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To find an archived article, simply click on Index and scroll the subject titles, or do a Ctrl-F search


This archive, organized into months, and indexed by
time and alphabet, contains all issues since inception, including the current week.

You can write to me at blog2-at-tallrite-dot-com
(Clumsy form of my address to thwart spamming software that scans for e-mail addresses)

December 2004

ISSUE #89 - 5th December 2004


ISSUE #90 - 12th December 2004

ISSUE #90 - 12th December 2004 [245+350=595]


United Democracies


Ian Paisley Rescues the IRA - As Usual


Gorgeous Libel


In Defence of Religious Offence


Demise of Common Sense


I Love You” for Polyglots


Quote of Week 90

United Democracies  
Alternative easily-remembered permalink:

How much further must the United Nations slide before people start calling a halt ?

Created in 1945 in the ashes of World War 2 to stop all future wars, it is today an organization of 191 states, of which 10% are almost invisible dots (eg Andorra).  Of the remainder, 


72 by my reckoning are what you might call proper democracies (eg New Zealand), 


27 are flawed democracies (eg Russia), while 


the remaining 73 are dictatorships of varying degrees of thuggery from Nepal to Cuba to Iran to North Korea. 

Other than the five permanent members of the Security Council (being the victors of the Second World War, America, Russia and Britain, plus China and France who were liberated by the victors), all members have equal voting weight, without regard to size, population, economic or military strength, political legitimacy or contribution to the UN coffers.  

It was designed as a talking shop so would-be belligerents could argue out their differences, with help from the international community if necessary, instead of going to war, and where necessary the UN would lay down the law.  It served this purpose for a long time, but it no longer does.  It has been internally corrupted to the extent that its main function seems to be to provide cover for thugogracies to do what they like; no longer part of the solution, it has become part of the problem.  

Thus, among other things, 


it failed to send troops to prevent the Rwanda genocide when its own general on the ground Romeo Dallaire was begging for them; 


it tried to prevent America and its coalition from enforcing its own Resolutions relating to the disarmament of Iraq, dating back 12 years, even though the last one (1441) unequivocally threatened serious consequences


it hosted the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal (or oil-for-fraud as columnist Mark Steyn prefers to call it) which enriched not only Saddam to the tune of some $21 billion, but countless of his friends, cronies and others he wished to influence (including associates of Presidents Chirac and Putin), and even the senior UN official in charge of the whole scheme, Benon Sevan;   


through a lack of either will or ability, it is effectively ignoring the unfolding genocide in Darfur, as it did in Bosnia, and abandoning 1½ million people to their fate;


its peacekeepers and other staff have been indulging in 

a sex-slave trade in Bosnia


an extortion racket in Kenya,


a sex-for-food scandal in West Africa. 

Most of this happened on Koffi Anan's watch, which, together with his curious declaration that the Iraq war was illegal, is why a number of US Senators have been calling for his head.  But, in the UN world of thugocracies, he managed to receive a well-choreographed standing ovation from the General Assembly last week, specifically supported by those renowned havens of democracy Algeria, Russia, Cuba and Gabon.  Mind you, liberal Senator Edward Kennedy was quick to support him as well.  I guess it's a question of rogues hanging together.  

Actually, demands for Mr Annan's resignation are wrong-footed, despite his accountability for the UN's repeated misbehaviour and incompetence in recent years.  The whole UN as currently structured is past its sell-by date, and with the large thugocratic clique in its membership, no amount of reform is going to change it significantly.  Not even those suggested in his recent 99-page report by a High-Level Panel of prominent big-shots, with the catchy title, A more secure world: our shared responsibility - Report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, available as a 341kb pdf file here.  Just as the League of Nations collapsed when it no longer became able to prevent a catastrophe such as World War 2, so the impotence of the UN means it too has run its course.  

It is time to move on, and a solution is very simple.  

Mark Humphrys repeatedly points out that there is already a proven, known solution to ALL of the world's problems - and it's not religion, World government or the UN. It is called democracy, the only thing that will ever end war on earth. The entire world becoming democratic will mean the end of war and famine, forever.

