Attack on Tartan Day

A Tartan Day Parade along 6th Avenue, New York. Picture: Donald Macleod

By James Morrison

National Tartan Day is under attack in the British press thanks to a turncoat Scottish-American who once embraced the annual celebration of Scots and Scottish-Americans who helped build the United States in war and peace. Susan McIntosh, former president of an influential Scottish-American organization, opened her assault in April, denouncing Tartan Day as an “unfortunate mongrel of a commemoration” in her column in the Scots Heritage magazine.

Many American Scots who knew her and worked with her on Tartan Day events were shocked by her sudden and inexplicable tirade. The venerable London newspaper, The Times, reported on her screed on April 30, and the Scotsman, a well-read newspaper in Scotland, picked up the story the next day.

The Times, normally a reliable journal, basically published a smear article on Tartan Day. It employed an old journalistic trick. The reporter quoted from McIntosh’s column and then quoted an unidentified critic. Based on only two voices, The Times’ headline said “Scots scorn mongrel” Tartan Day, as if many, many Scottish citizens suddenly turned against the celebration. The Scotsman’s headline was more reserved, but the article still repeated many of the same misinformed and inaccurate claims from the Times’ article and McIntosh’s original column.

McIntosh, the Times and the Scotsman all reported that Tartan Day was established in 2008. They are off by 10 years. The newspapers repeated McIntosh’s dismissal of any connection between the US Declaration of Independence and Scotland’s 14th century Declaration of Arbroath and her tedious complaint that the annual Tartan Day parade in New York City is nowhere near as large as the St. Patrick’s Day or Columbus Day parades there. The Irish parade has been going on since 1762, and the march for the Italian explorer started in 1929. The Tartan Day parade is 17 years old.

The influence of Arbroath on the US Declaration of Independence is cited in the 1998 US Senate resolution, which established April 6 as an annual Scottish-American celebration, and in the 2005 US House resolution. President George W. Bush also cited the Declaration of Arbroath in his 2008 National Tartan Day resolution. The British Broadcasting Corp., one of the most authoritative sources in the United Kingdom, recognizes the connection between the two documents. The author Duncan Bruce traces the similarities in his 1996 book, “Mark of the Scots,” and Linda MacDonald-Lewis is the latest writer to link the two documents in her 2009 book, “Warriors and Wordsmiths of Freedom: The Birth and Growth of Democracy.”

McIntosh’s denunciation of Tartan Day is an insult to millions of Americans of Scottish heritage who have labored for nearly 20 years to establish this annual celebration. It also demeans a U.S. president, a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress, several first ministers of Scotland and the most famous living Scot, Sean Connery, who has frequently attended Tartan Day festivities in Washington DC and served as grand marshal of the New York Tartan Day Parade in 2002.

In her Scots Heritage article, McIntosh bizarrely proposes scrapping Tartan Day and celebrate something “that really happened.”

“How about global Outlander Day,” she wrote.

Hemingway never sang in the rain

By James Morrison

When he arrived in Paris, it was raining. Everywhere he went these days, it seemed to be raining, Ernest Hemingway thought as he sat in his hotel room looking out a window that looked out onto a rain-splattered courtyard. There was a cat in the courtyard. The cat was wet. The cat didn’t like the rain anymore than Hemingway did.

Tough for the cat. Hemingway was warm and dry inside his hotel room in Paris. He sat at his typewriter, poured himself a very dry martini and wrote about the rain. Perhaps this would wash away the melancholy in his soul. The melancholy in his soul? Jesus Christ, what dribble. That sounds like Scott Fitzgerald, he concluded.

So he wrote about the rain. He wrote about the rain outside his boyhood home near Chicago. He wrote about the rain in Kansas City where he got his first newspaper job. He wrote about the rain in Toronto, where he also worked as a newspaperman. But that was a gentle, unassuming, boring Canadian rain.

Hemingway wrote about the rain in Spain, thought for a moment that would make a good song. But he was not a songwriter. That was an unmanly profession, best left to fellows like Fitzgerald.

He also wrote about the soggy savanna and the wet green hills of Africa  and the rain over Kilimanjaro. (Snows. It’s snows over Kilimanjaro. That’s a better story, he thought, but he was not writing about snow.)

