encourage and help others to conduct themselves likewise.
To be honest, I am not sure whether such
behaviour (even if practiced by the whole world) will have any
appreciable influence on the overall global environment, but you
never know. More to the point, these are things I should be
doing anyway in order to minimise my expenses and to live in
agreeable non-slummy surroundings.
That's why environmentalism is so like religion,
or at least Judeao-Christian religions.
Such belief systems demand that we not kill,
injure, deceive, rob or defraud others (an entire moral philosophy
in one short sentence). But these are intrinsically ethical
things we should be doing anyway, God or no God, if we are to live
at peace with our neighbours and - especially - with ourselves.
As an added bonus,
Pascal's wager kicks in - that if God/Environmentalism does
exist I get a bonus, if not there's nothing lost.
But just as all religions seem to have extremists
in their midst, who distort the intrinsic good of their religious
teachings to justify wicked actions in pursuit of evil ambitions, so
too there are environmental extremists. The difference is,
however, that environmental extremism is in danger of becoming
mainstream, at least that particular cult I would describe as
We all know the basic tenets of the cult.
Humans are burning fossil fuels at an increasing rate
give off carbon dioxide
contributes (or causes) climate change (warming and/or cooling)
ongoing destruction of forests is reducing the earth's ability
to absorb harmful CO2
Climate change is leading to catastrophic consequences from
unseasonable flooding to
melted icecaps to
submerged coastlines to
mass deaths to
mass migration away from disaster-struck areas.
Therefore man must drastically cut his CO2 emissions, or carbon
footprint to use the latest fashionable phrase.
Too bad the science teaches something different.
First and foremost, does CO2 cause climate change
or is it the other way round?
Though everyone agrees that temperatures have
varied up and down wildly throughout the geological history of the
world, the evidence the climate changeologists always cite in
respect of recent changes is threefold.
Since the industrial revolution, man has been
pumping CO2 into the atmosphere at unprecedented levels.
Available data recorded by mankind over the
last few centuries show that as CO2 goes up, temperature goes
Data going back millennia (up to 650,000
years), as recorded in
ice cores from Vostok in the Arctic show
a similar correlation, whether up or down.
But what they fail to point out is that the
temperature always precedes the CO2, so CO2 cannot be
a cause of temperature changes, but seems to be a result.
Moreover, temperature rises in the last century
most certainly did not correlate with industrial
activity, at least not until the past decade or two.
So if humans aren't causing CO2 levels to rise,
what is? Well this leads to another inconvenient truth that
changeologists like Al Gore will not bother to tell you in their
Oscar acceptance speeches.
volcanoes alone produce more than this (though this is
the backsides of animals plus bacteria produce a massive
150 GT pa,
decaying vegetation generates even more,
and the oceans greatly outweigh all the above.
Secondly, CO2 is only
half a percent of the atmosphere anyway, of which the
contribution of our puny few billion
people is less than ten percent.
humans cause climate change? Come on!
The driving reason that CO2 increases when
temperatures rise is those oceans. They constitute a gigantic
terrestrial heat sink: when they warm up, they release more CO2 out
of solution - and vice versa. But they are so huge that
hundreds of years can elapse between the cause (temperature) and
But if it's not CO2, what does raise and lower
the world's temperatures? Well, the same thing that provides
our warmth and keeps us alive. The sun, that massive violent
nuclear star, a mere
333,000 times heavier than the earth. It also produces sun spots; no-one knows why.
But they are visible, and observations show that temperatures track
sun spot activity very closely.
There is similar correlation
between global temperatures and cosmic ray activity (which
influences climate by
promoting cloud formation).
Again, to imagine that we
humans can somehow compete with the sun and outer universe in
influencing the world's temperatures is, when you think about
And that's the true
- and simple - story
about climate change.
Temperature rises and falls have always
They are driven primarily by sunspot
Temperature changes cause CO2 changes, not the other way round.
changes occur mainly because the oceans absorb and emit CO2
according to the temperature of the water as heated by the sun.
Human activity accounts for only half a percent of the world's
CO2 emissions and is irrelevant to climate change.
So why is there such a fuss?
Over the past decade or so, the cult of climate
changeology has become a bandwagon which is not so much rolling as
careering at high speed and out of control. Governments
believe in it, or are too afraid not to, and so they fund research.
The US government alone looks like spending
$4bn/yr to combat global warming. The availability of huge
amounts of such money has spawned an entire industry, part of which
is a massive lobbying effort to garner even more lucre. Major
companies have felt obliged to follow suit and to fund their own
climate change activities.
As a result of all this largesse, the livelihoods of tens of
thousands of people now depend on the continuing belief of climate
Meanwhile, no-one is putting up a penny to challenge the
conventional wisdom, and few if any politicians dare put forth a
contrary view or even acknowledge that one exists.
This was hilariously
illustrated on BBC radio last month, shortly after the screening of
a programme called
Great Global Warming Swindle”
(on which much of this post is based -
DVD coming). David Miliband
is Britain's Secretary of
Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, and a potential pretender to Gordon
Brown's prime ministerial throne. He is
the force behind a draconian new
Climate Change Bill, the first of its kind in any
which mandates a whopping 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.
But when asked about one of the very few serious
challenges to the pious green orthodoxy, screened just five days
before his bill was published,
“Ihaven’t seen it. I’ve only got a D in physics”.
He clearly doesn't want to hear any alternative standpoint,
particularly if credible, particularly if based on science.
But at least, unlike his Liberal Democrat counterpart Chris Huhne,
he did not try to get the programme
shut down, without even having seen it.
Al Gore's movie uses a quote
from the socialist writer Sinclair Upton (1878-1968) as part of its
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something
when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
Ironically, this is
precisely the reason that climate changeology goes unchallenged.
So far so intellectual or so religious.
It's only wasting the money of rich taxpayers in the West who can
well afford it.
Unfortunately, however, the damage caused by
following the precepts of the climate changeology cult goes well
beyond that. Because CO2 emissions
will not be reduced without raising the cost of energy which in turn
will impede industrial development, trade and world GDP growth.
There are plenty of non-rich Westerners who
will suffer from the concomitant unemployment and loss of buying
But people in the developing world will
suffer most of all, because in order to develop out of their
penury they rely on a massive increase in energy availability at
competitive prices, as well as open markets to trade their
Note that last phrase: climate changeology is
essentially protectionist and anti-trade.
first ever blog, I mentioned that experts put the total global
cost of reducing CO2 to meet Kyoto commitments at $100 bn/yr for a
The largest proportion of this, in terms of lost development
opportunity, will fall on the huge developing world, in which case
stuff is but a derisory palliative. By comparison, the UN and World Bank
have told us that $200
sufficient to provide all humanity with clean drinking water and
sanitation and thereby avoid two million deaths per year in the developing world.