To bring this moment closer, the current 72 proper democracies should without delay form their own club, the United Democracies, and make a graceful exit from the UN.  This is easy to do, it's just a question of phasing up their subscription to the UD while simultaneously phasing down their payments to the UN (America alone pays 22%).  Within a short time, the UN edifice will come crashing to the ground, since the remaining thuggish members are certainly not going to fund it in the lavish style to which they are accustomed.  Other UN agencies, such as the WHO and the UNICEF could move across to the UD, but only on the UD's own stringent terms which, inter alia, would involve radical restructuring.  

Where the UN's charter opens by calling forinternational peace and security” without saying how, the UD would have as its unapologetic purpose the spread of Western-style democracy across the rest of the world, in the sure knowledge 


that this is the foundation of international peace and security, 


that true democracy eliminates poverty, 


that elimination of poverty promotes effective environmentalism and countless other benefits.  

UN's Declaration of Human Rights gives everyone, in theory, the right to








equality before the law,


property ownership, 


peaceful assembly, 


democratic governance and 


freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression.  

But whereas the UN largely pays but lip-service to all this, the UD would be prepared to defend it, using its standing army if necessary.   

It would, for example, be disposed to intervene where a state (eg Sudan) attacks its own citizens or fails to protect them from attack, since such a state would be deemed to have forfeited the right to national sovereignty.  

Itself governed under democratic principles, the UD would be a wealthy and desirable club to join.  Even without direct intervention in external affairs, its very example and success would act as a beacon to others to join it, much as the EU today is a beacon to people like the orange democratic revolutionaries in the Ukraine.  And unlike trading blocs, the UD's doors would be permanently open to new members, who would only have to demonstrate to the UD's satisfaction their bona fide democratic credentials.  

And the downside of creating the UD and allowing the UN to wither?  

Unless you're a member of the thugocracy, it's hard to see one.  

Note : The Freedom Institute kindly 
reproduced this post on its own site here.

Alternative easily-remembered permalink:

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Ian Paisley Rescues the IRA - As Usual

For some four decades, the Reverend Ian Paisley, founder and head of the Democratic Unionist Party, has been the bogeyman of Republicans and Catholics in Northern Ireland, and a stirrer of souls among the Loyalist and Protestant communities.  A wonderful orator (whether you like what he says or or not) with boundless energy, his two favourite words have been No and Never in relation to anything pertaining to co-operation 


between Loyalists/Protestants and Republicans/Catholics or 


between the governments of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland.  

Nevertheless, though he might be a thoroughly unpleasant individual, his own democratic credentials have been admirable and he has never advocated violence, even if his rhetoric probably incited quite a lot of it in his followers.  He himself has only once been known personally to be connected with violence, when guns were found in the car of a group he was associated with, but he immediately parted company with it.  

Republicans have heartily hated and derided Mr Paisley throughout this period, and indeed to this day.  

Since the recent Troubles” began around 1969, 5,214 people have been killed, of whom only 31% could be called “combatants” (Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries, Army, Police), the remaining 3,622 souls being civilians (including politicians) who were killed by the “combatants”.  (These figures and those in my chart below are from David McKittrick's authoritative book, “Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died Through the Northern Ireland Troubles”.)  

Killings in Northern Ireland

Since as you can see above the paramilitaries, when compared with the authorities, were so adept at killing others (as shown in green) and not getting themselves killed (blue), the wonder is, therefore, why Republicans never murdered him.  The answer is that he was one of their most valuable assets.  His behaviour probably recruited more Republicans into the IRA than any other single cause.  Killing him would have created a martyr for the Loyalists and stemmed the flow of young recruits to the IRA.  

And even today, with the DUP now the biggest political party in Northern Ireland, Mr Paisley is still doing the Republicans' work for them.  Last week, an historic and extraordinary deal that would have seen the DUP running Northern Ireland in partnership with Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, fell at the final hurdle.  It required 


total decommissioning of all IRA guns (which the IRA hates the idea of) 


as well as  Sinn Fein to hold hands with the DUP (which the DUP hates the idea of), 

so enthusiasm was muted to say the least, even though parties were itching to embrace the trappings of ministerial power.  As part of the deal, the DUP wanted photos of the decommissioning as a confidence-building measure and Sinn Fein did not publicly demur.  Given all the doubt about previous decommissionings, photos were not unreasonable.  

