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Rugby World Cup Sevens in Russia

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Muses, commentary and links, on various subjects, 
international, political, economic, quirky, other (with sometime leanings towards Ireland), 
by me, Tony, here in Dublin, Ireland.  Pet Hate: Unlawful killing and harming of humans.

You can write to me at blog2-at-tallrite-dot-com

 
Issue #222: World Will Frac Issue #223: Anti-Abortion Rally in Dublin - and a Drone?

Each post appears simultaneously in the Archive with the permalink

ISSUE #224 - Quarter 3, 2013
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Middle East Turmoil Explained

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Rugby World Cup Sevens in Russia

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Rugby Sevens Hits Moscow - 1st July 2013

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Space for Sevens - and Crapdogs - 1st July 2013

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Missing Mubarak - 14th July 2013

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Quotes for Issue 224

Middle East Turmoil Explained

At last, some one has provided clarity as to who is on what side in the midst of Middle East turmoil. This letter appeared in (I think) the London Times, during the month of August; my Portuguese friend Augusto kindly sent it to me. 

Mr Al-Sabah has nailed it - or something

But of course I could not let it rest there.  So I turned Mr Al-Sabah's erudite epistle into a graphic that will surely explain everything to everyone with even greater clarity.

Not.

The only thing clear is that the Middle East is a mess of confusion

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Quotes for Issue 224

Quote (25th July 2013): We’re not in the business of trying to legislate you out of existence, we’re trying to compete you out of existence. 

Most Rev Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury and
worldwide head of the the Anglican Community including the Church of England. 

He was speaking to the head of Wonga.com,
which provides small, short-term loans
at extortionate interest rates of typically over 300% pa. 

Rev Welby wants CofE credit unions
to attack and undercut this market by charging much lower rates.

Quote (23rd July 2013): The current president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, is a poet, acknowledged homosexual, and nearly as outspoken as his predecessors.

Cork-based journalist David Monagan, writing in Forbes magazine. 

Within hours this was followed by a retraction and abject apology,
“I made a terrible mistake and I apologise to Michael D Higgins who[m] I have respect for.”

No, no, no, the mistake was not simply calling him a poet (ha! ha!);
apparently it was the words acknowledged homosexual” that were unacceptable. 

Though you would have thought such a misrepresentation would
in this modern anti-homophobic age be a source of pride not shame
.

Quote (15th July 2013): “This is a tissue of lies and the idea that somebody who has spent over 20 years in this House [ie me!] should have to listen to the ‘Regina Monologues’ from someone who is only here a wet weekend in this House.  [She is] talking through her fa*ny. We should have a revolution.

Ireland's excitable Senator David Norris
excoriates, in his characteristic falsetto crescendo,
Senator Regina Doherty in the Senate
for having an, er, opinion.

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2013 RWC7s Logo

Rugby World Cup Sevens in Russia - 1st July 2013

Over the weekend Friday 28th to Sunday 30th June 2013, the quadrennial Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament took place in - of all locations - Moscow.  I was there, as I have been at every RWC7s event since Hong Kong in 1997.  This time the rugby was the most skilful ever while the venue was the most unsuitable ever. 

The problem with the venue is that the vast majority of Muscovites make it abundantly clear that they loathe all foreigners and wish we would simply go away (but leaving our money behind of course). 

I wrote these two “before” and “after” posts, which also formed the basis of newspaper columns in the Irish Times, here (or view the Irish Times' online article) and here (published as print-only, ie not online). 

Rugby Sevens Hits Moscow - 1st July 2013
Dispatch 1 of 2 (“Before”)

Irish Times, 29th June 2013; click to openIn Rio de Janeiro in 2016, a big innovation in the Olympic Games will be the inclusion of seven-a-side rugby. Quick question: what country is the current Olympic rugby champion? What? You didn’t know there was one? The surprise answer is not New Zealand or any of the usual suspects but the USA which bagged the title and the gold medal in 1924 defeating France 17-3 in the final, the last time rugby featured. 

Meanwhile, however, the 2013 quadrennial Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament kicked off in Moscow on Friday 28th June, the first time that Russia has hosted a major rugby occasion. It was expected to be the last ever such event, killed off by the Olympics, but an unexpected reprieve earlier in the month means it will now continue, but two years out-of-phase with the Olympics.

So whichever victorious nations were to trot up to the podium to hold aloft the hallowed men’s and women’s respective trophies on Sunday 30th June, wrenching them from the despairing grasp of the current champions Wales and Australia, would be hanging on to them for five long years, until 2018.

In the days building up to the tournament, there was a strange aura in the streets of Moscow as this unfamiliar global happening unfurled in a country most of whose 143 million people haven’t even heard of rugby despite Russia having long competed in international Sevens competitions and qualified (in the same group as Ireland) for the Fifteens world cup in 2011. Nevertheless, Moscow has allocated its giant, Croke Park sized Luzhniki Stadium, an icon built by the Soviets for the 1980 Olympics.

Soviets' Olympic centrepiece, the giant Luzhniki Stadium

For the tens of thousands of fans who had - supposedly - flown in from all over the world (albeit only a handful from Ireland), Thursday 27th was for

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acclimatising,

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finding your way around Moscow (some hope!),

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seeing some of the breathtaking sights (along with some pretty grim ones),

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getting the hang of the rouble,

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recovering from the shock of high prices,

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generally coping in a country where few ordinary people seem to speak other than Russian and the Cyrillic script of public signs is unintelligible to the Western eye.

Sadly, for the first time in any rugby world cup, Ireland did not enter a Men’s team and not through lack of ability. At the last RWC7s in Dubai in 2009, John Skurr coached Ireland’s men into the Quarter Finals, knocking out Australia on the way. Why Ireland has spurned men’s Sevens ever since only the Irish Rugby Football Union can answer – and should. The wider Sevens circuit, involving annual competitions around the world is not only a magnificent show piece for rugby, but allows talented youngsters who might not quite make it into the professional Fifteens game to show what they’re made of – future stars such as Simon Zebo for example.

Happily, however, since April of last year, the IRFU has given full support to a Women’s squad, ably managed by Gemma Crowly and coached by the same John Skurr, which has been competing around the globe, and with some success, ever since. The players are all amateurs, so the rigorous demands of arranging training around work/study leaves no time for other pursuits, yet they would have it no other way. This World Cup is the ladies’ biggest challenge so far and despite being as beset by injuries as the Lions they would give it all they had. It helped that eight of the twelve players were doughty veterans of this year’s epic Grand Slam victory in the XVs game against England, Scotland, Wales, Italy and France. (In over a hundred years, Ireland's men have only ever won two Grand Slams). 

As for Moscow, it proclaimed that it was actually staging something closer to a festival of sport, culture and hospitality than a mere event, for there was to be more going on than just the Men’s and Women’s World Cup tournaments. In fact there were, simultaneously, no fewer than nine other Sevens tournays involving over two thousand players from across the vast Russian republics battling it out for different prizes on the various side pitches that form part of the huge Luzhniki complex. The music element of the festival was to comprise an array of bands, headlined by Space from France, while various shows and displays would emphasise Russian space technology and achievements.

Irish Times, 29th June 2013; click to openAnd of course for the less cultured rugby aficionados there was the promise of a wild variety of food and drink in abundance. For how else could your humble correspondent and fellow-fans survive 2½ days of frenetic, high-speed, try-scoring rugby without a steady supply of caviar and vodka? Wipium!

Note: “Wipium” is the Russian for Cheers
(or so I am told).

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Space for Sevens - and Crapdogs - 1st July 2013
Dispatch 2 of 2 (“After”)

Irish Times, 1st July 2013; click to openSpace” was the curious theme chosen by the Russians for the Rugby World Cup Sevens which they hosted over the last three days of June 2013 to showcase their ability to stage international sporting events. They mean of course their considerable astronautical achievements dating back to the 1950s.  But on entering the cavernous, 89,000 seater Luzhniki Olympic stadium, space was the first thing that hit you – empty space, for it was only about a quarter full - and that was only on the final afternoon.

Kenya defeating Samoa in the (space-rich) Luzhniki stadium

Likewise, the distant Gorodok stadium (between the main stadium and which no transport was provided) where the women played had seating for 6,000 but barely 2,000 attended at its busiest moment. The turnout below was more common.

Gorodok Stadium - empty space, like everywhere else

Both stadia also ensure there are acres of space between the hapless fans and the edge of the pitch, just to make viewing that little bit more irritating.

Considering how the 40,000 seater stadium in Hong Kong and the 50,000 facility in Dubai were heaving, raucous sell-outs for previous RWC7s, Russia’s failure to put bums on seats has been a huge lost opportunity in both revenue and atmosphere.

However the three-day try-fest of actual rugby was more scintillating than ever – fast, skilful, passionate, and displaying an astonishing level of physical fitness. To aid recovery after each game, players would climb into wheelie-bins emblazoned with their national flag and filled with iced water. They seemed to enjoy it.  Brrrr.

An exciting feature of Sevens is the enthusiastic participation of nations not widely recognized for their rugby prowess, such as the Philippines, Tunisia, Portugal, Kenya, Netherlands, China, Zimbabwe, yet here they are fighting it out with New Zealand and the other big boys and gals to compete for a World Cup.

In fact there are three sets of trophies. After the group stages, teams were split based on performance into new groups which then competed for a bowl, a plate and for the best the hallowed cup itself. Ireland’s women, under Gemma Crowley and John Skurr, played magnificently in their group games to qualify for the cup. But two last-minute tries by the USA denied Ireland of the 5-0 lead it sported for most of the quarter-final, so Ireland exited the tournament, though with heads held high.

Photo from the Irish Times

It was eventually New Zealand who were crowned Sevens World Cup champions of both the Men's and Women's variety, with cups and medals to prove it.

New Zealand celebrating winning two RWC7s World Cups

With the two World Cups they already hold for the XVs game (Men's and Women's), this brings New Zealand's haul to four. Oh, and just for good measure, the Sevens Player of the Year is Tim Mikkelson from - you guessed it - NZ.  (How insufferable is all that? !!)