So if your concern is the welfare of people, surely efforts and
expenditure should be directed in favour of the poor majority rather
than a mythical climate changeology cult.
A final point about the cult. A recent
BBC TV programme had a reporter, Justin Rowlatt, and his family
spending a year cutting their carbon footprint by getting rid of the
car, using low-energy light-bulbs, going vegetarian etc. A
20% reduction was achieved. However the experience must
have been quite erotic, because at the end of the programme the coup
de grace was delivered: the whole exercise had been rendered useless at the last minute.
Why? Because during the year the couple had produced another baby whose own
footprint would use up that 20%, and for the next seventy years.
The depraved message of the cultists was unmistakable. The
world will not be saved from climate change without committing
demographic suicide. No more babies, please. And please,
So there you have the nihilistic essence of climate changeology.
Keep the poor people poor
Eliminate the human race
Leave non-humans to enjoy an
It's enough to make me an atheist. (Almost.)
Late Note (7th May 2007):
You probably thought my remark
“Eliminate the human race”
was some kind of sick joke. I wish.
Sunday Times, a think-tank called the
headed by an emeritus professor of family planning at University College
is about to issue a report saying that
having large families
“is an eco-crime”.
And this from a country whose self-propagation rate, at just 1.7 babies per
is already strongly negative.
“The greatest thing anyone in Britain could
to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child”,
says the professor.
In other words let's get that figure down to 0.7 babies per woman.
What's that song from the 1970s TV series
M*A*S*H satirising the Vietnam War?
As in demographic suicide, it seems.
In May, the Sunday Times kindly printed
an extract of
a letter I wrote making this point.
In Ireland, as in other countries, before you get
a driving licence you obtain a provisional licence that entitles you
to drive provided a licenced driver is sitting beside you.
This allows you to to get lessons and practice on the open road,
until you are ready to take your test.
The only thing is that, since driving licences
were introduced in 1966, the conditions for the provisional licence
have never been enforced. In other words, there are people who
have been merrily driving around on a provisional licence, with no
chaperone beside them, renewing their piece of paper every few years
as required. They amount to no fewer than
380,000 of them, out of an adult population of
all of whom are drivers. Many provisional licence holders have
taken tests and failed (repeatedly); many have not even bothered.
Anyway, due to insufficient testers, there has long been a massive
backlog of testing which means you often can't get a test even if
you want one.
But life goes on.
Provisional licences are issued on request,
insurances are renewed,
(unionised) testers go ballistic if additional temporary testers are
contracted in to ease the backlog,
untrained drivers continue to crash and kill.
And no-one cares. And politicians do
nothing about this scandalous state of affairs.
Meanwhile, in UK, the National Health Service
continues to disappoint most of those who use it. Ever larger
gobs of money are thrown into it, to be swallowed up by juicy pay
rises for staff and hiring additional bureaucrats. With
over a million employees, not to mention further millions
working for contractors and suppliers, it is the largest employer in
Europe, also the biggest monopoly. As such it gives its
customers (patients) little or no choice and is spared the grim
threat of competition. Imagine the selection you have in a
supermarket for all the trivial items you might want, from
toothpaste to baked beans to paper cups. Yet when it comes to
life-and-death issues of health care, it's the NHS that makes the
choice for you. Any suggestion of real reform of this cosy
set-up meets with uproar from staff, so it has never happened.
And no-one cares. And politicians do
nothing about this scandalous state of affairs.
What do these two situations have in common? What
is the shared thread that makes them permanently intractable in a
It's the people, dammit.
When over ten percent of the voting population
have something that they like, such as a no-strings-attached
provisional driving licence, no politician - under pain of ejection
at the next election - is going to dare take it away from them.
Likewise, when your radical reformations to
improve a service (health, for example) are going to entail, for
several million voters, uncertainty, scrutiny, changes of employment
conditions, and in some cases the sack, you will not remain an
elected politician for very long.
Thus, if a problem is allowed to fester and grow
for long enough, it can become completely insuperable by democrats.
In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher wanted to close
down uneconomic coal mines, which resulted in a nationwide
miners strike. The strikers were supported by nearly all
other union members as well as millions of voters, yet she took them
on with gusto and eventually, after nearly a year, defeated them,
and at the same time enfeebled the union movement as a whole.
You might think that drubbing such a large
demographic disproves the rule, but there was a crucial element of
difference. She was a Conservative, and her union opponents
and their supporters were committed, traditional Labourites, who
didn't vote for her anyway. So she and her party had nothing
much to lose. Her democratic mandate would not have been so
safe had she assaulted the City of London, say, in similar fashion.
Thus, if you don't solve problems when they first
manifest themselves, you eventually lay your successors open to an
impossible situation. And you will get away with it because by
then you will be long out of office. Who now blames
Clement Attlee, creator of the NHS in 1948, for the inevitable
problems he institutionalised into it?
It seems to me, therefore, that the only solution
is a coup d'état to install a
benign but stern dictator with vision and drive, who would
unilaterally fix all these problems with no mandate from anyone but
the generals, and who would then, his/her job done, graciously hand
back power (as if) to democrats and a grateful, forelock-hugging
You can always rely on going to Japan when you're stuck for a
bizarre story. They rarely disappoint, and what's truth got to
do with anything?
It seems young Japanese girls have two unusual attributes. They
yearn for the latest must-have pet, a little poodle, and they've
never been on a farmyard or seen “foreign” farm animals.
Japan has a couple of other characteristics: poodles are
expensive (up to $2500) and Japanese don't eat sheep meat so never
see the woolly critters.
A Japanese internet entrepreneur in Sapporo joined up the dots
and arrived at an interesting business plan. He set up an online
company, “Poodles as Pets”, and began marketing, er, pedigree
He sold 2,000 of them at a mere $1250 each, until complaints
started coming in and he had to shut down and run for cover.
Disgruntled customers came up with moans like
My poodle won't bark
He won't eat dogfood
It's hard to clip his
claws because they look like hooves
Ah well, anyone can make a
mistake, even Japanese girls.
Two letters this week, both very different, both again rejected.
I'm going to have to change my target.
