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Ill-informed and Objectionable
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January 2007
bulletISSUE #142 - 14th January 2007
bullet ISSUE #143 - 21st January 2007
bullet ISSUE #144 - 28th January 2007


 Time in Ireland 


ISSUE #144 - 28th January 2007 [417]

bullet Renewed Will to Lose in Iraq
bullet Antidisestablishmentarianism Not Yet Dead
bullet Sports Careers Ending with a Thump
bulletHole in the Hole-in-One
bulletWeek 144's Letter to the Press
bulletQuotes of Week 144
Renewed Will to Lose in Iraq

More than two years ago, Victor David Hansen was listing those who were fervently willing America to lose in Iraq.  Not much has changed. 

It is understandable that countries such as Iran continue to hope that America will be defeated in Iraq, and indeed are doing their utmost to bring this about.  A free, democratic Iraq, prosperous and hopeful, would be an inspiring example to their peoples and hence a grievous threat to their own illegitimate, despotic regimes.  

However, we have also come to expect, as a matter of course, that huge swathes of public opinion in democratic Europe, South America and probably Canada, egged on by venal politicians, fervently wish for the humiliation of America in Iraq, and with luck in Afghanistan as well.  Humiliation is the key word here, born of seething begrudgery of America's hegemony, not just militarily but financially, materially and even culturally (eg who's winning the music, theatre and movie awards?). 

On the theory that the easiest way for me to close the gap with someone better than me is not for me to improve myself but to drag down the other guy, there is a desperate desire to yank the Yanks down a peg or two, and a success in Iraq would make this immensely more difficult. 

These naysayers want America to bail out of Iraq immediately, and leave it to the Iraqis, in some Defeated and humiliated, the Americans retreat from Vietnam in 1975recondite belief (as if they care) that - despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary - once the hated GIs are gone, everyone there will calm down.  For people like me, less wise than they in the nuances of human motivation, what they are calling for is a decisive, iconic Vietnam-style defeat and retreat, preferably from the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon the Green Zone.  Indeed, it is blindingly obvious that the anti-war crowd are in fact strongly pro-war but on the anti-America side. 

Yet it is also baffling that they do not want to think about what the global consequences of an American defeat might be for us lazy, wealthy westerners, who forgot sixty years ago how to defend ourselves because America has been doing it ever since 1945.  No-one else kept the vile Soviet communist empire from swallowing and enslaving the other half of Europe.  Even today no-one else is keeping the vile North Korean communist dictatorship out of democratic capitalistic South Korea, and no-one else is keeping the vile Chinese communist dictatorship out of democratic capitalistic Taiwan. 

An American defeat in Iraq will be nothing less than a green light for Islamicist extremists everywhere to attack, attack, attack the despised infidels in the pursuit of their depraved Koranic dream (in Sura 9:5) of converting, enslaving or killing the entire world.  With Iraq descending into tri-partite civil war which draws in its neighbours, Al Qaida will have free rein in the Sunni areas for its notorious training camps.  Iran, expanding into the Shi'ite regions, will be able to complete its nuclear bomb-building unmolested.  Across the globe, Islamic extremists will be emboldened.  9/11, Madrid, Bali, London will turn out to have been but a foretaste, and a non-nuclear one at that, for the world-wide atrocities that will ensue. 

And who will stand up to them if even the only superpower has been routed?  Belgium? Argentina? Austria? Canada? And what with? According to the CIA's World Factbook, the combined military expenditure of the five biggest EU countries (as if they would ever combine them) is but a third of America's. 

Country Pop-
Military Expenditure
% of GDP Amount % of USA
USA 298.4 $12.980 trn 4.06% $527.0 bn  100%
Germany 82.4 $2.585 trn 1.50% $38.8 bn 7.4%
France 62.8 $1.871 trn 2.60% $48.6 bn 9.2%
UK 60.6 $1.903 trn 2.40% $45.7 bn 8.7%
Italy 58.1 $1.727 trn 1.80% $31.1 bn 5.9%
Poland 38.5 $0.543 trn 1.71% $9.3 bn 1.8%
EU Big Five 302.5  $8.629 trn 2.0% $173.5 bn 32.9%
Whole EU (est) 486.6 $13.620 trn 2.0% $273.8 bn 52.0%
Israel 6.4 $0.166 trn 7.70% $12.8 bn 2.4%
Argentina 39.9 $0.599 trn 1.30% $7.8 bn 1.5%
Source: CIA World Factbook 2007

Whether the Islamicists are successful in their ambition is a separate issue, but that will not take from the universal carnage they will inflict on us infidels in the attempt. 

This is not idle speculation.  I cannot envisage any other outcome of an American defeat in Iraq.  Can you?

Those who wish defeat on America can only give heart to its enemies, who we should never forget are also the enemies of all western civilisation.  Thus their defeatism prolongs the war. 

Which makes the recent antics of America's own legislators, both Democratic and Republican, all the more astonishing.  

Love him or hate him, at least George Bush is trying, whether competently or incompetently, to win


To win for the 12m Iraqis (77% of adults) who voted with their purple fingers for a new democratic Iraq.


To win for the many millions in the wider Middle East, for whom a successful Iraq will bring closer their own liberation from their respective despots. 


To win for America which wants to deter future 9/11s (and has been singularly successful in the five years since). 


To win for western civilisation (even if a huge chunk of its beneficiaries want to lose). 

His recent change of tactics should be a cause of hope.  He has a new Defence Secretary (though Robert Gates seems singularly invisible), and a new, imaginative military chief in Iraq; he has ignored (while diplomatically praising) the extraordinary call for de-facto surrender of the Iraq Study Group; and he has instituted a 22,000 man surge in military deployment while beefing up their terms of engagement. 

Finally, in his State of the Union address, he pled with Congressmen and Senators to support the troops in the field and to give his new plan a chance. 

Now, notwithstanding their various party affiliations, these intelligent men and women are free agents free elected and are free to develop different ideas from the Commander-in-Chief.  They are free to suggest different courses of action that they might think are better.  The one thing that they should under no circumstances do is to decry their president's efforts without proposing realistic alternatives.  For this - like the behaviour of so many Europeans - will achieve only one thing: encouragement for the enemy. 

Yet this is precisely what a large proportion of them are doing.  Whether it is


Senator Jim Webb delivering an official Democratic response to the effect that the surge won't work,


or unhappy Republicans such as Senator Norm Coleman saying most Americans reject the surge,


or the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voting that the surge is not in the US national interest,


or Senator Edward Kennedy demanding that Congress cut off funding for the extra troops,


or Republican Senator John Warner's deeply critical resolution,

there can be only one conclusion drawn by America's enemies in Iraq:  that the US is fast developing a resolute will ... to lose.  That it is only a matter of months before American public opinion - not Iraq's deadly minority of Saddamites, Ba'athists, Al Qaeda groups, local and foreign jihadists, Sunni and Shi'ite gangs, common criminals, hangers-on and dead-enders - will cause America to withdraw, to in effect declare defeat and retreat. 