But enough about the rugby.

Original Soviet Sputnik, 1957Russia’s “space” theme was evident in an interlude where 200 beautiful women clad in inter-galactic silver with huge balloons in different hues of pale-grey signifying the planets leapt energetically around the pitch as music throbbed across the stadium. This was followed by a parade where further curvaceous space women (not at all like the original Valentina Tereshkova) pushed 29 big, wheeled pseudo-sputniks around, each adorned with the flag of a competing nation. Ireland’s was green with the emblems of the four provinces.

Sputniks on wheels, with flags

Perhaps the interminable Ministerial speeches in Russian were also about space – it was hard to tell. And on the second evening, a French electronic music band from the 1970s, named, er, Space, performed on a stage specially constructed in the stands, though only after most of the already thin audience had already gone home, thus creating even more space. Periodically, when space appeared in the tightly-choreographed programme of rugby, fans were regaled as further groups of cheerleaders in colourful skimpy outfits bounded and somersaulted on to the turf brandishing Russian flags rather than pom-poms. 

But the secret ingredient that has made every RWC7s heretofore a roaring success is the fans – and there were just far too few to generate the usual party ambience. Moscow is difficult and expensive to get to and the marketing was very poor. The (few) fans’ usual boisterousness was further dampened by

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excruciating security arrangements every time you entered or left the stadium,

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the women's Gorogok Stadium being fifteen minutes unsignposted walk away, thirty if (when) you got lost,

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a ban on alcohol,

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very rudimentary food arrangements (see pic),

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an absence of interesting stalls and merchandising,

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the blanketing of the venue by armed soldiers and police, and

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stern signs admonishing fans to be well behaved and inoffensive (even when the ref makes a wrong call?).

Yum ... crapdogs, my favourite

This photograph illustrates the pathetic “catering” arrangements at the Luzhniki stadium (note the long queues amid the vast surrounding space), where the only food available was grim burgers, stale sandwiches and cold hot-dogs, or “crapdogs” as the Russians evidently seem to call them. 

Crapdogs” seems a wholly appropriate metaphor not only for the victualling but for the tournament as a whole. 

The venue was a poor and avoidable choice by the International Rugby Board and will have done little to popularise RWC7s, which is a great pity. And every foreign fan I spoke to swore he/she never wanted to return to Moscow - ever. 

Irish Times, 1st July 2013; click to openWe will to have wait until 2018 for the next RWC7s, so as to intersperse it on a two yearly cycle with the Olympics since the latter will include rugby Sevens as from Rio 2016. Until then, however, for those who need their regular Sevens fix, there is always the IRB Sevens World Series with regular competitions in great venues around the world; it throws up an overall league winner every year.

And nothing at all about space.

Here

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Missing Mubarak - 14th July 2013

On 25 January 2011, the people of Egypt erupted in nationwide protest at the country's long-standing kleptocracy under the smarmy President Hosni Mubarak, in power for three decades ever since his predecessor Anwar Sadat was assassinated 1981 (for making peace with Israel). 

It took nearly nine hundred deaths but just seventeen days for Mr Mubarak to resign - and promptly find himself under arrest charged with causing the deaths of protestors and other crimes. 

The Arab Spring had gripped Egypt and ushered in hopes of a new democracy and new freedoms in the world's largest Arab state.  Mr Mubarak, though pretending to be sick, was meanwhile convicted of complicity to the murder of protestors and sentenced to life in prison where he remains pending an appeal. 

The Egyptian armed forces held power for the next sixteen months while democratic parliamentary and presidential elections were organised.  Then, on 30th June 2012, Mohamed Morsi became the first elected leader of Egypt in its five-thousand year history.  Mr Morsi is a senior member of the notoriously Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, who together with even more extreme Islamists grabbed three-quarters of the vote.  Thus the new, rabidly Islamist regime proceeded to implement as much Sharia as they could think of with scant regard to economic policies that might improve the actual livelihoods of citizens.  Moreover, as Mark Steyn wittily points out, Mr Morsi was a one-man-one-vote-one-time type of guy who would have expected to remain in power at least as long as Mr Mubarak.  To this end, he quickly set about granting himself unlimited powers and clamping down on any dissenters or opponents. 

But life became so much more miserable for the ordinary people that a second uprising exploded on 30th June 2013, this time against Mr Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.  So in just four days he found himself, to his astonishment, kicked out in a military coup by General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, the Army Chief and defence minister Mr Morsi himself had appointed just the previous August.  So after just 368 days in power there he was sitting in a filthy Cairo jail cell, no doubt next door to Mr Mubarak. 

Meantime, of course, America's Buffoon-in-Chief has, as usual, no idea of what just happened.  He is asking his advisers if this was indeed a coup (hello - when the army drives up to the presidential palace, locks up the president and announces that he has been deposed and it is now in charge, that is the very definition of a coup d'état.  Just ask any Nigerian; they've all seen plenty).  The B-i-C is dithering because if it is a coup, America has to suspend the $1.3 billion that its taxpayers are strong-armed into handing over to Egypt every year as part of Jimmy Carter's 1979 peace deal with Israel that caused Sadat's death (Israel gets a handout of perhaps double Egypt's). 

So from kleptocracy to martial law to sharia to martial law in just 2½ years, with more fun no doubt to follow and no sign or prospect of any improvement for the ordinary Egyptian. 

There are many protestors today who must be wondering was it really such a good idea to get rid of Mubarak. 

And did I really photograph this billboard on the drive into Cairo?

Note: this billboard has of course nothing whatever
to do with this one.

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PRIOR TWO ISSUES FOLLOW
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ISSUE #223 - Quarter 2, 2013

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Anti-Abortion Rally in Dublin - and a Drone - 11th June 2013

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Punishment for Actual vs Virtual Violence in Rugby - 28th May 2013

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Russell Brand Diagnoses “Severe Mental Illness- 27th May 2013

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Frances Recalls the Unknown Hakka Woman Who Saved her Life- 27th May 2013

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When Did Nazi German Surrender? - 8th May 2013

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Quotes for Issue 223 - 10th May 2013

Anti-Abortion Rally in Dublin - and a Drone - 11th June 2013

Under a glorious blazing sun, Ireland's biggest public demonstration of the year took place last Saturday 8th June.  But if radio, TV and newspapers are your source of information you would scarcely have known that it was coming, nor that it had taken place. 

That is because it was a pro-life rally whereas Ireland's media are wildly enthusiastic for abortion and more abortion, and don't want people to know there are other widely held viewpoints. 

The organization of the crowds was superb as was their behaviour; the visuals and sound systems were top-class.  Big screens and speakers meant that wherever you stood you could see and hear exactly what was happening in the massive stage that had been set up. 

Packed into two sides of Merrion Square, the turnout looked huge, though estimates vary. 

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The few newspapers that made passing mention talked of thousands.

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The police said there were 15-20,000 though didn't say where they got such numbers. 

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The official organizers put the number at over 40,000. 

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I did my own counting and calculating and came up with a figure of 30,000 +/- 20%, ie between 24,000 and 36,000.  Here is how I did this:

Along Merrion Square West, where I was situated, I counted:

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35 heads from one side of the road to the other,

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50 heads between large, distinctive lamposts,

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7 lamposts along the area occupied by people.

Thus 35 x 10 x 6 = 10,500 people filled this stretch of road. The South side of the square which was also jam-packed, is twice as long as the West side.

Hence the total was 31,500, say 30k to be safe. This would not include any overflow into adjacent streets. 

This is all a bit academic, but it is important to demonstrate that the estimates of the media and the police are undoubtedly far too low, because it illustrates their prejudice on the subject.

The reason for Ireland's vigorous pro-life campaign is that its government, a coalition of a rightish party Fine Gael and a strongly leftist Labour party, is gung-ho to introduce abortion into Ireland for the first time ever, supposedly only to save the life of mothers.  However, Fine Gael made a pre-election promise not to introduce abortion, but under pressure from Labour its leadership has made a complete U-turn.  By

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steadfastly ignoring not only its pro-life promise but all medical and psychiatric evidence that shows beyond doubt that it is never necessary to directly target the baby's life in order to save the mother's life,

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while avoiding every opportunity to debate or to explain why it is so keen to abort and

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whipping party members,

the Coalition is doggedly pushing through its legislation. 

I won't use this post to argue the pros and cons.  I only want to tell people what I can remember about the rally. 

Four speakers stood out as far as I was concerned.  It was not only the content of what they said, but the clarity, passion and brevity with which they delivered their message, which I imagine were the result of much coaching and rehearsal. 

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Maria Steen, a brilliant speaker and debater for the pro-life cause, went through the main points of the so-called Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill”, exposing each as a deception, such as that this will help the health of pregnant women, or that the European Court of Justice is demanding abortion.  She had a great line as she systematically demolished each such falsehood: “It does no such thing!”.  She saved her best for last when she pointed out that the title of bill most certainly does not “do what it says on the tin”.
 

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Adele Best spoke movingly of her own two abortions.  The first she willing chose; the second her boyfriend coerced her in to.  In each case she was stricken afterwards with extreme depression and mental issues, adding up to some fifteen years of misery in all, until she received help from Women Hurt, an organisation for post-abortion women. Subsequently she gave birth to a child, who has become the light of her life.  She now wants to warn other post-abortion women not to stay silent about their suffering and not to harbour shame. 
 

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Another woman spoke of having her unborn baby diagnosed with a serious and rare illness (whose name I forget).  Her Irish obstetrician immediately advised her to go to England” [for an abortion].  When she refused, she was given extremely frosty treatment from him and from other maternity staff for the rest of her pregnancy for having failed to follow his admonishment.  Nevertheless, the little girl survived, was born, and thanks to some wonderful heart surgery is now a fully functioning healthy three-year-old.  Who was delighted to smile and wave at the cameras (Minute 0:31-34 in the above video, with her daddy). 
 

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John McAreavey, whose beautiful new wife Michaela was murdered while on honeymoon in Mauritius in 2011, spoke movingly of the need to protect the unborn, no doubt thinking of the unborn children he and Michaela never would have.  Michaela was the only daughter of a highly successful and popular GAA football coach. 