Public and Private Healthcare
John O'Sullivan is outraged because the (private) Blackrock Clinic was
able to give him an immediate hip X-ray whereas the (public) St
Michael's in Dun Laoghaire required him to wait three months. The clear
message to draw from this is that if the State wishes to provide free
services it should simply buy them from private facilities. That way,
everyone will be able to get immediate appointments and treatment. To
facilitate this for all citizens across the country ...
Boris Yeltsin's Funeral
How disappointing that Ireland will be
represented at Boris Yeltsin's funeral only by its ambassador
to Russia, worthy as Justin Harman undoubtedly is. Surely, for old
times sake, former
“If we are on defense [with a Democratic president], we will
have more losses and it will go on longer. I listen a little to the
Democrats and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense. We
will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act,
electronic surveillance, interrogation and we will be back to our pre-Sept.
11 attitude of defense ... The Democrats do not understand the full nature
and scope of the terrorist war against us ... America will be safer with a
presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani,
the 9/11 mayor of New York, gets typically blunt,
causing predictable outrage and offence among Democrats
Like many, I had, over the years, vaguely heard
of the controversial
Richard Dawkins, atheist or scientist - I was never sure which -
but only as some kind of occasional background hum. But
I suddenly snapped to attention when I happened to hear a few months
ago the tail end of a
radio discussion in which he was eviscerated by Irish journalist
David Quinn, a slightly militant Catholic. I studied some of
Prof Dawkins' more recent pronouncements and his
last November wrote a
post centred on the interview.
And I bought his latest book,
“The God Delusion”,
which I slowly read (my slowness having nothing to do with its
quality or content).
It is an elegantly constructed piece of work,
clear, concise, comprehensive and sometimes witty. Indeed, it is written in
much the same mellifluous, articulate, convincing tones in which
Prof Dawkins speaks. He is meticulous in providing credible
references complete with URLs - the antithesis of fellow-atheist
Noam Chomsky, a charlatan who tries to
obscure his sources for fear readers might find him out.
There is much logic in what the Professor
propounds, indeed he repeatedly stresses that science - especially
Darwin's theory of evolution - is the basis for his atheism.
If I were to have read the book as an agnostic from Mars, with no
particular pro-God or anti-god axe to grind, I would certainly find
his atheism persuasive.
His attacks on God are focused primarily on the
Roman Catholic religion. This is both personally safe for the
author, and logical in the sense that among the Christian churches
the Catholic doctrine is the most clearly promulgated. But it
does not explain why other religions get such cursory treatment.
In particular, Islam which is the world's most dogmatic and
politicised faith, and the biggest after Christianity, gets very
little attention, thaough this is understandable if you don't want
your head sawn off under a fatwa.
Dogma, Strawmen, Mockery, Axioms
He uses a number
of cheap tricks to disparage and disprove religion, including
invented dogmas, strawmen, mockery and even
his own axioms. Several of these appear on a single
man cannot understand something (such as the doctrine of the
Trinity) it must be false.
An Oxford science professor of all people should never draw
such a conclusion: science is all about trying to understand
that which you do not.
“goddess in all but name”,
in fact several goddesses - of Fatima, Lourdes, of Medjugorje
A strawman: she has never been claimed
to be any such thing.
And what is so odd about her
patronising more than one place?
The number of saints who help with
particular human ailments is very large; same with the angels,
who have different hierarchies (seraphim, cherubim etc).
Citing the numbers in this way is just
mockery: saints and angels either exist or they don't,
irrespective of how many there are.
A further interesting axiom he puts forth (p253) is
that Adam never existed at all and therefore anything religious
related to him (such as original sin) is a nonsense. OK, maybe
he wasn't called Adam, but what he is actually saying is that there
was never a
“first man”, which contradicts both intuition and his own
beloved Darwinism. For how would he describe the first ape which
mutated into a human? There must have been one.
On p61, he writes about an
interesting prayer experiment, when groups of people prayed for
certain sick patients to get better but not for others. The
result was inclusive either way, which he takes to mean that prayer
does not work because God does not exist.
But that's the
conclusion of a pre-ordained non-believer.
A believer would say of
course God isn't going to play along with a tacky little lab
test which tries to trick him with prayers that carry an
ulterior motive. Dumb he ain't.
of God's existence that he sets up in order to exuberantly knock
them down, even though no serious theologian subscribes to them,
Some people think the
existence of fine art proves God's existence (p86)
Some people interpret
mysterious night noises as God or Satan (p87)
Some say they have heard
the voice of God - Prof Dawkins maliciously spreads the false
rumour that George Bush invaded Iraq because of this (p88).
Some believers claim to have
had holy visions (think Lourdes). But whether they were true
or hallucinatory (p89-92) has no bearing on God's existence or
indeed on people's theistic beliefs. That too is a Dawkins
Another of the sneering
reasons for rejecting God's existence is the very notion that he
observes all the actions and thoughts of every individual and keeps some
kind of tally for the day of reckoning. But a scientist,
especially, should recognise that it's not that hard to keep track
of one individual (private investigators earn their livings this
way), and modern technology already allows some thoughts to be read
by a computer (which, for example, then operates prosthetic limbs).
So if man can already do some of what an all-powerful God does, albeit to a small
degree, why would it be problem for an all-powerful God? After
that, it's only a matter of scale. There are six billion
people alive today, so that makes for a pretty big Excel
spreadsheet. Some reckon the total for the whole of history is
110 billion, but it's still only a spreadsheet.
Old & New Testament
There are areas where I do agree with the professor. In
particular, he deplores at some length the depravities to be found
in the Old Testament, which match much of what is prescribed in the
Koran (stoning women for adultery etc). I am left speechless
by stories such as
the deliberate mass deaths that accompanied the Great Flood
Lot offering his two virgin daughters for gang-rape to avoid
homosexual buggery (Genesis 19:8)
the indiscriminate death inflicted on the people of Sodom
and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24),
the attempted murder (“sacrifice”)
of Isaac by his own father Abraham (Genesis 22:10),
The destruction, under Moses' orders,
“all that breathed”
among the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites,
Hivites and Jebusites (Joshua 10:40)
But the whole point of Jesus was
to put all that bad stuff in the past and begin anew with a message
of loving your neighbour. My only hang-up over Jesus, and
indeed the Christian churches of today, is that he did not repudiate
the Old Testament. Rather, the good bits are preserved (eg the
ten commandments) and re-read, while (most of) the bad bits are
The professor has fun denouncing the Old
Testament, where - as in the examples above - there is plenty of scope. But he really
struggles when he tries to do the same with the New. So to
manufacture the conclusion that the New Testament is as bad as the
Old, he simply
invents stuff, such as Jesus
“was brusque with his own mother”
he wasn't; he displayed only respect towards her
gets worked up over the word “hate” when it is clearly
just a matter of translation of perhaps hyperbole: “If any
man hate not his own [family] he cannot be my disciple”
Meaning put me - ie God - first, ahead of your family
distorts theology, saying Christ was crucified “in atonement
for the hereditary sin of Adam”
no he wasn't, that's the role of baptism
it was to atone for all the sins of mankind
past and future, a concept that Prof Dawkins for some reason
later finds “repellent”
disgracefully twists Jesus' central
“love thy neighbour” (Matthew 22:39),
by asserting that this means Jewish neighbours only (p253).