This conclusion may not be true - I hope it isn't and clearly Mr Bush and the military under its new commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, don't believe its true.  But it can only strengthen the resolve of their enemies and encourage them to wait out the surge.  And that's what the General thinks too.  In turn, any boost in morale for the enemies must inevitably lead to more American casualties. 

Vietnam was not remotely a military defeat.  In 1975, America cut and ran and deserted its friends and broke its promises solely because American public opinion developed an indomitable will to lose.  Ho Chi Minh marched into the South, tens of thousands died in the resultant purge, and Vietnam remains to this day a Communist dictatorship, albeit more benign and competent than it once was.

Is America today developing and renewing a similar will to lose in Iraq?  If so, all of us here in the west are in danger of paying a terrible price. 

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Antidisestablishmentarianism Not Yet Dead
Gay Adoption in the UK

Britain's' Equality Act of 2006 is a piece of legislation pushed into being under EU pressure.  Its laudable aim is to outlaw discrimination towards people on grounds of - listed in this order - age, disability, gender, sex-change, race, religion, belief or sexual orientation.  (The order is interesting.  Is there an implied hierarchy that values my aged transgenderism over your one-legged voodoo?). 

On a general level, there is nothing much controversial about the bill, which was passed with ease.  But, as always, the devil is in the detail. 

The devil in this case is the issue of child-adoption by gays: the law as it stands makes it illegal to refuse to hand a child over for adoption if the sole reason is that the prospective parents are gay.  The Catholic church, which handles a third of Britain's thousands of adoptions, has, in a rare bout of courage, denounced this part of the legislation, and said that in the absence of a derogation, it will close down its adoption agencies rather than comply.  The Church of England quickly followed suit, as did a few Muslim leaders.  They all make the point that, to them, homosexual practices are sinful and provide an unsuitable backdrop for bringing up children.  Even many atheists, for whom the concept of sin does not exist, might however agree with the second part. 

The Cabinet, with the exception of the prime minister whose wife is a Catholic and the doughty Opus Dei diehard Ruth Kelly, have all declared - including even the Catholic heavyweight John Reid - that the churches will get no exemption. 

When I was small, the longest word I knew (but couldn't spell or understand) was antidisestablishmentarianism, which I eventually learnt meant wanting the state to remain wedded to the Church (of England); a desire for some continued theocracy you might say.  Well, other than the Head of State being also the chief of the Church and not being allowed to marry a Catholic, that's clearly a lost cause  in the UK - for the moment anyway.  If you ever doubted the separation of Church and State, the Cabinet's determination to stampede the Christian churches is the definitive statement. 

But will it prevail; can it win a confrontation? 

This depends on whether the churches - particularly the Catholics - will continue to be strong on the issue.  That means that when, for example, a Catholic adoption agency is first confronted with the possibility of having to assign a child to gays, it  must either dissolve itself, as Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Catholics' boss in England and Wales, has threatened, or else deliberately ignore and flout the law as Archbishop Mario Conti in Scotland has threatened. 

This will lead to a classic confrontation of values and discrimination hierarchies.  Will the British government be brave enough


to assume responsibility for countless would-be adoptees thrown onto the street by dissolved agencies, or


to mount a criminal prosecution against the Catholic church? 

The church will argue it is acting in accordance with its own sincerely-held beliefs and teachings, and claim that to prevent it from doing so is to discriminate against it and its members on purely religious grounds, itself a breach of the 2006 Equality Act.  And note that the Act places religion ahead of sexual orientation in the list of things that are discrimination-worthy. 

This would be a hugely polarising issue, which regardless of the eventual outcome, could not fail to make the government look foolish.  Yet simply to succumb to the church's defiance will make it look pretty stupid also.  It really cannot win, but the longer the controversy goes on the worse it will look.  (Mr Blair's deferral of full implementation of the Equality Act by the churches until 2009 is merely kicking the issue into touch until after he leaves office.)   

That's why Mr Blair's cabinet should take a leaf out of Bertie Ahern's book, and without delay grant the churches the derogation they are seeking. (It won't be the only exemption: as far as I know I will still be ineligible, on gender grounds, to join the Women's Institute). 

Last month, Ireland's Taoiseach faced his own religious row when a heavyweight parliamentary and cabinet committee chaired by his own party (amazingly, the Child Protection Committee) proposed to lower the age of consent from 17 to 16.  He initially supported this, but the Catholic and Protestant churches immediately expressed alarm, not because of church teaching but on morality grounds, a concept very few dare float in today's non-judgmental times.  Mr Ahern, famouslythe most skilful, the most devious, the most cunning of them all”, knew an elephant trap when he saw one and promptly backtracked.  After a few blushes and a bit of bravado, the issue quickly died out. 

Antidisestablishmentarianism is not yet quite dead in Ireland, and may well revive in Britain once the adoption row gets properly underway.

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Sports Careers Ending with a Thump

Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.

The prophetic (though non-Gallic) George Orwell

What is it about major sports stars with a Gallic flavour who want to kill their careers with a macho display of their donnybrook skills? 

Eric Cantona, for several years football captain of France and star of Manchester United, set the pace in 1995 when he kung-fu kicked spectator Matthew Simmons, then punched him a few times for good measure, because he had apparently made an insulting remark. 

Mr Cantona earned a hefty fine, a nine-month ban and narrowly escaped a prison sentence.  He was reviled for ever more, his professional career never fully recovered and a couple of year later it was over.  

Then, last year, it was Zinedine Zidane, another captain of France, who at the pinnacle of his career, played in the the World Cup final against Italy.  Then, in the last ten minutes of the contest, with victory still a distinct possibility, he assaulted Italy's Marco Materazzi with a vicious head-butt for all to see, knocking him to the ground in pain. 


The resultant red card ended in shame the previously illustrious career of Mr Zidane. 

Now it's the turn of Trevor Brennan, a redoubtable Irish rugby professional, who is currently a star with Stade Toulousain, arguably France's finest club.  He holds ten Irish caps, two Heineken cup medals (the only Irishman to do so), a number of all-Ireland AIB championships medals, and has many other rugby accomplishments.  Off the ball, he runs a successful Irish pub in Toulouse, De Danú, and writes regular contributions to newspapers about rugby life in France. 

Aged 33, his stellar career is in the process of ending in similar disgrace.  Trevor Brennan assaults Ulster fan Patrick BamfordA couple of weeks ago, he was on the bench during a Heineken Cup game in Belfast between Toulouse and Ulster.  As he waited to be called up as a substitute, he apparently overheard an Ulster fan, Patrick Bamford, criticising his bar (your pub's a load of rubbish or some such) and so climbed up six rows of seats in order to thump him a dozen times in the face. 

Toulouse's Trevor Brennan and Ulster's Justin Harrison fight during a Heineken Cup match; click to enlargeThen he was called to the field of play and within minutes punched an opponent, Justin Harrison, which led to another fight that earned them both a yellow card. 