SpiderSkyCam buzzes overheadBut the coolest thing of all was this SpiderSkyCam” drone, powered by eight rotors with an HD camera in the middle, which buzzed and hovered overhead in the bright sky taking video and stills of the event, some of which feature in the video above.  Contracted in by the rally organisers, it buzzed around and up and down the crowd throughout the meeting, controlled by some unseen technician, while giving some of us a crick in the neck.   

It would be handy to deploy one of them to the Cabinet meeting room to eavesdrop on the abortion deliberations such as they are.

The purpose of the rally was to get the attention of the ruling politicians, to demonstrate that there is a huge pro-life constituency passionately opposed to the proposed legislation and that there will be a bitter electoral price to pay if it is passed.

Time will tell how successful the overall pro-life campaign will be. And how many tiny, innocent lives will be saved - or snuffed out. 

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Punishment for Actual vs Virtual Violence in Rugby - 28th May 2013

Rugby referees have at their disposal four grades of punishment for errors or foul play.

  1. For minor infringements, a penalty kick is awarded to the opposing team.
  2. For particularly cynical infringements, the offending player can in addition be sent off for ten minutes (yellow card). 
  3. Where the infringement has prevented the scoring of a try, a penalty try is a further sanction.
  4. For the worst of offences, the referee will wave a red flag, sending the player off for the rest of the game. 

In addition, however, a player may be cited, meaning further action is warranted, in respect of behaviour that has been viewed on television, whether or not the referee has spotted it or imposed his own punishment.  If cited, a player is called up before a panel of rugby judges, the evidence is reviewed, he is allowed to present his defence and a verdict reached.  If guilty, further punishment is often administered, usually a ban for a fixed period, which involves shame for the player involved but also, for a professional, loss of earnings. 

Recent such bans have highlighted a curious anomaly in regards to punishments meted out to top European rugby professionals:

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Ireland's Cian Healy earned a three-week ban for stamping on the leg of Dan Cole in an Ireland/England game on 10th February 2013 (which Ireland lost 6-12)

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The sanction for Ireland's star Brian O'Driscoll's was a penalty, a yellow card and a three-week ban for stamping on the stomach of Simone Favaro in an Ireland/Italy game on 16th March  (which Ireland lost 15-22)

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Munster's captain Paul O'Connell was neither penalised nor cited for a brutal, albeit accidental kick on Dave Kearney's head, in a Munster/Leinster game on 14th April (which Munster lost 16-22); Kearney had to be stretchered off with concussion and couldn't play for nearly five weeks.  (Yes, the victim received the punishment of an effective ban, not the perpetrator!)

Meanwhile ...

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Stade Français scrum-half Jerome Fillol was awarded a fourteen-week ban for spitting in the face of his opposing scrum-half Peter Stringer of Bath on 6th April; Bath lost 20-36. 

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Dylan Hartley, captain of Northampton, brought upon himself a penalty kick, a red card and an eleven-week ban on 25th May for calling referee Wayne Barnes f*****g cheat”; unsurprisingly, with Northampton a man short went on to be soundly beaten by Leicester 17-37. The timing of the ban was such that he was kicked off the much cherished Lions tour of Hong Kong and Australia, which began a few days later.

The reason I am bringing these recent cases up is to highlight the difference is punishments that the citing committees award for what might be termed virtual violence as compared with actual violence. 

No-one doubts that virtual violence needs to be vigorously stamped out, as it were. As does actual violence.  Young children (and their mums) must never be given the impression that such behaviour is acceptable, or else rugby's reputation will crash and fewer and fewer will play it. 

Nevertheless, it is exceedingly odd that spitting and rudeness should be deemed to be FOUR TIMES as serious as the stamps and kicks that in these particular cases could have broken, respectively, a leg, some ribs and a skull, and in the latter case have even caused brain damage. 

I would think that mums would far prefer to see their precious sons spat and sworn at than kicked in the head. 

Rugby alikadoos seem to believe the opposite.

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Russell Brand Diagnoses “Severe Mental Illness - 27th May 2013

A third rate “comedian” decides he knows
what drives certain types of people to murder.
There seems to be a lot of this particular affliction around.

Russell Brand, psychiatrist, Islamic scholar, philosopher and - especially - third-rate comedianThe renowned international psychiatrist, Islamic scholar and philosopher Russell Brand concluded on 26th May in his Sunday column in the Sun tabloid newspaper that the Jihadist beheaders of Drummer Lee Rigby are in fact “severely mentally ill”. Why? How so?

Because they’d just murdered a stranger in Woolwich, London. QED. The act is the diagnosis.

Absolutely nothing to to do with Islam at all because, as he gravely informs us,

the main narrative thrust of ... the Koran is:
Be nice to each other because we’re all the same
”.

Nice? All the same? Who knew?

No doubt the eminent Dr R Brand listened intently to decapitator Michael Adebolajo’s own words:

Allahu Akbar [Allah is the greatest]”
while slicing up his victim. 

And later, in front of a bystander's cameraphone,
Surat at-Tawba through .. many, many ayat  throughout the Qur’an that ... we must fight them as they fight us ... We swear by Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. The British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Ayat means proof or evidence.

Surat at-Tawba is the Koran’s 9th chapter which takes precedence over all the others and contains this classic line in 9:5:

Slay the idolators wherever ye find them, even in Woolwich”,

which just about sums things up.

But perhaps Dr Brand is right. For surely you would indeed have to be “severely mentally ill” to swallow such guff. 

Meanwhile, world leaders seem to feel the need to utter their own inanities, which only go to show that they too share symptoms of being “severely mentally ill”:

Barack Obama: The best way to prevent violent extremism is to work with the Muslim American community – which has consistently rejected terrorism.

Oh yes?  Any examples of “consistently rejecting terrorism? Thought not.

So here, thanks to the inestimable Robert Spencer, are four unchallenged examples showing that 80% of US mosques - ie 1700 of them - teach Jihad, Islamic supremacism, extremist ideology, and hatred & contempt for Jews and Christians: 

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In 1999, Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, a Sufi leader,
gave testimony to this effect to the Senate
after visiting 114 US mosques

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In 2005, the Center for Religious Freedom made similar
findings in a study,

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In 2008 the Mapping In Sharia Project did so also.

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In 2011 another study showed that only 19% of
American mosques don’t teach Jihad violence
and/or Islamic supremacism.

David Cameron: There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.

Oh yes there is!

Has the Prime Minister even read the Koran? Sura 8:12, for example, which reads,

I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”. 

Clearly, the assassins are nothing if not devout Muslims.

Meanwhile, Drummer Rigby remains dead.

Drummer Lee Rigby, decapitated on a London Street by Jihadists

Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, Second Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers,
brutally assassinated in broad daylight on a London street on 22nd May 2013.

R I P

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Frances and the Unknown Hakka Woman Who Saved her Life - 27th May 2013

On 25th May, the Saturday Live Programme on BBC Radio 4
invited my sister Frances to recount an incident in her youth
when a woman stepped into the road to halt her car – and saved her life. 

This is Frances' story.

Spoken as broadcast ....
 

And as written ...

 

My thanks are to a Chinese peasant who saved my life in June 1966.

Typical Hakka woman, here smoking a pipeI was driving slowly home, up the Peak in Hong Kong, during a tremendous rainstorm – not a typhoon. In Hong Kong we were used to typhoons but this was just heavy and non stop rain. In town the 12-ft deep storm drains were overflowing and water was fountaining up through the tarmac. Time to go home .

In low gear I crawled up the Peak but just as my flat appeared ahead, a Hakka woman (identifiable by her unique headgear, as depicted) stood in front of my car remonstrating that I should stop. She pointed to the road surface. It looked like bubbling pastry and she signed that I must not proceed. I have great respect for the Chinese (the fishermen always knew more than the Met Office which typhoons were the most dangerous) so I smiled, nodded my thanks, reversed my car down the hill and tucked it into a sedan chair path – these follow the lay of the land so survive bad weather well.

Not exactly my Singer Gazelle, but close enoughI arrived home absolutely soaked through and put on the kettle for my desperately needed cuppa tea. I never got it – the gas went off. The road I had just walked over had become a giant landslide.

Would the weight of my little Singer Gazelle have been enough to initiate that landslide ? Who knows. We were cut off for weeks until a sort of Bailey bridge could be built to reconnect us to the town and had to have our food delivered by helicopter. But I was alive.

There is no way I can ever thank that wonderful woman but I am forever grateful.

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When Did Nazi German Surrender? - 8th May 2013

An eyewitness account (sort-of) of those momentous days of surrender

Today, 8th May, 68 years ago, Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally, bringing to an end, after six long and painful years, the European part of the Second World War. 

Or was it yesterday the 7th?  Or tomorrow the 9th? 

All three as it happens, as my 98-year-old and still sprightly father Walter, a dental surgeon, relates in the recent reissue of his memoirs.  A squadron leader with the RAF, he was part of the Normandy invasion of Europe, storming across France, Belgium and Germany, striking terror into Nazi hearts, with a dental drill in one hand and a forceps in the other:

Q U O T E

My father's memoirsShortly after my orderly Harrington and I had settled near the northern German town of Lüneberg into our spacious, comfortable Luftwaffe quarters (recently vacated by the hastily departing Germans), we heard, to our delight, the news on the radio from the BBC that Germany had signed an Act of Military Surrender at Rheims in France on 7th May 1945, thus bringing the European war to an end.

However we also learnt that Germany had already, three days earlier on Friday 4th May, signed another unconditional surrender, of its forces in northern Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. This ensued after Hitler had blown his brains out in his Berlin bunker the previous Monday, and proved to be the first of three surrenders.

The surrender at Luneburg Heath, the historic moment when leaders of the German forces in northwest Europe surrended to Field Marshall Bernard MontgomeryAt 1830 hours on the Friday, in a large tent at Lüneburg Heath in northern Germany, Field Marshal Bernard Mont-gomery (“Monty”) accepted the unconditional German surrender . It was signed for Germany by Admiral Hans Georg von Friedberg of the navy and General Eberhard Kinzel of the army, both of whom committed suicide a few weeks later by taking cyanide, and by Major Fritz Gustav Friedl of the Gestapo who was tried for Holocaust war crimes and later killed in a car crash.

