. My source who used to work at one of the major Prague law firms says the lawyers there use the verb "closovat," as in "to close a deal." This is just plain stupid, since the Czech term for "to close a deal" ("zav?ít smlouvu") is perfectly fine as-is and, moreover, transliterates exactly between Czech and English.

On a related topic, several years ago I was discussing with a Czech friend the nicknames for certain places in Prague (Václavák, Karlák, Staromák...) and was told that some people say "I-pák" for I.P. Pavlova. "But that's just stupid," said my friend at the time. Mind you, this was about five years ago. These days I hear "I-pák" it quite often, perhaps more so than the more traditional "Pavlák."

One of my big issues is whether to go with the Czech verbal shorthand for Ji?iho z Pod?brad ("Ji?ák") or with it's Americanized acronym, "Jay-zee-pee." I prefer the latter only because it drives the Czechs crazy.

I apologize in advance if my recalcitrant web site refuses to show you the Czech diacritics properly.
Fascinating. The Guardian runs an obituary for the Pope written, in part, by a man who died in 1994.

"If his pontificate is to be deemed a failure, it was a very Polish failure, on a vast, magnificent, heroic scale, conducted with zest and panache, comparable to those mythical Polish cavalrymen charging the German tanks in 1939. One admires the dash of it, while wondering whether it was quite the best thing to do."

Monday, April 04, 2005

You have to respect the honesty in this "help wanted" ad. (Via Alaskan Abroad.)
Recently, in the course of my daily business, I found it necessary to deal with a man who walked around with a little electronic device attached his ear that made him look like somebody out of Star Trek. At first I though it might be some sort of hearing aid, but it was so big and sleek and obvious I knew that couldn't really be the case. Also, he was wearing this awful Mediterranean euro-garbage suit, so my worst suspicions of fashion jackassery were confirmed when I found out the device was actually one of those new-fangled hands-free phones.

The "traditional" hands-free mobile phone, I'm sure you know, is a small earphone that goes inside the ear and has a wire connected to the mobile phone in your pocket, with a microphone on the wire. When used, the microphone hangs close to the face. If you're walking down the street talking on the phone and somebody doesn't notice the wire, it really looks like you're one of those crazy homeless people talking to themselves.

With the clip-on-the-ear phone, you not only look like you're suffering from dementia, you look like a complete idiot to boot. The worst thing about this guy was that he left the thing on even when he wasn't using it, as though he were going out of his way of to announce to the world, "I'm a total prat." Very curious.

If you're determined to make that kind of statement, here are a few specimens.