This is nonsense. Jesus makes clear all the time
that neighbours include non-Jews such as
Samaritans (Luke 10:33-37),
Greeks (Romans 10:12),
Gentiles, foreigners, savages and slaves (Colossians
even your enemies (Matthew 5:4, Luke 6:27),
and that his apostles should
“make disciples of all nations”
He addresses, rightly, the belligerent history of
believers promoting their beliefs, though neatly sidesteps the issue
of whether the respective beliefs actually demand such belligerence.
Some do, but Christianity certainly doesn't. Those
who have waged war to force conversion to Christianity (as distinct
from, for example, protecting other Christians, which was the
original casus belli) will find no case for doing so
in the words of Jesus. He contrasts this with atheism,
asserting that, notwithstanding the atheism of Stalin (not to
mention Mao, Pol Pot and others), no wars
“have been fought in the name of atheism”.
But here is a point he ignores.
These atheists perpetrated mass-murder, to an
extent unequalled in all of history, as well as untold destruction
of religious infrastructure, largely to suppress the practice of
religion. It seems a little churlish, therefore,
to infer that such bellicose anti-religionism is somehow not a form of
robust pro-atheism. In other words, atheism does kill,
and - as you can see from the above chart - even more lethally than religionism.
That is not to say that most atheists seek the violent overthrow of
religion, just that some do. Similarly, most theists have
It is noteworthy that the atheistic Soviet
communism that caused or spawned all those mega-murders was defeated
primarily by American Protestants aided by a Catholic pope.
As an aside, Prof Dawkins makes a powerful
case that Hitler remained a Catholic all his life. If so,
it makes the Church's failure to excommunicate him shameful.
Being religious does not make you immune to wrongdoing.
The other area where atheists
run into serious problems is explaining free will - which Prof
Dawkins says he
“is not interested in”,
and for good reason.
Science explains that we act in certain ways solely because neurons
zipping around in our brains tell us to, and some mechanistic
process causes the neurons to fire, the product of our DNA and
learning. But theists (or, at least, Christians) say we have
personal control over our actions - in effect neurons firing for no
physical reason as atheist Mark Humphrys
describes it. Theists would say there is a spiritual
This is a hugely important issue, because depending on it is the
whole concept of human responsibility for behaviour, whether good or
evil. This is what separates us from animals, who have no
concept of morality.
If Christians' explanation of free will is deemed to be
unsatisfactory, then that of atheists must be even more so because
it releases humans of all personal accountability for their actions.
No wonder the professor wants to skirt the issue.
Before Big Bang
Meanwhile, there is an elephant in the room, which Prof Dawkins
refuses to recognize.
Science explains an awful lot of what we know about life and the
world, and theists and atheists alike can share this common
knowledge and understanding.
Quantum physics explains the behaviour
of the tiniest
to the movement of the stars and galaxies
Bang 13.7 gigayears ago that started it all.
Darwinian evolution is a brilliant, thoroughly credible
theory of how simple organisms evolved over megayears to become,
via the extraordinary mechanism of survival of the fittest,
the complex animals and plants we know today.
As a side issue, no-one can explain why and how man somehow
evolved a brain capable of grasping complex concepts such as
Einstein's theory of relativity when such brainpower is utterly
useless for hunting and gathering food, evading predators and chasing women.
However where the believers and disbelievers dramatically diverge
is in explaining what caused and came before the Big Bang.
Prof Dawkins airily
dismisses this with the words
“science is working on it”.
Theists bridge the gap by saying that God created it, along with all
those laws of quantum physics and universal constants without which
nothing - including Darwinian evolution - can happen.
Prof Dawkins' belief
in the eventual emergence of a scientific explanation is exactly
that - a belief with circumstantial evidence but no concrete proof.
Just as belief in a God is.
Finally, suppose God does exist. Then
surely it is the duty
of every believer who loves his fellow man and wishes him well in
both this life and the next, to make God known to as many others as
possible, and to start the process at childbirth. Prof Dawkins
asserts that the latter amounts to child abuse, because he assumes
his own beliefs are as infallibly right as the Pope's. But if he's
wrong in his atheism, the abuse is to deny the child a religious
It is ironic that the professor spreads his Dawkins delusion of
the non-existence of God with what amounts to a religious fervour,
his followers regard him as the high priest of atheism, and books
such as The God Delusion seemed to viewed as a catechism.
Personally, however, I find his proselytising tome well worth
reading, but in the end unconvincing. I will not be adopting the theology of
Late Note: Seems I didn't coin the
title of this post. Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath
book of the same name and
Dr T Tommyrot has been
about a similar tome.
Iran, fresh from its stunning military, diplomatic, propaganda
and theatrical defeat of the British armed forces, found it
appropriate to pull another rabbit out of the hat last week.
It happened when most (well, some) of us were still reeling as one
shocking revelation followed another -
they don't fight back,
their mother ship doesn't care,
the defence secretary hides (so does Gordon Brown),
the prisoners cavort for the Iranian TV cameras,
they kowtow to the Iranian president,
he decorates their captors,
he frees them (unharmed, untortured),
an Iranian bomb kills four British soldiers in Iraq,
the freed captives moan about tough conditions in Iran (when
they're allowed to sell their stories for obscene sums,
Britain's bumbling generals change their minds,
no-one is court-martialed,
the responsible ministers feign ignorance and innocence.
And then President Ahmadinejad announces to everyone's surprise
that he now has no fewer
3,000 uranium-enrichment centrifuges up and running, which can
make enough weapons-grade material for two or three nuclear bombs
“With great honour”,
“I declare that as of today our dear country has joined
the nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an
The British débâcle has assured him he can do what he likes,
increasing by a factor of ten the number of centrifuges he
had previously admitted to,
ignoring denuclearisation promises negotiated by the
(Britain, France, Germany),
ignoring two sets of unanimous UN sanctions now in place.