He even wrote of the rain that dripped, dripped, dripped through a hole in the ceiling of Harry’s Bar and Grill.

Hemingway wrote and wrote for hours about the rain until he could write no more. He had written through the night.  As he  looked out the window from his hotel room in Paris, he saw the dawn. The clouds were parting. The sun was also rising.

He would go for a walk. He grabbed his umbrella. It could always rain again.



Iran gets angry, writes nasty letter to UN head


By James Morrison

WASHINGTON — Iran, a state that supports international terrorism and threatens Israel with destruction, is really angry now.

Iran’s ruling theocracy is so upset with the United States that it has written a nasty letter, complaining the President Obama will not allow an Iranian diplomat linked to the 1979 U.S. hostage crisis to serve as its ambassador to the United Nations.

Iran, a rogue nation that easily ignores its own diplomatic commitments, accused the United States of breaking legal international obligations by denying a visa to Hamid Aboutalebi, who was among the militants who held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days after storming the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Iran’s deputy UN ambassador, Hossein Dehghani, told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon just how angry his government is.

“The decision of the U.S. government has indeed negative implications for multilateral diplomacy and will create a dangerous precedence and affect adversely the work of inter-government organizations and activities of their member states,” he said in a letter to Ban this week.

Dehghani demanded a hearing before the UN Committee on Relations with the Host County, and the committee has sheepishly agreed to meet with him some time next week.

Under the UN Charter, the United States is generally obligated to issue visas to foreign diplomats assigned to the United Nations, despite the odious nature of their governments. However, Washington can block a diplomat on national security grounds.

Congress, in a rare bout of bipartisanship, has unanimously voted to prevent Aboutalebi from serving at the New York-based world body.

The congressional clamor caused the White House and State Department to stop moaning that the UN treaty might compel them to grant the visa.

The initial weak response from the Obama administration simply encouraged Iran to try to strong arm the White House into accepting Aboutalebi, according to the Washington representative of the Iranian resistance.

Soona Samsami of the National Council of Resistance of Iran has repeatedly noted that Aboutalebi was not only one of the militants involved in the U.S. hostage crisis but was also the mastermind of the assassination of an Iranian dissident in Italy in 1993.

“What has contributed to the Iranian regime’s brazen appointment of a hardcore terrorist as its ambassador to the United Nations is the feckless Iran policy pursued by the United States,” she said Wednesday.


UN cites pro-Russian propaganda war in Ukraine

A makeshift memorial to those killed and injured during recent demonstrations in Kiev, Ukraine.  Photo: UN

By James Morrison

WASHINGTON — The United Nations on Tuesday accused pro-Russian forces of waging a campaign of “misinformation, propaganda and incitement to hatred” to portray ethnic-Russians in eastern Ukraine as the victims of repression.

The report by the UN high commissioner for human rights followed tough words Monday from a U.S. ambassador who denounced Russia for lying about the turmoil that led Moscow to annex  Ukraine’s Crimea region and stir up tension throughout the region.

Daniel B. Baer, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,  rebuked Russian President Vladimir Puting in a statement before the permanent council of the 57-nation security forum.

“The Russian people are getting lied to on a daily basis,” Baer said at OSCE headquarters in Vienna.

“Having clamped down on free media and civil society, President Putin’s authoritarian regime deprives the Russian public of independent, objective information and insults them daily with new

In her report Tuesday, UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay cited false claims of widespread abuse of ethnic Russians and noted that Russian citizens might have crossed the border into Ukraine to stoke anger against the central government in Kiev.

“Misinformation, propaganda and incitement to hatred need to be urgently countered in Ukraine to avoid further esdcalation of tension in the country,” she said, after releasing her report in Geneva.

Independent investigators noted some attacks against ethnic Russians but the assaults “were neither systematic nor widespread,” Pillay said.

The report [] cites biased telecasts by Dmitri Kiselev, deputy general director of the Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Co.

He portrayed Ukraine as a “country overrun by violent fascists” after popular uprisings in the winter forced out the corrupt pro-Russian government of Victor Yanukovych.