At the time we ourselves, as mentioned, happened to be billeted outside the town of Lüneberg only a few miles away. That evening, just 2½ hours after the surrender to Monty, I received a signal informing me officially of the order to cease hostilities as from the following morning and directing that work “should continue as usual”. I have kept that signal form carefully as a treasured memento (illustrated below). I recollect as a schoolboy in the 1920s visiting a war museum in France with a party from my south London school, Rutlish, and seeing a similar order among souvenirs of the Great War which had ended in Europe on 11th November, 1918.

Transcript: 4 May Personal for Commanders – From AOC

All hostilities on second army front cease at 0800 hours tomorrow May 5.
Work will continue as usual until orders are issued to contrary.
GCRAFR [General Command Royal Airforce Regiment] requested instructed
RAFR units       Date Time: 042055
[1945]

It is noteworthy that the Americans continued fighting right up to the formal cessation of hostilities at 0800 hours on the Saturday. We reckoned that many of them – especially the newer arrivals – regretted that they could no longer kill any Germans.

An interesting story emerged in 2012 concerning the date of the second surrender in Rheims on 7th May 1945, known since and commemorated every year, as VE-Day, for “Victory in Europe”. (Actually, depending on what country you are in, VE-Day is commemorated on the 7th or the 8th or the 9th of May. This is because, as explained below, the third surrender was signed late on the 8th which, further east, was already the 9th due to the time difference.)

Edward Kennedy, then the forty-year-old Paris bureau chief of the Associated Press news agency, was one of seventeen journalists secretly flown by the military across France in a C-47 transport plane to witness Germany’s second surrender in Rheims to the Americans and British at 0241 hours on that fateful morning of 7th May 1945. As a condition of this privilege, they were sworn to secrecy under a news embargo that lasted for the following 36 hours.

This was because US President Harry Truman and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had privately agreed to keep the historic ceremony covert until the following day, when the Soviet Union would accept the capitulation of German forces in Berlin. As a symbol of Allied solidarity and a sop to the USSR’s tyrant Josef Stalin, the Big Three wanted to announce the end of the war together and declare 8th May to be VE-Day. Thus the third surrender, almost identical to the second, was indeed signed in Berlin on that day, just before midnight, which for the Soviets was of course just after midnight on 9th May. Hence the three VE-Days.

AP journalist, Edward Kennedy, in 1945

However Kennedy ruined their cunning plan for the surprise announcement that they wanted to make only after the third surrender.

Having forewarned the US military censor of what he was about to do, he then rang AP’s London office to dictate a story on the (second) surrender on 7th May. This broke the embargo and ensured that the bombshell exploded on the front pages of every newspaper subscribing to the agency’s service the next day. Many consider this to be the greatest scoop of all time.

Headline that thrilled the victors - and ruined a career

Kennedy was promptly thrice denounced and excoriated –

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by the sixteen correspondents who had obeyed the rules,

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by the Allied authorities, and

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by his boss Robert McLean, then president of AP.

But Kennedy was unrepentant, pointing out that the embargo had been imposed solely for political convenience, not to save lives or protect military secrets. Moreover, Germany itself had alr eady announced the surrender, at 1403 hours on 7th May in a radio broadcast from the city of Flensburg then under Allied control, which was 670 km from Rheims. Kennedy argued that from that moment the embargo was invalid: the news was out and no harm could be done by declaring it to the world. He found it absurd to bottle up an announcement of such magnitude and import.

At the time, however, his arguments fell on furious deaf ears. Kennedy was expelled from France by the Allied authorities and his career with AP was over. He died, still reviled by the establishment, in a car crash at the age of 58 in 1963.

However, in 2012, 67 long years after his momentous scoop, AP suddenly had a change of heart. Its CEO Tom Curley issued a posthumous apology, to the joy of the intrepid reporter’s sole surviving daughter Julia. Curley declared that Kennedy’s dismissal was a “great, great tragedy” and hailed him as a reporter who did the “right thing” and “stood up to power”.

My colleagues and I had no idea about these machinations, but certainly the capitulation ceremony to the Soviets never made big news, no doubt because Kennedy had effectively neutered it.

We enjoyed a tremendous VE-Day celebration that Monday evening of 7th May. The fireworks (mostly signal rockets) and miscellaneous pyrotechnics were fired in such profusion that we must have emptied the magazines. Unfortunately we could find very few stores of liquor to empty.

U N Q U O T E

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Quotes for Issue 223 “”

Quote: “Please, as a 16-year-old who has no say in Courageous teenager Donal Walsh, facing imminent deathhis death sentence, who has no choice in the pain he is about to cause and who would take any chance at even a few more months on this planet: appreciate what you have, know that there are always other options and help is always there.”

Donal Walsh, 16, while dying
at home in Kerry of a tumour in his leg,
pleads eloquently  for fellow teenagers
to desist from suicide. 

Quote:  “Abortion is a crime against humanity ... Since Boston College has not withdrawn its invitation and Mr Kenny has not declined it, I shall not attend the graduation.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley is boycotting a graduation ceremony at
Boston College, a Jesuitical (and thus supposedly staunchly Catholic) institution,
because it has invited as its keynote speaker
Enda Kenny, to whom it will also award an honorary degree. 

Mr Kenny is Ireland's Taoiseach (prime minister)
and the invitation reflects the college's long association with Ireland.

The Cardinal is taking this action because
Mr Kenny, who presents himself as a practicing Catholic,
is “aggressively promoting abortion legislation” in Ireland,
which has hitherto been abortion-free.

Quote: “We wanted to send more reinforcement to Benghazi. ... Gregory Hicks, committed Democrat, honourable truth-tellerThe people in Benghazi had been fighting all night. ... But he told me he had not been authorized to go. The vehicles needed to go. ... Lt Colonel Gibson [commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command in Africa] was furious. ... I had told him to bring our people home. Apparently no one had been authorized to go.

Gregory Hicks, former top US diplomat in Libya. 

He was testifying on 8th May in front of
the House Oversight and
Government Reforms Committee,
concerning the seven-hour Jihadist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi on
the eleventh anniversary of 9-11,
which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens
and three other Americans. 

The Obama/Clinton administration refused to send military help
that fateful night, then lied about the cause of the attack
- and the President went to bed.

As a result of his refusal to support the Obama/Clilnton lies
about what happened, Mr Hicks, a career civil servant,
was demoted from deputy chief of mission to desk officer.

Mr Hicks is a registered Democrat, who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries
and for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.  Yet he chose to speak the truth.

Quote: “This land [the Gaza Strip] has Al Qarawadi (left) with Hamas boss Ismail Haniyehnever once been a Jewish land. Palestine is for the Arab Islamic nation.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a prominent Islamic scholar and cleric, based in Qatar,
made famous by his popular TV show
and widely respected in the Muslim world.

Truth, objectivity and overall morality  have never been this cleric's
strong points.

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See the Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience

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I am back after a half-year hiatus, the result of a lot of personal and other stuff (including laziness)

ISSUE #222 - Quarter 1, 2013

 

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Cyprus Gas Is All Gas - 23rd March 2013

bulletAbominable CAP - 19th March 2013
bulletSuicide Treblethink in Ireland - 7th March 2013
bulletSpot the Odd One Out - 14th February 2013
bulletWORLD WILL FRAC - 6th February 2013
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Policing Gay Boudoirs - 6th February 2013

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Gaza Ghetto - 6th February 2013

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Fai Chun - Year of the Snake - 6th February 2013

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Anybody Here Seen Kerry? - 6th February 2013

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Horseburger Groans - 6th February 2013

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Issue 222’s Comments to Cyberspace

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Quotes for Issue 222

Cyprus Gas Is All Gas - 23rd March 2013

Don't believe what you hear about a gas bonanza

Cyprus is in economic turmoil, short of a mere €16 billion, 65% of its annual GDP.   The EU has promised to lend it €10 bn but only on condition it raises the other €6 bn in cash from its own resources.  Seemingly it has nowhere to turn for instant cash but to raid Cyprus bank accounts to confiscate both the life savings of innocent citizens and the supposedly ill gotten-gains of Russian multi-millionaire oligarchs. 

This will of course - if it has not already done so - ruin the reputation of Cyprus as a centre for international financial services and sound banking, if not a sunny haven for shady money.  So a major source of future revenue has instantly dried up, leaving tourism as the only export market. 

But there is a small glimmer of hope whereby the confiscation may not  have to be as draconian (up to 10% of deposits) as feared.  For Cyprus apparently has a big, offshore gas field waiting to be developed, and plenty more in the offing, with hundreds of billions of €uro waiting to be reaped. Securities on this could be sold for cash, in return for a slice of the lucrative future revenues. Russia's giant, state-owned Gazprom, the biggest gas company in the world, is being mooted as one potential investor. 

This gas securitisation idea is being heavily hyped, and I have not come across a single dissenting voice.

Personally I had never heard of Cyprus's gas bonanza before, which made me suspicious and prompted me to have a closer look. 

As a result, I am therefore now a single dissenting voice.  Here's why. 

The Cypriots tell us that they have excellent offshore gas reserves: 7 TCF so far, equivalent to two million barrels of oil, with an upside potential of 60 TCF.  (TCF stands for trillion cubic feet.) 

Premature to call Aphrodite a *field*The only field identified so far is called Aphrodite, after the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation; obviously the Cypriots are hoping a bit of that action will emanate from beneath the waves.

The subsea Aphrodite is seen as a multi-billion €uro windfall that, simply by selling future production, will become some kind of saviour. 