The world's reaction matches his expectation. Too
frightened to even contemplate what 3,000 - or 50,000 - centrifuges
might actually mean (hint: destruction of Israel, followed by
plenty of threats of more to come), the first reaction of
Western nations is to move smartly into denial mode.
Russia, France and Australia lost no time in
declaring that Iran could not possibly be as advanced as it
did the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency.
This illustrates how we in the West seem stuck in a paradigm
wrapped in a paradox.
We think all politicians lie all of the time. And with good
reason, because a great many of them do. But - and here's the
rub - only in the democratic West. Democratic politicians lie
because they want to hide their mistakes, or they're doing something
dodgy or they think the people won't stomach the measures they want
to impose. In all cases, their objective is simply to keep
their jobs. To take just three prime ministerial examples from
the past year,
Britain's Tony Blair is
lying when he says he was ignorant of the decision to allow
those marines to sell their stories to the media;
Bertie Ahern was
lying when he denied businessmen gave him illegal payments
when he was Ireland's Finance Minister;
Ferenc Gyurcsany was
lying when he assured the electorate that Hungary's finances
were fine and he had no austerity plans up his sleeve.
But, paradoxically, when you look at tyrannies, truth is often
their most powerful currency. Lenin, Stalin and Mao, with the
help of Marx and Das Kapital, were all crystal clear in what they
wanted to do, and then they did their best to deliver. Same
with Hitler, who meticulously wrote down his megalomaniac xenophobic
plans in Mein Kampf. Same with Ayatollah Khomenei and Osama
Western leaders talk the talk; these guys walk the talk.
That is why we should treat their pronouncements with the utmost
seriousness. Not only do they generally avoid lying if the
issue is big enough, but not believing their words ends up costing a
great many innocent lives.
So when Mr Ahmadinejad tells us he has 3,000 centrifuges up and
running, is planning for 50,000 of them, wants to wipe Israel off
the map and believes that the Shi'ites' revered
Imam will arrive shortly thereafter, we are stark raving mad not
to take him at his word. Wishing it were not true or denying
it will merely give heart to the Iranian leadership, which will only
make their depraved objectives more likely to come true.
As usual, we rely on America and/or Israel to do the dirty work
During 2002, the music
industry ranked for the first time the UK all-time most popular
single based on total sales not votes. Elton John’s tear-jerking
“Candle in the Wind” sung at Princess Diana’s funeral was way ahead
with 4 million, but second with over 2 million was Queen’s seminal
“Bohemian Rhapsody” recorded way back in 1975. It is indeed a
fabulous piece of music, but the
lyrics are rather weird. Landslides? Guns? Scaramouche?
Gallileo? What's that all about?
Definitely not something you can act out.
Unless, of course, it's 2007 and you're comedian Lee Evans in this, my
video of the week.
Two letters this week, both rejected. I thought
the anti-Brit one would strike a chord, though probably not the
pro-Catholic one, at least not in post-Catholic Ireland.
Having It Both Ways with the Church
John T Kavanagh is appalled at Fr Gregory O'Brien's suggestion that only
practicing Catholics should get a Catholic funeral. No doubt he also
thinks non or ex-members of the local golf club or members who won't pay
their subs should be entitled to play a round whenever they want.
I am reminded of the late Robin Cook, Tony Blair's first Foreign
Secretary. An avowed atheist, he was nevertheless accorded full
Christian obsequies at ...
Celebritification of Kidnapped British Sailors and Marines Not content with their instant capitulation during captivity, the 15
British servicemen and servicewoman kidnapped by Iran have now been
permitted to sell their stories (World, April 9th). The most disgraceful
aspect of this final act of undignified
- - - - - - - - - -
D A R F U R - - - - - - - - - -
“It serves as an unequivocal indictment of the Janjaweed, and of
the Sudanese government whose implicit support it has enjoyed. This is
the kind of evidence that puts paid to the claims still coming out of
Khartoum that the ethnic cleansing is not widespread.”
Google Earth launches
that allows viewers to zoom in on the destruction in Darfur,
which has killed some 300,000 people and displaced more than 2 million.
It is a joint effort by Google and the US
Holocaust Memorial Museum, aimed at stirring worldwide interest and
understanding of the conflict,
labelled genocide by only a few countries, including the US.
- - - - - - - - - -
I R A N - - - - - - - - - -
“With great honour, I declare that as of today our dear country has joined the
nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale”.
announces that it now has 3,000 uranium enriching centrifuges
up and running (with plenty more on the way)
- - - - - - - - - -
U N - - - - - - - - - -
“We want a butterfly; we don’t intend to put lipstick on a
caterpillar and call it a success.”
ever-combative John Bolton,
commenting (last year) as US Ambassador to the UN
on the replacement of the
much discredited UN Human Rights Commission
with a new Human Rights Council.
Disgracefully, the new HR Council has
turned out to be
just what Mr Bolton feared - the old HR Commission plus make-up.
- - - - - - - - - -
S R E B R E N I C A - - - - - - - - - -
“The defendants are guilty ... of killing six prisoners of
Serbian judge Gordana Bozilovic-Petrovic,
sentences four members
of the Serbian crack commando unit, the Scorpions,
to between 20 and 5 years for their part in the
1995 Srebrenica massacre, based on
When did you ever hear of
a Muslim judge sentencing Muslims
for murdering Christians because they were Christians?
- - - - - - - - - -
C L I M A T E - - - - - - - - - -
“Ihaven’t seen it. I’ve only got a D in physics.”
David Miliband, Britain's Secretary of
Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, and
potential pretender to Gordon Brown's prime ministerial throne,
refers to Channel 4’s recent TV programme
Great Global Warming Swindle”,
which in recent times
is the only serious challenge to the pious green orthodoxy.
Mr Miliband is the force behind the draconian Climate Change Bill,
and clearly doesn't want to hear any contrarian viewpoint,
particularly if credible.
- - - - - - - - - -
I R O N Y - - - - - - - - - -
“Nothing is as innately funny as spelling
with a PH.”
I could scarcely believe my eyes and ears as the drama over the
fifteen hostages kidnapped by Iran unfolded.
As part of its UN mandate, the British armed forces routinely
intercept vessels approaching Iraq up the Shatt al-Arab waterway, to
check for explosives and smuggling, and to protect Iraq's offshore
oil installations. For its exports and
imports, Iraq has only one port, Basra, located up
the Shatt al-Arab Waterway that divides it from Iran. Thus if
an attack by a suicide boat-bomb, for example, were to close down
port operations, or take out the oil export facilities, it would have extremely serious economic
consequences. That is the reason the UN has mandated the
military protection that Britain provides.
