Monday, 10 May 2021

Things That Happen 8: Feckin' Nuns


FECKIN' NUNS

Nuns! Feckin' nuns... they were everywhere when we were kids.

You went into 'town' with your mother... feckin' nuns on the bus in, nuns in the park, nuns at school ... and waltzing around the streets when you got there in their long black and white flowing frocks like swans. Their necks primed and up straight, listening and waiting to prey upon us.
Stephen's Green and Trinity College... oh... they liked walking around the big snazzy places.
***
I was three before I found out I didn't live in feckin' Rome or the Vatican. I was convinced me dad wasn't me da and I was a religious love-child of some sort.
It wasn't the Garda we were afraid of in the streets in Dublin City... it was the nuns!

ON A HOT DAY IN DUBLIN
"Ma... can we get an ice cream? I'm hungry and hot."
"Jesus, Holy Mary and Joseph... will you keep your voice down, child!"
"Why?"
"Did you not see two nuns walking in front of us? What will they think of us."
"That we're hungry and want ice cream?"
"Ah... Jesus, child... no. Just that we're., ye know ... a bit above our station and... like nice sweet things.... without appreciation and that sort of stuff without an act of contrition."
"I still want an ice cream and a stick of contrition if it's made of chocolate."
"I'll get you a fuckin' frozen Gollywog ice cream when we get off the bus on the way home."
"Is Da not picking us up from town today?"
"No, not today."

***

A while later...

"I want a Chocolate Sundae from the American Connection Bar!"
"What! That's a communion treat and only for good boys who make their proper communion. You have two years to wait, yet"
"Dad brought me in for one a few weeks ago when we went into Hector Greys. and I got me racy cars."
"Oh... he did, did he?"
I got me Gollywog when we got off the bus.
A year later I discovered three of me ma's relations were all nuns. They came to visit our house. We all sat in silence. A sort of homage to history and the past. There was no ice cream. Me da was very quiet that day. I had a tantrum and pissed me pants.

TEN YEARS LATER ON A JET PLANE
"You alright, Mam?"
"Yeh."
"You sure?"
"Feckin' nuns!"
"What?"
"Feckin' nuns... Jesus, you can't escape anywhere.... the two of them... together on the right side."
"No ice cream so, when we get to New York?"
"Oh... don't you worry, my son... there'll be fuckin' loads of ice cream and Chocolate Sundaes."
"Thanks, Mam."

Thursday, 29 October 2020

USA Election 2020 Preview and Prediction

Having spent the past two weeks heavily analyzing US Election Polls, 2016 Election data and avoiding the mistakes made four years ago by many analysts; this is my best prediction as of today. There is an important caveat here. Polls are polls, and the only one that matters is the one next Tuesday.


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

You might look at my prediction and think I'm being very fair to Trump in some of the states. That is the cavate. I am. It's deliberate. I'm not going to make the mistake we all made four years ago in imposing popular voting data against an electoral system that doesn't operate that way, state by state. If 2016 taught us anything; it is that you don't need to be popular in the majority to win the US Electoral State vote. A candidate just needs to find the correct path that includes winning the right states.

In my electoral prediction I have given Trump every state where he empathically leads, has a marginal lead (sometimes less than 1%), ties, but I have also given him eight out of ten states where Joe Biden leads in seven of them (1 is tied - Maine District 2) and by more than 1%. The only two states I have given Biden are the two where his lead is beyond a 4% margin of error - Pennsylvania (4.3%) and Nebraska-District 2 (7% Biden lead).

In essence, what you are looking at is an electoral map heavily skewed in Trump's favour.
Here are some examples:
IOWA - (Biden leads 0.8%) - TRUMP WIN (+6)
TEXAS - (Trump leads 1%) - TRUMP WIN (+38)
GEORGIA - (Biden leads 1.4%) - TRUMP WIN (+16)
MAINE 2 - (TIE) - TRUMP WIN (+1)
NORTH CAROLINA - (Biden leads 1.7%) - TRUMP WIN (+15)
PENNSYLVANIA - (Biden leads 4.3%) - BIDEN WIN (+20)
ARIZONA - (Biden leads 1.6%) - TRUMP WIN (+11)
FLORIDA - (Biden leads 1.2%) - TRUMP WIN (+29)
NEBRASKA 2 - (Biden leads 7%) - BIDEN WIN (+1)
OHIO - (Trump leads 0.8%) - TRUMP WIN (+18)

In conclusion, I can't find a viable path to re-election for Trump beyond flipping Pennsylvania (+20) or attempting a long drawn out legal challenge in the courts on the basis of early ballot voting. There are simply no states left where the margin is close or likely to change in the coming five days.