Kiselev also claimed that ethnic Russians in Ukraine “are seriously threatened and put in physical danger, thus justifying Crimea’s ‘return’ to the Russian Federation,” the report said.

“Media monitors indicated a significant rise of propaganda on the television of the Russian Federation . . . ,” Pillay said. “Cases of hate propaganda were also reported.”





Top Scot warns against independence, as support grows for breakup

By James Morrison

WASHINGTON — A former leader of NATO is warning that Scottish independence would be “cataclysmic,” as support grows for a breakup of the United Kingdom.

George Robertson, a Scottish-born member of the British House of Lords, told a Washington audience last week that Scots risk weakening the defense of the entire British isles and encouraging separatists movement throughout Europe, if they vote for independence in a September referendum and dismantle the 307-year-old union with England.

Lord Robertson: 'The loudest cheers for the break-up of Britain would be from our adversaries and from our enemies.'


“The loudest cheers for the breakup of Britain would be from our adversaries and from our enemies … [and] would be cataclysmic in geopolitical terms,” Robertson told the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

He predicted a “torrid, complex and debilitating divorce” between England and Scotland, as both try to sort out disputes over North Sea oil, a future trading relation or a home for British nuclear submarin forces now docked on the Clyde River near Glasgow.

Robertson, NATO secretary-general from 1999 to 2004, warned the Scottish independence would inspire separatist movements throughout Europe, especially in Spain and Belgium where ethnic minorities have been flirting with independence for decades.

“So I contend that is is far from scare-mongering to use the term Balkanization to predict what might happen if Scotland were to break from its 300-year-old union,” he said.

Robertson, a British Labor Party member who served as defense minister from 1997 to 1999,  added that Scottish independence “would be both an irony and a tragedy with incalculable consequences” coming during the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, the bloody and pointless conflict of mass slaughter and trench warfare sparked by separatist assassins who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian royal family.

Robertson’s visit to Washington during the weekend of the annual Scottish-American celebration of National Tartan Day reflects came amid reports of a near panic among the opponents of Scottish independence.

Saltire, (St Andrews Cross), Union Flag (Union Jack), and Lion Rampart. Independence. Nationalism. Separation. Unionism. Quality image. 

New polls show support for independence growing  five months before the Sept. 18 referendum on the future of the country of about 5 million people.  Opposition to independence still outpaces support, but the gap is narrowing dramatically.

A survey by Britain’s  Panelbase polling company shows opposition to independence at 53 percent with support at 47. But that reflects a strong increase from November when opposition stood at an average of 62 percent, while  support for independence was only 38 percent.

Robertson spoke in Washington as Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, addressed a Tartan Day celebration in New York.

Salmond insisted that an independent Scotland would be a strong partner to both the European Union and NATO, even if Scotland closed the nuclear base.

He noted that when Scotland’s parliament adjourned in 1707 to merge with England and form the British Parliament, a leading Scottish politician mourned the “end of an auld sang.” The Scottish Parliament reconvened in 1999 but with limited powers.

“When it graduates to being an independent parliament,” Salmond said, “Scotland will have a new voice in the world, a new sang. … And that, in itself, is a song well worthy of the singing.”


White House blocks Iran’s envoy to United Nations

American-hostages-Iran-Hamid-Aboutalebi.jpg (500×375)

By James Morrison

WASHINGTON — The White House Friday refused to issue a visa to Iran’s designated ambassador to the United Nations, who has been linked to the 1979 takeover of the U.S.  Embassy in Tehran and to the 1993 assassination of an Iranian dissident in Rome.

Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that Washington informed both Iran and the United Nations of the decision, which will block Hamid Abutalebi from serving at the New York-based world body.

The White House decision follows unanimous congressional opposition to allowing Autalebi into the country. Both the House and Senate passed a bill to refuse visas to any foreigner who poses a threat to national security or who is linked to terrorism or espionage.

“We certainly share the intent of the bill passed by Congress as we have already told the U.N. and Iran that we will not issue a visa,” Carney said.

The bill to block Abutalebi was sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, and Rep. Dan Lambro, Colorado Republican.