Likewise, his career has now effectively ended in disgrace, with a fine, a ban and possible legal action for the assault(s). 

He later said that his attack on Mr Bamford was provoked when Ulster supporters called his mother a whore, an unusual epithet.  My guess is that they called him a bastard, which post-factum he has liberally and literally reinterpreted as an insult to his mother. 

Of course this kind of brouhaha is what makes French sport so much more interesting.  Things that go thump in a fight. 

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Hole in the Hole-in-One

The Qatar Masters golf tournament that took place last week produced an interesting, little-reported whimsy. The prize for a hole-in-one at the 17th hole (normally the 8th, as the pros play the nines in reverse order) was to be a 26-foot motor cruiser worth $150,000, which would be put on display by floating it in the duck pond over which the players have to hit.

Just before the tournament, the boat was gingerly lowered into the water, but someone had forgotten to insert the bungs, and the bilge pumps didn't work, so the boat simply started to sink.  Only an alert crane driver saved the day (and the boat) by putting the crane hastily into reverse before irreparable damage was done. 

Prize for a hole-in-one at the Qatar Masters, 2007

Tony in Doha, the keen-eyed observer who reported this story, reckoned it was a case of a hole in the hole-in-one”.  No-one won it, by the way. 

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Week 144's Letter to the Press

Just one lonely letter this week, and not published. 


Tony Killeen's Responsibility
Minister of State Tony Killeen's excuse that his office sends out so many letters in his name (200,000 of them) that he cannot be expected to know their contents is disingenuous. In the absence of fraud, he, and only he, is accountable for ... writing inappropriate letters seeking freedom for a convicted child-sex offender and a convicted murderer ...

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Quotes of Week 144

- - - - - - - - - - U S   i n   I R A Q - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way ... Let us find our resolve and turn events toward victory.

George Bush, in his State of the Union address to Congress

I can't tell you what the path to success is, but it's not what the president has put on the table.”

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military.”

Typical responses of naysayers, respectively
Republican Senator
Norm Coleman and Democratic senator Jim Webb.
Unless a politician can present a viable alternative,
his/her carping is worthless.

- - - - - - - - - - I R E L A N D - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: It would be easy to blame the junior officers' conduct in dealing with various informants and indeed they are not blameless. However, they could not have operated as they did without the knowledge and support at the highest levels of the RUC and PSNI.

The redoubtable Nuala O'Loan, Northern Ireland's police ombudsman,
lays it on the line in her finding that
over the period 1991-2003, the police in Northern Ireland
had colluded with loyalist informants
in both perpetrating murders and protecting the murderers.

Sir Hugh Orde, Chief Constable since 2002,
accepted her findings, apologised for the police failings
and will re-open enquiries into the killings.

Quote: Is it wrong that a prisoner who might be in for a long stay, that they [sic] might get out on humanitarian and welfare grounds, that they [sic] might get out for an hour for a Communion or for a Confirmation or for the Baptism of their child?

Ireland's Taoiseach Bertie Ahern,
in typical obfuscatory and ungrammatical fashion,
uses an entirely spurious, if not frivolous, example
to excuse Minister Tony Killeen,
who dispatched at least five letters seeking the early release
of a convicted paedophile and of a convicted murderer.

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ISSUE #143 - 21st January 2007 [372]

bullet Darwinism: Not Just About Animals and Plants
bullet Brotherly Racism
bullet Enda Kenny's Makeover
bullet Five Meg Hard Drive
bulletWeek 143's Letters to the Press
bulletQuotes of Week 143
Darwinism: Not Just About Animals and Plants

I'm still ploughing my way through Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, which I must say is wonderfully written.  His big thing, and answer to all theocratic and creationist arguments, is Darwinism, Charles Darwin's 1859 theory by which all creatures great and small, not to mention plant life, have evolved over millennia through nature's relentless and merciless selection of the fittest. 

But Darwinism need not be confined to living things.  It also explains modern technology, for instance.  Every component of every bit of it has come about through the steady improvement of what lay before.  Just one simple example.  I am using Microsoft's FrontPage 2003 to prepare this post.  It's not an invention from nothing: it is an improvement on the two versions I used previously, which came out in 2000 and 1997.  Like every other industrial product, it's evolutionary.  If we go back far enough there will be a link to the proverbial wheel of our ancestors. 

Likewise, Darwinism explains much in the arrangement of human affairs. 


On a personal level, each of us tries (though not always hard enough) to build on our successes, learn from our mistakes, and climb a never-ending ladder of self-improvement, family-improvement, career-improvement, overall life-improvement.  


On a societal level, the same process can happen.  Building on success is the easy bit.  But not every society is willing to be consistently open and honest enough about its mistakes to learn from them, and analysing what went wrong arguably yields more lessons than the successes do. 

And quel surprise.  Those open societies are the same ones that deliver most wealth to their citizens, and the source of their openness is, of course, democracy.  When it is the people who elect their governments, and can get rid of them, the politicians in those governments have to be able to back up their intentions and decisions with hard facts and arguments. There is a limit to what they can hide and get away with hiding.  When they make errors, they need to correct for them or they won't remain in government for very long. 

They in turn demand openness from those doing business in their jurisdictions, in terms of providing reliable data both for taxation purposes and for their shareholders.  Thus, if businesses don't make a profit and don't learn from their mistakes, their managers don't remain in position for very long.  That old business mantra, put it right or I'll find someone else who will” remains as powerful an incentive to take difficult decisions as it ever was. 

The net effect of this openness in democratic societies is continual improvement on prior practices, manifested in continual growth.  This is pure Darwinism, survival of the fittest, ever adapting and evolving to meet an ever changing environment. 

And it's the reason for the slower growth and/or lower wealth levels of closed, undemocratic societies. 

And it also explains why the armed forces of democratic countries are also the world's most powerful - America, Britain, France, Israel, Australia - even though less numerous than those of say China and North Korea.  Because they too have to operate in the glare of openness, which obliges their commanders to constantly improve or else find another means of livelihood. 

Israel, for example, is still smarting over the inconclusive end to last summer's war in (not against) Lebanon.  Its previous wars have all ended in decisive victories, which earned it a reputation of invincibility for its first 58 years.   Its failure to meet its 2006 war aims of


rescuing its two kidnapped soldiers,


putting a stop to the rockets Hezbollah were firing into Israel from Lebanon,


destroying all of Hezbollah's infrastructure in Lebanon and


killing their leader Hassan Nasrallah

is a serious setback. 

When the Arab armies have in the past suffered defeat at Israel's hands - most spectacularly in the Six Day War of 1967 - no serious introspection has followed and no-one prominent lost his job.  Most notoriously, the Arabs' main leader, unifier and rabble-rouser in 1967, Egypt's president Gamal Abdul Nasser, managed to keep his job - though in fairness he did offer to resign, but this was rejected by the masses (orchestrated or otherwise).  He then went on to lead Egypt the following year into another losing war with Israel, which ended only when he died in 1970. 