But then it was time for Mr Paisley to save the IRA's bacon.  In a trademark fiery speech to adoring fans in his Ballymena heartland, he declared (see last week's Quotes of the Week) that, the IRA needs to be humiliated ... they need to wear their sackcloth and ashes” and so on in similar vein.   

With enormous relief, Sinn Fein then declared that this meant the photos were humiliating”, and therefore off-side.  


Cosying up to the despised DUP in the council chamber was not humiliating, 


declaring an end to your criminal activity from kneecapping, to exiling to counterfeiting to smuggling was not humiliating (though now there's backpedalling on this one), 


decommissioning all your weapons was not humiliating, 


having a Protestant and Catholic priest witness this was not humiliating, 

but taking photos was.  Because Ian Paisley says so.  Well, he didn't say this, but it's good enough to pretend he did.  

So Sinn Fein, to the doubtless relief of the IRA (if not itself) called the deal off.  

For how long more will the IRA continue to rely for its welfare on the malign offices of Dr Paisley? 

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Gorgeous Libel

Nicknamed Georgeous George for his natty dress sense and bon-viveur outlook on life, Geoge Galloway is the ex-Labour MP for Glasgow-Kelvin in Scotland.  But he was kicked out of the Labour Party in October 2003 after the Daily Telegraph newspaper found papers seemingly demonstrating that he had been in the pay of Saddam Hussein, to the tune of £375,000.  He certainly was an 


Iraqophile and a Saddam-lover, 


who was vehemently opposed to the war and 


only nine years earlier had been filmed grovelling in hero-worship before the dictator.  

Already a successful serial litigant, he sued the Telegraph for the story claiming the papers were forgeries.  He recently won his case, including £150,000 in damages and a further £1.25 million in costs, and maintains that the documents are bunkum, bogus or doctored

So game, set and match to Gorgeous.

Not quite.  For the judgement does not clear him of the central charge that he was taking bungs from Saddam, nor does it rule that the documents were bogus.  The essence of his victory is that 

  1. the Telegraph published the incriminating documents without ascertaining that they were true, and 

  2. it didn't give him a reasonable opportunity to review and rebut the allegations.  

I think (b) is a perfectly reasonable expectation and certainly the Telegraph were sneaky in their dealings with him.  It certainly wasn't playing cricket.  

But (a) raises a more fundamental issue.  Should newspapers, under pain of libel,  be expected to authenticate all documents that they publish?  If so to what depth?  


We know that within an hour, bloggers began to detect that Dan Rather had broadcast fake documents incriminating George Bush, so he was outstandingly negligent, though subjected not to litigation for it, only to ridicule (and he was eventually forced to resign), .  


But should the media be expected to go to the opposite extreme and make available only information that has been through the most rigorous forensic examination, even in a war zone?  

If this is the case as the Galloway judgement seems to imply, it means that Britain's libel laws have become extraordinarily draconian to the extent of truly curtailing legitimate freedom of the press.  

Meantime, though, keep a weather eye out for this story, because it's not over.  I can't believe the Telegraph will not pull out every stop to demonstrate that the documents - and thus their allegation about taking money from Saddam's regime - are in fact genuine.  They consider George has a thundering case to answer, and they're not going to let him get away with his Gorgeous Libel.  

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In Defence of Religious Offence

The British Government wants to protect faith groups by creating a new offence, punishable with seven year in prison, of incitement to religious hatred through threatening, abusive, or insulting behaviour or perhaps insulting words.  It is aimed at protecting faith groups and in particular Muslims - which is a bit rich since theirs is the only mainstream religion that calls for all other faith groups to be killed wherever ye shall find them.  Moreover, such legislation will only encourage trouble since an offensive billboard, for example, will only fall under the purview of the new law if it is likely to lead to disorder”, a self-fulfilling condition.  