Cruz on Thursday called the bill an “unequivocal message to rogue nations like Iran that the United States will not tolerate this kind of provocative and hostile behavior.”

Lamborn marveled at a rare bipartisan unity in the politically divided Congress..

“It is great to see Congress send a strong, bipartisan message that Iranian evildoers will be treated like terrorists, not tourists,” he said.

Abutalebi has been linked to the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Iran when terrorists held 52 American for 444 days.

The Iranian resistance praised President Obama for blocking the Iranian diplomat.

“This decision is prudent and should serve as an example for other countries not to allow Iranian regime’s terrorists disguised as diplomats into their territory,” said Soona Samsami, the U.S. representative of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The resistance last week disclosed that Italian police also considered Abutalebi a suspect in the assassination of a top Iranian dissidents in Rome more than 20 years ago.

Italian police concluded that the March 16, 1993 e assassination of Mohammad-hossein Naghdi was a “political” killing directed by “Iranian government circles.” The police added that the murder was part of a broader “framework” by the brutal, theocratic regime in Tehran to target its critics.

Naghdi had served as a diplomat for the Iranian regime but defected to the resistance in 1982 to “protest the executions, tortures and massacres” by the regime, the resistance said.





Kingdom of Westeros gets no Obama envoy


Game of Thrones

By James Morrison

WASHINGTON — Critics complain that President Obama is demeaning the U.S. diplomatic service by naming too many campaign fundraisers to plum overseas posts.

But there is one place no Obama envoy will go: the kingdom of Westeros. The main reason Westeros will get no U.S. ambassador is that the kingdom doesn’t exist outside the television series, “The Game of Thrones.”

That, however, did not stop a Houston, Texas, radio station from posting a petition on the White House web site, calling for diplomatic recognition of the mythical realm with the odd “Iron Throne,” made of sharp, twisted metal objects like swords and knives.

The White House has since removed the petition from its web page, calling it a violation of the terms for the use of the Internet site. The petition made as much sense as appointing an ambassador to Camelot.

Pranksters, or perhaps just starry-eyed nerds, have posted petitions for all sorts of imaginative uses of the taxpayer money. Some want the White House to build a “death star” like the one in Star Wars, or build the Starship Enterprise or open a real Jurassic Park, according to a story in London’s Guardian newspaper.



Iran hammered from Washington to Brussels

By James Morrison

WASHINGTON — Iran was hammered this week from Washington to Brussels, as the brutal regime in Tehran screamed about “four-legged” infidels blocking its ambassador to the United Nations or denouncing it for human rights abuse.

In Washington, the House on Thursday unanimously followed the Senate by approving a bill designed to keep Iran’s UN ambassador, Hamid Abutalebi, from taking his post in New York. Abutalebi has been linked to the terrorists who took over the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979 and held 52 Americans for 444 days.

The Iranian resistance last week disclosed that Italian police considered him a suspect in the assassination of a top Iranian dissidents in Rome in 1993.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, and Rep. Doug Lamborn, Colorado Republican, sponsored the bill in both houses and urged President Obama to sign it quickly.

“We, as a country, can send an unequivocal message to rouge nations like Iran that the United States will not tolerate this kind of provocative and hostile behavior,” Cruz said.

Lamborn marveled at a rare bipartisan unity in the politically divided Congress..

“It is great to see Congress send a strong, bipartisan message that Iranian evildoers will be treated like terrorists, not tourists,” he said.

The bill would prevent foreign diplomats assigned to the United Nations from entering the United States if they are linked to espionage or terrorism or pose  a threat to national security.


In Brussels, the European Parliament set of howls of protests in Tehran by passing what one member called a “moderately critical resolution” against Iranian human rights abuses.

“This hysterical reaction of the Iranian regime to the European Parliament’s resolution underlines the need for a continuing firm policy against the barbaric violation of human rights, nuclear projects and regional warmongering,” said Struan Stevenson, the parliament’s chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Caucus.

Stevenson noted the venomous reaction of top Iranian leaders. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denounced the European Parliament, claiming it has no “moral ground to impose its views on other countries.”

Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi dismissed members of the European Parliament as “four-legged animals.”