This is foolish.  Not only are there political difficulties (powerful Turkey disputes Cyprus's sovereignty over the offshore area in question and has already sent a gunboat), but the technical difficulties and the cost of bringing to market gas that is 200 hundred kilometres offshore in 1,700 metres of water depth are immense. Such a project,

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involving up to two thousands kilometres of subsea pipeline to Greece,

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in order to build

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an LNG liquefaction plant

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and an export port,

would easily stretch to ten years and maybe €5 billion paid upfront before a penny of revenue. The map below shows the route of the 1,800 km Trans-Med pipeline that the Cyprus Government is suggesting (anything to avoid Turkey).

However the whole concept is a mirage anyway. 

7 TCF would be an immense gas field. 

By comparison, Ireland has one great field, Kinsale, with 1½ TCF that has been producing for 30 years, and another, Corrib, with 1 TCF Malampaya - from Palawan to Luzon.  Click to enlargewhich will have cost €2½ billion and twelve years to develop by the time gas first appears in 2015. 

In the 1990s, the company I then headed discovered the Philippines' biggest hydrocarbon field, Malampaya, which lies offshore the sparsely populated island of Palawan in 846 metres of water.  It is 530 km from the nearest viable market being the island of Luzon where Manila is located (click to enlarge the chart).  When discovered, the reserves were estimated by my team to be 1.1 TCF of gas (since upgraded to 2.7 TCF), and development entailed a record-breaking 24 subsea pipeline to Luzon along a seabed fraught with faults and instabilities.  Malampaya took nine years to appraise and develop, at a cost of $4½ billion (€4 bn). 

I mention Kinsale, Corrib and Malampaya to put Cyprus's Aphrodite in some perspective. 

Backing up the declaration of Aphrodite as a discovery, are seismic surveys and just a single exploration well.  It is designated “A-1 Discovery” on this chart, which was published on 6th December 2012 by Noble Energy, the American oil and gas company which made the discovery.

Aphrodite - a classic case of wishful thinking

Note also the words “DST Pending”. DST stands for Drill Stem Test, which is a rather rudimentary method for testing the rate at which the well will produce oil and/or gas and/or water, in actual practice as distinct from theory. In other words Noble are bragging about “5-8 TCF” based on just that one well that they haven't even tested.  Nevertheless this seems to be the grounds on which they and the Cyprus Government tout about reserves of seven TCF and even, taking into account similar structures in the area, a possible/probable sixty. 

This is fanciful talk in the extreme. 

When perhaps a dozen wells have been drilled (at a typical cost of €40 million each), or perhaps even the four more that the chart indicates are planned, it will be time to take seriously claims of 7 TCF. 

What early Cypriot Pounds will look like, until there is time to print proper onesUntil then, chatter about Cyprus gas is nothing but gas, combined with wishful thinking.  Don't put your money there.  Serious investors are certainly not going provide cash against the long, vague shot of production revenues perhaps a decade hence. 

Other than raiding bank deposits, there is no quick fix that is going to produce €6 bn for the hapless Cypriots. 

Therefore, if it fails to do so, either it goes bankrupt and tumbles out of the €uro and back to a worthless Cypriot Pound. 

Or the EU blinks first and ponys up the extra €6bn in order to save the (nevertheless doomed) €uro for a little longer.

This is the outcome I would bet on.

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Abominable CAP - 19th March 2013

The EU Common Agricultural Policy rewards farmers for no discernible reason

On 19th March I was invited to become part of the audience for the Prime Time TV programme that Ireland's state broadcaster RTE puts out twice a week. This was to partake in a discussion about the EU's most expensive, longest running subsidy, the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, to which I have long been viscerally opposed, as the programme makers know.

You can view my contribution here, where it appears in minute 5 of the second item, titled Farm subsidy questioned”. 

This is essentially what I said (with links to my sources):

The CAP is abomination which

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extorts massive sums from 95% of EU citizens,

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which it then throws at the 5% who farm things,

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but for a cost that is three times what customers want to pay.

That’s why

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subsidies account for over 70% of Irish farm income
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(amounting to nearly two billion €uro per year

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out of the total EU CAP budget of €52 bn),

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which is why the CAP eats 38% of the EU budget, and

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why the CAP adds €500 to the annual food bill of every home.

And that’s not to talk of the Third World livelihoods that the CAP destroys due to

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the subsidised dumping of surplus EU (and also US) agricultural products

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and the protectionist barriers restricting entry of their cheaper food into the EU.

The sooner the CAP is abolished the better, with part of the huge sums saved redeployed to retrain farmers to learn new, marketable skills that customers actually value.

There is no shortage of food in the world for those able to pay for it, which certainly includes the countries of the European Union.

No-one really challenged what I said.  The farmers were too busy squabbling among themselves about how to divvy out the CAP spoils. 

That tends to make another point.  The prime crop in EU farming today is not farm produce but farm subsidies - how to maximise them and get the biggest share, which is always the case when big money is being given away.  Subsidies are like narcotics - destructive and degrading in equal manner; recipients quickly become junkies who lose their sense of pride and those who distribute them the drug dealers. 

Even in this lively TV discussion about farming, so pervasive was the narcotic that not a single person talked about actual farming, only the subsidies. 

Imagine if that energy went into actual, you know, farming. 

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Quote (19th March): “OK, so props don't ever join the referee ranks because it's a lot of running. But would it be so harmful to perhaps get a prop on the pitch to officiate at scrum-time only? He could then leave the field until the next scrum. He wouldn't have to run anywhere, he'd get free pies on the touchline, and we'd have a scrum official who'd really know what was going on.”

A commentator's suggestion at the recent Wales/England
6-Nations championship decider (won 30-3 by Wales),
which was heavily punctuated by inscrutable penalties at scrum time.

The problem is that rugby referees are never props (who hate running)
and therefore never understand the mysterious, nefarious machinations
grinding within the dark recesses of a heaving, wheezing, sweat-laden scrum.

Hat-tip: Graham Hunt in Perth, Oz

Quote (19th March): “Sure what could go wrong? It is the day after St Patrick’s Day, a roomful of Paddies, a free bar and the future king of England. It’s going to be messy.”

Comedian Patrick Nulty at a €1,000-per-plate testimonial dinner
in London for Irish rugby star Brian O'Driscoll,
attended by, inter alia, the Duke of Cambridge

Suicide Treblethink in Ireland - 7th March 2013

From compassion to blood sacrifice

George Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, his seminal though subtle diatribe against global tyranny, introduced the world to many new words that have since entered the Orwell's prescient diatribe against global tyrannyEnglish language: Big Brother, thoughtcrime, newspeak, memory hole, duckspeak, unperson ... doublethink. 

He defines doublethink as, among other things,

the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

He even has a shorthand word for this - blackwhite, denying the evidence of your eyes by declaring and believing that black is white or vice versa. 

I wonder how many other Western countries are as conflicted about suicide as Ireland, which seems to have developed not Orwell's doublethink but its own treblethink on this troubling subject. 

Judging by Irish media over the past few weeks and months, huge numbers of Irish, in full sanctimonious flow, seem to believe that death by suicide is, simultaneously,

  1. a terrible thing that must be prevented by all means,

  2. a wonderful thing that must be accommodated by all means,

  3. a dreadful worry that can be alleviated only by blood sacrifice.

Examples:

1     A Terrible Thing

It is a terrible thing to lose a loved one who has died at his/her own hand. 

Yet death by suicide in Ireland has become so prevalent that Ireland's main opposition party, Fianna Fail, is proposing a new 7½% tax be levied on alcohol sales (excluding pubs and restaurants) in order to fund €86 million worth of suicide prevention services.  Its report, Actions Speak Louder than Words: A Structural Approach to a Societal Issue, advises that Irish suicides have increased by 30% over the past decade, a huge heartbreaking tragedy that took 525 lives in 2011, most of them young males. 

This death toll is almost thrice that of the roads (186), another major killer of predominantly young males, but one that receives far more attention and funding than suicide, and has positive results to show for it in terms of reducing the deaths.   Fianna Fail's attempt to tackle suicide is an honourable one which if adopted will undoubtedly likewise make a real difference. 

Those considering suicide do indeed need to be identified, helped, counselled to support them in dealing with these self-destructive thoughts.  Prisoners who present a self-harm risk are routinely put on suicide watch, which includes regularly checking of their cells as well as removing all items that might be used to cut, strangle or poison. 

Suicide is permanent, life's problems are temporal.  No effort is too great to save such people from needlessly extinguishing their most valuable attribute - their lives - when actual solutions can be developed. 

2     A Wonderful Thing

Living the terror of locked-in syndromeWe have probably all imagined ourselves in some dreadful situation where we might long for the sweet release of death. 

Locked-in Syndrome holds particular terror - who can forget The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby who ended up this way after a stroke in 1995.  Though fully cosmos mentis with all his senses intact, he awoke unable to move his body apart from his left eyelid, which he used, one blink at a time, for rudimentary communication and to laboriously write his book, letter by letter.  Had he wanted to commit suicide, he would of course have been unable to do so, other than to request someone else to end his life. 

But that someone else would then have been prosecuted for unlawful killing or worse, for while the law permits suicide, helping someone to commit suicide is illegal. 

For Irishwoman Marie Fleming and many others in her sad situation, it's not locked-in syndrome but terminal multiple sclerosis which since 1986 has been slowly paralysing her bodily functions and will eventually suffocate her.  So she would like to be the mistress of her own destiny and die at a time of her choosing, before her suffering and fear become unbearable.  But though in full possession of her mental capacities, she is already confined to a wheelchair and so to kill herself would need someone to set a system up, such as a poisonous drink.  Once again, that person - in this case her loving partner - would be liable for prosecution. 

There is much sympathy for her predicament, for who would not want to help a suffering yet coherent relative who desperately wanted to go to a better place.  But the ban on assisted suicide is there for a reason - to affirm the sanctity of human life but also to avoid creating situations where vulnerable people feel obliged (or maybe are encouraged) to have themselves killed, perhaps to relieve kinfolk of a burden or to release a legacy. 

Marie Fleming and many like her would consider it a wonderful thing to be allowed to commit suicide, with help if necessary, as a way to conclude her journey on this earth in a dignified and gentle manner.  And public opinion is firmly with them. 