Contrast this with recent events in Tel Aviv. 

After the Lebanon war, Israel set up a commission of enquiry headed by an eminent, 80-year-old retired supreme court judge, Eliyahu Winograd.  It is investigating the failings of the political and security echelon, and its interim and final reports, due in a matter of weeks, will be made public

The military has conducted a separate enquiry, which has criticised poor planning, poor strategy and poor execution of the war, with too much reliance on air power and waiting too long to send in ground troops, many of whom were poorly equipped. Lt Gen Dan Halutz resigns over the 2006 war against Hezbollah in LebanonAs a result, the head of Israel's armed forces, Lt Gen Dan Halutz, a decorated former fighter-pilot, has resigned, which some liken to an earthquake

There is wide expectation that, once the Winograd reports are out, if not before, prime minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, as the war's political leaders, may also have to go, which could well be followed by loss of power by the ruling Kadima party. 

Hezbollah, who as far as we know have conducted no similar post-mortem on the war (nor have its sponsors Iran and Syria), are celebrating the downfall of Lt Gen Halutz as yet another victory against the hated Israel.  This shows a deep and dangerous misunderstanding of the way Darwinism works. 

They should instead be fearing his departure, because it signifies that Israel is determined to learn from its mistakes and emerge stronger.  It is, in fact, engaged in a process of Darwinian evolution in pursuit of its own survival through being the fittest in its fraught neighbourhood.  If and when the war in Lebanon resumes, which seems likely given the inconclusive outcome of Round One in 2006, Israel will conduct itself very differently and Hezbollah will rue the day. 

Charles Darwin was not just about animals and plants, but - for better or for worse - about the ways of humankind as well. 

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Brotherly Racism

From all the media coverage of Channel 4's unwatchable Big Brother lately, you'd swear that some act of racism had been committed. 


That a person of one particular race had accused another race of being intrinsically inferior. 


That someone had behaved in an abusive or discriminatory way against someone else because of race difference. 


That there had been an incitement to hatred or violence against a particular race. 


This is what actually happened


Some ghastly chubby woman called Jade Goody, along with a couple of other young harridans, made fun of the accent of a rather priggish Indian actress. 

Plenty of people deserve having their accents made fun of, and comedians do it all the time. 


Everyone on Coronation Street would be the top of my list of horrible accents deserving to be ridiculed. 


But I mean, ee-bah-goom, how did this become racist?


The ghastly Jade Goody

The ghastly
Jade Goody


 Ms Goody's mother couldn't or wouldn't pronounce, or couldn't remember, the Indian's name (Shilpa Shetty) so referred to her as, wait for it, The Indian”. 

Since when did referring to someone by what she factually is become racist? 


Maybe if she had been called by the wrong nationality (eg the Bangladeshi) it would have been marginally rude, though hardly racist; arguably calling her the Paki, which is both incorrect and derogatory might just about qualify as racist. 


But the Indian”?  (I better be careful whom I refer to as the Irishman”.)

The priggish Shilpa Shetty

The priggish
Shilpa Shetty


Another contestant, Jo O'Meara, suggested that Indians were thin because they are always ill as a result of undercooking their food.

This is just a silly non-sequitur based on ignorance, about both Indian cuisine and human physiology; nothing racist about it.  Had she said millions of Indians are thin because they are too poor to eat themselves into Ms Goody's level of overweightedness, Ms O'Meara would probably have been praised for her cultural sensitivity and social conscience. 


They objected to Ms Shetty having touched housemates' food, saying You don't know where those hands have been”. 

I too would object to someone sticking his/her fingers into my food, even if the fingers were attached to the Queen of England, and for precisely the same reason, and it's nothing to do with racism, just hygiene. 


If that's what Ms Shetty makes a practice of, she better bone up on the social graces required when she visits Europe.  Just as I need to use chopsticks when I go to China.


In an argument that started over an Oxo cube, Ms Goody told Ms Shetty, You're not some princess in f*****g Neverland ... You're so far up your own a**e you can smell your own s**t ... F*****g go in your community ... You f*****g fake ... Go back to the slums and find out what real life is about, lady, whilst Danielle Lloyd muttered, I think she should f**k off home”. 

These are the words of two thoroughly unpleasant, foul-mouthed Englishwomen (which are qualities that doubtless contributed to their selection as contestants).  But this doesn't make them, or their vituperation, racist. 


They're entitled to dislike, to want to get rid of and to be rude to anyone they want, including Ms Shetty.  To say that being ill-mannered to someone is unacceptable because she happens to be Indian is itself a racist attitude, because it infers the singling out of a person for special (kid-gloves) treatment based solely on her race. 


Curiously there has been no outrage over Ms Shetty's own racist remark, when she told Ms Goody, Oh please, learn some manners. You know what you need?  You need elocution classes

And that's it.  That's what the furore is about.  Thoroughly obnoxious nobodies being horrible to each other. 

But that's what prompted even respectable broadsheets like the Independent to carry a front-page headline which screamed RACISM”, why UK's putative future prime minister Gordon Brown grovelled to the Indian government, why the Carphone Warehouse withdrew its annual £3m sponsorship of Big Brother, why a dozen people ridiculously burned an effigy of the TV producers in the streets of Patna in the east of India. 

An effigy to represent the producers of "Big Brother" is burnt in Patna

Of course the real transgression was not really of a racist nature.  It was  the sin of political incorrectness, that strange creed that says no-one (particularly no-one non-white) must ever be offended, especially on prime time TV and especially not by a white person. 

It is kind of scary to see how many people sign up to this new religion. 

But if you want to see some real racism, executed in the most subtle and masterful of fashions, tune in over the next few months to the, er, race for the democratic nomination for US president.  Senator Barak Obama - the next US president?The object of racist attack will be 45-year-old Senator Barak Obama, who has rocketed from nowhere to fame and rockstar adulation in just a few months, and is now one of the two certainties, with Senator Hilary Clinton, to clinch the nomination. 

And it won't be redneck white guys and gals doing the racism. 

It will be the traditional, long-serving, American black Left establishment, led by people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, both past presidential hopefuls, and singer Harry Belafonte, famed for calling  Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice house niggers for consorting with the hated George Bush.  They are furious that Brother Obama has so suddenly and effortlessly passed them by and owes them no special subservience, and is so - well - polite. 

So when they carp that Mr Obama has no “meat”, he's “just the king's clothes”, and a Democratic strategist observes that along comes this son of a Kenyan farmer and suddenly he’s measuring the drapes in the Oval Office”, be clear what you're hearing:


that Mr Obama is not a “proper” black American;


that he hasn't a drop of slave blood in his veins;


that he is only a second generation Kenyan blow-in. 

Such sentiments represent pure, if discreet, racism - racism against African Americans who actually come from Africa.  Expect more of it. 