Thus under this circular reasoning, Dutchman Theo van Gogh if he weren't dead would be prosecutable for his film, Submission, about the abuse of women under Islam, because it prompted disorderin the form of his own brutal murder and the mayhem that erupted throughout Holland in disgust at this vile deed. 

Comedian Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) is outraged from a different perspective.  He reckons that the right to offend someone's beliefs and ideas is a fundamental freedom of expression, that there should be no subject about which you cannot make jokes”.  Atlantic Blog also has some worthwhile excerpts and comments.  

I agree with Mr Bean's sentiments, even though I personally hate to see jokes about my own religious beliefs, of which the West abounds.  But my dislike does not mean I think they should be banned.  

And I don't think the sensibilities of Muslims (or for that matter of Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Rastafarians, atheists etc) should be protected any more than my own.  

Recent examples of how I have been offended include the following 
(click thumbnail to enlarge in a new window).  

_40608603_nativity300.jpg (15308 bytes)British waxwork museum Madame Tussaud's has just come up with a  Nativity scene featuring David Beckham and his popstar wife Posh as Joseph and Mary, as well as Tony Blair, Prince Philip, George Bush, Kylie Minogue, Samuel L Jackson, Hugh Grant and Graham Norton in various roles. It makes a tacky joke out of one of the most sacred moments in Christendom, the birth of its founder.  

CIMG0315.JPG (71902 bytes)I spotted this advertisement in a Paris bus shelter, making a mockery of the most sacred activity in the Catholic faith, namely the transubstantiation of bread into the body of Jesus Christ.  The ad is about turning a hamburger into money.  


And at a Dublin suburban railway station last week, I saw a billboard featuring a sexy young woman in a spiky tiara and diaphanous dress standing with her arms outstretched in unmistakable mockery of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, whose subsequent resurrection proves his divinity to Christians worldwide.  (The ad was gone when I returned some days later to photograph it).  

Judge for yourself.  

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Demise of Common Sense

This week we mourn the passing of a beloved friend by the name of Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. 

No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. 

He will be remembered as having cultivated such value lessons as 


knowing when to come in out of the rain, 


why the early bird gets the worm, 


that life isn't always fair. 

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not kids, are in charge). 

His health began rapidly to deteriorate when well intentioned, but overbearing regulations were set in place ... 

Reports of 


a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate,  


teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch, 


a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, 

only worsened his condition. 

It declined even further when 


schools were required to get parental consent to administer aspirin to a student, 


but, could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted an abortion. 

Finally, Common Sense lost the will to live as 


the Ten Commandments became contraband; 


churches became businesses; and 


criminals received better treatment than their victims. 

Common Sense finally gave up the ghost after a woman failed to realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a bit in her lap, and was awarded a huge settlement. 

Common Sense was preceded in death by 


his parents, Truth and Trust; 


his wife, Discretion; 


his daughter, Responsibility; and 


his son, Reason. 

He is survived by a stepbrother, My Rights and a Stepsister, Ima Whiner. 

Not many attended his funeral, because so few were aware he was gone.

If you still know him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing. 

Thanks, Jack

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I Love You” for Polyglots


English : I Love You


Spanish : Te Amo


French : Je T'aime


German : lch Liebe Dich


Dutch : “Ik houd van jou”


Japanese : Ai Shite Imasu


Italian : Ti Amo


Chinese : Wo Ai Ni


Swedish : Jag Alaska


Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, North and 
South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky & parts of Florida :  


Nice ass, get in the truck.

Thanks, Eileen

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Quote of Week 90

Quote : This is no longer a question for discussion. We are now sure that we can confirm which substance caused this illness. He received this substance from other people who had a specific aim [which was] of course [to kill him] ... Maybe it was administered through injection, maybe in water, maybe through eating, but the way to give it to him is very simple. This substance can be given very precisely — to only one person.”

On 8th December, Dr Nikolai Korpan 
of Vienna’s exclusive Rudolfinerhaus clinic, 
on the illness which has left Ukranian presidential candidate 
Victor Yuschenko's face and trunk disfigured with cysts and lesions.  
Other symptoms include his face half paralysed, 
severe abdominal pain, back pain, 
swollen liver, pancreas and intestines and 
a digestive tract covered in ulcers.