On 23rd March, fifteen sailors and
marines in two rubber boats boarded a dhow suspected of carrying smuggled cars. Their
mother ship, a robust frigate called
HMS Cornwall, stood off a couple of miles away, armed to the
teeth with anti-surface, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weapons
systems, which included a Lynx helicopter.
Incredibly, the frigate just looked on as at least eight Iranian gunboats
crossed into Iraqi waters where they rammed and surrounded the two
British boats, arrested the fifteen Britons
and then stole the boats.
Later, there was a dispute over exactly where the
rubber boats had been, though with ubiquitous hand-held GPS devices,
there is little room these days for navigational error. The
Brits claimed the boats were within Iraqi waters (the little white
square above). But when the Iranians denied this and provided
alternative co-ordinates, these turned out to be within Iraqi waters
as well (“1st
When this was pointed out to them, they said oh, that's a mistake,
and rushed off to produce a different set of numbers (“Revised
So, after this little farce, whom are you going to
believe? The lying Brits who are acutely aware of boundary
issues and the rules of war, or the innocent Iranians who blithely
change their data to suit the situation? I'm with the Brits on
Of course, you cannot blame the sailors and marines, with their little
handguns and rubber boats, for surrendering in the face of overwhelming Iranian
naval firepower. But what on earth is the point of having HMS Cornwall on
the scene if it is not going to provide protection when its own
servicemen are attacked on the high seas? Is it just some kind
flotel providing bed and food? In which case, why not
simply use a flotel, which would be much cheaper.
I am often critical of the Irish Army because it hasn't fought
anyone in forty years, is incapable of defending Ireland from
foreign incursion should this ever be needed, stages nice parades in
downtown Dublin, but amounts to little more than a branch of
international social services albeit doing honourable work.
But the pathetic performance of HMS Cornwall, which at least
should know better, is in a different league. Some
would like to
blame over-restrictive Rules of Engagement for its reticence.
But, faced with an overt act of war, nothing, frankly, excuses
Commander Jeremy Woods for abandoning his own men and women to their
Where is Nelson with his blind eye when you need him?
So much for supine captains of the Royal Navy.
Perhaps they gave lead to the world's self-important politicians.
Because it was clear that, other than some peremptory harrumphs
from a few European leaders and EU officials, the European Union,
whose citizens had been kidnapped, didn't care and just didn't want
“Mustn't upset those Iranians, y'know, even though
they depend on us for fully
40% of their foreign trade”.
Where is the much touted EU
solidarity when you need it? What page of that moribund Constitution can I find it on?
UN, whose mandate the service personnel were carrying out before
they were kidnapped, and who are the custodians of those conventions on the treatment of prisoners
that the Iranians were so cavalier about flouting (TV confessions,
no consular access etc), were no better. The
best the Security Council could muster was
- wait for it - “grave
Where is an enraged Khrushchev
bang his UN desk
shoe when you need
But at least those hostages' own, British,
government would take the situation seriously. Wouldn't it?
As Bill Clinton
didn't say, that depends on what your definition of the
Prime and Foreign Ministers Tony Blair and
Margaret Beckett took SERIOUSLY the desire to get the
hostages released unharmed, with the emphasis on
“unharmed”. So they engaged in a curious dance, where
they were apparently something
“firm but calm, not negotiating but not confronting either”.
And to make sure there would be no hint of confronting, they kept
Des Browne, the Secretary of Defence whose primary business this
military matter surely was, hidden away blindfolded and gagged in a
dark room somewhere.
In return, Iranian officials and media and (some of the) Iranian public
berated Britain for its illegal war in Iraq,
had the hostages make TV confessions of guilt,
called for them to be put on trial and executed,
demanded an apology,
while the two ministers absorbed all the insults and smiled - well, apologetically.
Eventually, the Iranian regime, fronted by President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seemed to tire of this charade and
(fortunately) decided to release the prisoners in a show of magnanimity and propaganda, with
fawning thanks from the British.
But in terms of curbing the aggression and destructive
pretensions of a state leadership which
openly supports the Islamic
terrorism of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and Shi'ite
insurgents in Iraq, and
is hell-bent on building a nuclear
bomb to destroy Israel and trigger the global chaos that will
precipitate the return to earth of the
Mr Blair and Mrs Beckett were decidedly UNSERIOUS.
Their feckless, insouciant behaviour has undoubtedly given further heart to
the mullahs who run Iran and seek to deliver on the late unlamented
Ayatollah Khomeini's promise of world Islamic domination.
Back in June 2004,
the Iranians similarly
kidnapped eight British servicemen in the Shatt al-Arab
waterway, paraded them blindfolded on TV, conducted mock executions,
and then released them three days later. The Iranians suffered no
penalty for this war crime.
They've just repeated the act, only this time it was
more grave, yet again with absolutely no consequences other than a
rise in prestige and admiration among their own citizens and throughout the Middle East.
motherly words uttered by Mrs Beckett at the height of the
crisis should go down in infamy:
Blair is not talking, or intending to imply, anything about military action
... We are not seeking confrontation. We are seeking to pursue this through
For she will have thereby reassured Iran's mullahs that
they are welcome to kidnap as
many more British servicemen as they may wish, when and where they desire;
in fact do whatever they like.
So who can blame them if they have now
concluded they will always get away scot-free, no matter what they
To this extent, in the cause of a stress-free life and instant
popularity at home, Britain's
two senior ministers have undermined the anti-terrorism blood
and treasure already spent and still being expended by their own soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and invited further
casualties in the future.
It is a sad fact of human nature, which the ancient Greeks and
many since have discovered over and over again through history, that
displaying weakness in the face of aggression begets more
belligerence not less.
Do the British really have to re-learn
this lesson from as recently as the 1930s?
Did not even Mrs Thatcher's robust reaction to Argentine
aggression in the Falklands just 25 years ago not carry its
An unprovoked naval attack, such as that perpetrated in Iraqi
waters by the invading Iranians, deserved a ruthless, disproportionate
military response, or at least the credible threat of one, or at least a
response that causes the leadership real pain and humiliation.
It was Newt Gingrich who
pointed out that Iran has only one, inadequate refinery and thus
for its fuels has to depend heavily on imports. With a minimum
of force, those incoming tankers can be intercepted and/or the refinery
taken out, showing the world the Iranian leadership's impotence and
making it look very foolish indeed,
as its citizens get used to no cars and no electricity. No
doubt there are other similar pressure points where additional
misery could be readily inflicted on Iran's tyrannical mullahs.