So 259 looks about Trump's electoral state-by-state vote limit and that is 'giving' him eight marginal states where he is in deep trouble. A slip up in any, or even just two - take your pick from Texas (38), Florida (29), Ohio (18), Georgia (16) or North Carolina (15) - could be catastrophic. Remember, I've given him those states for free! Any slip means a minus for him and a plus for Biden.

As an example, let's take the two marginal states where Biden has a 'bigger' small lead - North Carolina and Arizona; the Biden margin of victory would look like 305 (Biden) v 233 (Trump). Just losing Texas (and I don't believe Trump will) would result in a 317 v 221 margin of victory.

Critically for Biden in the past 10 days, his lead in states has remained stable. It has not shrunk like Hilary Clinton's lead did in 2016 in the final days. However, on the flipside, Trump's lead has slipped in several states he is still likely to win - Alaska (down from 8.2 at the start of October to a narrower 5.8%). South Carolina is a similar story (down from 8 to 5.5%). Or Montana (down from 8 to 5.4%). These are states that should not even be up for discussion and are Republican Party Heartlands slipping dangerously back towards the 4% margin of error.

Yet Trump has spent much of his campaign rallies over the past two weeks in states he should comfortably or marginally hold. If he had any sense he would ensconce himself in Pennsylvania and Ohio for the next few days.

And I do not believe, ultimately, and however long a legal challenge could take, that even a heavily leaning Republican Supreme Court is going to overturn what will almost likely be 90 million early voting ballots by next Tuesday. Trump's delusion is that +70% must be Democrat voters. That's a complete fallacy. If Trump pursues this post-election legal strategy, he could well (ironically) end up damaging his own dwindling electoral chances of victory
.
More to come in a few days.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

All Things Grow: A Poem

 


ALL THINGS GROW


I fell in love with a girl and a place

And my heart opened wide like never before

But all that is precious, yet fragile, soon breaks

Just as all waters eventually run to the sea


Bathe with me, believe in me

Hold me close to all things sacred and tender

Run with me, walk with me, fall with me

Breathe with me, love with me, cry with me

Curse me, if you will


I grasp the punishment of learning as if it were a thorn

And the blood from my hand pours out

But all that is green and fresh is drowned in red

Just as the life is sucked from me


All things grow, all things grow

We kept our hearts in jars by the window

The two together, looking out on a beautiful dawn

We kept our souls in our shoes

And we walked the imaginary steps to Cyprus


I drove a journey to your heart every day

And the miles alone would have taken me to Cyprus and back

But I had you and would never have fallen for the allure of Aphrodite

Just as you never wanted to fall upon my failings


All things grow, all things grow

We kept our fears out the back with the cat and the stars

The fur and the heavens ruminating on our future

While I got drunk on beer and you on warm chocolate

We talked with words that were quiet and delicate


Dream with me, discover with me

Hold your forehead against mine as if I might know your thoughts

A dream, a memory, a moment, a touch, a kiss, a cry

I will hold and cherish them all

While crazy pools of water mock me


I drive forward on my journey now

Not to reach a point of destination or respite

But that I might find a freedom…

…a freedom from myself and nothing else


All things grow, all things grow

I kept my heart and placed it safely away

In a box, in a corner, in the darkness

I never kept safe my soul to truly see

The day when I had learned from my mistakes


All things grow, all things grow...


The Case of Madeleine McCann (Christian Brueckner Update)

There are some things I want to clarify in the recent developments with this case. I also want to dispel the usual misconceptions and people leaping to conclusions or indulging in conspiracy theories.

I get a little miffed when journalists I spoke to or corresponded with at the time, many years ago, play dumb now in their roles on current news pieces. They all know who Christian Brueckner is and was, including Martin Brunt of Sky News and several other BBC and independent journalists from Ireland and England. Brunt should. Brueckner's name, along with Robert Murat, was regularly discussed in exchanges with him online that his own bosses quickly deleted for legal reasons. It was actually Sky News themselves who suggested to Portuguese police that Murat should be considered suspicious when as a local British ex-pat Murat offered himself as an interpreter to news crews.

But that was part of the problem at the time - May 2007 - news media began not just to see themselves as reporting a crime, but on-the-ground sleuths as well.

Sky News got to create the their news for several weeks and be the news, and later paid dearly out of court along with many other news agencies. That's always the problem when your news agency becomes the news itself. It rarely works out well.

Sometimes it does pay off. Their coverage of the abduction of April Sue-Lyn Jones in Wales, in May 2013, did close down the net on Mark Bridger. With news helicopters on the morning after, Bridger simply had no where to go under the spotlight. The difference - police knew within an hour of her abduction who the prime suspect was. We may not have watching on TV as viewers, but Sky News and the police did.