And don't expect Brothers Jackson, Sharpton and Belafonte to take any racism lessons from Big Brother's Ms Goody. 

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Enda Kenny's Makeover

Enda Kenny is the effeminate, youthful-looking, whiny-sounding leader of Ireland's main opposition party Fine Gael.  Enda by the way is a male name in this country.

Since his party's policies barely differ from those of the ruling Fine Fail party (they were formed out of the opposing sides of the 1922-3 civil war), whose only ideology is to remain in power by keeping the good times rolling, Mr Kenny has little chance of becoming Taoiseach.  The current incumbent, Bertie Ahern, is an adept survivor, who was aptly described by a crooked predecessor as the most skilful, the most devious, the most cunning of them all”. 

But there is a general election looming in a few months, and Mr Kenny rightly concludes - though denies - that this not going to be all about manifestos, but about personalities. 

Boyish Enda before - and indeed after - his brief 2007 makeoverTough guy Enda, during his fleeting 2007 makeover period, quickly abandonedSo time to change his own.  Or at least his appearance.  So, suddenly, after Christmas he appeared with a new persona.  Gone are his luxuriant golden locks, replaced by dark hair with just a hint of patrician grey.  His so last-century parting on the left has been supplanted by a backswept, business-like, almost bouffant hairstyle.  He's dyed his pasty eyebrows and had them shaped, and taken to narrowing his eyes to look less gullible.  That baby-pink complexion has given way to a tough-guy tan.  And he has tried (not very successfully) to lower his voice to make it sound more, well, virile. 

All in all, he has attempted, in a flash, to replace his prior boyishness with a measure of urbane gravitas. 

But, despite the obvious scope for mockery, I have been astonished that there has been virtually no comment in the Irish media, and this in January the scarcest time of the year for news.  My letter on the subject to the Irish Times (and later to the Sunday Times) went unpublished.  Even the blogosphere is almost silent (this post notwithstanding). 

I say, good luck Enda, but you still haven't a hope, bouffant or no bouffant. 

Late Note: On 11th May 2007,
I eventually had a letter published on this subject in the Irish Independent

Much Later Note (20th November 2014):
The above link to my Irish Independent letter has disappeared. 
But you can find a transcript here

Somewhat Later Note:
He actually abandoned his makeover before the election and reverted to type,
but not his election posters which proudly bore his ridiculous, urbane-gravitas image.

Oh, - and he lost the election, as expected.

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Five Meg Hard Drive

Guess what's being loaded onto this Pan Am plane half a century ago. 

Five Mb hard drive, being loaded on to a Pan Am flight, in 1956

In September 1956, IBM launched the 305 RAMAC, the first computer with a hard disk drive (HDD). The HDD weighed over a ton and stored five megabytes of data.  (Thanks for this, Dave in Fuengirola)

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Week 143's Letters to the Press

Three letters to the Irish Times this week, none of them published.  I was bit surprised the innocent one about Enda Kenny was not; perhaps there is a non-mockery conspiracy. 


Enda Kenny's Makeover
I am amazed that no-one seems to have noticed or commented on Enda Kenny's recent makeover. In a flash, his face has changed from pink to tanned, his locks from blond to dark ...  (See
Enda Kenny's Makeover” above)


Occupied” “Palestinian Territories
Once again, Raymond Deane of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign refers to
the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  They are neither occupied nor Palestinian. They are in fact ...


Repatriation of EU Immigrants
I wonder why it cost the government €300,000 to repatriate 646 destitute immigrants to their home countries in Central and Eastern Europe last year.  That works out at €464 each, which is more than twice the average one-way fare to the countries concerned. Where did the rest go?

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Quotes of Week 143
Quotes I have picked up during the week, not necessarily uttered during it

- - - - - - - - - - R W A N D A - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: “The view in the past was that it was our fate to be poor.  We don't believe that now. We believe our fate is to be rich.”

An unnamed minister in the Rwandan government,
reflecting a new sense of purpose and optimism,
all the more remarkable given the still-recent genocide. 

- - - - - - - - - - U N - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: “I was very pleased that I ... could at least hold the door for him to go first.”

Sir Mark Malloch Brown,
the UN's supercilious (British) deputy secretary-general,
on the departure of John Bolton,
America's controversial ambassador to the UN. 

Sir Mark also departed, a few weeks later.

- - - - - - - - - - I R A N - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: “Regime change [in Iran] is preferable to striking Iran’s sites, but the only course worse than the use of force is an Iran with nuclear weapons.”

The same John Bolton,
commenting on the possibility of an attack on Iran
to destroy its military sites

- - - - - - - - - - B R I T A I N - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: If we had anticipated [that], we would have wanted to do something to try to ensure the ratio of profits to total income stayed the same.

Patricia Hewitt, Britain's Health Secretary,
moans that GPs make too much money. 

In 2004, incentives were introduced to improve service.
She is now outraged that
GPs delivered those enhancements beyond expectations.
Why isn't she delighted that GP services have got so much better? 

- - - - - - - - - - LY R I C S - - - - - - - - - -


We are 12 billion light-years from the edge,

That's a guess,

No one can ever say it's true,

But I know that I will always be with you.

Katie Melua, in her hit
Nine Million Bicycles

We are 13.7 billion light-years from the edge of the observable universe,

That's a good estimate with well-defined error bars,

Scientists say it's true, but acknowledge that it may be refined,

And with the available information, I predict that I will always be with you.”.

Cosmologist Simon Singh
corrects her

Other erroneous lyrics

It’s a long way to Tipperary

No, it’s not

I will survive

Gloria Gaynor

No, you won’t

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ISSUE #142 - 14th January 2007 [360]

bulletSaddam's Execution
bullet EU Membership Will Be Bad for Turkey
bullet Iona Institute Launched
bullet Triple Red for McLaren
bulletWeek 142's Letters to the Press
bulletQuotes of Week 142

Saddam's Execution

You will have seen my Image of 2006.  The judicial execution of Saddam Hussein was a defining moment of 2006.  For the first time in the entire history of mankind, a tyrannical head of state was


forcibly overthrown,




accused of crimes against humanity perpetrated against his own citizens,

and his fellow-countrymen then


tried him publicly - in proceedings broadcast in full on TV,


convicted him and


hanged him. 

And all this was carried out in accordance with a constitution that had been ratified by the people in a free vote barely a year and half before.    Wow. 

That is the context in which the execution should be viewed.  Of course there have been unmitigated howls of anguish across the world from naysayers, Saddam-lovers, Bush-haters, fearful tyrants (that includes you, Mr Qaddafi) and others more concerned about their own posturing than Saddam's million-plus victims. 

Amongst these there have also been many who genuinely object to capital punishment in all circumstances, and frankly I am one of them. 

However I find it odd how vociferous many of those in this group have been over the hanging of Saddam, and - from time to time - over America's executions, especially those sanctioned by George Bush when governor of Texas.    Yet they remain strangely silent over China's daily executions, or those perpetrated by other such pillars of democracy as Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia (whither the Irish prime minister happens to be leading a large trade delegation this week). 