But no such thing happened. British ministers adopted the
expedient solution of grovelling and appeasing and accepting abuse.
There will be a terrible price - paid by others - for such abject,
cowardly, shameful, unserious behaviour.
No wonder Iran
sees no reason for curtailing its nuclear bomb programme, with Israel firmly
in its sights. This, of course, increases the likelihood of a major air strike
against Iran, with untold consequences, before George Bush leaves
office, as I argued in my
It is worrying to learn that the left wing, Democratic bias among
American academics in universities is so widespread and embedded
that efforts to promote an alternative worldview are actively
discouraged or even repressed.
But the worry becomes existential when this bias extends to
suppressing information about the Islamic jihad being waged by
radical Muslims against the West. As a result, surveys have
shown a wide degree of ignorance amongst American students about the
reasons behind the 9/11 attacks and the wars being conducted in
Afghanistan and Iraq.
Recognising that the students of today are tomorrow's movers,
shakers and opinion-formers, conservative activist
David Horowitz recently launched the Terrorism Awareness Project
(TAP). Its associated
website is intended
to be a source of free information, principally articles, books,
pamphlets, fliers, Youtube clips and high-quality videos, which
chronicle for students the history and objectives of jihad.
Its target audience is academic campuses across America.
A sign that it is beginning to get noticed, and thus that it exerts
some influence, is the negative comment it is beginning to attract
from august publications such as the New York Times, which recently
criticised the showing on US campuses of a new, hour-long
produced by TAP, which has also made available a very good ten
Amongst much else, the summary illustrates the paradox of how
ultra-theistic radical Islam draws inspiration from ultra-atheistic
Nazism, Jew-hatred being the common denominator. It contains a
sobering comparison by Alfons Heck,
a self-admitted one-time enthusiastic Nazi (the first time in my
life I have ever heard of any German admitting to having been a
“I was a very intense believer in the Nazi ideology
and I know what a supreme dedication to an ideology can do ...
If you can't learn from the events of Nazi Germany, you will not
be able to grasp the true extent of the danger of the radical
Muslim world today; you are simply hiding.”
The TAP website is very useful source in terms of educating yourself
about the facts of radical Islam and jihad, regardless of whether
you oppose or support these dogmas. It is for that reason I have
bookmarked it and recommend it.
Every St Patrick's Day (17th March), all of Ireland's ministers
desert the country at taxpayers' expense, bound for foreign jaunts
in the four corners of the globe - bar the most junior or most
unpopular or most unfortunate or most superfluous such official, who
must remain to hold the fort in loco ministri primoris. Away
from the confines and prying eyes of their home turf,
the lucky ones then prance around in the unseasonal sunshine, glass
in hand, at the local St Patrick's Day festivities from Argentina to
Zambia, from Sydney to Singapore. There, in a week of
unrestrained partying, they distribute shamrock, while happily
accepting accolades, hospitality and gifts. Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern presenting a bowl of shamrock to President George Bush is
about the only event of a slightly formal nature.
My, how the ministers love St Patrick.
The main achievement of this expensive display of diasporism is
that, for the week of all these absences, the country proceeds
swimmingly under the light yet incompetent touch on the tiller of
whoever's been left behind; it is said that GDP spikes upward during
that brief, mesmerising, governance-free moment, which more than
pays for the ministerial excesses.
Indeed, it was a similar hands-off approach on the part of
Sir John Cowperthwaite, Hong Kong's much revered Financial
Secretary from 1961-71, that is blamed for the colony's
astonishing economic success.
“In the long run”,
“the aggregate of decisions of individual businessmen,
exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often
mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralised
decisions of a government, and certainly the harm is likely to
be counteracted faster.”
Last year it was
Willie O'Dea, hapless minister of defence, the most meaningless
job in cabinet, who was left in charge of Ireland. This year I
was away myself so never found out who was the week's Taoiseach.
However there must have been another, unscheduled upward GDP
spike last week, when, for a magical if all too brief period, six of
Bertie's finest - to quote the enchanting
press report - found themselves in unwelcome, intimate
coalition, and almost incommunicado.
As their respective departments of state proceeded gloriously
about their business, unimpeded by direction or advice from on high,
Ireland's combined ministers of agriculture, communications,
education, finance, foreign affairs and health - three men and three
women - were held prisoner in a tiny elevator in the parliamentary
buildings, stuck between two floors. There, in their tiny
cell, how they dreamed of the spacious, airy, well-fed accommodation
in Guantanamo Bay. Yet, other than sweat and nervous chatter,
we the long-suffering taxpayers have been kept disgracefully
ignorant about what transpired among them, or what role halitosis,
flatulence, athletes foot, personal hygiene, unsavoury habits or
even romance might have played.
But we do know that for forty long minutes, in their communal
embrace, they made desperate phone calls seeking help from
ever-higher levels up the chain of command from janitor to Secretary
General to - at last - none other than the same Willie O'Dea, that
one-time week-long Taoiseach, and still boss of the armed forces.
The intrepid Willie soon got a successful rescue organised.
I retract my earlier disparaging remarks about the Irish army.
If ever you find yourself stuck in the lift, there is no finer body
of men, under the able command of Willie himself, to extricate you
and your fellow ministers plus whatever odours you have collectively
managed to exude during your entrapment. They are not just for
parades it seems.
But sadly, no sooner was deliverance achieved on that
as some of us now call it, than the upward, Hong Kong-style
GDP spike came to an abrupt end.
Just because my blog has been on hiatus for six weeks
was no reason not to continue to harass newspaper editors. I wrote
ten letters, on variegated subjects from rugby to the Middle East to
global warming to drink. But I remain unpopular, because only two
were published. I console myself by blaming left-wing media bias,
which allows me to deceive myself that each unpublished letter is
another blow in favour of capitalism and democracy.
Britain Grovels to Iranian Kidnappers
There seems no limit to the depths of grovelling and appeasement to
which the British Government seems prepared to sink over their 15
military hostages held by Iran. Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett's
motherly comfort to the Iranian mullahs will go down in history, “Mr
Blair is not talking, or intending to imply, anything about military
action ... We are not seeking confrontation. We are seeking to pursue
this through diplomatic channels” ...