In many ways, Sky News tried to apply their Soham Murders of Holly and Marie Wells (2002) approach to the McCann case in Portugal in 2007. Bucket 24 hour coverage and let's inspire a new era of armchair sleuths at home, and just run on that for viewership.

It's a silly Cluedo game that would lead to million-pound subsequent lawsuits and a new-found adoring audience who sit at home most of the day watching Sky News and only remain interested in the unfolding news and reality show if the culprit can be caught, tried and executed in about the timespan you watch a series of Normal People on Netflix over a weekend. Otherwise, switch to the Jeremy Kyle Show, because they have the lie detector test at the end. And we can all sleep soundly in our beds knowing the world is a better place because our instinct for immediate answers is satisfied. Folk don't like long mysteries, particularly if they are close to home or spike insecure feelings that question parenthood or social responsibility.

TWO BOGUS NATIONAL INVESTIGATIONS AND GERMANY

For a further decade the Portuguese and British investigations huffed and puffed. A judicial, political and almost colonial tug-of-war. An almost theatrical - the parents did it/no, it was an abduction - played out. Comical, with lead investigators, private eyes, personal family spokespersons, books, documentaries, court cases, etc. It was sad. Very sad. Frankly... it was very clear both Portuguese and British officials were more interested in perception and reputation than any outcome despite what was said publicly. This was a childish play on 'our army is better than your army'. And worse... 'we know more than you do.'

Truth be told... neither Portuguese or British investigation teams had much of a clue what they were doing. Their own forces and collective media circuses had already supplanted themselves into the case and story.

Meanwhile, and over the years, European police forces were assisting, mostly chasing down sightings and reports of children looking like Madeleine McCann in more places than a Thomas Cook Brochure could offer the average British holiday maker. That was the level of cooperation between police in the UK and Interpol.

No one was interested in taking the other forces' data seriously, and the leads quickly ran dry.

Around 2013, Belgian, Dutch and German police were sharing data on cases of child abduction and murder. Over the next two to three years, more and more DNA, social media data gathering from previous cases, and a better understanding of profiling on the continent of Europe was loaded to provide better database returns on open cases.

Boom... German and Dutch police began to see correlations with cases and wanted to reopen older cases from the 2000s. Some of those cases are too in-depth to go into here due to time in one post for legal reasons. (Google Inga Gehricke and several other missing children in the Dutch/German/Belgian regions). German and Dutch police saw a common thread in persons of interest with travel to Portugal. In 2017, German police asked, covertly, one of their broadcasters to invite the McCanns to travel to Germany so they could do an open "Crimewatch" style appeal on national TV. It worked.

Christian Brueckner's name repeatedly came up from his movements in Hanover and time in Portugal. It is not the role of European police forces to investigate cases in other countries unless they can provide a direct link with a crime in their country of sufficient concern.

British and Portuguese police showed limited interest in the German investigation of 2017. Instead, British police watered down their appeal and suggested they were interested in persons of interest in Portugal who were suspected of committing burglaries and would say little more than that.

What the British police wouldn't tell the public is what the German, Dutch and Belgian police were telling them. That Christian Brueckner was already identified as one of the released e-fits. Indeed, German police told the British police three of the identities released were already known to them and at least one of them was a drug and crime associate of Brueckner at the time he was in Portugal in 2007.

The German police learned a vast amount of information from the 2017 campaign. It revealed information about their own cases in Germany, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands, and the Madeleine McCann case.

Earlier this month, the Germany authorities were forced to go public with a case that never happened in their country, but included a citizen of their country, but primarily *because* the British authorities had no interest in making the latest information available until forced to under EU laws.

WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE YOU ARE NOT HEARING ABOUT FROM BRITISH AUTHORITIES?

(Some of the following was only released by British authorities when German authorities made it clear they were treating the case of Madeleine McCann as murder and were releasing the information regardless of the decision made in Britain - many UK media are continuing to suppress, including Sky News, what has been shared throughout media in Europe and beyond)

Official German and Dutch media (non-tabloid) are actually very strict about what they can release. They have far stricter laws on criminal cases than the UK.

Christian Brueckner was known to all of us in 2007 and he came up on the radar to Portuguese police back then. He lived 1.2 km from the Praia da Luz apartment. He was a known drug dealer in the area and had convictions for burglary, assault and  exposure by his twenties and a constant transient between Portugal and Germany. Both police forces listed him but never interviewed him at the time.