He railed against the Europeans for criticizing Iran’s unrestrained executions for affronts to the Iranian revolution from political dissent to homosexuality.

“It’s none of your damn business!” declared Naghdi, commander of the Basij force, a paramilitary gang of thugs.

Movahedi Kermani, leader of Friday prayers in Terhan, scolded the European Union for seeking to open an office in Terhan and advised the EU to learn from the takeover of the U.S. Embassy 35 years ago.

“The Iranian people will not allow the opening of another den of spies,” he said.



Turkish dissident to address Congress on Armenian genocide

By James Morrison

WASHINGTON –A Turkish dissident who has been jailed for advocating official recognition of the Armenian genocide is due to address Congress on Wednesday, as the Senate is making a new push for United States to declare the massacre in 1915 a genocide.

Ragip Zarakolu is scheduled to speak at an observance hosted by the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues at 6 p.m. in room 2168 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Zarakolu, director of the Belge Publishing House in Istanbul, has been jailed, harassed and targeted for assassination for his advocacy of human rights in Turkey, especially for campaigning for the official recognition of genocide for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Armenians under the old Ottoman Turkish Empire during World War I.

Turkish dissident and human rights activist Ragip Zarakolu

Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, praised Zarakolu for his defiance of Turkish authorities, which have grown more intolerant of dissent under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Mr. Zarakolu represents the small but growing civil society movement within Turkey that — despite persecution, imprisonment and event threats of assassination — is working to end their own government’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and to help build a better future based upon a truthful and just resolution of this still unpunished crime,” Hamparian said.

Meanwhile, a growing bipartisan coalition in the U.S. Senate is urging President Obama to recognize the murders as genocide. Obama, like previous U.S. presidents, has refused to use the word, “genocide,” to avoid angering Turkey, a key NATO member.

A bipartisan coalition in the U.S. Senate is urging President Obama to recognize the murder of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in 1915 as a genocide by the old Ottoman Turkish empire,  a move vigorously opposed by NATO ally Turkey.

An Armenian-genocide resolution introduced last week is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois, a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the State Department and foreign operations.

The resolution notes that Turks killed 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children from 1915 to 1923.

Turkey, which sided with Germany in World War I, denies that it ever engaged in genocide and claims far fewer Armenians died in the conflict, which it calls a civil war.


Senator denounce Iran’s diplomat-terrorist

By James Morrison

WASHINGTON — Nearly one-third of the U.S. Senate is calling on President Obama to deny a visa to Iran’s designated UN ambassador because of his ties to the 1979 terrorist takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

The letter to the White House comes as negotiators from the United States and five other global powers prepare to open another round of talks Tuesday on Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Republican Senators Mark Kirk of Illinois and Marco Rubio of Florida organized the letter to Obama signed by 27 other members of the 100-member Senate.

They urged him to block Hamid Abutalebi, an Iranian diplomat who has admitted a role in the embassy crisis. from serving at the New York-based world body. He has admitted his association Iranian followers of the brutal Ayatollah Rulhollah Khomeini who stormed the embassy and held 52 Americans for 444 days.

“The United States should not be granting entry to an individual who publicly admitted to participating in an act of terror against the United States and its citizens,” the senators wrote in the letter to Obama last week.

They noted that one former hostage, embassy press spokesman Barry Rosen, called Iran’s appointment of Abutalebi “an outrage” and a “disgrace.”

“We could not agree more,” the senators said.

The State Department has condemned Iran’s decision to appoint Abutalebi but has also hinted that it might have to issue a visa because the United States is the host country of the United Nations and only rarely rejects a foreign ambassador.

Meanwhile, U.S. negotiators are preparing for another round of talks with Iran in Vienna, Austria, on Tuesday, along with representatives from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

Iranian officials have expressed confidence that the negotiators can reach an accord that will lead to a permanent settlement of the nuclear issue. Oil-rich Iran claims its nuclear program is for the production of electrical power, but the United States and other Western nations say Iran is secretly developing a nuclear bomb.

The talks are part of a six-month interim pact under which Iran agreed to delay parts of its nuclear program in exchange for a partial suspension of sanctions that were crippling its economy.