John Henry, a prominent British toxicologist, 
suggested the symptoms are consistent with dioxin poisoning, 
which causes a severe form of acne called chloracne

On 12 December, the dioxin diagnosis was confirmed.  
Political foes (ie the existing regime  that he is the process of ousting) 
are suspected of having mixed the poison into his food 
last September at the outset of his presidential campaign.  

Dioxin is an industrial agent used as a solvent.  
The US sprayed it during the Vietnam war as a defoliant.

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

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ISSUE #89 - 5th December 2004 [305]

Unsuitable for Canonisation


Make Her Pay


Dublin Climbing Skyward - At Last


Who is Stephen Quinn ?


The Joke of Blonde Jokes


Quotes of Week 89

Unsuitable for Canonisation

One of the reasons I started blogging over two years ago was my frustration at failing to get letters published in newspapers.  My early posts were nearly all drawn from failed attempts.  Though I do in fact get a respectable number published, mainly in the (subscription-only) Irish Times, for example 17 in 2003 (out of 56 submissions), 20 so far this year (out of 37), I still get annoyed when so many fail to make it, even if some deserve to be unsuccessful.    

One which recently failed to make the grade was in response to a proposal that Margaret Hassan, the murdered head of Care International in Iraq, should be elevated to (Catholic) sainthood by the Pope.  The justification of David Grant of Waterford for saying she was suitable for canonisation was that she was 

a woman who had dedicated her gentle life to the rescue and betterment of the poor and oppressed of her adopted country;  


a martyr [who had} sacrificed her life for her beliefs and charitable works

This was of course all true (provided you accept his definition of martyr).  Moreover, Mrs Hassan was born and raised a Catholic in Ireland, but after marrying her Iraqi husband adopted his Muslim faith.  This detail would apparently make her canonisation by the Pope pleasing to Islam.  

I find the canonisation proposal outrageous and preposterous.  In fact, were the Pope to follow Mr Grant's advice it would certainly prompt me, for one, to leave the Catholic church.  

Let me explain my churlishness.  

Mrs Hassan's virtues and good works are not in doubt, nor are the savagery, pointlessness and wickedness of her slaughter.  The example she gave others through her good works and the legacy she leaves behind are beyond reproach.  

Yet not only did she abandon her Catholic religion, whose guiding light was a man who preached love and peace, and was cruelly executed for it.  


She embraced an alternative faith, Islam, whose guiding light was a multi-murderer, looter, rapist and paedophile, and which advocates, inter alia, Seize the unbelievers and slay them wherever ye shall find them (Koran, Sura 4:89 and 2:187-189 ).

The letter I wrote to this effect was medicine apparently too strong for the gentle readers of Ireland's left-leaning newspaper of record.  But people in the West need to know more about Islam if they are to understand the dynamics that we see unfolding around us.  There is a widespread perception that Islam is somehow on a moral par with the other two great monotheistic religions, Christianity and Judaism, that it is equally valid”.  It is not, because its essence is perpetual jihad against all unbelievers, either converting or killing them.  

It is true that the vast majority of Muslims are intrinsically good, honest, humane people, as indeed was Mrs Hassan.  But making this observation gives a completely misleading picture of the underlying tenets.  

For the faith they adhere to exhorts, as indicated, very different behaviour, and it is those who 

conscientiously obey all Islamic precepts and 


try to emulate in detail the life of the Prophet 

that today we call fundamentalists.   Make no mistake, these followers are indeed out to slay the unbelievers (ie non-Muslims) wherever they can find them. And what a successful day they had on September 11th, 2001.  

The good behaviour of the many should not blind us to the evil of the ideology.  We need to keep up our guard. 

It is one thing to be borne into a particular faith, such as Islam.  But it is extraordinary that good-thinking Christians and Jews should ever convert to Islam.  Yet some still do.  