But though the law is not with them, judges are hinting to public prosecutors that they should use discretion in bringing prosecutions in such cases; ie don't. 

3    Dreadful Worry

The third angle to suicide relates to unwanted pregnancies.  In most of the western world, abortion is available more or less on demand, despite the fact that it is usually against the law. 

For example in England, abortion up to 28 weeks was legalised in The Abortion Act of 1967, even though the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act remained in place, rendering abortion illegal under pain of life imprisonment. 

The two Acts were reconciled by saying that abortion is permissible only if the life or health of the mother is at risk, including the risk of suicide. 

The suicide provision has been the single biggest factor that has led to abortion-on-demand even up to birth itself - currently 200,000 abortions a year in England and Wales being 20% of all pregnancies.   Lord David Steel, the author of the 1967 Act, is today horrified at the floodgates he never realised he was opening and urges Ireland not to follow his much regretted example. 

Though no-one can objectively prove that someone will commit suicide, it is sufficient in UK law for two psychiatrists to vouch that without abortion a woman is suicidal.  This is a massive loophole, as all it takes is to find a group of pro-abortion psychiatrists to sign the paperwork and the path is clear. 

Indeed, there is no scientific or empirical evidence that abortion prevents suicide.  For example, a recent review of all maternal deaths in Ireland's main maternity hospitals from 1950 to 2011 has found not a single case of a woman taking her own life because she was pregnant. 

Nevertheless, advocates for abortion argue that it is a great mercy for a woman to be allowed to abort her baby if it means she avoids suicide brought on by dreadful worry over her unwanted pregnancy.  Such people, however, never argue that suicidal tendencies should be given the same help, counselling and if necessary suicide-watch that is accepted practice for others - even lowly imprisoned criminals - who seem at risk of self-destruction. 

Only for pregnant women is suicide to be averted through infant blood sacrifice. 

In Ireland where the 1861 Act also remains in force (as a relic of British rule), there is a huge push to legalise abortion in case of threat of suicide, as in England. 

But other than concern over the mother's possible suicide, is there an unthinkable alternative reason for this drive?  Surely it cannot be that risk of suicide is merely a Trojan horse designed to introduce a regime of abortion-on-demand?  Even though this is precisely what has ensued in England and all other abortion-friendly jurisdictions where grounds for abortion include suicide, or even mental health.

Treblethink

So there you have it.  Thousands of otherwise rational, well-meaning people indulge in suicide treblethink -

the power of holding three contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting all three of them.   

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Excuse. 

What would George Orwell have written?  Would treblethink have entered his vocabulary?

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Quote (19th Feb): “Ah no, I'll let someone else eat him. I know him too well!

Paddy Jack, in Dublin's Temple Bar Farmers' Market,
where he serves horse steak sandwiches in Ireland's only horse meat outlet. 

He his referring to Do or Die, his pet racehorse
who is being trained to compete. 

But if on the racecourse Do or Die fails to Do the business he will Die
- and be served up on Mr Jack's stall. 
Though for sentimental reasons not to Mr Jack himself. 

Quote (12 Feb): “Nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.”

President Obama explains in his 2013 State of the Union address
that his proposed litany of more spending, new programs and new bureaucracies
will not increase America's $16½ trillion deficit “by a single dime”! 

Yes, really!

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Spot the Odd One Out -14 February 2013
 
Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams Pope Benedict XVI
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands Queen Elizabeth II

The odd one out is of course the red hat and the dress, that is to say the lady. 

Because she is the oldest of the four. 

She is also the only one who in recent months has not decided to voluntarily resign ahead of time in favour of a successor.

The reason is obvious.  She still does not trust her heir, a spring chicken of a mere 64, to take over her job and execute her/his duties effectively. So unlike the other three, she is sticking to her original vow, to serve until death, or in the case of Archbishop Williams until statutory retirement age. 

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Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury retired on 31st December 2012, at age 61, nine years earlier than he needed to, and was replaced by Justin Welby. 

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Pope Benedict XVI, aged 85, will retire on 28th February triggering a Papal Conclave of cardinals to elect a successor.

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Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, 75, will retire on 30th April in favour of her eldest son Willem-Alexander, who will become the Netherlands' first male monarch since 1890.

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86-year-old Queen Elizabeth II won't step down at all, so leaving 64-year-old Prince Charles (barring a not entirely implausible regicide-matricide) to dangle on for time indeterminate. 

 

From the Sunday Times, 17th Feb 2013

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Quote (7th Feb): “My concrete question to the Irish presidency is: what are you doing to tackle the problem of growing Christian persecution?

Dutch MEP Peter van Dalen,
in response to the reported persecution of
a hundred 100 million Christians around the world,
demands that Ireland as current EU “president”,
take concrete action.

Ireland's response?  Waffle, of course

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World Will Frac - 6th February 2013

A technological revolution in hydraulic fracturing (fraccing)
of hydrocarbon-bearing shales
is leading to an unstoppable energy revolution, which will in turn
lead to entirely benign revolutions in global economics and geopolitics.

A year ago, I wrote in some detail a post called Truth About Fraccing” (tinyurl.ie/frac) which

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takes away much of the mystery surrounding this essentially simple but not widely understood technique to squeeze more hydrocarbons out of the ground, and

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demonstrates that the main objections are mainly bogus.

Just to recap, fraccing (hydraulic fracturing) entails pumping water down a well and into reservoir rock that contains hydrocarbons (gas and/or oil) at such a high pressure that the rock splits open.  This exposes much more of the rock to the wellbore and thus makes it easier for the hydrocarbons to flow into it and up to the surface. 

Vertical and horizontal wells, fracced

This post explores what fraccing is going to mean for the world at large - how it will affect in an almost wholly benign fashion both global economics and geopolitics. 

Just as fraccing is unleashing undreamed-of volumes of hydrocarbons, so the consistently high oil price in recent years, firmly in the hundred-dollar-a-barrel category, is unleashing undreamed-of fraccing technology.  (Click on the interesting oil-price chart below for better detail.)

High oil prices foster innovation, such as fraccing

This unleashed technology has three legs that together are yielding results that are truly startling:

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Seismic surveys are the means by which subterranean rock shapes and make-up are detected, thereby pinning down where potential hydrocarbon accumulations might lie.  Recent advances have enabled ever more obscure or small accumulations to be identified. 

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Drilling wells is the means why which these accumulations of hydrocarbons are connected to the surface.  It too has benefited from ever more sophisticated techniques, from the major (drilling holes that are directional, horizontal, multilateral) to the less glamorous such as improved drilling fluids, measurement techniques, drilling bits, operating practices. 

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Fraccing itself is the process by which the hydrocarbons can be better liberated from the accumulations into the wellbore, particularly when the reservoir rock that holds them is low in both porosity and permeability.  Fraccing methods have improved enormously in recent years, resulting in the production - and potential production - of vast additional volumes that previously were thought impossible to bring to surface. 

Then there is increasing unease, if not panic, in the West at how

  1. 1  its consumption has steadily exceeded its ability to find new hydrocarbons, allied with ...

  2. 2  the extent to which it has therefore become increasingly dependent on foreign sources for its insatiable thirst for oil and gas, sources which are largely hostile to the interests of the West, which is in effect nevertheless funding them. 

This chart of America's trillion-dollar dependency illustrates the point; it is typical of the West in general. 

Perils of US oil production and imports

These three elements - oil price, technological advances and foreign dependency - are the factors that have led to a fraccing boom, currently evident only in a few parts of the US, but one that is going to sweep the world. 

That is because fraccing is, simply, making available huge quantities of hydrocarbons within the Western countries themselves, changing the energy picture dramatically.  

This tabulation, which appeared in World Oil magazine last August, uses data published by the Energy Information Administration, a US Federal body which collates and analysises energy information.

It shows for a large array of countries the estimated reserves of gas recoverable mainly through fraccing, which add up to 6,622 trillion cubic feet (TCF), a truly astounding figure.  One TCF is the equivalent in energy terms of about 170 million barrels of oil; thus 6,622 TCF equates to over a trillion barrels, worth some $100 trillion at today's prices. 

These numbers need to be put into context.

First Oil:

BP tells us that the world's oil reserves are currently 1,653 billion barrels, which is sufficient to keep us going for another 54 years. 

However, of this 1,196 bn bbl lie beneath the countries of OPEC, while 859 of them ( 52%) are in the Middle East and North Africa, which I will refer to as MENAf.  (OPEC's oil income in 2012 alone was a very juicy trillion dollars.)

Then Gas:

The world's gas reserves amount to 7,361 TCF (BP's figure again), which is 64 years' worth. 

Of this, 3,156 TCF, or 42%, are within MENAfME/NAf

Oil Plus Gas:

Combined into barrels-of-oil-equivalent (BOE), global reserves are therefore 2.9 trillion BOE, good for half a century or so, of which roughly half comes from MENAf. 

MENAf is of course the location of oil-rich states such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, which have been

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fomenting Islamic hostility against the West for decades,

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lavishly funding hate-filled mosques and madrassas that preach rabid anti-infidelism and anti-Semitism to adults and children alike,

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undermining Western democracies,

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sponsoring Jihadist terrorism and terrorists everywhere. 

They seek overtly or covertly the conversion of the infidel world to an Islamic caliphate, under the Koranic injunction to convert, enslave or kill (eg 9:5).  

MENAf countries can behave this way because they are so wealthy, thanks to the West's inability to keep up with its thirst for hydrocarbons.  Thus the West is funding its own enemies, and by the way providing most of the technology and expertise to extract the MENAf's oil and gas. 

Thus the trillion BOE that the EIA estimate is yet to be liberated (through fraccing) from shale gas reserves represents an addition of some 38% to global reserves. 

That is a massive increase by any reckoning, but its impact is even greater because scan the tabulation above and you can see that huge volumes are going to come from consuming countries themselves in Europe, N America and elsewhere. 

But that is not still not the full story. 