Advertising and Drink Problems
If, as Dónall
O'Keeffe of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland states,
“there was no causal link between the
level of overall alcohol consumption and advertising”,
you have to wonder why the drinks industry is squandering its
shareholders' valuable money on advertising at all. And, remarkably, it
must be the only industry that is apparently not seeking to increase
consumption of its products.
Enhancing or Degrading Irish Society Kathleen Forde lectures us that "we have seen much evidence of the
benefits to an insular society of having a greater mix of nationalities
in our midst". It would be helpful if she would provide even
a shred of such evidence to support her statement. If injecting other
nationalities and cultures does in fact enhance Irish society, it
implies that ...
Carbon Emissions and Climate Pat Finnegan, the Co-ordinator of Grian and member of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, speaks of a
documentary aired last week on British television”.
Presumably Channel 4's
“The Great Global Warming
is the programme he fears to name. His claim that it was able to become
in the space of just seven days ... is a remarkable achievement, as is
the invisibility of the discrediting ....
Morality and Multinationals
Seán and Róisin Whelan of Nenagh moan that
two Procter & Gamble holding companies, evidently attracted by Ireland's
low corporation tax rate of 12.5%, had the temerity to record massive
profits of €1.15 billion in 2005, and think as a quid pro quo that P&G
should employ more people in Nenagh. I would have thought that
the Exchequer's receipt of €187.5 million a more than adequate quid pro
quo. Moreover ...
Giving Girls a Fair Chance
(2) Alan Barwise offers up a weird defense for
the discrimination of women as mandated in the Koran, which for instance
says that a woman is worth half a man. Quoting Prof Bernard Lewis,
Mr Barwise in effect tells us
that women were even worse off fourteen centuries ago before Islam was
founded. Perhaps true, but ...
Giving Girls a Fair ChanceP!
For maximum impact, Trócaire's Lenten
campaign against gender inequality should highlight where by far the
most egregious inequalities against females are perpetrated, namely
throughout the billion-strongIslamic world ... and in the
selective abortion of ...
Syria and Iran You tell us in your
Editorial of March 2nd that
“Syria and Iran ... have strong interests
in preventing the disintegration of Iraq”.
No they don't. These totalitarian states are supporting and egging
on, respectively, the Sunni and Shi'ite insurgents. A disintegrated
Iraq would create a ...
Likelihood of Attack on IranP! “I know of nobody in Washington that is planning military
action on Iran. . . There is, as far as I know, no planning going on to
make an attack on Iran.”
So says Tony Blair. He must be playing with words, wilfully
ignorant or else blatantly lying. For it is inconceivable that the
Pentagon and/or the CIA ...
Geordan Murphy Punished The extraordinary omission of the multi-talented Geordan Murphy from
Ireland's 22-man rugby team against England (his adopted home) can mean
only one thing. He is finally being punished for his ...
“We stopped the fighting [in 1991]
based on an agreement that Iraq would take steps to assure the world that it
would not engage in further aggression and that it would destroy its weapons
of mass destruction. It has refused to take those steps. That refusal
constitutes a breach of the armistice which renders it void and justifies
resumption of the armed conflict.”
A reminder of how
Democratic Senator Harry Reid
made the case for war against Iraq in 2002 - irrespective of WMDs.
decided he's not in favour of the war after all,
not because the arguments were wrong
because it's just too difficult.
“The only sensible way [is] to pursue political
solutions, but [I cannot] absolutely predict every set of
circumstances ... I know of nobody in Washington that is planning military
action on Iran. Iran is not Iraq. There is, as far as I know, no planning
going on to make an attack on Iran and people are pursuing a diplomatic and
Tony Blair is either
wilfully ignorant or blatantly lying.
It is inconceivable
that the Pentagon
is not even making contingency plans for an attack on Iran.
It would be a dereliction of duty.
“We thank you God, to bless us among your creations. We thank
you, God, to make us as a great nation. We thank you, God to send us your
messages through our father Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Mohammed.
Through you, God, we unite. So guide us to the right path, the path of
the people you blessed not path of the people you doomed. Help us God
to liberate and fill this earth with justice and peace and love and
equality, and help us to stop the war and violence, and oppression and occupation.
Ameen.” [My emphasis]
a Shi'ite imam in Dearborn, Michigan, originally from Iraq,
prays publicly at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee
on 2nd February.
interview, and particularly a later
he descended into total raving hysteria
when asked whether America in Iraq
was the oppressor and occupier to whom he was referring.
Hilarious were it not so ominous.
- - - - - - - - - -
P O L A N D - - - - - - - - - -
Polish president Lech Kaczynski (one of
those indistinguishable twins,
the other being the Polish prime
explains during a visit to Ireland
that these words of an imaginary murderer
why he supports the reintroduction of the death penalty.
A murderer should not be allowed to
have faith in such words, he believes.
- - - - - - - - - -
I R E L A N D - - - - - - - - - -
“If, as we all hope, the Rev Dr Paisley next week becomes
first minister along with deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, this
would be such a powerful Christian witness ... to the ongoing problems in
the Balkans and the Middle East, both of which have got religious
components. Here were Christians giving very, very good witness as to what
was possible in terms of reconciliation after long, long years of mutual
Pope Benedict XVI,
in a private audience
with Ireland's president Mary McAleese
I wonder what Mr
of being commended by the hated anti-Christ himself
- - - - - - - - - - B R I T A I N - - -
- - - - - - -
“Mr Blair is not talking, or intending to imply, anything about
military action ... We are not seeking confrontation. We are seeking to
pursue this through diplomatic channels.”
In full, grovelling, appeasement
Britain's foreign secretary Margaret Beckett
reassures Iran's mullocracy they can do whatever they like
with the 15 British military hostages,
and are welcome to kidnap as many more as they may wish.
“The Far-right is still with us, still poisonous.”
Why does no-one ever warn of the rise of
extreme Left-wing groups and their frequent embrace of radical Islamists?
The last century demonstrated that when it comes to murderousness,
the Left (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Sinn Féin) is far more dangerous
than the right (Hitler, Franco, Mosley, Pinochet)
In any case, the economic policies of the
BNP and Mr Le Pen
are decidedly (and foolishly) Left-wing
“Hey wassup! This is Liz. Sorry I'm away from the throne. For a
hotline to Philip, press one. For Charles, press two. And for the corgis,
Message installed on
the answerphone of Queen Elizabeth II
by her playful grandsons Wills and Harry
(Hattip: Graham in Perth)
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
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
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
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
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
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.
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’sincredible 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
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
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
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
“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
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:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
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.
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
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
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:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
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
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.
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
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