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Make Her Pay

At the height of the liberal West pre-Iraq-war, anti-war, pro-Saddam hysteria, a woman called Mary Kelly, 51, broke into Shannon Airport in January 2003 and took an axe to a US Navy aircraft parked there and hacked it thirty times.  The jet was part of the American war machine.  

Ireland's miniscule, though valuable, contribution to the enforcement of UN Resolution 1441 and the conversion of Iraq from tyranny to democracy was to allow US planes to refuel in Shannon and overfly Ireland.  This has caused more outrage in Ireland than the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses, and Ms Kelly was one of several unwashed demonstrators at Shannon Peace Camp outside the airport as part of their protest.  

She was eventually convicted of criminal damage to the tune of US $1½ million, despite her defence that she was helping prevent the wanton killing of innocent Iraqis (such as Saddam).  The judge ruled that the connection between her actions and the Iraqis was so remote as to be irrelevant.  

Like a naughty schoolgirl, last week the mother-of-four - 


received a two-year suspended jail sentence,


got a further year, also suspended, for entering the airport illegally, 


was ordered to stay one mile away from Shannon Airport, 


was told to be of good behaviour for four years.

Walking free from the courthouse, she emerged in triumphant mood to a large group of applauding supporters.  And who can blame her for her smiles?  Such incidents notwithstanding, Ms Kelly is in principle a law-abiding person, and the idea that in the next four years she is going to be hauled in to serve her sentence because she has been caught in another misdemeanor such as a drunken brawl or peddling heroin, is ridiculous.  So, to all intents and purposes, the court has let her off without a care in the world.   

However, this offends natural justice, and the affair should not end there.  

There is also the small matter of the American taxpayers' US$1½ million.  I would hope that the US Navy will now be hardnosed enough to press for full damages, since the conviction tells them unequivocally who caused them.  Of course, as a nurse, she is never going to be able to cough up the money.  But a lifetime under the burden of a huge debt, with liens on her property and income, will in itself be a fitting punishment as well as a warning to others.  

People should not get off scot-free for their wanton behaviour.  

Update 12th December 2004 
I've just learnt from Liam Fay in the Sunday Times that it is in fact the Irish taxpayer, not the Americans, who are having to foot the bill.  Therefore it's the Irish Government that I now urge to press Ms Kelly for full damages

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Dublin Climbing Skyward - At Last

Dublin has a terrible traffic problem, which is steadily heading towards the airless gridlock of many Asian cities such as Bangkok, Manila, Jakarta.  People spend two-to-four hours in their cars commuting daily to work in the city.  These commutes are due to a combination of  

heavy traffic (it's a throbbing, successful metropolis), 


long distances (imposed by the high cost of homes) and 


poor public transport (no metro, mysterious, unintegrated bus services).  

Parking is either a nightmare (no places) or a fortune (parking meters charge over €2 per hour).  

The root of the problem is the high price of urban land which, with Ireland's boom of the last ten years, has led to a house-price explosion.  Unless you can raise half-a-million €uro-or-so, you are forced to buy further and further out of town.  Of course, the Irish love affair with purchasing homes rather than renting them is another issue, which further inflates prices while depressing rents to uneconomic levels.  Indeed, no sane person would dream of buying when rents are so cheap (disclosure - I am one of the insane majority.)  

I have therefore long argued that what is needed is to despoil the skyline with high rise apartment blocks.  There are plenty of existing apartment blocks, but due to planning restrictions they rarely exceed about six storeys, which means the exorbitant land price is shared by only six flat-owners.  To keep costs down, they are often small and cheaply-made in order to offset the high land price.  

A city-centre high rise, on the other hand, will make the land-cost per apartment trivial, as well as minimising the construction and maintenance cost.   It will thus allow for proper, roomy, well appointed, efficiently sound-proofed units to be built. Moreover, the reduced costs are also likely to drag down the price of other properties in the city to more sensible levels.  

So, at a stroke, 

good accommodation comes within reach of ordinary working people, 


people have more leisure time and less stress though shorter commuting, 


congestion and pollution of the city's streets are cut, 


international business competitiveness is enhanced through lower property costs and better lifestyle, 


many, living within the city, within walking or bicycling or easy bussing distance from work, will conclude they don't need a car at all.  