My own objection is one of principle - you shouldn't kill another human being if you can possibly avoid it.  But I must confess to feeling wobbly about Saddam when I contemplate the alternative sentence of imprisonment for life.  This is not only due to the enormity of his crimes (in addition to the ones in Dujail for which he was sentenced), but because of the ongoing twofold hazard that life imprisonment would have entailed. 

Firstly, you have only to recall Napoleon's first banishment, in 1814, to Elba, following his disastrous invasion of Russia and the humiliating defeat of France that followed.  From his tiny Italian island-exile, within months he mounted a military come-back plunging France into a further three months of bloody, deadly and pointless warfare culminating in a second humiliating defeat at Waterloo, at the hands of the Duke of Wellington. 

Or think back to the 1950s when many closet Nazis were still encouraged by their belief that Hitler - whose Berlin suicide the Soviets refused to confirm - had evaded death and was living somewhere in South America preparing to resume, Napoleon fashion, the super-race dream.  By contrast, no Italian fascists harboured such thoughts about Mussolini, for the simple fact that Communist partisans shot him and then hung up his body by the feet for all to see for several days near the magnificent Romanesque railway station he himself had completed in Milan. 

It is, therefore, not fanciful to suppose that Saddam's continuing existence would have given hope to many a Ba'athist, Sunni or Tikriti insurgent that he would one day return and lead them back to glory. 

Secondly, under a sentence of life imprisonment, his return to the fray may well have been facilitated and hastened by a few kidnappings, atrocities and blackmail.  With Beslan as a recent example, raiding a nice primary school in, say, Kurdistan and beheading one child per hour on prime-time TV until Saddam was released would probably do the trick.  If not, try the same in some pacifist haven such as Belgium or Sweden.  You get the picture. 

But with his execution, all such scenarios have now been extinguished, and this should be welcomed.  He's gone.  He's history.  He'll never come back.  That's why I find it hard to condemn the fact of the execution. 

Then there is the manner of his hanging, which has drawn even more widespread disgust.  Disparagement came even from George Bush and Tony Blair, who by invading Iraq did more than anyone to create the circumstances of its happening. 

There are three threads to the criticisms, all of which I think are rubbish. 

  1. Conducted in a dingy room by men in balaclavas, it looked more like a lynching than an execution. 

    I would have one question to those of this view. 
    How many executions and lynchings have you witnessed? 
    If like me the answer is zero, you're in no position to
    make such a comparison; the comment is meaningless. 


    Killing someone is necessarily ghastly.  Why would you think
    it has to be pretty?  How would you do it?   How would you make
    it not look like a bunch of powerful men taking the life of
    a fragile and pathetic victim?  

  2. He was mocked and taunted by onlookers in his last moments.

    This is a valid criticism, but utterly petty when you think
    about the manner in which Saddam sent so many to their


    On the other hand, the whole thing was conducted very quickly,
    and from his bewildered demeanour (compared, for example to
    his court appearances) he was clearly tranquillised to minimise the
    pre-death mental anguish and allow him to behave in a dignified

  3. No-one should have been permitted to film the execution, much less release it on the internet. 

    Why not?  Everyone repeats the aphorism that justice
    should not only be done but be seen to be done
    .  Filming
    and broadcasting the execution on the internet
    fulfills this injunction to the letter.  Moreover, it has
    convinced absolutely everybody that Saddam - like
    Mussolini - is really, truly dead. 


    The real objection is, I suspect, one of squeamishness. 
    An execution is intrinsically nasty and we'd all much rather not be
    reminded of the sordid details.  In the same way, we would rather
    avoid a tour round the local abattoir, before pulling on our leather brogues,
    donning our sheepskin coat and heading off to our favourite restaurant
    for a juicy medium-rare steak. 


    Personally, I think the execution was of such momentous import
    it should have been filmed professionally and not left to some
    bystander with a mobile phone and a shaky hand.  Nevertheless,
    he has done the world - and Iraqis - a service. 

In conclusion, it is well to recall once more the simple but brutal history of Saddam, as recently recounted by Brendan McMahon. 

Having used intrigue, chicanery and murder to wrestle himself on to the Iraqi presidential throne in 1979, the following year he invaded neighbouring Iran, a war that cost over a million lives. When this military adventure failed he exacted revenge on the Iraqi Kurds, whom he accused of supporting Iran, and killed thousands of them in chemical attacks on Kurdish villages.

He then turned his attentions to the south, where he made an unprovoked attack on Kuwait, again resulting in the death or disappearance of thousands. When it looked like he had misjudged the situation and many of the neighbouring countries joined the United States and others to oust him, he ordered the firing of missiles at Israel in an attempt to provoke a third war. When forced to leave Kuwait he ordered a scorched earth policy which involved the destruction of Kuwaiti oilfields. A catastrophic environmental disaster was only narrowly avoided by a speedy response by oilwell blowout specialists from all over the world.

After this, he ruthlessly suppressed an uprising in the south of Iraq and caused irreparable damage by maliciously draining an area inhabited by an ancient civilisation, the Marsh Arabs, in an attempt to wipe them out.

He then concentrated his attentions on the Shi'ite population of Iraq, again killing thousands, as the continued uncovering of mass graves testifies. In addition, during this time he was also an enthusiastic sponsor of international terrorism with his support, both moral and financial, of suicide bombings against civilians in Israel and the disputed territories. 

Death by hanging was a mild price to pay for his heinous, multifarious crimes. 

May other tyrants tremble.

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EU Membership Will Be Bad for Turkey

It is becoming ever more obvious that, though no-one is prepared to stand up and say so, the EU doesn't really want Turkey in the club.  The reasons are a mélange of the good, the bad and the ugly, and I have written about some of them previously

But what is puzzling, at least to me, is why successive Turkish governments seem so keen to join, that they are prepared to put up with perpetual rebuffs, if not humiliations, the latest being Joseph Daul of the European People's Party who last week declared that Turkey is not ready for EU membership and the EU is not ready to absorb Turkey.  But like the Chumbawamba hit, Tubthumping, Turkey gets knocked down, but it gets up again, you're never goin' to keep it down. 

On the one hand, the economic benefits of EU membership are plain.  As a member you get free access to 490 million more consumers, suppliers and investors - rich ones at that - than you have at home, and you get gifts measured in €uro-billions to beef up your infrastructure.  Wealth creation under the invisible hand of Adam Smith is sure to follow, as it (eventually) has for every other new member which has joined. 

On the other hand, prospective membership also provides excellent cover for pushing through constructive economic and political reforms that you know you should be doing anyway, but which might be painful and unpopular.  They usually boil down to cutting services, slashing subsidies, increasing taxes, privatising state assets.  You simply tell your people that you don't agree with the reforms either, but you have no choice due to those damned, faceless, heartless EUrocrats in Brussels. 