6,622 TCF of potential gas reserves from fracced shale, in the dark red areas

This EIA chart shows in dark red where the expected shale gas reserves are to be found.  Just as interesting, however, are the areas that are left out of the reckoning.  These are principally the already hydrocarbon-prolific regions of Russia, the Middle East, Malaysia, Indonesia, not to mention the world's entire offshore acreage.  Oh, and the OIL that fraccing will liberate from shales is not mentioned at all. 

So even if the EIA's estimates of shale gas are wrong by factors, it still looks inevitable that the global stock of oil and gas is set to increase dramatically.

But what exactly does this mean?

Firstly, the volumes to be released through fraccing - and therefore the associated revenues - are so vast that fraccing itself will become an inexorable force.  Frankly, money talks, and no amount of lobbying, bogus scare-tactics or political sanctimony is going to stop the fraccing. 

In due course, the fraccing issue will morph into how to set standards and rigorously enforce them, a far more constructive (and indeed necessary) approach than blindly banning the technology.

As shale gas availability spreads globally, gas prices will tumble.  Fraccing has already trigged this in the USA. 

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In June 2008 the price of natural gas was 12.69 per mBTU (million British Thermal Units);

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by April 2012 this had crashed by over 80% to just $1.82. 

From The Economist, 2nd March 2013

Dramatically lower gas prices will encourage industry and individuals to adopt it in place of dirtier fuels - notably coal, wood, turf, oil - and to seek innovative ways to use it.  Only last year the world's first major gas-to-liquids plant was commissioned, in tiny but gas-abundant Qatar.  Called Pearl, it converts gas into fuels similar to petrol, diesel or kerosene, suitable even for commercial airliners.

It will, moreover, be only a matter of time before abundant gas drives down the cost of all competitor energies.  This process will probably not excessively favour the corporations that extract and market energy, whose increased volumes will be offset by lower unit prices - for example, Shell is already hurting in the US.  But conversely, it is likely to be a bonanza for energy-intensive industries, such as the manufacture of steel, aluminium, cement, glass, and of course transportation.

Above all, however since every one of us relies on energy for practically everything, the coming price-drop is going to amount to a massive global, across-the-board stimulus.  But a stimulus without debt - that doesn't need to be repaid by future generations.

Surely this must amount to the only viable solution on the horizon to the global economic crisis that is engulfing the globe, seemingly with no end in sight. 

Moreover, since so much of the new, fracced energy is going to come from within consumer and other West-friendly countries, the West's huge and precarious dependence on MENAf is going to reduce fulgurantly - as well as reducing transportation costs. 

In turn, MENAf oil revenues (by far those countries' principle source of income) will be slashed as they lose not only export volumes but also in unit prices.  This will much reduce their ability to cause trouble and sponsor Jihad.  It will cause them to focus at last on the on non-oil, regular part of their economy, in a manner that can only benefit their populations - and the rest of the world.

In summary, fraccing is triggering an energy revolution whose effects will be almost wholy benign, for individuals, industries, countries, global economics and geopolitics.

And yet an awful lot of people oppose it fanatically; but that is no mystery.  They remain in the dark over what fraccing actually entails, its opportunities - and yes - risks, because the industry does so little to explain itself.  It is therefore entirely reasonable for ordinary citizens to adopt the precautionary maxim that if you don't know, say no”, when they are operating in a void.  Moreover it is into that very void that activist objectors eagerly leap, with a far more articulate message than the industry's . 

The answer therefore is for the industry to go out and get its own message across with similar skill and enthusiasm as its opponents.  In other words to evangelise. 

This and previous posts, along with associated lectures I have given, are my own modest attempt to address this.  If you would like me to speak about fraccing at meetings (no charge), just drop me a line at blog2-at-tallrite-dot-com. 

I repeat.  Modern fraccing represents an entirely benign revolution that all humanity should embrace. 

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Policing Gay Boudoirs - 6th February 2013

Confusion about who must and who must not
indulge in gay sex in the brave new world of gay marriage

Same-sex partnerships/unions/marriages throw up new problems that make such institutions” increasingly ridiculous, because of the necessity that gay-sex be performed - or not. 

Same-sex civil partnerships, with all the associated tax-breaks, are available to couples (though for some reason not threes or fours) if and only if they actually practice their gay sex; there is no room for celibacy. 

Joyce and Sybil Burden, 95 and 87This can be the only explanation why such partnerships are not open to couples who eschew sex, such as the Burden sisters, two elderly spinsters who share their family home jointly inherited from their parents.  When one of the ladies dies, the death duties the other must pay will force her to sell the house and move out.  Were they bound within a civil partnership, the surviving sister would simply inherit, tax-free, her partner's” half.  But such a partnership - and the associated fiscal advantages - are not open to them because no gay-sex is involved.  Likewise, why shouldn't a pair of (celibate) bridge partners or a man and his sons be eligible for the civil-partnership tax breaks? But they're not.  No sex, no tax breaks. 

What about equality?  And surely we all are supposed to have human rights?

Well, no we don't. 

Unless my buddy and I are prepared for some gay gymnastics in the boudoir (or maybe on the kitchen table) we're not going to get the breaks created for single-sex couples in a civil partnerships. 

Unless ... and here is where it gets (even more) weird. 

The Church of England have been wrestling for decades with what to do about its gay clergy.  It eventually - grudgingly, gradually over many years - accepted that they existed, that many of them were in gay relationships and some in civil unions.  But, goaded by its conservative wing mainly in Africa, the Church drew the line at elevating gay priests to bishophood. 

It was convulsed, therefore, when its American wing, the Protestant Episcopal Church, decided to break this taboo and promote Gene Robinson in 2004 to become Bishop of New Hampshire.  For Bishop Robinson is not just gay but openly living with fellow-gay Mark Andrew, and by all accounts enjoying a gay old sex life.  By the way, the bishop started out marrying a woman in 1972 who bore him two children, but then divorced her in 1986/7 in favour of Mr Andrew. 

The new couple weremarried in both a civil partnership ceremony and in a formal church service in June 2008, with Rev Robinson declaring that he always wanted to be a June bride.  (In impeccably correct fashion, the administering priest was of course a woman.) 

Gene Robinson and Mark Andrew are "married" by a female priest

Predictably, when the Reverend became a Bishop six years later, the Anglican community outside American (and much of it within) were outraged, with Bishop Akinola of Nigeria leading the backlash.  Schism was threatened. 

But as is generally the Anglican way, the Church of England over time slowly learnt to bend with the wind and accept what they deemed unavoidable.  Thus it is that on 20 December, in the face of fierce opposition (again largely led by Nigeria) it decided that gays in civil partnerships CAN now be elevated to bishophood. 

On one condition.  That they and their partners practice celibacy.  

So what is a poor gay married CofE bishop supposed to do? 

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His bosses tell him no sex please, you're a bishop,

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while the state who sanctioned his civil partnership makes clear that sex is a integral element of his partnership.

And pity the Inland Revenue inspectors and Church Sextons (a propitious job title?) whose job is to police the gay-sex of their respective constituents, ensuring that it is simultaneously taking place and not, as the case may be.  How they accomplish this vital task on behalf of wider society I know not, but someone's got to make sure the ridiculous rules are being upheld. 

Nevertheless, it seems the only chance for my non-gay buddy and me is for one of us to become an Anglican bishop and then get married”, or the other way round.  Provided we can dodge both the taxman and the sexton, we get the tax-breaks without the boudoir, er, unpleasantnesses. 

But with one-man-one-woman marriage now obsolete and the old-fashioned constraints of the phrase rendered meaningless, don't get me started on marriage between Amy and her fairground ride ...  

Amy Wolfe wants to marry this 80ft high Gondola ride

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Gaza Ghetto - 6th February 2013

No logic or reason informs the arguments of Israel-haters and/or Jew-haters
(if indeed there is a difference)

This is a cartoon from the Facebook page,  Israel is a War Criminal, to which I couldn't resist responding.

A site for anti-Semites

Yeah right”, I wrote sarcastically. Those damn Jews kept lobbing so many rockets at the poor innocent Nazis that they had no choice but to round them up, ship them to concentration camps and gas them.

Sanya Petrovic Fukerkov took the bait: You think the Palestinian rocket fire is the bigger problem than the Israeli system

I answered her with actual data, and since it took me a bit of time to collate them, I though it worthwhile to store the results here on my Tallrite Blog so as to have it on record.

I hate being boring with facts, I told her, but eight thousand rockets fired from Gaza into Israel is in fact a big problem.

The moment the rockets stop, the Gaza blockade as some call it will stop. It's that simple.

Here's the breakdown (with sources).

Rockets fired into Israel

2001: 7 2005: 401 2009: 569
2002: 42 2006: 1716 2010: 150
2003: 105 2007: 1271 2011: 386
2004: 159 2008: 1399 2012: 1814

Total 2001-2012: 8,019

And since when I see a collection of numbers I cannot resist drawing a chart, here it is.  A colourful pictures speaks a lot louder than numbers. 

Palestinian Rocket Attacks on Israel from Gaza

My two sources were:

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Quora (which proclaims that it connects you to everything you want to know about) and

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Jewish Virtual Library (Sanya will hate that!)

Eventually the discussion thread petered out when my opponents tired of calling me names and inventing facts.   

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Fai Chun - Year of the Snake - 6th February 2013

Hey, it's just a snake

Fai Chun

Professor Lap-Chee Tsui is the Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong University, my first alma mater.  He created this Chinese calligraphy of Fai Chun as a greeting to family and friends to commemorate the Year of the Snake, which begins on 10th February 2013 and runs until 31st January 2014. So please accept this greeting from me to you.

In case you want to create your own Fai Chun, it's easy.  Here's how.