And the beauty is that it can all be accomplished entirely through private enterprise.  

Yes, Dublin's skyline changes, though whether for the worse or better is a matter of personal opinion.  But something has to change and no-one has come up with anything better that does not entail huge cash infusions from the brow-beaten taxpayer (eg building overhead highways, underground railways, affordable” housing etc). 

So I was very pleased to see that Dublin's (and Ireland's) first high-rise worthy of the name was given planning permission last week, for a location just a mile from the city centre with lovely views across the River Liffey and Phoenix Park.  It'll be 32 storeys and 117 metres high, with 96 apartments.  Not a record-breaker, but a good start.  

There is a fine example of high-rise lifestyle which is familiar to all of us.  For if living in an apartment close to the stars is good enough for New York millionaires (few of whom are in houses), it should certainly be good enough for Dubliners.

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Who Is Stephen Quinn ?

The story that has been dominating the British press for the past couple of weeks, with the Daily Mirror as cheerleader, concerns

an unlikely lothario, the blind and bearded Home Secretary David Blunkett, 57, who conducted a three year affair with


the American publisher of Britain's right-leaning Spectator magazine, Kimberley Fortier, 44, who has produced a son, William, and is seven months pregnant with a second child, both conceived during her liaison with Mr Blunkett, which commenced just three months after she married 


a successful businessman Stephen Quinn, 60, a natty dresser who rose from humble Irish origins to become the publisher of Vogue magazine in the Condé Nast stable, and 


who had seduced Ms Fortier away from her now embittered first husband wealthy US banker Michael Fortier.

Got that ?

The current state of play, neatly summarised by Melanie Phillips, is that Messrs Blunkett and Quinn are both are claiming paternity of both children; meanwhile Mr Blunkett is in trouble for allegedly using his high office to give ministerial perks to Ms Fortier and to fast-track a residence permit for her Filipina nanny.  All this kerfuffle undoubtedly means that his ministerial career, one way or another, is over.  For it is a cherished British tradition that cabinet ministers caught with their trousers down - from John Profumo to Cecil Parkinson to David Mellor to Tim Yeo (and now Blunkett) - lose their jobs. 

But there is a curious twist about Mr Quinn and his background that has hardly seen the light of day.  

According to the Sunday Mirror last August and other sources later, Mr Quinn was born in Craignamanor near Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, the illegitimate son of a woman who for her sin was then banished from holy Ireland to a life in godless Britain, never to be heard of again.  Mr Quinn, meanwhile, was raised as an orphan first in a Protestant schoohouse, then by an elderly foster couple.  But he was a bright young fellow, who moved to London in his twenties and got into the newspaper sales business.  In due course he made his way up the corporate ladder and through his own abilities reached the top of the UK's business world, discarding along the way his native Kilkenny accent for a neutral English one.  It's a very uplifting story about a man overcoming a dreadfully underprivileged start in life.  

Or is it?  

Last week, I happened to listen in to an Irish radio talk-show, in which a 57 year old man called Stephen Quinn called up.  He said that - 


he was also from Craignamanor, near Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, 


there had never been any orphanage in the area, 


he was one of nine Quinn siblings, 


all the Quinns in the area were related and known to each other and had been there for generations, 


there was no other Stephen than he, and certainly not a namesake just three years older, 


none of the Quinns was illegitimate, and


neither he nor his family ever heard of Ms Fortier's Stephen Quinn, the big businessman, until reporters from the Daily Mirror arrived on his doorstep sniffing for details.  

So what's going on ?  Unless the man who phoned in is a fraud - and he certainly doesn't sound like one - who exactly is Ms Fortier's Stephen Quinn ?  Has he fabricated his own background, if not his name, and if so why ?  Why have the newspapers not picked up on this strange situation ? 

Anyone out there have any ideas ?  I'm stumped.  

Up to and including Monday 6th December, you can listen to the interview with Stephen Quinn here : it lasts six minutes starting at Minute 48.  Alternatively, download it as a 5.2 MB MP3 file from here.  