Turkey has gone a long way down the reform path using this simple expedient and deserves much praise for doing so. 


Inflation has been dragged down from 45% in 2002 to an albeit still-high 8%, the currency revalued and economic stability regained. 


The political power of the army has been reduced,


Kurds no longer break the law by speaking Kurdish,


there has been some softening on the fraught issue of Armenians killed in the First World War,


torture and internment are much reduced,


its approach to the Northern Cyprus problem has become far more constructive in recent years. 

On the economic front, protectionist barriers have been dismantled, foreign investors welcomed, markets opened.  

These are the kind of measures that have, both directly and indirectly, contributed mightily, since the massive earthquake of 1999 and the economic meltdown of 2001, to Turkey's healthy GDP growth currently cracking along at about 7½% per year. 

So why the eagerness to actually join the EU when it is getting anything but a welcome?  There is a more or less permanent free trade deal on the table, together with generous grants,  which stops short of membership.  It's there for the taking.  So why would this not be good enough?  What is the vital ingredient that makes Turkey feel it must strive for all or nothing, even if the nothing is the more probable outcome? 

It must be the free movement of people that Turkey desperately wants, which is the very same ingredient that the EU so desperately fears. 

Notwithstanding all the positive things I've said about Turkey's reforms above, it is still a good bit behind the main EUropean nations in key areas such as democracy, human rights, control of the army, freedom of expression, minority rights, religious freedom, civil liberties.  Such factors help to explain its relative poverty - an annual GDP of only $7,950 per head, ranking it 75th in the world, compared with the EU average of $28,100 which puts it at 23rd. 

Free movement of people through full membership  of the EU would thus provide an enormous safety valve for Turkey's people,


not only allowing individuals to escape to more prosperous economic environments, whence they would send home remittances,


but by so doing relieving the government of the having to worry about them and having to create a more wealth-creating climate at home. 


Dissidents could likewise be encouraged to emigrate to where they would experience less harassment. 

Moreover, once inside the EU, the EU's power to influence Turkish policy would necessarily diminish. In effect, Turkey would be sorely tempted to export its problems rather than solving them.  

If you doubt that, look west across the Atlantic. 

What is the primary export


from Mexico (GDP $10,000 per person, unemployment rate up to 29%, 40% below the poverty line)


to America ($41,600, 5% and 12% respectively)? 

It's 800,000 illegal Mexican emigrants fleeing north per year.  The army of Mexican émigrés then, through their remittances home, add a welcome $17 billion a year to the Mexican economy.

Thus, the Mexican government, far from feeling concern at the never-ending loss of so many citizens, protests any United States action to curb the flow - such as building a physical barrier, and urges the US to grant amnesties to all those illegal Mexican incomers.  This is all because the illegal efflux helps


to hide dismal domestic policy failures,


to get rid of excess unemployed penniless people, and


to relieve it of the burden of implementing painful policies that would make Mexico a more attractive and economically viable place to remain in. 

This is hardly a recipe for the advancement of your country. 

Thus, for the good of its own people, the Turkish government should abandon its futile aspiration to join the EU, and instead continue vigorously with its political and economic reform process, whilst robustly negotiating an immediate free trade agreement with the EU.  Full membership will be bad for Turkey's people. 

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Iona Institute Launched

An interesting new think tank was launched in Ireland this month - the Iona Institute, which is dedicated to strengthening civil society through making the case for marriage and religion. 

Its underlying premise is that data consistently show that, statistically, children raised by married (heterosexual) parents consistently do better in life than those brought up in other family or non-family situations.   This is what most people would intuitively expect.

Less intuitive, and thus in need of evidence to back it up, is the view that religious practice (note - not necessarily religious belief) leads to a stronger, more benign civil society, with less crime, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, family breakdown etc.  This would have to be qualified by defining what religion you're talking about.  One which advocates limb amputation and conversion by the sword might not have such beneficent effects as one that says you should love your neighbour and avoid murder.  The Iona Institute is unabashedly Christian and Catholic. 

It kicked itself off with a poll regarding family arrangements which sought, from a cross-section of 950 people across Ireland, their agreement/disagreement with seven statements  The results are not in themselves surprising but these kinds of questions seem not to have been asked systematically before.  The institute has presented the poll results a bit awkwardly as two pdf files, so I've summarised and rearranged the main findings below.  Those who agreed with the statements were roughly double the number of those who disagreed, the rest being don't-knows. 

Iona Institute Poll, January 2007

It is evident from this that a majority of Irish people still support, and want the State to support, the traditional two-parent family and marriage, and would like, for example, to see disincentives to marry removed from Ireland's tax and welfare code. 

The Iona Institute is a privately funded NGO which is headed by David Quinn, an Irish writer on social and religious affairs - he who gave professional atheist Richard Dawkins such an unaccustomed mauling on Irish radio last November.  I engaged in some conversations with Mr Quinn about that, and wrote a post entitled DawQuinn: Atheism Nil, God 1” where you can hear the infamous interview with Mr Dawkins.  Mr Quinn then asked me to contribute writings from time to time to the Iona Institute, which I will be pleased to do, with links to this blog as appropriate. 

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Triple Red for McLaren

McLaren in redNo, this is nothing to do with any new three-coat crimson livery of McLaren's Formula One machines. 

Alerted by Graham in Perth, I was fascinated by the story about another McLaren, a recovering alcoholic-druggie who plays (played?) football. 

In a Scottish First Division football match between Clyde and Dundee last month, Dundee striker Andy McLaren lived up to his positional title, and achieved a seemingly impossible hat-trick at the same time.

In the 87th minute Dundee, who were 2-0 down, scored from a penalty, after which Mr McLaren tried to wrestle the ball from the Clyde keeper, David Hutton, who was naturally attempting to slow things down to bring the 90th minute closer. Both players were booked.

Just seconds later, on his way back into his own half, Mr McLaren was goaded by another Clyde player, Eddie Malone, and the shoving match resulted in a second yellow for Mr McLaren, and thus an automatic red, and sending off.

On his way off the pitch, he hit yet another Clyde player, this time Michael McGowan.  But Dougie McDonald the referee was only alerted to this by one of his assistants, and thus when the match was over (final score 2-1 to Clyde), the ref called Mr McLaren to his dressing room to show him the second red card.

The hapless Mr McLaren was so incensed that he kicked a hole in the door, for which the ref made it a full hat-trick of red cards!

To finish off the saga if not the man, he was then given an eight-game ban and was fired by Dundee.  As an added quirk and irony, Dundee now seems to have replaced him by snaffling Clyde's captain Paul McHale. 

Who says soccer is dull (apart from me). 

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Week 142's Letters to the Press

Week 142 is a bit of a misnomer because it covers the seven weeks since I last blogged.  That's why there are no fewer than ten letters below, of which three were published (P!) - in the Irish Times, the Economist and on Mark Steyn's site. 