<div class="yt-alert yt-alert-default yt-alert-error yt-alert-player"> <div class="yt-alert-icon"> <img src="//s.ytimg.com/yts/img/pixel-vfl3z5WfW.gif" class="icon master-sprite" alt="Alert icon"> </div> <div class="yt-alert-buttons"></div><div class="yt-alert-content" role="alert"> <span class="yt-alert-vertical-trick"></span> <div class="yt-alert-message"> You need Adobe Flash Player to watch this video. <br> <a href="http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/">Download it from Adobe.</a> </div> </div></div>

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Anybody Here Seen Kerry? - 6th February 2013

Unfortunately, we're going to see rather too much of him
for the next four years

Now that the Senate has endorsed John Kerry as Secretary of State for the next four years, in what has to be one of the Buffoon-in-Chief's worst thought-through senior cabinet appointments (in a field of ferocious competition), it's time to recall the Democratic Presidential convention of 2004.  After Mr Kerry gave a typically ponderous vainglorious speech preceded by a childish “reporting-for-duty” moment, he was endorsed as presidential candidate, to face (and lose to) George W Bush who was seeking re-election. 

During his campaign, he constantly bragged about his military record in Vietnam, but this was thoroughly debunked by his own comrades in arms, the so-called Swiftboaters, who refused to subscribe to his baloney. 

So I couldn't help mocking him. 

Have a fifty-second listen.

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Horseburger Groans - 6th February 2013

Groan

I've eaten one too many of those equine burgers; I reckon I can't take another - I am horse de combat.

If, following the horse-in-burger-meat scandal, you are groaning from one too many horseburger jokes, and would like to groan some more, I have collected all the ones I could (easily) find.  You can find them on one of my Light Relief pages

Groan. 
 

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Issue 222’s Comments to Cyberspace
Period August 2012 to February 2013

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Cost of Corrib Protests [P!]
Letter published in the Irish Times
The report in your newspaper on the latest protests over Shell’s development of the Corrib gas field that “the cost of developing the Corrib gas field could be four times the initial estimate of €800 million at more than €3 billion”.  Simultaneously, the project timetable has trebled from four years (delivery in 2007) to 12 (2015).  These overruns are due overwhelmingly to the protests against a project that was and is proceeding in full compliance ...

Protests have destroyed 75% of tax revenues from Corrib

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Assorted Online Comments - February 2013
Comment made a singe article (so far) in the Irish Times

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Assorted Online Comments - January 2013
Comments made to nine articles in the Irish Times and
a vitriolic thread in the left-wing Cedar Lounge Revolution

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Assorted Online Comments - December 2012
Comments made to seven articles, all in the Irish Times

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Higgins's wings clipped in full debate [P!]
Letter published in the Sunday Times on 11th November

In her hagiography of President Higgins, Alison O'Connor describes her pleasure at hearing once more his
slapdown of American radio host Michael Graham.  However she should do her research before indulging such glee ...

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Children Rights Referendum [P!]
Letter to the Irish Times (published) AND to the Irish Independent (unpublished)
Ireland's written constitution of 1937 is the third oldest in the world, after America (1789) and Australia (1901). It has stood the test of time like few others, through a world war, through a cold war, through countless dictatorships ...

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Assorted Online Comments - November 2012
Comments made to four articles, all in the Irish Times

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Assorted Online Comments - October 2012
Comments made to six articles, all in the Irish Times

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Ireland's freedom of speech culture
Letter (unpublished) to the Irish Independent
Regarding those remonstrating outside the Google headquarters and US Embassy about the availability of some pathetic Youtube clip, is it not ironic that they should use Ireland's freedom of speech culture to protest against Ireland's freedom of speech culture?

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Insult to Muhammad
Letter (unpublished) to the Irish Times
Richard Kimball thinks that offensive speech should be restricted for fear of possible public unrest. I find that a highly offensive contention and call on him to retract it and apologise ...

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Price of medicines
Letter (unpublished) to the Irish Times
The self-serving apologias in respect of Ireland's exorbitant cost of medicines, as advanced by the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association's Philip Hannon and by opthalmologist Kate Coleman, would be amusing were they not so pathetic ...

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Assorted Online Comments - September 2012
Comments made to eleven articles, all in the Irish Times

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Assorted Online Comments - August 2012
Comments made to seven articles, all in the Irish Times

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ESM Treaty an invitation to corruption
Letter to the Irish Independent and to the Irish Times
The ESM Treaty, which when fully ratified will set up a permanent €urozone bailout fund (out of non-existent money), is a totalitarian abomination, which no patriot would ever sign his/her country up to ...

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Quotes for Issue 222

Quote (19th March): “OK, so props don't ever join the referee ranks because it's a lot of running. But would it be so harmful to perhaps get a prop on the pitch to officiate at scrum-time only? He could then leave the field until the next scrum. He wouldn't have to run anywhere, he'd get free pies on the touchline, and we'd have a scrum official who'd really know what was going on.”

A commentator's suggestion at the recent Wales/England
6-Nations championship decider (won 30-3 by Wales),
which was heavily punctuated by inscrutable penalties at scrum time.

The problem is that rugby referees are never props (who hate running)
and therefore never understand the mysterious, nefarious machinations
grinding within the dark recesses of a heaving, wheezing, sweat-laden scrum.

Hat-tip: Graham Hunt in Perth, Oz

Quote (19th March): “Sure what could go wrong? It is the day after St Patrick’s Day, a roomful of Paddies, a free bar and the future king of England. It’s going to be messy.”

Comedian Patrick Nulty at a €1,000-per-plate testimonial dinner
in London for Irish rugby star Brian O'Driscoll,
attended by, inter alia, the Duke of Cambridge

Quote (19th Feb): “Ah no, I'll let someone else eat him. I know him too well!

Paddy Jack, in Dublin's Temple Bar Farmers' Market,
where he serves horse steak sandwiches in Ireland's only horse meat outlet. 

He his referring to Do or Die, his pet racehorse
who is being trained to compete. 

But if on the racecourse Do or Die fails to Do the business he will Die
- and be served up on Mr Jack's stall. 
Though for sentimental reasons not to Mr Jack himself. 

Quote (12th Feb): “Nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.”

President Obama explains in his 2013 State of the Union address
that his proposed litany of more spending, new programs and new bureaucracies
will not increase America's $16½ trillion deficit “by a single dime”! 

Yes, really!

Quote (7th Feb): “My concrete question to the Irish presidency is: what are you doing to tackle the problem of growing Christian persecution?

Dutch MEP Peter van Dalen,
in response to the reported persecution of
a hundred 100 million Christians around the world,
demands that Ireland as current EU “president”,
take concrete action.

Ireland's response?  Waffle, of course

Quote:  “Statistics are like a bikini; it shows a lot but not the whole thing.”

Scott Johnson, the Australian coach of Scotland’s rugby union side,
before on 2nd February it lost (again) to England not just in points scored, 18-38,
but on almost every other statistic measured during the match,
as indeed in most matches for the past thirty years
Hattip: Graham Hunt

Quote: “For every hundred crimes committed in Britain today just one criminal will end up with a conviction in a court of law.

Chris Huhne, Minister of Justice, in 2008
bemoaning the easy ride 99% of criminals get.

Chris Huhne in 2013 became part of the unlucky one percent
when he was convicted and jailed
for perverting the course of justice over ...
a speeding ticket. 

Quote: “We don't have to pay England to be our friend, so why do we have to pay Egypt?”

Senator Rand Paul objects to America sending
F-16s and cash to Egypt under the rule of its
anti-Semitic, holocaust-denying, dictatorship-creating
president Mohammed Morsi

Quote (Facebook, Philip O'Sullivan): Despite spending six centuries buried under a car park, he still has better teeth than most of the guests on the ghastly Jeremy Kyle show.”

The best comment so far With regard to King Richard III

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Neda Agha Soltan, 1982-2009
Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia

Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least alive.

FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY

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Thousands of Deadly Islamic Terror Attacks Since 9/11

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 What I've recently
been reading

The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tol, 2006
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy Tol (2006),
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a household lemon tree as their unifying theme.

But it's not entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz, 2004

See detailed review

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Drowning in Oil - Macondo Blowout
This
examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. 

BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term technical sustainability.  

Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in Russia.  

The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that had become poisonous and incompetent. 

However the book is gravely compromised by a litany of over 40 technical and stupid errors that display the author's ignorance and carelessness. 

It would be better to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying. 

As for BP, only a wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.

Note: I wrote my own reports on Macondo
in
May, June, and July 2010

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Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:

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how the death penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,

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the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and

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Singapore's enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship

More details on my blog here.

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Product Details
This is nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s incredible story of survival in the Far East during World War II.

After recounting a childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen, Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on Germany in 1939.

From then until the Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror. 

After a wretched journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless garrison.

Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in 1941, he is, successively,

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part of a death march to Thailand,

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a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),

bullet

regularly beaten and tortured,

bullet

racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,

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a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,

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shipped to Japan in a stinking, closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,

bullet

torpedoed by the Americans and left drifting alone for five days before being picked up,

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a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic bomb.

Chronically ill, distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life.  Only in his late 80s is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this unputdownable book.

There are very few first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical document.

+++++

Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies
Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies

This is a rattling good tale of the web of corruption within which the American president and his cronies operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.

With 75 page of notes to back up - in best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife. 

Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett, Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book. 

ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine it is.

+++++

Superfreakonomics
This much trumpeted sequel to Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment. 

It is really just a collation of amusing little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour and situations.  For example:

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Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.

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People aren't really altruistic - they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.

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Child seats are a waste of money as they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.

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Though doctors have known for centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection, they still often fail to do so. 

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Monkeys can be taught to use washers as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.

The book has no real message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.

And with a final anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in its tracks.  Weird.

++++++

False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics. 

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as

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Why does asparagus come from Peru?

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Why are pandas so useless?

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Why are oil and diamonds more trouble than they are worth?

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Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

It's central thesis is that economic development continues to be impeded in different countries for different historical reasons, even when the original rationale for those impediments no longer obtains.  For instance:

bullet

Argentina protects its now largely foreign landowners (eg George Soros)

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Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs

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The US its cotton industry comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce

The author writes in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to digest. 

However it would benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide natural break-points for the reader. 

+++++

Burmese Outpost, by Anthony Irwin
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.

The author was a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to harass Japanese lines of command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of India.   

Irwin is admirably yet brutally frank, in his descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness. 

He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved authority of the British. 

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

Oh, and Irwin describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF Brennan.

+++++

Other books here

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