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The Joke of Blonde Jokes

A blind man enters a bar and find his way to a barstool. After ordering a drink, and sitting there for a while, the blind guy yells to the bartender, "Hey, you wanna hear a blonde joke?"

The bar immediately becomes absolutely quiet. In a husky, deep voice, the woman next to him says, "Before you tell that joke, you should know something. The bartender is blond, the bouncer is blond and I'm a 6' tall, 200 pound blonde with a black belt in karate. What's more, the fella sitting next to me is blond and he's a weightlifter. The woman to your right is a blonde, and she's a pro wrestler. Think about it seriously, mister. You still wanna tell that blonde joke?"

The blind guy says, "Nah, not if I'm gonna have to explain it five times."

Clever?  Funny?

Not according to Hungarian blonde Zsuzsa Kovacs, who together with 29 year old blonde Krisztina Timar and the Blonde Women's Movement she founded, recently led a march of angry (and presumably natural) blondes to the Parliament, which is set beautifully looking over the Danube in Budapest.  

There they handed in a petition to the Equal Opportunities Minister Kinga Goncz and waved banners with slogans like We're blonde, not stupid and Love us for our minds.  With nearly 100,000 signatures, the petition claimed that blonde jokes were as discriminatory as jokes against Jews and Blacks and should therefore count as racial discrimination.  On this basis, they want a new law which bans blonde jokes.  

Thus fired up, the ladies then proceeded to a downtown bar insultingly called Blondy”, where they shouted, threw cakes and eggs at the windows (my, how those girls are violent) and urged the blonde employees to come out on solidarity strike.  

It's thanks to stunts like this that people look down on us - and we have much worse chances of getting a job,” declared Ms Timar, not quite getting the irony.  

Actually, it's not jobs the blondes should be looking for but blond partners.  As I remarked in an earlier post

except for the majority of blondes who are a dyeing breed, 


natural blondes are a dying breed which in two centuries will be extinct.  According to the World Health Organization anyway.  

Hence the need for volunteers of the hefty, sun-kissed, beach-bum variety to patiently demonstrate to the disgruntled Hungarian girls how to make more blondes.  

Or was that another of those forbidden blonde jokes?  More here and here.  

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Quotes of the Week

Two days apart, take your pick !

Paisley the Destructive 
on 27th November

Paisley the Constructive 
on 29th November

Quote : The IRA needs to be humiliated.  And they need to wear their sackcloth and ashes, not in a backroom, but openly.  We have no apology to make for the stand we are taking.  I say look at the heartache the IRA has brought to the countless homes across the province. The pride of republicans cannot be allowed to prevent progress any longer.

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley, 
speaking to supporters 
in the  DUP heartland of Ballymena, 
in front of BBC cameras

Quote : If this decommissioning problem can be solved, then we are on our way. But it is not solved at the present time.” 

The same Ian Paisley, 
after discussing how further acts of IRA decommissioning 
would be verified, 
with Canadian General 
John de Chastelain, 
who heads the 
Independent International Decommissioning Commission

Quote : what will happen if he wins the election while he's in prison? I don't think anyone really knows the answer to that

Mokhaimer Abusada, a political science professor 
at Al Azhar University in Gaza City, 
referring to the fiery, charismatic, quintuple-killer Marwan Barghouti, 45, 
currently serving five life-sentences in Beersheva Jail, Israel.  
Mr Barghouti is challenging Abu Mazen for the 
Presidency of the Palestinian Authority, 
vacated by Yasser Arafat's death

Quote : Old media ... face a newer and more unpredictable source of competition—the blogosphere. Bloggers have discovered that all you need to set yourself up as a pundit is a website and an attitude.  

The (subscription-only) Economist's Lexington column muses 
on the downfall of US top anchorman Dan Rather, 
precipitated by the blogosphere's exposure 
of the forged documents he used 
to denigrate George W Bush's service history.  
Perhaps this blog's post contributed in a tiny way.  

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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


Drowning in Oil - Macondo Blowout
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
May, June, and July 2010


Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:


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


the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and


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

More details on my blog here.


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,


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 Singapore’s docks,


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 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.


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.


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


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 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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