A thirty percent success rate is about par for 2006, when I wrote a total of 75 letters, of which 23 were published, or 31%. 


Civil vs Mechanical Engineers
UCD lecturer David Browne observes, in relation to Irish pioneer scientist Robert Mallet, that Engineers were generally classified as being either civilian or military 150 years ago (the origin of today's civil and mechanical engineers, respectively)”. The traditional distinction is more stark. Civil engineers build targets, mechanical engineers build weapons.


Execution of Saddam Hussein P!
The various letter-writers in recent days decrying Saddam's execution hate to face up to some simple facts.  Iraq - despite the mayhem caused by a small minority - is a constitutional democracy, whose constitution was ratified by the people in 2005, and whose current democratic government is the result of an election just over a year ago in which no fewer than 12 million Iraqis - an astonishing 74 per cent of the country's adults - voted in the face of daunting intimidation ...


French Riots
Minister Seamus Brennan is right to emphasis the importance of integrating immigrants into Irish society and that the responsibility for this lies equally with both the native population and the incomers.  But he is wrong to raise the spectre of what is now widely regarded as the French initifada ...


Pinochet and Castro P!
The denunciation, by Amnesty International's Sean Love, of Augusto Pinochet's 17-year reign of terror, which killed or "disappeared" over 3,000 people and imprisoned and tortured many more, is admirable.  I would hope he reserves even greater vituperation for Fidel Castro who in his 47 years of power has killed 70,000 people so far ...


A Bird's Tale P! P!
English merchants in Turkey discovered a most delicious bird to eat and exported it back to England, where it became very popular, and was known as a ‘Turkey bird’ or simply a ‘turkey’ ...


Personal Breathalysers
You don't have to pay €120 for your own (clunky) breathalyser as John Mugan suggests. Over the internet, you can buy from the UK a tiny one that fits neatly in the palm of your hand or your top pocket or purse for only around €40 ...  


Israel and the Palestinians: Disputed vs Occupied Land
I don't know where Raymond Deane of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign keeps getting the idea that the land disputed with Israel is not
disputed but  occupied.  It remains under dispute for the sole reason that every time the Palestinians have been offered it as a Palestinian state their leaders have turned it down ...


The Americans' Lawful Mission in Iraq
Your leader contains a glaring and uncharacteristic error, which reads, In Afghanistan, as distinct from Iraq, there should be no quarrel about the lawfulness of the mission.  NATO is in the country under a UN mandate, operating in defence and at the behest of an elected government”.  So is the American-led coalition in Iraq.


Rumsfeld's Unknown Unknowns
Frank Golden betrays himself when he joins the chorus that likes to mock what he calls Donald Rumsfeld's
illogical unknown unknowns. When Mr Rumsfeld uttered this in June 2002, his central point was that in war you need at least to allow for the existence of bad things happening that you haven't thought of.  But the same concept applies in many business contexts as well. For example, the oil industry talks about ...

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Quotes of Week 142

- - - - - - - - - - I R A Q - - - - - - - - - -



The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people -- and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me ...


Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs ...


Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists and a strategic threat to their survival ...


The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time ... Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship. But victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world -- a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties, and answers to its people.

George Bush explains
why he is sending more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq

- - - - - - - - - - I S L A M - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: Anyone who cannot accept the equality of men and women has not even come close to meeting one of the basic conditions for the 21st century. It's in Islam's own interest to make that very clear and decisive.”

German interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble,
on the assumption in January of the EU presidency by Germany,
which is to make integration of Europe's 13m Muslims
into European society its priority.

He was commenting that parts of the Islamic world
had still failed to embrace the Enlightenment,
that Age of Reason embraced by Europe in the 17-18th centuries.

Quote: I wish to reiterate my great esteem for Muslims, encouraging them to continue to work together, in mutual respect, to promote the dignity of every human being and the growth of society where personal freedom and care for others provide peace and serenity for all.

Pope Benedict XVI, on his first visit to Turkey,
tries to mend bridges with Islam. 

Earlier he characterised Islam as a religion of
peace, tolerance, and affection
Pity the Koran seems to indicate the converse.

Quote: On November 21st you carried a report headed Medical Students Seek right to wear hijabs. I wish to state, as a patient, under no circumstances would I allow anybody wearing a veil, hijab, burqa, balaclava or a paper bag over their face to examine me.  I have rights too.

Dubliner Patrick Smith, writing to the Irish Times

- - - - - - - - - - I S R A E L - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they [Iran] are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?

Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, in an interview,
inadvertently implies that Israel possesses nuclear weapons
(surprise, surprise),
an admission that for over 20 years Israel has studiously avoided. 

He later blamed his poor grasp of English.

- - - - - - - - - - U N - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: Nobody intended our aid to subsidise this.

A United Nations official pathetically whines
about misuse of UN aid money in Aceh province
to build a Sharia system that flogs women,
oblivious to the UN's own gross if typical neglect
in not attaching and enforcing rigid strings to the money

- - - - - - - - - - E U R O P E - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: “The Europeans have relied on their American allies for too long. They have to shoulder their share of the burden by making a national defence effort commensurate with their ambitions for the Atlantic alliance and also for the European Union.

An extraordinary statement issued by Jacque Chirac.
Europeans responsible and paying for their own defence? 
Whoever heard of such nonsense?  That's America's job.

- - - - - - - - - - I R E L A N D - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: My intention was to assassinate Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

Multiple murderer Michael Stone
explains why he stormed Northern Ireland's Stormont parliament building, firing a pistol and throwing grenades, before being subdued.
No-one was hurt.

Sentenced in 1989 to 684 (!) years for the murders of six Catholics,
he was released under license in 2000
under the terms of Good Friday Agreement,
to a hero's welcome. 

Having now re-offended,
he has been re-incarcerated to serve the rest of his punishment,
plus whatever extra he gets for the Stormont attack. 

He will leave prison in a coffin. 

Quote: I feel sorry for the Ward family who have lost a father and is left with young children.

Padriag Nally, after being acquitted - at his second trial -
of manslaughter and murder. 
He had beaten and shot dead father of eleven John Ward,
who had trespassed on to his property, with presumed intent to rob.

Last November, I wrote about this case in a post titled
Defending Your Home, With Force

- - - - - - - - - - E N G L A N D   R U G B Y - - - - - - - - - -

Quote: “When England won the World Cup in 2003, it probably seemed to the outside world that we were travelling on a gleaming, modern cruise liner. We were not — we were on the Titanic.  I realised it even as Martin Johnson held the trophy above his head in Sydney. It is personally shattering for me to say this, but winning the World Cup was the worst thing that ever happened to the England team.

Clive Woodward,
manager of England's 2003 Rugby World Cup winning team,
on the miserable performance since then of the World Champions.

His closing remark is of course utter drivel,
which has no connection with the rest of his long and justified diatribe
against the current management structure of England rugby. 

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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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After 48 crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are, deservedly,

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Over the competition,
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