His departure from Praia da Luz area surely should have highlighted him as someone to check and speak to. He de-registered his Jaguar car the following day and no one knows what happened his small camper van.

He travelled back to Germany several days later at the height of door-to-door investigations.

In 2005, he sexually assaulted an elderly woman in the area, beat her with a metal bar, and videotaped the whole episode. He wasn't convicted for it (under DNA evidence) until many years later.

He was convicted of several other assaults, drug and burglary related crimes.

In 2017, a former residence he rented had a rubbish bag buried with his dead dog and PC drives, memory chips and flash drives containing images of abuse child pornography, and his previous crimes.

In 2013, an online forum record his text exchanges of fantasies of child abduction, torture and murder.

His phone pings the Praia da Luz telecom tower close to the resort and he has a 30 minute phone call at the time of the abduction.

His German camper van is found to have childrens' swimming gear and clothing despite not sharing his van or home with children.

It is up to the German authorities to reveal what evidence (video/images) they have that link Brueckner to Madeleine McCann.

I do not believe the Germany authorities would have went out on a limb unless they believed they had categorical evidence the child was dead and the reason why.

They are not digging Brueckner's plot and former residences for the good of their health.

The Case of Raonaid Murray

The body of Raonaid Murray (17) was found at Silchester Crescent, Glenageary, Dublin, less than 500 metres from her home on September 3rd, 1999.

She was returning at approximately 11.20 pm from a night out at Scotts pub in Dun Laoghaire town centre. Her intention, made known to friends by mobile phone (using her friend's device at Scotts), was to return home, change, and head out to a local nightclub around midnight.

She never got home.

She was stabbed to death near her home (about 10 minutes away) while walking up a footpath with a one-and-a-half inch knife around midnight or shortly before. Forensics revealed that she was stabbed multiple times, but many initial wounds were not fatal or intrusive and would case death, as if punishment wounds. She staggered some 15 metres before the fatal stab wounds were delivered to her side and piercing vital organs.

She bleed to death and about 20 minutes later and was discovered by her elder sister out with her friends earlier when they exited a taxi and used the same cut-through laneway to get home.

At 11.50 pm, the house phone rang in Raonaid's parents where she had been headed. Her father answered it, thinking it was his daughter. The caller immediately hung up without saying a word. The call was later traced by Gardai and telecom services to a nearby house of another friend of Raonaid's [Girl X who she met earlier that evening].

GardaĆ­ appealed to potential witnesses who have doubts about an alibi already provided in relation to the murder.

I get the confusion somewhat at the end of this documentary. I think Graham Jones is just being legally careful.

It's understandable. I found parts did drift a little too much into the open speculative area.

If you are confused, watch the docu, and go back to the evidence laid out by the taxi driver and his account of the passenger he picked up that night (early on in the film) in his car.

The Gardai know the identity of this passenger, have for many years, and where he lived at the time (1999). That is where he asked to be taken by the taxi driver on the night. [he wanted to get home before his girlfriend - taxi driver statement.]

He clearly realised the taxi driver was uneasy and that going home to Blackrock wasn't such a clever idea. So he directed the driver on a long roundabout journey but it ended up not far from his original point of departure and on the Granville Rd he thought was the correct one [his girlfriend - Girl X from the group]. When the Gardai eventually identified the man in the taxi, they knew he was known to Girl X at the time.

Girl X revealed her knowledge of Raonaid's death to another of Raonaid's friends on a phone call early the following day hours before the media released much details.

I've looked at this case for some time as a journalist. It does paint a picture of Gardai confusion and a push to solve the case, and there were strands of different scenarios, but my own understanding is that the Gardai, from a very early stage - at least Martin Donnellan's team - always believed it was not random, stemmed from rivalry and deep-rooted jealousy within the group of teenagers, and that a male and female were involved on that night, together, or one acting on the other's intentions or with significant knowledge.

Unfortunately, and tragically, a lot of these cases stumble at the last hurdle. The Gardai and investigators know likely what occurred and why, but can't compile enough forensic evidence and case to deliver to the DPP that will be signed off and go to the criminal court.

This case was a serious lesson to the Gardai that you need counselors and mediators working with teenagers and parents at an early stage. It proved to be the core element in getting convictions in the Ana KriƩgel case.

Let's hope the Murray family get justice soon. There are those out there, protecting each other, years later, who know exactly what happened that night. This charade needs to end.

[VIDEO DOCU - Rainy in Glenageary]

Autumn: A Poem


Autumn comes

like night and day

as if it must.

We gather up

the summer memories

dried and burnt from the sun.

There was one

like rustling leaves in my head

a dress donned from the floor.

An empty space

where you are gone

like sunshine that had never shone.